My parents raised me in a foreign country with the mantra, “Sometimes we pay for our lessons.” Linguistic and cultural barriers are just part of the landscape of international travel or living and as the visitor, it’s pretty likely we’ll goof up here or there. This perspective has helped me have grace on myself on my Europe Voyage.
Since it’s my first time traveling through Europe, going through multiple countri
es at once, and traveling alone so much, I’ve had a lot to learn! Considering that I just spent 2 months traveling through 10 countries mostly by myself, I think I did pretty good! I actually never missed a flight and only mixed up one train journey with an hour delay, so relatively inconsequential.
Without further ado, here are my top 10 travel blunders for your laughing and learning pleasure. I hope my blunders will prevent someone from making the same mistakes…
- Forgetting Europe has different voltages outlets… and not just one but many variations among the countries! Seriously, after living & traveling internationally for my first 18 years of life, you’d think I’d have this one down! When I got to England and realized I couldn’t use my curling iron, I was kicking myself. #luxurytraveler
Solution: I nabbed my cousin’s US to UK converter for the first week (rendering their living room lamp unusable), then I invested £15 in an all-Europe converter with a plug and 2 USB ports which worked in all succeeding 9 countries and made my friends love me (charging all of our devices at once)!
- Using the “Free” Wi-Fi advertised on the Irish Ferry. Half-way through the voyage, I started receiving warning messages from my mobile company that I’d exceeded my limits! I was confused and concerned my data was going to get shut off and I’d be wi
thout a phone as I located my Airbnb that night.
Solution: I shut off data for the rest of the day except to locate my host. The next morning, instead of exploring Dublin and seeing the Book of Kells, I spent 2 hours on the phone with the mobile company only to find out some 3rd party charged me £32 for maritime data usage. What!? Who would ever know that existed? Thankfully, I was reassured that the fee would most likely be dropped but I never got to see the Book of Kells. Note to self: don’t use data on international ferries.
- Not checking international exchange rates and exchanging money at the departing airport (London) instead of arrival airport (Turkey) when exchanging Euro for Turkish Lyra. I traded €30 for 75TL which means I lost about 1/3 in the transaction.
Solution: Ask frequent traveling friend for advice and learn the travelers rule of thumb: Always make exchanges to local currency after arriving in the destination country. Since I didn’t have any more Euros to get rid of, I withdrew additional money as needed from local ATMs in Turkey.
- Arrived at the Istanbul Sabiha airport immigration desk without a visa (not knowing I needed one). Had a brief moment of panic since my concept of visas is applying months in advance (like I used to do when visiting my parents in Taiwan). I thought I’d have to fly straight back to London and wouldn’t get to see Turkey!
Solution: A visa-issuing office was conveniently located 50 feet away. I paid £20 for a visa and passed through immigration on my second try! Note to self: Always check to see if non-EU countries require a visa. Buying online ahead of time may save time and money.
- Flying Ryan Air. Don’t do it unless you want to stand in crowded waiting areas
without seats for at least an hour and feel like a herd of cattle. On the plane they talk over the intercom for about half the flight trying to convince you that you need a new watch or perfume. Ryan Air is cheap and you get what you pay for. (I had the worst airport experience of my life flying out of London Stanstead on Ryan Air. Everything went wrong. But I still made it to Rome!)
Solution: Fly Easy Jet instead! They’re also cheap but their service is way more humane and people actually seem to like their job.
Wait–Are there only 5!? Fret not. You can read the rest in part 2.