Travel Suggestions

It’s been a long time since I’ve done any overseas travel, and I am working on saving money to do so. But I was wondering what sorts of things I should be thinking about and preparing for… any tricks and tips that I should be aware of.

My plan is to travel to France for a week or so sometime this summer (Dordogne region to be specific). I lived in France for five years (albeit 30 years ago) when I was a kid, so its a comfortable sort of destination for me which is one of the reasons I picked it.

Do people still use Travellers Checks, or has that been superseded by just using their credit cards? Any ideas on renting cars?

I don’t want to limit the discussion too much, if you have any thoughts on the subject post them!

I don’t really see Travellers’ Checks used much anymore. Credit cards make it really easy to travel. Don’t worry about getting a bunch of money changed before you go, or at the airport. You’ll find ATMs that use the Cirrus Network or the other major ones in a lot of places. Renting a car is easy, but research what kind of driver’s license you need in your host country before you go.

Yeah Debit/credit cards are the way to go. Make sure you tell your financial institution the dates of where your will be or get locked out. Happened to me at the Roma Termini buying train tickets. Phone call corrected it.

Agree on debit/credit cards, cheaper than Travellers’ Checks and easier. About a year ago, a travelling companion had travellers checks (we were in Oregon!) and the clerk didn’t know how to deal with it. And definitely call the bank(s) that issues the card(s) to tell them where/when you’ll be – otherwise, they’re liable to spot it as a risky transaction and declare your card unusable.

Write up a list of all the credit cards and the phone numbers where to call if they’re lost or stolen. Keep that list somewhere safe and separate from your wallet and cards.

Take ONE card (I’m assuming you have several) and hide it somewhere in your luggage. That way, if you get pick-pocketed or otherwise lose your wallet/purse, you’ll still have one good card. (My wife and I travel together, and we each have one card that the other one doesn’t have, for the same reason.)

Make a couple of photocopies of your passport, and hide them somewhere in your luggage. Your passport is by far the most valuable thing you are carrying; and if it gets lost or stolen, you’re up Shit Creek sans paddle… unless you have the passport number. It will still be a major headache if your passport is lost/stolen, but if you’ve got a copy of that first page, it will be way less of a headache.

Don’t carry anything with you that you can’t afford to lose. France isn’t a “problem” area in terms of pick-pockets and thieves, but, frankly, any place has such risks. It’s more of a headache to be robbed in a foreign country, where you’re not familiar with the laws, languge, procedures, etc. So, take sensible precautions: don’t wear 'spensive jewelry, etc. It’s the same precautions I take when traveling in the US, as well.

If you’re going to rely on credit cards, take a few of them. We learned the hard way that despite what our bank said, our credit cards didn’t work everywhere in France. We especially had trouble with ATMs - only one of our cards worked at all.

And yes, we did call the card issuer before we left, told them we were going to be in France, verified the cards worked in France, did everything we could think of. Nevertheless, they were turned down repeatedly because they thought they were stolen, and we never did get our preferred card working in the ATMs.

Lucky for us, we’d brought several non-preferred cards, and we usually could get one of 'em working. Not sure what we would have done if we’d only brought the one we were planning on using.

Hire a car. The French roads are generally superb and you will definitely get to see more that way.
And it will be worth it just to drive over the Millau viaduct you won’t be too far away in the Dordogne.

The last time we traveled in France, I scanned our passports, credit cards, and every other bit of paperwork of value. Then I emailed the scans to ourselves so that we could access them wherever we could get at a computer over there.

BTW, some smaller hotels which touted themselves as having internet access had no such thing. What they had was an antique computer in the lobby which may or may not work and if it worked, was as slow as molasses. Nowadays, with everyone having laptops, this may not be an issue.

You probably remember from your earlier time spent in France that a lot of the time, France is closed. We’re used to businesses being open all day and late into the night, but t’ain’t so over there. It seemed like grocers and bakers and other small shops were open or closed according to the owner’s whim.

I’m with CK: Make copies of your passport info page and put one in each piece of luggage. Sure will save you a lot of hassle.

Also (VERY IMPORTANT!): When you order your ticket, make SURE the ticket is ordered exactly in the name stated on your passport. If your name is William, then don’t order the damn ticket as “Bill” if that isn’t the name on your passport. They don’t care that it’s short for William.

Am I speaking from personal experience? How’d you guess? :wink:

Missed my damn flight on account of it and had to spend another $650.00 on a new set of RT tickets.

As for what to see, don’t miss my hometown Rothenburg ob der Tauber (one of the few last medieval walled-in cities in Europe) and, while you’re in the neighborhood, head on up to Vienna!

And yeah, use your debit card and avoid Thomas Cook like the plague!!!

And have a great time as well.


Yeah, I second that. My passport was “C K Dexter Haven” but my tickets were “Dexter Haven” and I had significant problems. I actually changed my passport name to just “Dexter Haven.”

Hmmm… I wonder what the best way to figure out the what ATM networks are and what cards they use would be?

This is the kind of thing that I’ve been wondering about - how much is the same, and how much has changed. Things are so much more global than they used to be.

I’ve been adding sights to a google map, and that’s one thing - I’m not sure how far afield I should roam. I’m considering two options 1) keep fairly local to the Dordogne, fly into the nearest airport, etc, or 2) fly into Paris, spend a day or two there, and then drive down to the Dordogne, maybe even make it more of a driving tour of France (Mont St. Michel, Dordogne, Provence and then back up to Paris to fly out). I’ll need to do more thinking on that; both approaches have good points and bad points. I don’t want to spend too much time doing things that I have done in the past - I lived near Paris and have seen all the sights (with a couple of exceptions; the Catacombs, for example), and I’ve been to Mont St. Michel (but on the other hand its one of my absolute favorite places).

Thanks for all the suggestions so far!

Many ATMs won’t be able to deal with PINs over 4 digits. Visa generally has better acceptance than Mastercard. Diner’s may be accepted at hotels and restaurants, but very rarely elsewhere. Forget about Discovery.

The French still like their holidays thank you very much, and small stores still open and close when the owner finds it convenient, as of the last time I went over the border (last year).

If you’re thinking of hiring a car, fly to Brussels rather than Paris. It’s about half the price

Do you mean the flying cost or the car hiring cost? (because I’ve never found any great difference in car hire costs for the major european cities)

If you mean the flight, then yes. I’d agree. And it is very easy to get from Brussels to anywhere in France cheaply and quickly via the TGV.

I’d be inclined to fly cheaply, then train it to where you want to be, then hire a car locally to explore.

Great idea, on top of that, get a taxi/train/bus/foot and get out of the airport and rent a car in town instead and save some dough. I loved having a GPS when I was driving through Europe and it helped remembering where I parked too. Make sure to budget for tolls and gas prices.

Both actually. I hired a car about three weeks ago in Brussels. It was half the price I would have paid in Paris :eek:

I’ve done the “fly into Brussels” thing before - it was cheaper way back in '86, the last time I went to France. My concern there is that Brussels is way north of where I want to go in France… Looking at various travel sites, it looks like flying into Barcelona might be an alternative with many of the same benefits.

A lot of the debit and credit cards here in France are chip cards, and some machines will have problems with cards that aren’t chip cards. Sometimes they won’t. We had Canadian debit cards when we first got here from two major Canadian banks - my husband’s card worked nearly everywhere, mine didn’t, except for the places mine did and his didn’t. And yes, four digit PINs seem to be necessary.

As for the opening hours and holidays, people who live in Paris desert the city in August and nearly everywhere you want to go is closed, but it doesn’t seem to be as big a problem in other regions. As for the French closing “when they find it convenient”, a lot of businesses here are still Mom and Pop and it shouldn’t be surprising that they may not want to be open seven days a week and all hours of the day. You just learn to live with the *fermetures exceptionelle *and realize that whatever you’re seeking is probably not that important, and you’re in France, and a decent bottle of wine to wash away your troubles is probably no more than two minutes and eight Euros away.

On the plus side, all of the meters are free and parking is really easy. I got into Notre Dame and up the Eiffel Tour with no wait.

Try the croissants.

I’m a “pain au chocolat” kind of guy, myself.