Monday, May 4, 2009

Ok.  I am behind on my blogging regarding my travels abroad but have been so busy with so much to see that just writing a journal takes a lot of my "rest" time, let alone downloading photos every night and categorizing them.

So, I decided that in order to keep things flowing, I would offer a tips and hints when traveling in Europe – all brought about by painful experience.

Here are some things one should consider when traveling in a foreign country for the first time, at least in Europe:

1.       Be prepared to carry your own luggage in hotels and on the train.  There are no porters, even at 4 star hotels.  We were told that there would be porters to put our baggage on the train and the first bag was free (at least regarding a tip).  However, if you had more than one bag, you should expect to tip the porter.  That problem was solved as we never saw a porter and had to struggle on the train with our bags and grunt and groan to get them into the luggage carrier above the seats.

2.      If you go by train, especially in Germany, ask if you can reserve a seat with a table.  We had reserved seats and, thankfully, the train was not full so we were able to move about at our leisure and sit at seats that had a table between them.  These seats have outlets to plug your computer in to!

3.       Bring an adapter if you want to use your laptop!  Lucky for me my son brought his computer and adapter.  If you are in a four-star hotel, leave your hair dryer at home.  They have them in the room.  If you are in a cheaper room/hotel, you probably don't need a hair dryer anyway and haven't brought one!

4.        Be prepared to pay a stiff fee for obtaining internet service even at four-star hotels.  Unlike Honduras, they charge by the half-hour, hour, 24-hours and business 24-hours and it is not cheap!

5.-    Be early for your train – they leave ON TIME.  We always allowed ourselves enough time just so we could find the track and then car number of the train because boarding time is very short. 

        When a train is stopped for more than 15 min. get up, check around and see where  you are because you may have arrived at your destination early!  Or, if someone told you that the underground train you are riding goes all the way to your destination without stopping and it stops for more than 15 minutes – CHECK AROUND – you may just have to transfer and did not know it.  We used the underground in Frankfurt and were told we did not have to change trains.  When the train stopped we naturally sat there thinking we would start up again shortly.  After 15 minutes, my son looked out and saw a clock that said the train was leaving in 2 minutes.  We discovered that this train was going back the way we had come and that we had to disembark and find our connecting train!  The train we were on for Nuremberg arrived early at our destination (by 11 minutes) and we thought we were going on to another station because of the fact that we were early.  We then discovered that we were in Nuremberg and had to disembark!  The announcements on the train are done in English but in many cases it is hard to understand!

     When walking from one train car to another - hang on to the seats!

6.       Always leave your hotel key/pass in one specified spot in your room each time you return to the room so you will know where it is.  I am bad about putting things down and forgetting where I placed them.  My son said, “Mom, just place the room key/pass on a particular table in your room and always leave it there when you come in so you can find it.”  This advice sure saves a lot of hunting.

7.         Don’t stand still for too long in Germany or you will become “graffiti”.  Unfortunately, Germany is riddled with graffiti everywhere one looks; on monuments, fences, deserted buildings, etc.  It seems the more difficult the place the bigger the challenge to paint graffiti.  Some of it is very artful but I found it very disrespectful, especially when painted on structures that were more than 400 years old!

8.      Learn please and thank you in the language of the country you are visiting.  It also helps to learn the greetings: “Good morning, good afternoon or good evening.”   "Excuse me" is another word that is something you should add to your vocabulary.  Also, try and at least say thank you in the language of the country your are visiting.  The people will smile and be happy that you have attempted a phrase in their language.

9.       Carry a small bag within your carry-on that holds a book, crossword puzzles, cards, your iPod, needlework, or whatever so that when you put your carry-on in the overhead bin you do not have to disturb others in order to get something to entertain yourself while traveling.

10. Make sure you have something with the printed name and address of your hotel on it to show taxi drivers!  I carried my room pass.  Unfortunately it did not have the address of the hotel and unbeknownst to me the hotel had just recently changed its name.  Lucky for me I knew it was near the river and near the overhead train system!

11.    Carry hand wipes with you as many small kiosks or restaurants selling “food to go” won’t give you a napkin!  (Oh, LaGringa, there is plenty of toilet paper to go around!) Enough said on that.

12.   If you are in a city for no more than 2 days, get a city map from the hotel, it will help immensely.

13.   If you have to use a transportation system (such as the Underground) and have time, scope it out the day before to become familiar with the area; what you have to do in order to get a ticket, the train you will be riding on and the track number!  If you can’t go the day before, make sure you are at the train station or Underground with plenty of time to search around for information as these trains leave ON TIME and wait for no one!  Lucky for me I had the time to check the Underground out the day before I met my son at the airport.

14.   Relax!  Enjoy!  This may be your one chance to see Europe.  Don’t get hung up because you feel something is not going right.  Roll with the punches and smile… are finally there, so enjoy!

Also, excuse any typos in this blog as it is late, I am tired and all I want is a nice shower and to go to bed!

I know these tips may not work for everyone, but just thought I’d let you all know what to avoid or prepare for just in case!

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