Many travelers have similar questions about what they can expect to encounter in the foreign lands. Obviously, it is impossible to predict and describe all situations in which one can ind himself, but we can give it a try! Please read the FAQ, which I collected over the years and feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do I need an electrical transformer for our phone and camera chargers?
Probably, not. Most of the modern personal electronic equipment is already compliant with the international range of 110 – 240 volts and 50 – 60 hz. This means that you don’t need to bring a heavy / bulky electrical transformer on your trip. Please verify that your own phone, camera, laptop computer do accept the international voltage by examining the equipment’s charger and/or user manual. Make sure that it says “Input AC: 110 – 240 volts, 50 – 60 hz”, which allows you to leave the transformer at home.
Do I need to bring an electrical plug converter?
Yes. Most countries don’t use the flat-pronged electrical plugs and outlets, which are common in North America. Many regions / countries have their own standards and their plugs / outlets look very different from the others. Therefore, it is a good idea to purchase and bring an international plug converter kit, which contains the commonly used plugs. Such kits are usually sold in Radio Shacks and cost less than $20. Note: the plug converters do not convert the input electricity. See the FAQ entry regarding Electrical Transformers.
How much luggage am I allowed to bring on the flight?
Please check with every airline you will be using during the trip for their specific limits, including the carry-on and checked-in luggage. Note that the luggage limits differ depending on your destination, e.g. you are allowed more luggage on a transcontinental flight vs. a flight within the US or Europe.
Should I tip the taxi drivers?
There is no strict rule for tipping. Most taxi drivers in Europe would appreciate if you roundup the fare and leave a few euro for them. It is always a good idea to carry the banknotes of various denomination in order to quickly and painlessly pay for the fare. Every cabby in the world hates to “break” a $100 bill, when the fare amounts to $15, or so.
Should I tip the restaurant waiters?
Most European restaurants incorporate the standard tips and taxes into their menu prices. Therefore, there is no need to add a 15% tip to the check amount. It is customary, however, to leave a few euro (cash) for the waiter. The amount depends on your satisfaction with the service received. If the tips are not included, the restaurant menu will say so – in small print, of course!
What is VAT and how it applies?
Virtually all European countries have adopted the concept of Value Added Tax (around 20%), which is applied to all purchases. Note that the VAT amount is already included in the price, unlike the American state sales tax, which is added to the list price at the checkout register.
Can I get a refund for the VAT I paid?
Many European countries will refund the VAT paid by the foreign visitors, with certain conditions. If you’d like to make a large purchase (150+ euro) in a store (one store at a time) and get the VAT refunded to you, then you need to follow this procedure. First, make sure that the selling store is authorized to issue a VAT Refund Voucher for your purchase and be ready to show your US passport. Second, present the Refund Voucher along with the purchased items to the VAT Refund Office at the point of departure from the said country or the European Union. If everything is in order, you will receive the refund before you leave the country.
What is the best way to bring my money abroad?
The safest and the most efficient way to bring and spend your money during the trip is to use your credit and ATM cards. The credit cards are great for larger purchases and can be used to pay for the hotels, car rentals, airport charges, cruise ship expenses, etc. The ATM cards should be used to withdraw relatively small amounts of local currency for the out-of-pocket expenses. Note: call you bank and credit card company to notify them about your trip and to remove the security restrictions on using the cards overseas. Also, inquire about the bank’s fees for currency conversion and ATM usage.
Can I use my mobile phone overseas?
Most likely so, but it will cost you anywhere between $1 – $5 per minute, depending on your service provider and the country. Call your mobile phone company and inquire about their International Voice Roaming charges for the countries you will visit. Also, ask about the charges for the International Data Roaming, if you’d like to access the Internet and e-mail via your mobile phone / PDA.
How can I pack and get ready for the trip in an efficient manner?
Take your time and plan ahead. The most important things you should bring are your medications, passport, money and credit cards. You can …and probably will… purchase almost everything else at your destination. Take a look and print out the following checklist just to help you to get most of the things done before you leave your house: Checklist.
How can I avoid wasting time in the long queues to visit European museums?
Lenka Traveler will pre-book tickets to your favorite museums (Tower of London, Windsor Castle, Louvre, Vatican, Prado, etc.) and will save you lots of time and aggravation.
What’s the best way to lessen the jet lag effects?
Start preparing before you leave your house by changing your body’s internal clock. If you travel East, wake up a few hours extra early and take a short walk. If you travel West, go to bed much later than usual and spend 20 minutes in a brightly lit room before going to sleep.