Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Europe: what's better to buy here or there? (

PoissonRouge May 28th, 2012 06:15 PM

Europe: what's better to buy here or there?
I'll be in South Germany, North France, and Switzerland in June and July. Financially speaking, what are some daily supplies I should stock up on before i leave and what are things i should wait to buy there?

And in terms of quality or rarity, what are some little things i should get there? (Not alcohol because, i'm only 18, and i live in the i'm only bringing 1 carry-on suitcase)

grandmere May 28th, 2012 06:49 PM

If you wear contacts lenses, the solution is less expensive in the US so I always take enough for my trip. I take other toiletries, also, b/c I don't want to spend my time in Europe buying toothpaste, floss, etc., but I guess if I were going to be there for 2 months, I would probably end up buying it there as I'd run out of my initial supply from home.

uhoh_busted May 28th, 2012 07:03 PM

They have drug stores and grocery markets where you can get any items you may need. If you run out of toothpaste or shampoo you can replenish it easily. If you use sunscreen, you may want to carry an extra bottle, also bring along some bandaids as we found those to be fairly costly in Europe.

If you need batteries for your camera, you may want to stock up before you leave as you can buy them cheaper in the states in bulk.

ggreen May 28th, 2012 09:27 PM

Funny thing about toothpaste, shampoo, etc. You never realize how much you're used to the taste/smell of the one you use until you're overseas and need to use another one! I love trying out new toiletries in Europe <i>except</i>, I've come to learn, toothpaste. :)

Some of the things I like to get there and bring back home for a little "reminder" of my trip include the aforementioned toiletries but also socks/hosiery and as much nonperishable food I can fit in my luggage! Mustard, sea salt, chocolate... the list goes on. Unlike here in the US, the store brand is usually quite good, even for chocolate! (More like, say, buying the store brand at Whole Foods as opposed to the one at your average supermarket.)

In France, a great place to get it all (from toiletries to clothing to food) is the Monoprix chain. (And if you're thinking it's like Walmart or Target... it's far better, and been doing the supermarket-in-a-department-store for a lot longer LOL.)

If you need pens/pencils/paper/folders, you can find great ones in Europe, totally different from the typical stuff here.

I wouldn't bring laundry detergent other than a small bottle of Woolite for hand-washing emergencies.

mjdh1957 May 29th, 2012 01:53 AM

Buy everything in France or Germany rather than Switzerland.... It's incredibly expensive because the Swiss Franc is one of the world's strongest currencies. Even everyday items will be a lot more expensive there.

uhoh_busted May 29th, 2012 06:49 AM

At least it it easier to convert Swiss Franc to US dollars...1 = 1. However you will see that things are more expensive. We noticed that a McDonalds " big and tastee meal" was about $13 last fall. Yes, I'll admit we was VERY good. And on the shores of lake Lucerne, probably the most beautiful Micky D's we ever seen.

bilboburgler May 29th, 2012 09:13 AM

Given that booze is out of the question, and I hope you are up on the cultural requirements and the place that wine and Beer takes in the hearts of the people of France and Germany, that leaves some odd little things

1) Penknives
2) Watches (but costs can be very high)
3) Damascene knives (I'll let you look that up if it is your thing or indeed the thing of your nearest and dearest)
4) Lace, either as bits of cloth decoration or made into earings etc
5) Food, cheese is a big part of where you are going but also all kind of other meats and vegtables (most of which will not travel well and may be banned from importation)
6) Chocolate, is basically a food you learn to love as a child so the stuff in Europe may not be to your taste but try it and see. Some goes up to 80% cocoa solids and above which may limit how much you can eat.

Now a few odd things.
Do not assume that brand names copy across to Europe. I'm told (see wiki) that Snickers and Mars are different in europe.

Hope this helps and come back and tell us how you got on.
Ice is not offered in massive quantities
Fizzy soft drinks are not dolled out in massive cups
Free second cups in restaurants are very unusual in Europe

nytraveler May 29th, 2012 09:40 AM

Almost everything is more expensive - oftne MUCH more expensive - esp in Switz - than in the US. I would buy only thngs that you absolutely can't get here. And if you're wedded to certain brands of toiletries - you may well not be able to get them there.

(The one thing I always bring back is chocolate - since any in europe is much better than any except the most exclsuive brands in the US. Eat chocolate there and you will never touch Hershy's again.)

kerouac May 29th, 2012 09:47 AM

I don't think that anything in the category of "daily supplies" is going to break the bank, although I do know that the suggestion about contact lenses is true -- an American friend always had me bring some back when I went to the U.S.

Since I have always loved to travel and discover new things, one of my main pleasures is to buy local brands of toothpaste, shampoo and all sorts of things like that rather than bring my own. It has always been an added joy to my trip to return home and still use my foreign products for a month or two after my return -- in my case, this means things like Vietnamese toothpaste, Thai eau de cologne or Cambodian talcum powder.

BigRuss May 29th, 2012 10:34 AM

Why do you say you cannot get alcoholic beverages over there? You're 18. The US drinking age does not apply outside the US. Of course you cannot legally purchase any there and bring it back to the US . . .

As for this comment <<The one thing I always bring back is chocolate - since any in europe is much better than any except the most exclsuive [sic] brands in the US.>> - that's a bit daft. Mass produced chocolate in Europe is not spectacular - a Mars bar is a Mars bar and Nestle is Nestle. Hershey's is just the Budweiser of chocolate.

But Switzerland is known for its chocolate, although you'd be better off buying Swiss chocolate at either the duty free or outside of Switzerland due to the cost.

greg May 29th, 2012 11:16 AM

Quality rare thing? A TSA carry-on compliant rounded tip scissors from Switzerland. The ones I could find in the US are kindergarten oriented ones made in China that can hardly cut anything.

Cathinjoetown May 29th, 2012 11:31 AM

Unfortunately, as you mention you are doing carry-on only, you will not be able to take or bring back "normal" sizes of any liquid unless purchased in duty-free after clearing security.

The rule is 3-1-1, three containers, each 100 ml or 3.4 ounces, placed inside a 1-quart clear baggy. You also should check on the current regs on gift knives and other "sharps."

And, regarding duty free, watch out if you're transferring to domestic flights where you have to go through security again.

Have a great time, take up to the limit of your favorites then pick up replacements locally.

MaineGG May 29th, 2012 11:41 AM

Purex Complete 3 in 1 Laundry Sheets are great to have. One small sheet does a load in a laundromat, and a half sheet works well for the small, front loading machines found in many homes and apartments. A few will take up little room in your carry-on.

bilboburgler May 29th, 2012 11:45 AM


"Hershey's is just the Budweiser of chocolate."

such a great insult :-)

jaja May 29th, 2012 01:21 PM

Insulting Budweiser or Hershey's? I don't care for either, but do overindulge in European chocolate.

PoissonRouge May 30th, 2012 06:48 AM

Thanks everyone! I won't be buying any sharp objects!

BigRuss: I am aware that i can purchase and drink alcohol in Europe, but i will not be able to bring it back to the US because of my age and carry-on restrictions.

AisleSeat Jun 2nd, 2012 06:46 PM

Frankly I like to run out of stuff when I am on the road. I go to a local grocery or drug store to replinish my shaving cream or toothpaste. I buy the kind that has the label in the language of the country I am in. I carry it in my suitcase shaving kit and it is a little reminder ofbthe trip every time I use it.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:00 AM.