Travel Tips - Europe

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MONEY

Day-to-day spending overseas can be either cash or card-based. For most travelers, it is a balance between maximizing ease and minimizing fees. 


Here are some tips on how to handle your money while overseas:


  • Before you leave the country, make sure to notify your bank(s) that you will be traveling and provide them the specific dates.
  • Find out what the international transaction and ATM fees are at your bank(s). There are some banks (ex. Huntington, Capital One, and Chase to name a few) that offer cards with no international transaction fees. We highly recommend you look into getting one. 
  • American credit cards work throughout Europe (at hotels, most shops, restaurants, and so on); Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted. American Express is less common, and the Discover card still remains unknown in Europe. 
  • We recommend that you bring an extra card as a backup.  
  • You do not have to exchange US dollars for foreign currency before you depart. Also, we recommend you do not exchange dollars for foreign cash at currency exchange booths because their rates are terrible. Instead, head to an ATM at the airport, or close to your accommodation site, and take out enough cash to last you a while. Keep in mind you will have to pay ATM fees each time you go get cash. 
  • When using your card, do not pay in US dollars if they give you that option after swiping your card. Most store's exchange rates are extremely high so you will end up paying more if you select to pay in US dollars. 
  • Try to use up your foreign currency prior to heading back to the US, especially your coins. If you end up with some left, you can always get souvenirs at the airport.  
  • Be mindful of what you are being charged and pay attention to your change back. 

BAGGAGE

Baggage

  • It can be helpful to mark your suitcase with a ribbon or piece of colored tape so you can quickly recognize it.
  • Maximum baggage allowances vary per airline carrier. 
  • Don't worry about forgetting toiletries. You can pick up shampoo, toothpaste, hairspray, etc. at a local pharmacy just like you would in the US. 

For tours that are 2 weeks or less, we recommend that you take a only two bags:

1) One carry-on bag: Maximum size is usually about 45 linear inches. 

2) One personal item: A backpack works great, or a handbag. Maximum size is generally slightly smaller than carry-on bag allowance.


For longer tours:

1) One checked bag: Maximum weight is usually 50 lbs. and the maximum size generally 62 linear inches.

2) One carry-on bag: Maximum size is usually about 45 linear inches.

3) One personal item: A backpack works great, or a handbag. Maximum size is generally slightly smaller than carry-onbag allowance.


  • Remember, you are responsible for handling your baggage. Don't take more than you can handle. 
  • In the unlikely event that your luggage is lost by the airline, you may want to have any essentials in your carry-on: glasses/contacts, medicines, toothpaste/toothbrush/deodorant, and an extra shirt, underwear, and jacket.
  • You are not allowed to carry on knives, lighters, matches, flammable liquids or solids, aerosol cans, box cutters, razor blades. 
  • All liquids in your carry-on must fit into a 1-quart zip-lock bag and no single bottle can exceed 3.4 oz/100ml. 
  • Be prepared at any time to answer questions about what is in your luggage/carry-on.

TIPPING

Restaurants

Generally, you might want to leave a tip of 10% if you are served by waitstaff. A little less if at a casual establishment, and maybe a little more if the service is really great at a more formal restaurant. If you order or pay at the county (in a pub), you don't need to provide a tip. 


Make sure, however, to check the menu to see if service is included. If so, no need to leave a tip. 


Local Guides:

1-2 pounds/euro will do. If the tour did not cost you anything, add a few more if you really enjoyed the tour. 


Hotel Porters:

A pound/euro per bag will do. In some countries, they may not take your tip.


Coach Drivers:

If the coach driver handles your bags and is rather personable and helpful, 1-2 pounds/euro per person per day will be appreciated.


Taxis:

Simply round up to the next euro/pound if it's a short ride. For longer rides, a few euro/pounds will suffice. Add an extra bit if they help with your bags or go above and beyond to help you. If you feel uneasy about your taxi ride and it seems to take longer than it should, don't bother leaving a tip. 

WHAT TO PACK

  • When packing, keep in mind there will be laundry facilities at or near your accommodation site. 
  • Be thoughtful about what you really need while traveling. Too often, travelers bring more than they need and end up wishing they had more room for souvenirs on the way home. 
  • You can always pick up a few extra items at a reasonable price overseas.
  • Some travelers plan on throwing out some things before they head home to make room for souvenirs. 

Sample Packing List:

Carry-on suitcase: 

1 pair “dressy”, or nice jeans/pants

2-3 pair jeans/pants/shorts for outdoor activities

2-3 pair khakis, or similar (maybe a casual skirt or decent khaki shorts)

1 “dressy” outfit (optional)

1 pair day to evening comfortable shoes/flats for city walking

1 pair hiking boots or athletic shoes with decent treads (optional; wear on plane to save room if you bring!)

1 pair running shoes (if you like to exercise!)

3-4 sweaters, fleeces or pullovers (wear one on plane to save room)

6 shirts (or more if you have space)

1 coat (water-resistant is recommended; wear on plane to save room)

Workout clothes (2 sets) and maybe a swimsuit 

PJs, socks, and undergarments 

Plastic grocery bags for wet or muddy items

Extra zippered carry-on size bag for laundry and/or souvenirs. 


In “personal item” (small backpack) 

1 pair sunglasses

1 baseball cap/hat and scarf (if weather will be cooler)

1 pair of gloves (if traveling when temperatures will be cool/cold)

Small bag/purse (for passport, credit cards, phone and cash)

1 quart plastic bag with 3 oz or smaller liquid toiletries (most hotels will have basic toiletries as well) and other toiletries (minimal)

Adapter with surge protector

Charge cord for phone; headphones

Journal and book/reading material

Laptop/tablet



FOOD/DINING OUT

  • Food costs will vary based on individual food preferences. The cost of meals not included in tours/program can be similar to what students would pay in the U.S. 


  • Travelers will have access to grocery stores and city/farmer's markets where it can be cost-effective to pick up ready-made sandwiches and other inexpensive meals.


  • Picking up a meal from a small/budget take-out or street food vendor can be an inexpensive option.


  • Travelers can find pubs and budget friendly restaurants where they will be able to get a good meal for under 10 pounds/euro.


  • If accommodation is in a flat (apartment), travelers will have access to full kitchens so they make cook for themselves. 


  • Just as in the US, be mindful of what you spend on beverages if you are concerned about your budget. Tap water in Europe, for the most part, is perfectly safe to drink.