This is usually the section where all the other guys list the usual suggestions about how many socks to pack, the wonders of wearing Smartwool, and the latest in money belt fashions. Those are all helpful, but here’s a few unconventional ones you may not see in other books:
- Drink the tap water whenever possible! Remember you’re in Europe not Calcutta (no offense Calcutta). You will save a fortune and avoid paying up to 2 or 3 Euros per bottle. In fact, many places such as Switzerland would arguably have the best drinkable tap water on Earth. Also some actually believe drinking tap water marginally boosts your body’s natural ability to fight off some illnesses by exposing it to the bacteria and organisms of that region. Decide for yourself.
- If you want your picture taken, only give your camera to obese, elderly ladies! If in a public place you want someone to take your picture, never give your camera to anyone who could possibly outrun you.
- Pee for free whenever possible! Using the toilet can become an expensive necessity. Avoid paying for the toilets in costly train and bus stations and search out free alternatives like the ‘Golden Arches’. There will be times where you wished you were wearing undergarments or had a colostomy bag, but when nature calls, look no further than those western franchises that make so many Europeans cringe. Many fast food franchises such as McDonald’s or Burger King offer free use of the restrooms without requiring purchase. Free will soon be one of your favorite words in Europe.
- Try not to look (and sound) like a stupid tourist! It’s often far too easy to spot the dumb tourist wearing lots of khaki and polarfleece burdened by his videocamera round the neck. Make an effort to blend in a little bit. Leave the safari hat behind. Also don’t forget most Europeans speak some English, so be careful of what you say and more importantly how loud you say it because they probably understand everything your saying.
- Always be a positive ambassador for your country! Whether you like it or not, people will make judgements about you and your country based on your nationality. Represent your nation favorably.
- Quit your whining already! Nobody likes a whinger. Accept that things can and will go wrong during your trip. Let’s face it, it’s almost a certainty. The sooner you learn to relax and enjoy those less than perfect moments the better off you’ll be. It’s just a fact of life that things don’t always work out as planned and expectations will not always be met. Don’t forget that most of your friends are back home working some crappy, lifeless job while your out living an exciting adventure in a far away land. It’s also important to remember that calamity and misfortune can often make for the most spellbinding and interesting of tales later. Few people ever tell the stories about what went right on their trip. Above all, you create your own weather so have a positive attitude and “when you travel, rembember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” –Clifton Fadiman
- Carry back-ups! It’s important to be prepared if and when things should go wrong. Hopefully they won’t, but just in case you’ll find that a photocopy of your passport’s details, driver’s licence or main ID, bank or credit card details, most important phone numbers, and a few extra euros stashed away will prove invaluable if an emergency should arise. One street-smart trick I’ve seen is to use a safety pin to secure your passport photocopy or cash to selected undergarments in your bag. Once a passenger from New Zealand used this trick when he pinned a diamond engagement ring to the inside of his jeans for over 6 weeks before finally striking up the nerve to propose to his fiancé while in Venice. Of course her answer was yes!
- Make TIC’s (Tourist Info Centers) your new best friend! They will normally be able to answer just about any questions you might have regarding transport, sightseeing, concerts and upcoming festivals, accommodation, and anything else you can dream of. Normally maps of the city are free, but some charge a small fee. And don’t be afraid to ask them “off the wall” questions either. Normally they are quite happy to answer obscure, esoteric, or just plain out of the ordinary questions.
- This might be controversial (especially if you hate smoking), but consider carrying a lighter! Don’t forget they smoke a lot in Europe and you never know when a hot chick or studly guy might ask you for a light. Even if you don’t smoke, it’s a great way to make new friends on the spot so be prepared.
- Most importantly, know before you go! It’s important to do your homework. All kidding aside, here’s the top four FREE websites that offer up to date travel advisories on more than 180 countries and regions. They are primarily designed for finding out more about a place’s current political climate and list any concerns related to its most recent activities while abroad:
- UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs
- Canadian Consular Affairs Bureau
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- New Zealand Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
As the internet becomes more and more ubiquitous and commonplace, the landscape of travel has changed dramatically. For example, many travel agencies have either had to adjust their style or face closing their doors as cheaper, more streamlined internet companies began to stifle their competition. However, sifting through the enormous array of websites can seem at times very overwhelming. Getting info is easy, but getting the correct information is much more difficult. Not only that, these days mountains of misinformation manage to distract or confuse most search engine queries. I’ve distilled a basic breakdown of the more helpful ones in the online directory below:
|The Official Travel Portal of Europe||VisitEurope.com|
|General European Info||Worldtravelguide.net|
|Visa & Embassy Locations||Project Visa|
|Museums of Europe||The Joy of Museums|
|Languages (Translated)||Google Translate|
|Current Exchange Rates||Oanda|
|Gay & Lesbian Travel International||International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association|