Hello and welcome to ‘DU’ (delightfully Unorthodox). Thank you for . In this piece, I will share some key learnings I have had from my Europe escapades. Having travelled to Europe three times on different occasions now, the first being in April 2018, each time was a better experience because I was wiser from the previous trip. My first time in Europe was an amazing experience, but also had some major setbacks, all thanks to being naïve and not knowing what I know now. I’ll never forget being sat in my hotel room in Rome, feeling defeated and ready to cut my trip short and head back home… It was a difficult moment. But even in the worst of situations, the positive outcome is that you learn from your mistakes. How I wished I knew better, maybe my experience would have been better. Who knows?! If you would like to read up about my first experience in Rome, the blog is titled ‘Welcome to Roma‘. Grab some popcorn, its an entertaining read!
Back to this piece.
I decided to start writing about my experiences to educate other people that wanted to travel, based off my learnings. And if that prevented my readers from having the same bad experiences that occurred to me, then that would make me delighted! However, its not all doom. Travelling is still an amazing experience that will expose you to a world unknown to you. It will help you appreciate some things that you may have taken for granted back home.
Here are 12 points that have helped me have helped my enjoy my trips more. Read each point carefully and comment on the most. This blog is not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned. All references made in the following piece are simply recommendations, based off what worked for me.
1. Internet is really important.
Do the following to ensure you stay connected at all times;
– Buy sim from airport when you land at your destination then load data package. Ask for deals on data packages. This way, you’ll have Internet at all times and helps with getting by easier. Also, considering how expensive roaming is, you’ll save up a ton, allowing you to spend more on experiences. Only buy the line from a legit shop to avoid being swindled. I learnt this a couple of weeks ago when I landed in Amsterdam. I purchased a sim card from a vendor in the airport. He did not have a shop, but rather had an open stand in the airport. He looked pretty legitimate to me, but turns out he overcharged me and the line he sold me stopped working a couple of days after I had bought it. I later on had to buy another line, this time from a shop. The same data package I had previously been charged thirty five euros, only costed me twenty euros and supported calls and data roaming in all the Schengen countries I visited. If you’d like to use the same package, the network provider name is ‘Lyca mobile’.
Bonus point: A legitimate seller will ask for your passport to help register your line and set it up for you. Do not leave the shop until you confirm your line has been successfully activated and is working on your phone. You can test the internet for a few minutes to confirm. If the seller does not ask for your passport to register your line, you should be suspicious.
If you land at your destination when the shops are closed at the airport, ask your hotel to direct you to where you can buy one the next day. Either way, ensure you have internet at all times!
– Download a translation app. Comes in handy when you need to interact with locals or even understand conversations being had near you. An easy way for thieves to plot on robbing you is by using a language they know is foreign to you. You never know, the app may just save you from trouble! You also have an option of using ‘google translate‘ that comes with an audible feature and which works pretty well too.
In some cities, the locals don’t understand English making it hard to communicate. You don’t have to be fluent in the foreign language, but at least learn the basic and important terms e.g formal and informal greetings, please, thank you, help, directions, food/restaurant, how much etc.
Bonus point – I learnt that it is good manners to put an effort to learn the foreign language used in your destination. Impresses the locals too and helps to win them over to your side! In return, the locals will be more eager to assist.
_ Ordering for cab – be very vigilant about the type of cab you use. Confirm it is a registered taxi for more assurance of your safety. If from taxi app, check whether driver and car registration matches details of your driver. Ensure you put the right destination address, in case there are two different locations with similar names eg is a hotel chain that has various locations.
The popular taxi apps are not reliable in some cities in Europe. When this happens, look up taxi apps for the city you are in and download it on your phone. Here are some examples of taxi apps that worked well for me in the cities I visited;
Barcelona – Free Now App
Brussels – Heetch -Ride-Hailing App
Amsterdam – Uber worked well.
2. Convert some money to the currency of your destination before your travel. You can compare different forex bureaus before settling on one. Some may even be open to negotiation, especially if you go in the evening.
3. Use cash for taxi and small purchases in the city.
Some taxis drivers may have a card machine, but I do not advise on swiping everywhere as it exposes you to higher risk of credit card fraud.
4. Avoid Swiping with your ksh account when you can.
The exchange rates may not be the best. Discovered this from my stay in Rome in 2021 where about $400 was lost from the exchange rates.
Instead, you can withdraw reasonable amounts of cash from a safe ATM location.
5. Be very vigilant about pickpockets
Some popular tourist destinations in Europe are a haven for pickpockets and can be chancy, especially to unsuspecting tourists. The only destination I observed the authorities being more intentional about tourists safety was Pattaya – Thailand in 2019. I was impressed to learn that they had assigned dedicated tourist policemen, that adorn different uniforms from the normal cops. Some cities in Europe also have assigned tourist police, but could improve by being more intentional to keep tourists safe.
Watch out for your passport. Avoid carrying it when not necessary. Passports are targeted by pickpockets. Especially USA and UK passports, which are known as strong passports. Nevertheless, if you have an East African passport like I do, it is still at risk of being stolen so take all necessary steps to secure its safety.
Practice caution and keep an eye on your bag and pockets at all times.
Bonus Point: I scanned my passport on my phone so that when needed, I can present the copy. Include the page that has your visa information in case you need to prove your entry into the country in question is legitimate. Store on cloud for easy retrieval.
Save up on accommodation so you have more to spend on experiences – I learnt this first in Santorini, Greece where I spent a fortune on accommodation. This turned out to be a waste since I rarely spent time at the fancy hotel… With days planned full of activity, I would leave shortly after breakfast only to return late at night. I never got to experience all the amazing perks that came with the high end hotel.
Unless you plan to spend more time in the hotel, choose accommodation at a decent hotel.
Location is more important. Check on accommodation located in the center, where major tourist attractions are normally located or close to transport systems. Read location reviews for your place of stay for more insights.
7. Avoid flashy jewelry or designer items.
Makes you a target for thieves.
8. Power Socket
Find out the type of socket used at the country of destination and get the right adapter. Hotels may sometimes provide for their guests, but for ease and convenience, it is better to have your own. You can find these at the duty free shops in the airport or in electronic shops.
Bonus Point: I got this socket head that has 4 different plug ins for different countries. It saves me from buying new ones every time I travel.
9. The gems are easier to discover about from locals.
The locals know the best restaurants, bars/discos and shopping spots. This could include taxi drivers.
10. Taxi drivers can be invaluable at recommending top spots to visit as well as avoid. Initiate conversations to get them to share this information with you.
11. Memorize or note down the name of your hotel or B&B and street it is located. Incase you get lost in adventure and need to find your way back, it will be easier to get accurate directions when asking for help.
12. Be aware of where you passport is at all times. It’s the last thing you want to lose while travelling. You may be required to show identification when visiting some places, so inquire whether you will be required to present it.
In the event that you lose your travel document, report to the nearest police station and notify your airline immediately by calling their contact center and sending an email. Will ease the stressful process of boarding your flight without a passport.
Thank you for reading this far, I sincerely hope that this was educative and fun. If you have points that you feel should have made the list, pop them down below on the comments section and keep the conversation going…Which point can you relate to the most?
Don’t forget to share with that person you know needs to see this!Sincerely,