Traveling to Europe Tips – Part 1

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::: Americans Still Flock to Europe as Dollar Drops
NYTimes

I will be updating the site from now on with various travel tips. In addition I will be posting several guides to various film festivals I’ve attended (which will be primers for attending as press or as a moviegoer).

First up is the above article which highlights the fact the US dollars SUCKS against the British Pound and the Euro right now. If you plan on traveling to Europe or the UK here are some things to do and consider due to the lowering value of the US dollar.

Now onto budgeting and saving money…

BUDGETING

* In the UK budget for everything costing double. If your hotel is 150 pounds a night then you are really paying $300 US dollars plus a night.

* Check with your bank on all service charges for using your debit and ATM internationally. For example they often times not only have a transaction fee for any purchase but they sometimes also impose a fee on top of that as a one time service fee. So your getting hit with the currency exchange, transaction fee and sometimes an additional service fee (which can often be as much as $50 US dollars). So in your budget have a separate place to account for transaction and service fees.

* Transportation costs. Find out what transportation options will be available where you are staying and budget for using them.

* Internet access costs. In many places in Europe and the UK, while the hotel lists having Internet or wi-fi, this often can mean they go through a provider you have to pay separately for versus having it for free. A really common form of this is now having to buy from a third party Internet time by blocks of hours. Typically you can get 24-48 hour access for $10-30 Euros. You will either get a card with a password code on it or the hotel will issue you the time and password at the desk. The $10-30 bucks may not seem like much but over the lifespan of a trip it certainly adds up. They typically gear this service so you buy the cheaper 1-12 hour cards at $5-10 bucks a pop versus buying the larger blocks. Anything 12 hours an up often times is for consecutive use. Meaning once you start using it a ticking clock starts and x number of hours later it will start. You can’t start and stop each time you connect. The time on it starts the minute you first sign in and keeps going for the next several hours regardless if you use it or not. The most ideal situation is to see if they have a weekly block you can buy for around $50-100. It may seem like more but often times if you budget it out you actually save money. Just figure out based on how much you think you will use what works best for your budget. In any event budget an additional $100-200 dollars for using the Internet on your trip. If your just going to be checking e-mail ever so often then get a under 12 hour non-consecutive use card and budget for $50-$100 depending on your length of stay.

SAVING MONEY

* Instead of purchasing soft drinks, beer/wine, small meals and snacks from vending machines or at actual events find a local supermarket and stock up. The convenience stores typically charge more (the same overpriced deal you find at Gas stations and so forth in the US), so find an actual grocery store. By using a grocery store to stock up during your trip you will save considerable money. You can in many cases buy a case of Coke for example for the same price it would have taken you to buy one or two elsewhere. In most hotels they have small refrigerators already setup so you won’t have to worry about keeping items cold.

* Before you leave for your trip go and get a couple hundred US dollars exchanged into the currency of where you will be going. You can often times get better exchange rates here than abroad. Keep in mind that when you arrive to your destination via plane or boat that the first thing you typically need is cash to pay a bus, train or taxi. The places of destination also know this so they setup places where you can get local currency (but at much higher rates). So don’t start your trip off getting your initial cash flow going on the wrong foot, have several hundred dollars of their currency already in hand.

* Taxi taxi! In Europe you will find they have two types of cabs around hot spots. The first and more common kind charges by distance and the usual service fee. The second kind charges a fixed amount no matter where you go. Avoid the second kind as much as possible! You can also often times bargain with taxi cab drivers in Europe and try and get them down on cost. Ask them before hand how much it will cost to go to so and so. In addition try and find out from the hotel desk the name of the place you are going. The closer you can say it to how locals say it, the more unlikely the taxi cab driver will try and screw you on taking the long route to. If it sounds like you have no idea how to say and are unsure many will take the long route as a result (costing you more).

* Avoid using your debit/credit card as much as possible! Pre-plan out each week to know how much you will need for food, transportation and other. If you don’t have enough money then go to the hotel desk or find an ATM. ATM use really depends on your bank and often times different ATM’s have different fees than others. You can often times find out by taking out smaller amounts to see how much damage they do. Keep in mind though in using ATM’s you aren’t just paying the service fee on the screen but your bank will also charge a fee on top of that (and sometimes two additional fees). So often times if you only take out say 20 or 40 then it really isn’t worth it with all the various service fees. So in my opinion it’s much better going to get more money for a week all at once than going every day or every other day. The more you go the more you will be penalized and lose with service fees.

* To save money on Internet access contact your hotel before hand to find out how their Internet access works. In the states we take for granted when we see a hotel say they have Internet service and often times places charge $5-20 bucks for using their wi-fi for your entire stay. Once you know the costs and their setup then you can realistically budget. If your just going to be checking e-mail on your trip buy a non-consecutive use under 12 hour block of time. You can also see if the hotel has an Internet cafe where you can use the Internet for free. Then you won’t have to pay anything. Though if you are going to use a public terminal when you are done using it you will want to clear out the cache/cookies/history in the browser you are using and make sure before you login to your e-mail account that the save password feature is turned off in the browser.

* Shampoo. Don’t take shampoo! Most hotels offer up small bottles of shampoo and/or conditioner for free that are changed out daily. Why buy a bottle to take when you can get them for free? If they happen not to offer this service you can always go to a local market and buy some.

* Avoid the tourist bars and snack places. The tourist bars and snack type of places charge more. Not much of a shock but if you want the bang for your buck find the places where locals go to drink or snack. This can be the difference say between paying 1 Euro for a pint of beer versus $5 Euro or more.

* Know before hand what the weather will be like. Costs a lot more to buy a coat or warm clothes once your there than to bring your own. I also recommend taking multiple pairs of shoes to ease the burden of extensive walking. If your feet start hurting you can just by switching to wearing a different pair of shoes magically improve how your feet feel. Often times people realize this while traveling versus before they leave.

* For any electrical equipment you bring have a backup plan. This means take extra batteries or extra chargers and power converters or power outlets.

* Cel phone. Don’t take your cel phone with you. Buy/rent a cel phone where you are going. You will then be charged local rates or a fixed cost at a local rate versus an international rate and all the headache and outrageous fees that go with it.

* E-mail people back home versus calling them. Seems simple really but e-mail when possible to save yourself international calling costs.

* Buy a digital camera. Why waist all your money on throw away cameras? Buy a digital camera and an additional memory stick and you won’t be buying the outrageously priced throw away cameras everywhere! You can get a cheap digital camera for around $250-$750. Yes I realize there is some initial sticker shock with that price range but just consider having a one time cost for buying a digital camera and the years you can use it and then in that same time period how much you would have to spend on throw away cameras and film processing costs.

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Will this ends it for part 1. Hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to add any additional tips in the comments below. Look for part two in the near future and for my film festival guides!

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