Europe 2013 Planning Mode: Other important stuff you need to know

by oz chinita

ONE DAY LEFT UNTIL I FLY TO EUROPEEE!!!!

So excited I can’t sit still in the office anymore… I found that the fun part of planning was deciding on itinerary and what we want to see and do.

But there’s soooo much other things to think about especially on a self done itinerary such as the visa (if you don’t have any), the money conversion, what to pack, etc that I had to look through several internet pages and ask different people on to help make my upcoming trip go as well as it can possibly go.

So I thought to save others the same pain of researching, I’ll try to put in here a compilation based on my own research!

Visa Requirements

I luckily did this trip with an Australian passport in hand, so I didn’t need to worry about this anymore.  However for my friend who has an Indonesian passport, this can be a painful process as to how to get the visa. (Note: this assumes that you’re travelling only to countries covered by the Schengen visa)

First, have an itinerary at hand and check which country you will spend the majority of your trip in.  That’s where you will need to go to the consulate for to apply your visa.  If you’re spending equal amounts in each country, then you can choose any of those embassies to apply your visa to (for our case it was Italy). Make an appointment early on.  My friend decided last minute to join us a month before the trip, and it was a bit stressful trying to get an appointment which allows enough time to process the visa in 2 weeks.  So book early!

Then bring the following documents:

  1. visa application form
  2. recent passport-style photo
  3. passport or travel document valid for at least three months after visa expiry date
  4. return-trip booking or ticket or proof of available means of personal transport
  5. proof of available lodging: tourist vouchers, hotel booking, offer of hospitality. For this one, make sure the booking is under your name.  For my friend because I made the bookings and it was all under my name, the embassy asked for evidence that she was joining me.  I ended up having to go do a statutory declaration letter stating that she is joining me and that I made the bookings, plus proof of my own identity.
  6. proof of economic means of support, as per Ministry of Interior Directive 1.3.2000(click here)
  7. documentation of socio-professional standing
  8. health insurance policy with a minimum coverage of €30,000 for emergency hospital and repatriation expenses

Also, another thing to think about (which almost sent us to a panic), is to see if your flight has any stopovers which will require additional visas.  Our flight had a stopover to both China and London. The China one we were okay with since we only stay there 3 hours, but with the London one again we panicked because her Indonesian passport might have needed a UK visa!

Luckily for her case it said that since she has an Australian PR visa and she won’t be in London more than 24 hours, no visa required! (whew)

Options to bring money

We have heard lots of warnings from friends and family about pickpockets in Italy and Paris, that we’re very paranoid about bringing a lot of cash.  Plus we weren’t sure where the conversion rate would be best, here in Australia or over there in Europe?  Some more info from another website here

Option 1:  Obsessively monitor the currency exchange rate early on, and if you find the rate which you think is at the peak, exchange your money locally.

If you were to go with this, so far I found that Travelex had the best rates I could find within Melbourne, and if you pay via BPAY, no commission fees!

Option 2: Travel debit card.  My other friend showed this to me, what she did was got this card from Virgin Australia which allows you to load money for the rate at that point in time.  That way you can get the best rate and exchange it later on!

Option 3: Use your ATM card.  According to this website, this option allows you to get the same great interbank exchange rate when you make cash withdrawals with your debit or ATM card as you do when you make a credit card purchase.  This option also is safer since they can’t steal your money as easily.  But this one depends on your bank as to what the charges may be when withdrawing money overseas.  I called up my bank to ask about this, and they luckily have partner banks that I can use in the countries I’m travelling so I can withdraw money with no additional fees!  The rate used will be the rate on the day I withdraw money.  With this option also make sure to call up your bank and inform them of your date of travel so they don’t block your cards.

What to wear/bring?

This is probably just a problem for girls.. but I really had to think about what clothes/shoes to bring.  Given that we were doing a lot of walking, I know I had to bring really comfy shoes, but at the same time I wanted to look pretty in photos!! So in a pre-Europe shopping trip, I discovered the Skechers go-walk series..

They were amazingly comfy and light on the feet, plus so many different colors so you can easily mix and match with a lot of casual clothes! 😀 A bit pricey at 89.95 AUD, but should be well worth it when I go walking all throughout the trip (will see).

Also I was warned about packing light especially since we’re doing a lot of train travel, and most stations only have stairs.. So I bought this 50L trolley from Kathmandu (around 50% sale) which can convert into a backpack.  It was a challenge, but I managed to fit in all my clothes and shoes! (With some help from those vacuum bag thingies from Kmart to compress the clothes).

For my hand carry bag, I wasn’t sure what to go with.  Some people were saying the type of bag doesn’t matter as long as you’re careful and aware of pickpockets.  Others say it’s better to bring a cross body bag so it’s harder for pickpockets to snatch the bag away.  For my case I followed the latter.. I want to make sure I make it as difficult as possible for anyone to steal anything from me :p  On top of that I have a thin belt bag that I can wear over my clothes for extra security.

That’s it for now!! Until my next post

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2 thoughts on “Europe 2013 Planning Mode: Other important stuff you need to know

  1. There is really no need to stress about pick pockets in Paris… I remember my french teacher panicking our school group, warning to wear our bags on the front, have nothing in our pockets and put locks on everything… I have now been there three times and never followed her advice, had anything stolen or met/heard stories of anyone being pick pocketed. It’s really no difference to any other big city!

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