4 Things to Do to Make Your Central European Vacation Go More Smoothly
Central Europe is easily one of the most sought after travel destinations on the planet and is as rich in history, culture, natural landmarks, and attractions of all sorts, as you could possibly hope to find anywhere.
For that reason, Central Europe – the region encompassing countries like Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Hungary – is increasingly finding its way onto the travel bucket lists of people from all around the world, and particularly from North America.
In addition to the rich cultural, historical, and natural heritage of the region, the free movement allowed by the Schengen area means that a vacation to central Europe can be an excellent way of getting the most “bang for your buck,” by allowing you to experience many different cultures and regions, with very little fuss, and in a relatively short space of time.
But if you are planning to do a tour of the region, and to explore places like Prague, Krakow, the Białowieża Forest, and Dresden, there are nonetheless certain things that you should do in order to ensure that your trip goes off without a hitch and that you have the best possible experience.
Here are a few things to do to make your Central European vacation go more smoothly.
Get a Good Sim Card
Choosing the right sim card will allow you to maintain affordable phone service across borders
Not too long ago, travelers even within Europe would sometimes find themselves being slapped with enormous phone bills (in the region of thousands of euros or British pounds, in some cases) due to roaming charges that they dramatically underestimated when heading out on their travels.
Since then, many regulations have been tightened up to limit the chances that you will find yourself bankrupt if you happen to use your phone to access the web while on vacation. Still, depending on your phone service provider and data plan, you may or may not find yourself struggling to maintain service, and may end up spending more money than you would like when touring the continent.
It’s a great idea to begin your Central European odyssey by getting a good sim card that allows you to maintain affordable phone service across borders, ideally with as much consistency as possible.
Take some time to research your options, and to weigh up the relative pros and cons of different providers.
SMARTY introduced new Unlimited plan that may be just what the doctor ordered, for example, and getting on board with that plan might help you to remain contactable by your friends and family when out on the road. It can also potentially go a long way towards reducing stress and irritation while allowing you to continue to plan your trip on the go.
Get a Revolut Card
Consider investing in a Revolut card, or similar, for a better exchange rate on your travels
Across much of Europe, the common currency of the Euro means that you can wander from country to country without really having to worry much about currency exchanges, and all the rest.
Many of the countries of Central Europe, however, still have their own distinct currencies, such as the Polish złoty and the Czech koruna. Among other things, this means that you might develop a bit of a headache when moving between countries, due to the need to continually change currency, look for the best exchange rates, and so on.
Fortunately, various services have popped up that allow you to streamline this process, and reduce a lot of the tension and irritation that goes along with it. Specifically, the pay-as-you-go credit card service and app “Revolut” allows you to keep a “wallet” active via an online account, and then change currency back-and-forth on the fly using a web service, with exchange rates that will typically be much better than those you will find at local cashpoints.
The app makes it easy to top up your Revolut card on-the-fly, and the card itself will be compatible with any services and shops that accept MasterCard. But you can also use your Revolut card to draw money from ATMs, too.
The process of getting your Revolut card is quite straightforward. Just apply for one online, pay a small fee, and wait for it to arrive in the mail.
Revolut is just one of the most popular of these sorts of services currently on offer. There are various others you could also explore. But whichever particular service you choose to use, you’ll likely find that your trip becomes much more pleasurable, and much less stressful, as a result.
Pick Up Some Guidebooks in Advance
Make a shortlist of all the things you want to see. Central Europe is an incredibly “densely packed” place. The countries that make up the region tend to be on the smaller side, and each one has a rich history stretching back for centuries, if not millennia, in one form or another.
One consequence of this is that there are not just a handful of relevant attractions to visit on a trip – but thousands, upon thousands. If you try to “wing it,” and improvise your plans completely on the go, you’ll likely find yourself completely overwhelmed, and wasting your precious time trying to figure out just what you should be doing.
In order to ensure that you don’t miss out on certain attractions and landmarks that might have made your holiday a dream come true, it’s important for you to pick up some guidebooks in advance, and spend some time systematically going through them, and making a shortlist of the various things you want to see and do.
Then, once you’re there, you can afford to improvise a little bit, without completely losing track of what’s going on, and getting caught up in the general mayhem of the situation.
Travel With a Local
Travelling as a lone tourist, or even with a group of friends or relatives from your home country, can be an incredible experience in and of itself. But, if you want to have a trip that takes you beyond the main tourist areas, one of the best things you can do is to travel with a local, if at all possible.
If you come from a place like the United States, you will likely find that the various cultures that exist in Central Europe are quite distinct from the culture you’re familiar with from back home. But in order to really experience the full depth and breadth of those cultures, and to navigate their nuances, it’s very helpful to have a “local connection” who can show you around, help you to communicate, and open doors for you.
A common theme in many of the Slavic nations of Central Europe is hospitality towards guests, which often includes hearty traditional meals. Beyond that, though, nations such as Poland are steeped in specific cultural traditions and rituals that go back far into the mists of history. With a local friend to guide you around and explain things to you, you will often be able to experience many of these traditions first hand. If not, however, you might miss out on a lot.
In Poland, the November celebration of Andrzejki traditionally features fortune-telling games of various sorts, while the name days of various saints will see large numbers of people attending special church sessions for rituals as specific as having their bicycles blessed in order to ensure safe travel.
If you don’t have a local friend or contact to guide you around, be sure to take guided walking tours wherever possible, and to do some of your own historical and cultural research before embarking on your trip. This can deepen the experience significantly.