Before this huge adventure I really had no idea what I was doing; however I learned very quickly about all the tricks and tips to make my experience the most enjoyable. Sometimes I had to learn the hard way but all in all it was a bit of trial and error. Below are some tips that I followed and learned along the way:
Before the trip:
- Talk to other expats, they will have a plethora of information for you. If you don't know any other expats, find some. Try forums, chat groups, bloggers, etc.
- An expat is not a vacationer, they are travelers. So talking to someone who went on vacation to Greece for a week, is really not going to cut it.
- Research the cities by visiting blogs. They will provide honest, unbiased opinions on these forums.
- For god's sake don’t just look at sites that give you "the top things to do" in a city, go off the beaten path.
- Budget, budget, budget. Get general ball parks of how much you need and always round up.
- Don’t look for flights more than two months in advance. Look everyday, especially late night on Tuesday and Wednesday. That original "deal" you think you can get, will get better. Trust.
- Pack light, for the most part you’re not going to need five pair of heals and three bottles of perfume. If you can get all your toiletries abroad, do it. Less weight to carry with you. Bring comfy shoes, and practical clothing.
- Invest in a four wheeled suitcase. I wish I would have had one on my three month traveling exp. (At one point I was traveling through Paris and Amsterdam with a suitcase that had only one wheel, That was a pain. I am glad I do not embarrass easily.)
- Know your weather, pack for the season(s) you may be experiencing; and no matter what season, bring a bathing suit
- Learn how to read a paper map.
- Make sure you know which power adapter/converter you need. Depending on how old your electronics are you may also need a power surge protector.
- Download helpful apps such as subway maps, bus routes, tripadvisor, whatsapp.
- Talk to strangers, and get recommendations from locals. Not only will you make friends this way, you will also find lil hidden gems like small jazz clubs in a hidden alley way . Get recommendations on where to stay, where to eat, where to go. Locals know best.
- Don’t book everything advance, I learned that it’s best to buy train tickets and bus tickets the day off. The only thing I would do in advance going forward is knowing where accommodations are and if they have availability have multiple choices and book once you arrive. Things can change so quickly and you don’t want to be "stuck" when you want to change your plans.
- Know your surroundings so you’re prepared but don’t sweat having everything set in stone.
- Walk, walk walk, most European cities are made for walking. Go into random cafes that seam appealing. Stop at local bars with live bands. Just walk, and you will get to know your city.
- Fight through the fear of the unknown, just be aware and alert at all times. The world is scary but we should not fear it. Just know where we are at all times.
- Pickpockets are high and very much alive in Europe (Main Crime) only travel with what you need for the day and nothing more. If you able to leave passport in secure place do so. When someone asks you for directions or to sign a petition for example hold your purse tight, as they are more than likely are pickpockets.
- Buy and eat local. Need I explain more.
- If you have an unlocked smart phone, purchase a SIM card abroad. You will save tons on your phone bill. you can get a SIM card with around 60 min and 1.5 gig for around 15 euros. you can find these in most grocery stores and independent cell phone operators. plus you will get better reception very handy when using google maps.
- When scheduling trips to other locations looks at buses, trains, and airfare. Europe has a very cheap airline called RyanAir ( RyanAir.com ) where you can get round trip ticket for about 40 Euros. Also if possible take a train or bus, it will take a lil longer, but there’s nothing like seeing the countryside and sometimes lack thereof. I was able to find Bus fares for as low 2 Euros.
- Find out what’s free, most museums will have free days, take advantage.
- HAGLE!!!! Everywhere and all the time!!! Never accept the original price on something. This can be done at all independent shops, street stands, as well as markets.
- Visit the city parks and market places, they will tell you allot about a specific place.
- Join a meet up group if traveling alone, great way to meet friends. Use sites such as Meetup.com or Trip4Real.com
- Know where the US embassy is. I had to go there for two different occasions on my trip; One of which was to get a replacement passport.
- Have copies of all important documentation. Keep copies with you, email them to yourself, and give a copy to your parents/trusted person.
- Add a trusted person (my dad) as an authorized user on all credit/debit cards. Just in case you happen to lose your wallet with your whole life in it.
- Almost everywhere you go has WIFI so take advantage, buy a drink and get in communication or use your apps.
THE MOST IMPORTANT TIPS OF ALL: DO WHAT YOU LOVE AND WHAT FEELS RIGHT!