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Here is a general purpose first-aid kit.
First Aid Kit, Soft Case, 205-Piece Kit
The details on driving in Europe may save your life.
Driving in Europe 101
by Curley Bowman
My book can get you started. Updated information is free on this site.
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
Rolling luggage sure beats lugging a pack on your back.
Delsey Luggage Helium Fusion Light 21 Inches Expandable Carryon
Day luggage for your walkabout.
Huntington Lite Shoulder Tote
A rugged travel combo.
McKleinUSA Buckingham Tech-Lite Ballistic Nylon Executive Travel Combo
Keep your stuff organized.
Luggage Packing Cubes
eBags 3pc Set
Wear a money belt under your shirt to protect your passport and valuables, especially if you are staying in hostels or dorms.
Victorinox Deluxe Concealed Security Belt
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
This will come in very handy very often.
' ' ' ' ' '
It rains. Be prepared.
Totes Titanium Auto-Open/Close Umbrella
Weather protection is essential. This is a great lightweight water repellent windbreaker.
Womens's Light Weight Endurance Jacket
Look sharp and be comfortable.
Hot Chillys Women's Peach Skins Solid T-Neck Shirt
London Fog Women's Double Breasted Trench Coat
Tilley Endurables TH9 Women's Hemp Hat
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
Wool Blend Ivy Cap
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
Shopping easy at
A selection of products to help you on your way.
Packing List and Last Call
has a suggested list of everything you need for your trip.
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, 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 sack. 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.
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 Britain and Ireland.
Universal Grounded Adaptor Plug.
UK and Ireland
The holes of many Italian outlets are too small for the Shucko 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 Italian Grounded 3 pin
Here is the Swiss version.
LiteFuze WonproGrounded Universal 2 in 1 Plug Adapter Type J for Switzerland
(max 250 Volt, 13 Amp)
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 Shucko 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.
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
Absolutely the best battery for digital cameras which use AA batteries.
AA Lithium Batteries
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
HOW TO EUROPE
The Complete Travelers Handbook
Internet edition. Without photos.
A page from
Good health is a prerequisite to a bon voyage.
Injuries and illnesses while overseas can ruin not only your
vacation and your bank account, but maybe your life.
Knowledge is your best preparation.
Thanks to the unfamiliar surroundings, your likelihood of
requiring medical help is greater while traveling. Don't take
chances on the streets and highways. Stay rested and don't
overextend your body's defenses against disease. Guard against
catching something from a sneezing passenger on a train or in
other confined spaces. Find another place to sit.
Flush toilets before you sit down, and then decorate the
seat with strips of TP if there is no seat cover available. Many
men overseas do not believe in lifting the seat to take a piss. Use a
paper towel when opening doors of washrooms because it
doesn't do you any good to wash your hands if the last person
left his pathogenic critters on the door handle. Peel or
thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables to remove insecticides,
herbicides, and fertilizers. Drink bottled beverages.
Blow Your Nose
Upper respiratory stuff like colds, flu, runny nose, and sinus infection are among the most
common and the most uncomfortable nasties going around. Your nose is designed to
clean the air before it gets into your body. You must keep your nose clean for it to
work effectively. I suggest that you give it a good blow every morning and every evening.
Get the crap out before it can harm you. Heck, you've been told since you could tie
your shoe laces to brush your teeth. Just blow your nose at the same time. If you
have a runny nose that won't quit give it a super blow. Lean over your sink and
plug one nostril with a finger on the side. Blow out the other one. Repeat on the
other side. You'll be good to go for hours.
Get in Shape
Couch potatoes should consider the fact that they will be
doing a lot of walking in Europe, a LOT of walking. Visiting the
museums, shopping, strolling the streets, and climbing steps in
castles all require a lot of foot work. Not only should you be
wearing a well broken-in pair of shoes as discussed earlier, it
would be a good idea to do a little bit of walking exercise
starting a couple of weeks before flying to Europe. If you don't,
you'll have discomfort and muscle pain for the first few days of
your travels. Even if you do regular exercise, there is a potential
problem. I bicycle a lot, but bicycle muscles are not the same as
walking muscles. I normally get aches in my first week over
there. Combined with the effects of jet lag you can find yourself
in misery for a couple of days. So, since you'll be getting in
shape anyway, you might as well start it at home. Hurt before
you go, not while you're over there. About six weeks before a
recent trip I joined a health club and used their treadmills every
other day. That really helped my desk jock body get in shape for walking
London. I resigned from the exercise club just before flying to Europe.
If you do get muscle ache
buy a jar of dill pickles and drink a glass of the juice. The pain
should be gone in a short while. Don't ask me why but this works.
Speaking of hurting, if you're heading for the beaches get a
little sun before going so you don't get scorched on your first
day in Europe. A bad sunburn will mess you up for a few days,
and probably leave you peeling for another week. How pretty is that?
INTERNATIONAL CERTIFICATES OF VACCINATION
The International Certificates of Vaccination (ICV) is a
fold out booklet published by the United States Government
Printing Office. It is used to record vaccinations and have them
certified by your state or county health department. Your doctor
can provide you with an ICV. The instructions to travelers in the
"International Certificates of Vaccination or Revaccination
are official statements verifying that proper procedures
have been followed to immunize you against a disease
which could be a threat to the United States and other
countries. The Certificates are second in importance only
to your passport in permitting uninterrupted international
travel. They must be complete and accurate in every
detail, or you may be detained at ports of entry."
Having an ICV is hardly neccessary if you are only traveling between
the USA and Europe. I have an ICV because I've traveled to some
countries with disease problems. I got the shots and had them
recorded. It is a handy document whether you need it or not. I wish my
parents had obtained one for me when they started giving me the childhood
shots for measels, mumps, polio, smallpox, and whatever. That is something which comes up once in
a while and I have no permanent record of it.
There are no vaccinations which are required for travel
between North America and Europe.
However, if your travels include stops in less advanced
countries, inoculation or orally administered drugs against
yellow fever, typhoid, malaria, or cholera may be required
before continuing to Europe or home. Ask your doctor or public
health department to see what shots, if any, are advised. Do this a
month or more before departure because some shots need time
to be effective, and for some diseases multiple shots over several
weeks are required.
A brochure distributed by local health departments warns
that typhoid fever, caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi, is
possible in some of the former communist countries in eastern
Europe. It can be passed on by contaminated water, ice cubes,
fruits, undercooked fish, and poultry. It mentions that even
watermelon can be a typhoid carrier — some merchants inject
water to increase the weight! This reminds me of a story I heard
when I moved to Holland. An older Dutch colleague told me about a
pre-WWII street vendor in Haarlem who would hold up his
grapefruits, cut them open, and squeeze them to prove how juicy
they were. After the invasion of the German army and the Gestapo
regulations started to come into force, and since he was Jewish, he abandoned his cart
and fled to England. Someone took over his cart and took up the
business when he left. The new vendor discovered a tube, water
bottle, small foot pump, and hypodermic needle in the cart.
It is a good idea to get a tetanus booster if you have not had
one in ten years, and have it recorded on the International
Certificates of Vaccination. List drugs to which you are allergic,
your blood type, and other pertinent medical information. Don't
forget your eyeglass prescription, if any. If you use them, an
extra set of hearing aids is something else you might consider.
The ICV is in English et en Français, and should serve you
well in case of special difficulties.
Whether or not you are getting inoculations, it would be a
good idea to have your doctor perform a routine medical
examination if you are getting on in years. Your doctor can
make a note of anything unusual on the ICV in the section for
remarks concerning state of health, medical treatments, or
If you are allergic to any drug, make sure that is written
here as well.
If your doctor has prescribed any drugs for one of your
problems, carry a letter from your doctor to that effect. An
official seal or stamp on the doctor's letter wouldn't hurt.
It is rare that a customs inspector will search the luggage of an
American tourist, but when they search, drugs are what they are
usually looking for. Even with your doctor's letter, you may be delayed or
inconvenienced. The doctor's letter may help get replacement drugs
if your luggage goes astray with your drugs inside.
MEDICAL HELP IN EUROPE
If you need medical assistance, the nearest pharmacist or
doctor will probably speak English. Virtually every educated
person in Europe knows at least one foreign language, and
luckily that one is usually ours.
But Americans may have trouble communicating with
drugstore clerks and doctor's assistants. Even after living in
Germany for two years I had a problem getting a simple over the
counter drug for Elizabeth. I came home with moth repellent!
Unless you are fluent in the local language, it will be
impossible to read the labels and instructions on the medicine
they sell you. Ask the person selling it to read it to you in
English. If they appear unsure, or if the instruction sounds
unusual, question them or have the label read by someone else.
Pharmacies are very easy to find in most cities. They
usually have a large green cross outlined in neon hanging above
the door. In some of the Mediterranean countries, it is a red
cross rather than a green one.
If you need a pharmacy after normal business hours, ask
your hotel manager or desk clerk. Drugstores in almost every
city operate on some sort of a swing shift so that one is always
open or on call 24/7. Often, the name and location of the one on
night duty will be posted in the windows of the others.
Drugstores in Europe sell medicines and medical supplies
of all kinds. You'll see wheelchairs, medical instruments, and
devices you won't recognize. But don't expect to find the usual
items like toothpaste, nail polish, and lawn chairs in the
European pharmacies and apothecaries. On the other hand, I
found a farmacia in a small Portuguese town pumping gasoline,
which proves the rule that every rule has its exceptions.
The quality of medical service in Europe is reported to be
equal to that in the United States in most countries, but less than
par in others. We have had good experience with doctors in
Holland and Germany. We even had a home visit in Germany
when Elizabeth was too ill to get out of bed. When was the last time
you had that in the United States?
If need be, the nearest American embassy or consulate can
provide you with a list of doctors. These doctors are not
endorsed by our government. It is only a list. Your hotel should
also be able to direct you to a doctor or dentist.
Doctor's offices are not easy to find. At best they will have
a small brass plaque bolted to the front of the building. They can
be located in business or residential districts. Medical centers
are not common. Sometimes you will see a NO PARKING sign
by the curb with the caduceus on it. That symbol with the wings
and snakes is the emblem of the medical profession so there
should be a doctor's office nearby.
Doctor is called an Artz in Germany, medico in Italy,
lege in Norway, and other similar words in other countries.
Travelers should carry a few items for personal first aid.
Depending on the season, my list includes:
- Neosporin, A+D, or First Aid Cream
- Bug off
- Lip balm
- Lanacane or cold sore ointment
Aspirin or a substitute should always be handy. Instead of
aspirin, paracetamol is recommended by doctors as a pain killer
with no gastric side effects. Paracetamol (a.k.a. acetaminophen)
is sold at home as Tylenol, Datril, and Tempra. It goes by other
trade names in Europe. I had to resort to Ibuprofen® for a severly
inflamed left foot on one of my trips.
You can buy aspirin in Europe — if you like to pay about
ten times what it costs at home. Bring a bottle with you.
The other major items to carry are Band-Aids® and an
antiseptic cream. Something like Neosporin® or A+D®
should be kept in your toiletries kit for when you get a scratch.
Left to itself without treatment almost any scratch can become infected
leading to a week of pain. Vodka is also a great antiseptic
though it doesn't have the healing power of the creams. The
general and medicinal value of vodka was discussed in chapter 6,
Your Packing List for Europe.
If you are going to southern Europe in the summer, Off®,
6-12®, or some other bug repellent will be a relief. The
mosquitos can be unconscionable savages. Bug repellent is also
handy on the beaches anywhere in Europe to ward off sand flies
and other nasty critters.
Lip balm, e.g. Chap Stick®, can save you the discomfort of
cracked lips in northern Europe during the winter. On the other
hand, a dab of olive oil seems to work just as well. You can also
use Italian dressing. In addition to olive oil Italian dressing has vinegar which
is very good for softening the skin.
Cold Sore Ointment
Several products for relief of pain from cold sores and fever
blisters are available. Examples are Anbesol® and Oral-B®. These
also make great pain relievers for bug bites and other minor
irritations that make you want to scratch the itch. The key
ingredient in these ointments is benzocaine, usually at a strength
of 20%. If you let yourself be poked by a mosquito a dab of benzocaine
ointment gives immediate relief. I also carry a tube of Lanacane®
for itchy skin. This has the same active ingredient, 20% benzocaine.
Mole Skin® was recommended to me as a cure for foot
blisters. At the first sign of a hot spot, put on a patch of this stuff
and let it wear itself off. The labels say not to use it after the
blister has formed or broken. Then you need antiseptic and a
For treating cases of the traveler's trots, some travelers
recommend Pepto-Bismol®, and others won't leave home without
a prescription of Lomotil®. It appears that Pepto-Bismol® is not
available in Europe so you might want to bring some along. I
can't recall ever having diarrhea while traveling in Europe, but I
have often had it soon after returning to Los Angeles.
A friend told me about a trip she made with several other
people a few years ago. Each caught diarrhea except the one
who ate yogurt. Coincidentally, part of my travel routine in
Europe used to be to stop in a grocery store and buy a cup of
yogurt and a couple of oranges every day. My doctor says that
once diarrhea starts, oranges and yogurt are the wrong things to
eat. Then Pepto-Bismol® or Lomotil® can come to the rescue.
Lately though, to save time, I request yogurt at breakfast in
the hotel and carry a supply of vitamin C. Redoxon® by Roche is
available all over Europe. At home in Germany and Holland I
used a form of vitamin C which dissolves in water like
Alka-Selzer®. My favorite is the Blutorange flavor dissolved in a
glass of apple juice. Buy a 20 unit tube of 1,000 mg tablets in a
drug store or vitamin store.
Some spicy foods can make a quick run through your
system, and some fatty sauces can bring on stomach cramps.
Before rushing out to a doctor, eat some black burnt toast. It tastes terrible
but is an effective cure for severe stomach ache.
Travelers should be aware of the virtues of chicken soup, or
if it's not available, roast chicken which is usually on the menu.
Unusual fatigue, muscle ache, or fever can normally be chased
with a big bowl of soup and a good night's rest. Chicken soup
"Dr. H" is my preferred cure for colds and flu. When I lived in Holland the cool damp
weather and my wild life style brought me down with an aching body and stuffed sinus
on a regular basis. None of the standard cold remedies worked. Then I discovered Dr. H.
Actually there is no such thing as Dr. H. That is my name for Hennessy cognac. It works.
See chapter 6 again,
Your Packing List for Europe for more information.
As discussed earlier, pedestrians should be especially
careful crossing streets in Rome, Athens, and Amsterdam. In
England and Ireland, with right hand drive, be careful because
traffic will be coming from all over the place and very fast.
Sidewalks can also be hazards. With potholes and raised
obstructions in some cities, you have to watch the ground to
avoid twisting an ankle.
Just about anywhere, large crowds can spawn unruly and
dangerous behavior. Guys get drunk and do stupid things. When
you attend events with large turnouts be on guard. For example,
fireworks are set off by participants at some events. New Years
Eve is the big night for fireworks in Europe, and it is strictly an
amateur laissez faire affair. Sky rockets and mini bombs seem to
be most interesting for the pyroheads. At midnight on New Years Eve in
Haarlem neighbors start shooting off the sky rockets in every
direction. We had a beautiful view of the skyline of Haarlem for
a half hour semi-professional display. It looked like a movie battle
scene. Meanwhile, teenagers
walk around throwing firecrackers at each other. Watch out.
Bastille Day in Paris is another a day for free-lance
fireworks. Some teeners drop cherry bombs onto the crowds
ascending the Metro access stairs. What fun! There is also an official show. The fireworks
display at the Tour Eiffel is stunning. The French sure do know how to
put on a good show.
Demonstrations, political and otherwise, can sometimes get
out of control. Fashionable shops around the Opera in Paris
have been destroyed more than once when groups started voting
with bricks. Soccer matches have spawned senseless riots in a
number of European cities. The police in Luxembourg once
asked the German army to come in to help quash a riot by some
British fans. The British "fans" returned and rioted in Paris a
few months later. The "ugly American" has surely been out done by
these Limey hooligans.
Yankee Go Home
US embassies and consulates are virtual forts in the capital
cities of Europe. The State Department has done what it can to defend
them against attack, except in Libya. Consequently it is usually
very difficult to get in for legitimate business. Maybe a phone
call will take care of your situation. It is often necessary to
make an appointment anyway so phone ahead.
Within a few countries, groups which have failed to win
their way with ballots and negotiation have turned to bullets and
bombs. Civilians, rather than government officials, are often the
Spain has frequent attacks from the Basque separatists. I
saw a fire they set in San Sebastian, an otherwise pleasant and
beautiful city on the north coast of Spain.
Northern Ireland, politically part of Britain, has had
decades of medieval style butchery between Catholics and
Protestants. The struggle by the Irish Republican Army to unite
all of Ireland again goes on, but in a more peaceful mode.
The sides have smoked the peace pipe but there is a public murder now
and then by a radical on one side or the other.
Some of my more personal experiences in the vicinity of bombs are briefly described in
chapter 1, What's It All About?
In Europe, Travel Like a Native
The Middle East hatreds are often exported to Europe.
France, with a long history of welcome to all, has found itself
the victim of these ethnic and religious conflicts. Throughout
Europe, offices of the airlines of Israel and Iran usually have a
guard out in front with a machine gun in his hand and his finger
on the trigger. El Al jets are guarded by a platoon and an
armored vehicle in many airports.
The Worldwide Terror campaign by so-called Islamic militants
is a well organized and well financed
operation. I wish that these people would stick to their prayers and stop
the crap that will get them nowhere except an early trip to Hell.
When you see problems and potential
problems, go the other way. Don't get too curious. Once the
police start swinging the billy clubs, they don't stop to talk and
Just about every year there is a major catastrophe in
Europe. These disasters often involve travelers or revelers. Night
clubs, hotels, ferry boats, planes, trains, cable cars, and other facilities
with large numbers of people go up or down in smoke, sometimes with
the loss of hundreds of people.
Of course you can do nothing if your plane takes a nosedive
on takeoff. You might not have time to say a "Hail Mary."
But in most other circumstances you have a
chance of survival when you follow the safety rules and use
good judgment. At the first sign of trouble take action.
Stuff is sold for smoking, swallowing, snorting, and
shooting in many places, and it is illegal in every jurisdiction in
Europe except the Netherlands. Potentially more serious than a trip to the slammer is a
trip to the hospital, or to the morgue. You may be courting an
invitation to medical problems with the kind of trash you're
going to get from a street seller. It may be more or less pure than
whatever you are accustomed to, or it may be spiked. It may be
baking powder. It's all dope and made for the genre.
The hustlers at the Dam Square in Amsterdam instantly
recognize Americans and, while walking beside you at a
distance of six feet or so, will come out in loud whispers,
"Hash? Coke?" I even had one fellow ask me if I wanted to buy
Viagra! While Amsterdam may be a center for international drug
traffic, drug use among the Dutch people is minuscule compared
to that in America, even though it is open and accepted in Holland. None of
the dozen or so hustlers who have approached me were native
On the other hand, going back to drugs, Holland saw the
blossoming of a new line of business in the 1990s. The shops
are called "coffie shops" and they are as close to coffee shop as
Brooklyn is to the moon. Marijuana is the product for sale. The
trade is open and accepted. There is no need to deal with the
Amsterdam street hustlers when you can buy sealed packets of branded product in
a store. However, if your company has a drug screening program
you may be risking your job by going into one of these places,
even for a look around. The smoke is pretty thick and wafts
down the street when someone opens the door.
Thanks to bullying from other European governments the marijuana law has been
changed in Holland as of mid 2011. From now on only Dutch residents will be allowed to
purchase weed in the Netherlands. This is stupid. It looks like they
have just opened up business to a lot of street hustlers again. This won't affect me
since I don't smoke weed but many tourists will be inconvienced by the new law.
US Drug Enforcement Agents
My return to Los Angeles from Amsterdam in the spring of
1999 was greeted by a detail of US Authorities, including a
sniffer dog. This guy is the Ultimate Authority.
The drug search was conducted just at the door of
the plane as we stepped into the swing-out tunnel leading to the
terminal building. The fellow sitting next to me was asked to
wear a little sack, presumably carrying some dope, to test the
dog. However, some passengers were quite shaken by the sight
of a large frisky German shepherd in the narrow corridor. One
young girl turned back in fright to find her dad before
proceeding. Coming back from Amsterdam at Christmas 1999
and arriving in Washington, DC, there was no sign of dogs or
any other kind of inspection. And there was no evidence of exit
inspections as I disembarked a flight from Amsterdam in
Beware of becoming a "mule." United States narcotics
enforcement officers find that dope is sometimes transported and
brought home by innocent travelers. If someone you meet
overseas asks you to do him a favor and carry a small package
home, watch out. If he offers you some money to do it, you can
be almost certain of the contents. Direct your "friend" to the
nearest post office. If you agree to take a package home for
someone you will probably have troubles. Do you have a bail
bondsman and an attorney ready to meet you at the airport?
The Local Sheriff
Follow local customs and laws. There are thousands of
Americans in jails around the world for violations of local laws.
You might be joining them if you believe the glib boasts of
others. The mere possession of narcotics paraphernalia may be
prima facie evidence of use of narcotics. And such equipment
can be seized by US Customs on your return to the USA.
Too bad for those busted and pitched into the slammer
overseas. Don't expect American civil liberties to be observed.
Police can search and seize without cause. Bail and habeas
corpus do not exist in many countries. You are presumed guilty
until proven innocent, a serious reversal of the American
system. You can be held in jail for months waiting for trial.
Punishment may be severe and corporal, and there is just about
nothing that anybody can do about it.
The American Consulate is only authorized to offer you a
list of local lawyers. The list is free but the lawyers are not.
If you believe in insurance, don't forget about it during
your travels. Check the period to make sure that it covers the
time that you will be traveling, or that it can be renewed in your
absence. If not, a renewal bill sent to a temporary European
address could take weeks to catch up with you. The policy might
have expired in the meantime, leaving you, your home, or your
Before departing for Europe, check your medical insurance
policy to see if it covers you while in Europe. Most do, though
they have exclusions for war zones, street drugs, experimental
aircraft, and other exciting forms of suicide. Ask your insurance
company how to go about filing a claim and how they will make
payment. They may need a certified translation of the doctor's report.
Also, the only telephone number you have to reach your
insurance company is probably an 800 toll free number. This
won't work from most phones in Europe. Ask your agent for an area code
number, and ask if they will accept collect calls.
You may want to take out additional insurance because of
the fact that you are traveling. All manner and size of trip
cancellation insurance, travel insurance, travel accident
insurance, flight insurance, and luggage insurance is available. If
you decide to buy one of these policies, shop around and
around. Start with insurance agents with whom you currently
deal, and even consider the policy offered by your travel agent.
Travel insurance policies are available which can protect
you against loss in case you have to change plans and forfeit a
deposit. Most package tours and charter flights require full
payment months in advance. Some offer no possibility of refund as
the departure time nears, and at the least charge severe penalties
for cancellation. If there is any possibility that you will have to
change plans, a trip cancellation policy might be a good idea.
Health and Accident Insurance
Your major medical and life insurance policies, if you have
them, should provide coverage anywhere in the world except for
clearly defined incidents as itemized in your policy. If you do
not already have such coverage from your employer or through
your parents you'll find that individual policies are ridiculously
Travel policies can also offer health and accident
protection. If you consider one of these policies, look for this
coverage in addition to trip cancellation protection.
Another special feature of some travel insurance policies is medical
evacuation. If you are stricken with a serious problem,
particularly in a less developed country, you may need air
evacuation to a good hospital back home. Medical evacuation can be
extremely expensive. Airlines see this as a
great opportunity to charge you about $10,000 for ambulatory
service. You can save about 50% if you just die over there and
they put you in with the baggage for your last trip home. A medical
will fly you home if you have a serious incident. It is reasonably priced
because it is not a frequent kind of problem. If you are going to some dangerous
places this is something to think about.
Travel accident insurance policies of the giveaway style
offered by some organizations as an inducement to membership
do not fill the need. They only pay for loss of limbs, eyes, or
life. No payment is made for care or recovery. A piece of junk
mail I recently received offers a good price for "a valuable plan
which can insure you or other family members against fatal
accidents or felonious assault." The small print says "coverage is
not provided for basic hospital, basic medical surgical, or major
medical expenses." Great policy, huh? If you think that you are
covered by a "travel" policy, read all the fine print about
deductions, exclusions, valuations, and limitations before you
A policy you might consider is baggage insurance for
baggage checked on flights. But perhaps your homeowner's or
tenant's policy already covers this. Your home insurance policy
with valuable items rider should also cover cameras and jewelry
anywhere in the world. Take photos or videos of these items
before departure to assist in making your claim if you have some
Read your policies before departure.
For information on auto insurance in Europe, see chapter 18,
Driving in Europe:
Travel by Car, Van, or Motorcycle.
Having insurance and collecting on it are two different things.
Talk to your agent before departure to make sure that you are
covered overseas, and find out what to do in case you are
hospitalized or if your camera is stolen. It is likely that a
European hospital will demand cash rather than accept an
insurance card. If you must pay and then file a claim to be
reimbursed on your return home a lot of your money can be tied
up. If it is a financial burden, seek advice from the nearest
Carry your insurance card, and it would probably help to
carry a legible copy of your policy. If the claims number is a toll
free 800 number, get a regular number with area code.
For lost or stolen items, a police report will probably be
required with the claim for reimbursement. My only experience
in filing a claim for an event in Europe was for repairs to a
camera which fell off the neck strap. The insurance company
requested details of the mishap: time, place, circumstances, etc.,
and a copy of the repair bill. They paid promptly. Make notes of
events in your travel record book to help your memory in such
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:
The Complete Travelers Handbook
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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