First Timers to Europe Tips

Old Jan 17th, 2004, 07:50 PM
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First Timers to Europe Tips

Spouse and I will be traveling to Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam in early May. We would prefer not to look like TOTAL TOURISTS. Any suggestions for a purse alternative for my lovely wife? She needs something to carry extra glasses, travel guide, money/passport/credit card, tissues,.... What about me lugging about a 35mm camera and extra lens? I'd really like to get some great shots, but hate to stand out too much. Thanks for any suggestions.
kenk is offline  
Old Jan 17th, 2004, 07:57 PM
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Just carry a daypack backpack. You can fit everything in there including the camera gear.
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Old Jan 17th, 2004, 08:56 PM
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Suggestions? Skip Brussels in favor of Brugge.
Betsy is offline  
Old Jan 18th, 2004, 06:09 AM
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Forget about trying to hide your tourist identity. You'll probably fail in your attempts....but, so what? The camera and the travel guides are sure to be dead giveaways. Don't misunderstand me....I'm a photographer and sure as hell wouldn't go to Europe without it!
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Old Jan 18th, 2004, 06:20 AM
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You'd be hard pressed to find anyone in Paris or Amsterdam's tourist areas without a map or camera! The only problem with a camera is the size. Why not invest in a digital camera?
I agree with the Brugges suggestion and miss Brussels. You'll already be doing major cities in France and the Netherlands and these will not be typical of the rest of the country. At least Brugges is smaller. You could always try somewhere like Cologne as well.
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Old Jan 18th, 2004, 08:56 AM
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Dear Kenk,

There is absolutely no way that you will not be recognized as a tourist, so just take what is necessary.

I'm also curious as to why Brussels.
ira is offline  
Old Jan 18th, 2004, 09:21 AM
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American clothes are distinctly different from European - especaily shoes - so unless you outfit yourself completey once you get there any european will know you're an american (just like european tourists in the US stand out) but unless you act touristy no one will care.

For a purse alternative I use a small Sportsac. They weigh nothing but can expand to hold all the stuff you need for the day (camera, guidebook, umbrella, sweater etc) and have numerous pockets for valuables, glases etc. I have a tiny wallet/purse for going out in the evening that I put inside the Sac during the day. Have been doing this for 20 years and it has always worked fine without the weight and awkwardness of even a small day pack.
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Old Jan 18th, 2004, 09:32 AM
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Another vote for a small backpack (daypack). Dad and I used one on our trip, and not only did it hold everything we need (books, cameras, waterbottles, jackets, name it!), we could take turns carrying it. No way Dad would have taken a turn with a purse!! I remember Mom going on strike one vacation and refusing to carry her purse (that we had all been busy filling up...Mom, will you stick this in your purse?) Darn thing got too heavy!.

Valuables such as money, passports, and cc were in money belts under our clothes. I carried a VERY small purse that I could wear across my body with my lipstick, tissues, day's worth of cash & daily use cc on days when I didn't have pockets.

We were just careful in crowds (like Paris metro)...whoever had the backpack took it off and carried it in front to keep an eye on it, or the other one stood right behind the backpack. Wasn't really an issue as the only thing of real value was the camera, and that usually wasn't in the backpack.

I bought the one from Rick Steves ... $20, lightweight, and it scrunches up really small for packing.

AnneO is offline  
Old Jan 18th, 2004, 09:44 AM
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If you want to look more European I think a purse would be fine (I'm assuming purse means a relatively smart handbag as opposed to a rucksack). What I'd call a handbag (a 'large purse' maybe?) can fit glasses, a bottle of water, a camera, a guide book, a pashmina and all my other travelling junk in it, plus would usually have zipped internal pockets for wallets and passports and can be carried within view rather than on your back.
IMHO a rucksack looks a lot more touristy, particularly in France.

I think the best plan is for you to take your wife to Galeries Lafayette on arrival and buy her an authentically European bag

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Old Jan 18th, 2004, 10:04 AM
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On the plane, my light-weight black microfiber totebag is my combination carry-on and purse. While traveling, different things go in it and it is my daily purse. It has several internal zippered pockets. It has long straps so I can carry it securely close to me and over my shoulder. I live in New York, I've traveled to several other large cities, and I've never been a victim of a pickpocket or purse snatcher.

I think those of us who walk about with cameras and maps can't avoid being recognized as tourists. Even natives of the countries you will be visiting can be tourists if they are visiting from other places in the country you are in.

It's not a matter of avoiding being taken for a tourist (that only happens when I'm walking about in a place I know well and don't have my map or camera out. it's just a matter of behaving respectfully and courteously.
As for dress, you can dress comfortably but still in a way that looks more, rather than less, sophisticated, but that's your call. It doesn't mean you won't be noticed as a visitor.

elaine is offline  
Old Jan 18th, 2004, 11:14 AM
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Anne had some really good ideas, if you go the daypack/backpack route!! Don't keep your valuables in it (they should be somehow securely *on* your person). You need 2 different methods: money belt under clothing or very secure pocketbook w/strap worn across the body PLUS something for all the maps, guidebookss, waterbottles, etc. like a napsack or canvas tote bag.

I couldn't deal with hauling around a big camera, but that's a personal choice.

How to be not-annoying as a tourist??? Don't stop and read your map on a busy street corner, don't tie up lines that locals use daily like being a dork at the grocery store or in cafes, figure out the proper change before taking public transportation, etc. Honestly those are the kind of things that will get you noticed in a negative light, much more than your wardrobe.
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Old Jan 18th, 2004, 12:12 PM
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why hide your tourist identity? they'll
notice it anyway and is not a crime to be a tourist, just be aware of you soroundings and use common sence and you'll be fine.
I will recommend you to carry- on a co-
py of the passport page w/your picture on you instead that the real passport
at least while you are not traveling between countries. It is recognice the same way and you won't loose it.(it can
ruin your trip.!!!) money and credit cards take them in a money bell, but
wear it under your waist, inside your pants,is not that uncomfortable.
Tissue, glasses,films etc.. use a small
backpack or a purse with a long strap that she can weared across her chest.
In Amsterdan be extra aware of people
sorounding you, specially at the red light district. Buy in all this cities the tourist travel cards, they'll save you time and money,they're good for transportation buses,trams,metro and also for museums.
Most of the time they sale them at the hotel or for sure at he tourist off.
If you had in mind visiting Brussel go
for it, it's your trip your ilusion and
every body sees thing differently, I personally liked, but take a day trip to Brugges is beautiful and well worth
visiting. There's a day trip that we'll
take you to brugges, Antwerp and Ghent
I would hightly recommend it.Also in
Brussels take the hop on-hop off tourist
bus is fun and it coverts all you would want to see in the city." GREAT VALUE"
In Amsterdan do the GRAND HOLLAND TOUR
IS EXCELLENT! I took it with the company
Lindbergh it was geat.They'll take you to Marken,Volendam,Delf and to the Madu
rodam miniature park.
Paris has also the tourist card.and is safe so do not panic.
here are some web-sites that might help: park
to beautiful to missed.
Have a GREAT TRIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

mile is offline  
Old Jan 18th, 2004, 03:26 PM
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Thanks so much for all the inputs. We're going to Brussels to stay with friends for a few days and we do plan on day trips to Bruges and possibly Delft, e.g. Thanks again.
kenk is offline  
Old Jan 18th, 2004, 08:53 PM
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It's okay to look like a tourist. You are one. We wear the clothes we wear at home, usually khakis or black slacks, turtlenecks and a blazer or sweater and leather walking shoes. We've always been treated kindly by the natives.

I have a plain black leather purse I sling across my body (at home and in Europe). It's large enough to hold tickets, passport, wallet, lipstick, calculator, important phone numbers, my guide book, extra pair of glasses (very important to me) and my digital camera. The purse is about 9X6X5 so it's not terribly large. (Most gals we saw in Paris last October were carrying very large black tote bags slung over their shoulders and you could put your kitchen sink in those.)

My husband just sticks his wallet in his pocket. We occasionally use bookbag type backpacks when we're out in the country walking but they're kind of a nuisance in town.

If you have any interest in digital cameras, you might want to get one with a 6X to 10X zoom and leave the extra lens at home. I did that the last time and it was wonderful! Didn't have to worry about film and airport security either. That's really why I went digital. On the other hand, don't just go buy a camera if you're not interested. Be very nice to your wife and ask her to put the extra lens in her purse.

There will be lots of tourists around so you won't stick out particularly. Once you've walked down the street one time, you'll stop worrying about it. There is just so much to see and do that you stop thinking about how you look.

Have a great time.
SalB is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2004, 12:51 AM
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Just want to reiterate two of the good ideas on this thread:
- don't buy a purse or backpack or sling pack at home, wait until you get to Europe - much more fun to shop for it (t)here (though probably more expensive...
- try to convince your wife to keep passport, money (except what you need for a half day) & cards in a small neck bag under her clothes, or in a zipped inside pocket (I always wear a blazer with an inside zipper pocket). This is so much safer than keeping it in a purse or backpack, and if you can worry less about getting pickpocketed, you can relax and have more fun.
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Old Jan 19th, 2004, 04:37 PM
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Possible daytrips:
From Paris: Chartres, Versailles, Chantilly, Reims
From Brussels: Brugges, Antwerp, Ghent
From Amsterdam: Delft, Alkmaar, Haarlem, Gouda
platzman is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2004, 09:26 PM
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Nothing can be as bad as traveling with my brother-in-law who likes to wear hawaiian shirts and shorts when it's 50 degrees in London
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