What to expect on your European holiday

 

European Hotels

European hotels vary country to country and are not like hotels in our home towns.

Even though it may be listed as 4 star, it might have thin walls, horrible mattresses, bad plumbing and noisy hallways.

-A double or twin room is quite often two single beds pushed together.

Sometimes that is all the hotel has available, or you can check with reception in case they just got the rooms mixed up.

-Hotels can charge what they want for phones and mini bars. Use with caution.

-Take room security seriously.  Don’t leave open windows and lock the door at night.

Check your door before walking away to make sure it is locked, as some can be double locked with the key.

 

Hotel Breakfast can be slow and busy. Some are an easy buffet style and usually have rigid set times when you can eat.

If breakfast is listed as 7-10 am, they will usually be packed up and finished by 10am.

Don’t expect a lot from European hotel breakfasts in general.

If you have booked a continental breakfast, it will more than likely be a roll and jam, with coffee and juice.

 

When leaving your room look under the bed, in between the beds, in the sheets, shower, closet, etc.

You cannot afford to leave anything behind.   Never put passport under pillow or mattress

-If you do find you are missing something, you will have to phone hotel, give them your room number and

call back again once someone has been able to check the room.

If they find your item, you should be able to leave a credit card number and forwarding address to have it posted.

Passports can be courier delivered to another country or city, at great cost.

Hotels will generally not forward forgotten money.

-If you want to leave things in a room safe, put something essential in with your valuables to make sure you remember them.                      A shoe or your toothpaste should do the job.

 

Medical concerns The general rule of thumb is first visit the chemist as they can advise on general concerns.

If you are still bad, try a walk in clinic or hospital emergency room.

If really bad, call reception to organise a doctor to come to your hotel room.

Hotels can usually organise taxis to pick up medicine for you.

You pay the doc up front and claim back on your travel insurance.

Expect to pay on average €100 (or more) for this privilege.

 

Siestas Some shops close from 1-3pm or 2-4pm for lunch. Watch for closings on public holidays and Sundays.

Many shops in the Netherlands will close Sunday until Monday at around 1pm.

 

Church dress  Shoulders need to be covered to enter some churches. There will be a sign in the entrance,

and they can stop you from going in if your skirt or shorts are not modest enough.

If you like visiting churches, dress modestly or carry a scarf.

Some churches offer covers free or for a small fee, or you may find people selling shawls outside of the church.

For visiting anywhere in the Vatican city, it is essential for both knees and shoulders to be covered for men and women.

 

Restaurants & tipping   Always ask to see a menu first and always read the bill and re-add the total

Check your change.  Tip waiters for exceptional service.  Round off your bill, or around 10% is fine.

If there is a percentage on the bottom of your bill, this will be a tip already included.

If there is a set addition of €1-2, this is a cover charge.  It will have been indicated on your menu.

 

Toilets  In some countries you will need to pay to use public toilets. The attendant will be sitting beside the door with a basket or saucer with one euro coins in it. The local rate is 20-30 cents unless there is a sign with a clear price.  This could be 50 cents, to over a euro in some places in Venice. Best look for a hotel or restaurant.

 

Alcohol  The alcohol in Europe is stronger and purer.  Keep your intake down as it can hit you fast.

The best buy will be the local speciality, beer or wine.

For a nice carafe of good wine, ask for the house wine. This will be comparable to a good bottle at home.

Very cheap alcohol is available in the grocery stores. Even things like Champagne or liqueurs can be found by the tinned peas.

Europe is an alcohol integrated society, which means it is a neutral & accepted part of everyday life. The only people who drink to

excess, are down and outs, and some tourists.

 

Water  The shops all carry bottled water, and there are two types.

Natural is non-gas, is still water.

Gas or fizzy is carbonated water.  This is not to everyone’s palate as it can taste a bit bitter.

If you can’t tell the difference between bottles, look at the sodium content on the label.  The CH level will be much higher in fizzy water.  Also the bottle will be made of a heavy plastic which is harder to squeeze.

Generally tap water is okay to drink throughout Western Europe.

 

Counting  For many Europeans, the thumb is one.  Thumb and index finger is two, etc.

 

Language  Most Europeans speak several languages, with English as the main second language

If you speak to them in high school French, they will answer in rapid and fluid French.

If you begin with  ‘Do you speak English?’, you might get a ‘No’ and it can be insulting if they do.

 Use the local language as a greeting, then continue in clear, simple English.

 

Phone   Most people will travel with a mobile phone nowadays.  Make sure you turn off your roaming or you might get a hefty bill when you get home.  The free way to contact loved ones is by using wifi and going through an app like Skype or Facebook messenger.

If you have to use a landline, hotels can charge what they want for phone calls. Please check before picking up the phone in your room. If you need to, you will have to register your credit card with reception. It’s best to text home and give them the hotel phone number and your room number.

There are also call centres in internet cafes, where you can go into a booth and call home cheaply.

 

Cash/Credit cards   When using credit cards in restaurants or shops, make sure amount is filled in properly on bottom of slip.  

When using ATM cash machines, be diligent about covering your pin number.  Skimming is rife. 

If possible, use a machine inside a bank, during banking hours.

Hide your pin and you can’t get skimmed.

 

Passport   Carry a photocopy of the photo page, and any stamps or visas.

You will need to show it for tax back shopping, casinos, internet in Italy (or picture ID), and for some big credit card purchases.

 

Security   Don’t leave valuables laying around your room, making it easy for opportunists walking down the hall way when the maids are cleaning the rooms.

The pickpockets in Europe are among best in world. Some wear suits and carry brief cases.

They often work in teams on the metros or trams.  Look for them.

They’ll be acting suspicious and looking at everyone’s belongings.

They will have an empty knapsack or something cloth over their arm; maybe a newspaper.

They are very easy to spot.  There is some good footage of how to spot pickpockets on Youtube.

Keep your purse zipped up at all times and never let it dangle over your back

Look behind you when leaving after a sit down to make sure you haven’t left anything behind.

If you see a group of people cheering and winning money, as one man takes a ball and hides it under one of 3 cups, this is a scam.

Avoid anyone trying to hand you things like flowers, a gold ring, or anyone trying to tie a string on your wrist.

Just flatly refuse and say ‘I have no money.’

 

 ATTITUDE

Travel is hard work at first, but soon becomes second nature

Time will accelerate and each week will feel like a month

It is important to live in the moment

Take advantage of the wonderful opportunity you have been given to travel

Cram as much juice into your holiday as you can