Author Topic: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!  (Read 5746 times)

captainker

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First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« on: June 17, 2017, 11:50:09 PM »
Hello, friendly forum people! I've been lurking on these forums for ages (my husband showed me this website almost two years ago and we love working towards FIRE!) and love the advice you all give! Practicality and optimization are the best!

I'm going on a three week study trip in Europe with a group of 40 (including a polyglot experienced tour guide and three experienced professors). I'm a young but non-traditional student (mom of three, and all that, had kids first, college now that they're all in school) going along for the fantastic life experience! We're hitting up Italy, Austria, and France! Yay!

I've never left the US before and am looking for tips on things like what to take, how to keep my stuff safe, cell phone stuff, food safety to look out for, etc. Thanks in advance!
« Last Edit: June 17, 2017, 11:51:49 PM by captainker »

LAGuy

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2017, 12:00:47 AM »
Fly everywhere if you can. The student set still looks to the trains first, but you can fly anywhere you want for super cheap and in less time. Don't try to save 50 bucks by taking a 13 hour bus ride or something like that. As for keeping your stuff safe. If you're in a hostel, you're generally pretty safe. I've never even heard of people getting stuff stolen and dumb kids are always leaving their laptops and stuff out. That said, once you're out and about it's a different story. Especially in the south (Spain, Italy, etc). Don't leave your bag, camera, etc at your table to go dance. That shit will be as good as gone when you get back. If at all possible, just go out at night with nothing but some cash in your pocket. Leave the rest behind.

nnls

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2017, 12:35:08 AM »
Not sure if its still possible, but a few years ago when I was in Europe I got a vodafone sim card in Italy with a European roaming option. This allowed me to have data everywhere I went as well as make phone calls for organising meeting up with Airbnb hosts and my friends and family (those in Europe and overseas)

 If being connected all the time isn't  required, you can generally just use the free wifi which is in just about every cafe in most European cities/towns as well as in the places you are staying. This was enough for my last trip to Europe.

Food wise I dont think you should have any problems in any of those countries, but for super specific travel questions maybe ask on travel forums as people would have a lot more detailed knowledge

captainker

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2017, 12:39:30 AM »
Fly everywhere if you can. The student set still looks to the trains first, but you can fly anywhere you want for super cheap and in less time. Don't try to save 50 bucks by taking a 13 hour bus ride or something like that. As for keeping your stuff safe. If you're in a hostel, you're generally pretty safe. I've never even heard of people getting stuff stolen and dumb kids are always leaving their laptops and stuff out. That said, once you're out and about it's a different story. Especially in the south (Spain, Italy, etc). Don't leave your bag, camera, etc at your table to go dance. That shit will be as good as gone when you get back. If at all possible, just go out at night with nothing but some cash in your pocket. Leave the rest behind.

We have a private coach for our trip. We fly into Rome and out of Paris. I'm making a small list of stuff to keep on me when I'm out and about and am planning on interior pockets instead of a bag. I'm mostly planning on my passport, phone, some cash, one card, and my day's medication. Is there something I'm forgetting that I'll want during the day?

nnls

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2017, 12:41:40 AM »
Fly everywhere if you can. The student set still looks to the trains first, but you can fly anywhere you want for super cheap and in less time. Don't try to save 50 bucks by taking a 13 hour bus ride or something like that. As for keeping your stuff safe. If you're in a hostel, you're generally pretty safe. I've never even heard of people getting stuff stolen and dumb kids are always leaving their laptops and stuff out. That said, once you're out and about it's a different story. Especially in the south (Spain, Italy, etc). Don't leave your bag, camera, etc at your table to go dance. That shit will be as good as gone when you get back. If at all possible, just go out at night with nothing but some cash in your pocket. Leave the rest behind.

We have a private coach for our trip. We fly into Rome and out of Paris. I'm making a small list of stuff to keep on me when I'm out and about and am planning on interior pockets instead of a bag. I'm mostly planning on my passport, phone, some cash, one card, and my day's medication. Is there something I'm forgetting that I'll want during the day?

I usually dont carry my passport on me, but leave it in a safe at the hotel/hostel (if they have one) Otherwise I just lock it in my bag, as I figure its safer secured somewhere inside than out with me.

captainker

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2017, 12:42:45 AM »
Not sure if its still possible, but a few years ago when I was in Europe I got a vodafone sim card in Italy with a European roaming option. This allowed me to have data everywhere I went as well as make phone calls for organising meeting up with Airbnb hosts and my friends and family (those in Europe and overseas)

 If being connected all the time isn't  required, you can generally just use the free wifi which is in just about every cafe in most European cities/towns as well as in the places you are staying. This was enough for my last trip to Europe.

Food wise I dont think you should have any problems in any of those countries, but for super specific travel questions maybe ask on travel forums as people would have a lot more detailed knowledge

The thing that's making me on the fence about just using wifi is if I want to reach different members of my group. I suppose I can just use Skype and stuff for that, though.

If you don't have your passport on you, do you carry a different kind of ID?

nnls

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2017, 12:57:31 AM »
Not sure if its still possible, but a few years ago when I was in Europe I got a vodafone sim card in Italy with a European roaming option. This allowed me to have data everywhere I went as well as make phone calls for organising meeting up with Airbnb hosts and my friends and family (those in Europe and overseas)

 If being connected all the time isn't  required, you can generally just use the free wifi which is in just about every cafe in most European cities/towns as well as in the places you are staying. This was enough for my last trip to Europe.

Food wise I dont think you should have any problems in any of those countries, but for super specific travel questions maybe ask on travel forums as people would have a lot more detailed knowledge

The thing that's making me on the fence about just using wifi is if I want to reach different members of my group. I suppose I can just use Skype and stuff for that, though.

If you don't have your passport on you, do you carry a different kind of ID?

I take my drivers licence, but dont usually need ID during the day.

If you want to contact your group I would download whatsapp or something similar so you can all have a group chat and message people via wifi.

Also maybe check with your phone provider in the USA, here in Australia a few companies have a system where you pay $5 a day and you can use your phone overseas like you would at home (so texting, calls ect are included in your plan as per normal) but I am not too sure how common that is in the USA. If staying in contact with your group is important then just get a simcard in Europe and put it in your phone. I am assuming your phone would be unlocked.

Kwill

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2017, 12:58:48 AM »
I tend to use Skype or email with wifi when I'm traveling. You may or may not be able to use an international SIM card depending on what type of phone you have. If you're with a discount carrier (Consumer Cellular, Virgin Mobile, or Republic Wireless for example), your phone may use a different type of technology that does not work in Europe except via wifi.  This was the case for me. In that situation, just Skype etc. Whatsapp is popular, but I've never used it. You could borrow a friend's old cell phone for the trip if you really think you need it. http://www.ebay.co.uk/gds/Whats-the-Difference-Between-GSM-and-CDMA-Cell-Phones-/10000000178258796/g.html

I'd bring more than one credit card and more than one ATM card (different accounts) if possible. That way you can keep one on you and have a back-up if your wallet is stolen and you need to call to cancel the cards that you were carrying. If a business offers to put the transaction into US dollars, I would decline that and ask to be charged in the default currency. The reason is that businesses put a surcharge into their exchange rate, so you would end up paying more. Your bank / credit card may charge a little more for international transactions, but I find that's less expensive than a hotel or restaurant international transaction charge.

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2017, 01:44:57 AM »
Sounds like a great trip.  Your trip organisers should be able to give out a list of things to take/things to expect.

Interior pockets will be very useful for valuables (passport, credit card and anything more than petty cash). You will only need Euros and will pay for everything in them.  You may need your passport for ID if you are exchanging money and checking into hotels, but probably not otherwise.  Contact your bank in advance to let them know you are going abroad so that they don't think your card is stolen and cancel it, and know what their charges/rates are for exchanging money.  Have a record of your passport available in case you lose it, and know the number to call to cancel your cards.

Don't worry about food safety, it's all good, even street food - the EU has higher food safety standards than the USA.  You can drink the tap water wherever you will be, and if you take a water bottle will be able to fill it for free.

Comfortable shoes are a must - you will probably do a lot of walking.

llorona

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2017, 02:12:36 AM »
Random Tips:
1. Pack light. As in, only pack what you can comfortably haul/carry up a hill or five flights of stairs.
2. To reduce the chances of getting sick, bring disinfecting wipes or a small bottle of hand sanitizer to clean off the tray, armrests, etc. on the plane.
3. Before you leave, research credit card and bank fees for foreign transactions. These fees can be substantial, so try to make informed decisions. For instance, sometimes banks don't charge ATM fees for international partner financial institutions.
4. If a restaurant or shop asks if you want to pay in U.S. dollars or Euro, always choose the local currency or you'll get screwed on the exchange rate.
5. If you're prone to blisters, take moleskin and a pair of small scissors with you.
6. If staying in hostels or anyplace with a communal shower, bring flip flops.
7. If you need to buy OTC meds (stuff like cold meds, ibuprofin, etc.), pharmacies are usually identified with neon green crosses.
8. Scan/photograph your passport and store it someplace safe online like Google docs or your email inbox.
9. Learn to say the following phrases in the local language: hello, please, thank you, yes, no, do you speak English, where is the toilet, goodbye.
10. Maintain situational awareness anytime you're in public.

Have a great time!
« Last Edit: June 18, 2017, 02:14:25 AM by llorona »

LeRainDrop

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2017, 02:47:19 AM »
Like others, I recommend using Skype, WhatsApp, and wifi for phone communications.  Skype is best when you're trying to reach folks in your home country.  You and your traveling friends should download and set-up WhatsApp on your phones before you leave home because set-up requires the app sending a one-time text to your cell phone and then you use that to confirm your account.  WhatsApp is basically free instant messaging, super popular abroad.  On my month-long international trip earlier this year, I bought AT&T's 30-day international passport plan to be on the safe side, but it ended up being completely worthless to me, and my advice to my own self would have been to not bother with that plan but instead use Skype and WhatsApp.

I agree with the comments that it's better if you can leave your passport locked in the hotel safe during the day and keep a copy of it on Google Docs or somewhere else you could access it if the original were to become lost or stolen.

Definitely pack light enough that you can easily carry everything.  You won't want to bring one of those giant US suitcases.  Better to use a carry-on size suitcase/duffel bag and a back-pack.  Surely there will be opportunities for you to do your laundry once a week, and no need to bring three full weeks of clothing with you!

LeRainDrop

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2017, 02:53:02 AM »
Oh, and be aware that the US is still considering expanding its ban on carrying laptops on some international flights, with some consideration being given to European countries.  If you plan to bring a laptop, I would google this issue right before you leave in case the US policy changes by then.  https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2017-05-24/us-homeland-security-no-timeline-for-deciding-to-expand-laptop-ban

deborah

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2017, 02:59:33 AM »
Most countries have chips in their credit cards, and use paywave or a PIN. You will be better off if you have those available for your credit card.

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2017, 03:30:06 AM »
Good time for a Europe round-trip. Roaming is now legally free within the EU:
http://www.androidauthority.com/eu-free-roaming-guide-779742/

Or check if Google Fi is an option for you.

If you are at a typical tourist place, always ask for the menu... Or accept that your ordered "beer" could be a one litre beaker for 20€.

dreams_and_discoveries

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2017, 04:09:41 AM »
Yeah, I wouldn't overthink it; you are going with a tour group, and will likely be shuttled around as a group, fed as a group, and any 'free time' will likely only be a few hours, with strict instructions when to be back at the bus.

I still prefer the get away from it all approach to travelling we used to do pre-mobiles, where you had to send postcards and phone home. As for travelling companions, you saught them out at breakfast or in their room, and made definite plans to meet. But with the social media craze and our quest for never ending connectivity, there are loads of options for data packages and wifi galore in tourist hotspots.

Have a great trip and enjoy your first visit to Europe.

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #15 on: June 18, 2017, 05:31:38 AM »
Fly everywhere if you can. The student set still looks to the trains first, but you can fly anywhere you want for super cheap and in less time. Don't try to save 50 bucks by taking a 13 hour bus ride or something like that. As for keeping your stuff safe. If you're in a hostel, you're generally pretty safe. I've never even heard of people getting stuff stolen and dumb kids are always leaving their laptops and stuff out. That said, once you're out and about it's a different story. Especially in the south (Spain, Italy, etc). Don't leave your bag, camera, etc at your table to go dance. That shit will be as good as gone when you get back. If at all possible, just go out at night with nothing but some cash in your pocket. Leave the rest behind.

We have a private coach for our trip. We fly into Rome and out of Paris. I'm making a small list of stuff to keep on me when I'm out and about and am planning on interior pockets instead of a bag. I'm mostly planning on my passport, phone, some cash, one card, and my day's medication. Is there something I'm forgetting that I'll want during the day?

You can also just carry a photocopy of your passport (the page with your photo and the page with your visa) when out and about. Also, don't forget your international health/medical insurance card - the one with your policy number and insurance company phone number to report a claim. I always carry some local currency and some US dollars.

I don't think you need to worry about food safety. You're going to Europe, not some third world country.

If you plan to carry a purse, keep a hand on it at all times, or wear it so that it is hanging in front of you (not at your side). Also, don't carry an open tote bag - you know, the kind that has a little button in the middle or the kind that has no zipper or other closure?

Feivel2000

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #16 on: June 18, 2017, 06:50:48 AM »
Fly everywhere if you can. The student set still looks to the trains first, but you can fly anywhere you want for super cheap and in less time. Don't try to save 50 bucks by taking a 13 hour bus ride or something like that. As for keeping your stuff safe. If you're in a hostel, you're generally pretty safe. I've never even heard of people getting stuff stolen and dumb kids are always leaving their laptops and stuff out. That said, once you're out and about it's a different story. Especially in the south (Spain, Italy, etc). Don't leave your bag, camera, etc at your table to go dance. That shit will be as good as gone when you get back. If at all possible, just go out at night with nothing but some cash in your pocket. Leave the rest behind.

We have a private coach for our trip. We fly into Rome and out of Paris. I'm making a small list of stuff to keep on me when I'm out and about and am planning on interior pockets instead of a bag. I'm mostly planning on my passport, phone, some cash, one card, and my day's medication. Is there something I'm forgetting that I'll want during the day?

You can also just carry a photocopy of your passport (the page with your photo and the page with your visa) when out and about. Also, don't forget your international health/medical insurance card - the one with your policy number and insurance company phone number to report a claim. I always carry some local currency and some US dollars.

I don't think you need to worry about food safety. You're going to Europe, not some third world country.

If you plan to carry a purse, keep a hand on it at all times, or wear it so that it is hanging in front of you (not at your side). Also, don't carry an open tote bag - you know, the kind that has a little button in the middle or the kind that has no zipper or other closure?
I would not know a situation where dollars could help her. It's like suggesting to always carry some euros when traveling within the USA.

In Asia, OK, but in Europe it is not necessary.

lizzzi

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #17 on: June 18, 2017, 07:11:36 AM »
Study the websites about one-bag travel. I've refined and re-refined my method over the years, and for Europe, my go-to combination is the Tom Bihn Tri-Star bag, a ScotteVest, and a 9"x 10" cross body purse. Do a trial packing before you leave, living out of your bag for a week or so at home, and you will soon see what is indispensable and what isn't. Carry the bag around with you so you get used to the weight. (As you discard more and more items to make it lighter--ha,ha.) Keep 3 x 5 cards in the bag, and as you determine what you must have in each compartment or in each organizer, write it on the card, and then always keep those cards in your bag for fast packing in the future. Comfortable, totally broken-in shoes are a must.

Sarah Saverdink

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2017, 07:37:47 AM »
When we travel, we bring a small collection of over-the-counter drugs (in original containers, clearly marked), as it can be difficult to find the same medicines in other countries. We did a two-week trip to Italy/Switzerland/Germany a few years ago and both caught colds during the second week. We could not find Sudafed anywhere - we went to a German pharmacy and the pharmacist did not have anything similar. We also get a prescription from our doctor for antibiotics to combat traveler's diarrhea. This is less likely to be an issue visiting Europe, but when we went to South America, it came in very handy.

If you wear a belt, this hidden travel wallet is good for being out and about in areas where petty crime is high.

I recommend a small cross-body bag for a bottle of water, a camera, sunscreen, a granola bar, etc.

Ocinfo

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #19 on: June 18, 2017, 07:52:54 AM »
One thing I didn't see mentioned yet are power adapters. Most newer hotels now have at least one universal outlet but many dont. You can buy a universal adapter on amazon for under $20. Also, make sure you have a credit card that has no foreign transaction fee. Any higher end travel card will work (e.g., Chase Sapphire or most airline branded cards).


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pbkmaine

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First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #20 on: June 18, 2017, 08:27:55 AM »
I won't repeat the advice on power converters, since it was covered above.
Make sure you have a credit card with no foreign currency conversion fees.
Take a washcloth in a quart-size ziplock bag. Many European hotels do not supply washcloths.
If you like a cup of tea before bed, take an immersion coil and some teabags.
A blindfold or sleep mask is always useful. Sometimes curtains do not close all the way. 
I made a point of packing thin nylon undies that would dry overnight.
If you want a quick bite, train stations in Europe have inexpensive and delicious food. Try a baguette with cheese, wurst or ham.
Aldi and Lidl stores are everywhere and are also a great source for food.
Also visit local markets if you can. You will see new varieties of food. Try them.
Many of my friends wear "money belts" under their clothing. In them are room key, cash, credit card and a photocopy of their passport.
Pack less rather than more. Heavy suitcases are a pain, even on wheels. Think layers of clothing and mix and match. Pinterest has 100,000 pins for capsule wardrobes. Use them for ideas.
In your carry on, pack a change of underwear, an extra t-shirt, all your medications, a empty thermos, some energy bars that will keep you from starving but aren't so delicious that you will eat them all in 5 minutes, and a hardcover book. These items will get you through almost any situation.
A large shawl that you can wrap around your shoulders when cold, fold into a pillow, or put on the bed for an extra layer is also useful.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2017, 08:30:36 AM by pbkmaine »

GizmoTX

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #21 on: June 18, 2017, 08:38:04 AM »
1. Use a money belt (Rick Steves) worn inside your waistband or a vest with inside zipped or Velcro pockets (Scottevest) for your passport & money beyond what you need for each day. I'm traveling in Greece right now & at least 4 people in groups I have been with have lost money or smartphones to pickpockets. Personally I use a vest because it's more secure than a bag or purse, which can be grabbed or slit open. Most museums require that a daypack be checked.
2. For getting cash, take a debit card for ATMs to get the best exchange rate. Make sure your bank doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee. The best we've found is Schwab, which also refunds all ATM fees anywhere in the world. No minimum balance or fee to open an account, & checks are free.
3. A credit card is good for purchases & reduces the need to carry lots of cash. Be sure to take one that doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee, & charge in the currency of the country you are in to avoid a double currency conversion fee. Never use a credit card to get cash. The credit card should have a chip to be accepted internationally. Some banks require you to notify them of your travel plans in advance-- check their website.
4. While WiFi is generally available in hotels & cafes, know that it is not secure. If connectivity is important, look into renting a MiFi unit. This converts local cellphone signal to wifi, works with 5-10 devices, & is secure with a key code only you know. It's usually cheaper & easier to order one online to be delivered to your first location & returned to your last. In France, we used HipPocketWifi.com & it works in most of Europe. We paid US$123 for 25 days in Greece from Wizifi. It's the size of a pack of cards, operates wirelessly for about 4 hours, & recharges via its own supplied charger or USB. In addition to email & browsing, our ATT smartphone can call the USA when set for wifi calling (VOIP). Our phone stays on airplane mode for the entire trip with wifi turned off or on as needed. Having portable wifi has made navigation very easy. Many countries now have apps for Uber or other transportation services.
5. Pack light, carry on only. Quick dry clothing that can be washed in the sink & dry overnight. Wring out washed items as much as possible, spread on a towel, roll up, step on the roll to remove as much water as possible, & hang to dry. Bring a twisted rubber clothesline (Rick Steves). OneBag.com has good tips & sources.

Riff

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #22 on: June 18, 2017, 08:59:27 AM »
Most, if not all, of your electronics will work on 220V so you won't need a converter, just a $1 adapter.  Cheaper, smaller, & lighter.

For cash, just use your ATM card.  Don't ever exchange money if you can help it.  Use a foreign-transaction-free credit card for other purchases.  Also, unlike restaurants in the US, never let someone take your card to the back to run it.

Pack carry on only!  I know it's been said a few times already, but it needs emphasizing.  If you're thinking "but what if?" while you're packing, just leave it at home.  Life on the road is so much better without a ton of baggage.  You'll be able to do laundry, and if a crisis arises just buy your way out of it.  "Pack half as much stuff, and bring twice as much money," is the saying.

Watch a few YouTube videos on the scams that people run in Europe.  You're very unlikely to ever get mugged, but petty crime is a big problem.   You may encounter pickpockets, but you will most definitely run into someone attempting to scam you if you're in a touristy area.

 

Malaysia41

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #23 on: June 18, 2017, 10:47:20 AM »
Make sure to bring a credit card with no foreign tx fees. Credit card exchange rates are generally better than bank ATM withdrawal exchange rates.

If you find yourself in Verona Italy pm me. I'll take you to my fave osteria for a custoza or valpolicella superiore.  And if you need to run a load of laundry you can use our machine. Note: we line dry only so budget time for that.

Enjoy - it sounds like you've got a rad trip planned.

Edit: agree w pbk: sleeping mask. Also first night you arrive stay up until at least 8pm. I don't care if u are a walking zombie. Don't sleep before8. Otherwise jet lag will take days to wear off.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2017, 10:51:06 AM by Malaysia41 »

Kwill

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #24 on: June 18, 2017, 10:58:39 AM »
Lots of good advice here, but don't worry! I think I'd be totally intimidated if I read all this.

Really, if you're with a group, you just need the same stuff you'd need for a similar trip in the States plus a plug adapter for your smartphone or laptop. You can get that at the airport, but it'd be cheaper at Walmart, Target or Amazon. Any electronics beyond a smartphone or laptop might not work with the local power supply, but you should avoid the extra weight anyway.

It's true that you should pack light enough to walk comfortably up stairs or through cities, but I would still bring enough underwear and socks for the trip. You can't necessarily count on being able to do your laundry. I also like to bring a washcloth. Hotels have towels, but they don't always supply washcloths. I guess not many people use them anymore, but I prefer to have one to wash my face, etc.

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #25 on: June 18, 2017, 12:14:04 PM »
The Rick Steves (Europe Through the Back Door) website has a great packing list that I refer to all the time. There are a ton of great resources on that site and in its forum.

Travelling light is the way to go. Pro-tip for the waist belt if you get one (the ones that go around your waist but under your waistband)- put your money and passport in a little plastic bag so things don't get damp from sweat. I also like the lightweight pants that have a zip pocket-within-a-pocket.

I bring little carabiners to connect my backpack zippers so they can't be opened while I'm walking around.

We always keep our passport with us, but you can probably get by just carrying copies, as long as you have a secure place to leave the actual passport while you are out.

Have fun! Sounds like a neat trip.


MrSal

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #26 on: June 18, 2017, 12:43:02 PM »
Fly everywhere if you can. The student set still looks to the trains first, but you can fly anywhere you want for super cheap and in less time. Don't try to save 50 bucks by taking a 13 hour bus ride or something like that. As for keeping your stuff safe. If you're in a hostel, you're generally pretty safe. I've never even heard of people getting stuff stolen and dumb kids are always leaving their laptops and stuff out. That said, once you're out and about it's a different story. Especially in the south (Spain, Italy, etc). Don't leave your bag, camera, etc at your table to go dance. That shit will be as good as gone when you get back. If at all possible, just go out at night with nothing but some cash in your pocket. Leave the rest behind.

This is not true.

Flying in Europe is a waste of time and money for the most part. Most cheap rates you have to schedule in 2months in advance to get those 30-50$ airfaires. Of course going from Lisbon to Berlin the airplane is better. However, central europe around France, Germany, Italy and neighbouring countries is not worth it usually.

You have to be in airport 2 hours in advance... then leave... when you arrive a city, most airports are away from the city, like 45-60 minutes. Trains are cheaper, usually faster and they go from city centre to city centre. Not to mention, you can pretty much show up at train station 5 minutes or less before train departs.

From Berlin to Prague it took me a 2 hour train ride ... price was around 30 dollars.

Unless we are talking longer distances than 700+ miles then plane is not worth it. And since they will be buying it almost before departure, they will pay a premium for it.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2017, 01:13:21 PM by MrSal »

nnls

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #27 on: June 18, 2017, 04:13:29 PM »
1. Use a money belt (Rick Steves) worn inside your waistband or a vest with inside zipped or Velcro pockets (Scottevest) for your passport & money beyond what you need for each day. I'm traveling in Greece right now & at least 4 people in groups I have been with have lost money or smartphones to pickpockets. Personally I use a vest because it's more secure than a bag or purse, which can be grabbed or slit open. Most museums require that a daypack be checked.


I personally don't use a money belt. I figure I never use one in my own country and don't have problems, and most people who live in Europe would not be using them and don't have problems. I feel like money belts are uncomfortable for not much benefit.

In saying that I have never done a group tour so I am not sure if groups of tourists are more likely to be targeted for pick pockets.

Paul der Krake

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #28 on: June 18, 2017, 04:48:45 PM »
Western Europe is a loosely cohesive group of highly civilized and modern nations. You could show up with nothing but the clothes on your back and be fine.

You don't need a money belt, a fanny back, or any piece of luggage that you don't already own.
You don't need to behave any differently than any touristic area in the US.
You don't need to worry about food or illnesses.
You don't need to worry about hotel workers stealing things more than in any US hotel.

Do not ask if they take US dollars. They don't.
Do not ask for a gluten-free baguette. What's wrong with you?
Do not wear running shoes, athletic clothes, or socks in your sandals. You look silly.
Do not tell anyone about your family's European heritage. Nobody cares.

Do chill out and enjoy your trip. :)

wanderin1

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #29 on: June 18, 2017, 05:03:56 PM »

We have a private coach for our trip. We fly into Rome and out of Paris. I'm making a small list of stuff to keep on me when I'm out and about and am planning on interior pockets instead of a bag. I'm mostly planning on my passport, phone, some cash, one card, and my day's medication.

You mention "medication." Is this a prescription you have to take regularly? If so, depending on how common the medication is, and how serious the consequences of skipping it, consider:

1. Telling the trip leaders about your meds in advance.
2. Checking out how you'd replace the medication if it was lost/stolen/ruined.
3. Keeping 3 or so days of meds with you when your main bag is elsewhere.
4. Getting travel insurance (such as World Nomads). Travel insurance won't pay for treatment of pre-existing conditions, but World Nomads, for example, has health experts available 24/7 by phone who can research how to replace meds wherever you are.



LeRainDrop

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #30 on: June 18, 2017, 05:06:18 PM »
Western Europe is a loosely cohesive group of highly civilized and modern nations. You could show up with nothing but the clothes on your back and be fine.

You don't need a money belt, a fanny back, or any piece of luggage that you don't already own.
You don't need to behave any differently than any touristic area in the US.
You don't need to worry about food or illnesses.
You don't need to worry about hotel workers stealing things more than in any US hotel.

Yup, I agree with all this.  I've traveled extensively internationally, never used a money belt or fanny pack type thing, and never experienced a pick-pocketing or the like.  (My brother had his laptop stolen on a train in Germany because he put the laptop bag overhead, left the compartment without it, and then remembered and went back for it -- too late!)  Like someone said earlier in the thread, just use common-sense situational awareness when you're out in public, just like if you were visiting NYC or any other American city.  Don't look like a clueless dumbbell, carrying too much stuff or finagling around to find your money inside your underwear or something silly like that.  I tend to keep my money and phone in my front zippered pockets of my fleece jacket if it's cool out, or in a small zippered purse, or even just in the zippered side pocket of my hiking pants.  You're traveling to places that are just as safe and modern as the US, so no need to overthink it.  Have a great time!

nnls

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #31 on: June 18, 2017, 05:26:18 PM »
Western Europe is a loosely cohesive group of highly civilized and modern nations. You could show up with nothing but the clothes on your back and be fine.

You don't need a money belt, a fanny back, or any piece of luggage that you don't already own.
You don't need to behave any differently than any touristic area in the US.
You don't need to worry about food or illnesses.
You don't need to worry about hotel workers stealing things more than in any US hotel.

Yup, I agree with all this.  I've traveled extensively internationally, never used a money belt or fanny pack type thing, and never experienced a pick-pocketing or the like.  (My brother had his laptop stolen on a train in Germany because he put the laptop bag overhead, left the compartment without it, and then remembered and went back for it -- too late!)  Like someone said earlier in the thread, just use common-sense situational awareness when you're out in public, just like if you were visiting NYC or any other American city.  Don't look like a clueless dumbbell, carrying too much stuff or finagling around to find your money inside your underwear or something silly like that.  I tend to keep my money and phone in my front zippered pockets of my fleece jacket if it's cool out, or in a small zippered purse, or even just in the zippered side pocket of my hiking pants.  You're traveling to places that are just as safe and modern as the US, so no need to overthink it.  Have a great time!

yes I agree 100% with this

jeromedawg

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #32 on: June 18, 2017, 06:04:03 PM »
Regarding pick-pockets, a lot of it is common sense and I agree not very different from theft here in the US. Generally, the more you are in the middle of the crowd, the higher the likelihood of you getting pick-pocketed or at least someone trying to pick-pocket you. This is especially the case if you're wearing a backpack or carrying a purse. Don't get caught up in the riff-raff and with all the other lemmings at major attractions.

I almost got pick-pocketed at the Colosseum in Rome at the main platform/overlook that has a view of the Colosseum right down the middle. My wife and I were weaving our way through the crowded platform area to get to the overlook for a picture when a team of thieves went after us. One, a woman, distracted my wife by stepping in front of her and waving her phone around to fake taking a picture while blocking my wife's view of my back. This was to isolate me so my wife couldn't watch my back. I then felt a sharp tug on my back while taking pictures, stopped, and immediately swung my pack around (fortunately it was one of those photo backpacks that has zippers that aren't super-easy to unzip or zip, which worked to my advantage in this scenario). I found that the upper-compartment, which had my tablet in it, was a third of the way unzipped. I'm guessing the *tug* was either from a quick attempt to unzip OR an attempt to quickly pull the tablet out. I spotted the guy who tried lifting the tablet and he was a larger dude, probably over 6ft. Regardless, I followed him back to his group of pick-pocket friends, stared him and his friends down as we walked by and cussed him out "under my breath" but loud enough to where he could hear me and see me talking. Probably not the best idea but it was a heat of the moment thing. I immediately went over to one of the staff office locations and reported the activity in the area - I think they sent some police officers up there not long after. There was probably a group of 10-12 pick-pocketers sitting in the back by the columns watching the platform area - the M.O. was probably to pair of in twos or threes and go after unsuspecting tourists who are crowded like sardines. I'm sure it's easy-pickings in situations like this.

So wherever you are, whether it's on a crowded train, Metro station, popular attraction, or any small space, always be aware of your surroundings and avoid getting yourself into situations like the one I foolishly got myself into. 

As far as money belts, I've typically carried one wherever I've travelled in Europe but I would say it probably isn't necessary if you practice common sense. That said, I'd rather have my passport as close to me as possible and not in my bag, so a money belt is nice for that. I would avoid the leg ones (some dude frisked my dad's leg as we were getting onto a train from the airport which was scary). The best ones, IMHO, are the money waist packs. Nobody will try to frisk you there and if they do, at least with me, they'd get a knee in the groin and or face.

If you carry a wallet in your pocket, try to keep it small and on a leash if possible. There was another incident/close-call while I was on a train, and some random kid sat next to me and started striking up conversation. I had my jacket in between us and I think he was trying to distract and see if he could slip my wallet out. When I picked my jacket up, sure enough, my wallet was sitting right there... still not quite sure how he even got that far but some of these guys are crazy-good. If someone (especially a shady-looking local youngster) tries to get all chatty and friendly with you, especially at a train station or on the train, back-off and increase situational awareness - chances are that they aren't just trying to be your friend but are potentially trying to distract you to pick-pocket you. Seeing that you're traveling with a group, it shouldn't be that bad though. I think most people are prone to this when they're alone or separated - again, this goes back to the M.O. that pick-pocketers operate under where usually the first couple steps are to isolate and distract, in no particular order.

pagoconcheques

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #33 on: June 19, 2017, 04:40:41 PM »
Over roughly 40 years of traveling abroad, these two axioms have served me the best:

-- When you think you're ready to leave, take half the clothes and twice the money.

-- Boil your water and wash your hands a lot. 
(Still applies literally in the undeveloped world, but I no longer worry about drinking tap water in most major cities in "1st world" countries.  Also, you can just buy bottled water. instead of boiling it.  An important corollary is to stay hydrated.  For keeping hands clean, just buy small bottles of alcohol-based hand cleaner.)  Always carry water. 

Nowadays you can use an ATM card instead of travelers checks.  Make sure your ATM card has a chip and make sure you have a 4-digit PIN; some US banks allow longer PINS but most ATMs in most countries don't support them. 

Many posters have addressed security concerns and how to stay safe.  I will add to be as cautious of fellow world travelers as of local pickpockets and so on.  Back in the day (1980s mostly) fellow travelers at hostels would chat you up about where you were heading next--if it was the opposite direction from their itinerary they would steal your stuff and/or money knowing your paths would never cross again.  Not common, mind you, but it did happen. 


captainker

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #34 on: June 19, 2017, 11:46:53 PM »
Thank you so much for the wonderful advice, everyone! I got some great tips from you! I'm getting super excited as it gets closer to trip time!

The comment about food concerns was because my mother-in-law said, "Don't drink the water in Venice or you'll get sick!" I'm glad to hear from more sources.


We have a private coach for our trip. We fly into Rome and out of Paris. I'm making a small list of stuff to keep on me when I'm out and about and am planning on interior pockets instead of a bag. I'm mostly planning on my passport, phone, some cash, one card, and my day's medication.

You mention "medication." Is this a prescription you have to take regularly? If so, depending on how common the medication is, and how serious the consequences of skipping it, consider:

1. Telling the trip leaders about your meds in advance.
2. Checking out how you'd replace the medication if it was lost/stolen/ruined.
3. Keeping 3 or so days of meds with you when your main bag is elsewhere.
4. Getting travel insurance (such as World Nomads). Travel insurance won't pay for treatment of pre-existing conditions, but World Nomads, for example, has health experts available 24/7 by phone who can research how to replace meds wherever you are.

I actually take about 10 different kinds of pills a day, which really sucks. I can probably leave my supplements at home, which would cut down on two of them. I'm planning on taking everything in the original prescription bottles and keeping those in my locked carry-on at the hotel while carrying a smaller amount with me. More than one day does sound like a good idea just in case. I'll have my own card for the travel insurance (GeoBlue) and an app for it. I've been giving my teachers a list of my meds and will be putting my medical information into the different languages I'll be interacting with.

LeRainDrop

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #35 on: June 20, 2017, 12:03:24 AM »
The comment about food concerns was because my mother-in-law said, "Don't drink the water in Venice or you'll get sick!" I'm glad to hear from more sources.

Oh, that's pretty funny!  Certainly don't drink the lagoon water in Venice, but the tap water is just fine.  Actually, many cities in Italy have nice public fountains where you can fill up your water bottle with fresh water -- just don't use the ones that say "acqua non potabile."  https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/drinking-water-in-italy-9beeb56d-ef1a-4934-8a68-f65c479bf182

Also, from http://europeforvisitors.com/venice/faq/food-and-drink.htm:

Quote
Does Venice has public drinking fountains?

Yes. Nearly every square has a fountain where you can fill your water bottle, wash your hands, or bend over to get a drink from the spigot or faucet. (Often, you'll find a trough or pan for your dog above the drain.)

Don't waste money on bottled water in Venice: The public tap water is safe, cold, and great-tasting. It's piped in from deep wells on the Italian mainland, and it's so good that it has its own brand name: Acqua Veritas.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2017, 12:05:55 AM by LeRainDrop »

bognish

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Re: First Time International Traveler Looking for Tips!
« Reply #36 on: June 20, 2017, 11:39:01 AM »
Get a nice looking pair of walking shoes and break them in before you leave. My coworker just got back from Paris with a sprained ankle. She was surpised that high heels were not practical for walking on cobblestones all day.

PM pain releavers (Tylenol or ibuprofen) are great for long plane or bus rides. Its enough to help you fall asleep, but not feel drugged if you need to go through immigration. Eases some of the aches from sitting 6 hours.

I haven't seen Imodium or other diarrhea medicine mentioned yet. You don't need a huge bottle, just enough to make it through a plane or bus ride and get to a pharmacy. Before we went to Germany this fall I picked through the mini-section of the grocery aisle for a few things that could come in handy: sun block, soap etc.