I work with a student organization at NKU. I am extremely proud of them because some of them are traveling this summer. They are taking the mission of their organization to BE WELL! The fact that I knew they were traveling for the first time allowed me to view the world from an educator's perspective. While there are a lot of things that you will learn, here is a list of my 5 practical tips of the things that I experienced on my recent trip.
[juice] Where is your power coming from? It is different in Europe. Having converters and adapters for charging will HELP—know the difference so your electronics will work and won’t blow up. Does your product have an automatic transformer or converter? I was not prepared. That is why I did not use my curling iron, and I went my entire vacation without it! I needed 2 different adapters, one for London and one for Germany.
[money] I had better luck exchanging Pounds and Euros at CVG. Learn about tipping, it just makes things less awkward. For example when you dine out in London it is typical that they include a 12.5% service fee so you would not have to tip there. However for other services it is not included. Trevor got his haircut, and that did not include a service/tip fee. In Germany you notice a 19% charge on your bill, which may seem like a tip however it is a tax. We asked our friend about this, she said typically just round up for an additional tip. Be sure to have some cash on hand, as taxis and other services may not have or want to use the credit card machine, as it charges an additional fee to them. Also when you pay in Munich, there tends to be a tray where you simply exchange the money by leaving it on the tray. If there isn't a tray just set the money down on the table or whatever is in between the two of you. I noticed that hand to hand exchange of money is less desirable. I am not sure if this a fact, or something I notice. Anyone familiar with this culture? Please feel free to comment! And finally! It is common to pay for the toilet especially in London. Have some coins ready! The payment goes to keeping the bathroom nice and tidy.
[food] Biggest tip is all about the water. When you order water in Europe you will need to specify tap water, sparkling - Germany "gas or no gas". It is typical to be charged for water as well, and get ready they may charge for refills, so anything you are drinking (especially coffee as I found out) expect to pay additional cups. Bring a big water bottle of your own, carry, and refill on your own. I also ate a lot of toast in Europe, and when you order toast, you need to specify if you want it toasted or not.
[on the go] Public transportation is the way to go in London and Germany. It is most cost effective, offers numerous stops, and can transport you in and out of the city as well. So go EXPLORE! Munich has great public transportation and bike/scooter access. I found it best to rent bikes, as the city has a ton of bike paths and walking paths. Careful, be sure to request a helmet, as they do not enforce it there. I took the train from Munich to Salzburg, and decided to upgrade to first class which was 100 EURO more, and not really worth it for the shorter trip (even though I would do it again). The trains have toilets too! London and Germany are both walkable cities, so even if public transportation is not for you, put your kicks on and walk about, it is the best way to explore! We averaged a half marathon each day!
[under the weather] For the first time in my life I experienced allergies. For all the healthly-ness in Europe one thing they love to do is to light it up! The cigarette smoke really got to me, so I had to see someone before we flew home so I could enjoy the flight. I went to the pharmacy expecting to translate the Sudafed box directions to English, and turns out all I had to do was talk the pharmacist. Once I told her my symptoms and she gave me a prescription to get me on my way. Be sure to tell them about any other allergens you have when you are there, they won't ask.
[swag] If you are going for more then 2 weeks, I recommend packing for 5-7 days to avoid the weight limit, make room for gifts (for me). Then half way through head to the local laundry store and have them wash and fold for you. It is worth it, and indulge, after all you are on vacation!
Where is your next travel taking you?