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Best tips for traveling to Europe!

What are your top tips (on food, transportation, the people, shopping, packing etc) you'd recommend for someone traveling to:

- Europe in general

- Paris/France specifically

?

?Thank you!!?

Re: Best tips for traveling to Europe!

  • image 07bride:

    What are your top tips (on food, transportation, the people, shopping, packing etc) you'd recommend for someone traveling to:

    - Europe in general

    - Paris/France specifically

     

     Thank you!! 

    Try new stuff, don't be too upset if you can't find familiar things to eat, just go with the flow and experience new cuisines - you might really like them.

    Realise that hotel rooms are smaller than US rooms - that won't change. We have less space here. Cars, hotel rooms and food portions are all smaller. (It's the biggest complaint I hear from American people so just be prepared and you will be fine).

    Try to at least have a go at the local language. Learn basic manners (please/thanks/hello/goodbye) in French/whatever local language you need and it will go a long way.

    Pack layers. The weather can change during the day and so should you. Unless you want to be an obvious American tourist, avoid long shorts, fanny packs and trainers. Just wear what you would normally wear at home if you were heading out for the day.

    Many streets are cobbled (but not all) so if you are going to be walking about, flat shoes are best.

    Relax and enjoy - take it all in!

  • What are your top tips (on food, transportation, the people, shopping, packing etc) you'd recommend for someone traveling to:

    - Europe in general - Take the train (instead of flying) if possible - the scenery is much more beautiful and the journey is 100x more comfortable.

    Stay in a centralized location - don't be tempted by lower hotel prices in the outskirts of town. 

    Eat everything!

    My advice for shopping and packing go hand-in-hand: don't pack so much and leave room for your souvenirs! 

    - Paris/France specifically No advice, since I've only visited Paris for 3 days - but leave all your stereotypes about rude Parisiens at home, nicest people ever.

    Get a Museum Pass and Orange Card.

     Thank you!! No problem!  Have a great time!

  • image VegemiteWife:

    Try new stuff, don't be too upset if you can't find familiar things to eat, just go with the flow and experience new cuisines - you might really like them.

    Realise that hotel rooms are smaller than US rooms - that won't change. We have less space here. Cars, hotel rooms and food portions are all smaller. (It's the biggest complaint I hear from American people so just be prepared and you will be fine).

    Try to at least have a go at the local language. Learn basic manners (please/thanks/hello/goodbye) in French/whatever local language you need and it will go a long way.

    Pack layers. The weather can change during the day and so should you. Unless you want to be an obvious American tourist, avoid long shorts, fanny packs and trainers. Just wear what you would normally wear at home if you were heading out for the day.

    Many streets are cobbled (but not all) so if you are going to be walking about, flat shoes are best.

    Relax and enjoy - take it all in!

    <3 Vegemite wife!   She really hit the nail on the head.

    I will also add the wait time at restaurants will be longer then you are used to in the US.  

    To add to clothing, pack neutral colors.  I almost always wear a cardigan over my shirt even in summer, yay England, bring a black and navy one and you'll be set.  

    A decent pair of shoes are worth the money.  Clarks are great, sneakers will make you look like an American.   I'm not saying that's bad, but I personally do not like to stick out, I would rather blend as much as I can.

       As for shopping, it's expensive here and the exchange rate is not that favorable for you.  I'm not sure what you are looking to buy.  I know I have a totally different point of view then you, I try to buy as much as possible in the US and bring it back here.  You should be able to claim back sales tax though, so I would look into that before you go so you know what you need to do.   

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  • I dunno, since I will always be immediately identified as a foreigner in Europe - whether its because of my freaking DSLR hanging off my neck or the fact that I'm Asian - I don't think its such a bad idea to wear comfortable shoes, even if I end up looking "American". 

    Appearing American isn't bad, appearing like you couldn't bother to put on a decent outfit in the morning is bad.

    The key is, the rest of your attire doesn't have to scream lazy tourist.  Sweats, hoodies and fannypacks (not that I wear these things out in public at home either LOL) IMO give off a disrespectful vibe. 


  • All of the pps have great advice :)

    Europe and especially Paris are fabulous places!  Don't bother comparing everything to the US, totally different continents.  If you spend your whole trip expecting everything to be like home, it will be a disappointment.  Be happy that things are different.  Along the same lines, try new things.

    I totally agree that you should at least get comfortable saying, "hello" "goodbye" and "thank you" in French and any other language you may need. 

    Not only wait times at restaurants are longer, you will also need to ask for the cheque.  Often at restaurants, wait-staff will not come and ask you if you are ready for your cheque. 

    Don't worry about looking American.  A city like Paris is so full of foreigners, it isn't bad, or strange, to stick out.  

    Europe is extremely safe.  Keep your whits about you like any city in the US, but it is really not dangerous.  If someone approaches you, just politely walk away.  If they are pushy, just say "no" and get away. 

    Don't worry about doing touristy things.  You'll read all over the place that you should avoid touristy things, but seriously, the touristy things are sometimes draw crowds for a reason.  The Eiffel Tower is absolutely magical, the Louvre (including the Mona Lisa) should be seen, etc.

    Keep the exchange rate in your head.  Actually, estimate costs a little high, so that you don't run over budget quickly.  Also, if you don't stay at the Four Seasons in Paris, you will still have a wonderful trip.  Read hotel reviews and ask here about hotels, a lot of people have good advice.

    Depending on where you're planning to go besides Paris, I sometimes recommend renting a car.  Obviously, you don't need a car in Paris- I totally agree with Tarinay that you should try to stay well within the city.  But, depending on how much time you'll have, it can be so wonderful to explore the countryside on your own. 

    Most importantly, have fun, see a lot, expect to be tired, and wear good shoes :)

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  • image NCV2:
    image VegemiteWife:

    Try new stuff, don't be too upset if you can't find familiar things to eat, just go with the flow and experience new cuisines - you might really like them.

    Realise that hotel rooms are smaller than US rooms - that won't change. We have less space here. Cars, hotel rooms and food portions are all smaller. (It's the biggest complaint I hear from American people so just be prepared and you will be fine).

    Try to at least have a go at the local language. Learn basic manners (please/thanks/hello/goodbye) in French/whatever local language you need and it will go a long way.

    Pack layers. The weather can change during the day and so should you. Unless you want to be an obvious American tourist, avoid long shorts, fanny packs and trainers. Just wear what you would normally wear at home if you were heading out for the day.

    Many streets are cobbled (but not all) so if you are going to be walking about, flat shoes are best.

    Relax and enjoy - take it all in!

    <3 Vegemite wife!   She really hit the nail on the head.

    I will also add the wait time at restaurants will be longer then you are used to in the US.  

    To add to clothing, pack neutral colors.  I almost always wear a cardigan over my shirt even in summer, yay England, bring a black and navy one and you'll be set.  

    A decent pair of shoes are worth the money.  Clarks are great, sneakers will make you look like an American.   I'm not saying that's bad, but I personally do not like to stick out, I would rather blend as much as I can.

       As for shopping, it's expensive here and the exchange rate is not that favorable for you.  I'm not sure what you are looking to buy.  I know I have a totally different point of view then you, I try to buy as much as possible in the US and bring it back here.  You should be able to claim back sales tax though, so I would look into that before you go so you know what you need to do.   

     All this stuff is great advice!  In France, when you enter a smaller store/restaurant (not big grocery stores like Monoprix) say Bonjour!  even if you don't see someone.  This is a French custom and they really appreciate it even if you don't speak French.  Also, when you leave say Merci, au revoir!  even if you don't buy anything.  In France, public toilets cost money...I personally do not enjoy paying to pee, so I try to make a point of going whenever I am somewhere with a free bathroom (restaurant, museum, etc).  Watch your bag on the metro in Paris, esp if it's crowded...keep it in front of you (I generally try to keep it, so I can at least see the zipper pull) unfortunately pick pockets are fairly common and often try to create a diversion.  Don't take travelers checks...they are a pain in the butt.  I take my ATM card (after letting the bank know I am going abroad and confirming it will work abroad) and a back up card as well.  Visa travel cards (available at AAA) also works well for this.  I'm sure I could come up with more stuff, but this is all that comes to mind now.

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  • Also, don't be a hermit.  Talk to people.  I've been accused of having "diarrhea of the mouth" by my close friends, but honestly I think its a great quality LOL.

    Europeans have the art of socializing down, don't be afraid to talk, make conversation, ask questions (they're also very proud Nationalists), argue, etc.



  • I have only been to France once and I went to San Marlo (great BTW!) anyway, the public bathrooms were free, but didn't have TP or soap.  I have no idea is this is the norm, but having a pack of tissues and a bottle of purell can't hurt...
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  • Great advice from pps. I actually found Parisians to be extremely friendly and had one of our best trips there.  Our hotel receptionist talked about how much Parisians love Americans...I had never heard that before.

    Comfortable shoes are a must.  You can get very comfortable, non-sneaker, shoes, or just wear sneakers.  You may stick out as an American, but as long as you aren't an obnoxious American, then no one will care.  I do try to blend in as much as possible just because it makes me more comfortable.

    As others have said, do not expect Europe to be like the US.  Don't go to a restaurant and expect to get food right away.  If you are really hungry, grab a small snack, or else you may be starving by the time your food gets there.  Be adventurous and ask for recommendations of local food.

    A couple words of the local language go a long way.  Locals will be more willing to help you out if you at least attempt the language.  Also, if you ask people if they speak English, they may say "no" or "just a little".  You will be surprised how much they actually know.  They generally only respond yes if they speak it fluently.  Young people are generally great to talk to because they love to practice their english.

    Make sure you always have euro change for toilets and carrying a travel pack of babywipes is good for TP and washing hands.

     Have fun!

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  • Do interact with the people, even just saying hi and buy makes a good impression. And wear comfortable shoes, they will still think you are American even if you have stilettos on but your feet will hate you. Cobblestone streets are still very much a reality, so wear sensible shoes. And wear layers, a lot of churches have dress codes, and some areas can get cold/damp if you are not in the sun. We were in Crete, in July, and the insides of the houses are so cool they don't need AC. Well I forgot a sweater and was miserable during a family visit.

    Try to stay in bed and breakfasts, have a big breakfast, then a small street type lunch and get a nice dinner. Can save you SO much money. And even if you stay in the outskirts, at least find a place close to a metro/bus stop. Most reviews will tell you if a place was easy to get to. You can save money this way, and if it makes your trip more affordable for you I don't think it's that big of a deal. The center tends to be loud, so bring earplugs to sleep. Most windows in Europe are double insulated, so they are very sound proof, but believe me if you want to get some sleep and there's a street party outside your hotel you will need earplugs. 

    I'd take the train everywhere-you really get to see a lot of scenery and you don't have to worry about trying to drive places.. And use the metro if available in the places you will be-I've never rented a car in Europe, maybe on one occasion did I feel like it would have been useful. Be flexible about travel within Europe, some countries are more notorious than others about transportation strikes. Just go with the flow and find another route if you run into this problem.

    Pack light. Three pairs of shoes, a few pants, a skirt, and shirts that are versatile as well as hand-washable. Bring long sleeved jackets or sweaters for the night time. Lots of socks and undies that can be handwashed, but keep in mind that some areas are very damp inside so if you have a balcony it's best to dry things there.

    The people are very urban, but gracious. They are busy, but love life, eating/drinking out, being with friends. It's such a great experience-I hope you take away some of that European living home with you!

    Buy souvenirs outside of the main touristy places, they can be up to half as pricey. Get things that are useful and won't break in the suitcase. I have kitchen towels from everywhere we've gone, and they are handy as well as really easy to pack. Also if you are buying something made there, make sure it is really made there. I went to Venice and was sold some table cloths that were made in China- I soon realized this and demanded to exchange my items for something made in Italy. Little grocery stores are good places to get snacks and water, they are also cheaper! Buy bottles of water everyday, bags of snacks, some even have fruit/milk/yogurt. Try the crepes and panini sandwiches for a quick lunch. Yum! We also saved a lot of money by researching restaurants in the area from home, so that we had a list of 'good' and 'reasonably' priced places to choose from. There are so many restaurants but not enough time to try them all, at least you won't make the mistake of going somewhere the locals don't eat at! And try to find places with prix fix menus, you get to try a few courses but they are usually very budget friendly.

    Have fun!!! 

  • LOL 'trying to blend' is frankly not something that i worry about. i'm not a white sneaker/yoga pants/college tshirt wearer to begin iwth but believe me-just as i can spot a tourist in manhattan from blocks away-people elsewhere know you're not from there. it's your mannerisms-not how you're dressed. I'm there to enjoy a city-not to try to look like a local.why? because I'm NOT! I don't have the energy for it really-all of this worrying if i blend in. Who cares? I don't blend (and having a NY accent doesn't help either-they know as soon as htey hear me speak-and know when you do too). anyway to get some great shoes that aren't bright white sneakers (because i feel they just look AWFUL) head to the cole haan website. i have cute mary janes, boots, heels etc.. that have the nike air soles in them. super comfy without the bright white awfulness! and they last forever.

    REstaurants: just try it-whatever they put in front of you. Ask the waiter what he/she recommends if you're not sure what to order. And stay out of the chain places!!!

    Language: don't expect people in france to speak english just like you don't want them to come here and expect you to know how to speak french. they probably will speak english-but don't presume. give a few words in frech.

    Most importantly: you're not in america. Don't expect it to be like here and don't get upset when it's not like here.  Be friendly!

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  • Wow- this is all so helpful!!!!! Thank you very much :)
  • To save money on food, go to grocery stores and buy bread, cheese, fruits, juice, wine, etc.  You can eat well for cheap.  

    In France, it's customary to address people while greeting.  Saying "Bonjour" is not enough.  To be polite, try to say "Bonjour/Bonsoir Monseiur/ Madame/ Mademoiselle" accordingly.  That'll earn you big brownie points with local shopkeepers, etc.

    In Europe, people count on the fingers differently.  They usually start with the thumb.  So if you want to 2 beers, hold up the thumb and the index figer (instead of index and middle finger).  

  • image sabae:

    To save money on food, go to grocery stores and buy bread, cheese, fruits, juice, wine, etc.  You can eat well for cheap.  

    In France, it's customary to address people while greeting.  Saying "Bonjour" is not enough.  To be polite, try to say "Bonjour/Bonsoir Monseiur/ Madame/ Mademoiselle" accordingly.  That'll earn you big brownie points with local shopkeepers, etc.

    In Europe, people count on the fingers differently.  They usually start with the thumb.  So if you want to 2 beers, hold up the thumb and the index figer (instead of index and middle finger).  

    I don't think it's applicable in France, but be very careful about holding up your first and middle fingers at all in the UK.  If you do it while showing the person you're talking to the back of your hand it means f*ck off. 

  • In Paris, know the museum schedules.  Each is usually closed one day a week.

    The best advice I ever read about Paris was a women traveling with her family who had a print out of all the tourist spots and their hours.  That way, if they finished visiting something and had time to spare, she could check the sheet and know if another museum was still open.

  • 1.   Buy a flat money belt that you can wear under your clothes.  Store your passports and money in it. I always get my DH to wear it

    2. Get to attractions early like 8am before the umbrella waving tour guides arrive with their groups.

    3. In Paris try to stick to a hotel in the 1st to 6th arrondissement (I like the  4th, 5th and 6th arrondissement best) that way you are within walking distance of most of the sites you are likely to want to visit.   

    4.  If you find a hotel you want to stay in, book it early. The popular ones fill up fast.

    5. Consider getting a Eurail pass if you are planning to do most of your travelling by train.

    6. If you are planning to stay in Paris for more than a day or two, invest in a multi day metro pass.

    7. Wait to get your VAT tax back at the airport. Don't bother going to those little booths you see dotted everywhere to get your refund early. You risk getting ripped off. (We did).

    8. I have two of everything. Nothing more. In winter for example I take one set of walking boots for day and nice boots for night. 2 pairs of pants, 2 sweaters, 2 dresses and numerous thermals and a winter jacket.

    9. Pack at least one nice dress - not formal but a dress you would wear out back home if you were going out to dinner. Don't bother packing any bulky handbags. One small handbag is fine. 

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