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Overseas travel tips

Old 04-29-2017, 11:46 AM
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Default Overseas travel tips

My wife is taking her first overseas trip. She'll be going through the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland. Neither of us have traveled outside CONUS sans military travel. She's worried about the must haves and I have no answers for her. She's got all her gov travel documents, some cash, a CC that will work, and a a cell phone. Are we missing anything? Anything she might need to know before leaving? Any tips about customs?

Thanks THT brain trust.
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Old 04-29-2017, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Billdo View Post
My wife is taking her first overseas trip. She'll be going through the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland. Neither of us have traveled outside CONUS sans military travel. She's worried about the must haves and I have no answers for her. She's got all her gov travel documents, some cash, a CC that will work, and a a cell phone. Are we missing anything? Anything she might need to know before leaving? Any tips about customs?

Thanks THT brain trust.
Make color photocopies of your passports and put the copies in your carry on. Stow a few hundred dollars in a chest pack with your passport. Keep your wallet in front pocket, but if it did get stolen, you have your chest pack with money and passport. If your passport was ever stolen, your color photo copies can get you moving much quicker.

I had all of my money stolen in Freetown, Sierra Leone last winter. When I got to Brussels I realized I had been robbed. Fortunately I had my chest pack with 3-100 bills and my passport. I was good to go.you are going to much nicer places, but there are still folks on the trains and buses that will try and pick your pockets or pocketbook.

I had my carry on luggage gone through and they stole my meds. Keep your carryon in the overhead opposite you not directly above you. Directly above you, you can't see when someone goes through it while your asleep (or awake).

Use the tsa locks, they do work against petty thieves. My bag with a lock, was not gone through.

Write down the phone number of the US Embassy n the countries you are staying. If you need any kind of help at all, the department of state folks at the embassies are very helpful.

When you are staying in hotels, try to stay between floors 2-4. Know where the exits are and your way out in a dark hall. Crawl the wall-on the floor to your nearest exit. Carry a pelican flashlight in your carryon. We lost power frequently, you won't likely have that problem, but having a flashlight next to your bed in a strange hotel is always a good idea. People will stampede standing up in a hallway and die of CO. You crawl the wall on the floor the the door to exit (that you already counted when you checked into the room). Example I'm 4doors to the left to the exit stair. If the hallway is full of smoke and heat, use your alternate. Balcony etc.

We gave out door wedges to our folks. Kept a door wedge in my bag with my flashlight. Use on the inside of the room door to keep unwanted folks out while you are sleeping. Again, you and your wife may not be going to places you have to worry about that, but I thought I'd share. I used the door wedges on my 6 week tour in Monrovia, Liberia and Sierra Leone the following, and then got in the habit of throwing the door wedge under the door and having a flashlight at other hotels in other countries or the US.
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Old 04-29-2017, 12:47 PM
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Wow, great advice, thanks. What in the hell were you doing in Freetown. In my younger days I participated in a NEO and we stripped that place clean of Americans.
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Old 04-29-2017, 01:03 PM
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I worked the Ebola outbreak in 2014-2015 in Monrovia, Liberia and 2015-2016 in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Wonderful people over there in a horrible situation.

Remember to write down the number (with country code) for the US Embassy in each country. They are posted on line, US Marine post is. 24/7 at the embassies. The US State department folks are always willing to help us citizens in case of legal, medical or other trouble such as emergency evacuation. But they have to know you need help. Putting these numbers in your/your wife's chest pack can help you out in an emergency, even if it's an emergency at home and you need legal or medical help.

ps-one of the guys told me about the emergency evac in Monrovia, and Freetown years ago. Thank heaven for our service men and women.
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Old 04-29-2017, 01:12 PM
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I was there for for operation noble obelisk. We pulled a bunch of people out of there. I just realized that it took place nearly 20 years ago. That will make you feel old.

I will definitely show her your advice. Thanks!
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Old 04-29-2017, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Billdo View Post
I was there for for operation noble obelisk. We pulled a bunch of people out of there. I just realized that it took place nearly 20 years ago. That will make you feel old.

I will definitely show her your advice. Thanks!
Small world, you guys did well. My hats off to you!

The infrastructure still hasn't recovered in a large number of places.
I worked with some of the best folks in the world in both countries, and we had some very brave US troops on our speed dial. Wonderful, wonderful young Americans working in challenging conditions as well.

Here's a photo of the type of hidden chest pack I used for both of my long tours. It stayed on me at all times under my shirt.
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Old 04-29-2017, 01:27 PM
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Turn on international calling and data roaming. I read a $1000 email once (I downloaded a large attachment).

Don't sit around looking at your smart phone, take street pics sparingly. Certain smart phones, especially iPhones, are as liquid to thieves as currency.

Get whatsapp and skype downloaded onto her devices (free ways to communicate via text and video using wifi connection).

Don't skimp on hotels, stay in nicer places. I don't trust in-room hotel safes in even 5 star places.

Convert some cash into euros before she leaves (use your bank, they should give you a decent rate and can order them in if they don't have any at the bank already).

Also she needs to take her ATM card, international transaction fees are reasonable. TELL YOUR CC COMPANIES WHERE YOURE GOING AND DURATION OF STAY!!!.

Leave all your jewelry at home. Wear a cheap watch if necessary.

Ask concierge/hotel what are acceptable modes of public transportation for tourists.

Some of these may be overkill, but no reason not to play it safe in this day and age. Hope she has a (safe) blast!

Edit to add: customs--if she plans to buy large ticket items (Rolex, purse, whatever), she can suck it up and pay taxes or wear it back on her and mail the boxes back home. I'm not suggesting or condoning anything, just answering a question.
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Old 04-29-2017, 01:30 PM
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Make sure she has adapters as much of Europe does not use the same electric outlet as us.

AMEX is rarely taken in other countries.

Copies of docs on person, original in the safe in the hotel.

That is all first-world and a lot of english is spoken.
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Old 04-29-2017, 01:46 PM
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She'll be on one of the Viking river cruises going down the Rhine and taking lots of "touristy" type tours. I'm not anticipating her venturing too far from base camp. We've got the whatsapp and the boat has WIFI. The jewelry is a good idea, and not something I had thought about. She has all the contact info for the embassies. That hidden fanny pack is a good idea too. This is all good info. Thanks!
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Old 04-29-2017, 02:05 PM
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That chest wallet is $15. At trekkin
Here's the link.

https://www.trekkinn.com/outdoor-mou...8MsA&gclsrc=ds
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Old 04-29-2017, 02:17 PM
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Travel health insurance
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Old 04-29-2017, 02:20 PM
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europe like visa, take 2 cards in different networks
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Old 04-29-2017, 02:31 PM
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I must be dong it all wrong - I have been to Germany, Switzerland & France at least 8x each and the Netherlands twice - they aren't like a third world country - it is more like traveling in the USA except for the language issues. I haven't taken any more precautions than I would take in Miami, Chicago, Boston, Houston or New Orleans.
As far as necessities, at least 2 power adapters, copy of passport and drivers license, some cash, but more important a bank card and MC & Amex - you can get Euro's or Swiss Francs at the ATM.
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Old 04-29-2017, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by gumpire View Post
Travel health insurance
I believe travel insurance covers foreign medical need. Probably depends on policy I guess.
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Old 04-29-2017, 08:40 PM
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In those countries she will have zero issues whatsoever. AMEX and all other major credit cards should work just fine, just make sure she has multiple, and has chip and pin.

There will be ATMs everywhere. Easiest thing to do is just withdraw a few times to save on fees. Some US banks have partnerships with international banks, so look into that. Wells Fargo sucks at this, so figure $5-7 in fees each time if she does that. Still, for that price I recommend just using the ATMs once over there. Skip Travelex, they suck. Just find an ATM in the airport. And make sure your bank knows all travel information. No need to get cash beforehand unless she just wants to. It's also best to have a card with no foreign transaction fees.

I've never had AMEX not be accepted, but Capital One is my main travel card.

Get a set of Euro adapters off Amazon.

Also, as far as cell phone, for $10 a day Verizon lets you use your data just as you do back home. It is completely worth it because then she doesn't have to worry about it.

Hope she has fun...the countries she is going to are safer than most places in the US, and way ahead of us in alot of ways. She will have no problems.
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Old 04-29-2017, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Billdo View Post
She'll be on one of the Viking river cruises going down the Rhine and taking lots of "touristy" type tours. I'm not anticipating her venturing too far from base camp. We've got the whatsapp and the boat has WIFI. The jewelry is a good idea, and not something I had thought about. She has all the contact info for the embassies. That hidden fanny pack is a good idea too. This is all good info. Thanks!
You didn't originally say your wife was going to be traveling FIRST CLASS. She'll be very well taken care of on a river cruise.

We just returned 2 days ago from Portugal, Spain, Italy and Hungary--1 month trip.

Tell the wife to skip the voice feature on the cell phone. My T-Mobile phone only worked 2 1/2 calls on their international plan and I got the customer service go around from the Phillipines. We did all of our travel communication by e-mail (10" Chromebook) and hopefully Viking doesn't charge $150 for WIFI like ocean cruise lines charge per week. We find it nice not talking to anyone via cellphone.

If you order Euros through your local bank before leaving, they're going to eat you alive on the exchange rate and charges. We always obtain spending money (Euros) out of a bank ATM machine--not a Travelex, AmEx or other offbrand ATM. Every time we can use a credit card, we will use the credit card--and get travel miles for our next trip.

I preach traveling light. I watched my world traveler parents going everywhere--with my poor father hauling my mother's huge 45 lb. suitcase. My family rule is 21" rolling carry on and a small underseat bag and everyone handles their own baggage. I actually carried too many clothes for our trip. I wonder if Viking does laundry for free--given the cost of that style trip?

I do suggest carrying a photocopy of a passport along with you--in case the original passport is misplaced/stolen.
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Old 04-29-2017, 08:53 PM
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Originally Posted by TorFed View Post
I believe travel insurance covers foreign medical need. Probably depends on policy I guess.
Medjet insurance can also be gotten.
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Old 04-29-2017, 09:00 PM
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It doesn't matter to me if you're traveling to Vatican City or Venezuela, always be prepared and take precautions. You are not in your hometown or country. Always have a way to stay connected and to get cash.

Granted, there's a 99% chance you'll be perfectly fine traveling--until you're not. Keep your head up, but enjoy yourself. Nice is the perfect example of this. Unfortunately, this is the world in which we live now. Coming from a guy who had a gun pointed in his face abroad as a tourist. Funny that it never happened here in the USA.
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Old 04-29-2017, 09:26 PM
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There is almost no crime where you are going, save the occasional pick pocket, and even that is rare. Europe is so easy now, its like going to another state. ATMs everywhere, most places take most cards, the dutch speak better english than Americans, you can rent a car just like here...

I wouldn't walk around wearing the crown jewels, but chances are in Switzerland the doorman will be wearing a nicer watch than you. So have fun and consider it just like the US, only safer, cleaner, and with better food.

The only areas in the EU that are even slightly sketchy are southern Italy and Spain, and even then the worst you will see is pickpockets.
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Old 04-29-2017, 10:10 PM
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Call your credit card companies before leaving and tell them your travel itinerary. Also your bank, and use your debit card at the "Cash Points" to get cash. Don't worry about getting some before she leaves because every airport has ATMs in the arrival halls. Get it on arrival.
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