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European Travel 201

Updated: Aug 16, 2019

This post is a continuation of European travel tips from European Travel 101. However, these suggestions and tips included here may be less obvious suggestions than European Travel 101.

For high-speed trains, a reservation is typically required. Don't purchase that reservation ahead of time if your schedule allows it. Some advanced reservations cost 25 Euros and if you miss your train or want to take a later on, you've lost that money. Consider getting to the train station prior to your targeted train with time to spare to purchase that required reservation.

Most visitors to Europe marvel at the ease of train travel.

Some cities in Germany have universities centrally located and provide public access. If you don't mind the maze up and downstairs, you can eventually find a clean toilet to use.

Consider purchasing a multi-country adapter with a power strip to deal with technology. This can be used in Southern or Northern Europe. Use this to charge phones, camera batteries, iPads, etc.

Utilize Google Docs in your planning process and save in the cloud. This can include targeted restaurants, cost of hotels, grocery stores, travel itinerary for each targeted city, directions to key sites, etc.. You can access them when Wi-Fi is available to download the necessary documents you'll need for your next city or country.

If you are over the age of 25 or 30 in some countries of Europe, chances are you will not be carded when purchasing beer, wine or spirits. The legal drinking age in Germany for wine and beer is 16 although people must wait until they are 18 to drink spirits. In some U.S. States, Target and Walmart will card you when purchasing alcohol even if you're 50 or 60 years old. It's a ridiculous policy. So, when in many parts of Europe, if you a few years beyond the age of 21, you shouldn't have to worry about bringing your ID to a store when buying beer or wine.

PC Desktops and printers are not available in all European hotels. If not available, ask at the front desk if they can print several documents for you in case you need a train schedule or boarding pass printed.

Get out of bed early if you want to enjoy touristy spots in Europe sans tourists.

Get up early to avoid the hordes of tourists. I visited the Gendarmenmarkt twice during my Berlin tour. This beautiful square in the heart of Berlin contains a French Cathedral, Deutscher (German) Dom and Konzerthaus Berlin. The first visit was in the afternoon flooded with tourists and lacked places to sit and relax. The next day, at 9 am, the square was void of tourists and allowed some relaxation and some good picture opportunities.

In many American restaurants, the wait staff will take your credit card away and process it elsewhere. Greater chance of fraud occurring as you temporarily lose control of who views and processes your credit card credentials elsewhere. Not to worry about that happening in Europe, typically wait staff will bring the credit card machine to your table and process while you observe. Waiting for this more secure process to typically occur in the States.

In many large cities in Europe, restrooms may be sparse. You could sit down for a drink which allows you to use the facilities but in more expensive places (Switzerland), a drink may cost you $7-10. Act like you know what you're doing. Another trick, for more challenging or strict restaurants, watch the host/hostess and waiters and when they get busy, use that busyness to slip into the restaurant on your way to the WC.

Renting a bike is a great option in many cities in Europe. In addition, if you get lost, having a bicycle is much more forgiving than making that same mistake on foot.

Heat is available in all hotels, it's AC that you have to be concerned about. If traveling in the warmer months, with the weather constantly fluctuating, seriously consider spending a little more money and getting AC. Being well-rested and properly hydrated makes a big difference with all the standing and walking you may do.

Personal space in many parts of Europe is not the same as it is in the United States. If you're traveling from the States, especially the Midwest, be prepared to have your personal space violated in Europe. It's not actually violated in Europe, many Europeans just don't have the same definition of personal space as many Americans. This may occur in a grocery store, museum, street corner, hotel, etc.. Don't be offended but rather realize space is much more limited there so people get much closer to one another than what some Americans are accustomed to.

Some American travelers are not aware that most grocery stores in Central, Northern and Southern Europe are closed on Sunday. Sometimes there's a holiday on Monday too so if you arrive late on a Saturday afternoon in an unfamiliar city, you may not have access to good grocery items for at least 2 days. Find out all the holidays during your trip so you're better positioned to leverage the availability of grocery stores.

Noon entrees are typically less expensive than evening meals.

If you're visiting a city for 4 days or longer, consider buying a subway pass for the first day or two. There are apps available that can provide the schedule and stops on all the available subway lines and buses. Getting comfortable with a pass can get you around the city quite easily and you'll have a better feel where things are compared to subway stops. I've found a 2-day visit may not be time well suited for getting used to the subway or trams with less time available.

Fanny packs are an item that most Europeans don't use and will help to show others you're a tourist, especially thieves. Try a money pouch that you can wear under your shirt or coat for valuables. For all-day travel, use a small backpack for food, water, umbrella, camera, jacket, etc..

Markets are plentiful in Europe but don't forget your Euros instead of credit cards.

Most Germans don't automatically use credit for all purchases, many still like to pay in cash due to privacy and cultural reasons. All grocery stores accept credit cards but some kiosks and many markets in Germany only deal in Euros and don't accept credit cards. A good approach is to always have 10 to 15 Euros available for those cash-only merchants.

Consider renting a bike in some European cities such as Berlin, Paris or Amsterdam. This will give you a respite from all the walking and if directions or street signs are challenging, going the wrong direction for a while is much more forgiving on a bicycle than by foot.

Validate your ticket once on a bus or tram. Some travelers don't realize you need to validate your ticket once you begin using the service. Some inspectors may not be forgiving if they discover you purchased a ticket that has not been validated.


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