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Last minute europe travel advice

Jebus314Jebus314 Registered User regular
Hey all. Leaving for a longer (3-4 weeks) trip in some European countries (mainly Italy, France, and Ireland). The cities are Rome, Florence, Paris, and then sort of driving/meandering around Ireland. Being a dirty American traveler on my first trip outside of the americas I just thought I'd ask for any last minute tips from people who are more traveled or have lived in or around these places. I'll start with a few things I've been doing to give an idea of the type of hints I was hoping to get.
  • Memorizing a few key sentences in the local language. Things like "I don't speak this language very well" or "I would like to buy a hamburger".
  • Memorizing as many numbers as I can in the local language.
  • Looking for a translation app for looking up phrases on the fly.
  • Looking for an app that could translate things like signs and menus for me on the fly.
  • Got a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees and an EMV chip in it. Although it's chip and sign rather than chip and pin, it will still hopefully be less stressful than trying to use my apparently outdated magnetic strip american credit cards.
  • Got some tiny locks for locking up the zippers on my backpack when on crowded buses/trains or what not.

Sorry it's kind of vague, but if you have any travel stories/tips that you think would help me out I would appreciate it.

"The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it" - Dr Horrible

Posts

  • Iceman.USAFIceman.USAF Major East CoastRegistered User regular
    Are you backpacking, or working? Makes a big difference!



    BouwsT
  • ASimPersonASimPerson And they will tremble again at the sound of our silence.Registered User regular
    Take an inventory of your electronics, specifically your chargers. Look at the input voltages. If it says something like "100V-240V" then you just need an adapter to change the type of plug, like these:
    http://smile.amazon.com/Ceptics-Europe-Asia-Adapter-Quality/dp/B0084OPT8C/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1403647827&sr=1-1&keywords=plug+adapter
    Note that they're relatively small.

    Some devices, however, will work only for 100-120V. Examples are things like hair dryers and razors, and for whatever reason, most Nintendo devices I've ever had (haven't checked my 3DS, though). These require transformers, which are bulkier and more expensive. If you can manage it, though, you will need 0 or 1 transformers and probably several adapters.

    NightDragonLord_Snot
  • Jebus314Jebus314 Registered User regular
    edited June 2014
    Are you backpacking, or working? Makes a big difference!

    No work, just backpacking it.

    Edit- and by backpacking I mean I will be living out of a backpack but I have airbnb and hotels already booked. Transportation is sort of up in the air until I get to ireland where I will be renting a car (and driving on the left side of the road!). I think we have train tickets for between cities booked but for smaller getting around it will be public transportation. I read somewhere that it's easier to just go to a travel agent once you get into whatever city, tell them any day trips you want to take, and have them book whatever tickets you need there.

    Also I say I a bunch, but my wife will be traveling with me and has done the bulk of the planning so far.

    Jebus314 on
    "The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it" - Dr Horrible
  • hsuhsu Registered User regular
    If you are staying in hotels / B&Bs, you really don't need to backpack it. You can use roller suitcases for each of you, one check in size, one carry on size, with a day pack as your personal item (like a small to medium messenger bag). Don't bring more than 1 roller luggage per person; it's way too unwieldy.

    My main advice is to pack less, like only half fill your check in luggage, so that you can fill it up with souvenirs. Really, yes you can pack less. Hotels and B&Bs will do laundry for you. And you can shop for new clothes. I do both.

    Other tips:
    • Bring a Sea to Summit duffel bag (or similar), which packs down to baseball size, in case you need to check in a second item on the return flight.
    • All your electronics chargers should be multi voltage/current compatible. If not, get ones that are. You don't want a transformer, as those are prone to blowing. You want actual chargers that can deal with worldwide voltage/currents.
    • Bring a 3 to 1 outlet adapter (not a surge protector strip, but a simple 3 outlet to 1 plug adapter). Basically, assume you have exactly 1 free outlet in your room, as you never have enough in hotel rooms. Oh, and a plug adapter for whatever country you're in.
    Finally, 3-4 nights per city. Any less, and you end up spending all your time in cars/planes.

    iTNdmYl.png
  • davidsdurionsdavidsdurions Your Trusty Meatshield Panhandle NebraskaRegistered User regular
    If using apple phone or tablet this is the app you are looking for to do your translating of signs and menus.

    I do not know if Word Lens is available on other platforms however.

    PwH4Ipj.jpg
  • Jebus314Jebus314 Registered User regular
    hsu wrote: »
    If you are staying in hotels / B&Bs, you really don't need to backpack it. You can use roller suitcases for each of you, one check in size, one carry on size, with a day pack as your personal item (like a small to medium messenger bag). Don't bring more than 1 roller luggage per person; it's way too unwieldy.

    My main advice is to pack less, like only half fill your check in luggage, so that you can fill it up with souvenirs. Really, yes you can pack less. Hotels and B&Bs will do laundry for you. And you can shop for new clothes. I do both.

    Other tips:
    • Bring a Sea to Summit duffel bag (or similar), which packs down to baseball size, in case you need to check in a second item on the return flight.
    • All your electronics chargers should be multi voltage/current compatible. If not, get ones that are. You don't want a transformer, as those are prone to blowing. You want actual chargers that can deal with worldwide voltage/currents.
    • Bring a 3 to 1 outlet adapter (not a surge protector strip, but a simple 3 outlet to 1 plug adapter). Basically, assume you have exactly 1 free outlet in your room, as you never have enough in hotel rooms. Oh, and a plug adapter for whatever country you're in.
    Finally, 3-4 nights per city. Any less, and you end up spending all your time in cars/planes.

    I think we were a little worried about traveling between cities with roller bags, especially since we will often have half a day or so to kill with our bags before we can check in.

    On the laundry point, what's the deal with dryers in countries like Italy? I've read a few places that dryers are actually pretty uncommon so it's best to do laundry right when you get to a new place to give your stuff a few days to hang dry.

    Good call though on taking a duffel or something that folds up small for the flight there but could be checked for the flight back.

    "The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it" - Dr Horrible
  • BlarghyBlarghy Registered User regular
    The cities you mentioned are pretty English-friendly too. If you're just doing standard tourist stuff, pretty much everyone you'll likely come into contact with will speak at least enough English to exchange basic information, and many will be entirely fluent. I loaded up with a bunch of translation books/apps, and never needed to use them once. Its a good idea to have them in back up, but you can get by pretty well without them.

    CyberJackalTPSouThe Ender
  • EmbraceThePingEmbraceThePing ひきこもり Where the Crabbits and the Iz roam and the Jungle Queen rules the plainsRegistered User regular
    If using apple phone or tablet this is the app you are looking for to do your translating of signs and menus.

    I do not know if Word Lens is available on other platforms however.
    Yeah, word lens is available on android.
    Can recommend this app, it's very usefull.
    Does Italian and French but won't be any help in Ireland.

  • hsuhsu Registered User regular
    Jebus314 wrote: »
    I think we were a little worried about traveling between cities with roller bags, especially since we will often have half a day or so to kill with our bags before we can check in.

    On the laundry point, what's the deal with dryers in countries like Italy? I've read a few places that dryers are actually pretty uncommon so it's best to do laundry right when you get to a new place to give your stuff a few days to hang dry.
    I travel quite a bit, and I'm almost always able to check my bags into the hotel early. You may have to wait for check in, but they'll happily hold onto your luggage until then.

    In addition, unlike the USA, most countries overseas still have lockers/counters at the airport/train stations, to store your bags temporarily. Munich airport, for example, will hold onto your luggage for about €5/day, at their "left luggage" counter.

    Yeah, most other countries air dry their clothes. But if you give them the clothes in the morning, they are usually dry by evening. B&Bs are the best when it comes to laundry. You drop off dirty clothes at the desk, and clean clothes will be hanging in your room by evening. And B&Bs will barely charge you anything for this service too.

    iTNdmYl.png
    CyberJackalschussa5ehrenDarkewolfe
  • wiltingwilting Registered User regular
    Just in case you didn't know, there's a common emergency number of 112 in those places. Although in Italy it will only connect you to the police, not other services. Do you have any specific questions about Ireland?

  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    Google Goggles might be worth putting on your phones as well for translation.

    Also TripAdvisor has downloadable city guides for the major cities.

    Actually, would it be better for the OP to get prepaid phones, since they're going to be gone a month?

    Jokerman wrote: »
    If sigs were still a thing this would be mine.
    a5ehren
  • CyberJackalCyberJackal Registered User regular
    I assume you won't have a car on the mainland, so you'll want to do some research on your transportation options. Florence is walkable, but Rome's attractions are a bit more spread out. I'm guessing Paris will be the same.

    Another thing you'll want to do is try to keep apprised of the local situation while you're there. for example, there was a strike of transit workers when my GF and I were visiting Rome. Stuff like that can have a big impact on your plans, so be aware.

  • BloodycowBloodycow Registered User regular
    Paris is so easy to get around in. The subway system will get you anywhere you need to go. I recommend going to the teller and buying a pack of subway tickets if your going to be there for a few days. It's was like 15-20 euros and it cuts the cost by almost half of what it would cost to just buy a token each time you want to use it.
    You can easily walk to most of the tourist spots, but going from the Eiffel Tower to say the Moulin Rouge your going to want to take the subway.
    I didn't notice how long your going to be in Paris, but if you have an extra day, I recommend you but a train ticket for an early train up to Normandy. It is a beautiful train ride and seeing that area is something every American should do in their life time. There are tours from Bessin out to the landing zones all day long and they usually take you to the American Cemetary too.

    " I am a warrior, so that my son may be a merchant, so that his son may be a poet.”
    ― John Quincy Adams
    The Ender
  • Jebus314Jebus314 Registered User regular
    wilting wrote: »
    Just in case you didn't know, there's a common emergency number of 112 in those places. Although in Italy it will only connect you to the police, not other services. Do you have any specific questions about Ireland?

    First thanks to everyone for the advice so far.

    @wilting I do have a few Ireland questions if you have some time.
    • Since we're renting a car I was a little worried about the gas station situation. We don't have a chip and pin credit card since they are apparently not available in the US, how common is it for the non city gas stations to only have an automated machine? Should I try and plan out gas stations in larger cities just to be safe?
    • Does Ireland's park system have like a day pass/parking pass system or is it all just sort of open/free? Thinking mostly in terms of historical sites rather than just regular old camping.
    • I think I read that almost everywhere in Ireland has english road signs, is that pretty much true?
    MichaelLC wrote: »
    Google Goggles might be worth putting on your phones as well for translation.

    Also TripAdvisor has downloadable city guides for the major cities.

    Actually, would it be better for the OP to get prepaid phones, since they're going to be gone a month?

    My wife has an unlocked sony phone which has GSM so we were probably going to just get a prepaid sim card for while we are there. Not 100% on that process, but from what I read it should be relatively straight forward.

    "The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it" - Dr Horrible
  • wiltingwilting Registered User regular
    edited June 2014
    Jebus314 wrote: »
    wilting wrote: »
    Just in case you didn't know, there's a common emergency number of 112 in those places. Although in Italy it will only connect you to the police, not other services. Do you have any specific questions about Ireland?

    First thanks to everyone for the advice so far.

    @wilting I do have a few Ireland questions if you have some time.
    • Since we're renting a car I was a little worried about the gas station situation. We don't have a chip and pin credit card since they are apparently not available in the US, how common is it for the non city gas stations to only have an automated machine? Should I try and plan out gas stations in larger cities just to be safe?
    • Does Ireland's park system have like a day pass/parking pass system or is it all just sort of open/free? Thinking mostly in terms of historical sites rather than just regular old camping.
    • I think I read that almost everywhere in Ireland has english road signs, is that pretty much true?
    • Do you mean credit card machine or the petrol pump? I don't think I've ever seen a self service pump Ireland. I believe non-chip cards mostly work with the chip machine themselves (barring ticket vending machines and the like), and the credit card companies insist that businesses accept them, but you might be declined service by staff worried about fraud or unsure/not used to them. I find it hard to imagine a not friendly to American tourist dollars scenario though.

      It feels like you are assuming American scale here. Driving in Ireland isn't exactly long distance. You're never particularly far from civilization, even in quieter parts of the west. So you wouldn't need to carry a lot of cash to get where you need to go anyway. If you can't get served I'm sure they're will be a nearby atm(probably in the service station). But if you are worried by all means fill up before heading out to parts unknown.
    • I think its fairly open. Again, the scale here is pretty small. Camping happens at private camp sites. If you need a pass to drive anywhere it'll be the first I've heard of it. Parking probably varies place to place, but my instinct for tourist/historical type locales is more free than not.
    • Yes. English and Irish with distances in Kms.

    I'm neither a frequent road user nor a frequent visitor to tourist sites in Ireland, and I prefer cash, so take all this with a giant mountain of salt. I'd read up on the specifics of the particular places you want to go, and ask your bank about using credit cards.


    wilting on
  • President RexPresident Rex Registered User regular
    • Potentially not as big of a deal in the countries you listed, but you might want to look into going to a bank and getting euros beforehand (and a money pouch that fits under your pants like a really thin fanny pack). Debit card fees can be exorbitant (most have an ATM fee + conversion and/or % of transaction). It is slowly changing, but credit cards aren't used as frequently. The money pouch (once you've arrived) is also a nice place for your passport.
    • As noted, check your electronics to make sure they use the right voltage range (most cameras and laptop AC adapters are compatible). All you'll need is an adapter for European outlets (two cylindrical pins).
    • I'd also second bringing a bigger bag. Or potentially a fold-up bag that fits in another bag for souvenirs. As noted, most major airports and train stations have lockers or a baggage check area that is like a coat check. Pay a few euros, drop your bag off (generally no laptops), pick it up when you're going to leave. I would expect all three of the major cities you've listed to have these services.
    • If you plan on taking an Italian train, seating may be a premium on long-distance trains with 'cabins' (as in, if you don't get a seat early, you may need to sit/stand in an aisle/hall).
    • (Free) toilets and drinking fountains are not as plentiful as they are in the US. Train stations are your best bet for free bathrooms, but most tourist-y places have them (like the Coliseum and Vatican City). Otherwise you may want to carry some change with you (...which will not be a problem if you are buying things with cash).
    • When I took a bus/van/shuttle thing from Da Vinci to our hotel, the driver got sort of lost, but we weren't charged anything extra. We did drive around the Coliseum about 5 times though. I wouldn't necessarily recommend a taxi since they're expensive.
    • Eat stuff. It's delicious.

      TPSou
    • TPSouTPSou Registered User regular
      edited June 2014
      For parking in Ireland keep 5-10 Euros in coins with you or in your car. Lots of car parks have ticket machines that'll be a Euro or two to stay for a couple of hours, but they won't take card. Make sure you do get a ticket (those car parks are called 'Pay and Display') because the wardens are like ninjas and you don't need the headache of getting a ticket on a rental car.

      Really good idea to learn greetings, please and thank you in other languages to be polite, but other than that you can getb y fine with English. I try to speak the other languages when I can, but I've never got in trouble when I didn't know something, it's more for the fun of it than necessity.

      In Italy and France avoid street-sellers for anything but food. There's a lot who prey on tourists to try and sell them rubbish for too much money. They're not very persistent or rude, just tell them no. If you want souvenirs go have a look round markets or little antique shops in shopping districts rather than next to the attractions.

      This is more general holiday advice but wherever you go during the day take a backpack you can put stuff like a decent sized water bottle, raincoat/umbrella, sun-cream and some snacks in. It can be surprisingly hard to find cheap water in loads of places, even in Paris and Rome. I remember being very dehydrated in the Louvre a couple of years ago and it took us ages to find a water fountain.

      Clearly the big draws for lots of tourists are the landmarks but I'd really, strongly suggest not worrying too much about whether you see them all. Things like the Eiffel Tower and Colloseum look very much like they do on postcards. You can easily tire yourself out andn ot have much fun if you're rushing around trying to tick them all of. Instead pick one or two you really like and then walk from place to place where possible, stop to get food (ea as much as you can) and chill out a little. Florence, Paris, Rome and Dublin are all beautiful cities jsut to be in and I've always had far more fun just relaxing in them and wandering about and eating than I have sightseeing.

      One last note - go to restaurants where there seem to be a lot of locals eating, chances are they're not getting ripped off or served bad food so you won't either. In Italy there seems to be a lot of tourist-oriented restaurants that have menus a mile long and don't do anything well, but charge you a fortune because they have music playing or some rubbish like that. The places where the locals go to eat their lunches tend to have tiny menus but serve really good food with massive portions for not much money.

      Edit: With regards to the Sony phone - it's incredibly easy to get cheap prepaid SIM cards pretty much everywhere in Europe. Every newsagent, supermarket or travel information building will be selling them, you literally just have to buy them, put them in your phone and you're good to go. They're not so good on data or anything like that, but for calls and texts they're fine. Free wi-fi is fairly widespread now so use that for your internet, go find a starbucks or macdonalds you can sit nearby and use theirs.

      TPSou on
    • djmitchelladjmitchella Registered User regular
      Re: language -- I wouldn't rely on people speaking English very much unless they're people that actually work at a tourist attraction. When we stayed in Paris last year, the bakery that was at the bottom of the building were were in had nobody that spoke English at all, same with pretty much the shops in the area. It wasn't a big deal, it's easy enough to point and say "deux croissants, s'il vous plait" or whatever, so you can get an awful lot of things done.

      I would recommend getting a phrase book over relying on an app, because phrase books don't run out of battery.. One of the tiny pocket-sized ones will be fine, but it is an enormous help to know how to say things like "can I have the bill, please", or "which platform does the train leave from", and having them in a book will also give you a better chance of picking up other relevant phrases by accidentally seeing them on the same page.

      It's also useful to be able to point to phrases in the book if you don't want to have to try and wrestle with pronunciation; in a small-ish town in Germany I was browsing for toys for my kids in a toyshop, the owner came over and said -something- to me in rapid-fire German, so I just said "bitte", flipped through the pages, and showed her the "I'm just looking, thankyou" phrase. You could do this with an app, but then you'd still want to say "just a second, I'm looking it up on my phone" -- whereas everyone knows what it means if you're looking through a phrasebook, you didn't just ignore someone and start looking at your phone. Even at the visitor's desk in the touristiest bit of Saarbrucken, her level of English was about equal to my level of German, ie very minimal and we had to look some words up in a dictionary to get stuff done.

      It also will give you a better sense of "how the language works" than relying on instant translation, which can be very helpful if you're trying to make a quick guess about what something generally says. Oh, and I'd recommend trying to listen to some audio in those languages, to get a sense of what they sound like; I'm sure youtube has some sort of introductory language videos which will help with getting a grasp of what things sound like in a given part of the world, or duolingo is another good way to get used to hearing that language.

      (I'd also recommend a paper map over an electronic map, but that may just be me)

      Also, yes, definitely carry a backpack, and carry a bigger bottle of water than you think you'll need.

      Location-specific tips; in Paris, walk along the Seine, you can get to an awful lot of places that way. If it's a hot day, do _not_ get the Batobus along the river, no matter how much cheaper it may seem than the other options -- it is basically a greenhouse that floats.

    • FaranguFarangu I am a beardy man With a beardy planRegistered User regular
      In regards to Ireland, driving and meandering is probably the best way to go about it. The countryside can be very pretty in places, and the road signs are unintentionally hilarious. ("Uh, apparently we have a z-turn coming up the road here.")

      When I went there with my folks, we took the ferry to Rosslaire(southeast corner of the isle), rented a car, drove to Dublin and back over the course of 3 days or so, spending one night in a hotel and one in a BnB which was essentially this one old guy's house with some spare rooms. You can see and do a good number of things in Ireland in that time.

      There will be pubs everywhere, and they will all have similar menus, but they will all taste very good. The Blarney Stone is cool(although minor heights trigger- you do have to essentially lean over a castle wall, there's guys there that hold you so you can reach it), but they also have a very nice grove you can walk around right next to it also.

    • RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
      Because I haven't seen a specific destination itinerary I wasn't sure whether to pipe up, but here are some minor tips if by "Ireland" you mean the Island rather than the country, because Northern Ireland:

      - Has distances/speed limits in miles, and signs only in English
      - Drives on the same side as the Republic, i.e. not on the American Side
      - Uses £ Sterling. Some places in Belfast, Newry and Derry accept Euro, but at a poor rate.
      - Has very few self-service only pumps: Mostly supermarkets have self service pumps, but you can choose to go into the shop to pay. You should always have the option of paying a person rather than a machine.

      I can't speak for camping access as that's not a thing I'm interested in, and I'll hold off on touristy things to do in case you're just meandering in the Republic.

    • wiltingwilting Registered User regular
      edited June 2014
      FYI the local teenagers piss on the Blarney Stone. Or so the story goes, I don't know how they would get up there when its closed. Kissed it myself in my youth. Hardly hygienic in the first place, being kissed smooth by countless tourists, urine or no, surely? Maybe the urine would actually help.

      wilting on
    • BlindZenDriverBlindZenDriver Registered User regular
      Lots of great advice already.

      Here is few more things to consider.
      • When visiting Florence I highly recommend also visiting Sienna, it's certainly worthy of a bus ride.
      • About the rental car. Most cars in Europe are manual, so best be prepared to drive with a stick (that's gonna be in the "wrong" side of the driver seat).
      • Don't go to a McDonalds or any other fast food chain from home. It will be just like home only more expensive and a meal there is a wasted chance to eat some great local food.
      • Take backups of the photos you take. It sucks if a camera/phone gets lost, but it is even worse if that also means all the Holiday snaps are gone.
      • Don't sit on the Spanish stairs in Rome - that can cost you a fine!
      • Paris has a city bicycle system - use it as it is a great way to see more of the city.
      • The countries you're visiting are generally very safe, but the free travel through the EU has meant that some criminals also does that so be safe with your important stuff and make sure to have insurance also (insurance is also VERY important to cover medical if needed). The free health care over here is mostly only free for us locals.
      • Drink stuff. There is so much great to drink :smiley:
      • Free WiFi can be found in a lot of places.
      • Enjoy the trip. If in need for help on the way then ask the locals, most people will be friendly and often go out of their way to help.

      Bones heal, glory is forever.
      FaranguMichaelLC
    • CyberJackalCyberJackal Registered User regular
      Just thought of something else: Some of the major attractions allow you to reserve tickets online (the Uffizi, for one IIRC). Do this whenever possible, or prepare to face long lines.

    • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
      edited June 2014
      • Eat stuff. It's delicious.
        • Drink stuff. There is so much great to drink :smiley:

        Repeat.

        MichaelLC on
        Jokerman wrote: »
        If sigs were still a thing this would be mine.
        Lord_Snot
      • CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
        I've been to basically everywhere you're traveling to. Please excuse the obnoxiously long post.

        General advice-
        Do you know any Spanish? If you know decent Spanish, you should be able to read some basic Italian. Basic Junior High Spanish allowed me to read probably 75% of menus. And, you'd be surprised at the number of people in France who speak Spanish. When I went there two years ago, I kept accidentally answering people in Spanish instead of French, and it frequently worked better than trying to communicate in French or English.

        Memorize your passport number. It'll help you get back home if your passport gets stolen. (My mom's was at one point.)

        If you hate sparkling water, learn how to how to request it in French and Italian. Europe loves sparkling water.

        You'll probably have to pay for water in restaurants everywhere. Just keep that in mind when ordering.

        For Paris-
        Are you planning on going to any museums? There's a pass you can buy, I forget what it's called but it looks like a small leaflet, that will get you into basically every museum for a specified amount of time. BUY THAT PASS. Otherwise you'll be waiting in line for a good 2-3 hours just to see things.

        Nothing is open prior to 9 am. And by nothing, I mean nothing. You'll probably want to stop by a bakery for food in the afternoon & save it for breakfast.

        Notre Dame has pickpockets. And really long lines. But it's worth it. There's also some amazing hot chocolate for sale nearby.

        The Eiffel Tower is NOT worth it. And the food they sell in the Tower is crappy compared to what you can get a couple blocks away.

        Don't buy food in museum cafes. It's overpriced and, while better than museum food in America, still crappy compared to what's offered elsewhere.

        Italy-
        There are a lot of panhandlers and street vendors that prey on tourists. If somebody offers you a flower, don't take it. If somebody asks you to hold something for them, don't. They'll try to charge you an obscene amount of money for it and then shout for the police if you refuse. Try not to make direct eye contact with them, or look at them in general, actually. That's a tourist thing, and if you do it, they're way more likely to bother you.

        Keep your valuables inside your clothing. Like under a shirt while you're wearing it. There are lots of pick pockets. Don't leave your purse/wallet/bag out, ever. Also, carry purses and small bags football style. Sometimes people slit the bottom of your bag & try to make off with the contents.

        Get Gelato. Get a lot of Gelato.

        Florence has some really awesome Artesan shops, where you can actually arrange to see how they make the things they sell. I forget the name of the place that did pietra dura (really awesome stone mosaics,) but it's worth looking into. Enrico Giannini has an awesome shop for leather bound books and marbled paper, which was amazing.

        The art is beautiful. Visit as many museums as you can.

        The Colosseum and the Mausoleum of Augustus are NOT worth it. If you have to pick one, do the Colosseum. The Mausoleum of Augustus is really just an old stone building with bare walls. (And, when I visited, a homeless person hiding in a bush attempting to sell broken umbrellas and bags of lawn grass.)

        The Vatican is its own separate country. If you're planning on visiting, you'll need your passports. Also, dress conservatively (pants for men, skirt or nice pants for women, shoulders must be covered.)

        In crowds, make yourself bigger, not smaller. Stick your elbows out, and stand your ground if you get jostled. Otherwise you won't get to see anything.

        As in France, buy passes to everything ahead of time.

        Ireland-
        I visited Ireland years ago, but to my memory, the IRA doesn't have the horrible reputation one might expect.

        Irish museums will not seem anywhere near as good as the ones in Paris & Italy. But you won't need to buy your passes ahead of time because they get far less foot traffic.

        This may be a matter of personal taste, but Irish food isn't that great. Look for French and Italian restaurants.

        Irish bar food isn't that bad. And I've been told Guinness is far better in Ireland, so you should have at least one. (I was 12 when I went there, so I cannot verify this.)

      • wiltingwilting Registered User regular
        edited June 2014
        Creagan wrote: »
        Ireland-
        I visited Ireland years ago, but to my memory, the IRA doesn't have the horrible reputation one might expect.

        ??????
        Creagan wrote: »
        Irish museums will not seem anywhere near as good as the ones in Paris & Italy. But you won't need to buy your passes ahead of time because they get far less foot traffic.

        Indeed. Although the Dublin science museum does interesting/unusual things. Art galleries can do good things too. Lots of small scale arts/crafts around the country. You get the usual world travelling types like Bodies in Dublin. Might be an interesting WW1 exhibition on somewhere. Whatever you do don't go to the wax museum. There's an arts festival in my hometown in August.
        Creagan wrote: »
        This may be a matter of personal taste, but Irish food isn't that great. Look for French and Italian restaurants.

        Lots of great restaurants of all types, been a big explosion in the last couple of decades. Big point of pride in the country.
        Creagan wrote: »
        Irish bar food isn't that bad. And I've been told Guinness is far better in Ireland, so you should have at least one. (I was 12 when I went there, so I cannot verify this.)

        Lots of great gastro pubs. There are special Guinness quality inspectors that travel around the country that don't exist elsewhere, so yes, it is better. More and more independent/craft beer pubs have cropped in the past few years as well if you are into that sort of thing.

        wilting on
      • NightDragonNightDragon 6th Grade Username Registered User regular
        I am coming back to the states from Ireland in an hour! My boyfriend and I also drove. We drove a lot, and sometimes the narrow roads and driving through towns was pretty nerve-wracking...so definitely get the smallest vehicle you're comfortable with. The less you have to worry about the width of your car, the better.

        If you can, check the route/map before you go somewhere. On the large highways (and most national roads we were on) the signage is pretty good...but on other roads (and some national) every road is not clearly labeled, or the sign may be a bit hidden from view, or it just doesn't exist. So! Having a map or Google maps or a GPS will help you tons.

      • SurikoSuriko AustraliaRegistered User regular
        edited June 2014
        I'm just wrapping up an Italy trip right now (onto Germany in a couple of days).

        - Internet says that the European plug standard fits Italian outlets. This is not always true. A couple of older hotels had power slots too thin to allow the thicker pins of the Euro power plug in.

        - In Florence, if someone asks you for the time, walk away quickly if they start asking further questions and feign a passing interest in your country, as it's a scam to try and hock some overpriced knicknacks (they they initially offer them to you for free as thanks). Nearly got caught out, and saw another tourist nearly get caught too.

        - Lonely Planet Italian Phrasebook. Good stuff.

        - Try to visit outside of the big cities. even if just for a day trip. While Rome was okay and Florence was nice, I found Bracchiano and Montepulciano to both be wonderful, full of character, and with people friendlier and more relaxed than those in the major cities. You don't really get a 'tourist script' feeling in your interactions as much, and they really exemplify the idyllic relaxed Italian lifestyle you see in some media.

        - My phone's GPS saved my bacon almost every day. Save Offline Maps in the Google Maps app to make sure you have detailed maps when you have no internet. Wifi is common, but I found it rather unreliable (but I also seem to be unlucky with wifi in general). In Italy there is public wifi, but you require an account, which usually means an Italian signup page using Italiam SIM details. I ended up not bothering and just using the hotel connections.

        - Bilingual can have a wibbly-wobbly meaning sometimes. For example, Italian train ticket machines are bilingual, but the tickets are only Italian and so are many train station signs. That said, the details are pretty obvious from context (train number, departure/arrival times, etc).

        - Validate your ticket. Bus and train tickets must be validated using a yellow box inside the bus or a green and silver box at the train station near the platforms respectively. You can be fined if you don't have a validated ticket. It'll just put a little chad in the ticket and a timestamp when you push the ticket into the black slot.

        - Money was easy, ATMs are bilingual and accepted my (Australian, PIN-based) credit card and debit card as easily as back home.

        - The Colosseum has a bunch of scaffolding up right now. Trevi Fountain also has fencing around it and is dry. I didn't mind, but I thought Rome was kind of meh anyway.

        - The Pantheon is amazing, though. Like, seriously. The engineering of the dome almost moved me to tears.

        - Look into the Firenze Card. Expensive, but gets you priority access to a huge amount of museums in the city for 72 hours, and a great map that includes opening times for all the attractions.

        - The Uffizi Gallery is around a 2 hour line without a prebooked ticket or Firenze Card. If you get in very early in the morning it's about 1 hour.

        - Italy wakes at 9:00, tourists fill the streets at 11:00, and everyone wraps things up at midnight. If you want to see Florence without a bunch of cars and tourists around, leave the hotel at 7:00. It's really quite nice, almost a totally different place. Very few shops and museums will be open until 9:00, mind, but Florence is a great city for just wandering around on foot.

        - The best gelato is from stores where the gelato is flat in the tub. If it looks like a gigantic mountain of icecream, that's because it's aerated to look big.

        - While the restaurant food was okay (maybe I had too high expectations), I personally liked the simple food from tiny little cafes by far the best. A little cheeseburger, pizza, roll, whatever, from a friendly guy behind a little easily-missed counter can be a real treat. You can tell when a shop takes care in making food, instead of throwing out pasta dishes for tourists as quickly as possible.

        - Nobile di Montepulciano 2009 vintage. That is all.

        - Papal Address is Wednesday, so if you want to see the dude in person (I saw him about 4 feet away as he passed right by), go early and try and get near one of the lanes. Be aware that this will mean lots of people around, and that means longer lines for the museum (including the Sistene Chapel). Seriously, the museum is a total crush of people on a Wednesday.

        - At Vatican City there will be hawkers for tours of the museum and chapel that skip the line and pay for your ticket. These are, surprisingly, actually quite good. I went with Maya Tours, and ended up passing a 3 hour line, getting an okay guide, and seeing a couple of areas not otherwise accessible. It's about a 1-1.5 hour walking tour through Vatican City.

        - My experience with language was that the main people who reliably know good English are: hotel receptionists and concierges, taxi drivers, western takeaway stores (McDonalds, Hungry Jack's/Burger King), food stall owners and waiters in big tourist locations, almost everyone I met in Montepulciano. Random storeowners in tourist cities usually knew enough for transactions. Others were hit or miss. Even without a common language, finger numbers, pointing, and gestures can communicate a hell of a lot even without words.

        - Memorise the word for ticket. It's seriously incredibly useful.

        - Saying this again for emphasis, keep your phone charged and make sure GPS works. Also keep a taxi number in your contact list. Taxi drivers don't give out business card like they did when I was in America, but the number is usually written on their door. Also, some smaller towns have a taxi. As in, a single taxi. Hailing won't work there.

        - Mainly in smaller towns, taxi drivers won't wait inside their car for a passenger, but sit around nearby to talk with friends. Be prepared to walk around a bit and gingerly ask if someone sitting or chatting vaguely near the car is the taxi driver.

        Edit:
        - The tower of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence is 233 steps, but worth it. Great view. The building in general is a nice example of renaissance government buildings, though it doesn't have much art inside if you're ore interested in that. It's more about the state of the building at the time.

        - Piazzale di Michaelangelo is the prototypical viewpoint of the city. There's another, hidden place - Chiesa di San Miniato al Monte, situated a small walk up the road. If the main metal gates are closed at the front, there's a dirt path leading from the road a bit to the left of it that will curve around and get you in the side. Watched an amazing fireworks show from there a few nights ago. It's a nice church and a very peaceful place, with few people around compared to the tourist bonanza of the Piazzale di Michaelangelo.

        Suriko on
      • Natas_XnoybisNatas_Xnoybis Registered User regular
        edited June 2014
        You are not asking this but:

        unless you have a very specific reason to spend time in Paris, IMO there are far far better places to spend your time in France. OR if you were coming to America for the first time would you really want to go hang out in New York city, or would you rather see New England, or the Northern California Coast, or the Grand Canyon etc.

        Southern france, French alps, the mediteranian, (avoid the Riviera IMO), etc.

        I have had three separate trips that involved a stay in France for a total of about 2 months overall. I have been all over the place and really Paris is not all that IMO. There are some great museums, some cool things to do and all... but I honestly think you could spend maybe 2 days in Paris, and then head out to another part of the country .. meh I am totally rambling on my lunch break :P

        have a great time!

        *edit*

        Wasn't able to figure out where you are starting.. but it sounds like you are ending up in Ireland. If you can swing it, try hitting up Scotland as well, really Scotland is just amazing.

        Natas_Xnoybis on
        I hate Computers
        GIS is evil
        a5ehren
      • CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
        edited June 2014
        wilting wrote: »
        Creagan wrote: »
        Ireland-
        I visited Ireland years ago, but to my memory, the IRA doesn't have the horrible reputation one might expect.
        I visited a decade ago, when I was twelve, so my memory might be a little off. But a lot of the museums related to Ireland's independence took a somewhat congratulatory tone when discussing the beginnings of the IRA. And it seemed like a lot of the more recent terrorist-related activity was viewed as the work of people who either took things too far, or "extremist splinter groups."

        Given some of the things that went on, I would have expected the IRA to be viewed as undeniably awful in every respect. (But my great uncle was involved with the peace talks on the Northern side of things. So maybe I only heard bad things?)

        Creagan on
      • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
        IMPORTANT TIP FOR PARIS:

        If you ask if you can get your food boxed-up to go at a restaurant, you will get weird looks and the staff will not know what to do. I guess this is not a thing that Parisians normally do. :P

        So, make sure you only order quantities of food that you can eat right at the restaurant.


        That was honestly the only thing that was different enough that it caught me off guard (as a Canadian who speaks zero french). People in Paris typically understand enough English that you can totally get by without the need for a translation book (but they do really appreciate it most of the time if you can use a bit of the local language), and all of the locals I interacted with there were super friendly.

        With Love and Courage
      • Lord_SnotLord_Snot Живу за выходные American ValhallaRegistered User regular
        MichaelLC wrote: »
        • Eat stuff. It's delicious.
          • Drink stuff. There is so much great to drink :smiley:

          Repeat.

          Hells yes.
          Creagan wrote: »
          The Eiffel Tower is NOT worth it. And the food they sell in the Tower is crappy compared to what you can get a couple blocks away.

          I would really strongly disagree with this. I went to Paris as a kid and I still remember seeing the Eiffel Tower really vividly, I think it's a super impressive building. I can't speak for actually going up it, since I never did, but seeing it is highly recommended.

          Paris is packed with stuff to see, it's one of the world's great cities. I'd recommend seeing Notre Dame and the Arch de Triomphe too, although be prepared for a long walk if you decide to walk from one to the other along the Champs-Elysees. You should also absolutely go to the Louvre, I seem to recall that it's costly, but well worth it, walking around there is fantastic, you just casually pass great works of art like it ain't no thing. The Venus De Milo was just in the middle of a fairly small room when I went, and you just see it and go "Oh hey, there's one of the most famous statues in the world."

          You should also see the Place De Concorde if you want a taste of history, and the obelisk there is super impressive. I'm torn on whether or not to recommend Versailles. On one hand, it's very impressive, and extraordinarily pretty in places. On the other, it's also goddamn impractically huge, and walking around it on a hot day is not a fun experience.

          I've also heard excellent things about Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur, but never been myself, I'd really love to one day.

          Oh, and while you're in France? Drink absinthe, it's fantastic.

          I can't speak for Italy or Ireland, but if you're thinking of coming to Spain at all, or anywhere else in France (like Brittany, Brittany is fucking gorgeous) I'll give some more recommendations/advice.

        • BlindZenDriverBlindZenDriver Registered User regular
          The Ender wrote: »
          IMPORTANT TIP FOR PARIS:

          If you ask if you can get your food boxed-up to go at a restaurant, you will get weird looks and the staff will not know what to do. I guess this is not a thing that Parisians normally do. :P

          Good one. I'd say this actually goes for the whole of Europe.

          Also I forgot. When in Paris go to the Sacré Cœur as it's an amazing location and of course Montmartre as well.

          A note on pricing also. Some cafe's will charge more when serving outside than inside - I'd say it is worth it when doing the tourist thing, but if you just really need a place to sit an plan the next day it is something to keep in mind.

          Bones heal, glory is forever.
        • CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
          I should clarify: I meant going up the Eiffel Tower isn't worth it. You have to wait in line forever to take the elevator, even with tickets. Going up the stairs is a shorter line, but either way it's really not worth the wait.

          But you should totally see it in person. And watch the light show they do at midnight, if you can. The light show is pretty cool.

          Lord_Snota5ehrenLoveIsUnity
        • djmitchelladjmitchella Registered User regular
          You can pre-book tickets for the tower; the official site tends to sell out but also has tickets become available on and off as time passes, so it's worth a look. Is it worth going up if you don't have to wait? Depends on if you like views of places from high up; it's crowded and potentially very hot, but you won't see that bit of Paris from that direction otherwise. This is the official site -- lots of tour organisations will also take you up but charge extra for doing so.

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