Wednesday, March 5, 2014

General Travel Tips

I wore my Ferragamo flats for the second time and wanted to send them for expansion. But decided to just waxed them cause I wanted to give them more time to season and it felt better after the waxing. If the pain and blisters persist then I will really expand them. :/

By the way very wordy entry today.

This may or may not be useful. Some are repeated from my previous entries. But just to collate them all, here are some general tips I find useful for my recent Euro trip. For tips specific to each city, you may look at the entry for that city itself.

1. Pack light.
I made this horrendous mistake of not packing light and gotta pay excess baggage of 7kg. Not only that, Zai gotta carry the heavy luggage up and down the stairs cause some train stations and hotels do not have lifts. In fact most train stations do not have lifts (the horror!). Anyway the excess baggage came up to about a few hundred euros, mind you! If you're vain, have two coats the most. Chances are it will be cold, so you'll wear your coat all the time (unless you're indoor). Nobody will see that you repeated your top inside. So don't have to bring 21 tops for 21 days. In fact, I wore 2 layers under my coat and only changed the inner most layer regularly. The top layer is probably still clean so I changed lesser times. Not that I'm unhygienic but I'm desperate to maximise my luggage space. Haha.

2. Wash, Buy or Laundry
We couldn't afford to wash everything but we managed to wash our undies in the hotel and they can dry even in winter, I'm serious. We dried them over our heater haha. Even when the heater wasn't working, they managed to dry cause they're small sized. I mean, undies are smaller than long sleeve tops and pants right? If not, go to a laundry and wash everything in the middle of your trip. That was what we did in London. Or, you can buy more undies if you're in London cause Primark's cheap. I bought many undies at 1 pound each. Or, you can use disposable ones but I don't quite like though there are some in the market which feels almost as comfy as the non-disposable ones. :)

My silly face and the laundry place we went in London behind me haha. 

3. Conditioner and Hand Lotion. 
I thought I brought my conditioner, turns out I brought another bottle of shampoo. I didn't bring hand lotion cause I seldom have dry hands. But when we were there, my hair and hands got extremely dry. My hair doesn't feel like hair anymore. My hands got too dry that it had little cuts on them. That bad.

4. Small Bottles
Bring shampoos, facial wash etc in small bottles then throw them away. I brought two small bottles of shampoo. Halfway during the trip I finished one bottle. By the end of the trip, I got rid of my shampoos, facial wash and facial wipes.

5. Avoid Cabs
Try to avoid cab rides as much as possible to save. We didn't take any cab in Switzerland, Amsterdam and London. We only took in Liverpool and that was because Liverpool is small so 6 pounds cab fare could get us to the coach station or the mall. We also took in Paris but that was only to airports and from the airport because that was our last city and our luggage and haversacks were heavy beyond anything to lug them on trains. Hahaha. Just FYI, cab fare to/from airport in Paris is about 70 euros. :/

London cabs in, hmm London. Haha.

6. Wifi and Location
I think I'm heavily dependent on Internet but even so, I didn't get any prepaid cards or the wifi router. Wifi is available at a lot of places. Paris is quite stingy with it though, even it's airport only allows 15 minutes of usage. But like I said, get a hotel with wifi. Print screen all info at the hotel if needed before leaving for the day. There will be wifi at some cafes and shopping centers so once in a while you can use those free wifi. But of course, if you want access to the Internet all the time, you can always get the prepaid card or wifi router in Singapore so you don't have to find one when you're there.

7. Travel Pass
Get a travel pass if you're gonna take the train like maybe 5 times a day? I don't know but you gotta do the Math haha. We got travel pass in Switz and Amsterdam for all the days that we were there. Not necessarily cheap but convenient. We stayed 6 days in Paris but only bought a 3-days pass. Stayed 4 days in London but only bought a 1-day pass. And not all passes covers every station but usually most of the stations.

Switz Travel Pass

8. Trains
Study the train maps in each country. You don't have to study them in Singapore but at the hotel room when you just reach? They're just like in Singapore with different coloured lines. Where the lines meet, that's where you will change train if you need to go to the other line. This is the main mode of transportation in Europe. Can get you pretty much everywhere.

9. Toilet
Go toilet before leaving the hotel. Go toilet in the trains. Go toilet in the restaurant. Because those places are where all the toilets are free. Besides, there's no toilet at some places and some places can really charge you up to 1.50 euro per entry. I entered the 1.50 euro toilet at Printemps (shopping mall), Paris because I had no choice and was unwell that day. It looks like a hotel toilet la but that's about it. Haha.

1.50 euro to enter this.

10. Water
Water is expensive. Bring big bottles of water from Singapore that can last you a few days there. We didn't do that because I'm not so much of a drinker. Haha. Or you can boil your own in the hotel room if it has a kettle, which usually they do. But if you have kids and need a lot of boiled water for milk, drinking, washing of bottles, sterilising of bottles then maybe you can save time during the first few days just by bringing a few bottles from home.

11. Halal Food
Not a lot of halal food in Switz. A lot in Amsterdam. Pretty okay in London, Liverpool and Paris. Some places don't display a big halal sign. Some don't even display at all, but when you ask, they'll say yes they're halal. Up to you to believe or not. Haha. Usually i'll ask the Lebanese or Turkish food places. There are some districts in Paris that will have a lot of halal places. The place where we stayed do not have a lot though.

12. Boots
Get a good waterproof pair if you're going to a snowy place. You wouldn't want melted snow in your shoes that would make your toes cold and wet. Don't want to spend much? Then be like me. I bought Timberland waterproof boots in kids size. Yes! I can fit comfortably into their kids size! 100 bucks cheaper. Happy! Choose a few sizes bigger for thick socks by the way.

Mine on the right!

13. Book Online
Book certain attractions online. We did that for Eiffel Tower. We saved time on queue. Even so, many tickets were sold out by the time we booked online cause it was Christmas season. We did that for Disneyland too but only the night before at the hotel lobby we're staying at. Although last minute, still better than queuing up for a ticket on that day itself.

14. Opening Days
Check the opening days of certain places. Like if you wanna see the change of guards at Buckingham palace, it'll be on alternate days during winter. One of the museums we chanced upon in Switz closes on Mondays. Take note of their public holidays too. We went during Christmas so certain places were close. Disneyland however, opens all year round. Eiffel Tower opens during Christmas too.

15. Tours
I know it was a free and easy trip for us but there are certain places where it's better to follow tour. It's not a must to book tours online many weeks in advance. There are a lot of places selling tour packages which you can just buy the day before. There are tours to Jungfraujoch in Switz, tours to the windmills in Amsterdam, tours to Bath and Stonehenge in London and tours to Versailles in Paris. We didn't follow any tours cause the places were quite easy to go except for one in London. Which was a tour to Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Oxford all in one day. We didn't have a lot of time in London like at the other cities. So we wanted to cover all three places in one day. Besides, all these three places were faaaarrrr.

Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Oxford tour.

16. Be Vigilant
Some say they were pick-pocketed when they were in Europe. Thankfully we didn't because we carried our bags in front and with our hands always on it if it was crowded. I didn't bring my wallet. My wallet is big and heavy so it's unnecessary. I just brought important cards and cash and put them in a purse. Zai brought his police card, it helped him at Switz immigration cause they were asking us questions after questions on why we were there etc and let us off when they found out we're working for the government. Look around. If you see someone getting too close just move away. If it's crowded, put your bag in front and put your hand over it. I carried a sling bag and put it across my body instead of just hanging on my shoulder. Zai has this habit of telling me which side of him I should walk. Haha. If he sees somebody suspicious he'll tell me to move side. And yes, we saw a few being suspicious including kids.

17. Itineraries
Keep a set in your phone (but I like them printed). All the info on the Euro trip, I stated it down including flights and hotel information. Whenever we needed to move city, or refer to a list of places we want to go we just looked at that one set of itinerary. And put a set at home. In case of anything, your family will know your whereabouts and how to contact you or your hotel if you're uncontactable.

18. Don't Get Cheated. 
Like I said, in London we were almost cheated. A man pretending to be a tourist asked us for directions when suddenly two men pretending to be policemen came and demanded for our passports. I looked at Zai and told him not to give. Zai looked at their police card and told them it was fake before we walked away.

19. Activate Cards
Activate your cards for use overseas. You can do so via iBanking or at the ATM itself. I didn't use any credit cards. I brought cash along all the way from Singapore and have my debit card with me. I think the exchange rate is better in Singapore. I only withdraw cash twice during the trip at $5 per transaction.

20. Excess Baggage
Buy extra excess baggage in advance if you know you're gonna go over the limit. I only bought excess baggage for connecting flights (cause they're cheaper) but not for the main flight to Singapore (cause expensive and we thought the 60kg for both of us would be enough but actually not enough). We tried to cheat by distributing some of our things into our hand carry luggage thinking they won't weigh our hand carry luggage. But failed. There's a weighing scale at the airport. Make use of it. Stuff 7kg (assuming that's the max) into hand carry luggage if your check in luggage has excess weight. At least you make use of the 7kg free hand carry luggage so you don't have to pay so much. Mind you, 1kg excess is like 50 euros if you pay on the spot. Have some spare cash on the last day of your trip too in case you need to pay excess baggage at the airport like us. Hahaha. We had excess of 7kg. Just do the Math! :/ You can use card la even if no spare cash.

Zai's worried look after seeing the figures on the scale haha.

21. Medicines & Insurance
Bring your medicines (if you're likely to get tummy aches like me) or some common pills like panadol and flu medicine. Get your insurance ready if you're paranoid like me. I am no expert in insurance so I can't recommend any good one. I used NTUC.

22. Travel Adapter
Don't forget to bring cause some hotels do not provide this and you can charge your phone anywhere if you have this with you.

23. Monopod
Get a monopod for easier selfies haha. And test your monopod! We didn't test our monopod and when we realised that our camera was too heavy for the monopod, we were already at our destination. Our camera just wouldn't stay still on the monopod. It kept tilting down cause the camera was heavy. -.-

24. Taxes
I only have experience in Paris. When you buy above a certain amount, you can claim taxes. Don't forget to ask for the required forms and go to the counter in this shopping centre that will handle taxes. Don't worry, usually they will tell you how to go about doing it. Once you reach airport, there will be signs to show you where to go to claim taxes. You need to queue twice. Once to verify and another time to get the cash. They won't pay you back in Euro but they will pay you in SGD at a lousy rate haha. But still the taxes came up to a few hundred Euros for mine.

 25. Accomodation
We stayed in budget most of the time since we don't spend time in hotel rooms. If not, some really cheap 3 star. If you really wanna save, you can try couch surfing or those backpackers inn. Not our kinda thing cause although it's cheap, we don't like the idea of staying with people we just met or sharing toilets with others or sleeping in the same room as others. Just our preferences!

Our stay in Amsterdam.

Hmm that's all for now! My first time to Europe so can't expect much k hehe. I hope it will be useful to some!


  1. this is very useful, babe!!! i'll definitely come back and refer to this if i have the rezeki to go to the same places next time.

    i'm worrying about my baggage for my Europe trip in May now, actually. packing light is so susah for me! i always worry about all the what ifs lol

    the part about you guys lagi sikit kena cheated tu, so scary seh. oh, and i'm playing around with the idea of padlocking my bag segala while walking around Europe!!! tapi confirm tak buat ah because that would be ridiculous and inconvenient haha

    1. You can use some of these tips for your Eastern Europe trip too!

      As for the baggage, I don't think it'll be as bad as mine cause we went longer and we went during winter. So we brought more clothes and thicker clothes. Plus we shopped quite a lot on things like chocolates and cheese etc. Those were already so heavy. :/

      We padlocked all our luggages but not bags though! Haha. My husband didn't carry bag around. I carried a sling bag and always put it in front of me with my hand over the zipper every time. Just be and look alert and they know they won't even try to cheat you. Haha.

      Btw you got mail!

  2. Do you mean bring large waterbottles, or bring water to Europe? Cos that would be insanely heavy haha. Great tips! Good extensive tips! Don't stop blogging here! haha

    1. Haha I mean bring one or two bottles of water to Europe so you can survive a few days on those instead of buying. That's what my air stewardess friends do cause buying water in Europe is not exactly cheap. My bags were pretty empty during the start of the trip so they were not very heavy. But we didn't do it la cause I don't drink a lot of water anyway. Hehe.

      I'll always be here just that lesser now cause of workkkzzzzzz. -.-