It's getting to that part of the year for those who are contemplating traveling to Europe or more specifically, Italy to start making plans. Here are my bits of advice and other life lessons learned the hard way on the road.
1--Bring mosquito repellent. Many countries don't spray to the same extent and with the same fervor as in the US (which is for the better environmentally to be honest) and a lot of hostels lack AC so be prepared to fend em off during the night.
2--No need for travelers checks. The days of searching for the local Amex office and waiting in line with your passport to cash the day's budgeted spending money are over! ATMs are abundant and the rates/fees aren't horrible. The max is usually 250 euros, which is close to 300 US. I found you can often reinsert the card and get another 250 for the big payments (which in my case were apartment bills).
3--Eat local. Shun eating at the local McDonalds. You didn't spend hundreds of dollars on airfare and travel thousands of miles to eat food found right down the street at your local strip mall. Go out and get some cheap eats from local pizzerias, bars (coffee shops) and pastry shops. You can learn a lot about a culture by what they eat and why.
4-- Not sure if this is the rule in other parts of Europe but if you guys are looking to hook up with the local ladies, don't wear white socks with your shoes. Apparently that is a major fashion faux pas. How do I know this? Well, on my last day in Italy after a year living in Reggio Emilia, my friend and fellow artist, Cammo, told me in a bar in Bologna! Thanks for news... Madonna! Makes me wonder what other brutta figuras I made. Now someone is going to tell me leaving gloves on the table is bad too eh eh eh.
5--If you are planning a trip to Italy, don't go in August. A huge number of Italians take August off as a holiday (yeah the whole month!) so a lot of restaurants and stores and museums, especially in smaller cities will be closed. It's also very hot and muggy so go in June or better yet, September when the weather is near perfect.
6--Again in Italy, on a short trip, I recommend Rome (min. 3-4 days) and Venice (min 1-2 days) for the big cities and Siena and Lucca as smaller cities to visit. To find cities with less tourists, head south or east to Le Marche region or Puglia further south.
7--A lot of cell phones work overseas now if you sign up for service through your carrier for that region. I think you need a tri-band or GSM/GPRS enabled phone. If you get your phone completely unlocked, you can buy a SIM card overseas and pop it into your phone and make local calls for 5 or 7 cents a minute. In some countries tho like Germany, you will need a local address to buy one. If you use your American carrier, look to pay a buck and a quarter a minute to call. For short trips, just skip all this and use your US based carrier and your phone for emergencies.
8--Pack and then repack but leave out 50% of what you initially packed. Your arms and back will thank you later.
9--If you love soft toilet paper, bring your own roll or two. And pack some Metamucil in capsule form--you'll thank me later.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
TRAVEL TIPS, PART 1: White Socks, No chicks