Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Just Before You Fly: Pre-Europe Errands

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.

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.

Your Whereabouts
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!


  1. Hi there.

    you mentioned that doing atm withdrawal is better than having usd converted to euro. is this international atm card also a debit card? is it a usd account?

    i do not plan on bringing that much money to italy (backpacking for 2 weeks) but then someone advised me to just bring dollars and have it changed there instead of having it changed here in the philippines. she also said never to use my atm card for withdrawing euros.

  2. Hello Catherine! I just used my PHP ATM card - PHP savings, PHP account. Just check the backside of the ATM card to see its international affiliations - e.g. Cirrus, Maestro. If the ATMs in Italy have those logos, then you can withdraw. All the ATMs I encountered have those so I didn't have any problem.

    I had dollars with me the entire trip. In my experience, the rates were really really bad so I just brought them all back home.

  3. how much is the charge to withdraw money from the atm? I'm presuming that the bank has their own conversion of peso to euro but won't you get additional service fees amounting to 1000+php per transaction?
    i have a bdo debit card/ atm card =)

  4. Transactions fees of BPI: US$ 3.50 (USD 3.50 for withdrawals LESS THAN USD 175.00;
    2% of the amount withdrawn for withdrawals of AT LEAST USD175). Fees would amount to Php 1,000 if you would withdraw 7 times during the entire trip (Php 1,000/42.5 forex rate=$23.5; $23.5/$3.5per withdrawal = approximately 7)

    Credit cards provided the best rates in my experience. Example: Php 58.48 swiped vs. Php 60.20 via ATM - on the same day. These were rates in October 2011. I checked my cc bills vs my bank billing statements when I got back from my trip. ;) Adik ako,

  5. glad you are an "adik" otherwise you wouldn't be able to help me out =) would definitely be bringing my credit card then. between atm vs currency exchange shops which one would you go for?
    thanks for entertaining my questions!

  6. I couldn't buy Euros here in the Philippines before my departure date - Czarina currency exchange requires a preorder and it takes them 3 days. If you can buy Euros at a good rate here in the Philippines, then I think you should bring Euros.

  7. Thanks for shearing these important points. these kin d of information are very helpful all thouse people who have no idea of travelling. thanks
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