Vlog 1: I need your travel advice!

Vlog 1: I need your travel advice!

I’m planning my trip and I’d love your help!

What do you guys know about…

  • Travel tips (especially on being a solo female)
  • Trip preparation (visas, packing, work permits, travelers insurance, etc.)
  • Money saving ideas
  • Best places to exchange money
  • Cheap places to visit
  • Navigating public transport systems
  • Interacting with locals (Poland, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Czech, Greece, and Croatia)
  • Getting a cell phone that works across various countries
  • Avoiding theft
  • Shipping and receiving mail
  • Random tidbits of information

77 Responses »

  1. I’m not sure the place you’re getting your info, however great topic. I needs to spend a while studying more or working out more. Thank you for magnificent information I used to be on the lookout for this info for my mission.

  2. My best suggestion is to book an open-jaw ticket (into one city and out of another), map out a few key destinations you want to hit between the two, and leave lots of time to be flexible. In Europe I’ve never had trouble booking buses, trains or hostels one or two days in advance. By not pre-planning everything you’re able to suddenly go to that awesome festival you hear about, or spend a few extra days with a cute boy you meet (you laugh, but my friend met her husband backpacking in Cuba… imagine if she’d left him after just one day because her schedule said she had to be in a different city the next morning!). Also remember that Europe will be around for many years to come, and you don’t have to see and do everything this time around (I’ve spent more than eighteen months in Italy but I’ve never been to Rome or Florence- I figure they’ll still be around when I’m retired and want to do a coach tour for seniors!).

  3. Glad to meet you, Andrea. I hope you have a wonderful adventure. You must have a rough plan in your head? So many beautiful places to see. I’ve never done this myself so I’d be reluctant to offer advice, but I’ll help with any info I can. Thanks for following.

  4. Hi – if you are coming to Budapest, feel free to send me an email and I’ll let you know the good places to go…and the places to avoid.

    One BIG piece of advice for Eastern Europe in general – ALWAYS count your change, look at the bills you get in restaurants before you pay, and get used to the denominations of the various currencies, which are much larger than US. For example 10,000 Hungarian forints = $50. Unfortunately, there is still a “cheat the ‘rich’ Western foreigner” mentality over here.

  5. Advice, is a sensitive subject when it comes to travel. I will not want to take the advice from the books of Lonely Planet and those who do it for use of sole business purposes. I do love to read these travel books but I do not make my brain bend around them. The best advice for a traveller is to go like an empty book and create your own views of how you feel these places. Everyone of us is different in our behaviors – what I like is what you may not like ! What you like is what I may not like and what others like is we may or may not like.

    My biggest advice is to travel light let it be with your thoughts or be with your bags. Traveller bag should be full of stories, memories and moments to enjoy your journeys and not the luggage of lifetime with you.

    There is a lot to learn for you and I am sure it is just the beginning :) You’ll enjoy your travels and journeys.

    • That is why I have decided to open myself to the vast wealth of knowledge of fellow bloggers and travelers alike!

      I appreciate your thoughts on formulating my own views through experience and exploration. That was actually my main intent when creating this blog—I want a record of my experiences and ever changing views.

      Thank you. :)

  6. People seem to be giving the best of advices here, Andrea! One I’d like to advice is : be aware of pickpocketing! It’s very common and you must be alert all the time! Engage with the locals around but you never know, they might be the ones who’ll commit the crime! Some may ask you to take their pictures or other favors, all you need to do is – be careful!
    Enjoy! :)

  7. Hey Andrea, I am a little bit jealous of your plans :)
    I would highly recommend you try Eurorail as its a great way to get around, its also a great way to meet people ( but take ear plugs for the overnight trains ;) )
    Also if you are under 25/26 loads of musuems and galleries in Western Europe will let you in for free or a cheaper price ( you will need to show them your passport), its a great advantage to being young!! You can also get cheaper theatre tickets in the UK when you are under 26, so if you fancy going to see something you can usually get a cheaper ticket, and if you head to stratford, as long as you book in advance you can sometimes get £10 for the RSC productions!!

    Once you know where you are heading I may be able to offer more advice on specific cities, especially in the UK :)

    Becca

      • Eurail passes are only available for people who do not live in Europe. InterRail passes are for people living in Europe. Eurail is generally a better deal, so you need to get that before you go. Protect it like you would your passport! You lose it and you are SOL–no replacements! As for money exchange, I find the best way to change money is by using a ATM card. Talk to your bank first to determine if they charge any additional fees, but at an ATM you generally get the best rate of the day. There are limits as to how much you can withdraw in a day, though. Also if you are planning on using your ATM, be sure to let your bank know that you will be traveling abroad and inform them that you will be using the card–and in which countries…

        I need to run, but I will be back with more tips–I used to be a bicycle tour guide in Europe…

  8. For good overview travel research, check out TripAdvisor — their forums are a wealth of information, and if you can’t find it there, ask your own question. Wonderful community of travelers. I also think Rick Steves’ “Europe Through the Back Door” book as well as his website are good starting points to answering a lot of those basic travel questions. A good, free website to give you some basic language skills/lessons before you go? Check out the BBC’s Languages resources. You might want to even break down these questions to individual posts, after you do some basic research on each of the subsets, to get more detailed feedback as you put things together. Happy researching (often almost as much fun as traveling itself!) ~ Kat B.

    • Thanks much! I actually just ordered one of Rick Steve’s books last week. His advice is so beneficial!

      The language site is so helpful, thank you! Luckily, I found out there’s free German lessons in my area, but I could always use more resources.

  9. Now I don’t know about Europe, but when I lived in Costa Rica, where the crime rate is very high, as a small female I HAD to be careful about not going out alone at night, not carrying more money than I needed, and not dressing too “provocatively”. Also, if you have a nice phone, don’t use it in public. People will assault you if they see you have a nice phone and they might go ahead and take your bag too. It’s sad how careful women have to be, but it’s definitely better to be cautious than to have all your money taken from you. I’d say the best thing to do is just be aware. Make some friends in Europe and go out in a group. If you can’t, just be in areas with a lot of people while you’re alone, and never go out alone after dark!
    Btw, thank you for the follow! I love your blog! I hope these tips help. Again, this is from pure Central American experience where shit can get wacky real quick.

  10. Hi Andrea! Thanks for following me over at Girl and Her Pink Backpack!
    As far as advice, I would say the biggest thing is travel lightly so you can keep track of all your things easier and as someone mentioned earlier, be careful when interacting with strangers especially if there is a language barrier. If you aren’t sure about them or have just met, don’t follow them off anywhere and don’t let them hold anything of yours- like a camera to take a picture. I’ve heard of people running off with them like this.
    If you’re going to carry a purse, make it a small one with a long strap that can go around your neck and waist. Keep the clip or zipper facing you’re body so you’re more likely to feel it if someone grabs for it.
    For saving money, I would suggest staying in hostels and try to use public transportation as much as possible. It’s quite easy and really cheap to travel around throughout Europe since the countries are so close so it won’t be as hard or expensive to go far.

    Best of luck, sorry I just typed a novel!

      • Glad to have helped! For packing lightly, I would say try not to take more than two weeks worth of clothing. If you can narrow it down to a week’s worth, that’s ideal. Dark colors work best because they don’t show wear as much as colors and try to get clothes that can work in multiple ways like those maxi dresses that can pulled down and tied to be skirts. Try to limit all your toiletries limited to zip-lock bag. You can always buy more while you’re traveling. And those little packets of laundry detergent come in handy as well- you can stuff a bunch into a bag pocket and then wash your clothes out in a hostel sink or something. That’s what I did sometimes, you’ll get looks but you’ll be clean!

  11. Hi Andrea, thanks for stopping by :) I agree with Shantaya, hearing alot of mates currently in Europe about people grabbing bags etc, only heard yesterday about one of the latest grab and runs – where your on the street talking on your cell and someone on a bike speeds by and grabs it :/.

    Another good thing to do if photocopy all your passports and visa, tickets etc plus all that is in your wallet and leave one copy with friends/folks back home and one with you. At least that way if your gear is stolen you know what it was that you have lost and you have your card/passport numbers etc when you report them stolen.

    Have fun and looking forward to hearing more about your trip :)

    Ree

  12. Hey Andrea, one bit of advice about cell phones which might seem a bit overly protective and cautious – have 2 of them. One is for using when you’re out and about, sight seeing, walking, etc, for when you’re in public places. This one should be a cheap thing, something you won’t worry about if it gets stolen. Think pickpockets. The other one, if your budget stretches, could be the more expensive one. A smart phone for example. Rather than lugging a tablet or laptop around, some smart phones do all the same stuff anyway. This phone you keep for when you’re not in public. Hotel rooms etc.

    Another tip is to make sure your phone works in a different country and buy a local SIM card, that way any calls made will be cheaper than using one that’s based in another country. For example, coming from the UK, and if stopping in Europe for some time, I’d make sure my phone was unlocked then I’d buy a local sim card and use that for local calls. It’s best to check with your phone company first, but this could save you a decent amount of money. And it’s never nice to find out at the end of the month that your phone bill is huge because you used your phone abroad.

    Hmm, okay, one last tip. Take photographs of important things like passport, visas etc and keep them on your phone. Or email them to yourself. That way if you lose your luggage or it gets stolen, you still have copies of those important documents.

    Hope you enjoy your trip!

    • Dave, thanks for your great advice! That is definitely a good idea. I’ve heard it’s vital to keep your phone close, but I’d never thought to have a secondary one!

      Yeah, I’m definitely way too attached to my smart phone! Would I be able to keep it and somehow link it to the various service providers of the area I’m in?

      Oh, what a great idea to have one for a different country. Do you know of any specific service providers that are good?

      • I’m not entirely sure about that. I know in the UK you can have your phone unlocked so you can use any sim card in it, so for example I use Orange, but if I had my phone unlocked I could use a T-Mobile sim or one from a European mobile phone company. Over the years the costs of making calls abroad has come down but it’s worth checking around to find out exactly what those extra or hidden charges might be with your current provider.

        I don’t know much about operators in Europe, except that I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of people using their native sim in other countries to call home only to find huge bills because of the international charges.

        I guess it depends what you plan to use your smart for really, if you’re using the internet, Skype etc a lot then using local wifi is a better option than relying on the mobile network, 3G for example.

  13. Wow, I was just browsing all of the comments on here. Such great advice from everyone. The only 2 cents I can add is to just ask the locals-” Whats good?” They always know. Other than that, just go where the wind takes you. I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled a few places, and the best ones were the ones that weren’t overly planned out. I’m excited for you. There’s nothing better than a traveling adventure.

    • I know! I am thrilled by the positive and informative responses. Yeah, I’m definitely living wiggle room to have some fun, impromptu experiences. I just wish my finances afforded (no pun intended) me the ability to do that more.

      I actually told my friend (who had been complaining about a shitty serving experience) about your hilarious blog!

  14. Such a plethora of great insights!! My top recommendation would be to join Couchsurfing and stay with locals when you can — you’ll meet the most interesting people who happen to be experts on the city you’re visiting, and you’ll save heaps of $$. It’s a sort of cultural exchange from both sides. Win win.

  15. Congrats on the new blog! The optimism is great stuff! It’s what everyone needs. Being a vegan is fantastic too, My goal is to be one around 90% of the time. As for advice: go with your gut and be happy to make mistakes and learn from them.

    • Thanks much!

      Yeah, I’ve recently become a bit more lax, in regard to my diet. I live in a little town, and it got to be very inhibiting when going out to eat with friends. However, when I cook at home (which is frequently), I always make vegan dishes. Do you have any tips for eating vegan abroad?

      • Simply hit grocery stores and markets. Pick up walnuts, cashews and almonds. Buy fruits and veggies and eat them raw. I typically buy spinach and eat it as is after running some water over it. In Deutschland I s’pose it would be easy and safe to OD on sauerkraut! Good luck!

  16. I am up for traveling for sure if you need a travel partner… I have a good job and basically never take vacation days, so I’m long overdue… I am up for anything/anywhere

  17. Interacting with the locals in Germany, it really seems to help if you at least make the attempt with basic German. If nothing else, knowing “Sprechen Sie englisch” will get you much farther than asking in English. Also know, “ein bisschen” as that’s the response you’re likely to get which means “a little”. More often than not a German’s version of “a little English” is a LOT more than my version of “ein bisschen Deutsch.” There is a conception that Germans are rude, but I have yet to encounter it and many times people will strike up a conversation. (But to state the obvious, I would not tell them you are alone here or go with anyone you do not know. A women recently went to Oktoberfest alone, went with a man, and was robbed and raped. Not to scare you off, just be cautious *especially* if you choose to drink alcohol).

    As far as avoiding theft, don’t flash cash/euro/whatever around. By the way, if you haven’t seen euro, they don’t make it easy to do the American thing of putting your small bills on the outside, because they are literally smaller than the others. Use pockets/a money belt, etc instead of a purse, but if you do carry a purse, wear it diagonally across your body (not on one shoulder) and keep your money and ID in your front pockets. Most places do not accept credit cards here, so you will need to either have enough euro with you or find an ATM (which here are called Geldautomat). Check with your bank ahead of time if they have fees for pulling out money overseas.

    Navigating the public transport is still a bit tricky for me as I am completely not used to using anything like it. The automatic ticket machines do work in English but even if you think you know where you’re going it’s easy to get the wrong ticket. The best thing (I’ve found) to do is to go right to the ticket counter so you will get what you are looking for. Keep your ticket handy because if someone comes to validate it and you don’t have it ready, they’ll fine you…40 euro if I recall correctly. If you’re going to be getting on a bus, you can get a ticket right from the driver. In the case of the S-bahn, usually I’m going to from main station to main station, so if you’re doing that, ignore other mentions of the city and listen for Hauptbahnhof (if you miss it they do usually repeat ‘(city) main station’).

    Finding places to go should not be too hard. I feel like I will never get to see all the places I want to see here in Germany let alone in Europe. What I usually do to see what there is to do is look up the tourism site of places I want to go. http://www.CITYNAME.de works for most of them. For example, Heidelberg’s is http://www.heidelberg.de. The more touristy cities will usually have English as an option, but smaller cities may not. I recommend Google Chrome as it has a decent enough translator to navigate most of those pages.

    • Amanda,

      You are absolutely phenomenal for taking the time to write this! I cannot express how much I appreciate you (and others) being willing to share your wealth of knowledge with me.

      I am going to start learning German, through a great self-directed program. It works on the conversational aspects, opposed to the “test taking” type of curriculum, so I’m hoping it will be very beneficial.

      When I was there last, I made a conscious effort to guard my belongings carefully. I shall definitely continue to do so. I’m going to try and sign up for an international credit card to ease the transition.

      Public transport is one bit I’m a bit reticent toward. I’m hoping one of my guy friends will be able to coordinate his schedule at the same time as I am arriving, because he offered to help me learn the ways of public transport. Being from Ohio, we certainly don’t have much experience with it!

      What a great resource! I will certainly check those website out. I’m sure they shall be very beneficial.

      I can’t thank you enough for taking your time to educate me further,

      Andrea

      • I hope the German program is beneficial for you.

        An international card isn’t a bad idea, but most of the places I have seen around here only take a Maestrocard or an EC (EuroCheque) card which are both basically debit cards.

        That’s good you have someone who may be able to help you learn. We had a culture class where the lady took us but it is still a little stressful for me sometimes as I’m just not used to it. Yes there is definitely nowhere to get experience with it in Ohio, and even the couple places I’ve lived since there wasn’t anything like we have here.

        You’re welcome :)

  18. I definitely recommend visiting Britain. Although the weather can sometimes be grey and rainy, during summer it is usually warm with the golden sun shining off all the rain drops from the day before. another advantage is that it is relatively small and so you can see all of the marvelous sights, ranging from mountains in northern Scotland, amazing pastures in Wales and the amazing landmarks and monuments which England, especially London, has in store, in a relatively small amount of time.

      • although the post answered none of the questions you asked, Britain is an easy place to find your way around etc. The only advice that i needed the first time i visited London is that you should keep your valuables in a pocket where you keep your hand and you should only go to restaurants that are full, as empty ones are often not as good. My sister also makes sure she turns her handbag towards her so it cant be open. Also, the quickest/easiest way to get around is by train (assuming you dont want to fly around it, although, and here starts my bragging, Britain is host of the shortest commercial flight in the world, lasting just two minutes) and the london underground, however the underground is often not as high quality and more expensive (if compared by distance travelled)

        GT

  19. hey, Andrea..
    visited your blog yesterday…and i need a guidance from you..hope you’ll cooperate…
    I saw that you have posted videos on some various post from from you tube…
    and me also want to do the same in my blog…i have created my account on you tube and have uploaded a video too and now i wish to set that video on one of my post from you tube..just the same as u have done…
    i tried but could not succeed…please tell me the procedure….
    regards, Harshit

    • It’s quite simple, really! When you’re creating a new post, you simply use the “video” option. There’s a box on the left hand side in which you copy and paste the URL of your video from YouTube and it links the two. Try that and see if it works.

  20. It is not working properly Andrea, see I’ll tell you what I’m doing..I clicked on the edit button of the post i want to edit….and after that there is a option just above the post “upload/insert” and there clicking on “add media” , then clicking on “from url” then on “audio, video or other file” and then pasting the url and tittle…
    this is how is do…but fail….

  21. Hey Andrea.. Nice blog and thank you for following my Tips of Travelling blog.
    If you need any info or advises regarding Czech Republic just let me know.
    Been my home for more thrn 6 years now and you could also find me on CouchSurfing under the name Engelen.

    Safe travels.
    Clabbe

  22. I simply want to tell you that I am newbie to blogging and absolutely savored this blog. Very likely I’m going to bookmark your blog post . You surely come with very good articles. Kudos for revealing your web-site.

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