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Getting Around in Europe

If you are traveling to Europe and throughout the European continent, Jack gives you some help on ways to get around to save you money, keep you safe, and not have your muscles hurt from all the luggage. After all you are there to have fun and relax!

[01:05] Air vs. Train Travel

  • Ryanair
  • EasyJet
  • Rail Europe

[03:12] Public Transportation

[04:42] Renting a Car or Scooter

[06:33] Going from Country to Country – Changes Ahead

[07:33] The Metric System

  • Driving on what side of the road? The steering wheel is where?
  • The Chunnel

[10:59] Checking in at U.S. Embassy or Consulate

  • The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

[11:58] Luggage, Packing, Safety, and Cell Phone

  • Copy valuable documents
  • Check weather
  • Pickpockets
  • Tech Stuff
  • Universal adapter for charging cell phone
  • Battery pack
  • More safety

[19:00] Considerations when Traveling with Children

[20:49] Final Suggestions

Dream. Learn. Plan. Prepare. Go to Guidester/Virtual-Vacation

Season 1: Episode 6

#Chunnel #Europe #Paris #London #Rome #Greece #passport #consulate #Cellphone #Pickpockets #etias #Schengenzone #luggage #raileurope #travelsafety #packing #traveleurope #travel #vacation

Transcript
Arnold:

Travel to Europe is off limits for the time being, but we can still keep the flame of wanderlust alive through the Virtual Vacation with Guidester, the weekly podcast where host Jack Baumann, founder of Guidester and travel enthusiast Arnold Stricker, dive into new destinations, exploring their unique history, culture and special vibe. You will also get insider tips about these destinations. You won't get from other sources. In this episode: how should you pack when you go to Europe? Should you travel within Europe by train, plane, or automobile? Keep you and your belongings safe by following these tips. Traveling with children, we've got that too. You get the answers to these and more questions in this episode. Now let's join our host, the Guidester himself, Jack Baumann. Jack, I'm getting ready to go to Europe and one of the biggest things I'm thinking about is when we're traveling from country to country, or even within a country; how easy is it to get around? I think about, and we can unpack these things, literally luggage. Is it easy to get around by bus? Should I do that? Should I do train? I want to expand a lot of these particular kinds of things, but what's the most efficient way to get around Europe in your opinion.

Jack:

It really depends on how far you're going and how many days you have. Typically air travel is the best way to get from A to B, especially if you're going to like a London to Rome kind of thing. Air travel in Europe has gotten so cost-effective in the last few years, it's amazing. From Ryanair to EasyJet you have so many budget airlines. Even the major airlines, British Airways, Air France, it's more cost-effective to get around Europe by air than it is train travel.

Arnold:

Really?

Jack:

Yes.

Arnold:

That's surprising.

Jack:

I know and it's such a shame. The cost of train travel throughout Europe has skyrocketed. I'm not kidding you. By air, I can get from London to Rome depending on luggage restraints and a lot of stuff, but I'd say at worst 50 bucks. I can get there sometimes on a cheap budget for $15 or $20 London to Rome or Rome to London. That trip, that train travel; that'll cost me a $100 to $200.

Arnold:

Wow!

Jack:

Easily; you're talking double, triple, quadruple the price. This is where it really gets interesting is the further you go with air travel in Europe is not going to equate to a bigger ticket. With train travel it definitely will. So if you're doing short trips, let's say Rome to Tuscany or Rome to Venice, it's not going to be that much. These are more regional trains. But the larger major trips that you're going to book on Rail Europe, which is a good site to check major trains in Europe that go from country to country, they're not cheap anymore. You used to be able to buy a rail pass, for a couple of hundred dollars, $300 $400 rail pass isn't going to get you very far. If you want to really use your rail passing, use it and get around a lot you're looking at $700 $800 for a good rail passage you can use frequently.

Arnold:

So the time to go on the rail from London to Rome. How long are we talking? Roughly.

Jack:

London to Rome via train will set you about 18, 19 hours.

Arnold:

Wow!

Jack:

You could maybe do different routes, but it's gonna be all day thing, two day thing. You're going to probably have to stop somewhere or you do an overnight train; that could be a cool thing. You take a flight two and a half hours. So you're looking at 18 plus hours compared to two and a half. You take a Ryanair, Air Italia, or Air France, or British airways, you can get there in the morning as opposed to all day and the night.

Arnold:

In a city like Paris, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, or Munich, you have local transportation. I'm going to presume buses or street cars or things like that. Are those very reliable and dependable that you can utilize those to get around the city?

Jack:

They really are, especially Northern Europe. Broadly speaking, I would break up the quality of public transit from North and South. The more North you go, the better it gets. Germany is excellent in most major cities. The UK, I think is excellent, especially in London. There is no better system in the world that I've ever experienced than the London tube. They're doing a lot of construction,, it's old. But it's timely largely, especially you compare it to like the New York Metro. They go everywhere; the amount of lines, the amount of stops. So the more North you go, the better the public transportation. You go to countries like Switzerland, they have the little tramways Their electric powertrain was in the middle of the streets. It's great to have this also in Austria, in Vienna. So you can just hop on and off, get yourself a ticket. It's really great in the Northern European countries In the Southern European countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, they have it. They have their bus system. Sometimes they have a Metro system. Rome's Metro system is very poor. Partially because archeology, every time they'd try to dig, they find something new. Seriously, there's a practical reason for that. But if you can't do it via public transportation, bus, or tram or train or something like that, you can definitely get a cab. So yes, broadly speaking, if you fly from one city to the other, you can rely on public transportation.

Arnold:

When should I go and rent a car or rent a scooter, or use an electric bike? When should I utilize any of those means of transportation or should I?

Jack:

That's a great question. Depending on what city you're in; you're in London you don't really need any of that. London has a cool bicycle system, I think it's Santander now; it changes. They have the little stations, you pay a nominal fee and you bike from station to station. When you're finished with the bike, you turn it in and the time's done. That works really well in London. The system in London for that is good. There's a lot of stations, there's an app you can download to your phone. So that's a cool way to get around London. Rome doesn't really have that. So Rome I'd, I would use a moped to get around because they don't really have that bike hire system in place. Cabs are okay, but there's only a couple of cab stands or you can get it from your hotel. So it really depends heavily on the city that you're in. The personal travel guides that I create detail when to use what public transportation systems. That really helps, that kind of guides you. Walking is the best means. Depending on your city, London is a huge city, you're not going to walk everywhere, you're going to use the tube or cab. Don't drive in the city centers of any European city, if you can avoid it. So the time to get a car is when you're going to explore the more rural areas and or going from one city to the next. So here's what I would do in London. See London; then I take the tube out to Heathrow Airport. I'd rent a car from Heathrow, which is on the outskirts of greater London. I'm already outside the city center; I don't have to deal with driving inside London. Rent the car and I'm already on the outskirts of London and I'm on easy street, right? Maybe it's called High Street right there, but I'm on easy street and now I'm in the English countryside headed down to Arundel or over to the Cotswolds or up North to York. You know what, I'll go up to Scotland and it's six, eight hours up to Scotland. If you're going to explore some other areas, it's a really good idea to get a car, but not in the city center itself.

Arnold:

Getting around from country to country; we need our passport. Do you need a visa?

Jack:

You don't, U.S. Passport is good for basically all of Europe. The Schengen zone is what they call it, really the Eurozone. Anywhere in Europe, you can be up to 90 days without a visa. After 90 days, you need a student visa or work fees or something. You can then leave and that time will reset, but I don't think at time resets it for 180 days. There is a time period; you can't leave for one day, come back and your 90 day set. I think you could, at one point they've changed that or closed that loophole. So you've got 90 days, three months; who's going to stay in Europe that long anyway. That'd be great if you're a student maybe; so you have three months to do what you want without any kind of visa.

Arnold:

Now is that changing in the future?

Jack:

Yes, that is changing in the future. Starting in 2022, U.S. Citizens will need to get authorization from what's called ETIAS, E T I A S which is basically security check before being allowed entry into the Europe zone. This will be really important starting in 2022. It's not going to be mandatory until 2022.

Arnold:

We've talked about planes, trains, and automobiles, right? The kilometer miles per hour thing. Do you have a quick fix or how I can remember this?

Jack:

I really don't. I lived over there for two years and I didn't entirely take on the metric system. What are you going to do? I'm an American guy. I grew up here on the Imperial system, which is ironic because the Imperial system is British. We imported that system from the Brits, and now they're mostly on the metric. Here's the cool thing about England; they still do their road signs in miles.

Arnold:

Really?

Jack:

Oh yeah. They do their measurements in metrics but their road signs are still in miles. That helps Americans; it's great, it's lovely. The rest of Europe it's going to be kilometers. I use a GPS when I'm driving, just to make sure I'm on my way. And I've had to do calculations at certain times, but I focus more on the sight seeing and the culture. I didn't want to sit down and memorize because I was going to come back to America and have to revert back. I just didn't invest much time, but a rule of thumb is rules of 10. Everything in metric is some denomination of 10. There's a hundred centimeters in one meter. A thousand meters is one kilometer. If you can just memorize a few of those basic 10 multiples, that'll help you.

Arnold:

And the comparisons; if I'm going a hundred kilometers an hour.

Jack:

I know, that's really where it's funny. I will say this, especially in the Western Britain, Ireland, I think even like Italy and France, they'll have this too. A lot of times the cars you rent will have miles per hour. In the odometer or the speedometer rather. So you don't have to get on your phone and do some quick caluculations.

Arnold:

Okay. Which takes me to this next question. Cause if I'm renting a car, do they all drive on the same side or the other side of the road? Here in the United States, you know how we drive, and is the steering wheel on the left or the right? And if I go from one country to another country Am I going to be totally confused and whacked out.

Jack:

The only countries that drive on the left side of the road are the British countries, the UK and Ireland. This applies to any former British colony. This is why Australia drives on the left side of the road, it was former British. I think India is the same way. So England, Scotland, Wales. Northern Ireland and Ireland itself are gonna be on the left side of the road because of that British influence. Other than that on, in all of Europe, it's on the right side. So that makes it easy. But if you're driving from England to France, that's going to be a bit jarring. When you're driving on the left side of the road, that steering wheels on the right side of the car, so everything's jacked up. So your peripherals are all off. I will say though, driving in England or anywhere in the UK or Ireland, it's not that bad after a half a day. A couple hours, you get used to it, your peripherals kind of change. The more difficult thing are the big roundabouts that you got to really navigate. These aren't small roundabouts, like you see here in the States, these are like highway level roundabouts, not joking. You're on a highway and there's a roundabout going into the roundabout at 60 miles an hour. Wow. Oh yeah. You gotta be ready. You can't no faint heart there. I do like roundabouts, we can't have them here cause we don't know how to use them. People would just be hitting each other left and right. The roundabouts you see here are more localized. You don't have these highway roundabouts like you do in Europe, but they flow traffic like you wouldn't believe. They use roundabouts as on ramps off ramps. It's fantastic. A couple hours of driving on the wrong side of the road, you get used to it. You can actually drive from England to France, through the Chunnel, the channel tunnel, that would be a little difficult because then once you arrive in France, you're on the right side of the road and you've put the steering wheel is on the right side. That messes you up. So if you're going to drive in the UK or Ireland rent a car there, and then if you're going to France or mainland Europe rent a car in that country.

Arnold:

That makes sense. Is it necessary when you go to another country to check in at the American embassy or the consulate to let them know that you're there.

Jack:

It's a good idea. It's a good practice to get into. There's actually websites: the smart traveler enrollment program run by the state department. It's a free service by the U.S. Government where U.S. Citizens who are traveling to or living in a foreign country allows you to record information about your upcoming trip with the state department, so they can use that information to assist you in case of an emergency. It's a good idea to get into, I would say Western Europe, it's not necessary .If you're going to Eastern Europe or you're going to be there an extended period of time. It's a good idea.

Arnold:

Take a virtual vacation to Europe from the comfort of your couch. Browse popular sites, watch video tours, explore with interactive maps, discover local insights and start planning your dream trip when you're ready to travel. Once again, choose your destination and discover some of Europe's top destinations. Visit Guidester.com/virtual-vacation. This next question is based upon how long you're going to be in a country. I've seen many people, they get off the plane and it looks like they've taken their entire closet with them because they have five or six suitcases with them. I don't like to travel very heavy with a lot of luggage. If I have a carry on that's it. So what is your suggestion to get around Europe? What kind of things should I do with luggage? How should I pack? Those kinds of things.

Jack:

That's a good question; so I have a rule of thumb when it comes to traveling anywhere, but especially Europe. Europe, you want to be light on your feet, whether you're moving, flying training, car you're going to be moving things around and there are some steps you're gonna have to go up and there's a little bit more movement there and you want to be mobile. Take everything you think you need clothes, especially lay it all on your bed and take away half of it. Literally just pack as if you're going to take all this don't even think about your storage space. Put out everything you think you need from coats to your clothes to little amenities and take away half of it right off the bat, because I guarantee you're not going to use half of it. You end up re-wearing clothes. You end up not using certain outfits you thought you might use. So being smart in that capacity. Just literally right off the top takeaway half of it and then try to get smarter. Do I really need four pairs of shoes, even if you want a nice night out, it's not worth bringing a whole pair of shoes for one night. Buy or bring a sort of a classier pair of shoes that you can use multipurpose. So I always bring usually two pair of shoes, my tennis shoes, my work horse shoe, which is really going to be your comfortable shoe walking all day. Then I'll bring a dressier shoe, won't be a super fancy shoe, but it'll be like a Dr. Martens or something like that that I can still walk in. That's where I'm going to go out in to dinners or maybe to a show or something like that. Two pair of shoes. That's it. I might, if I'm going to a beach destination, bring a pair of flip flops. So maximum, I'm going to bring three, but I'm not gonna bring the water shoes and the other type of shoes, even the hiking shoes. Let's say I'm in Scotland you're gonna do one day of hiking. It's gonna be a little wet, maybe. Use your tennis shoes and just cover your tennis shoes in a plastic bag. That's maybe a hokey way to do it, but you're going to bring an entire pair of shoes just for one day or a half a day. There's other ways to do it differently. So the tips on packing. Check weather for departure pack appropriately. That's huge. People have this assumption, England's going to be warm, England's going to be cold. Nobody can say it's going to be warm. England can be warmer than you think. Italy is gonna be super hot. Just depends on a lot of things. Italy is a great example. It might be 80, 90 degrees during the day, and then it'll drop, 30, 40 degrees. Packing appropriately is predicated on looking at the weather. So look 10 days out, you get that 10 day kind of glance at what the weather is gonna be like. That's point one. Copy of passport ID and credit cards. If you ever lose your passport ID, credit cards, literally keep a copy of it in your luggage. I go a step further and I keep it like in my shoe or in my sock. Worst case scenario, I get robbed or mugged, or I lose my suitcase on the train or something. I've got a copy of my passport ,copy of my ID, and a copy of my credit cards.

Arnold:

Keep it on the cloud too, maybe?

Jack:

That's smart too. Yeah, I haven't done that yet, but that's smart as well. That's the way you want to think is always have a backup plan. I'm a hard copy guy so I put one in my sock; cloud, on your phone, having it in multiple places because some people make a copy of their ID and they'll keep it in their wallet. Okay your wallet gets stolen or lost and then your copies in there. Does that, do you much good, no? Fanny pack is a great way or a money belt. Let's call it a money belt or money pouch. I use that religiously. That's a great thing to do. Tuck it underneath your shirt, keep your passport in there, keep your cash in there, keep your IDs in there. Even when you're out and about I might keep my wallet in my front pocket, but all my major cash and credit cards I'm keeping in that money pouch.

Arnold:

And the reason is because pickpockets are very prolific.

Jack:

It's true, that's really the biggest thing you got to worry about in Europe is pickpockets. It's safe. Even Eastern Europe I've actually felt almost safer in Eastern Europe in some places than places like Brussels. Pickpocket and petty theft is really the only thing you have to worry about and that's predicated on soft targets. They go after the low hanging fruit; we've got your backpack on zipped, got your wallet in your back pocket. These are no-nos. Keep your wallet in your front pocket or in a money pouch, keep your backpack on your front. I'll turn my backpack and keep it on my front, or I'll keep it really zipped up and make sure that it's hard to get into. If they're going to get into it, I'm going to know they're pulling on me.

Arnold:

That's a great point. I'm sure there are specific places like on a Metro or maybe on a bus or where there's a crowded area where you get bumped a lot. That's where that happens.

Jack:

That is, I was in Spain and I was going; wasn't in a bus, but it was the same concept. I was in Toledo and I was actually on a trip and I met my mom there and we were in Toledo showing her around and she felt a hand reach into her purse and she actually caught someone reaching in. Just gave him a look at what are you doing and that person just ran away. So no harm done, but just noticed it the last second, and it was in a crowded area, she's in a group going down a street and you've got a bunch of people touching you. Your brain is focused on other things, and this is how they get you. Or they'll bring someone in to distract you...

Arnold:

Right.

Jack:

...on the front while they're doing business in the back.

Arnold:

If I have to charge my phone, what am I going to do? They don't have the same kind of outlets we do.

Jack:

You definitely need to bring in an adapter, so I recommend a universal adapter. It's one piece of plastic that has UK, has Europe, which is the tube. UKs have three prongs, Europe is the two-prong, it's got a USA adapter. That's all you're really gonna need. All of Europe is on the two-prong except the UK and Ireland which is on the three-prong. So in, in Europe you just need two, and you get one piece and that'll sort it all out. Charging your phone too get a battery pack. Those have saved my life. Get a small little battery pack that'll have. I have one that gets me 200%, so it could charge my phone twice. That plus your battery for the day should get you through whatever you need. You're going to use a lot of battery using maps if you have data or wifi, when you're in different spots, but also taking photos, videos. Your battery zaps a lot since you're using your phone for everything plus now it's your camera and everything else too. So be cognizant of that. Highly recommend getting data. It's amazing how cheap you can get five, 10 bucks a day for a data plan and you can look things up, get more information, use your Google maps. It really saves you. It'll save you more, not making mistakes than the data plan itself. So you add all those things into it, it really does go quickly. You don't want to be stuck in a situation where you don't have your phone. You can't call anybody if you need to call a cab or you just get on your Google maps and like, how do I get to this station? In America you get, you can use a paper map. That's why I really stress using Google maps to navigate certain areas in Europe because they don't do grids like we do. You go to New York, oh just go down Fifth Street and hang a right on Jefferson or Main Street or whatever. No, you go two blocks this way and you've somehow ended up behind you. Like in Rome, that's no joke. Rome has no rhyme or reason, London's definitely better, but these cities are so old that they just don't have any clear plan in place. They don't have the grid system whereas we have a kind of thoughtfully laid out city because we're more modern country.

Arnold:

Now, if I'm taking kids with me, are there some considerations I should take into account when I'm traveling with children,

Jack:

I would say keeping them entertained is probably the most important consideration. Depending on how old they are and their disposition, this might vary wildly, but Europe's going to be a lot of history, museums, and walking. Kids hate to walk and walk. Europe is just not built like America is; America's built for convenience. Europe is not built for your convenience. It's been there for thousands of years. You've got stairs and streets and alleyways and cobblestone. So for kids, it can be a hectic kind of an annoyance in that way, there's just more walking than you would do let's say an American trip or an all inclusive trip to the Caribbean or something like that. So keeping them comfortable with the walking shoes keeping them entertained, try to keep them engaged. So just be cognizant of don't do museum after museum, after museum. If you want to see a lot of museums, that's great but sprinkle it in with other things. Places like London and the British museum, they do have interactive things built for children, which is good. So let's try to spread out your itinerary to be cognizant of that. Barring or failing that, just give them something, a book, I hate to say an iPad or a phone, but give them something that they're going to be entertained because they're going to go out much sooner than you will. They might have more energy than you do, but their attention span is going to be small for the neoclassical buildings in a row. I can guarantee you.

Arnold:

Really.

Jack:

Oh yeah. My nephew, little Jack call him LJ, he'd be all over that. He's a little whiz kid, some kids just haven't gotten there and they don't care. Again, if they're older, maybe they do, it's the sweet spot of maybe, 10 to 12 or nine to 12 where they're old enough to appreciate but they're not teenage where they're like, I don't care mom. A teenager, they just want to go and meet young kids and have fun if you're 16, 17, even like 14, 15, but if you're like 12 or 11, you're not quite to that adolescent age where you want to go party but you're smart enough to like, Ooh, I'm looking at something significant. So it just depends on their ages.

Arnold:

I think about this, that you've been to Europe many, many times. Is there something that you would do differently in your travel plans as it relates to getting around or packing that you go, man, I got as many times as I've been to Europe, I need to do this.

Jack:

Packing cubes. I keep saying I'm going to do it and I haven't done it. I'm pretty efficient with my pack. Every time I go to Europe, I get more efficient with my packing every single time, but I haven't yet made the plunge to buy. Do you know what packing cubes are? Yeah. I've seen them used, I've seen travelers use them, you know what, I'm going to do that and I haven't done it yet. So generally speaking, just being more efficient with your do I need this really think about, do I need this item and do that with every item? It'll take you a little bit longer, but I'm telling you every piece of clothing, right? And every little amenity or device that you have, it's weight and its space. And also keep in mind, you need space to have souvenirs, right? Some people bring an extra suitcase. I don't go that far, but I keep some space because you're always going to come back with more stuff than you left with, that's just how it goes. So keep cognizant of that. Barring all that just learning things, don't take this, don't take that one coat, great example. Do not bring multiple coats. Something I'm going to do that, I keep saying I'm going to do is get those packing cubes. It takes everything you have, and it does two things. It organizes it so it's just easier to get out of the hotel and use. You save time and your mental capacity and frustration, but it actually saves space in the suitcase itself. So space and suitcase, plus less hassle and frustration. When you get to the hotel.

Arnold:

Sounds great. I hope this has helped people in getting around Europe. We've talked about travel. We've talked about packing. We've talked about visas. We've talked about a variety of things and hopefully it gives them a little bit of insight into how they can get around Europe a little easier.

Jack:

Yes.

Arnold:

We're glad you listened to this episode of Virtual Vacation with Guidester. Please share this podcast or tell a friend. Virtual Vacation with Guidester is produced by Motif Media Group. For Jack Baumann and Virtual Vacation with Guidester I'm Arnold Stricker.

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