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BE SURE YOUR PASSPORT IS CURRENT. MAKE XEROX COPIES OF THE 2 INSIDE PAGES WHICH INCLUDE YOUR PICTURE & PASSPORT NUMBER. PUT THE COPIES IN A DIFFERENT PLACE FROM PASSPORT SHOULD IT BE LOST. IT MAKES IT EASIER TO GET A REPLACEMENT.
Ladies: Don't take expensive jewelry, be sure to hold onto your purse, especially a shoulder bag. Gentlemen: Don't put large amounts of money, credit cards & passport in a back pocket of your trousers. Better, put it in a pocket inside your jacket.
Most widely accepted credit cards abroad are Visa and MasterCard. Leave other credit cards at home. You may want your driver's license for additional identification.
On your return to the U.S. you will have to clear immigrations and customs on arrival back in the U.S.
You are each allowed $400 duty free. Keep receipts for purchases made abroad. If buying from a street vendor, or can't get a receipt, keep a record of the amount paid. Unless you spend over your $400 limit, you do not have to list purchases on the customs form you complete on returning to the U.S. Antiques with papers to verify them, paintings and local art work are exempt from customs, but the customs agents should be advised you have them.
Check on your medical insurance coverage. Medicare does not cover you outside the U.S. You might want to take additional trip accident and illness insurance before departing.
Currency fluctuates frequently in relation to the U.S. dollar. I have found that I normally get better exchange rates when I use my credit card. Best rates of exchange are at a bank, for convenience you may exchange currency at most hotels.
May or early Fall are considered the best months for travel in Europe, but be prepared for showers. Temperatures normally range from 50 to 75 degrees F., but it varies. Southern European countries are somewhat warmer. Depending on where you are going, bring clothes that can be layered.
Tax refund forms of VAT (value added tax) are available in many European countries on purchases made by visitors. A form should be obtained at the point of purchase, completed and turned in at the airport. Payment may be made on the spot, credited to your credit card, or the refund mailed to you later.
Shopping hours vary from country to country
Phone from outside the U.S. To access AT&T, dial an access code first which will vary from country to country. Inquire as to what it is before leaving the U.S. Most hotels have additional service charges for any calls. Check with each hotel before calling. You may decide to use a pay phone!
Electricity in many other countries are 220 volts and you may need both a converter and an adaptor.
Time in Europe is normally from 6 to 9 hours ahead of Central Standard Time. Eastern Canada is CST
Tipping is at your discretion. Most hotels and restaurants include a service charge of 10 to 15%. A small tip is appreciated for great service. Tipping is not usual in pubs. Tip cabs about 10%.
Entry fees to many attractions offer "old age pensioners" (Sr. Citizen) discounts.
Decide ahead of time what you think you may spend in cash and try not to cash too many large bills or travelers checks and be left with foreign currency which you will have to pay again to convert back to U.S. dollars.