Europe Hotels Articles

April 13, 2010

What to know about traveling in Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe: Traveling Tips

Last year, my husband and I decided to travel to Kiev. Yes, we went to the Ukraine. If you’ve never been to Eastern Europe, I’ll share some basic tips, but I’ll save the shopping, dining, and site-seeing details for next time.

Timing

We decided to travel in early summer because we knew the weather there would be similar to our Chicago spring temperatures, and that’s about as good as it gets, unless you’re craving a tropical island. Just like Chicago, we did get a day or two of spring showers, but overall, it was gorgeous. TIP: Make sure you know the climate of your destination, and pack accordingly.

The Language

Because we were traveling to a country with a different language, we did a little research online regarding our ability to communicate, because we didn’t want a translator. Since both Ukrainian and Russian are spoken (and written) in Kiev, we had to be prepared for both. And in case you’ve never seen the Cyrillic alphabet, let me just say that it was Greek to methe English Professor. What worked? I printed a few common phrases and the alphabets (for both languages) from the Internet. The good news: many businesses also had English signage, menus, etc. TIP: Understand the language barrier and make a plan: hire a translator or take reference material, such as a translation device or a translation book.

Telephones

If you’re planning a trip similar to this, I would also suggest contacting your telephone carrier, to get the best rates for making calls internationally, or you may want to rent an international cell phone. We didn’t opt for the cell phone on this trip, but we did during our trip to the Mediterranean. TIP: get an international calling card or rent an international cell phone.

Accommodations

Finally, instead of staying in a hotel, we decided to rent a short-stay apartment. The rate was far less than a hotel, and our apartment was furnished with everything you’d need. The one suggestion I would make when finding an apartment: ask about cable television, specifically, is it available in English, and whether or not DVD players are available. TIP: Research the different accommodations according to your budget; amenities matter!

Electricity: Converters and Adapters

First, adapters and converters are not the same. An adapter allows you to “retrofit” an electric cord plug into various styles of wall outlets. A voltage converter downgrades 220 (or 225) voltages to 110, to keep from frying our appliances. We had to use both them with the hair dryer and electric razor. Don’t overlook the laptop. Ours came from the factory with a converter/adapter on the cord, but yours may not! TIP: if you’re staying in a hotel, don’t assume they have converters and adapters, although most do; ask them prior to making reservations.

Currency

Find out what currency is used. Most European counties use both the Euro and their own currency, so you’ll have a choice. The currency exchange rate will affect you, no matter what, and it could mean the difference between eating and shopping like a prince or a pauper. TIP: Don’t exchange a large amount of cash since the rates change hourly; you can lose money this way. Exchange as needed!

Your trip to Eastern Europe can be an absolute thrill; ours was! Just make sure you plan ahead, and with these tips, you’re sure to have a great time

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