March 5, 2010

Ten Tips on Traveling Europe Efficiently: 9 & 10

No introduction is needed at this point. Here are Ron's final two pieces of advice for a complete experience in Europe.

9) What to do
• This is the great question. A lot of people had guidebooks that pinpointed the best spots—although the most touristy ones—in the city. I’m not against these, but I never used one. My strategy was to ask other travelers, the receptionist at the hostel, and sometimes consult the Internet on where to go. If you can manage to get your hands on a local, ask him.

• Rent a bike! There is no better way to explore a city than on a bike. The bigger cities rent bikes for a dollar per 24 hours, and there are numerous “bike stations” around the city, so returning it to the same place you rented it is not a problem. Getting out and getting lost—safely, in the day—is great way to run into stuff you would not normally see and get a good workout at the same time. When I was in Paris, a few people and I road to the infamous Moulin Rouge show on bikes while most other people had Mercedes. It was an interesting experience.

Moulin Rouge from a bike

• Take half-day, days trips! This will allow you to go further into the heart of the country to towns not normally visited by tourists. In addition, many historical sites are found right outside the city and going there would be a pleasurable experience. For example, in Krakow I went about an hour away to these Salt Mines, and walked down a staircase 800feet into the ground. The possibilities are endless so being flexible in what you’ll do in a city—or outside the city—is priceless.

• Make sure to get emails, facebooks, numbers, etc. from the people you meet. You will find that a lot will invite you to their country and be more than willing to let you stay with them. Of course, offer them the same option. The guy who showed me around Krakow invited me to his hometown, Nante, in western France. On my way back to Spain, I stopped there and had free housing, cheap food, and an unforgettable experience of how he lives.

10) More countries and less cities vs. Less countries and more cities
• There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Spending less time in the cities of a country will allow you to travel to a wider array of different countries. However, this will be at the sacrifice of not completely delving into and immersing yourself in the lives of the locals. Going to more cities in a country allows you to see what the country is all about in all forms at the sacrifice of not seeing as many countries as possible. The choice is yours, and of course how much time you have to travel will be a factor in what you do. I personally chose to spend a lot more time getting to know a country and less time on having the “lets go to as many countries as I can” mentality. I’m not saying that hitting a lot of cities in one country is a requirement, because it depends on the country. In Spain, I hit a good five cities but in Austria I only went to Vienna—I did take a day trip to Bratislava however. But going to more cities than countries allows you to break the culture barrier a lot easier in that country and really see how people live and interact on a scale different than that of the “as many countries as I can” mentality. It seemed to me that just scratching the surface of a country and moving on will restrict you from getting to know the intimate parts of a country.

Standing next to a guard in Prague, Czech Republic

Your next step, if you haven't already, is to sign-up for a general advising session in the Office of Education Abroad (CHHS 256). Save the date for the April 7 Study Abroad Fair where you can browse through options for your study abroad experience. And check out Radio Free Charlotte at 3:00 PM each Wednesday for more conversations about creating a dynamic study abroad experience as part of your college education.
If you've already studied abroad and would like to share your experience here, contact We'd certainly love to have a similar "Top Ten" list for other regions of the world.

Happy Spring Break!

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