Considering a trip to Western Europe this fall? Now is a particularly good time to go with the dollar strong, feelings there toward Americans genial.
Here are a few tips to make your travel more pleasurable and less difficult.
Non-stop flights may out of the area are affordable and can be had for as little as $600, but you have to shop around.
If you don’t like the idea of a nine-hour flight there and 11-hour flight back, stop off in London before heading to the Continent.
Most such flights take only Euros, so exchange your money at your local bank before you leave and save costly exchange fees in European airports and at exchange locations throughout foreign cities.
Hotels are not a problem; consider B&B chains which are a great option for multiple day stays in any city, so long as you shop around and take care to parse out those with good locations for decent prices.
Their maps can be somewhat vague and provide locations that appear to be close in but are not. Luxury hotels abound if that’s where you want to spend your money. Book yourself online and save money at many hotels.
Transportation can be tricky and costly if you don’t play it right.
Subways in Rome (only two lines) are easy to maneuver, but in Munich kiosk directions are indecipherable if you do not speak the language; even after you hit the English button you really don’t have much chance without local help.
Fortunately there are info booths that offer such help in every airport and train station, and the German people are the friendliest you will meet anywhere, including the American South. Just ask “sprek-an-zee English” (phonetic sp.) and they will gladly show you how to work the kiosk.
The French, well…Hope you speak French or are extremely lucky. However, there are many English abroad and many of them will help Americans.
Taxis in Italy are expensive but in Germany and France they aren’t, and you can communicate with most cabbies, some of whom will take you for a slight ride if you don’t watch closely.
Choose between a Eurail train pass if traveling for multiple weeks, and point-to-point if you are there for less than two weeks.
Point-to-point is much less expensive but you cannot afford to miss a train. Second class is fine and comfy everywhere, although tickets are non-refundable and do not offer the convenience of going anywhere anytime as do the Eurail passes.
Find out-of-the-way spots
Avoid restaurants, shopping and cafes near key sites such as the Trevi Fountain or Pantheon in Rome or the Cathedral de Notre Dame in Strasbourg, although those eateries do offer great views of said sites while you share a glass of wine or beer or two.
In more out-of-the-way areas such as Ostia Antica near Rome, or in neighborhoods at the end of subway lines in Rome, Paris and Frankfurt, you can meet the locals and find cafes and grocery stores where they get to know and appreciate you and provide tips for fun in their cities.
Take advantage of festivals such as Oktoberfest in Munich or German Reunification Day in Frankfurt for seeing the locals enjoying life.
Many travel guides are helpful with these matters. Most youthful Europeans and some seniors carry cell phones with GPS, and if approached tactfully, will gladly provide directions where needed.
What to take
Many websites tell women what to take abroad, but few inform men so well.
Items senior men may wish to take are small, light backpacks, a light, waterproof jacket, attractive walking shoes, hats other than ball caps (which are frowned on and not worn in Europe), Euro converters for phone charging, a scarf, locks for suitcases, sun screen, and a money belt or other passport, credit card and cash concealing aid.
When in Rome. . .
Remember to leave room for those clothes and keepsakes you’ll want to bring back home.
Most of all, remember to be Eurofriendly at all times.
Attempt to speak their language at first, and they will usually bend over backward to help you along your way.
Thank you’s and you’re welcomes in their language, however butchered, are greatly appreciated and constitute wise choices for receiving prime hospitality the next time you drop by.
Ciao, Probst, Bon Jour and have a great trip!
Jim Fraiser, a freelance correspondent, resides in Pass Christian and his European travels have taken him to France, England, Ireland, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Austria and Germany.
The Roman Colosseum
Special to the Sun Herald
By Jim Fraiser
Roman Theater in ruins of Ostia Antica near Rome
Special to the Sun Herald
By Jim Fraiser