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European Travel Tips

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Point of Order, Jun 14, 2010.

  1. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    I'm travelling overseas my first time this August and I really need some good tips and advice. My flight is booked into Paris and out of Rome 10 days later. I'll be staying a good portion of the time during the back end of the trip in Naples, Italy, where my brother is stationed and has a nice apartment on the beach.

    My basic plan is to spend about 3 days in Paris and then make my way toward Naples and base day trips or overnight trips to different Italian cities out of my brother's place. I've planned one day trip to Capris for the Sunday before I fly out. Other than that I've done nothing yet. No rooms, no travel arrangements. Nothing.

    I've been looking online and it looks like I need to order a 2-country Eurorail pass. Is there a more affordable decent way I should travel? What should I be looking for in terms of a place to stay for 2 or 3 nights in Paris? Is it absolutely essential to book a reservation before I travel? What about for a night in Rome? Venice? What type of luggage I should bring? I was thinking about a small roller bag and a backpack because I don't want to lug something big and cumbersome around Europe for a week and a half. How should I go about getting me some Euros? Also, I only speak English. Is there a French or Italian phrase book that is particularly helpful? Anything any of the experience world travelers out there want to share with me would be great. And a bunch of journalists have to have some good eating recommendations for France and Italy, right?
  2. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    One point about the post above this. Using your ATM card in Europe to get Euros is the way to go, but it is not totally without a fee. The banks (if your ATM card is a VISA or Mastercard debit card) charge you a 3 percent fee. The conversion rate they give is way better (it is exactly where the Euro is trading to the dollar on the spot market that day) than you will get at an exchange place (such as the ones in the airport), though, and you will make out better, even with the 3 percent charge. Credit cards are the same deal if you use them in stores or restaurants. 3 percent fee for Visa and Mastercard but you will get the most favorable exchange rate available. AMEX charges only a 2.7 percent fee, with the good exchange rate, so I tried to run as much through my AMEX as possible. The percentage fee isn't that great -- you are talking a cents or a dollar or two on most transactions for the different between 2.7 percent and 3 percent, so it isn't worth stressing over. Just run your ATM card through an ATM. The French used to have this proprietary ATM system that meant US ATM cards didn't work in them, but I think that may have changed. I'd check it before going, though, because if that is the case you won't be able to use the ATM's to get Euros. There were no issues for me in Italy recently, though.

    I can't help you with French and Italian phrases. I speak enough of each to say some simple things. You'll find most people speak English, though, and if you make any attempt to speak a bit they will help you. The Italians, in general, may be more gracious about it, but my girlfriend, who is from France, assures me the French aren't as bad as many Americans make them out to be.

    I can't speak very well about Paris. I am going this August probably and then probably to Alsace and Loraine. I was in Rome recently -- I posted about it before I went-- and if you plan on going for 3 or more days (although it doesn't sound like it), I totally recommend picking up a Roma Pass. I can't remember the cost, but there is one that gives you unlimited use of the metro and the buses and you get two tourist attractions for no charge and then the rest at a discount. It more than pays for itself.

    Your timing is decent. The Euro has been sinking relative to the dollar. It was a 1.5 to 1 conversion rate end of last year. Now it is hovering around 1.2 to 1 and may be below that when you go. The currency is in trouble with all the debt problems. So you'll get a bit more bang for your buck than you could have at any time since the Euro was introduced.
  3. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    Great stuff. Thank you. Please keep advice coming if anyone has more.

    Also, if I do the Eurorail from Paris to Rome or Naples who on the train will be expecting to be tipped? How much will they expect? When?
  4. bydesign77

    bydesign77 Active Member

    You should really check with your bank about the ATM thing before you travel...

    Mine did NOT charge an ATM fee and I got the published exchange rate on my transactions... that was, I think $1.60 to a euro at the time, and 13.50 pesos to the dollar a little bit later... also, you can probably use your card over there for most transactions, so needing cash isn't a huge issue... I didn't need much in Ireland.

    I will say this, make sure you fill out the emergency contact forms on the passport and airline stuff... especially if you're not going to have a cell phone over there, just in case there's a labor strike or a volcano or something... someone will know how to get in touch with you.

    Also, make a copy of your passport, leave one at home in the states, carry one in your bag... this way if you lose it, you will have an easier time at the embassy to get out of the country.
  5. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    If you get a Eurail pass, book your trains so you can sleep as you travel. It saves time and a shitload of money.
  6. finishthehat

    finishthehat Active Member

    Unless Paris has changed greatly, you can enjoy yourself just walking around aimlessly, and the subway's a breeze to navigate.
  7. Buck

    Buck Well-Known Member

    Try the veal.
  8. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Tell everyone you're from Canada.
  9. BRoth

    BRoth Member

    I have been told by my much more traveled brother that this hotel is THE place to stay in Paris: http://hotelresidencedupalais.com/
  10. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Watch Hostel before you go. Don't do what they did. :D
  11. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    "The Résidence Pension du Palais has 5 spacious Single rooms decorated in southern colours. They have a television, Internet and a shower and washbasin. The toilets are situated on the landing."

    What exactly does "the landing" in the above sentence mean? Does it mean I would have my own shower but a community toilet?
  12. Hank_Scorpio

    Hank_Scorpio Active Member

    It's been awhile since I was in Paris (pre-911) and we spent most of the time in Germany.

    I don't really remember where we stayed, since most of that was done by the tour company (took a bus tour from Germany, able to get decent discounts through the military).

    As far as luggage, I had a medium sized rolling bag, my golf clubs and a carry on. (remember, this was pre-911, before the airlines started charging for bags).

    I also made a trip to Venice. Like the other person said, it is pretty far from some of the other Roman tourist areas. And, to be honest, I wasn't all that impressed with it. It was a little dirtier than some of the other European cities (but I guess to be expected since it is surrounded by water).

    As far as money, I exchanged money at my local bank before I left into D-marks since that was where I'd be most of the time (it was about 2-3 years before the Euro). When I needed lira (Italy) or francs (France), my friends made the exchange at the military bank.

    But for the most part, I just put most of what I spent on credit card. I really only needed 2-3 days in a hotel since I stayed with my friends.
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