These are all part of my to-do lists before flying off to Europe. I researched those errands that I should be doing but due to my visa issues, I only had a short time-frame to do this.
The philippine Peso (Php) is not accepted in European money changers. You have to bring USD to Euros. Sanry’s Money Changer does not sell currencies anymore. If you want to change Php to USD or Euro, you have to resort to other money changers like Czarina’s (they require three working days reservation I think). Since I did not have that time, I had to buy dollars which I planned to convert to euros once I find a decent money changer in my first stop (Amsterdam).
Turned out that the exchange rates were bad bad bad. I was expecting a 100 USD= 72 EUR exchange when I was there but the best deal was 100 USD = 70 EUR. A total rip-off! I just changed 200 dollars to 125 euros (really bad airport rates) to get to the city and I regret changing that.I should have done an ATM withdrawal - which proved to have better rates. There were bad dollar to euro rates from Amsterdam to Paris.
International ATM withdrawal have some fees but this is still way better than changing your dollars to euros. Also, the Php 20,000 withdrawal still applies – so I can only withdraw around 300 euros for withdrawal. So I had to find an ATM a couple of times throughout the entire trip. Interestingly, I got the best rates when I used my credit card.
Visa or Mastercard please. Not really sure about Amex. Make sure you have a pretty high limit if you plan to shop. Also, call you bank to inform them that you will be using the card overseas.
Make sure you delegate the important work to your back-up.
Activate your email out-of-office-assistant.
Inform your team how they can reach you if it is really important.
Check if you have to file/claim certain reimbursements before their deadline.
If you have an access to any office platform, make sure your back up has access while you are away.
Book your trains.
I didn't book my train rides until after the visa was granted. I didn't have the time to book all the entrance tickets for the other tourist spots.
Print Your Itinerary and Bookings
Make sure you have print-out copies of all your bookings. Although hostels can check their records about your booking, I was apprehensive that I might be questioned in immigration. Better to have them ready. I had three copies of my itineraries with placed in my day bag, my backpack and one that I hold almost all the time.
Inform your family where you will be. Leave them a copy of your itinerary and the contact information of your hostel.
Most Importantly: Say A Prayer
I was traveling alone for the first time for 24 days. I needed to “borrow” some guardian angels. Kept me sane.
And off I fly!