HOW TO EUROPE
The Complete Travelers Handbook
Internet edition. By John Bermont.
Photos by the author except as noted.
A page from
with photographer and author
My daughter Stephanie poses in front of the Cafe des 2 Moulins in the Montmartre district of Paris, August 2010.
You know who the locals are — the ladies wearing scarves, one on the left and one in the
far right background. For other views of Stephanie's garb, and that of others, in Paris
see her blog at O hey Europe.
[DSCN1895-Montmarte. Photo by a friend of Stephanie.]
Do not wear the emperor's clothes. Put on something a
bit more modest.
What will you wear to Europe? This is a major concern, but it is
secondary. The real question is how much? You are infinitely
better off going with nothing but an umbrella and a toothbrush than
with the load you would typically throw in the trunk of your car and
bring on a vacation in the United States.
As every traveler and chronicler of the subject relates,
pack light. Seldom does anyone define the meaning of pack light,
except to present a list of clothes and accessories to bring, no
such list ever being universally practical. One size or style does
not fit all. To enjoy travel, you
must pack light. To define pack light, travel with your chosen load
and see for yourself if it is convenient and gives you the freedom
Remember that travel clothes are not the same as office or school clothes.
When you travel you can wear the same thing day after day because nobody
is going to see you twice, except your travel partners. They may get bored looking
at what you wear every day, but they didn't go to Europe to see your wardrobe!
It pays to be well presented, with a European flavor.
Europeans are clothes conscious. Northern European clothing is somewhat somber,
while brighter colors are more common as you go south. Clothes
represent personality and social status. The clothes you are wearing
announce "This is me."
Europeans seeing you briefly for the first time
will judge you completely by your appearance and will behave
accordingly. Unfortunately for the traveler, most of your personal
contact in Europe will be with hotel clerks and cafe waiters. To
secure a good room, good table, and good service, dress as if you
deserve it. In fact, you may be stopped and turned away at the door of some places
if you are not properly dressed.
These girls are talking while walking in San Sebastian Spain in January, and all are wearing one thing in common.
Hint — check the necks.
In addition, you must keep yourself comfortable. Northern
European weather is generally cooler, wetter, and more variable
than in the United States. South of the Alps and Pyrenees it can be
warm and stuffy just about any time of the year. Walking in and out
of museums, restaurants, and stores may force you to off and on
your coat. In stores the heat from those little halogen lamps can
be very uncomfortable. Be ready for rain or shine, morning
chill or afternoon heat. In addition
to your toothbrush and umbrella carry a light weight windbreaker at
all times. See "layers" below.
Pack Light Field Test
I propose the following test, preferably taken in a light
Pack everything, put on your hat and coat, open your
umbrella, (raining or not), check the time, and walk one mile away
from home with everything you have. Then, pretending you are trying
to catch a train or trying to get to the tourist office before it
closes, run or walk home. If you can make the round trip
comfortably within 45 minutes, you have packed light. It is best if
your test course includes a short, steep hill or several flights of
stairs, upwards on the return leg.
Also make sure that all of your traveling companions can
pass the pack light field test. If not, old friends may become
lifetime enemies. Failure to obey the pack light rule will doom you
in so many ways that you will be better off to stay home and water
your tomatoes. Those taking a cruise or tour may think that they
can escape this rule, but be aware that porters and taxis are
usually scarce and/or expensive.
Rules for the easy traveler, then, are rather formidable:
1. Pack light
2. Dress sharp
3. Be comfortable
Typical Tourist Clothing
The clothes worn by most American tourists announce them as
Americans better than any trilingual poster ever could. From the
ground up you're wearing: jogger or tennis shoes, worn Levi's,
collared tee shirt, and ski jacket, with a backpack. Actually, it seems that ALL
tourists are wearing something like this.
Tourists line up to enter a monument in Rome Italy in August.
It looks like anything goes, including
the smartly dressed character in the middle wearing blue bangos and camp boots.
[DSCN3176-Rome. Photo by Stephanie.]
Go Like a Local
For a number of reasons you are better off looking like a
local citizen rather than a standard American tourist. Don't
misinterpret this. I love the USA and all that it
represents, but I try to avoid being an American billboard when I
travel overseas. The primary reason is to avoid being a target of
pickpockets, a breed endemic in Europe. You might also think that
it could avoid being caught up in terrorist bombings as London had
in July 2005. That is probably not an issue since the murdering
sons of bitches just kill anybody, including fellow Muslims praying
at their local mosque.
For many years my personal preference was a pair
of black slip-on shoes, wool/polyester blend slacks, turtleneck
shirt, and sport coat. This ensemble will get you through almost
any door in Europe with reasonable respect, keep you comfortable
under most weather conditions, and allow you to blend in without
being instantly identified as "the American."
I have worn out a couple of sports coats in my travels. I prefer the black/gray
herringbone style with as many inside pockets as possible. This travels very well
without showing wrinkles or minor stains. If you don't want
to buy a new one go to a Salvation Army store in an upscale neighborhood. There
will probably be a selection in the mid size ranges going for about $25.
The wool/polyester blend slacks look more like wool than
plastic, but they wash drip dry. You won't need to iron these
if you care for them according to the label. Levi Strauss has introduced
a new Dockers line available in several colors besides the normal khaki.
A couple of pairs of the dark charcoal served me well throughout Europe
on my recent trips.
Turtleneck shirts are ideal for the cooler climate in northern Europe, but they are
not normally stocked in American stores. In fact I couldn't find a single one in my
hometown in Michigan as I packed for a recent trip.
The men's shops all said that they weren't in style this year. Booosh! I ended up buying
a couple of good cotton T-necks at the V+D department store after I arrived in Holland.
Many turtlenecks are available at Amazon.com year round. See my advert column on the right.
An open collar dress shirt is a good substitute for the turtleneck in warmer weather.
In very few restaurants is a tie required, though you'll see them worn
often in better establishments. For winter travel, I also bring a
lightweight turtleneck sweater. When it is really cold I put on an extra t-shirt or two.
Levi's and other brands of denim jeans became fashionable in
Europe in the 1990's. Levi's are now tolerated in many cafés
and restaurants during the day. However, regular slacks are much
more common as street wear in major cities throughout Europe. Based on my
observations of people walking through the central train stations of Europe,
less than 20% were wearing denim jeans. The preference
for the vast majority, men and women, young and old, was black slacks.
Slacks are also much more in harmony with packing light. Levi's are
heavy and bulky, and take a day to dry out when they get rained on. If you do
wear denim, select a lightweight pair with a bit of fashion. You might want
to consider wearing Levi slacks rather than Levi jeans. Levi Strauss
makes a good looking line called "Action Slacks." These are 100% Dacron
and travel very well. Wash them off in the shower at night and hang them to
drip dry by morning. I have a couple pairs in black. I recently switched to another
Levi Strauss product for my European travels and everyday wear. These are
charcoal Dockers, 55% cotton and
45% MicroPolyester, style number 405189256. They are very comfortable
and look like dress slacks.
There are some people who wear blue jeans as if it was a religion. They insist on
wearing them everywhere. I wear jeans if I am out on my bicycle or going to local pubs
in Holland. But normally
I dress a bit more upscale for the benefits it gives me. Fashions do change and fashions are
different in different cities, but slacks, a dress shirt, and street shoes are always welcome.
I'm preaching here on this web site about not wearing Levis, keeping your hair trimmed, and
controlling the facial hair. I am a sinner. This shows me in Buda overlooking Pest in
1993. Mon Dieu!
[0902-Budapest. Photo by Elizabeth.]
I have no ambition of being a clothing cop so accept this chapter as you will.
The advice is based on years of personal experience in Europe.
Yeah sure, you can wear your back yard jeans or shorts, t-shirt or no shirt,
sneakers or flip flops, and that is the way you will be viewed and treated in the cosmopolitan
cities throughout Europe. Expect no respect. I am startled by some of the email I get on this
subject. Some readers claim that I have never been to Europe and don't know what I am talking
about. They are passionate and rather foul at times in proclaiming that jeans are the holy grail.
If you are under 25 and jeans are the only drawers you own, then do it.
Dressing well does not have to apply only to Europe. I had drifted into wearing
Levis at my local pub in Michigan a few years ago. One night last summer I was
returning home from an event where I was wearing a jacket and slacks and decided to stop in at
Oscar's, my regular place, to shoot some eight ball. It wasn't long before a young
lady about half my age started bumping into me and making strong eye contact. After that
I started wearing slacks and a dress shirt when I went to Oscar's. Approachments by young
dames have happened again and again to the point that it has become
embarrassing, but I won't brag on it. Guys, listen up here! Dress sharp and you
won't need all those bull drop lines to meet a girl in Europe, or anywhere.
I would expect that a woman dressed in grungy denim would normally be approached by a man
in more or less the same low-life outfit. It's only speculation, but I guess that if you
want to meet the prince of your dreams in Europe you would dress to the nines. Why not?
Besides, women in Levi's are about the most asexual creatures on the earth.
I don't know why girls wear Levi's. They are so unflattering to the derrière.
And it won't cost you much to dress better. It will probably cost you less than
that name brand stuff. Think, have you been to your local second hand store recently. They
have some great stuff at laughingly ridiculous low prices. You will want to tell your
friends, as I have just done. Male speaking, I bought a London Fog brand, zipper-in liner,
trench coat for $40. It looks better than the the one in my closet that I bought 15 years ago
for $140. Well, I must admit that it is a bit out of fashion. Most coats
in Europe are black and the length is just above the knee, so this thing
is the wrong color and a foot too long per current styles. I had a seamstress cut a foot off.
Another of my Salvation Army store
buys was a $60 London Fog windbreaker which I bought for $3. Perfect.
I came back from Amsterdam on May 4, 2008. The city is full of tourists due to the annual
Queen's Day party on
April 30 and the blooming tulips at Keukenhof
during late April and early May. It appeared that about
80% of the tourists of all ages and 95% of the young locals are wearing Levi's or something similar.
Girls wear very tight jeans with a prominent belt around the hips. There is no excess fat on the
Dutch girls. Men are wearing various sorts of
jeans in various colors, black being very popular. I stick to my loose slacks with pockets
that I can get my hands into. My Dockers "Pleated Classic Fit" charcoal slacks from J.C. Penny
I asked at a clothing store
for the price of Levi's in Amsterdam. The whopping answer is $140 a pair and up. You can get 4 pairs of
Dockers for that in the USA.
Leather jackets are fairly popular in Europe, especially in Spain. Leather looks good and is very
practical. It resists drizzle and wind. Use mink oil to keep it clean and waterproof. I wore a
bomber jacket on my spring 2009 trip around Britain and Ireland. It is cool and drippy in those
countries much of the year.
Dress in "layers." This means dressing in items that can be added to or
removed individually without changing everything when the weather
changes. For example, instead of a heavy overcoat wear a sweater and a windbreaker.
If it gets too warm in the afternoon take off the sweater and carry it in a shopping bag.
Dressing in layers requires that all of your clothes be complementary
and mixable. Dark, neutral, and earth colors tend to avoid fashion
clashes, and do not need cleaning as often as lighter colors.
You can also dress in under-layers if it is really cold. On a winter trip through Scandinavia and the
Baltics a few years back I would wear two or three T-shirts under my turtleneck and two pairs of socks.
That extra insulation really helps and is not bulky. I was amazed to see the locals walking about
with their coats open.
For those of you who wish to look fashionable, keep your neck warm, and not look like an
American tourist, wear a scarf. In Europe a scarf is a ubiquitous fashion statement.
Women and men from 15 years old and up wear scarves. Bring one appropriate for the season and climate.
Pack your scarf in your carry-on luggage or wear it. The cool dry air in airplanes can
give you a chill. A scarf will help to keep you cozy.
Visitors relax in a Rome museum. The Europeans, even the young ones, wear
their signature — a scarf — even in August.
[DSCN1399-Rome. Photo by Stephanie.]
In Europe you'll notice all sorts of footwear boots,
clogs, tennis, joggers, sandals, army issue, camper clumpers, and Italian fashion.
Many people will see and examine your shoes before their eyes come
up to meet yours, if they ever do.
Appearance is important.
Wear a good looking, durable, broken-in pair of shoes. Your average
American department store shoes will probably be mistaken for
Italian fashion. Perfect. An average pair of polished black
slip-ons will get you in the door anywhere. Also, rubber soles will
survive far better than leather soles on the rain soaked sidewalks
House rules at my hostel in Riga Latvia required everyone to check their shoes at the front door.
This is what the patrons were wearing — fashion boots, tennies, flip flops, hiking boots, and street shoes.
Instead of shoes, I have become a convert to sandals, more
specifically Birkenstocks, a German brand. Once you break in a pair
of Birkenstocks you will never go back to shoes again, except for
during stormy weather. You won't even want to go barefoot again.
Birkenstocks have a half inch of cork between the hard rubber bottom and the
leather part you rest your feet in. Cork is very easy to walk on. You can
go all day in these things. I
recommend black socks with the Birkenstocks, unless you are at the beach.
Birkenstocks are expensive so you can make this one of your purchases when
in Germany, at prices 50% less than the American prices.
There are other advantages to wearing Birkenstock sandals. At airport security check
you can kick them off and slip them back on in a second. In hotels where the
toilet is down the hall slip them on when making a trip. The same goes for overnight
trains if you don't have a W.C. in your couchette.
Carry an extra pair of shoes since it is likely that your
shoes will get soaked occasionally. If you invest in a pair with
natural leather uppers, you can oil them to the point that they
resist water like wax paper. Use mink oil or equivalent once a
My advice is do not wear any kind of sports shoes, e.g. tennis,
jogging, or whatever else they call them these days. I was with
some business associates in The Hague a few years ago and we
decided to take a pub crawl. Two of them had just bought new jogger
shoes and wore these out for the evening stroll. The doormen at several places
would not allow my friends in the door. These places were just your
average Dutch cafés and bars, not fancy or up-scale. And
my associates were businessmen in their 50s, certainly good potential
customers in any establishment. Those doormen want to keep their jobs so they keep the
off-spec people outside. Nothing looks clunkier than fresh
white tennies. I've heard that the French call them marshmellows.
In my Amsterdam and Brussels train station observations,
jogger shoes were worn by less than 5% of those passing through, usually
by young people with backpacks.
An alternative for those who like tennies is the Florsheim line
of shoes called "Comfortech." These are light weight black slip-ons with a cushion
bottom. They look great, are super comfortable, and will get you past any maitre d'
Hats are not very common in Europe. Don't let that stop you from wearing one. Hats are
practical, whether to keep the sun or the drizzle off your head. I wore a black wool fedora
on my last tour of Britain and Ireland, until I forgot it and left it on a train in
Edinburgh. A more practical hat which can take some abuse is a golfer style hat. You can
roll this up and stuff it in your shoulder bag so you won't forget it on a train.
I saw a mirror on a street in Wexford Ireland and paused for a self portrait. The wool fedora hat and the
leather bomber jacket served me well on a drizzly May 2009 trip around Guinness Island. Notice the X
on my luggage. That is visible at a hundred yards so it is easy to spot on the airport
luggage-go-round. The bungie cord is very handy for keeping my shoulder bag tied down when I want to
roll it rather than carry it.
Weather protection is essential. Bring a telescoping
umbrella. You can find umbrellas which slide down to under 10 inches. But get
a good quality device.
A lightweight hooded mackintosh is very
handy for those frequent all day drizzles. A light pair of leather
gloves and a hat are helpful for off-season travel, and can even be
useful in northern Europe in the summer.
Friends who have read this book often say that it is overly male oriented. A major reason,
perhaps, is my discussion of clothing, but the attitude probably
surfaces in other areas as well. I've seen packing lists
on the internet written by women who must have had a platoon on hand to carry
their utterly essential stuff. Some girls claim that they simply can't
travel with only a carry-on bag, and some bring everything
but the kitchen sink on a weekend sortie.
I used to travel like that but learned the hard way how to
do it the easy way. For a weekend trip to Paris with my Dutch girl
friend many years ago I packed two suitcases with six days worth of
extra clothes and other just-in-case stuff and drove over to pick her up.
I was amazed. She wore a black jumpsuit, colorful scarf, a
fashionable raincoat, and carried a slightly
oversized purse with everything she needed. Although our room was a
nice one in an above average
hotel, there was hardly enough space to hang my things or stash the
suitcases. My precious Paris time was wasted putting things away,
deciding what to wear, and repacking everything.
Advice from Women
Women writers can give you
plenty of tips on how to pack light. For encouragement and advice, ladies
should consult the books of Mesdames
Louise Purwin Zobel, and
Eleanor Adams Baxel.
Some of these books are decades old but the advice is timeless.
Another great source of clothing advice for women is on line at
This is a collection of first-hand reader-submitted comments for
countries around the world, with a generous helping for every
country in Europe.
Three women wait for traffic to clear before crossing a street in Madrid.
A Report from Stephanie
I sent my then 19 year old daughter Stephanie to Italy for a month, half July to half
August 2007. She stayed with her aunt in a village north of Milan and then went to
the beach and shared a hotel room with her cousin Annaperina. This is a part of Stephanie's report.
"The style in Italy right now is very
preppy. Everyone looks like they're going to step on a yacht. Collared
shirts, the jacket over the shoulders, and tied in the front.
They wear jeans all the time, but only the best...Guess, Dolce, and
Gabana...etc. It's like stuck up, but effortless. It looks like it took them two seconds to
get ready, but they look good.
"I did not see a lot of speedos, just the old guys...and even less topless women.
I think I saw like five and I was there [at the beach] for two weeks. Of course the little
girls are still always topless. I hardly ever see a girl under ten with a
An Update from Stephanie
Stephanie made her annual month trip to Italy in July and August 2012 at age 24.
By email here is her packing list and commentary.
Hey dad, I just wanted to give you my packing list:
-6 pairs of shorts
-2 pairs of pants
-4 nice tops, to go out
-14 more casual tops for during the day and less exciting evenings
-1 pair of leggings
-2 jackets, one windbreaker type jacket and another one is a knit cardigan type jacket
-2 pairs of pjs
-2 pairs of toms
-2 pairs of high heels
-2 bathing suits
This is for four weeks in Italy during the summer.
...This is based on where I'm going though, I knew that I would be spending most
of my time at the pool and that for about a week and a half we would be going to
the beach. I actually bought another bathing suit because I don't think two for
ten days straight at the beach is enough. The only thing is that whenever
traveling the most important thing is to be comfortable in what you're wearing.
I don't mean pick clothing that is physically comfortable (although, you can...
I always do when I'm on a long plane ride), I mean pick clothing that makes you
feel confident and that you think you look attractive in. Most of the younger
generation in Europe just wear jeans, a regular t-shirt, and a scarf with Converse
type shoes, which I do not think is very fashionable. It is also important to be
prepared for any type of weather. It was raining here the other night and I did
not prepare for that. I was just going to wear one of my sandals out with a pair
of shorts and a jacket because I hate getting any kind of cloth shoe wet (like
Toms or Converse). We didn't go out anyways, but I really only had the one option.
I wrote to Stephanie recently to ask if she would give me the dimensions for her
suitcase if she still has it. She replied 'I don't unfortunately — it broke
and it was just too big.' I believe it was 29 inches. I do know that it weighed
49.6 pounds on the Delta Airlines scale, just short of their 50 pound limit,
and I was the beast of burden getting it to the airport.
My 20 Second Advisory for Mature Women
I get a lot of emails from women complaining, and rightly so, that I am overly male focused
when it comes to clothes. Well, I'm a man yes I am, but not Lola. If I was a woman I would
pack a couple pairs of black cotton Capri pants, a few white or pastel blouses, a scarf or two
for the season, flats and/or sturdy walking shoes. That is for the day. For evening bring
a black pants suit or jump suit or dress or skirt/blouse to complement the scarf. You don't
need to empty your closet into your suitcase. Mix and match and you'll be fine. Bring no jewelry
except the junk you can afford to lose.
If you are under 25 years old you can wear just about anything you wear at home.
In January these girls posed for me in the Riga Latvia train station. Notice the
things in common, a scarf and jeans, and no tennies.
Pack light girls. Yes, you can do it. Yes, you must.
In fact it is more important for women to pack light than
for men. Remember if you pack it you carry it, you burro
you. And if you have too much and some helpful stranger offers to
give you a hand in a train station or tourist office, chances are nine out
of ten that he is helping himself. You might have nothing left to
carry when he is done with you.
You wonder why a guy would steal a
woman's suitcase? He probably has a girl friend who would be
overjoyed with some American clothes and toiletries. This dude would be
the hero of the month. If your
suitcase takes a walk, I hope that you didn't hide your money and
passport in it; cash, I.D., and clothes what a score!
This scenario from the 1987 edition of my book "How To Europe" is almost identical
to a scene in the movie "French Kiss." In fact this story plot is
the basis for a good piece of the film, produced 8 years after my book.
It looks like the author read my stuff. Some of the rest of the movie
is also pretty good. Kevin Kline plays a very believable French cad.
By the way, when the friendly helper is done with your
suitcase, you might look to see if you still have a purse. One of
his buddies standing nearby probably picked that off as the first
cavalier distracted you with his charming accented English. This
scenario sounds a little harsh, but this is the real world, not the
fantasy feely-good world created by most travel writers. See
ATMs in Europe: Cash and Credit for Travel, for advice
on avoiding Jesse James and the bandit gangs. They are everywhere.
The scoundrels rarely work alone.
Casual is not cool.
No Dockers in the Office
Americans traveling to Europe on business must wear their
best. Impression is critical in doing business overseas. If you
wear khaki Dockers to work because they are so
comfortable, put them aside for your trip. A dark plain lightweight
wool suit will be accepted for all
occasions. Use it for after work social events as well. See what the network news anchors
wear. Don't wear brown and patterns unless you are a university professor.
The Tie Is the Thing
White shirts are fine and are always OK. You'll see many men
wearing colors. I prefer a light blue. Ties from the top fashion names,
or knock-offs, are the order of the day.
Women on Business
Ladies, please please please leave your Madeline Albright suits at
home. Better yet just throw them in the trash. Those tight pastel
skirts and jackets are screaming yuk, absolutely horrible. Hillary Clinton
and her pastel pants suits aren't much better.
I recommend that you pack a loose fitting neutral dark pants
suit, a few of your best blouses, a couple of splashy scarves, and maybe a string of pearls.
Have a look at Dr. Condoleezza Rice and what she wears. She
looks right sharp all over the world, and presents an image
that all Americans can really be proud of. She is cool. Imitate her
and you won't go wrong.
Bring only the jewelry that you can afford to have stolen. Repeat.
Bring only the jewelry that you can afford to have stolen.
Speedos had been the tradional beach wear for men in Europe. Younger fellows have taken up
with California surfer style trunks which they wear over the speedos.
Women normally wear one piece and two piece suits as in the USA. However a significent percentage of
women leave the top half of the bikini at home. Topless girls are everywhere. And the
tonga is popular, showing 99% of the derrière and leaving not much to the imagination.
To leave even less to the imagination and not wear anything go to one of the nude beaches.
Going naked is allowed on designated coastal beaches and inland waterways throughout Europe.
Unfortunately, you do have to wash your clothes while
traveling. There are several ways to get it done. In packing light you need only 3 days
worth of everything plus the clothes on your back. This means a laundry job
twice a week.
In standard tourist class hotels you rarely see a laundry
bag, a normal item in American motels. When I have found the
laundry bag in Europe I almost used it for something else after
reading the prices. It would be cheaper to buy new clothes at
American prices, but you won't find American prices in Europe. If
the hotel does not have a cleaning or laundry service, the desk
clerk will be able to direct you to a dry cleaner or laundromat.
If you are on an extended business trip you probably must
use the hotel service because you don't have time to do it
yourself. Some miserly Dilbert managers will single out this item
on your expense report and try to disallow it. Stand your ground.
When having dry cleaning done, make sure that cleaning is
done and not just pressing. Write down the native word for
cleaning. If there are spots or stains, point them out to the
attendant. Spot removal can't be guaranteed because the spot may be
due to loss of dye rather than misdirected spaghetti sauce or wine.
If you are using hostels as you travel, for the economy or the camaraderie,
you are likely to find a washing machine in a side room. This will be one of
the most convenient and cheapest opportunities for washing your clothes.
If you are traveling in high season you may have to wait in line to use the machine.
These facilities will be strictly self-service. If you don't understand
the workings of the machine, ask. If you put your stuff in and come back
six hours later you can expect to see your clothes dumped on any adjacent
table or chair. Someone else needed to wash. Do likewise if you need to, but
ask the manager first. Just because the machine has stopped does not mean that
the wash is finished. It may be on one of its pauses.
Before starting ask what the fee is if it is not posted. You may or may not need
to furnish your own suds.
The washing machines in my Riga hostel were the most modern Europe has to offer. The dryer
was more traditional.
Public laundromats are usually attended, sometimes are coin
operated, normally have restricted hours, and are typically closed one or two days a
week. European machines are smaller than American ones and take one hour
or more per load. Part way through the wash cycle the machine
pauses for an extended soak.
If you allow the laundromat to do
the wash for you the attendant will set the temperature depending
on the color of your clothes. Attendants follow the rules on the
machine, period. Your permanent press white shirts will probably be
boiled and returned as permanently wrinkled. I suggest that you do
it yourself in a coin machine. If you can't read the directions,
ask around to see if someone speaks English. If that fails, watch
the others. Temperatures are in Celsius, a.k.a. centigrade. For
information on Celsius see chapter 27,
The Metric System in Europe.
The price of one load of wash can be three dollars or more.
Detergent will be available, either in single load sizes from a
coin automat or free from a soap tub in the laundromat.
Dryers are similar to ours so you should have no
difficulty. Dryers normally run on a ten minute cycle and the cost
is reasonable. You'll probably have to come back every ten minutes to feed
and start the thing again since many will not run multiple times with extra coins.
Lonely Planet is the only guide book series which locates
laundromats in the major cities. Use their maps and legend to find
a place to wash your clothes. You don't necessarily want to ask
your hotel. The manager may direct you to one of his associates or
sub-contractors. That is not always your best deal.
Wash Basin or Bidet
It's the old fashioned way. If you do not want to go to a
laundromat then you must scrub, soak, rinse, wring, and hang to dry.
Many hotel rooms in France are posted, "Don't wash
your clothes in the room, and don't eat in the room" free
translation from le français (French). My theory is
that if no drip marks or crumbs are left on the floor, the spirit
of the hotel keeper's request is honored. Hand washing clothes in
your room will certainly save you money, will probably occupy less of
your time, and will relieve you of the uncertainty of delay due to
sometimes service. Picnicking in your room has exactly the same
benefits. See chapter 15,
Eating in Europe.
Instead of doing your laundry in the wash basin, use the
bidet. A letter from a reader asked if this
is sanitary. The bidet is clean so why not? You can let your
laundry soak for a while and still be able to brush your teeth and
wash your face.
Wring out your
underwear and hang it over the usually present radiator. It will be
warm and dry by morning. But dust off the radiator first. And do
the wash early in the evening since the heat is often turned off at
night and then comes back on for a few hours in the morning.
One challenge to the scrub-it-yourselfer will be in hanging your clothes
if they are still
dripping. This applies to slacks, skirts, shirts, blouses, and other
outer-wear. Inflatable hangars are ideal for drip dry shirts and blouses.
If you have no bathtub or shower in the room, use a
newspaper to catch the drips. Sometimes a bit of ingenuity will be
needed to figure out what to tie your line on. Some rooms are
almost impossible. Strapping tape can sometimes come to the rescue.
See chapter 6,
A Packing List for Europe.
Take your wash down in the morning so that the chambermaid doesn't observe. You don't
need a confrontation with the hotel keeper. If your clothes are still damp just hang
them in the closet, if there is one.
In the Bag
There are times when you just don't have enough time in one place to
wash out the undies. Say you have to catch a train or drive to the
next city pronto. No problem. Put your small stuff in a two gallon ZipLoc™ bag
with a packet of Woolite™. Add water. Zip it up and shake it around
a bit. You can let them soak until you find running water again to rinse
them out. Then hang to dry.
On the Floor
Do not leave your clothes or anything you intend on keeping in a bag on the floor of your
hotel room. Housekeeping hires from the bottom of the grade card from a third world country.
It is possible, even likely, that anything on the floor will be trashed when maid service
enters the room.
BUYING EUROPEAN CLOTHES
Buying clothes in Europe can be a challenge. Clothing is
cut differently, partly for style and partly to fit the build of
the average citizen. This varies considerably from country to
Size Conversion Tables
Take care in using the clothing size conversion tables
presented in travel books. Tables differ. Sales clerks are seldom
knowledgeable or helpful on this. They know less about American
sizes than you can learn about European sizes. Size tables are
posted in some of the large department stores, though in some
stores I have seen conflicting conversion tables for American to
European sizes on the wall and on garment packages. I have bought
the same size under shorts with the same brand name in two different
European countries. One was loose and one was tight.
The True Test
If you buy clothes in Europe, have yourself measured by a
competent salesperson, if you can find one. Measurements and sizes will be in
centimeters. See chapter 27
The Metric System in Europe
if you slept through my math class and don't know about the metric system. Men's shirt sleeves are measured
from the shoulders, not the spine. Also try the garment on.
Ascertain whether or not it will shrink when washed. Cotton items
purchased in Europe will probably shrink. Buy something a size too big.
Long dark coats are favored in Oslo Norway. This is January and way up north at about the same latitude
as Anchorage, Alaska, but there is no snow on the ground.
The Gulf Stream keeps the climate temperate.
Although it is not something that most of us pack for a
trip, hair is an important part of your wardrobe in the context of
The long grizzly look is characteristic of laborers and
dopey students, just as it is in the United States. Before you go,
get a haircut. Short hair is much easier to take care of, an
important consideration while traveling. But, don't get a military
trim. That's too short.
The morning shave is probably the one thing most men wish
they could do without, but it might be better to continue shaving.
Beards invoke suspicion in many people (e.g., customs agents and
airport security folks), fear in some (e.g., young women), and instant
dislike in most of the rest (e.g., hotel clerks and maitres d').
You don't need hassles and rejections from these folks while you
are traveling. But then again, wearing a beard saves time and trouble
in the morning so make your own call on this. Try to keep it neatly
trimmed if you have a beard. I have had a beard for many years, on and off.
I put up with the hassles for the convenience of avoiding the morning scrape.
See chapter 6,
A Packing List for Europe,
to learn a better way to shave — with vinegar.
Having said this, take a look at the aforementioned chapter 9 photo taken in Budapest.
Not only am I wearing Levi's, I am also wearing a beard and long hair. Oh my. No wonder
the security guys have been giving me a pat down at Amsterdam's airport for decades.
Traditionally, European women do not shave their legs. But they
seldom show much leg (except at the beach) since their dresses and skirts
overlap their boots. An American woman traveling in Europe could
easily escape the regular leg shaving. In addition, many European
women do not shave under their arms. These traditions are crumbling and
women generally shave these days. Whether or not to
go traditional is a matter of personal taste.
A couple of people who have read this paragraph have gone ballistic, accusing me
of saying that European women do not shave their underarms and legs. And some
European women have emailed me to the effect that women in the next country
don't shave but the women in their country do shave. That supports my observations
– some do and some do not.
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 chapter 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.
Don't forget to scroll through the Table of Contents below. The other 29 chapters of
HOW TO EUROPE
are also available, free to read on line.
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.
To bookmark this page type Ctrl D.
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.
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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
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deal. The third bonus is that there is no sales tax on internet purchases in
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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.
Walk on cork for all day comfort.
Birkenstock Bali Sandal
Birkenstock Arizona Sandal
Just as comfortable as tennies but look great. I've gone through several pairs over the years.
Stay trimmed and neat.
Royce Leather Ladies
Travel Kit with Shaver
It rains. Be prepared.
Totes Titanium Auto-Open/Close Umbrella
For leg comfort on the plane.
Arriva Travel-Tec Travel Legwear with Smart Compression Technology
Block the light and noise while flying.
Bucky Shades Sleep Mask
Certainly a better pillow than the corporate issue on the plane.
Bucky Fuzzy Wuzzy U Pillow With Snap & Go
To relax and sleep on the plane.
Organic Valerian Root 515mg - 100 - Capsule
Rolling luggage sure beats lugging a pack on your back.
Delsey Luggage Helium Fusion Light 21 Inches Expandable Carryon
Day luggage for your walkabout.
Travelpro Luggage WalkAbout LITE 4 Deluxe Tote
Here is a convenient travel purse.
Rothco Venturer Travel Portfolio Bag
Keep your stuff organized.
Luggage Packing Cubes
eBags 3pc Set
eBags Small Packing Cubes - 3pc Set
The two gallon size is excellent for packing your clothes, but it is hard to find in Europe.
2 gal. clear plastic bags
ZipLoc by SC Johnson
This carry-on liquids kit meets TSA airline rules.
Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Custom Travel Bottle Set
Wash in your room basin and save time, trouble, and money.
Woolite Laundry Soap
20 packs, ¼ ounce each
Inflatable clothes hangars help with drip dry clothes washed in your room.
Inflatable Travel & Laundry Hangers Set Of 4 by Whitney Design
Much stronger than duct tape and doesn't leave that gummy residue.
1" x 60 yards
3M Company #8957-1
An RFID blocking wallet protects your passport and credit cards from identity theft in public places.
Travelon RFID Blocking Passport Case
This portable combo door stopper and alarm will give you additional security in your hotel room.
GE 50246 Smart Home
Door Stop Alarm
A bungee cord is very handy for tying your shoulder bag to your roller bag frame.
Crawford-Lehigh 6102 Bungee Stretch Cords Assortment
You will need one or more of these plug adapters to use your electrical devices in Europe. The first
item works just about everywhere on the Continent.
Universal to Continental Europe "Europlug."
4.0 mm prongs. Ungrounded.
This plug adapter does not fit in many outlets of Italy and Switzerland. It is the standard plug in France, Germany,
and northern Europe.
SIMRAN PLUG ADAPTER
Adapts grounded USA plugs to European grounded "Shucko" plug.
4.8 mm prongs
This is a universal plug adapter for the UK and Ireland.
AC Adapter Plug for use in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland
This series of "3-Pack" Ceptics brand grounded universal plug adapters is handy if you are carrying multiple
gizmos or if you have travel companions who also need a charge.
Britain and Ireland
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.
For charging up to six gizmos at a time use this 250 volt universal
power strip. It comes with a grounded Continental plug.
6 Universal Outlets
220/240 Volt 50/60Hz
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
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.
Lewis N. Clark Immersion Heater 120/240V
Starbucks makes the best instant coffee I have found, and these little packets cost only 58¢ each
in the 50 unit box. That's a bargain in the USA and an absolute steal anyplace in Europe.
Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Coffee, available in House Blend, Colombia, Italian, and Italian Decaf roasts.
My book will get you started.
HOW TO EUROPE
by John Bermont
The best travel guide to all of Europe.
Europe on a Shoestring
The essential timetable and handbook for rail travelers.
European Rail Timetable
Two excellent maps to help you plan and execute your journey.
Rail Map Europe
Thomas Cook Rail Map
Rail Map of Britain & Ireland
Thomas Cook Rail Map
A comprehensive guide to 3,000 hotels and restaurants in 44 major cities throughout Europe, in English.
Separate books in the Michelin Red series cover individual countries in greater detail. This is a must have
for frequent travelers.
Main Cities of Europe 2013
This will come in very handy very often.
For reading maps and other stuff with fine print.
Bausch and Lomb 2X Folding Lighted Magnifier
A Swiss Army knife is probably the best traveling tool there is, but it must be
in your checked luggage on the plane.
Victorinox Swiss Army Fieldmaster Pocket Knife
Who wrote this?
Home and general index.