International travel offers the opportunity to experience interesting places, cultures, customs and more…if we want to. In reality, Americans can fly ‘across the pond’ to Europe without learning one word of a local language and do just fine. If trying the cuisine of a foreign country is a red flag, forget it: there are American food franchises in nearly every major European city we might visit. Want to see the iconic landmarks but not mingle with the (scary) locals? There is a hop on, hop off bus tour of most major European cities that will hit all the hot spots. So, don’t want to connect with the destinations? No problem; you do not have to. Oh but what if you did? It’s not as difficult as one might imagine and the benefits are huge. Making that happen can be as easy as learning a few little customs, things to know before visiting Europe.
50 Cents To Use The Restroom
Something as simple as using the restroom in a European country can be daunting without the right information in advance. €.50 is the going rate to get into a very clean restroom (aka water closet, WC, or some derivative of the word ‘toilet’). At a restaurant one might be dining in: no charge.
Time Is Different
It is common for European nations to use 24 hour time where 6:00 PM is 18:00 which really does take the guesswork out of when places open and close.
Multiple Currencies Often Accepted
While €Euro is the official currency of European Union member nations, there is often a local currency as well. Most places that cater to tourists accept both.
Easy And Efficient Public Transportation
It’s one of the parts of international travel that embarasses me about being an American. They do public transportation far better in Europe. Easy, affordable public transportation is available and everyone knows how to use it. Ask a tour guide, hotel front desk worker or waiter in a restaurant, they all know how to do it.
Take A Moment To Learn Exchange Rates
If this were $dollars, 1880 of them would seem like a lot for dinner. Converted from Czech Koruna that’s actually $76.25.
Bonus tip: take a photo of every receipt you get. It’s good information to have later, especially if paying with a credit card.
Allow Time For Sunrises And Sunsets
Embrace All Of The Experience
On a recent sailing of Azamara Club Cruises we enjoyed what they call an Azamazing Evening at a lovely opera house in Venice, Italy. An included part of each Azamara voyage, most passengers look forward to the experience. Arriving back at Azamara Journey after a lovely night on the town, I followed a lady back on to the ship who remarked to the security guard “Finally! Air conditioning! Everywhere we have been tonight had no air conditioning”, proving she absolutely did not ‘get it’ or appreciate the fact that we were at a centuries old opera house that had been carefully restored to its original elegance….which did not include air conditioning.
Ask Your Guide
Local guides that take us on tours of the places we visit are a fountain of knowledge just waiting to be tapped. Ask where to go for a nice lunch, cup of coffee or glass of wine. Already aware that you only have a limited amount of time at the destination, some of the best recommendations can come from the local guide we often don’t pay nearly enough attention to.
It’s Better Shared
Visiting places of interest around the world brings memories that will rank anywhere between ‘interesting’ and ‘fabulous’. Visiting those places with others makes the experience even better. One stop on the Seabourn Food And Wine Cruise was Amalfi, Italy. I could have simply walked off the ship, stopped at one of a dozen sidewalk cafes for an espresso and that would have been a good day. Doing that with a number of Seabourn chefs and invited guests turned a memorable day into an epic event I will never forget.
Bank ATM’s Are Your Best Bet
We find the best exchange rate and most secure situations around bank ATM machines in Europe. One at an actual branch of a bank is the best bet but those in airports and public places are usually safe also. Also important: Notify bank and credit cards that you will be out of the country so your cards will work when you want them to.
Research Airports In Advance
Most have smartphone apps which include a complete directory of services if not a quick way to access the airport’s wi fi system. That’s important when accessing a WiFi system that is not the official one can compromise your security, even before you are out of the airport.
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