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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
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 2012
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Note: Italicized notations by the author.
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.
Grounded Adaptor Plug for Britain 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
For charging the batteries of more than one gizmo 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
To use the surge strip in Britain and Ireland you will need one of these plug adapters.
Britain and Ireland
To use the surge strip in Italy you will probably need this plug adapter.
Europe to Italy
Here is a smaller power surge strip with three universal outlets. It is wired with an American grounded plug so it needs a plug adapter for the countries you are visiting.
SM-60 Universal 3 Outlet Power Strip / Surge Protector for Worldwide Travel. 110V-250V with Overload Protection.
This ungrounded plug adapter will get you plugged in just about anywhere.
All-in-One Travel Power Plug Adapter for US, UK, EU, AU.
This transformer rated for 200 watts will power many of your appliances if they are only rated for 120 volts.
Transformer - 200 Watt Non Grounded Heavy Duty
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
Chapter 19, Part 2
HOW TO EUROPE
The Complete Travelers Handbook
Internet edition. Without photos.
A page from
This internet edition of chapter 19, "Communicating as You Travel Europe,"
is in 4 parts due to its large size. Subjects covered in the respective sections are:
calling europe from the USA, country codes, city codes, local numbers, 10-10 services,
how to place a call to Europe, list of telephone country codes, local telephone service
in Europe, totally metered, telephone booths, coins and slugs, European telephone cards,
American telephone cards, discount telephone cards, cellular phones, directory assistance,
international telephone service in Europe, from telephone booths, from your hotel, from the PTT,
telephone charge cards, costs, potpourri.
This is Part 2
sending mail to Europe, US Postal Service, mail forwarding, form of address, receiving mail in Europe, poste restante,
American Express client mail service, PTT, stamps, express parcel services, FedEx, DHL,
Airborne Express, European customs duties.
internet cafes, libraries, keyboards, your password, your laptop, connecting hardware, your ISP, hotel lines
telegram, wire funds, final notes, homeland security, meeting point
No news is not good news.
STAYING IN TOUCH
A few words from home can really brighten your day. We all like to receive mail, and it is even more pleasant when
we're overseas and out of touch with daily hometown life.
E-mail via the Internet is cheap, fast, and readily available throughout Europe. Telephone
and snail mail service between the USA and Europe generally works well and is reasonably priced.
You can even send faxes to many post offices in Europe for hand delivery or customer pick-up.
Travelers should be aware of the services provided by the US Postal Service,
your long distance telephone carrier, the various PTT of
Europe, American Express offices, and on-line email services and
the limitations and foibles of each.
United States Postal Service, USPS
You have to think about what will happen with your mail while you are gone, unless there is
someone at home to empty the mail box every day.
The post office can do one of two things with your mail while
you are dancing around Europe: hold it or forward it. But they will not forward it
If you will be gone for a short time, request hold service from your local
postmaster. Pick up an "Authorization to Hold Mail" form 8076 at the post office. Fill
it out and give it to your mail carrier. The post office will hold mail for up to 30 days. After
that, it is returned to sender. When you return home go to the post office with your
driver's license for ID, pick up your mail, and request continuation of home delivery.
post office will not forward mail to an address in Europe because
the rate for overseas delivery is about 50% higher than for first
class domestic mail. So, instruct the post office to forward your mail to
a reliable friend or relative. If you want your mail while you are still
in Europe give your friend a supply of
self-addressed envelopes, stamps, and promises of beaucoup exotic gifts
for prompt remailing services.
In lieu of asking the post office to forward your mail, request
a neighbor or family member to check the mailbox for you and remail
the first class items. This may save a significant amount of money
that would be spent for forwarding magazines.
Form of Address for Mail to Europe
If you are traveling, how do you get your mail? You can have it
addressed to you at Post Restante at a post office near you
in Europe or have it sent it to an American Express office. More about these services below.
For mail sent to you in Europe instruct your friends to address it clearly. Ask them to
print your name in block letters, and capitalize and underline your last name. Do it
Post office street address (if known)
Post Code and City
You may not receive mail because of misinterpretation of
handwriting or because it is filed under your first name. If you
are expecting something and it is overdue, ask for the mail by your
Most cities have more than one post office so it is a good idea to specify
the one you will be near. Otherwise, your Poste Restante mail will probably
be delivered to the main post office in the city.
Post code is the same as the American zip code. In Europe it is
placed in front of the city name on the same line. For example my
post code in Geneva was 1202 and the third line of my address was
If there is an alpha character or two in front of the numbers
this represents the country. For example CH for
Confederation Helvetica (Switzerland) or D for
Deutschland (Germany). My Geneva address could have been
written as CH 1202 Geneva. Those alpha characters are not
required and are not used very often.
Some post codes include alpha characters. For example, all post codes
in England and Holland include alpha characters.
If you are living in Europe with a regular street address, the
street name is usually written first followed by the number, e.g. Holland.
Sometimes the house number is first but is separated from the name
of the avenue by a comma, e.g. France. It depends on which country you are in.
Capitalize and underline the name of the country. This will help the USPS
postal clerk get the envelope in the international sack.
USPS Categories of Service
The official USPS web site gives the following explanation of the types of
international service available:
There are four principal categories of international mail that are primarily
differentiated from one another by speed of service. They are Global Express
Guaranteed® (GXG®) service, Express Mail International® service, Priority Mail
International service, and First-Class Mail International service.
Another differentiation is the cost. That goes up as the speed of delivery goes
up. For example, the GXG® service is a joint operation of the USPS and FedEx so
you know that will cost plenty.
All mail between the USA and Europe is now sent by air. For letters,
write AIR MAIL across the top of the envelope to get their attention.
It takes up to a week to reach Europe, though I have received mail in two
or three days at times. For faster service, type the
address. The post office uses machines to read and sort mail and
this seems to speed up the service.
Visit your post office and tell a clerk
what you plan to do before you seal your envelope or parcel. The clerk can give
you advice, prices, and estimated delivery times. For some categories
the USPS provides envelopes or boxes. And for some categories the cost is a flat
fee for as much as you can stuff in the envelope, up to four pounds. To get started visit
RECEIVING MAIL IN EUROPE
There are two popular options for receiving mail when traveling
in Europe. One is general delivery and the other is American
Express offices. If you are living and/or working in Europe you
have other possibilities.
Poste Restante means "General Delivery" in French and is
recognized throughout Europe. Mail addressed to a person Poste Restante will be
held until called for. In Germany and Austria, you can use
Postlegernd instead of Poste Restante. In Spain use Lista de Correos and in
Portugal, Lista de Correios.
Locations: Mail can be addressed to you at the central
post office in any city in Europe. Some secondary post offices
in Europe accept Poste Restante mail. Post offices accepting Poste Restante
mail are shown on the maps in the Michelin Red Guides and Michelin Green Guides.
Street addresses can also be obtained from national and city tourist
offices. If you have taken up short term habitation in a large
city, go to your local post office to see if general delivery is
accepted. Then give your friends the address and post code for that post office.
Call for mail, with your passport in hand for identification, at the post office within 30
days or it may be returned. Look for the Poste Restante or
Lista sign in the post office. There is usually a special window for this
I have picked up mail in a number of cities with
no problems. But I've seen the clerks go quickly through the stack
and miss mail. A sharp-eyed girl in front of me in Madrid saw her
name go by and asked the clerk to back up and pull out the letter.
It might help if you ask your friends to put a special mark on the
envelope with a felt tip pen or use a special colored envelope.
That would make it much easier for you to spot your mail over the
clerk's shoulder. Say, ask your correspondents to draw a happy face
on the front and back of the envelope, and don't forget to
capitalize and underline your last name.
Fee: There is sometimes a small fee for Poste Restante mail.
Amex Client Mail Service
A common postal facility used by many Americans is an American
Express office. These are located in most major cities. It appears to be a
gratuitous service by Amex management who are primarily in the
business of selling tickets, tours, and traveler's checks, and exchanging dollars
for local wampum. Mail not
claimed in 30 days is returned to the sender. Quality of the
personnel at the mail window has been average to incompetent. Also the mail
window is not open during the entire business day even though the rest of
the office may be open. Do not count on this service for transfer
of money or important messages.
Locations: Card holders and those carrying Amex
traveler's checks can pick up mail addressed to them at many Amex
offices. American Express offices or representatives are located in
about 100 cities in Europe, but the representative offices do not
offer the client mail service. Get the booklet from American
Express listing addresses for all offices and indicating which ones
offer client mail service.
Fee: There is a small charge to those who are not Amex
customers. Show them a travelers cheque or your Amex credit card to
receive free service.
MAIL FROM EUROPE TO THE USA
PTT is an almost universal appellation in Europe for
"Post -Telegraph - Telephone". It is a combination post office,
phone company, telegraph office, bank, and central office for
miscellaneous government functions. In Spain and Portugal, it is CTT or
just CT, since "Post" is Correo or Correio, respectively, over there.
The post office in Greece is ELTA.
Travelers should normally use the post office when buying
stamps. Some PTT offices still have telephone sections for
making long distance telephone calls. More about PTT in part 1 of this chapter at
Telephoning to, from, and within Europe.
Form of Address to the USA
Almost everybody recognizes the USA as the USA, except maybe
postal clerks. I have begun using the local word for the USA in
addition to the letters USA. For example, when I lived in Geneva,
Switzerland, the bottom line on my envelopes to the USA reads just
like this in big bold print:
États-Unis d'Amérique USA
États-Unis d'Amérique means United States of
America in French, the official language in Geneva. German or
Italian are the official languages in other parts of Switzerland.
Buying stamps for postcards and letters can be difficult or
easy. To experience the difficult method, walk into any Paris post
office and in straightforward English ask for stamps for air mail
postcards to the United States. Mark Twain could have found a
collection of words to describe the result more aptly than I no
A better way is to bring a postcard to the post office, already
written out, addressed, and containing the key words: "United
States of America, États-Unis d'Amérique - USA"
with the Priority Mail sticker attached. The term "Air Mail"
(Par Avion in France, Mit Luftpost in Germany)
is no longer an official designation over there. In
Paris, also show the clerk a slip of paper with the word
on it. In other cities, the clerk will probably know that you want
a stamp for the card, or will speak English. Most Paris postal
clerks can speak English but refuse to do it, unless you start up
speaking in French in which case they will refuse to speak French.
You'll probably have even more trouble in Madrid where the clerks
really can't speak English. Over in Rome, do your post office
business at the Vatican. There's a post office next to the ice
cream vendor at the Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter's Square).
That ice cream is really delicious.
In big city post offices, lines normally develop toward the
right of the window. Stay close to the person in front of you or
someone will butt in. The inbuttee will usually be a little old
woman or a pair of chatting teenage girls. Staying close enough to
prevent butt-ins almost requires that you keep your chin pressed to
the neck of the person ahead of you. Some inbuttees must consider
this a game. They know from a glance that you are an American and
that they can get away with butting in. If you encounter one, ask
her what time it is. That will let her know that you are already in
line. If not, just step in front of her.
Clerks at big city PTT offices are probably the worst
derriere pains in Europe. For better service, and for fewer
butt-ins, go to offices in the suburbs or in smaller cities.
On the other hand, one amazing event in my career as a postal
cliént occurred at the small town post office in Alzenau,
Germany, just east of Frankfurt a/M. I went to the window with an airmail letter destined for
the United States. The clerk took out a ruler and measured the
length, whereupon he charged me about 50% extra. I had used an
American envelope which is about an eighth of an inch longer than
the German Bundspost normally accepts. I howled but it did
no good. That was the last time I went to a window with my
envelopes. From then on I just put normal postage on them and dropped them in
the outside box, with no problems.
Keep in mind that postal employees are not qualified to shine
the shoes of rocket scientists. They
are simply bureaucrats and government clerks with life time jobs
putting stuff in little boxes. If you need anything more than that
you have to spell it out for them.
Buy some extra stamps while in the post office to avoid standing
in line again. If you don't use them all, bring them home and give
them to the neighbor's children. Or frame them as souvenirs and nail them to the wall.
Information on mailing parcels is presented in chapter 24,
Shipping Your Treasures Home from Europe:
Travelers Have a Number of Options.
EXPRESS PARCEL SERVICES
Reliable but Expensive
Most American businesses have given up on the US Postal Service for
everything except employment rejection letters and junk mail. Companies
like FedEx, DHL, and Airborne Express are the preferred method for
sending business papers to make sure they arrive. These services
are also available internationally. They are expensive, but can
deliver to most European addresses in two to four business days.
Prices are extremely high so only use these when you absolutely
must have something in a hurry.
If you use one of these express services it is more likely that
your parcel will be opened for customs inspection in Europe. This
usually adds two days to the delivery time. The express service asks you to
fill out the customs declaration. This can lead to a significant
expense. European duties on some items can easily exceed the value of the goods.
When Elizabeth traveled with our two-year old Stephanie she
needed some additional plastic bottle liners. These were not
available in Europe. I sent them over to her by FedEx. FedEx cost as
much as the bottle liners. On top of that, the French customs duty
was about equal to the cost of the liners.
When shipping documents to Germany, the value declared by my
company for one package was "no commercial value." The German customs service
opened it to make sure. The content was just a rough draft of a
sales presentation. On one document they charged about $15 customs
duty plus $3.00 tax, and included 12 pages of paperwork with the
invoice. It was unbelievable.
To stay under the radar of European customs collectors I have had good results
with the good old US Postal Service. Gifts sent to Germany and Holland in
December 2007 sailed through without getting bit in the butt by customs
agents. Shipping costs with the post are also cheaper, by about 70%. Use the special USPS
Priority Mail shipping boxes for the best rate. Paying $35 for a few pounds might
gag you for a moment, but $120 at FedEx or UPS will do even more damage to
your respiratory system.
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. 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.
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