Europe: Takeaways & Travel Tips

Jesse

Overall we really enjoyed our time in Europe and for the most part things aren’t all that different from life back home, but there are definitely aspects that were a change for us aside from the various languages. Here are some of our observations:

  • Everyone smokes! Or, a lot of people do. With all the studies that have proven smoking is bad for your health, and the blatant “SMOKING KILLS” stickers on the cigarette packs in Europe, one would think people may have started to cut back by now similar to in the States. Definitely not the case in our opinion. In fact, we think Europe might still be a growing market with people of all ages that partake. To each is own, but we definitely noticed this most places and didn’t love it especially when eating outside and having smoke blown in our faces by the people next to us.
  • You aren’t required to tip as much as in the States. Some places in Europe it’s customary to tip around 5-10% of the bill and in others you just round up or leave some change. This is because people that work in the restaurant industry don’t work for tips like they do back home they are paid a salary or higher hourly rate. Pro tip: Google the tipping etiquette in whatever country you visit.
  • Everything is smaller.  The roads, the cars, the trucks, the appliances, the showers. Generally speaking things are smaller and closer together, which is to be expected when most cities were built hundreds of years before they were back home.
  • Scooters, mopeds, and compact cars are everywhere. Many locals ride scooters and weave in and out of traffic to get the their destination. We were amazed with how people ride so close together without getting clipped. The only small accident we witnessed was in Amsterdam when a scooter hit a tourists backpack and knocked her to the ground. Luckily she was fine.
  • Most places don’t have dryers. Most of the apartments we stayed in were equipped with washers, but not dyers. Drying racks are generally used to dry clothing, which we didn’t mind once we got used to it.
  • Coffee drinkers drink espresso. A full cup of coffee, known as an Americano in Europe, is not nearly as popular as a shot of espresso. A lot of people will order an espresso and a pastry for breakfast and eat and drink quickly while standing at the counter on their way to work.
  • Most people drink alcohol. In most places in Europe it’s customary to drink at dinner and sometimes at lunch. Open container laws are very lax so it’s common to see people walking down the street drinking a beer.
  • Some people have a strong “scent”. In many of the cities we visited we walked around in the crowded streets and markets, which gave us the opportunity to pick up on what we’ve deemed “the musk”.  We’re not sure if it’s because some people don’t shower daily or choose not wear deodorant, but let’s just say the musk is prevalent. 
  • Spain and Greece have Siesta. In Spain and Greece most places shut down from 3-5pm so people can take a break or a nap. This also means that they eat dinner later and places stay open later as well.

Here are a few travel tips. Some we thought about beforehand, and others we learned along the way:

  • If you plan on paying for a meal with credit card make sure they will accept it BEFORE sitting down or you might find yourself walking to find an ATM.
  • In general we found that the best places to eat were away from the tourists areas or off the main drag. Go where the locals go. It’s also worth consulting TripAdvisor to find a good spot in the area.
  • In most countries grocery bags cost money. If you plan on taking a few trips to the grocery store buy a big reusable shopping bag on your first visit to have for your whole trip. It also came in handy for us traveling from place to place.
  • Bank ATMs give the best exchange rate so it’s best to use the ones from a big bank in town or sometimes found at the airport. Avoid going to the currency exchange shops and kiosks because you will get less for your money after their fees.
  • Charles Schwab Bank offers a checking account that reimburses all ATM fees worldwide, which we opened prior to leaving the States and we’re glad we did.
  • Pay in the local currency. For example, both Hungary and the Czech Republic will accept Euros, but you will get more for your money if you pay in the local currency.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred gives a $625 travel credit if you spend $4k in the first 3 months. We got this card a few months before leaving and used the travel credit on a flight.
  • This goes without saying, but taking the time to learn how to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the local language is something every traveler should do. A smile will go a long way as well.
  • Uber is cheaper than taxis. It’s worth seeing if Uber or any other local services are available before taking a taxi.
  • Public transportation was cheap, easy to navigate, and efficient almost everywhere. Use it.

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2 Comments

  1. Malcolm Cary
    October 5, 2016 at 1:20 pm — Reply

    Awesome! Thanks for the pointers. Where to next?

    • Jesse
      October 5, 2016 at 3:31 pm — Reply

      Hey Unc – heading to Laos on Friday then to southern Thailand, Ko Samui. Hope all is well!

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Europe: Takeaways & Travel Tips

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