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Thread: Tips for newbies?

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    Tips for newbies?

    I want to do some overseas travel in the next few years -- haven't crossed the Atlantic in decades. You who travel often -- what are some details I might overlook? Specifically --
    1) Tips for closing up your house for a few weeks -- any special precautions you take?
    2) How to keep your luggage light...
    3) Something you always pack that might not seem obvious...
    4) Bags you check in -- any tips that help you claim it, at your destination?
    5) At the hotel -- ever faced the bedbug issue? How was it resolved?
    6) Carrying money, credit cards around -- any neat tricks that make it safer? Where/how do you do your currency conversion?
    7) Medical concerns -- what info do you carry with you?
    8) Best source(s) of info on what to see, do, in another country?

    Actually, any little tricks for travelers that you have devised would be of interest to me. Last time I was in England I used Western Union international travelers checks & it worked fine -- don't know if anyone does that anymore.

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    The one, main recommendation I'd make these days is to look into Airbnb. If you book far out enough in advance and find someone with good reviews you can stay in some fantastic apartments, often for cheaper than the price of a decent hotel. For instance, in Toronto one of the Airbnb's we stayed at was about 50% of the cost of local hotels, and we had a big beautiful apartment, including kitchen.

    Generally, it works well, you just have the added inconvenience of needing to co-ordinate with your host. At the same time, for many of the people renting out apartments it's a serious business, so these people are usually on the ball. Just make sure you book at least 5-12 months out (that's how you get the best of the best apartments), and read reviews carefully.

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    I'd add, in terms of closing up house, if you have a family member or trustworthy neighbor, or friend, and I mean to a point you can have them in your house without you and not start worrying over the furniture or your belongings, have them spend a few days there, pick up the mail, regularly use the lights and such. That way, to anybody looking to rob the place somebody's home even at night time so it discourages the from trying.

    My paternal grandparents n a paternal uncle live two houses apart so unless both are on vacation at once which is rare, they trade off in raking care of each other's lawn, mail and house for security.

    Of course they also live in an upper middle income area with nosy as fuck neighbors who will call cops out who actually do respond the moment they seem something off so there's that, too.

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    I would recommend that you not convert any money to euros or other currencies before you leave. Make sure that you take a credit card, preferably with no Forex fee. You'll find it cheaper to buy products in euros or pounds, because the exchange rate will usually not be as bad as with other methods of payment. The card must be one of those with a chip on it, not just a magnetic strip (if you still even have one of those old cards). Do not bother with travellers checks. Almost nobody uses them anymore.

    You will need to get cash, so bring at least one debit card. Quite often, you will be charged by your bank and the ATM bank for each transaction, but you can often find ATM machines in Europe that do not charge a fee. In that case, the only extra charge will be the one imposed by the banking system for currency conversion. Again, that is usually better than exchanging cash or travellers checks for euros in Europe.

    Make sure that you have the foreign emergency numbers copied on a separate piece of paper so that you can call for help, in case your credit cards are stolen. Before you leave, inform your credit card company and bank of where you are going and how long you will be out of the country. Otherwise, you could find your cards blocked when their software detects a potential fraudulent use of your cards in a place where you don't usually use them.

    Make a copy of your passport, print it out, and take that with you in your luggage. In addition, scan the passport page and mail it to yourself online. That way, you can access a copy from anywhere, in case you lose your passport.

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    Mrs Frizzle gmbteach's Avatar
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    Take a power board for your country and ONE conversion plug for the country you are going to. This way you can charge multiple devices without needing multiple conversion plugs.

    And definitely take USB chargers.

    With regard to your home, what has been advised is good, or look into a house sitter. Here in Australia, there are a group of seniors who will housesit their way around the country. Also, let the police know you are going and for how long. They may keep an eye out for you.

    With money, we use our credit card and minimal cash. Also, let your bank know that you are going and for how long. I would also put a limit on how much you can spend so that if your card is stolen, too much damage won’t be done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gmbteach View Post
    Take a power board for your country and ONE conversion plug for the country you are going to. This way you can charge multiple devices without needing multiple conversion plugs.

    And definitely take USB chargers.
    Check your equipment for voltage compatibility, also. These days most things you would be likely to travel with are available in versions that will accept any power (typically they will be marked AC 100-240V, 50-60Hz) but not versions of all devices thus work.

    Plugging a 110V device into a 220V outlet normally means you need a new device. Plugging a 220V device into a 110V outlet simply doesn't work. Most devices don't care about 50Hz vs 60Hz but some do. I've seen a clock be horribly wrong on 50Hz power.

    Devices exist to convert between 110V and 220V. For low power ratings they aren't too heavy and versions exist in both directions. For high power ratings (say, a hair dryer) it's quite another matter--lightweight devices exist to go from 220V to a pseudo-110V that will run things like hair dryers but will not be safe for all electronics. If it must be true 110V and high power, forget it. Likewise, trying to plug a high power 220V device into 110V power isn't feasible. We have one fairly high power 220V device here--and it's my job to get out and put away the transformer needed because of it's weight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    I would recommend that you not convert any money to euros or other currencies before you leave. Make sure that you take a credit card, preferably with no Forex fee. You'll find it cheaper to buy products in euros or pounds, because the exchange rate will usually not be as bad as with other methods of payment. The card must be one of those with a chip on it, not just a magnetic strip (if you still even have one of those old cards). Do not bother with travellers checks. Almost nobody uses them anymore.

    You will need to get cash, so bring at least one debit card. Quite often, you will be charged by your bank and the ATM bank for each transaction, but you can often find ATM machines in Europe that do not charge a fee. In that case, the only extra charge will be the one imposed by the banking system for currency conversion. Again, that is usually better than exchanging cash or travellers checks for euros in Europe.

    Make sure that you have the foreign emergency numbers copied on a separate piece of paper so that you can call for help, in case your credit cards are stolen. Before you leave, inform your credit card company and bank of where you are going and how long you will be out of the country. Otherwise, you could find your cards blocked when their software detects a potential fraudulent use of your cards in a place where you don't usually use them.

    Make a copy of your passport, print it out, and take that with you in your luggage. In addition, scan the passport page and mail it to yourself online. That way, you can access a copy from anywhere, in case you lose your passport.
    In addition, before you leave, inform your debit/credit card issuers that you will be overseas. Otherwise, your credit issuer may suspect that a credit theft is in process and suspend it until you contact them.

    I carry my valuables in an under the garments security pocket. I kept my debt card there and my credit card (and cash) in my wallet (which is in my front trouser pocket).

    As possible, familiarize yourself with the taxi/public transit situation at your destinations. Don't push the taxi line at the airport when you are lagged and tired, try to be alert at that point and follow the standard procedures. If it seems too good to be true, it will probably be very expensive.

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    I already learned never to put my wallet in my back pocket. My wallet was picked once while I was boarding a train in Krakow and was busy juggling with getting luggage onto the train. I didn't discover it until I was well on my way to Warsaw. At the police station in Warsaw, they resisted filling out a crime report until we made them do it. They asked me if I had my wallet in my back pocket and rolled their eyes when I answered affirmatively. So, won't be making that mistake again.

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    My thanks to all those who posted. Some great tips here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    I already learned never to put my wallet in my back pocket. My wallet was picked once while I was boarding a train in Krakow and was busy juggling with getting luggage onto the train. I didn't discover it until I was well on my way to Warsaw. At the police station in Warsaw, they resisted filling out a crime report until we made them do it. They asked me if I had my wallet in my back pocket and rolled their eyes when I answered affirmatively. So, won't be making that mistake again.
    I was saved by the button in St. Petersburg, where I was accosted by a gaggle of preteen Gypsy girls. They got nothing because I reacted like a madman, flinging arms and legs and screaming. I must have been quite the entertainment for about twenty seconds. The wallet was too big to slide past the buttoned rear button in the time they had, but it was moved to the front pocket, any way.

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