Tips, tricks, tidbits: Surviving travel in a different country


Jemma Bullock

A rainy street in Mons Belgium just begging to be enjoyed by tourists on a stroll. Europe is such an breathtaking continent. The different cultures and countries all in one place is truly amazing. All European countries are different, yet somewhat similar. So if you are traveling across Europe and going through different countries: It is important to keep in mind that while you’re still on the same continent, you are not in the same country.  What I mean by this is that all of these countries, or at least most of them, speak different languages. They have other differences, but this is one of the most important to remember. So, if you were to start your trip in France, and travel to Germany and then maybe to Italy, you have to be prepared for the switch in language.

Jemma Bullock, Staff Reporter; Movie Reviewer

Over this winter break, I went on an overseas trip to five European countries, and I have come back with many different pieces of advice on how to survive such a trip. Trips to different countries are always amazing experiences. You get immersed culturally by trying different foods, drinks, and taking risks. But, just like every other trip, it has its ups and downs. Lucky for you, I have some tips and tricks to help you on your vacation to a different country, as well as some little tidbits of information about each country. 

This holiday season, I visited Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, France, and the Netherlands. The whole trip was just magical, and I loved every city we visited. We had some troubles, but for the most part, the trip went smoothly. First, I’ll share with you some general European tips, and then I will go into specific country tips. 


Prep before your trip. Learn a few phrases, enough to get by. “Where is the nearest public bathroom?” or maybe learn how to order food, or – and this one comes in handy a lot, “Do you speak English?” Write them down or print them out and keep them somewhere. Native speakers would appreciate it if you tried to learn their language instead of just expecting everyone to speak English. 

Most stores will not have restrooms for public use. 

There is usually only one or two public bathrooms in a city unless you can find a restaurant that will let you use theirs. It is very different. While my family and I were over here, I found three public restrooms. One was just on the street, the other two were in very high-end restaurants. Other than that, finding bathrooms was a struggle. My advice? While you’re on the road, go to the bathroom at a gas station. Will it be outside? Maybe. If it is not outside, will it cost money? Yes. But trust me, it is worth it. If you’re going to be outside all day and walking around the city, you will be grateful you went to the bathroom when you had the chance. And if you find a bathroom in a store or outside, I promise you it will cost money to enter the bathrooms. Why? So they can pay their employees who clean the bathrooms more money. 

Make sure to exchange your U.S. dollars for Euros at the airport. 

It can be very hard to find somewhere to exchange money. And unless you have a credit card to take money out at an ATM, you will definitely want to use the quick and easy airport transfers. They are in every airport. Along the same track with money, the currency rate changes every day. It is usually around 0.85 – 0.90 cents to one Euro, but it can fluctuate every day. Make sure you look at the U.S. dollar to Euro rate when you land to make sure you’re getting the right amount of money when you transfer it. They will charge you for your transfer as well, so do not be surprised. When I switched my money, I switched $100 (which is way too little, and I regret that.) and got 70 euros back. Make sure you exchange at the airport, as well as make sure you exchange enough money for your trip. 

This next tip is COVID-related, so if you’re planning on going to Europe in 2-3 years, disregard this. But if you’re going in 2022, this is a biggie.

Get yourself a COVID QR code. 

What is a QR code you might ask? Well, in all countries in Europe, the way they verify that you are vaccinated is with a QR code. You go to a pharmacy (or it might be called an apothecary) and ask them if they will make you a QR code. Not all pharmacies do this, but if they do not they will direct you to one that does. Depending on the airport you land at, you might be able to get one there. But in all European countries, they will make you have a QR code to get into any restaurant, store, or if you’re going in wintertime, then you will need it to get into a Christmas Market. And for some restaurants, you have to have a QR code and proof of the booster shot. If you do not have the booster, then you need a negative COVID test, but those are really easy to get. Just do your research about a country’s COVID rules, because every country has different ones.

Look at COVID rules every day. 

While I was in Amsterdam, the COVID guidelines changed the morning we landed at 5 a.m., and we had landed at 8 a.m. We were shocked when we came and couldn’t get into any restaurants, shops, or bathrooms. I can not say this enough. Do your research before you go to a different country. You really don’t want to get stuck in the cold in a brand new city, it’s not fun. 

Visit the small towns as well as larger towns. 

This goes for all of Europe. There are so many little treasures you can find when you just drive through the countryside or into a random town. In Belgium, Mons is a personal favorite of mine since my grandmother lives there, but there are other hidden gems in that country. Of course, places like Brussels are cool too. It really allows you to experience many different kinds of places in just one country. 

Definitely learn some of the language.

Whatever country you are visiting, make sure to learn the basics. “Hello,” how to order something, “Thank you,” and “Please” should be at the top of your list. These are easy phrases that will help a lot with communication. Most people there understand English, but there are always people who may not understand. Especially in smaller towns, English is not as widely spoken. To avoid awkward conflict, try and learn basic parts of their language. Plus, they will appreciate that you are at least trying instead of just expecting them to understand you in English. You are a guest in their country, be a good one.

Pick your hotel well.

This of course goes for all other cities, but in Luxembourg especially, being close to the city center is going to be best for your trip. It will allow you to do so much more during your day, and it is a lot more convenient if you want to take a break in the middle of the day at the hotel. But wherever you’re staying, if you want the most out of your visit to that town, I would recommend getting a hotel that is close to stuff. It might be hard, and some hotels look kind of sketchy from the outside, but there were some pretty nice hotels in buildings I thought were going to be scary to stay in. Get Airbnb or rent a place while you are in town. 

Watch out for cars and bikes.

I am not kidding when I tell you bikes and cars really do not stop there for pedestrians. I almost got hit by a car and two bikes while I was there. If it is not a pedestrian’s turn to walk, the cars and bikes will go. Make sure you look left, look right, and left again unless you want to get hit. 

Do not book any kinds of tours or a lot to do. 

The best part of Europe is just walking around. You can find little gems, cute shops just walking down a backroad. Walk everywhere. No one uses cars anyways. Most people in big towns, and especially little towns, will either walk or bike. And if you walk, DO NOT JAYWALK! No one in Europe does it, and it is a pretty big deal. No one walks prematurely when waiting at a crosswalk, no one crosses without a crosswalk. Also, do not walk with your phone and google maps out. If you are looking for something, look at the map once and try to find your way. You’re on a trip, adventure a little. When you walk around with your phone out, you look like a tourist. Or you will miss something really cool. Or you’ll bump into someone or something. That would be very embarrassing. Europe has very beautiful countries, with so much interesting history. While on your trip, just take some time to explore. Trust me, it is the best way to travel in Europe.


Europe is a beautiful place no matter where you are. Make sure that you are staying safe and enjoying your trip as much as you can, Happy spring break travels to all.