Heading to Europe this summer? Ah the endless sites: Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Leaning Tower. And let’s not forget the countless art museums and gothic cathedrals. Then there’s riding on the gondolas in Venice, while being serenaded by that young man in the brim hat. The list goes on. Having lived in England and Spain myself, I’ve travelled around this wonderful continent. From Munich to Moscow; Barcelona to Belgrade. I could go on, but then you would likely get bored and skip reading. Europe is a grand place to see, but I’ve learned a thing or to about travelling there. Some the easy way and some…not so easy.
With all the excitement of looking forward to seeing new places and meeting new people, we often forget that we’re heading to a foreign land, where things are different from back home. There are many safety concerns there, which we don’t normally encounter at home. We also have to keep a few things in mind.
So whether it’s your first time in Europe, or a Euro veteran, try following these little tips:
- learn some of the language (unless you’re only going to Britain and Ireland). Bring along a phrasebook, so that you’ll know the basics of the tongue of the place or places you’ll visit. I’ve found that the locals really appreciate it when you attempt to speak their language, even if it’s not great. Don’t assume that everyone speaks English in Europe, especially if you’re going to a small town.
- Never pack everything in one back. Bring a money pouch, so you can store your passport, money and credit cards in. You can wear them around your neck or waist and are especially great when you’re travelling to Europe from home. My friend and I went to a restaurant in Barcelona, and while we were there her bag had been snatched. She had her passport, money and even her plane ticket in it. It was very difficult trying to get a new passport for her.
- Make photocopies of your travel documents: passport, driver’s license etc. If you happen to have your passport stolen, having a photocopy makes replacing it at the embassy much easier.
- Don’t stand out as a tourist. Many thieves can spot foreigners by the clothes they were. Most Europeans don’t wear baseball caps or flip-flops; they often dress as if they were going to a club. If you look more like a local, you’re less likely to not attract the attention of a thief
- Remain alert in public places. Many thieves hang out in crowded markets, squares, subways, so be aware of your surroundings. Carry your backpack in front of you and never carry your wallet in your back pocket. Like I mentioned with my friend, if you eat a restaurant, keep your bags in between your legs. Better still, stick one leg through the strap. That way your stuff can’t be snatched without you seeing it.
- Instead of eating all your meals at a restaurant, shop at a local grocery store or market. They are relatively cheap and you can experience some of the local food also.
- Planning to visit the popular sites? Get out early, I’m talking between 8 and 9am. This is especially important if you’re going to London, Paris, Rome or Barcelona. I remember visiting Barcelona one weekend, and by 10am there was a mile-long lineup for everything!
- Don’t pigeonhole things that are different. Yes, we live in a great country, and things are not quite the same in Europe. But just accept that. Many Europeans hate it when tourists criticize their lifestyle or economy. They also hate being reminded that they are in financial crisis. Remember, you’re a guest in their country.
- Bring comfortable walking shoes; Europe is abound with cobblestone streets.
- Take lots of pictures and enjoy every moment you’re there.
Wondering where to go in Europe? Here’s a list of my favorite cities:
So I wish you happy travels. And one more thing: can you name the landmark in the above image and where it is?