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Passport, Visa and Customs
Passports and Visas
All travelers to Europe, including infants, require a valid passport. Some countries may not accept a passport that will expire within six months of your departure. Apply for a new one if this applies to you. Ask the embassy or consulate of the country or countries you wish to visit for visa regulations. Foreign visitors may obtain a single Schengen visa to visit any of the 25 countries in the Schengen area. These countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Holland, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. You may still need to obtain a separate visa to visit a European country outside this area. Should you lose your passport, report it to the local police. The nearest consulate or embassy for your country can reissue your passport when you are abroad. Carry a photocopy of your passport separate from your actual passport to speed up replacement time. In most cases, you cannot leave Europe without a valid passport.
It pays to know the customs regulations in your country of residence. Regulations vary, but usually travelers are allowed to bring in goods up to a certain value. Duty is charged on anything over that limit. Find out forms of payment accepted at customs in the event you must pay duty. Food can be the trickiest items to bring home from Europe unless it is commercially packaged and cooked. Sweets or chocolates are usually acceptable.
Traveling in Europe is generally very safe, but take a few precautions to protect your valuables and travel documents. Pickpockets are common in high-traffic tourist areas across the globe. Keep possessions close and use a money belt to carry documents inside your clothing. Keep money in more than one place. Make a photocopy of your tickets, passport, traveler’s checks, credit cards and IDs and keep them separate from your valuables. In hotels, use the in-room safes or those at the front desk to truly secure your valuables.
Generally, visitors to Europe do not need vaccinations. In any case. prior to departure, consult your doctor to determine if you need any immunizations. Check your health insurance policy to confirm you are covered while traveling abroad. Bring a copy of your health coverage ID card with you. Carry prescription medicine in its original packaging in your carry-on luggage. Bring a copy of your prescription in case you need to replenish your supply. Pharmacies are common in any European town or city, but bring enough medication for the length of your stay. If you must order medication, a prescription issued by a doctor in the country you are visiting may be required. Pharmacies are indicated by an illuminated green cross, but this varies between countries. However, the word for pharmacy has only a few language variations such as Chemist, Pharmacie, Pharmacia, or Apotheek.
European Union countries share a single European emergency call number – 112. When dialing 112, the operator speaks in both the language of the country you are calling from as well as in English. In addition, all countries have an emergency number should you need the attention of the police, fire or medical/ambulance services.
Country Police Ambulance Fire
France 17 15 18
Italy 113 118 115
Ireland 999 999 999
United Kingdom 999 999 999
In Europe, where you choose to stay is all part of the experience. Farms, ancient monuments, former convents and monasteries are available today for travelers seeking unique accommodations that support and preserve local effect. But Europe also offers luxurious hotel experiences. Famous five-star hotel chains span the continent. Spas have always existed in Europe; they were created here. You’ll find plenty of hotels and resorts that provide all the pleasures of pampering. A guesthouse or bed and breakfast offers the comfort of a hotel and charm of local hospitality. This is a common way to stay when traveling the continent. Wherever you travel in Europe, a family-run guesthouse (or B&B) is nearby. Consider staying in rural areas and experience the diversity of traditional village celebrations, open spaces and fresh air. Enjoy the peace afforded by nature and meet the people who live and work in today’s countryside.
There are also many options for the budget minded. More than 100,000 campsites in the EU are open from spring to autumn. Tourist offices can provide a map of campsites to help plan itineraries and find out what facilities are available. Hostels are a great option for backpackers and budget-minded travelers of all ages. The International Youth Hostel Card provides access to a network of thousands of hostels across Europe. The card is free if you’re under 18, and costs only a small amount if you’re 18 or older. You may also consider staying with a local family. You’ll save money on accommodations, but you’ll also find the most authentic experience of a country’s real life and local traditions.
Chances are, when staying in different European accommodations, you’re often using electronic devices– electric shavers, hairdryers, irons or computers and mobile phones. You will need to bring along at least one adapter plug to fit European sockets, and a power converter if the voltage is different from that at home. You can purchase this equipment before you leave at a hardware store, department store, at the airport or, upon arrival in Europe, at an electrical or travel store.
Transport and Communication
Train Trips & Transportation
For many, getting to Europe is just the beginning of the journey. Fortunately, transportation options are abundant.
For sheer European romance, nothing beats a ride on the rails. Trains are often the most efficient means of getting around, also. Europe’s rail network includes high-speed trains, local and international trains, night trains, scenic trains, and InterCity trains. All are great options for leisurely forays in Europe.
For practical travel, ferries get you quickly from point A to B. Crisscross the Mediterranean, island-hop in Scandinavia, or traverse the English Channel in the relaxed comfort of a ferry. Traveling Europe’s inland rivers, tributaries and canals on a river cruise or barge is one of the most leisurely ways to travel within the continent. Disembark on port stops in the heart of river towns. Immediately walk along medieval streets, taste wine, and browse local markets and shops.
Rent a car from any major European city and create your own itinerary, set the pace, and stay wherever you like. Drive on majestic Alpine passes, scenic routes, city streets, or on the Autobahns. Buses (or coaches, as they are also called in Europe) can help you reach remote areas not accessible by train or airplane.
Backpacking is one of the best ways to see Europe. Don a rucksack and head off by plane, coach or train. Interrail passes provide a cost-effective way to see the continent. One ticket allows unlimited travel in 30 countries.
Europe is very bike friendly. Many countries provide dedicated cycling lanes and facilities. Try cycle-touring in the Alps, enjoy the beautiful Bavarian scenery in Southern Germany, or cruise the flatness of the Baltics. Bikes are available to rent in many tourist destinations both in the countryside and in major cities.
Decide on the most effective and cost-efficient method of calling home before you depart. Check with your carrier if your phone will work in Europe and if there are fees for international roaming. Typically, intra-European roaming is inexpensive. You may wish to rent or buy a phone once you arrive. Buy a local SIM card whether you are staying in one country for a long period of time or if you’re planning to travel through many countries. If receiving calls is not important, consider a calling card to use with a landline phone since most payphones or hotel phones charge expensive international fees. If you plan to take a laptop with you, consider a Voice-over-IP service, such as Skype, to make phone calls over the Internet.
Each European country has a unique telephone code to use when dialing.
United Kingdom +44
Saying “please” and “thank you” in the local language is a welcomed gesture. But be assured that English is widely spoken throughout Europe.
Europe spans three separate time zones. Most European countries use the 24-hour clock, especially for train and plane schedules. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) includes Britain, Iceland, Ireland and Portugal. Central European Time (CET) is GMT plus 1 hour and includes Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Eastern European Time (EET) is GMT plus 2 hours and includes Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Turkey.