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Old 08-11-2011, 08:25 PM
 
Location: New York
1,339 posts, read 2,256,984 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chilaili View Post
Bear in mind a couple of things: most European restaurants and shops still do not accept credit cards. Some do, but not the majority so take cash and/or traveller's checks.
I can't remember being in any restaurants that didn't take credit cards.....and I have been around most of western Europe. Maybe some cheaper deli / sandwich / patisserie shops....
I also haven't used travelers cheques since I was 17 on my first holiday without my parents. I have a visa debit and a mastercard and an Amex and only use my cash for markets etc. If you present a TCheque I think most people will be surprised they still exist..... I don't know anyone who has used them for years. I know some people who buy the pre pay type visa cards where you just 'buy' a card with a cash value.

like Charles in PGI I used CC in UK, France, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain, Litchensutein and Belgium.

I can only imagine small places don't take them for small transactions. like a couple of coffees and cakes because they probably get charged a transaction fee but I honestly never had any issues.
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Old 08-11-2011, 08:34 PM
 
Location: New York
1,339 posts, read 2,256,984 times
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Madrid and maybe add Salamanca over Barcelona - unless you want to go to the beach. Salamanca has some fabulous restaurants and admittedly restricted night life but it is much more "Spanish' than Barcelona. Barcelona is a great city and I have great memories of being there and if you want to party this is the place. Madrid I have only been to once for a week and LOVED it - I can't wait to go back there is so much more I want to do. Rome is beautiful I was there for a week this year and it wasn't long enough. Go to the vatican website in advance and get papal audience tickets. they are free and it has to be a must if you are there...
If you are in Paris anyway why not check out the places eurostar goes.... but if it was me I would do Paris, Madrid ( fly from Paris ) Rome ( fly from Madrid ) and back to Paris. 4 days in each and the time to the airport etc....I am much happier spending more time in a place than not really seeing anything of lots of places....
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Old 08-11-2011, 10:50 PM
 
Location: Maryland
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Add us to the no hassle with credit card contingent. We've been to western Europe a number of times (most recently last October) and never had a problem. We use cash (euros obviously) obtained from an ATM for market/small store purchases and CCs for anything else.

There is a potential issue I'm checking out right now about the European ATMs requiring a newer version of smart credit cards. We're off to Italy in early September for several weeks and I need to confirm that our cards will still work. Anyone who has specific and current knowledge on that issue please post.

My apology to the OP for digressing from the topic. Two weeks in Europe may change your life. It is an absolutely wonderful place to visit. Others have far more extensive experience and valuable advice than I can offer and I suggest you can benefit greatly from their input.

We've been enchanted with our experiences to date in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Russia, Belgium, Luxembourg and minor forays in England. I can't think of any country I wouldn't happily return to and look forward to visiting those we haven't.

I would offer this advice: to really appreciate Europe change your mindset from the hustle and bustle of the typical US perspective. Don't do the "how many countries can you cram in" gig. The European cultures have a delightful orientation of not rushing, an expresso savored leisurely whilst people watching is a major pleasure. Take the time to enjoy the simple pleasures of experiencing different cultures.

DO ABSOLUTELY approach all interactions with natives in your most friendly and respectful manner. Even the much maligned French (mostly in Paris) can be helpful and kind to tourists if you are polite. I predict you may become enchanted with the infinitely enjoyable experiences Europe has to offer. You are about to embark on a journey to lands with millennia of history, it is quite different from our "youngster" US environment, prepare to be enthralled!

Safe travels.

PS - definitely skip the Travelers Checks, they are more bother than they are worth and many places don't take them. Use your CC (after notifying the CC company of your travel plans) for any major purchases and ATM withdrawals for pocket money. A few bucks exchanged at the airport (at poor exchange rates) will do you until you hit an ATM in country.

PSS - don't know what your medical insurance coverage is but be sure you have international coverage. If you, as we do, belong to an HMO, you need to be sure and have "Take Me Home" medical evacuation coverage to your facility of choice (within your HMO network), not just the closest available in the US, for any serious medical issues that might happen. Otherwise you can get hit for out of network co-pays. Google the topic and you'll find various plans, they are generally inexpensive. Our upcoming Italian trip insurance will cost about $130.

Last edited by Pilgrim21784; 08-11-2011 at 11:45 PM..
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Old 08-12-2011, 12:14 AM
 
Location: Maryland
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Some thoughts for November travel (by no means an expert on the subject):

Cascais, Portugal and Torremolinos, Spain come to mind. Cascais is one of my favorite cities and a short train ride from Lisbon (also well worth visiting) and you can hit Sintra and other attractions easily.

Torremolinos is a delightful and established beach town meant for relaxing and enjoying the Med., with Madrid as an obvious addition. Seville is worth a visit. The Alhambra in Granada is worth a trip by itself.

The list goes on .....
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Old 08-12-2011, 04:13 AM
 
Location: California Mountains
1,448 posts, read 2,592,788 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pilgrim21784 View Post
There is a potential issue I'm checking out right now about the European ATMs requiring a newer version of smart credit cards. We're off to Italy in early September for several weeks and I need to confirm that our cards will still work. Anyone who has specific and current knowledge on that issue please post.
As of today, no one in my Italian network has received any notice from the bank about the Smart Card. Every Italian I know is still using his/her old credit card.

Here is the English translation of the question I sent out last night to all my Italian friends living in Italy:

"Has Italy started to use the EEurope SmartCard yet? Can Americans still use their regular credit cards at shops and restaurants in Italy?"

The answers are more or less the same, I'm combining them as below:

"For the second part of your question, I can say yes, they do. For the first part, I don't know. Actually, I haven't heard of it yet. I still use my old traditional credit card."

Last edited by Ol' Wanderer; 08-12-2011 at 05:43 AM..
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Old 08-12-2011, 06:31 AM
 
Location: Maryland
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Charles in PGI Many thanks for your assistance! This is our first trip to Italy (Tuscany & Amalfi coast areas) and we are really excited about it. Again, thanks for the kind efforts.
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Old 08-12-2011, 09:59 PM
 
Location: SoCal
6,077 posts, read 9,552,853 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pilgrim21784 View Post
... Even the much maligned French (mostly in Paris) can be helpful and kind to tourists if you are polite. ....
For "Parisians" substitute "New Yorkers". They live in a fast-paced city and so aren't all that patient if you seem to 'get in their way'. But they can be as charming and gracious as anyone, if you don't impede them when they're in motion.

Do try to learn and use at least a couple of words in the languages of the places you're visiting. They'll be charmed, and they'll totally forgive you for mangling the pronunciation, and it'll go a long way to help you escape the stereotype of the arrogant American.
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Old 08-13-2011, 01:55 AM
 
26,591 posts, read 52,413,354 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chilaili View Post
I am not talking about Italy. Most Austrian places of business still will not accept CCs. The hotels probably do or tour operators, but smaller independent entities do NOT like them and may refuse them. You can very easily check at the doors for the CC signs before you go in. Or you can use you card in local ATM machines altho you might want to check with your bank or CC company before you leave what their fees are for that.

P.S. I had problems using my american CC in London just last year even tho the card was perfectly good, so don't take anything for granted
I'm a frequent European traveler and like to get off the beaten path... parts of Austria have excellent bed and breakfasts and even some of the smaller hotels... even one with a 3 star rating refuse credit cards...

I also found it to be disingenuous a few times.

Two years ago, I was taking a group out for dinner outside of Berchtesgaden and the very nice restaurant displayed the Euro/MasterCard insignia on the door...

When it came time to pay, the waiter frowned when I presented my card... he took it and came back and apologized saying he was not able to process it... I said, not a problem, I would be happy to send him my payment.

He tried again, and miracles of miracles... it worked

This has happen to me several times...

Of course any of the top places in towns that cater to the well to do traveller will not have any issues...

A friend that runs an establishment just outside of Salzburg does not except cards either and he has 40 rooms... he said too many people were putting a single beer or one meal on the card so he put a stop to it... apparantly the transaction fee is pretty steep per swipe when you are only buying a beer... I told him in America, even McDonalds takes cards.

Last edited by Ultrarunner; 08-13-2011 at 02:21 AM..
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Old 08-13-2011, 02:12 AM
 
26,591 posts, read 52,413,354 times
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I'm always being asked advice for would be first time travelers to Europe...

The first thing I ask is what do they want to do...

If they want to see a lot of territory in a short time... I recommend a tour.

You know what you will see without the fun or challenge of navigating on your own... never a concern where you will sleep and it can be very efficient.

My preference is to go where I want depending on the weather and events... some of the best memories are from places I just stumbled on at the right time...

I've stayed in one place for several weeks, did the 9 countries in 12 days thing once and also explored a region over a couple of weeks...

It helps that I did work on assignment in Austria and Bavaria for 6 months way back when... kind of gives a person a better insight to the people of the region and also made some lifelong friends...

The worst thing is to be inflexible or walk around being stressed most of the time...

It is easy to go to Europe and spend a $1000 a day for two weeks as one of the Doctors I work with did last year with his wife and two young children...

It is also easy, well not impossible to have a great time on a $100 a day too...

You may find the weather very cold in November depending on elevation and how far inland you are...

I was in Bavaria for October once and the weather was in the 30's and 40's my whole stay...

One thing is constant... the weather in the Alps is changeable any time of year...

Last edited by Ultrarunner; 08-13-2011 at 02:25 AM..
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Old 08-15-2011, 05:35 PM
 
Location: NY-NJ-Philly looks down at SF and laughs at the hippies
1,152 posts, read 1,020,691 times
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In my opinion, it sounds as if you have too many cities crammed within your short amount of time. I am not sure how appealing Europe is to you, but seeing world class cities throughout Europe in only two days and moving on to the next one is not enough for me.

Personally, I would choose a small region within a country and fully travel through it if you are huge into Europe. If Europe is not your thing and you are just going to experience the best cities then I would recommend splitting time between Paris and London with one week in each city. Paris and London are close by rail, only a couple hours.
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