Advice for my first time in Europe

Dec 5th, 2000, 01:51 PM
Claudia Zonca
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Advice for my first time in Europe

My boyfriend and I are going to Europe for the first time in May for 5 weeks. Our plans are to see Edinbourgh, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Switzerland, Venice, and Rome. Does anyone have any tips or suggestions?
Dec 5th, 2000, 03:22 PM
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My wife and I have made 3 trips to Europe and can't wait to return. It sounds like you have a good amount of time and will be able to see alot. I would always suggest getting a rail pass and picking some of the points in between to make it more time effective. Mabey the Northwest French coast. We visited Mount St. Michelle which is an old abby on the coast. Or Normandy. (Sorry if I butcher the spelling of any of these names). We had a wonderful time in Germany, lots of fun stuff to see. Try some smaller cities. We stayed a night in Rottenburg in the Northern part of Germany and happened upon a huge medevil festival. What a party. This was in May of the first of June. In Italy we visted Lake Como in the North as well as Rome, Venice, Florence(which is incredible), Siena, Cinque Terre, on the West coast, Milan. I would stop also in Nice, Cannes, and Monoco. In closing, you can't really go wrong. There is so much to see and experience. Have a blast.
Dec 5th, 2000, 04:31 PM
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First time advice: Don't try to cram all of Europe into the 5 weeks. Stay in some places a few days, slow down and really enjoy Europe. Act as if you will be back many times and don't need to run around as if this is the only trip you will make.

My wife and I have now made about 22 trips to Europe. We pick out areas and get to know them. We also see people that are changing hotels every single night and running all day. They cannot tell you where they were the day before or where they will be going. My recommendation is to see less and enjoy what you see much, much, more. Five weeks is plenty of time to see a lot and still have a good pace to your trip. You will actually remember what you saw.
Dec 5th, 2000, 06:18 PM
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There is a message somewhere here about the 10 best tips from this forum. Check it out.

My other suggestions, Edinburgh is nice, but get out of town to the country too. Go by bus (it's my main mission, bus trips in Europe.) Pack light, lighter than you think. Mail stuff back. Smile and chat with strangers. Have a brilliant time!
Dec 6th, 2000, 06:25 AM
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My tips:

1) Pack no more than you can carry around easily on your back for 30 minutes.

2) When you finish packing the "essentials", open it up again, and throw out half of what you packed.

3) Get a Eurrail pass, and do your longer intercity trips overnight. A couchette is far cheaper than a hotel room, and if you're sleeping, you might as well "use" that down time to do the travelling.

4) Do as much research as you can -- informed decisions are always the better option.

5) Use traveller's cheques -- the safest and easiest method of payment.

6) Don't rush to "see everything". You have neither the time, the money, nor the nerves for that -- delight in the differences.

7) As a general rule, the area immediately surrounding a train station offers the cheapest accommodation -- due to the noise, traffic, and the fact that it's often slightly "downscale". If you aren't worried about your budget, then look further afield.

8)Talk with other traveller's -- best source of good info there is.

9)Don't waste money on 1st class tickets -- most of the time there's nobody else in first class, and secondly the value isn't there. Usually, the (substantial) difference consists of 15 extra centimeters of seatwidth + a doily on the headrest.

10)RE: Amsterdam -- The Hotel Van Onna, on the Bloemegracht is a WONDERFUL place to stay. Clean, charming, good value at about 70 Guilders/night, in the Jordan district.

Dec 6th, 2000, 06:41 AM
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Don't speak loudly in English and respect local traditions. In my experience Europeans dress up a little more than us so to blend in a little more don't wear jeans, gym shoes, and t-shirts. If you act as a well-mannered guest in other countries, they will be good hosts. Unfortunately most Americans I have seen while traveling are demanding and obnoxious and give American travelers a bad name. Have fun! And give us a good name!
Dec 6th, 2000, 06:57 AM
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I heartily endorse Rob's #1 and #2, but I disagree with him on #5. There are ATMs all over Europe and you get a much better exchange rate with no commission fee. Carry some travelers checks for emergencies.

Xerox the inside of your passport and take a couple of extra passport photos. Keep that separate from your real passport. That makes it easy to replace it if it is lost or stolen. Put with that a list of credit card/ATM numbers and numbers to call if lost or stolen.

If you are students or young people, check out for Eurail passes, student IDs, hostel info, etc.

I also agree with interspersing small towns inbetween visiting big ones just to give your psyche a rest and see a bit of "the real thing."
Dec 6th, 2000, 07:32 AM
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Claudia, It appears that you are off to a great start: You have the initiative to ask for info and you have already received some good tips.

I lived in Frankfurt for almost three years in the 80's and have since returned maybe four times in the last three years. In fact, we were in Prague just last month. While living in Frankfurt, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit almost all of Germany's cities as well as maybe seven other countries. I had only one "bad" trip: my first.

I had been in Frankfurt for only a month when we went to Paris for a long holiday weekend. I found it to be dirty, rude people and confusing. Upon my return to Frankfurt, a coworker whom had been in Germany for maybe twenty years told me what the problem was. He said that I was the problem. He was right. I went to Paris with the wrong attitude. I was a little at odds with my new surroundings and wasn't adjusting so great, I guess. He told me to go everywhere and go with an open mind and to respect those places that I visit.

I have done exactly that and haven't had another "bad" trip since.

Sure, your reservations can get mixed up, your luggage lost, an undecipherable menu item ordered that you just can't eat, but hey, that's life. Just take those things in stride.

Remember, you are not in America. Expect it to be different and relish that difference. Make sure that you greet shopkeepers, waiters and others that you come in contact with. They like that. For a man, remove your hat inside. Don't walk around with your purse or bags open, inviting pickpockets. Take some washclothes along. Try to drink bottled water, it's easier on your system and in some locations, the ONLY way to go.

Public transportation is generally easy to use. Try to pick up at least a few words in each language, greetings first because that will open doors. Use your credit card and ATM for the best exchange rates, taking along a little calculator (with rates for each country as a reference) and I have never used a Traveler's Cheque in my life and don't intend to start anytime soon. If you plan on driving, buy maps in whatever country you enter (cheaper) and you don't need an international driver's license.

Have a great time, it will be a great adventure.
Dec 6th, 2000, 07:37 AM
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1) You don't have to go everywhere together; it's ok if he goes to the Torture Museum while you go shopping.
2) Vacationing is relaxing; traveling is WORK. Eat well, get enough sleep. If either of you is feeling stressed/tired, etc., take a day off and lay around a beach or a park or at a cafe. Don't push it; that's when people get hurt or ill.
3) Check the opening days/times of the places (museums, castles, restaurants, etc.) you want to visit so you don't go to the Louvre on Tuesday.
4) Take as much film as you think you'll need; it's expensive, and I guarantee you'll run out at the top of an Alp just after the gift shop closes.

There are two types of visits to Europe, and I like both for different reasons: the whirlwind (which is what you have planned) because you get to see a lot and it is an adrenaline rush; the hunkerdown (spending a week or more in one place) because you get to see more than just the tourist attractions and you get a feel for the place. While you're young, go ahead and do the whirlwind!

And don't skip Florence.
Dec 6th, 2000, 08:08 AM
Tony Hughes
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Joanna, where in Europe have you been to glean such information? Your post is either a troll or you've been wildly misled.

Dont wear jeans, gym shoes or t-shirts? Utter nonsense, woman.
Dec 6th, 2000, 08:39 AM
Marilyn Ham
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Sorry Tony I agree with Joanna. Europeans do dress better, although they do wear jeans occasionally, you don't see as much of jeans and gym shoes as you do here. If you want to fit in I think it is better to wear a nicer scale of casual clothes. Marilyn
Dec 6th, 2000, 09:40 AM
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In addition to all of the above (all good advice), be sure to use a money belt, neck pouch, belt attached pouch that hangs inside pants, or something of that nature to protect your passports and money. I have never been pick pocketed but I have also always been careful by using a belt pouch. It is smart to do so.
Dec 6th, 2000, 11:24 PM
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Glad to see you're getting such good "insider" info, Claudia.

I completely agree with the earlier comments about clothing and dressing up. I have lived in Switzerland for 8 years now, and have travelled extensively in Europe. I can assure you that as a general rule, and most certainly when dining or in hotels, the locals dress with much more attention to style and formality.

This doesn't mean top hat and tails, but you WILL be conspicuous in jeans at mid-level+ restaurants and in the nicer hotels.

Dec 7th, 2000, 02:32 AM
Tony Hughes
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Who mentioned mid level+ restaurants???

Remember, tourists visit most European cities - the restaurants know you will not be walking about in suits.
Dec 7th, 2000, 07:12 AM
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Actually, it was ME who mentioned them. Since I am not privy to what type of establishments Claudia would like to frequent, I deemed it best to inform her as precisely as possible about what to expect when dining in Europe.

While some people prefer to eat in the tourist trap restaurants lining main thoroughfares, I think most often knowledgeable travellers enjoy a "deeper" experience than that.

Dec 8th, 2000, 05:48 AM
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Rob is obviously putting out good advice(we agree on most things). Also agree with using ATM, save a bundle of money. You can determine their locations worldwide from the internet. And yes, some travelers checks in hand is a nice mental assurance, makes you feel better.
Tourists are REALLY targeted by the scum of any country. All precautions are well to observe - but do not let them mar your enjoyment - being "aware" of your surroundings will usually reveal any hazards. Have a great visit.
Dec 8th, 2000, 07:16 PM
Alice The Magyar
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joanna, you are so right on target about American's stand out in Europe by the way they dress. Jeans are a no. no. Most women wear heels there yet too!!! or some type of dress shoes. Also our loud mouths do give us away. Speak softly.
as for what Rob said about travel checks, forget it, Travel checks should only be used in emergencies, The exchange rate for them is horrible!!!!! But he is on target with everything. else.

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