REST OF EUROPE TRAVEL TIPS
Most of continental Europe (including Switzerland, France, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Belgium and The Netherlands) is on GMT + 1 hour.
Greece operates on GMT + 2 hours.
Netherlands - Dutch is the official language in the Netherlands. However, English is spoken by many people in major centres and many Dutch people also speak German or French.
France - French is the official language of France. Although many study English as a second language in school, few French people are fluent English speakers. At most hotels and other travel venues, however, it is usually possible to find someone who speaks English. Contrary to popular opinion, most locals will appreciate an attempt to speak their language, so do try to use whatever phrases you know, and invest in a French phrase book.
Germany - German is the national language, mother tongue of more than 110 million people. Bavarian German differs slightly from the Hochdeutsch of most of the rest of Germany, but the differences are slight. Most people who come into regular contact with visitors from overseas speak English to some degree, although English speakers can be rare in rural districts.
Austria - German is the national language, mother tongue in Austria. Austrian German differs slightly from the Hochdeutsch of Germany itself, but the differences are slight. Most people who come into regular contact with visitors from overseas speak English to some degree, although English speakers can be rare in rural districts.
Greece - Modern Greek (as opposed to Ancient) is the national language of Greece. Vernacular speech contains many borrowings from foreign languages, including Italian, French, Turkish and English, so you may hear some familiar words in everyday speech. "Tourist Police" whose lapel badges picture a Union Jack or American flag speak English. In Greece, people whose work brings them into contact with visitors from overseas are generally fluent English speakers.
Switzerland - Switzerland, in the middle of the European continent, has four national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. (Never heard of Romansh? It's an obscure Romance language spoken by only 1% of the Swiss population, shared with a small number of speakers in Italy.) The good news is that most Swiss people are, by necessity, multilingual. Fluency in six or seven languages isn't uncommon. Most people can manage at least a little English, and about 1 in 10 are fluent English speakers.
Czech - Czech, the national language of the Czech Republic is a Slavic language with a long literary history, dating back to the 14th century. Most people who come into regular contact with visitors from overseas speak English to some degree, although English speakers can be rare in rural districts.
Hungary - Hungary's official language is Hungarian, an isolated member of the Finno-Ugrian group. Hungarian's non-European grammar, unique sounds, and reliance on accent to determine the meaning of a word make it a notoriously difficult language to learn. Most people who come into regular contact with visitors from overseas speak English to some degree, although English speakers can be rare in rural districts.
Poland - Polish is a member of the West Slavic language group and has several regional dialects, which correspond to old tribal divisions and the inimitable influence by contact with foreign languages. Considered one of the more difficult languages to learn for non-native speakers it has a complicated system of inflections (words change meaning according to their function, number or gender). However, most people who come into regular contact with visitors from overseas speak English to some degree. English speakers can be rare, however, in rural districts.
Belgium - The official languages of Belgium are Flemish (a dialect of Dutch), French and German; with French being the most widely spoken. However, most people who come into regular contact with visitors from overseas speak English to some degree. English speakers can be rare, however, in rural districts.
Smoking etiquette - There is a smoking ban in all public places such as restaurants, bars, shops in almost all countries in Europe. The law is applied quite extensively in some countries; throwing cigarette butts on the floor in public streets can be considered littering and a fine may occur.
Netherlands, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium and Greece - The Euro, divided into 100 Cents.
Switzerland - The Swiss Franc, divided into 100 Centimes.
Czech Republic - The Koruna (or Czech Crown), divided into 100 Halers.
Hungary - The Forint, divided into 100 Filler.
Poland - The Zloty, divided into 100 Groszy.
In Europe Traveller's cheques are difficult to exchange and are not recommended. Major credit cards (Visa and MasterCard) are widely accepted; Diner's Club and American Express much less so.
There is easy access to ATM outlets throughout Europe. Keep in mind most international ATM machines only accept four-digit PINs. If yours is longer than that, contact your local bank in plenty of time before leaving home to have it changed. Additionally, all merchants in European countries who are accepting any form of credit card payment are now requiring cardholders to enter their PIN instead of signing a receipt for sale transactions.
Foreign Exchange - Exchange currency only at authorised outlets such as banks and hotels, and exchange only what you think you will spend in-country. Coins cannot be reconverted on departure. Save all receipts from any currency exchange transaction. You may be asked to produce them when you exit the country, and they are required if you intend to reconvert local currency.
Netherlands, France, Belgium & Austria - An amount equivalent to approximately EUR 50 per full day of sightseeing is suggested as a tip for your local guide(s), with EUR 30 suitable for your driver. For half-day excursions, equivalents of EUR 30 and EUR 20 are appropriate for guide`s and driver respectively. Transfer drivers should be tipped at a rate of about EUR 10 per service and transfer rep at your discretion. A driver-guide should be tipped EUR 50 for a full day or EUR 30 for a half day of service.
Germany - An amount equivalent to approximately EUR 25 per full day of sightseeing is suggested as a tip for your local guide(s), with EUR 15 suitable for your driver. For half-day excursions, equivalents of EUR 15 and EUR 10 are appropriate for guides and driver respectively. Transfer drivers should be tipped at a rate of about EUR 5 per service and transfer rep at your discretion. A driver-guide should be tipped EUR 25 for a full day or EUR 15 for a half day of service.
Switzerland - An amount equivalent to approximately CHF 40 per full day of sightseeing is suggested as a tip for your local guide(s), with CHF 30 suitable for your driver. For half-day excursions, equivalents of CHF 30 and CHF 25 are appropriate for guide and driver respectively. Transfer drivers should be tipped at a rate of about CHF 15 per service and transfer rep at your discretion. A driver-guide should be tipped CHF 40 for a full day or CHF 30 for a half day of service.
Czech Republic - An amount equivalent to approximately CZK 900 per full day of sightseeing is suggested as a tip for your local guide(s), with CZK 300 suitable for your driver. For half-day excursions, equivalents of CZK 600 and CZK 150 are appropriate for guide and driver respectively. Transfer drivers should be tipped at a rate of about CZK 150 per service and transfer rep at your discretion. A driver-guide should be tipped CZK 900 for a full day or CZK 600 for a half day of service.
Hungary - An amount equivalent to approximately HUF 6,000 per full day of sightseeing is suggested as a tip for your local guide(s), with HUF 3,000 suitable for your driver. For half-day excursions, equivalents of HUF 4,000 and HUF 2,000 are appropriate for guide and driver respectively. Transfer drivers should be tipped at a rate of about HUF 2,000 per service and transfer rep at your discretion. A driver-guide should be tipped HUF 6,000 for a full day or HUF 4,000 for a half day of service.
Poland - An amount equivalent to approximately PLN 75 per full day of sightseeing is suggested as a tip for your local guide(s), with PLN 30 suitable for your driver. For half-day excursions, equivalents of PLN 45 and PLN 15 are appropriate for guide and driver respectively. Transfer drivers should be tipped at a rate of about PLN 15 per service and transfer rep at your discretion. A driver-guide should be tipped PLN 75 for a full day or PLN 45 for a half day of service.
Greece - An amount equivalent to approximately EUR 40 per full day of sightseeing is suggested as a tip for your local guide(s), with EUR 25 suitable for your driver. For half-day excursions, equivalents of EUR 25 and EUR 15 are appropriate for guide and driver respectively. Transfer drivers should be tipped at a rate of about EUR 5 per service and transfer rep at your discretion.
Transfer assistance is at your discretion but if a Guardian Angel performs a special service for you, it would be appropriate to tip him or her at the same rate you would tip a hotel concierge for similar assistance.
Taxi drivers would appreciate a gratuity of rounding up the fare.
Restaurant Service - A charge for service is often added to restaurant checks but if not, a typical gratuity would be equal to 10-15% of the total.
Best time to go to Europe
The best time to visit Europe depends upon your itinerary as the geography is diverse across the continent. May through to the end of September is generally the preferred time period.
Eastern Europe tends to experience very cold winters, especially in inland areas. This is a pretty time to visit and many Eastern and Central European cities and towns hold traditional Christmas Fairs complete with decorated trees and festive entertainment. This region enjoys pleasant warm summers and inland regions can be very hot in July and August, coinciding with the busiest periods. May, June and September are recommended due to the pleasant temperatures, though with fewer crowds.
The Greek mainland and islands are very hot and dry in July and August. August is the preferred travel month for French, Italian and Spanish holiday makers, making road conditions busy, hotel availability limited and the beaches crowded. The shoulder months of May, June and September are infinitely more comfortable and generally less expensive.
The weather in France varies from region to region, from very cool in the north to very hot in the south, dependent upon season. Spring and autumn are the most pleasant seasons, with temperatures comfortably warm in most regions. Long daylight hours make June an attractive month to visit, as long as the midsummer crowds are avoided. July and August are particularly hot in the south, and the beaches and hotels of the French Riviera can be busy and expensive. During the second half of July and August, the French take their vacations and so roads are busy and many businesses close. Winters can be cold in the north, though the south enjoys relatively mild temperatures and crowd free towns and cities, perfect for a city break or peaceful rural retreat.
Spring is particularly pretty throughout Europe as the temperate climate awakens the flora of the region. Wet winters result in green springs and the mountains and plains come alive with blossom and flowers. The Netherlands is noted for its fine bulb fields which are at their best in April and May.
Conservative "smart casual" clothing will be most useful for daytime touring. European day wear is considered to be somewhat formal (especially in larger cities). Therefore shorts are worn only for sporting activities.
For Austria, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary and Poland bring clothing you can layer, remembering that summers can be warm whereas autumn and winter temperatures can be very cold indeed. Pack a coat, hat, gloves, warm socks and sleepwear, etc. if you are visiting between October and April. Public buildings may be chilly in the spring and autumn, when heating may be turned off.
For Southern France & Greece, cotton and other light fabrics are comfortable choices for summertime. Pack a sweater or lightweight jacket for evenings and air-conditioned interiors. Spring and autumn temperatures dictate medium-weight clothing selections. Winters can be considerably colder and warm layers are recommended.
For Northern France, the Netherlands and Belgium, cotton and other light fabrics are comfortable choices for warmer summer days but lightweight sweaters and waterproof jacket are often necessary too. Spring and early autumn temperatures dictate medium-weight clothing selections. Winters can be considerably colder and warm clothing is recommended, including a hat and gloves.
We also recommend you bring comfortable walking shoes with low or no heels, a small umbrella or light raincoat and a swimsuit as some hotels have pools. Authorities in many European countries will not allow visitors in bathing suits or revealing clothing to enter archaeological sites or churches.
When dining at night it may be appropriate for gentlemen to wear a jacket and tie, with an equivalent standard of evening wear for ladies.
Laundry Service is generally available at your hotels. Prices can vary widely though, so please note price lists (and return timing) before using this service.
Avoiding the Baggage Blues - Baggage allowances vary according to airline –check your airline for details. Do NOT pack or bring prohibited items to the airport–check the airports relevant to your trip. Make sure there is contact information inside your bags as well as outside. In case your luggage is delayed make sure you pack essential supplies such as medication, contact lenses, toiletries, etc. in your carry-on bag.
It is important that you check with a qualified health professional for the most current information concerning your travel itinerary and personal health history.
Tap water is generally considered safe to drink in Europe but we recommend you stick to bottled water.
We suggest you carry a simple travellers' first-aid kit containing remedies for headache, minor stomach complaints, motion sickness and colds, as well as band-aids, antiseptics and/or other items as you and your doctor feel may be required.
Some of the places you'll visit in Europe are not easily accessible by vehicle. Sightseeing on yout itinerary may require, at minimum, the ability to walk at a moderate pace for a mile or two, and the balance and agility necessary to climb stairs, enter and exit trains and buses, and navigate uneven or cobble-stoned streets. Some sightseeing stops do not have elevators or wheelchair access. These circumstances can make this European journey more strenuous than an itinerary that visits a developing country in Asia or Africa, where most sightseeing takes place from a vehicle.
High altitude may also be a condition of this journey. Switzerland hosts about 20% of the Alps. While many places visited on a typical tour itinerary such as Lake Geneva or Lake Lucerne lie at moderate elevations, approximately 100 peaks are close to or higher than 4,000 meters (13,125 feet) above sea level. The town of Zermatt lies at an altitude of 5,250 feet above sea level and the cog-wheel railway to Gornergrat station reaches 9,408 feet above sea level. If you or any member of your party has high blood pressure or a heart condition, it is strongly recommend that you consult with a qualified health professional prior to your departure, to discuss the specific conditions and activities within your itinerary as they relate to your personal health history.
In Poland pedestrians and cyclists must wear a reflective item between dusk and dawn when outside a built-up area, regardless of the weather. Anyone hit by a car or a bike when not wearing a reflective item is liable to be held responsible for the accident. Police may impose fines on those not wearing reflective items.
Please advise A&K of any special dietary requirements/allergies at least 6 weeks prior to the beginning of your journey. Every effort will be made to comply with your request. Travellers with physical disabilities and those who require frequent or on-going medical attention should advise A&K of their health situation at the time of booking (or at the time such a situation occurs should this be after the reservation is made).
For up to date information on latest health and vaccination recommendations, please contact your doctor.
Electrical service is supplied at 220 volts/50 hertz.
Etiquette requires that you ask permission before photographing local people, unless you are shooting a crowded public scene. This applies especially to small children. Please be considerate of a desire not to be photographed. Photography is not permitted at some designated locations, which may include some museums and private houses, for example. These areas are usually clearly marked. In general, avoid taking photographs of airports, government buildings and installations, bridges and military or police personnel. If in doubt, please ask-and avoid having your film or camera confiscated. Some churches and museums in Europe charge a fee for photography or video-recording. Your local guide will advise when a fee is required.
Arrival and Departure Formalities
On arrival in Austria, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Hungary, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Greece you will be asked to show your passport on arrival. No forms are required.
France requires a simple Immigration Form requesting basic personal and passport information. France also requires any individual who transports more than €7,600 (or their equivalent) in currency into or out of the country to file a Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instrument.
If you are carrying more than one camera (per traveller) Swiss authorities will ask you to declare your camera equipment.
Germany bans the import or export of any literature, music, books or other paraphernalia that glorifies fascism or Nazism.
Upon entering Poland, U.S. citizens and citizens of non-EU countries should be prepared to provide proof of adequate medical insurance in case of an accident or hospitalisation or proof of access to sufficient financial resources (at least400 zlotys per day) to cover such medical emergencies. Immigration officials in Poland may ask for such documentation upon arrival. Those who lack insurance or access to adequate financial resources may be denied admission to Poland. Additionally, visitors are required to complete a Currency Declaration Form if carrying amounts in excess of EUR10,000.