No complaints at all, just nice to know ahead of time!
- When the doorman at a London hotel offers you an umbrella, take it always. Even if the sun is shining.On the other hand, don’t be afraid of a little rain, the worst that can happen is you get wet.
Money thoughts . . . .
- While money exchanging can be done at the airport, other places/stores offer it too and the rate can be negotiable. When traveling with others, pool your money before exchanging, the more you exchange, the better the rate. When I needed more English pounds, I exchanged in Harrods at their currency counter. I got a better rate of two pounds per $100. because I was “friendly”.
- Many stores will offer the opportunity to charge your card in either Euros/Pounds or Dollars, using the dollar option avoids a credit card surcharge.
- We were surprised that there were many places, such as taxis and restaurants, that DO NOT take credit cards. We needed more cash than originally thought. See above about exchanging in Harrods cause we were running low.
- Familiarize yourself with the coins, at least the one euro and two euros, so you don’t feel stupid just holding out a stack of coins and saying take what you need. (yeah, I did that once!)
- Keep all your receipts together and ask about the VAT tax card (like a credit card) on one of your first shopping excursions and given out by the merchants. Some stores will give you the opportunity to register your purchases on the card. Then when leaving the country at the airport, it’s a simple thing to fill out a quick form, swipe the card and all the VAT taxes are refunded to your credit card.If a store does not offer the option to swipe the card, receipts can be turned in at the airport, fill out the forms on receipts. But I was also informed, I can mail any additional receipts from home as long as they are notarized. (happy news when I panicked and couldn’t readily find a receipt that would have totaled an additional $50. refund).
The Airports . . .
- Air travel through Heathrow was the most confusing airport ever, with no gates posted until shortly before the flights were boarding and then very long walks to the gates and numerous spots where we had to show our passports. On the upside, the international terminals had the most amazing shops ever.
- On our return flights from Shannon-Heathrow-Dallas-OKC we had to go thorough full-fledged security checks at each airport, even if we just got off a connecting flight. That meant taking out the laptop, Kindles and Ipads, along with getting rid of the bottle of water just purchased on the last flight, etc. Each security checkpoint had long lines and a very thorough screening. Three purchased bottles of water later and I was ready to travel with my own fill-up container.
- Duty-free purchases are nice to buy at the airport, but be aware when coming to the states you will need to find room in your checked luggage to re-pack those items before continuing on flights in the states. So any perfumes or liquors will need to go into checked bags — Leave room for them and be sure to have plenty of wrapping to protect them.
This and that . . .
- Tea drinker? I always drink hot tea, but this was the strongest tea I’ve ever had, everywhere I went. Surprisingly I was always offered coffee before I was offered tea. Milk is brought for the tea, I did ask if anyone uses lemon and was told yes, they immediately brought me slices of lemon.
- I’m a huge fan of the Hop-On, Hop-Off buses, they give a great overview of the city so that you can further explore the parts that are of particular interest to you. Be prepared to use the map along with the tour guide and be sure to get on the buses with “live guides” not the the recorded versions. One bus route was drastically changed because of construction and of course that was the one with the recorded guide. No mention was made of the new route and we were thoroughly lost for several miles.
- Don’t be afraid to just walk out of the hotel and explore the areas around the hotel by walking around, I always find hidden treasures that are not written up in the guidebooks. As long as you know the hotel address, you’ll always be able to find your way home.
- Electrical converters. This was crazy for me, someone gave us a cute set of converters, but we soon found out that it’s just way different than what we are used to dealing with. The outlets in the bathrooms cannot be used for hairdryers. The converter set we had did not work for a three-pronged plug (computer), and in one hotel there were three different types of outlets, none of them convenient to use for an extra plug and only one was workable for the converter.
Although I had an extension cord, next time I will bring a small power strip with a converter that would work with it.BESTEK Portable charger universal adapter travel converter voltage 220V to 110V + UK/US/AU/EU plug + 4.2A four USB charging port for tablets,iPad,cell phone,iphone,samsung ect. MRJ201GU
- Most of all enjoy the sights, enjoy the different cultures, don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t complain about every little thing that’s different than you might be used to.
Oh yeah, and kiss a leprechaun if you have the chance!
© Andres Rodriguez | Dreamstime Stock Photos