Post # 1
FI and I are going to London, Paris, and Rome for our honeymoon in September. I am looking for any and all advice any of you bees want to offer up- from travel tips, etiquette, what to pack/what not to pack, to what to do/what not to do- anything. I’ve never been out of the country before, so this is a big deal for me. I appreciate any wisdom you wish to share. Thanks! 🙂
Post # 3
Oh gosh. There’s a lot to say here, so I’ll try to keep it short.
- Pack lightly if you can. If you’re visiting a lot of different places, you don’t want to be hauling around a huge suitcase everywhere! (Are you flying or taking trains?)
- At least try to speak the language. Buy a couple of pocket translation guides for French and Italian. Attempt it and people will be that much nicer to you. You’ll find a lot of people in the tourist areas speak english, but it’s so nice for them to have someone who attempts to become part of their culture.
- Stay in the places you like for longer. Take a day or two more if you’re really enjoying a place, don’t stick to a strict time line.
- Don’t eat where the tour buses go. Try to eat in little places full of locals, the food is more authentic and better quality vs for a tourist bus place they pump it out quickly and cheaply. Not the best.
- Don’t force yourself to do 8 million churches. You’ll get beyond the point of saturation! Do the important ones or any extras that really pique your interest, but don’t feel obligated to go in each one. It’s Europe. There are literally thousands of old churches.
- If you have an extra couple of days go to Florence!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Honestly, I prefer it over Rome, but I’m biased, I lived there for a while 😉
- Eat lots of gelato!!!!! Mmmmmmm!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- Take a day pack, but pack any money, etc hidden inside of something that’s hidden inside of something else. You can never be too safe no matter where you go.
- Enjoy yourself! You’re going to have an amazing trip!
Post # 4
- Wedding: May 2011 - Bartram's Garden
I gave some Paris tips in a comment in this post. There is a lot of other good advice in that thread in general.
I’ve also been to London twice but all I did was shop, eat and drink, so I can’t really provide any sightseeing tips. I didn’t make it to Rome when I was in Italy so I’m no help there.
As far as what to pack, I’d say to go fairly casual if you want to fit in. Europeans don’t seem to try so hard when it comes to fashion. Also, wear comfy shoes but not sneakers – if you’re going to wear sneaks, you might as well wear an Uncle Sam hat and a giant blinking sign that says “AMERICAN!!”
I’m not sure if you speak any languages, but if not, bring a phrase book and at least try to communicate in French or Italian if you can. Everyone warned me that the French were rude, but I didn’t encounter any rudeness at all, and I think that’s because whenever I entered a store or restaurant, I greeted everyone in French and tried my best to communicate in their language (although I know NOTHING – I took Spanish in school). Everyone could see that I was at least trying and then took pity on me and spoke to me in English.
Post # 5
Pack a lot of basics and throw in a lot of accessories. I found that I never wanted to wear my “causal” clothes (yoga pants, zip up hoodie, etc) since people just don’t really wear that stuff over there. Remember adapters for your stuff (camera, laptops, etc). Check the voltage on them. I had to buy a new straighter over there b/c my adapter fried mine b/c it couldn’t handle the high wattage of the straighter. BOO. it was like $70 UDS for a cheap one.
I lived in: Skinny jeans, bootleg jeans, couple of black tank tops, black day-to-night skirt, brightly colored pashminas, cardigan, and a black military jacket, plus pair of flats. Sundresses work well for the day too and I brought a cocktail dress which I wore about 3x with different accessories.
When I was in Rome it was HOT during the day. I wish I had a large hat… you could even just buy one when you’re there. If you’re going to visit any of the religious sites in Rome make sure you bring something to cover your shoulders (like at the Vatican). Taxis are also pretty expensive in Rome so check the bus schedules.
AND, i totally made fun of my traveling partners for this, but they brought the Rick Steves books for each location and they had a ton of really great tips on how/when to go to popular tourist spots (like how not to wait in line for the Coliseum) and great restaurants (found a hidden pub in London that was FANTASTIC).
Oh, and people eat dinner late there. So, if you want a busy restaurant atmosphere go to dinner after 7:30p.
Post # 6
- Wedding: May 2011 - Bartram's Garden
Oh, yeah, I lost a flat iron AND a hair dryer in Paris because they burnt out. I used the plug adapter but not the voltage converter. FAIL.
Post # 7
- Wedding: September 2010 - MacLean Park
Again, PACK LIGHT! Most hotels don’t let you check in right away, and you may have to carry your bag around sight seeing. Also, try as much native food as possible. Steer clear of McDonald’s and be adventurous! I did the same London, Paris, Rome excursion in 2008, but I stayed in hostels. It was so much fun, you’re going to have great memories. Also, take a camera and a lot of extra batteries. And don’t be afraid to have strangers take your picture, you’ll regret only having “myspace” style pics or those with just one of you. Have Fun!
Post # 8
Oh, can I just tell you how AWESOME you girls are for all this great advice?!?!?! Thank you SO much! A few questions:
1) Where do I get a plug adapter and voltage converter? I don’t think I’m gonna bring a hair straightener, but I was planning on bringing my hair dryer, which was very expensive, and high voltage.
2) Any tips on comfy flats to buy so I don’t have to completely look like an American tourist- but at the same time, my feet aren’t killing me?
Post # 9
I’m an American but have been living in London for 6 years and travel throughout the continent frequently. Here are my top recs:
1. No tennis shoes. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb. I saw someone else mentioned that above but just thought I’d reinforce it. Also- the warm up pants/yoga pants/sweat suits look is considered to be “trashy” in England so don’t do it. 🙂
2. Wear comfortable shoes. You are going to walk so much more than you think you will. Unless you live in Manhattan, you’ll walk much more than you do on average in America. Think about a pair of flats that are actually comfortable and supportive, or a pair of supportive sandals (not flip flops) if you are traveling when it’s hot.
3. Even though it’s September, it could easily be chilly in London. Bring layers and be prepared for wet weather. Never leave your hotel without an umbrella.
4. When you are in the West End in London, it’s easiest to walk, rather than take the Tube. Things are much closer to each other than you might think, and you can easily walk from Picadilly Circus to Leicester Square in under 10 minutes, and then down to the Thames in another 15-20 minutes. It’s much easier than fighting the crowds on the Tube.
5. Go to the museums in London. They are FREE!!!! (Really)
6. Eat millions of scoops of gelato in Rome, feast on falafels from L’as du Falafel in the Marais in Paris (but don’t go on a Fri night/Sat as they are closed) and ice cream from Berthillon on the Ile St Louis, and have a fabulous time.
If you want restaurant recs in London- PM me- I’d be happy to send you a list.
Post # 10
RE: comfy flats: Try Clark’s for a simple pair of ballet flats with good support.
RE: adaptors: Amazon.com
Post # 11
@Monkeygirl: The voltage/plug converter set you can get at your local AAA office (or I’m assuming you can, we get them at CAA here in Canada). Or you could even try Walmart. You may want to consider buying a little fold up travel hair dryer to save space, and also, in case something happens to it! You don’t want to ruin or lose your expensive one!
As for flats, bring a pair of good flip flops with a thicker sole (I prefer them over flats), but be prepared to wash your feet when you get back to the room every night. I love my Jessica Simpson Leve flats, I wear them all the time. You can get them at Macy’s, Amazon, Zappos, etc. They’re super comfy and don’t take up a lot of space.
Post # 12
@danadelphia: How funny, I tried to speak French to people and Parisians were horribly rude! I had also been in Europe for a few months so I wasn’t exactly “screaming” American Tourist 😉
The main thing I’ve learned, Paris is VERY hit or miss. It’s the kind of city people either REALLY love, or really don’t. I wanted to leave paris early… Since I’m on Paris.
- Hand Sanitizer. Lots of it. The Metro is disgusting and at least when I was there, many times you have to touch the doors to get them to open. It smells and rats run around the tracks.
- Know what you want to see. Notre Dame is cool and amazing, but Sacre Coeur is better imho (great views too). If you’re Catholic, make sure you swing by the Rue de Bac.
- Go off the main streets. Get lost (with a map) and find the neighborhoods. Stop in local coffee shops, etc. (this goes for everywhere.)
- The further you get from the Eiffel Tower, the better the “parisian” experience 😉
- If you are Christian, this is going to be a hard one. Depends on how much time. There’s so much history of Christianity there! Really, you’ll need to pick up a good guide book and figure our what is important for the two of you to see in your time frame.
- If you are limited on time, skip the sistine chapel. It can talk half to a whole day between the line and tour etc…
- Lots of Gelato. Roman Gelato is amazing.
- Don’t bother to pay or go inside the colosseum.
- Have fun. Rome is amazing and find what’s important because you could spend a month there and not see it all.
- My parents live there and it’s one of my favorite European cities! Jealous 😉 I miss it
- Know what you want to see. My personal favorite “tourist” area of London is Tower Hill. You have the Tower of London and Tower Bridge right there.
- It is probably worth doing a hop on/hop off bus for a day. See EVERYTHING and decide what you want to go back and explore.
- Shopping, I could go on and on about all the fabulous stores.
- Harrods, Don’t be surprised if you get lost!
- I wouldn’t order Steaks. Beef is so hit or miss over there… It’s either done REALLY well, or really poorly. You don’t even want to know how much fat I found in a Filet once…
- Depending on how long you are going to be there, it may be worth it to get an Oyster Card for transportation. You tap the card at the bus or underground and it deducts the amount from your card. The plus side, is you top out at a rate lower than a daily unlimited pass. So you can either travel all you want for less, or pay only for what you use.
Dress for all three cities will be chilly more than likely. Skinny jeans with knee high boots, skirts and dresses with knee high boots. Scarfs are a must accessory. Trenches and pea coats.
Purses you can sling over your shoulder and have a zipper closure with flap over top zipper if possible. BE AWARE OF YOURSELF. Especially in Rome, Pickpocketing is really bad there. You have to be so so so careful in Rome!
Main thing, ENJOY! Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to take fI to Rome and London one day. My parents are probably moving back to the states within the year so it (London) probably won’t happen ;-(
Post # 13
@KLP2010: I totally disagree with your comment about the Colosseum. I could have skipped so many of the other Roman Ruins, but I loved the Colosseum! The history and architecture is incredible!
I really enjoyed the Sistine Chapel, but the line ups really are out of control. I’m glad I’ve seen it once, I would love to see it again, but the times I’ve been in Rome again the line ups have been too long to justify it. The Vatican is incredible though. If you can get a guidebook that tells you a bit about the history and meaning of the statues and sculptures it’s really interesting.
I found Parisians to be really sweet and polite, not at all like the stereotype. However, I found Paris (or maybe just the part of Paris I was in) to be a bit scary at night and the men are very forward.
Post # 14
Seconding KLP2010, if you plan on taking the Tube in London, definitely get an Oyster card — much less hassle than individual tickets!
And London has an awesome theater scene, so if you’re into theater it’s the perfect place to see some shows!
And this is just common sense, but avoid going out alone at night. Even when I was with another female friend and we were dressed modestly, we got constant catcalls and verbal harassment from men in Paris.
Post # 15
I also disagree about the Colosseum. For me, it was a must do. The sheer size of it is amazing. Also- you can make a reservation in advance at the Sistine Chapel and skip the line. It’s worth it. Also, get a museum pass in Paris and you can skip the lines at the Louvre, d’Orsay etc.
Post # 16
I loved Paris as well but I was also traveling with a French speaker so that helped but I agree that you may run into people that are a bit snobby about their language. The majority of people though were very nice about it but it helps just to approach them in french and ask if they speak english instead of making the assumption that they do. If you do try out French or Italian try and get someone to help you with pronunciation. There’s a lot of phrases that just sound like jibberish in French if they’re not said in the right way.
My favorite part was walking around Montmartre, which is where the Sacre Coeur is and lots of little artsy places. But I loved just walking around Paris, there’s so much going on you’re sure to run into something interesting. And the Louvre isn’t that expensive and has such neat art.