Heading to Europe? Here are some things our team would like to have known that we think will be helpful for you as you prepare to travel.
#1: Exchange your money before you leave the US.
Head to your local bank well in advance and order some currency for the countries that you will be in. It is much more expensive and time consuming to wait until you are in country.
Don’t get large bills. You’ll have a hard time getting many shops to take them – and sometimes even a bank. It’s a mistake you’ll only make once!
Bring some coins. Many things you might take for granted or need to use require coins. For example a public toilet.
If you do need money once you are in country – head to the post office. They exchange money at the post office not the bank.
#2: Arrive at the airport for your return flight 4 hours early.
Yeah, unfortunately you heard that right. 4 hours. This will allow enough time for check in, security and the walk to the gate.
#3: If you do not have a direct flight, make sure you have 3 hours for your layover.
You will have to retrieve your baggage, go through customs, recheck your bags, go through security again and then walk to your gate.
#4: Know the unwritten rules of public transportation.
For example, when using the underground subway make sure to follow the proper pattern flow of traffic.
If going down the stairs stay to the left. If going up the stairs stay to the right.
Look around and use the behavior of others as a guide.
#5: If you plan to drive, make sure you have a great phone with an up to date map App.
This is very helpful to navigate because few roads lead straight to where you want to go.
If you plan to head to England or Ireland, the drive on the left side of the road. When approaching a roundabout you travel around it clockwise. Right hand turns are made across the traffic as our left-hand turns are made.
Also, don’t get confused when you fill up – the nozzle colors can be slightly different and not what you’d expect. Often the green nozzle is unleaded and the black is the diesel – directly opposite from what we have in the US.
#6: Take an adaptor and know your international phone plan.
Each country may need a slightly different adaptor to run your electronics. The good news is they are quite inexpensive and easy to obtain.
Also, make sure you know your phone’s international plan. Nothing ruins a trip faster than to not be able to communicate with loved ones back home or coming home to a large bill.
#7: It is unusual to take your leftovers home with you from a restaurant.
If you want a box for leftovers you must ask for it, they will not offer.
#8: Don’t forget to tip!
Tipping is the same as in the US. Those who serve you work hard and are so grateful when you show that you enjoyed their service while in their country.
Restaurants are similar to the US, but for all other service personnel – your guide, your driver, and especially housecleaning – hand your tip directly to the person you want to thank so you can ensure that they get it.
#9: Be careful when crossing the street.
The traffic flows may be different than what you are used to. Many countries have you cross when it is clear or whenever you want. It is not always as formal nor regulated as in the US. So if there are others on the street, take a cue from them!
#10: Try something new!
You may be able to travel back here often or this might be your once in a lifetime. Be sure to use all of your time and energy experiencing all the country has to offer.
Soak up the atmosphere. Visit with a local and ask them what their favorite place to eat or visit is. Don’t just eat at familiar chain restaurants. You’ll be happiest when you really immerse yourself in the culture and experience.
Avoid doing the same activities that you do at home. Take lots of pictures. You may look like a tourist – but that’s who you actually are and the memories will last a lifetime. Just be kind and everyone will be grateful you came to visit!
Did we miss something important? What did you wish you knew and prepared for before you went to Europe? Send us an email or leave a comment with your suggestion!