Tips For Traveling Across Europe
I traveled to Germany, Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in the summer of 2011. For most of the trip, I traveled with a friend who, like me, was visiting these countries for the first time. We occasionally met up with cool locals who showed us around.
Here are some tips from our experience. Keep in mind that these tips are written from the perspective of an Indian traveler.
Seats in economy class are, generally, quite cramped, and it can be hard to get any rest in them. Sometimes the plane is not fully occupied. In this instance, and when the seat belt sign goes off, you can get up and look for adjacent vacant seats. Generally, the hand rests can be lifted, and you can use these to sleep. These empty seats fill up pretty quickly; and do not forget to take your blanket along.
While travelling abroad, its good to have a working cell phone so that you can be reached in case of an emergency, or so that you can plan meet ups or make travel plans. Here are some ways to do this:
a) Activate international roaming on your existing cell phone. But, watch out, as it can be very expensive. In my case, I have a an Airtel cellular connection, and even after activating inter-national roaming, it did not work. After I had started my journey, there was not much Airtel Customer Care could do to rectify the situation.
b) Buy a Travel card from your home country before starting the trip. I got a Martix travel cardand it worked pretty well. I have used the Martix travel card in US and Europe without problems. They even sell them at the New Delhi International Airport. I had to cut the sim to fit my iPhone. My sim was still active after my requested usage period, and I had to call-in to deactivate it and pay extra for a few days. Last, I checked their iPhone data plans, and they did not have any good ones.
c) Buy a local sim card. Go to a local vodafone or cellular connection shop, and buy a sim card which has data, voice, and text, and fits your phone (micro-sim for the iPhone). You could end up paying around 1 to 2 euros a day with plenty of data and voice. A data connection while travelling abroad can be very useful, as it helps you navigate, look up new places, and find interesting people to meet.
Internet on the go can be a boon for someone travelling to a new location. I, for one, have never planned my trips in advance; rather, I end up making plans for the next day the evening before. Having all my apps working on my phone enables me to use the local transport effectively, get a cab, or find interesting places to visit.
I, generally, buy a local sim card with a data connection and pop it in my cell phone. I also carry a SIM cutter as I have an iPhone. It also has internet tethering which allows me to use the connection on my computer and other devices.
Generally, most Airports and hostels have free wifi. If not, there are plenty of tricks out there to use insecure networks.
I used to carry a wallet with all my cards and receipts. Now, though, I typically carry only three things: - less than 100 euro in cash; - a credit card; - and an ID card, like my driving license. I keep them in my front jeans pocket and I am good to go. Even if something goes wrong, I only lose the remaining money and two cards as opposed to a 1-inch thick wallet. If I have to carry my passport or something else that is important, I usually use a money pouch.
If you do not have a credit card, as is the case with most Indian students, you can get a travel card from your bank or from Western Union. You can load up some money before you go, and someone back home can load up more, just in case.
I tried an Axis Bank travel card once. It worked just fine most of the time. There were a few problems, though. They did not have a card usage alert for international numbers. Their mobile app has been designed by managers and is utterly useless. Their customer support just listens to what you have to say and, then, asks you to email the same - as they are not authorised to do anything.
You can carry Euros or Dollars. If the country you are in does not accept Euros, you can go to a local small currency converting shop. I prefer these shops over banks, as the banks are slow and these shops have the exchange rates right outside.
Wiki travel has proved to be a very useful resource for me so far. It has information on the local transport system and, sometimes, even suggestions on special travel passes. I found out about a travel pass in Berlin from the website, which not only gave access to all the local transports, but also discounts on museum passes, souvenir shops, and restaurants. Student discounts are also available at places.
Most railway stations and local train stations have information centres. You can pick up tourist brochures from them, and find out about interesting places, local festivals, and current deals and promotions.
Travel Across Nations
When travelling across nations, check for the price of two way tickets, as they are generally cheaper than one way tickets. Sometimes, there are two way tickets that include local travel in the destination city.
I generally prefer hostels over hotels while travelling alone. They are cheap, very casual, and most of the people staying there are friendly and, typically, young. I, generally, book my bed or room using Hostel World in advance. Some hostels also have student discounts.
I, generally, use Couch Surfing, and write, in advance, to people I am interested in meeting
Refer to the following link for some of the common scams: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/298scam.htm. I have reposted the article after the break, in case the link breaks. I have fallen for the fake police scam mentioned in the post, and lost ~50 Euro in Budapest, Hungary.
I would advice carrying a cold cream, like Nivea, at least. Students are notorious for not taking care of themselves; but if you don’t do this, the cold air will cause your skin to dry up like crazy.
I would also suggest carrying an eye mask and ear buds. These make sleeping in the plane and hostels easier.
Go crazy and have a ton of fun!!!