Since we have a three-day holiday weekend, I’m off to Berlin with a group of friends. I have wanted to visit Berlin for many years so I am very excited about this trip. Stay tuned for lots of photos and stories next week. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few tips for travel in Eastern Europe.
- Make sure you have at least an hour and a half layover in Warsaw if changing planes. I only had an hour on my trip last September and I barely made it through immigration to catch my flight to Krakow.
- In my experience, Ryanair isn’t as terrible as people say — but do follow the luggage rules. I think “priority boarding” is worth the extra money.
- Don’t have a online password (for example, to access your email) that has a $ in it. I’ve discovered that many European keyboards don’t have the $, so if you are checking your email at a library or the hotel, you may not be able to access it.
- Also, always check to make sure the computer is set to English before typing in your password. I sometimes forget to do this after writing in Lithuanian on my laptop. I get really frustrated because a website will say my password is incorrect — I won’t realize that I’m typing letters with diacritical marks instead of numbers.
- Know the answers to your security questions, especially if you will be logging onto financial websites while you are in Europe — even if you will be using your own laptop. The website will recognize that you are logging in from outside the US, which typically triggers the security questions. I once couldn’t access my bank account because I couldn’t remember the answer to a question and the website wouldn’t give me an alternate question — after several attempts it just locked me out.
- Be prepared to call your bank and unblock your ATM card after trying to use it at a bank machine in Eastern Europe. This is a high ATM fraud region and often American banks will block ATM card usage even if you notified the bank that you will be traveling.
- In London, I always bought my train tickets from the cashier rather than the ticket machine. I discovered that they could sell me discounted return tickets and passes that either weren’t available from the machine or I didn’t know how to request from the machine.