To support this site, please buy your goods at:
The Amazon Store
Shop in your shorts!
It rains. Be prepared.
Totes Titanium Auto-Open/Close Umbrella
Womens's Light Weight Endurance Jacket
London Fog Women's Double Breasted Trench Coat
Clarks Women's Wave.Run Slip-On
Tilley Endurables TH9 Women's Hemp Hat
Wear a scarf for comfort and style. Nobody will ever suspect that you are an American.
Very soft houndstooth neck scarf, Kanye West style, different colors available
I wore one similar to this on my early spring trip to London and Dublin.
Leather Bomber Jacket
This is my "standard" shirt for most of the year in Europe.
Men's Combed Cotton Euro Design Ski Turtleneck
My favorite T-shirt/undershirt has a pocket for securely carrying passport, cash, and credit cards.
Turfer Tagless ComfortSoft T-Shirt with Pocket
New Casual Grey Herringbone Wool Cap
Shopping easy at
links in this green field take you directly to a page at Amazon.com.
That page details the item, and in some cases includes candid and critical comments
from others who have bought the item.
Amazon.com pays my site a
small commission when you click and order an item, if you put it in your shopping
cart within 24 hours based on the cookie they set on your computer. If you don't
want to make a quick decision just put it in your shopping cart, think it over,
and come back later. You benefit when buying here because Amazon.com
has a 20% to 30% discount on many items plus a free shipping
deal. The third bonus is that there is no sales tax on internet purchases in
most states. Delivery is fast
even when it is free, and returns are easy if you are not happy with the product.
You win we win. Thanks for your support!!
Have a good trip in life,
Note: Italicized notations by the author.
Make sure that your electrical appliances are 110-220 dual voltage so they will work in Europe.
These appliances require a plug adapter(s), NOT a converter, for the countries you are visiting.
Vagabond Compact Styler
Conair's Dual-Voltage Ionic Hair Dryer
Conair Flat Iron 2" Ceramic Straightener
Travel Hair Setter
SteamFast SF-717 Home-and-Away Mini Steam Iron (dual voltage)
Braun Series 1 150 Men's Shaver with Automatic Worldwide Voltage Adjustment
For light sleepers here is an international "white noise" machine. Includes a Continental
Marsona TSCi-330 White Noise Travel Sound Conditioner For both USA and International Use
For coffee or tea in your room, without waiting or paying for room service.
This will pay for itself in a few days.
Lewis N. Clark Immersion Heater 120/240V
You will need one or more of these plug adapters for your appliances and chargers.
For details on electricity in Europe see chapter 11,
Electricity in Europe: Travel Voltage Fundamentals
Plug Adapter (doubler)
Universal to Continental Europe "Europlug."
4.0 mm prongs
SIMRAN PLUG ADAPTER
Adapts grounded USA plugs to European "Shucko" plug.
4.8 mm prongs
This is a universal plug adapter for the UK and Ireland.
Samsonite Universal Grounded Adaptor Plug.
UK and Ireland
The holes of many Italian outlets are too small for the Schucko plug. One of these will probably fit.
If you have the Europlug (above) you do not need this plug.
Italy Adapter Plug B
4.0 mm prongs
Plug Adapter for Italy
Universal to Grounded 3 pin
To use this with American plugs you'll also need the USA to Continental Europe adapter.
Europe to Switzerland
This plug adapter changes a Schucko Continental plug to the type used in the UK and Ireland.
Britain and Ireland
This plug adapter changes a Schucko Continental plug to the Europlug used in Italy.
Europe to Italy
This 110-250 volt power surge strip has three universal outlets and an American grounded plug
so it needs a plug adapter for the countries you are visiting.
Make sure your gizmos are rated for 110-240 volts.
SM-60 Universal 3 Outlet Power Strip Surge Protector for Worldwide Travel. 110V-250V with Overload Protection.
If your gizmos charge through a USB port this can keep you going. European cars have the same
12 volt system as American cars.
Scosche Dual USB
My book can get you started.
Updated information is free on this site.
How To Europe
by John Bermont
"Data! data! data!" he cried impatiently. "I
can't make bricks without clay."
So said Mr. Sherlock Holmes to Dr. John Watson in "The Adventure of the Copper
Beeches" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The information on this page will help you to keep your feet on the bricks
and out of the clay.
The Prime Travel Data page for each country of Europe linked in the left column consists of elementary
information known to the majority of the citizens but not necessarily to
visitors. For example: their postal code, money, dates for holidays, time
zone, and some other basic infrastructure. Please read the following discussion
of the content and then follow the links to each country. This is a work
in progress so a number of countries are not yet posted.
The names that we know places by are not always the names used by the
local citizens. For instance if you see Suomi on a timetable or
rail car, you might not know that it is really Finland. Finns know that
it is really Suomi, their name for their homeland.
Along the same line, citizens of other countries seldom use the names
that the country itself uses. Over in France, for instance, Germany is
known as Allemagne. In Germany, France is known as Frankreich.
Listing all the cross references here would consume a few extra trees a/o
kilobytes. Consult your Berlitz Travelers phrase book for others. In the
Reference Section of each is a list of countries with the names as known
in the language for which the book is written.
The capital city is shown in its American spelling. If there is a different
local spelling, that name is shown in italics. For example, Americans know
the capital of Austria as Vienna. Austrians know it as Wien. Dutch
people call it Wenen (you probably don't need to know that.).
Each European country has an internationally recognized abbreviation. For the
United States it is USA. The code for Switzerland is CH
(Confederation Helvetica), though the code for most other countries
is more easily recognizable. The code is used as the prefix in postal zone
codes for international mail.
You see it most often on an oval sticker on the rear of automobiles
in Europe. The oval sticker, about 4" x 6", is placed near the license
Each country has a telephone code for incoming international calls.
This number is usually shown on letterheads and business cards with a +
(plus sign) in front of it. The same convention is used here.
The telephone code for North America, including the USA, Canada, and
most of the Caribbean, is +1.
There is more information on making international telephone calls in
How To Europe: The Complete Travelers Handbook. The telephone chapter is
available online for a free read at part 1 of chapter 19,
Telephoning to, from, and within Europe.
Languages listed for each country are those used officially or in print
and conversation. It is not necessary to know these languages to travel,
though it is very helpful. Generally you will have little trouble communicating
in English in western Europe since it is the second language of many people.
When you are traveling in eastern Europe, the best second language would
be German or perhaps Russian. My limited German was understood by police in Slovakia
and Ukraine and was very valuable in other countries as well.
If two or more languages are listed, each is usually a regional language.
Do not expect everybody to be bilingual. In fact, Belgian citizens sometimes
riot over the use of Walloon (French) or Flemish (Dutch).
Brussels, the capital city, is officially bi-lingual, but the rest of the
country is divided in half by a strong linguistic wall.
In some cases, a second language is not listed here because it is spoken
in a very limited region of the country. For example Basque is spoken in
the north of Spain around San Sebastián, (one of the most beautiful
cities of Europe). German is common in
the Sud Tirol area of northern Italy around Bolzano, known as Bozen in German.
German is even an official language in a small part
of Belgium. There are a few similar cases.
For much more about the languages of Europe see chapter 26 of How To Europe
at Languages, Numbers, Alphabets.
The name of the currency of each country is shown as it is on the coins
and bank notes. Just as Americans call the dollar a buck or a greenback, slang terms are
often used in Europe. British commonly talk about the price of things in
quid rather than in pounds. The Scandinavians typically translate their
unit of money into English. For example, in Denmark a krona is often called
As of January 1, 2002 the euro debuted as the currency of 12 European nations.
Gone to the trash bin of history were the French franc, Dutch guilder, Italian
lira, and many other currencies. The euro
makes travel much easier in the 16 countries now using
it. But, there are another 30+ countries with their own currencies,
prominent among which are Switzerland and the United Kingdom, i.e. England.
The value of European currencies relative to the US dollar and to each
other changes every day. In order to find out what exchange rates you will
be facing on your trip, check the financial section of a major metropolitan
daily newspaper or call your bank.
The Wall Street Journal publishes a daily "Foreign Exchange"
column with the commodity and stock prices. It shows the exchange rates
in effect between banks for amounts of one million dollars or more. Tourists
will be exchanging much smaller amounts and cannot get as good a deal.
Exchange rates are also published daily in the International Herald
Tribune, the "New York Times of Paris." Tear out or copy one of these
columns and tape it into your Travel Record Book.
You can also go to
Euro and Other Currencies:
Exchange Rates for Travel in Europe on this site and follow links to current exchange rates for
currencies around the world.
Cash, ATMs, Credit Cards,
goes into far more detail on all aspects of money in Europe. That includes how to
protect your money against the ubiquitous swarm of pickpockets who infest tourist
sites throughout Europe. Your money doesn't do you any good when it is in someone else's pocket.
EUROPEAN UNION, The EU
The European Union is the political and economic union of most of the European countries.
The countries which are not yet members are in eastern Europe, though most of the
former Soviet Bloc nations are now members.
Whether or not a country is a member of the EU can have an influence on travelers. Since there
are no Customs or Passport controls between member nations, travelers are free
to bring almost anything from one country to another. For example, if you are going from Tallinn, Estonia to
Helsinki, Finland you'll notice that most of the passengers on the ferry are stocking up
on duty free booze and beer. When you get to Helsinki and see the government fixed prices
you will understand why they do that, and why you should also.
The EU open border doesn't always work regarding passports.
When I used international buses to cruise through the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania
in 2006 there were passport checks at every border. Not only that but my passport was
taken inside the police station and returned to me about 10 minutes later. Locals were
waved through. On top of that, at one border the guard returned my passport to the guy sitting
behind me. I didn't realize this had happened. The guy sitting next to me noticed it. He
finally leaned back and asked
the one with my passport "Why don't you give him (meaning me) his passport?" He did.
The Schengen Agreement is another open border deal. It is meant to provide easy access for
travelers from one country to another. It was designed for people who visit Europe from
countries for which a visa is required. Prior to Schengen, a visitor from Brazil would need
a visa for each country he or she wanted to visit. Now, one Schengen visa is accepted in
a couple dozen countries. It should be obtained from the first nation you plan to
The Schengen Agreement has made a problem for some Americans who want to have an extended
stay in Europe. Americans do not need visas for most countries of Europe. For decades Americans
have been allowed to stay in almost any country for 90 days. On the 89th day they could
cross the border, get an entry stamp in their passport, and return to where they were hanging out.
Unfortunately, the "Schengen Zone" is considered one country for visa purposes. So, assume you are
hanging out in Paris as I have done. Going over to Belgium, Germany, Spain, or just about anywhere else within
a day's journey will not work anymore. On top of that, and even worse, you can stay visa free
in the Schengen Zone for only 90 days. You must then leave the Schengen Zone for 90 days.
This is going to cramp me. I've spent 5 or 6 months over there on some visits and I plan to do it
again. It is going to be a logistics challenge. However, the Schengen Zone keeps growing
and will probably include all of Europe some day. Then it will be a problem, unless the USA
joins the Schengen Zone. Fat chance. One escape is to go over to England. My last entry stamp
to the UK allowed me six months in the country. The UK is not part of Schengen.
There are four time zones in Europe. The notation in the Prime Travel
Data pages is GMT+X, meaning GMT plus X number of hours. GMT is Greenwich
Mean Time, the time at the Prime Meridian running through the Greenwich
borough of London. USA time zones start with GMT-5 (GMT minus 5 hours)
on the east coast to GMT-10 in Hawaii. In other words, it's always later in
the day or the next day in Europe.
Sometimes you see Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) written instead of GMT. UTC
is a scientific term and is the same as GMT
for all normal intents and purposes. Don't let them buffalo you with high falootin
jargon. Ask someone who uses UTC why it isn't called CUT.
The juice is different over there. Most of it is twice the USA voltage. And the
frequency is 83% of American frequency. If you don't know what this means or what
effect it will have on you then click to chapter 11 of my book on line at
Electricity in Europe:
Travel Voltage Fundamentals.
GENERAL OPEN HOURS
Limited Hours of Operation
The business hours of restaurants, banks, post offices, stores, and
tourist offices included here have been culled from my notes and photographs.
Passersby would often be curious as I photographed the front door of a
closed shop. Times given are only approximate since they vary from city
to city within individual countries. These times are on the conservative
side and present hours for the smaller and medium sized cities. Business
hours in the larger cities are usually longer and sometimes include Sunday
Notice that nothing opens very early, and few things are open very late.
A midday siesta is practiced in a few countries, and then some things do
stay open late because everything was closed for three or four hours during
Central train stations in the major cities have stores with extended
open hours, often to 11 pm and even on Sundays.
Gas stations, especially the 24 hour variety on the expressways, are
turning into mini-markets just as they are at home. They usually have a
good selection of basic foods and drinks, plus maps and other travelers
Gas stations in the cities normally follow the open hours of other businesses.
They lock up for the day and go home for dinner. In southern Europe the
owners also lock up for the siesta and go home for a long lunch. Many of these
gas stations are self-serve, allowing you to buy gas with a credit card when
the station is closed.
Be aware that a posted store closing time usually means the moment that
all of the sales clerks are on their way home, even if Oprah Winfrey wants
to come in and browse around after hours. Cash registers close fifteen
minutes earlier. Some stores are closed for a day or a half day every week in many
countries. All the hair salons, or camera shops, or dairy shops may be
closed depending on local custom. This will probably not be posted.
The kitchens in restaurants normally close one hour before the restaurant
closes. That allows the owner and his family time to sit down and have
dinner. He/she will not serve you.
In addition to the regular hours noted, most of the capital cities have a PTT,
post-telephone-telegraph, office open until late in the evening for international telephone
and telegraph service. In most countries you can buy a telephone card and use it
in virtually all of the phones in the country. But the card will cost a minimum of
$5. If you're only interested in one brief call you would be better off going
to the PTT to make it.
Poste Restante (general delivery) is available in most cities. See chapter 19
part 2 of How To Europe: The Complete Travelers Handbook for
detailed information. That chapter is free on line at
Sending Mail to & from Europe.
Overtime at the Bank
Banks are typically open one day a week for an extra hour or two. This
day may be different in different cities so it is not always shown in
Now that the banks in most countries have ATMs under various names,
your need to visit a bank during regular hours is not especially great.
Most cash machines accept American ATM cards and disburse
local currency 24-7.
This is a tremendous improvement for travelers over the last 20 years. Along with the
introduction of the euro, most banks in central Europe have closed up
their currency exchange shop and now let their ATM machines do
all the work.
Make sure you have a 4 digit numerical PIN when traveling in Europe. Also, make sure that
your particular cards are acceptable in the countries you plan to visit. Let
your credit card company know you will be over there using the plastic so they will
(theoretically) allow foreign transactions on your account. Normally it is
no problem finding a machine to give you cash, but when it doesn't give you the cash you
might have a problem. Therefore, always carry enough cash to get you through a couple of
There is much more about money in chapter 8,
Cash, ATMs, Credit Cards:
Travel Money in Europe.
Also, I have a short introduction to money exchange on site at
Euro and Other Currencies:
Exchange Rates for Travel in Europe. This section provides a list of countries which accept
the euro, an image of a €20 note, and thumbnail images of bank notes from various countries.
In countries where the euro is not in circulation, money exchange is done the old
fashioned way, at currency exchange offices. These offices may or may not offer a good
exchange rate, probably not, and always charge a "commission" on top of that. Office hours are
about the same as local shop hours. Sometimes the exchange office is a local shop selling film and
other tourist goods. If it is a jewelry store walk past it. Banks in these countries also engage
in foreign exchange. I recommend that you use a bank to avoid the possibility of being given
expired banknotes or forgeries.
Holidays are listed in the Prime Travel Data for each country because
they are extremely important in Europe, much more so than in America. Not
only are all the banks and post offices closed, but all stores, many restaurants,
and even some hotels are normally closed. Train schedules vary and city bus, streetcar,
and subway service is reduced or stopped completely. Museums are either
closed or mobbed.
Also, watch out for
early closings of businesses and public services on the day before a holiday. For example,
noon on Christmas Eve is the end of the day for most shops in Europe. Since many countries
also take the day after Christmas as a holiday you would be well advised to finish your
shopping on December 23. If that is a Sunday, make it December 22.
No Day Off
If a holiday such as Christmas falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, businesses
normally do not close on the adjacent Friday or Monday as in America. Ireland
and Britain do it the American way.
Dates for the variable holidays depend upon Easter. Easter is the first
Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, March 21. Being as how
the orbits of the earth and moon are not in synchronization, Easter and
the holidays which are fixed by it fall on different dates every year.
Easter is not listed in any of the tables because it is a Sunday and almost
every business is closed anyway.
Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday" with "fat" as in meat fat) is named
Carnaval, Carnival, or Karneval in some countries. Carnaval
is derived from the Latin carne (meat) and vale (farewell).
This is the last day before Lent begins, so they drink up and party hard!
In those places where Mardi Gras is a holiday you will find the
entire period from the previous Friday night to Ash Wednesday to be a pretty
wild festival. For a Carnaval you'll never regret or forget go to
If you are working in Germany, wear a tie you want to get rid of on
the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, Weiberfastnacht. Women can do
as they please for one day a year, especially in public. One of the customary
rituals is to cut off the ties of the men in the office. We all looked
pretty silly with a tie snipped off at the third button. The secretaries
stapled their trophies to the walls above their desks.
The variable holiday dates for western European countries which follow
the Gregorian calendar (that's the one we follow) can be determined from
the following table:
Monday after the seventh Sunday before Easter
Mardi Gras, Carnaval
Day after Shrove Monday. "Fat Tuesday," the English translation, the day before Ash Wednesday.
Thursday before Easter
Friday before Easter
Monday after Easter
In Denmark, Friday after the third
Sunday after Easter
Thursday after the fifth Sunday after Easter
Monday after the seventh Sunday after Easter (in most countries). This is also known as Pentecost (50th
Thursday after the eighth Sunday after Easter (in most countries)
All of this may be interesting information, but
it helps you not until you know the date for Easter. Easter is March 31 in 2013.
The Eastern Orthodox Church follows a different
schedule for determining Easter. The Bishop of Rome, more commonly known as the Pope, and the
Patriarch of Constantinople, a city now known as Istanbul, excommunicated each other in 879 AD and started
doing things differently. At that time the western world was using the
Julian calendar, instituted in 45 BC by Julius Caesar. Then in 1582 Pope
Gregory established the Gregorian calendar to achieve greater accuracy.
The Gregorian calendar was gradually adopted throughout western Europe. It
finally became official in England in 1752 and is the calendar we use in the USA.
The Eastern Orthodox Church in
Constantinople never bought in and continues to this day with the Julian calendar.
One of the consequences is that Easter in Greece is usually celebrated on a different
day. Every 3 or 4 years
both Easters happen to fall on the same day but they can be a month apart.
The 2013 date for Orthodox Easter is May 5.
A number of other countries in eastern Europe follow
the Orthodox Church date for Easter.
OFFICIAL TOURIST OFFICES
Most countries maintain one or more official tourist
offices in the USA. The official tourist office is the best source for
the most complete and accurate information for any country. These offices
will normally not make reservations for you, but each of them do furnish
lists of hotels and restaurants, free maps, brochures describing places
and events of interest, public transport know-how, and information on special deals available
Before you visit a travel agent or buy a single
guide book, sit down and write or phone the official tourist offices of
the countries you are planning to visit. Your mailman might be a little
unhappy about the results, but you'll get more free information than you
ever bargained for. I have included the internet link for 19 countries on
their respective pages on my site. See the page links at the top of the
left hand column.
For other countries, visit the
TRAVELERS YELLOW PAGES
in classification Official National
Tourist Offices to click through.
AMERICAN EMBASSY and CONSULATES
Embassies and consulates exist to assist in the
conduct of official government business and commerce, and to help American
citizens in need, up to a point. If your passport is lost or stolen, your
first move should be to contact the nearest consulate to get a replacement.
This will also enable them to put out a notice on your disappeared passport which
is probably on its way to be used for some illicit purpose along with the
other 30,000 which take a walk every year.
If you are arrested or become ill, the embassy
can provide you with a list of lawyers or doctors. If you die, the embassy
will assist in arrangements to transport your remains home. Income tax
and Social Security information is available, and birth of American citizens
can be registered. If you take up residence over there, advise the nearest
embassy of your address to assist them in contacting you in case of an
If you need to visit an embassy, go early and
bring something to read and a game for the kids. The "service" is not especially
efficient or friendly. That could be because most of the employees are
local citizens, not Americans.
Consulates usually maintain a commercial section
and a library with business directories and various periodicals. The commercial
offices are usually not at the embassy. Look for them in an office building
in another part of town. In Geneva it's at the airport, a short ride on
bus #10 from the train station. In Frankfurt, after waiting in line outside
the embassy and then getting confusing information once I got inside, I
accidentally discovered the American Center Library on my way back to the
train station. These libraries usually have a decent collection of business
and trade directories and journals.
USA KNOWN AS:
The United States is almost never called that
in Europe. Usually the words "united states" are literally translated into
the native language and are sometimes followed by a misspelling of America.
You may sometimes see our name in newspaper headlines and on rate schedules
in post offices. But just as often we'll be lumped in with our Canadian and
Mexican neighbors in the native translation of "North American," not unlike
our name for everybody over there as "European."
NOTE TO READERS
I welcome questions and comments. If you have any concerns about your trip to
Europe that have not been covered well enough in this section do not hesitate to write and ask.
My email address is
When you write please include as much detail as possible. There are about 50 countries in Europe.
It will help me answer if you mention the countries and/or cities you plan to visit.
I will reply in a day or two.
When you write please include as much detail as possible. I will reply in a day or two.
Don't forget to scroll through the Table of Contents below. All 30 chapters of
HOW TO EUROPE:
The Complete Travelers Handbook
are available, free to read on line. In addition, the Google search box below can locate specific subjects
in any chapter or page on site.
For a check-off punchlist of everything go to The Finale,
Packing List and Last Call:
For Travel In Europe.
If you know of someone else who would appreciate reading this web page please send
the URL link to him or her. To easily do that, click your "File" tab in the tool bar and scroll down to
"Send" or "Send Link." Your friend will thank you, and I thank you.
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