In many cities and towns all over Europe, you will probably come across beggars. This is always a difficult one for me, because some of them really do tear at your heartstrings. The lady in my photo is a prime example. It is very hard to distinguish who is genuine and who is not at times. They will do anything to convince the tourists that they are in dire need of help. Some will be nursing babies, some will be very elderly and will not think twice of making themselves appear to be as pitiful as they can.
I am in no position to judge these people nor do I purport for one single moment to give advice on this sad part of the European culture. Rule of thumb for me personally is to carry small change in my pocket so that if I feel that they are genuine, I can get it quickly, (if the pickpockets haven't found it already that is) give it to them and move on. Otherwise I try to pass them by without making eye contact and without saying anything.
How you decide to deal with it is entirely up to you, just be warned that it is going to happen especially in places such as Rome and Paris.
UPDATE FROM MY 2013 EUROPEAN VISIT
I came upon a beggar in Venice, not far from the Rialto Bridge to whom I felt compelled to give a donation. As it turned out I was quite peeved when she as much as told me that what I had given was not enough and that I should give her more. this of course will make me think more than twice before I ever give a donation to a beggar again.
! This is not really a warning tip – just a “be aware of” one.
European Central Bank is in the process of issuing new Euro banknotes since 2013. They started with the smallest denomination, the 5 Euro banknote..
But obviously there must have been a lack in communication between ECB and the providers of paying machines: when it comes to the machines for parking, public transport tickets etc (any machine you pay at):
The majority of these machines cannot read these banknotes, hence refuse to accept them.
Sadly it is the 5 Euro banknotes most people will receive as change.
Visitors should refuse to accept these new 5 Euro banknotes when they pay and ask either for an old 5 Euro banknote or for coins, and also should explain why. I do this all the time since I discovered that parking machines wouldn’t accept it. There might be machines which have been adapted by now, but I am sure they are still in minority.
I have only experience with German machines and the new banknotes as of now, but I would assume that this is the case in any other European country with Euro as currency.
I heard that the machine operators are aware of this, but have decided to upgrade their machines when the next in line - the new 10 Euro banknote - will be issued.
Which is one day... when the cows come home :-)
© Ingrid D., September 2013
The warning is for Australian's..................
Do not do what you think the sign says in Aussie lingo!
It means EXIT
We had many a laugh about the difference in language's on our travels around Europe, I'm sure you will too!
One of the facts about Europe that I found I had to accept rather than let it spoil my trips, was the size of some hotel rooms and especially the bathrooms.
More often than not if you are staying in a one, two or three star hotel, which by the way are usually perfectly fine, you will find yourself in a very small room with a bathroom not much bigger than a wardrobe. It is not always the case , but for the most part, the centuries old buildings whill have been refurbished to fit rooms in wherever possible.
The upside of this is that quite often, no two rooms in one hotel will be the same and I feel that this fact adds to the charm of these establishments. If you learn to expect it, you will not be disappointed and sometimes, you might even fluke a room of a decent size with a good sized bathroom. I will always remember my room in Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany. The room itself, was small but not abnormally so, whilst the bathroom was almost as big as the bedroom. It was so strange that I felt compelled to take a photo and feature it on my Freiburg im Breisgau page.
By the way, you will find that elevators in these older hotels will also be minute. One person with luggage is usually the capacity.
There is a new travel website out there. Called touristmayday.com and is an assistance website for travelers after having lost passport or credit card, connecting you easy to the credit card companies phone numbers and websites and the embassy for canceling documents and cards. Also got some nice info about how to save money etc.
As we come from Australia, we are used to early starts to the day. Shops, Tourist attraction's and most things are open from 9am or much earlier.
In Europe, we found it very different. Our early starts [we were awake and ready to go] meant lovely morning countryside and village views, this was a plus in the tourist places, as quite often I had the small village mainly to myself, long before the Tourist Coaches arrived!
The downside was, a lot of the Attraction's, including most of the Castles did not open until 10am or even 11am, and most closed by 5pm, some even at 4pm. This really made it difficult to see all that we wanted to!
Be aware of this when planning your trip, and pick out the main points of interest you wish to see.
Check the opening and closing times, this is important
Tractor's, well, they did become a joke with us!
Travelling around Europe and passing through many Countries, practically every day, at some point,we were caught behind a Tractor. We were travelling through the smaller villages, so it was to be expected, but we also came across them on the main roads.
The problem with this, is they are slow, and they don't pull off the road to let the traffic past, and as a result, you lose a lot of time, especially if you meet more than one on a day.
So when you prepare your timetable for the days travel, remember, this is one of the least expected time delays that you may come across.
We called them "OUR FRIENDLY FARMER," AND WE ALWAYS HAD A LAUGH!
The "Schengen Agreement" is an important agreement that traveller's from outside of Europe should be aware of. Perhaps you have used a travel agent previously, and they did all the ground work for you, or perhaps you aren't aware of the agreement.
It can be quite a "pain" if you wish to travel these European countries for longer than the 3months [90days] allowed.
As I am Australian, I checked out the http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/travelbulletins/Europe_Schengen
I found, if I was travelling for less than 90 days (within a six month period) in the 'Schengen area' I did not require visas for countries which are parties to the Schengen Convention.
The best is to read all about it on the website listed below, and check out which countries are and aren't affected by it. Check out your countries website on oversea's travel.
The good side was passing through country after country without having to stop! It happened so quickly, sometimes I didn't get my border crossing photo!
I'll double this one and also place it under "transport". Be fair to the system and if, only rate it once.
A very serious word for travellers who fly into Europe from a non-EU country and change planes in a European country; e.g. coming from Singapore, change planes in Frankfurt to go to anywhere (EU and non-EU).
Since November 2006, Europe is hysterial about the liquids which are being carried in hand luggage. Well, this is the case in other countries are as well, but Europe topped it with a speciality about the real liquids, like alcohol and also perfumes etc.
Apart from the max. 50 ml of liquids like tootpaste, cream etc, which should be packed into a sealable transparent bag (e.g. the bags we use for freezing), you are not allowed to take any liquid past security.
This includes water.
You cannot take water, even not a 1 l sealed water bottle, across security.
You can buy a water bottle at any shop past security, but the shop will pack it into their special sealable bags.
You can open the bag between security and entering the plane, if you are thirsty – BUT – you cannot take the opened bag on the plane then.
This is the easy part. You only might loose the 2-3 Euro you have to pay for a simple water bottle.
The difficult part, however, is that you cannot bring alcohol, perfumes, creams, etc from Duty Free shops outside of the EU and change planes at any EU airport. This, since the non-EU Duty Free shops might not be able to pack your booze into these special sealable bags.
You take a plane in Singapore, go to Duty Free and buy some bottles of alcohol and perfume. They put it in any bag. You happily fly into Frankfurt, get off the plane and into transit. Security will surly find whatever liquid you bought and confiscate it = take it away from you and will give you no refund.
There is nothing you can do, well, except boycott flying in general.
Photo 1 and 2 are of the water bottle in this special bag, with the bill inside. Photo 3 of the security label and photo 4 of the liquid-security-laws, which I found printed in Sweden’s Arlanda Airport.
© Ingrid D., January 2007, text revamp August 2011.
Since January 1st, 2002, the currency in many European country is the Euro. And since then the counterfeiters are active. On a regular base, ECB publishes their biannual statistics, here the one of July 2011 and it shows that the most popular denominations are 50 €, 20 € and 100 €. The discussion about safety of the Euro banknotes against counterfeiting is as old as the Euro itself, but as always it is a question of information and education. European Central Bank and the Euro country national banks do publish the security features in extended length even with videos and it does help a lot to carefully read these and remember the three words: feel – look – tilt. So it is impossible to counterfeit the banknotes 100%, as these features just cannot be copied to 100%. It is us (and the cashiers) who have this 100% in our hands and are frauded or not when we don’t know how to detect the genuine ones from the counterfeited ones. In my opinion, the best (and definitely not 100% counterfeitable) feature is the colour changing number on 50, 100, 200 and 500 Euro. It changes colour from pink to greenish and this change to greenish is not imitable even with the latest inventions. Even if the ECB’s video of the colour change or my photos don’t show this properly on the monitor (it all depends on our monitor settings), it is pretty obvious on the banknote itself. In case a future counterfeiter stumbles upon this through google search – believe me, there is no way to imitate this, and by all means there will be always someone who properly identifies your fraud with modern and unique methods and is even able to trace you back to your shop :-). Ha!
Interpol gives advice on their website what you can do to check if you got a counterfeited banknote:
###If you are a member of the general public:
* look at the banknote carefully;
* compare it to other banknotes of the same denomination at your disposal;
* feel the raised texture on the printed area of the banknote;
* if you still have doubts about the authenticity of the banknote, refuse to accept it and report it to the proper authorities. ###
© Ingrid D., March 2009 (just in case, RickS or others come along and think they can steal texts), update August 2011: website (ECB statistics) update.
On your hiking maps you might find plenty of shelter-huts in the mountains, BUT don't count on them too much ! Most of them might be good for a short break in nasty weather, BUT as a place to spend the night they will mostly be totally out of question :
1) the interior is made in a way that makes sleeping there almost impossible : narrow, rough and simple benches will make it impossible to spend the night there.
2)Most of these huts will also be used as toilets by sheep and cows and there is a terrible smell inside
3)You never know, how many hikers had the same idea to rest inside the hut you are heading to
I saw various such shelter-huts and only close to bachalpsee there were a few that had a door-system that would no animals enable to walk inside of them.
The hut on my main picture had a perfect view - see my other picture - BUT it was totally open at the other side and used as toilet not only by cows...
When taking the cablecars or cog-wheel-trains to the mountains of Switzerland take good hiking-shoes instead of your Manolo Blahniks,then you will be able to smile for some of the funny "trafic-signs" like the one on my main picture: Many of the paths are slippery sometimes, you will have to step through alpine pastures, solid rocks and loose gravel - all of that is not really a good place to show your latest fashion-shoes...
Be careful, when hiking at glaciers in wintertime : For some people it is not always easy to understand, why you would not be allowed to leave the marked paths on top of Jungfraujoch. You may see great crevasses there nearby and plenty of foot-prints of other tourists leading there as well...
I made my pics in a large distance !
Please keep in my mind, that any rescue-activities have to be payed by the incautious tourists, and most of the insurances will not pay anything, when you had left the ordinary mountain-paths !!
Some chocolate and an extra bottle of water makes always sense, because when hiking you never know how long you will have to wait for help in case of an emergency or when you are forced to get shelter in an empty mountain-hut because it is that foggy or raining outside that you cannot see, where you are going.
Bottles of the light PET-material are the best - you will not feel them, when they are empty, and you may re-fill them at many natural fountains on your way - the quality of the mountain-water is always excellent in Switzerland and the cheapest mineral water you may buy in a vending-machine is 2 sfr., mostly it is even more expensive.
When I follow the discussions in the VT-forum I see that many tourists have the feeling it is the best to reserve a seat for mountain-trains etc. a long time in advance.
The only one who will be happy about that is your travel-agent, who takes a lot of extra money and you will have to take that train at a certain date and time, no matter how the weather is or how sick you are feeling...
In trains like Jungfraubahn you will always catch a seat, especially when you take the first train in the morning. And for the last train down they always have a 2nd train at the same time, because it is their task and interest not to leave anybody behind in the empty station, where the only hotel will be Moenchshuette in a walking distance of more than 1 hour.
Once that you have made a reservation it will be hard to change the date of the ticket, even when maybe the weather would be a lot better tomorrow, but you booked in advance a long time ago for today...
In case that you feel better that way:
Make your reservations after arrival!
In most of the countries all over Europe you may trust a policeman to be at the side of justice in case of a dispute or conflict. But in some of the East-european countries problems for you might start in the moment , when you call the police !
In these countries policemen have a total authority and you completely depend on their " judgement ", no matter, what the law is saying. So if a policeman once has stated that YOU were guilty of an accident there is no way for you to get your right even when the case is totally clear, that the other car has made a mistake. This is one of the many good reasons, NOT to drive in your own car through Russia
...and so there are countries, where it is advisable, to have some cash handy in order to get some influence on the judgement...
Believe it or not, it really happened to me, while I visited Russia in 2003:
I found 50.000,- $ right in the middle of the Red Square, and it fell out of a bag of someone walking in front of me - it actually was a bundele of a fake 50,-$ notes and a lot of paper behind it wrapped up in cellophane and there was another man beside me, who watched the scene and picked up the money, as soon as he saw, that I did not pick it up myseIf.Instead I told him, to give it back to the "looser", but he simply said to me : ' Lets make 50:50 '
I told him, this is not OK - and I ran after the ' Looser ' and told him, he lost the money, and the other man had it now but the ' looser ' started to shout at me :
WHERE ARE MY 50000,- $ ?
YOU HAVE TAKEN MY 50000,-$ !
Show me YOUR DOLLARS !!!
THIS was the moment , when I realized it was a trick, just to let me show them , where I hide my Dollars - they would have searched my money and would have taken it away, without me even realizing it
I simply replied : I HAVE NO DOLLARS AT ALL
Then I turned around and went away - and when I looked back after 5 seconds - they both were gone
I guess, I confused them somehow :
Plenty of people would take the money or at least accept the 50 : 50 deal - and will be finally robbed of their own money, as soon as they search through their portemonaie
obviously no-one would run after the ' looser ' to tell him, he lost the money
and most people would show their own Dollars, just to proove to be unguilty and I guess, they still have to improove their trick, as it sounded so ridiculously, hearing them speak english with russian accent with each other - and beeing dressed almost the same way made me finally sure, that they belonged together
NEVER call for the police in such a situation !!
In some cases the police will be on the scammers side,
in any way the police will not understand anything than russian
and they will start examining YOUR papers first and listen to the version of the story, told by the scammers, who will be able to talk in Russian...
it is a lot better to walk or run away or simply neglect them.
start talking kisuaheli and pretend NOT to understand english or what they are talking about !!
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