Table of Contents, v20
If one makes even the slightest attempt to learn and use local language and greeting phrases as well as use any local proper social behaviors, then one will usually be respected and appreciated.
France: Every initial meeting with a person must be started with the proper greeting of day: Bonjoir (Bone-zure - Good Day) or Bonsoir (Bone-Swa - Good Evening). It happens that this courtesy works in most other countries too.
Paris Story. We visited France, to include Paris (by reputation, notorious for snubbing Americans) and for two weeks we received nothing but helpful courtesies. We did always use the French greeting of Bonjoir (or such). The French people really appreciated us speaking French to ask them if they spoke English, "Parley vou Englai." Interestingly, the answer was always in French, "Oui" [Yes] or "Non" [No].
The Equal Opportunity Frenchman Story. We did run into one rude Frenchman that was as rude to us but he was also rude to other French citizens too - so we never felt personally slighted. We think that he was the older Father of a shop owner Daughter (who had to step out for a moment). Apparently, he had issues! It was kind of humanizing to witness that some family issues are internationally similar.
Any Country Courtesy Discovery. We have come to learn that any attempt to use local language words are met with a smile of appreciation and helpfulness, no matter how badly we spoke.
Immigration/Customs Port of Entry/Exit
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Do NOT Take Pictures of Immigration or Customs areas (to include the lines of waiting people)! Mainly because of terrorism, areas of government control like Immigration and Customs Inspection do not allow pictures to be taken. Some places actually post warning signs, many do not. You just need to know that it is illegal everywhere. I learned the hard way. I take lots of pictures and one of my pet peeves is bureaucracies whose last concern is people comfort and/or obvious mismanagement, therefore I almost always take pictures of lines (queues). Don't take pictures of Immigration/Customs lines, it is considered to be a Security Violation and the action can have serious consequences. See next Story.
Interesting Immigration Entry Story Terry and I were in the Customs Inspection line for entering Australia at Melbourne. Nothing was particularly out of the order, but the lines and wait times were long, so without thinking and out of boredom I took some pictures. About five minutes later a customs official/officer came up to me and asked if I had taken any pictures. I said yes, and stated that I took three pictures. He explained that what I did was illegal and that I could be fined and put in jail for what I did. I apologized and pleaded ignorance as there were no signs or notice. Luckily I had a digital camera and the officer was familiar with the way a digital camera worked, so he allowed me to show him the pictures and delete them using the camera. ...
Here's the rest of the story. There were a pair of Grandparent looking Chinese behind us in the Immigration line. [We are also Grandparent age.] During the Camara/Picture deletion incident, while the Customs Officer was holding me (and therefore the line that I was in) a gap in the line appeared and widened. After the Customs Official departed satisfied, the Chinese Lady who had no idea what had just happened, began to communicate with sign language and pushiness that I must close the line gap. The line was, in fact, a single file line and it didn't matter if there was ten inches or ten yards between people, we were going to be processed at the same rate. So every time there was two feet between me and the couple in front of us, this lady got animated and pushy. After three or four rounds of this animation, some other passengers told her to be patient, that no action on her part was going to expedite anything. LATER, I realized that I was perceived as showing off pictures to a friend and I was personally holding her up. She had no idea what happened and that I was nearly arrested.
Baggage Weighing: Outside of the USA, Airport Clerks weigh all bags and make sure that the baggage meets regulation standards. Carry on bags are also weighed.
This is nearly always done at or near the gate, such that the passenger can't make any alternate arrangements. When we were departing New Zealand, it was
pointed out that I had eight kilograms of weight in my one single carryon luggage bag and the limit was seven. The clerk was getting ready to make a big stink about the extra kilogram. I removed a raincoat and put it on. I wore it for 20 paces and then put it back in my carry on luggage. The incident was kind of a waste of time and words (especially since, at that time, everyone was allowed two carry on bags at seven kilo's each).
Airport Exit Tax / Traveler Tax: Its common. New York City is the worst. Orlando is high on this list also. Local governments can get more income without raising the taxes of the local citizenry by levying tourists and people who are just traveling through town. Commonly these taxes are applied to airport charges and hotel/motel charges. The taxes are always known by any word that does not have the word "tax" in it, such as surcharge, levy, improvement, contribution, ... . By the way, USA telephone charges have the same deal.
The airport at Auckland, NZ, charges an extra airport use tax, for the government, to everyone (well foreigners anyway) $25, just to depart at their airport - its a separate tax that is collected directly by a government agent and one must have a government receipt from yet another line in order to exit the country.
New Zealand Boot Story: Declare your hiking boots! We went to New Zealand from Australia. New Zealander's (or Kiwi's) are concerned about ecological disasters and they don't want a repeat of any of the Australian eco-disasters. This is a quite legitimate concern. So the customs inspectors especially scrutinize the ware of people who have been out in remote areas of any country and especially from the Australian Outback (in addition to inspecting ware involved in agriculture or livestock). ...
The rest of the story: We had boots in our luggage that we had not worn for the entire trip and we had forgotten that we had the boots with us. So when we filled out the NZ Customs Entry Form, we did indicate that we had been in the outback of Australia, but somehow we misunderstood a question that meant that we had any boots that we wore in the outback. The answer was legally, morally, and technically "No." We had been in the outback in the Tennis Shoes that we were wearing presently in the Customs Inspection / Declaration line. So the Customs Agent x-ray's our suitcase and he notices our boots and he immediately goes into verbal conniptions. "You were in the outback and you didn't declare your boots!" The Agent started to threaten us with fines and penalties and was generally rude and a jerk. I just kept my mouth shut and let Terry's calming and experienced voice bring the Agent back to civility. It took us quite a while to convince the Agent that we were being honest, and of course he went thoroughly through everything that we had with us. The incident put a real damper on Terry's ability to enjoy New Zealand.
Departure Gate, Terminals, and Track Number NOT Posted:
Some places don't list gates or tracks more than an hour ahead of time. Don't be alarmed, this behavior is normal and it:
This behavior may be a post 9/11 result for security purposes, but it is not in the least bit unusual to have Train-City Departure Times posted or Airplane Flight Numbers posted but have NO track number or gate number posted until within an hour of the actual departure time. Please note that people who travel the same route frequently, always seem to know where to go or at least the most likely place of departure.
- Can be a security measure
- Allows for last minute changes
- Covers poor management
- Can reveal issues between the station's management
and transportation's management or ownership
Airport Electrical Outlets:
More and more airports may have switches that turn off their unused electrical outlets thus making it more difficult to borrow a little airport electricity for computers and personal entertainment electrical devices. If you plug an appliance into an airport electrical outlet, make sure that it is working. Dennis once completely discharged a computer when he thought that it was charging while he worked - a simple visual check of the LCD light would have invalidated the assumption. Now Dennis looks at the electrical power converter indicator light as soon as he plugs it into the electrical outlet.
All bicycle experience and planning started here and eventually grew into its own set of web pages (perhaps it should be a separate web site - it's very popular and accessed a lot).
Bicycle Tour Planning:
Tour Planning for Calculating Bike Travel Days.
The same Travel Planning page addresses other bicycle travel related issues.
- Bicycle Touring
Checklist (aka Bike Tour Checklist) which addresses specific bicycling
trip/travel/tour items, regalia, accruements, and issues to consider for a
bicycle tour or bicycle expedition.
Bicycle Experiences and
Bicycle Touring Experiences:
All Bicycle Touring Tips, Lessons Learned, and Tricks of the Trade are now consolidated in a special section of the Bicycling Touring Tips, Lessons Learned, and Tricks of the Trade.
Left Side Road Driving:
A Courtesy: English speaking people in countries that drive on the left side of the road refer to driving on the right side of the road as "driving on the Other-Side of the road." You can't get them to use the word "Right" in a way that implies they are "Wrong." So, go with the flow and be nice.
Believe it or not, the more traffic there is, the easier it is to stay in the correct lanes. It is very intuitive to drive correctly and plan ahead in crowded traffic. The corollary inference is true, when there is little or no traffic, that is when it is easy to slip into old habits. Furthermore, because of our limited experience of driving on the left side of the road, I would not even consider drinking any alcohol not even one glass, mug, or shot and consider driving. There are way too many things that can go wrong.
First start of the day WARNING: Early in the morning when a visitor has the only car on the road or if there only a few cars on the road, a visitor may have a particular problem staying on the correct side when first pulling onto a main road from either a minor side road or from a parking lot. Also, people have problems with turns at an intersection (with no traffic) turning into the incorrect lane.
Roundabouts (Circles) seemed to be helpful with regard to staying in the proper lane - they usually have lane marking arrows and signs that support proper lane usage. Roundabouts are known to have lower accident ratios than regular four-way intersections. Roundabouts are common in many countries outside of the USA. While roundabouts are good for safety, they slow down thru traffic tremendously. One can count on roundabouts to add 10% to 15% to driving time.
Position in the Lane WARNING: People who learned to drive on the right side of the road have trained themselves, unconsciously, to position themselves with reference to the left side of the lane or the left side road line or the left center line lane marker. The negative effect of that training is not realized until one starts driving on the left side of the road. You must retrain yourself relative to the right side road line or road edge. The resulting (rookie) behavior, for people who learned to drive on the right side of the road, results in drivers allowing the vehicle to butt to the extreme left side of the road, so much so that the left side of the car may brush shrubs or over hanging greenery. It took us three days to comfortably drive in the center position of the left lane. It took deliberate mental effort. Being aware of this really helped us for our consequent left side driving experiences, but we still have a tendency to forget when no one is on the road and we are relaxed and we are just pulling out at the beginning of a travel leg.
Pedestrian Retraining: Most of us have been walking longer than we have been driving. We Americans have habits based on driving on the right side of the road. Most of us have learned that we can get away with looking for cars in the near lane by looking to our left and while simultaneously stepping into traffic and then while start to look in the other direction - That really bad habit can get you killed in left-side-drive countries (like Australia, New Zealand, and England).
Re-teach your self what you were taught as a kid:
"Look both ways before crossing a road."
Road Warrior Story: After we had been in Australia for about two weeks, We can remember an instance when we were diagonally behind a "hired" RV that had its windshield wipers swishing back and forth on a virtually cloudless day. Dennis turned to Terry, driving our hired car, and said "be careful, that's a rookie American, give him lots of room."
Countries that drive on the Left Hand Side:
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The source for this list of countries that drive on the Left Side of the road is
Why Don't We Drive On The Same Side Of The Road Around The World by Tex Texin. What is amazing is that this list comprises roughly 15% of the countries of the world. Notably, a good portion of the countries are former colonies of the United Kingdom.
Anguilla Antigua Australia
Bahamas Bangladesh Barbados
Bermuda Bhutan Botswana
Brunei Cayman Islands Channel Islands
Christmas Island (AU) Cocos (Keeling) Islands (AU) East Timor
Falkland Islands Fiji Grenada
Guyana Hong Kong India Indonesia
Ireland Isle of Man Japan
Kiribati Lesotho Macau Malawi
Malaysia Maldives Malta
Mauritius Montserrat Mozambique
Namibia Nauru Nepal
New Zealand Niue Norfolk Island (AU) Pakistan
Papua New Guinea Pitcairn Islands (UK) Saint Helena
Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Seychelles
Singapore Solomon Islands Somaliland
South Africa Sri Lanka Suriname
Swaziland Tanzania Thailand
Tanzania Thailand Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu
Uganda United Kingdom Virgin Islands (UK)
Virgin Islands (US) Tonga Zambia
Route Names and Directions: This is sort of common issue outside the US, period. In cities and towns, Street Names can change every few blocks and Highways can change directions frequently (and unexpectedly). What this means is that one cannot get on a road and expect the direction and the name to be the same in a few blocks. This also means that if one misses a road turn and one tries to intercept the destination road further down the track instead of turning around, because of a road name change or a direction change, one can totally miss the intended "road intercept" and cost one a lot of back tracking time. One must always be on navigation guard.
Highways are not Interstate Thoroughfares: Highways aren't US Highway grade for trip planning and timing purposes. Don't misunderstand, the road quality is as good if not better than US highways (way less pot holes and construction). What's different is sort of a good news bad news story. In most other countries road systems are not laid out to speedily get through or bypass all of the enroute towns - The roads are not geared for throughput. Roads often retain their local town origination of purpose.
Drive Time Planning: For the most part, we enjoyed slowing down to smell the roses, so to speak. But for drive time planning purposes, this kind of road system (discussed previously) can easily add one to two hours more driving time per equivalent USA eight hour driving day. The good news is that if you know this little rule of life, up front, one can plan, adjust, and relax accordingly.
Australia/New Zealand Driving Speed: When we drove a vehicle on the open road, we drove right at the speed limit, as did the majority of other drivers. There did not seem to be an urge to hurry in the general populous, in our observations. In the USA, if you drive the speed limit for 30 minutes, everyone will pass by but maybe three vehicles. In contrast, while driving in AU and NZ if you drive the speed limit for 30 minutes on an open highway, maybe three people will pass.
The Sun is in the North, Not in the South: Get this, Dennis is an Engineer, Eagle Scout, former military pilot, former maker of aviation flight charts, former draftsman for a civil surveyor. What's the Point? He's very good at Land and Air Navigation, but only in the Northern Hemisphere. He was terribly disoriented in the Southern Hemisphere during the midday! The sun still comes up in the East and sets in the West, but that "in-between time" must be negotiated with deliberate thought, all subconscious efforts and instincts are northern hemisphere based and will get one into trouble. In Dennis' case, he struggled to listen to that other voice (of his wife) telling him to turn in the direction of "the other north." Navigate with open mindedness, flexibility, and uhm, with faith in your travel partner.
Maps: Finding and obtaining good maps seems to be very difficult. If there is any way for you to get Good Maps before you arrive, it is worth the effort. Once you are in country, you will usually find yourself without time to go searching for maps. And just like in the USA, the location that you are visiting is nearly always out of the local map or local map set. Not having a good map has sure cost us travel time!
Car Hire / Rental:
"Car Hire" is another international term for Rental Car. In fact this term applies to other forms of transportation; boat hire, bicycle hire, airplane hire, ... .
I Didn't Know That! (Vehicle Control Positions): Cars can come with the turn signals on the left or on the right side of the steering wheel column. If you are going to hire/rent a vehicle, be sure to ask for a vehicle with signals on the left side (assuming that you are used to the USA standard vehicle configurations). We weren't aware of this in Australia, and they have cars with signals on either side for "hire." As it turned out for us, we had the cleanest windshields in Australia!
Insurance: No option, buy theirs. Yes, it does seem that everyone gets ripped off by higher than normal insurance costs. But note that nothing will be achieved by yelling at the clerk. Beware that vehicle post inspection is common and can be much more thorough than in the USA.
Highway Toll Booths:
Sicily/Italy/Mediterranean - The cash collection booth is almost always to the outside lane, the truckers lane (Right side for Right-Side Driving). If you pull into the wrong toll booth, don't leave the toll booth, even to pull aside, just push the panic button and wait, ignore the horns. You will get an additional fine if you pull out (for leaving the scene of a crime), if even to be courteous to other traffic. Just wait for an official. All booths have someone around to help, it just takes a minute (that will seem like an hour for someone to arrive to help).
Cruise Ship Lodging:
Terry and I took a Seven Day Caribbean Cruise. We specifically asked our (... Good Times) Travel Agent if we were we going to have Twin Beds and if we were going to get Twin Beds as a standard fare, was there anything that we could do to NOT get Twin Beds, like to ask ahead of time or pay more. The Travel Agent said "No," that hardly any Cruise Ships had twin bed setups anymore and in particular, not the line we were going to travel (Princess). Our Travel agent never even bothered to ask the Ship, and we believed the Travel Agent. Well, the Travel Agent was wrong. We did get twin beds and had we paid something like $110 more, we would have automatically been in the next class of rooms that did not have twin beds. But at the time the ship sailed, all rooms were booked. We could not upgrade, so we had to endure the ships Twin Bed lodging as well as our agents criminal lack of effort.
Cruise Ship Holidays, Weekends, and After Hours:
On Holidays, Weekends, and After Hours the good destination places to visit are closed! Pay attention to the days of the week when booking.
Terry and I took a Seven Day Caribbean Cruise over a weekend and New Years holiday. We were supposed to be in a new port almost every night. Sounds like action, travel, and romance doesn't it? What we learned is that the island port and towns more or less shut down on Saturday Nights and Sundays (bars around the water front are open - big deal). All shops and most stores close at about 5 or 6 PM, daily, in the islands. Virtually no stores are open on Sundays except maybe some small one person vendors set up next to the docks. Of course, everything was closed on holidays, January 1st in our case, which was not on a weekend. So, if the reader is asking themselves was the cruise worth it, my unequivacable answer would be, NO, and the reader is advised to look into the days of the week with a little scrutiny.
Ship/Boat Seat Saving:
We were riding an ocean worthy hydrofoil from Vancouver Island, Canada to Seattle, Washington, USA. We have made the trip a couple times with no incident. There are a few signs on the hydrofoil that stated "No Seat Saving," which keeps the crew from having to get involved in any not so civil seating disputes. The sign not only means first come first serve, it also means if you get up, your seat may be taken, no matter if you leave anything there. So by tradition, if two or more people want to keep their seats, someone stays to keep seat lurkers away. Unfortunately we witnessed a very ugly scene where a family of four (perhaps five) left coats and packs on their seats and went to the cafeteria and came back later to find an elderly man who moved their stuff aside and was sitting in the middle of where the family was previously. There were plenty of single seats available elsewhere. The father of the family asked and kept asking the old man to relinquish the seat but the old man refused to move, pointing to the sign. No one felt sorry for the old man, and everyone was bothered by the incident. The discussion never ended for the entire remainder of the trip.
Where To Lodge:
We try to tie our international trips to a necessary business conference. In this manner, the flight out and back is a legitimate business expense and the hotel lodging during the conference is a legitimate business expense (US Tax Deductible). Thus the dilemma, Where to stay? We have come to appreciate all of the conveniences of staying at the location of the conference. The stay is often at a discount, it keeps one out of bad weather and traffic, and it becomes mighty convenient to have all meal expenses, other business expenses, and the lodging cost all consolidated onto one invoice document. We invariably separate non-business expenses onto a separate invoice (like in room movies) and we have never had a problem with a hotel doing such a service for us. We keep careful records and we keep it honest.
Usually we vacation/tour/travel at the international location before or after the conference. We watch our budget very carefully and lodge economically but not cheaply. We find that walking to and from our hotel helps us to work off all the good local cuisine that we experience.
Room Electrical Issues
(listed under Electricity):
Some Room/Lodging electrical issues are listed under Electricity. The issues are:
- Two switches on one circuit
(one on the wall, the other on the outlet plate)
- Plastic room key inserts into a key-slot that activates room
electricity (no key, no electricty, no charging batteries,
cell phones, cameras, computers, or equipment
while you are out with your key)
- Voltage and Outlet Adapters
- Amperage Controllers in some rooms
- Bathroom Outlets only for electrical shavers
- Charging Notebook Computers
Room Toilet Issues
(listed under Toilet):
Some Room/Lodging toilet issues are listed under Toilet. One nice thing to know is that some Countries or Inns have toilets with two buttons, one button for a partial flush (like for tissue or urine) and another button for a full flush.
Europe Air Circulation / Air Conditioning:
In Europe, we have yet to see a window screen (from Sicily to Orkney). It seems that only four and five star hotels have air conditioning. In lieu of having air conditioning, the choice on a hot day is to open a window or not. If a person opens a window, then the mosquitos will enter. We think that most Europeans have a drink and go to sleep with always closed windows.
Air Conditioner Controlled by Remote Control (Sicily, Italy, Mediterranean Areas): Air Conditioners are mounted inside the room and mounted high on the wall. The air conditioner size is a about 10 inches tall, 10 inches deep, and about 30 inches wide. The air conditioner is controlled by a remote control device that looks about the size of a TV remote control device. The devices can be simple or very complex to operate. Simple is easier to manage as we had to get help operating a complex model. The complex model had a sliding cover on the front side of the controller of which we did not know and all that was showing was an LCD displayed temperature, on and off buttons (before we knew to open the cleverly hidden sliding cover). Under the sliding cover was the temperature setting, fan control, a timer, and other bells and whistles. We typically run the Air Conditioner at 20 or 21 C. Anyway, one sets the desired settings and then aims the remote control device at the air conditioner unit and pushes the ON Button. Some units take a few seconds to set up and operate, but you will know right away as to whether it will operate.
Europe Windows and Screens:
Screens don't exist, but very often bugs, flies, and mosquitoes are uncommon also. All water places (i.e., near lakes, streams, or ponds) seem to have mosquitoes. We think that most Europeans have a drink and go to sleep with always closed windows.
Room Beds, Bedding, & Covers
Covers: (Especially in Austria, Hungary, somewhat in Scotland,
and probably in Germany & England):
Beds for two different people have a separate cover for each person (usually of goose-down like material) even when the bed itself is one mattress unit.
- Each person gets their own cover.
If you are used to sleeping two people under one big cover, it takes some getting used to the new situation but it is not intolerable and it is not bothersome at all if you are tired. This system is used year round.
- The system makes hot flashes easier to manage without interfering with your bed mate.
- These same beds only have a bottom sheet (NO top sheet, just the cover).
- The cover is composed of a sheet, that seems to be folded and sewn in half, length wise, like a very large pillow case, which has the insulation item inserted (much like a flat sleeping bag being inserted into a large sheet case).
The term "Twin":
Hotels in the Austria, Hungary, Scotland, England, and probably in Germany, call a room for two people a "twin" and a room for four (or up to four) a "quad." The latter is easy to understand, but the former causes consternation for people who have been stuck with "twin beds" in their lifetime. A twin bed is a little bed that fits only one person. A twin room may or may not have a twin bed. So far, in a five star motel, a twin room has had a queen bed with two twin covers, while three star or less have had twin beds together or apart, each with twin covers. The problem seems pervasive and any queries as to what they have seem to not be understood. It is very difficult to NOT get a twin bed in Austria and Hungary.
Twin beds in Alaska, Canada, Camping Hotels, and USA Hunting and Fishing Camps: Almost every camp or camping oriented motel will have twin beds.
Double Bed/Twin Beds (Sicily/Italy/Mediterranean): Everywhere, a Double Bed is two Twin Beds put together, period.
UK Water Heaters -
Scotland, England, and probably Wales and Ireland:
Houses and Hotels, especially older establishments, may not have a central Hot Water Heater. A room's Hot Water Heater is often located in the bath room. The heater control unit is often a little box that hangs from the roof or from some high wall point. The important thing is that unit has an electrical switch that controls whether the Hot Water Heater is On or Off. If it is On, a little Red LCD light is On, and most importantly the switch is usually a pull string/chain that hangs from the unit and/or may have a wall switch. So, as soon as you check into a room, make sure that the Hot Water Heater is turned on.
Open hotel room safes the night before departure. We read about a couple of travelers who had a closet safe with a digital code lock. They had waited until just before their checkout to open the safe and recover their wallets, tickets, and passports. The safe would not open. The hotel had it opened in four hours - they had to get hold of a special lock smith. Unfortunately, the couple had missed their flight and pre-paid tours. Moral: Open hotel room safes the night before departure.
About hotel room safes: The safes are simple to operate and common in popular travel hotels across the world. These safes are probably battery operated (or have a battery backup), which is both a good news and bad news story. The good news is that the safes can operate during electrical power failures. The bad news is that when the battery, electricity, or mechanical system fails, there can be a problem opening the safe and much consumption of time.
Red Lamp Light Becomes White Light
In Sicily, while staying at a four star hotel, we turn a lamp on and it had a red light. We thought that was different and interesting, but after 10 or 15 minutes we noticed that the light had turned from Red to White Light. We think that the Red to White Light exists to ease the morning wake-up routine.
The big issue is that the USA operates on a 110 Volt AC electrical system and a lot of the rest of the world operates on a 220 Volt AC electrical system. So buy and use electrical devices that facilitate operating on both systems. Some devices require a switch to be moved to/from 110/220 and some devices have adapters that can self determine which system it is operating. For either of the following cases, when you can, be sure to buy and use devices that work on multiple system types.
Plugs Adapters for Electrical Outlets:
Different world areas use different electricity voltage and cycles per second. Furthermore their can be different outlets (different plug/prong styles), different wire combinations (some three, others two), different wire plugs (flat, round, square, rectangular, or a mix). Learn what the outlet style(s) are for countries that you are visiting and obtain the appropriate adapters and have appliance that are designed to operate in the correct voltage and cycles per second.
Electrical Voltage and Cycles/Second by Country
NOTE: We seem to get by with three adapters for four devices; the hair dryer, shaver, camera battery charger, and computer battery charger. Adjust for your personal needs as necessary, BUT we found that there is often a limit on available outlets - This sometimes mandates charging and usage planning. And, very often, something else has to be unplugged, usually the TV and sometimes a lamp. Also, it is not unusual that the bathroom outlet cannot handle the high wattage of a hair dryer - there is usually a sign or a notice stating such (next to the outlet). The sign usually states "No Hair Dryer" or "Shavers Only." Please respect those notices.
Electrical Outlet Adapter Plugs
NOTE: Electrical Adapters are usually located where suit cases are
sold or in most retail electronics stores.
AC Adapter Discussion and
Electrical Plug/Outlet Adapter Discussion:
Do not confuse the two different adapter issues.
Amperage Controllers (in Rooms) -
France and probably higher elevation areas in or near the Alps:
Some motel rooms have electrical amperage/wattage controllers in the closet or they are available to the staff to control. If you know how, you can adjust the controller for your needs (remember to set low when done or checking out) or you can have the staff set/reset the controller for you. These controllers allow the hotel to save electricity, especially when the room is unoccupied. The controllers limit the amount of appliances that can be used or the amount of work done by appliances. We had an instance where we wanted to wash out some biking jerseys and dry the jerseys on an electrical heated drying rack that was in the hotel room's bathroom. We couldn't figure it out and we finally went to the hotel clerk who showed us how to operate both the rack and the amperage/wattage controller (which was on a hallway closet shelf).
European Bath Room Universal Electricity Outlet:
Almost every bath room has this same Universal Electrical Outlet which is supposed to work for 220 and 110 voltage. I think that these outlets may work for shavers of low wattage but they don't work for anything else. I don't know anyone that uses them and everyone I have met does not like these outlets as they are a waste of potential accommodation.
I mistakenly thought that I was recharging my computer-battery using one of these outlets and the computer would never charge. I learned to unplug the TV and use its outlet (which did behave normally). Also, we used the same TV outlet for our hair dryer. Like in the USA, better hotels/motels supply hair dryers, others don't. Sometimes we are on the cheap (especially biking light weight) and sometimes we want the works (Paris Opera).
Room Key Cards and Electricity Warning:
Some hotel rooms use the same plastic electronic key that is used to unlock the electronic lock to slide in a card slot inside the room in order to activate the electrical power to the room. When the card is inserted there is electricity in the room, when the key is removed, like when you leave the room, there is no electricity to the room's outlets. This system disallows rooms from being left with power on because you must remove the key in order to use the same key to reenter the room.
This prevents people from doing things like leaving a hairdryer on to dry clothes, a common hotel fire starting problem. Unfortunately, it prevents appliances, equipment, cameras, cell phones, and computer batteries from getting charged while you have left the room, and it will drain the batteries of any computer or appliance left on.
After a while we learned to make sure that we got two room key cards and to leave one key card plugged into the room recepticle if we needed to have one or more batteries charged, while we were out.
Electrical Outlet Switches -
Continental Europe, British Isles, Australia, & New Zealand:
Hotels, Motels, and Homes have switches on their electrical outlets in addition to room switches. In other words, there are TWO Switches (a Wall Switch and an Outlet Switch). So, you need to insure that both switches are ON in order to use the electricity (like to charge a camera battery or a computer battery overnight).
Notice, in the upper right picture, that the left side Outlet Switch is ON (Red Colored Indicator) and the right Outlet Switch is OFF (No Red Indicator). There is a wall switch too. This happens to be a UK Outlet Type.
Notebook Computers and AC Adapters:
Learn to read and know the Input Voltage and Cycle for your Notebook computer's AC adapter. In most cases, the same voltage adapter can work on USA 110 Volt systems and other countries 220 Volt systems as well as on USA 60 Cycle (per second) and other countries 50 Cycle systems. So, probably all that you need to work is the proper outlet adapter for the particular country that you will operate your notebook computer.
Open hotel room safes the night before departure.
The Right Word (How do you say Toilet?):
It seems that the word Toilet and Water Closet (or WC) are equally the most known words for toilet. Toilet seems to work everywhere but water closet is a close second. Water Closet probably works in all countries formerly colonized by European countries, especially by the United Kingdom and France. WC certainly works in Europe, Asia, Pacific Islands, and Australia.
Universal Gesture): Holding your hands in front of you, like you have a penis (real or not), is a universal gesture that always communicates your need to find a toilet. Yes, Ladies, it may get a chuckle from the elderly and it may get a red face from the young, but it always gets results.
- STORY: While we were in Korea, Terry asked, without thinking, "Where is the bathroom?" We were directed to a Bath House.
- Always go out of your way to learn the word for Toilet !!!
My grandpa used to say, "The job is not done until the paper work is done!"
- Generally, decent places in major cities have good toilets and the facilities have toilet paper. Most places in the US have toilet paper. Major city airport toilets will have toilet paper. Once you start getting remote, especially to include bus stations and train stations, you may either need to pay for facilities or provide your own paper. In very remote places, toilet paper is never supplied period.
- In remote places, always carry your own toilet paper.
Two Button Toilets -
Eastern Europe, Australia, & New Zealand:
This is actually pretty clever. The Toilets have two (2) push buttons (rather than a lever handle). In Australia and New Zealand, the flush buttons are usually colored black and white but can be of the same color (usually the bowl color). The black button is for a full tank flush. The other button is for a half tank flush (like just for flushing urine only or just for a tissue).
In Eastern Europe the two buttons are not colored, but one button is usually bigger than the other - we assumed that a big button was for a big flush and a little button was for a little flush, but occasionally it was the opposite. In any case, we found this two button system to be clever, conservative, and very practical. If their are two buttons of the same color, nearly as we can tell, either single button is for a half [tank] flush and both buttons are to be used for a full flush. We found that this setup seemed to be more flush efficient than USA styled toilets.
Toilet Use Costs:
Tourist attractions especially, have very small charges for toilet use. Actually, this usually protects tourists from beggars and otherwise bothersome people. Every country has bothersome people. Sometimes, it seems that we learn to say the native word for "No" for this reason first.
It is never expensive, per se, the general problems are:
- Your smallest money denomination is a one-billion unit bill and you need a ten unit coin.
Ergo: Always have toilet coins and small bills!
- Because a lot of married people let one person manage the money, the person without any coins (often the wife) seems to get caught inside some facility without any coins (and without the husband near).
- People run into the problem of not having enough coinage because we actually try to avoid coins as the coins often do not get accepted or converted during money conversion when one changes country or returns home.
Signs and Symbols (Men's or Women's Room?):
Be prepared for any kind of symbology in pictures. Bulls (horns, men - there is a horny joke somewhere here), Cows (without horns, women), Penis (never did find out what the woman's room had - this from my Mother-In-Law), Circle with Arrow (men), Circle with Plus Sign (also known as the Life sign, women), Person with Broad Rim Hat (men), Person with Dress (women). So far, we have only seen one Unisex Toilet Room with stalls (good news - no one lingered around).
Some of the following are interesting Toilet pictures submitted to the go.funpic.hu Hungarian (humor) web site (in Hungarian, in English). The original site name has apparently been changed, but they keep the go.funpic.hu logo on their pictures. Some of the oictures are from us.
Some, newer cell phone models can connect to most of the world's phone cells. There are four major world cellular networks. At present, 2007, there are four major world telephone networks. The telephone calling plan still controls what you can and can't do but some phones are four network capable. Some international capable cell phones only need a programmed memory card (about the size of a big thumb nail) in order to gain access to the telephone air wave cells of different global telephone regions - of course the cell phone memory card is part of the particular vendor's regional network's billing system. If you have a cellular telephone and plan, in this category, talk to your agent/representative before your trip. You can purchase, for example, a two or four week, foreign/regional phone plan - you just insert the memory card into your phone just before the trip (and test it).
Older models cannot connect to all international networks and some are incapable due to frequency, protocol, plan, or other factor. So the solution alternatives are:
Unless your personal cell phone has the International Call Access you will need cell access for the country or countries that you are visiting. See the following newer options.
- Buy and use world capable cell phone and supporting billing package.
- This package will probably still require a notification on
your part and the issuance of a special memory card.
- There are different packages that vary in use and
ranges of expected call quantities in a period
(5, 50, 500, ...)
- Use a foreign county's call box:
- Coins (which means always having to have proper coin amounts
and some telephones won't take coins)
- Find and use:
- Credit card call box
- Calling card:
- Call box
- Some facility's phone
- Some friend's phone
- Use a rented telephone that operates in the countries
that you are visiting.
- Requires a prior set up with a telephone service. Also some vendors
facilitate a choice:
- Their US Area Code
- Your local US area code, so that your home business acquaintance,
friends, or family can call you locally without having to take on
long distance charges
- Foreign Country Code, where you will be principally or initially,
or eventually located.
- Rent from either an airport vendor or a destination call service -
We have never done this.
- Satellite phone purchase or rental, still expensive,
is a viable option for some situations.
Long Distance SIMM Card Purchase/Plan: There is a new telephone long-distance country rate option (for newer cell phones that work from SIMM cards). SIMM cards and option plans may allow a purchase of plans that last a week or a month. The SIMM card allows you to use your telephone in one or more countries as a local telephone. One of the benefits is that some foreign telephone numbers cannot be dialed long distance, at all. It is a cell phone versus land phone control issue. Also, some foreign telephone numbers need a different prefix when using a telephone from out of the country. We had a very difficult time with these problems in Sicily, had we have known, we would have purchased a foreign SIMM card option.
Experience: So far, of the few SIMM card plans that we have purchased, we could only connect in or near big cities and NOT in the country, and yet we could see Grape Pickers* and Teenagers in the country on cell phones. So far we cannot recommend any service. *For the record, property owners, family members, and share holders are almost always in the fields at harvest time. Sometimes they will share a moment with inquisitive cyclists.
CAUTION: One cannot just buy or rent a SIMM card and stick it in the cell phone. One must UNLOCK the OEM SIMM Card through a long series of codes (which can usually be found on the internet based on your cell Manufacturer and Model).
International Roaming Purchase/Plan: If you are going use your home based telephone in a foreign country, you can buy International Roaming access for a small fee. Its worth it. BUT, note that it is worth keeping International Roaming account for a couple weeks after returning, because the international roaming charges often take a few weeks to finally get charged to your home account and if you International Roaming Account is active, then the billing will be managed correctly, but if the International Roaming Account is turned off, then your charges will be mishandled and you will likely be charged more. The telephone company can fix it, but it takes your time and energy to get the account corrected. Its worth a few dollars to avoid the problems.
Luggage Philosophies (post 11 September):
1. If you sometimes travel with groups that conduct more remote touring such that logistically each person is allowed only one piece of luggage. You will want one really big piece of luggage each, so buying luggage in sets such that the individual pieces are in different sizes seems impractical - in this situation, buy/use large sized luggage only.
2. Hardside vs Softside: Requirements and needs vary.
- Hardside is durable, protective, and long lasting. The security need of hardside has gone away since after Sept 11 most security agencies don't allow you to lock your luggage (so that it may be inspected, or else the inspecting agency will break into your suitcase if they feel a need to inspect the contents).
- Softside is flexible and is more accommodating to extra or odd sized purchases being added to your existing baggage. Softside also allows more flexibility to speed packing as it requires less layout planning.
3. If you are the person that transports your own luggage, then the easier that the luggage can be transported, the easier it is on your time, logistics, and personal energy. Nothing like carrying your own luggage in an equatorial customs line to work up a sweat (Caribbean, Florida, Mexico, and Hawaii too). Except for a small backpack, all luggage should have wheels and sometimes having straps can help. All straps should be padded for the shoulder.
One of these types of luggage will fit some scenario:
In every case new versions exist with wheels and/or shoulder straps. The Internet is a great place to find really cool travel luggage.
4. Soft Luggage Zippers:
- Don't even consider bag openings that have just one zipper.
- fast access to documents that you want at the ready (boarding pass & passport for instance)
- access from either zipper
- access to a certain area without exposing, spilling, or loosing material in another storage area
- better access to your documentation when your bag is in a stack of bags
- much faster access no matter your position or your luggage position
- allow to be zipped from both ends such that something can stick out
- Better bags have reinforced eyelets in the zipper pull which facilitates a mini-lock.
Note that some airport security agencies do not allow you to lock your baggage (so that it can be inspected). This, of course, further justifies carrying valuables on your person or on your personal carryon bag.
- Slit pockets are very handy on all sides. If not all sides, more is better than none.
- Beverage Bottle Holder: An add-on bottle carrier or something to carry a beverage bottle for easy access or temporary easy storage while you are fumbling with other tasks like making or changing reservations. Sometimes a little holder can be attached temporarily to the slide handle of a rolling carry on bag and later stored in a pocket.
5. Luggage Bag and Owner Identification:
This is tricky. The US Government can quickly reissue a lost passport if you have a photocopy of the Picture Name page. Therefore, it is recommended from multiple travel sources that there be a passport photocopy placed in each suitcase, bag, satchel, and briefcase. Pack it inside, not in an outside pocket.
This is not anything that we have experienced, but it has been suggested that some well organized theft rings have read the name and address off of suitcases that belong to wealthy people. So, what some travel books and some travel agencies suggest is to put the card of your travel agent (or some other friend or relative) in the suitcase identification holder (plastic/leather ID Card holder). This is the reason why the passport photocopy goes inside the bag and not in a pocket.
The above reasoning is why we use common suitcases, cheap looking travel bags, and common looking bag tags.
We have marked all of our luggage with a white letter stencil so that we can quickly identify our luggage and there is one time that another person had the same luggage type and color and was walking off with our bag. It was a legitimate mistake, he had left his identical bag - it would have taken days or a week to straighten that out had we not identified our bag! We have noticed many forms of personal marks on suit cases, to include: decals, icons, spray paint, colored spray slashes, colored straps, and initials.
Online Currency Conversion
Another Online Currency Conversion
Online Currency History/Graph
You may have to tinker with the input values.
International Currency Express, The company that we use for
currency exchange. They consistently have the best overall rate, conversion and shipping. Note that other companies have a lower conversion rate but have a higher shipping cost or other additional fees - our experience anyway. For the best deal, don't use credit card, call them and fax a check copy. It takes a moment to set up an account, but it is worth it.
- Usually, the best rates are through a reputable online carrier, then through member banks, other banks, and last at a street money exchange, with the following general exception. If the currency value is controlled by the state (and not by the market) one can generally get better exchange rates at certain reputable street locations - ask hotel clerks or small shop owners (they will often get a little under the table cut, already built into the conversion agreement). Some hotels are crooked as hell, where everyone gets a cut, and they direct customers to the best cut for theirselves. Bicycle Shop owners have been known to look out for traveling cyclists.
- It is wise to have a little amount of money in small bills or coins (for help tips, transport, and/or vending machines). One should always arrive with small bills and coins, consider buying something at the destination airport, like a gift for someone that vicariously follows your travels.
- Some home banks will not issue coins and in some cases they will not even issue small bills. Even travelers checks are in a denomination too big for tips or machines. Almost no taxi or transportation system will take travelers checks.
- We have had good experience with an online currency company that goes out of their way to make sure that some small bills are issued (or at least make sure that the buyer is aware of the reason and opportunity to get small bills). See Link Above (we have no business/personal relationship).
- Things Gone Wrong with Street or Back Room Exchanges:
- Some exchanges state one exchange rate and they mysteriously conduct the paper transaction at another exchange rate. Do the math, know the general exchange rate.
- The exchange may be illegal (risk of arrest, risk of being cheated, risk of no recourse).
- One may be given counterfeit money.
- One may be short changed.
- Always count the money on the spot. Once one steps/walks away, one often has given up all recourse for remedy (perceived or legal).
- Skimming may take place between the cage and the delivery (common is Russia to remove the top bill of a stack of bills inside a sliding drawer).
- Handling fees/commission can be outrageous in one place and not even exist down the street or around the corner. It helps to get input from other travelers and ex-patriots.
- Generally, airport exchanges, while not at the best rates, are honest and since they are only used for small amounts of exchange (no one carries large amounts of money in airports) they have higher transaction costs.
Wallet/Purse and What to Bring for Travel:
Dennis has two wallets, one for travel and the other for home. For a traveling wallet Dennis only carries:
Terry carries either:
- Drivers License
- Only appropriate Credit Card(s):
- Health Insurance Card
- Auto Insurance Card
- American Automobile Association (AAA) Card *
(Not an endorsement, but mighty
convenient for discounts, world wide)
- Business &/or Personal Contact Card(s): *
- Your Better Half
- Your Boss or Company
- Denominations of the visited country(ies)
- Small bills for tips, taxies, and public transport (some in pocket)
- Coins for pay toilets (in pocket)
* NOTES: * Carry the AAA card because sometimes a AAA discount is offered, even in countries that AAA doesn't have maps or travel information (AAA is quite pervasive). Men, use a small bi-fold wallet and carry it in your front pocket. We forgot business cards once, what a mistake, they work well for just giving a new friend a contact method - We hope that the reader may learn from our mistakes.
- Just a Drivers License and a few folded bills carried in a Passport,
on her person. No purse to clutch and can hold hands or other
- A strapped travel bag. The bag is often
a removable bicyclist's handlebar bag (but can be carried as a front
mounted fanny pack or a traveler's clutch bag).
Pickpockets are certainly out there! We don't claim to be experts, but of the few successful pickpocket instances that we have been around, the pickpockets exploited two situations, one is a natural funnel that a traveler more or less has to go through (people in lines: subway turnstile lines, bus/metro ticket lines, and small entrances), and the other is a natural crowd (lots of people in a situation that is naturally crowded: tourists queuing up, buses, trains, malls, rush hour travelers, a big well attended event, nice looking kids acting like they are playing). In every case that we are familiar, the item taken was not on the body; the item stolen was in coat pockets, rain coat pockets, or in a purse.
Turnoff for Pickpockets
We may have lucked into a turnoff-abort for pickpockets. No one, including us has been robbed while we were taking pictures of our surroundings. In every pickpocket case that was successful, that we knew about, Dennis had already put his camera away, which by the way, he almost always carries in his other front pant pocket (opposite from his wallet in his other front pocket).
Open hotel room safes the night before departure.
It can take a hotel about four hours to get a locksmith to open a dysfunctional closet safe. If one waits to the last minute to get their ID/Money/Passport/Tickets and the Room Safe is not working (e.g. the battery died) then one may miss their transportation out of the town or country. The problem can be avoided by opening or removing the contents of the safe on the night before the scheduled checkout time.
Tours, Travel, Events, Places, and Stores
Table of Contents
We try to carry a tiny spiraltop note pad and a pen or pencil. We are getting pretty good a drawing pictures and concepts. Especially just to get tap water and not bottled water.
Europe & Tap Water, Good Luck: We know that it is cool and common to drink bottled water, either with gas/gaz (carbonated) or without gas/gaz (non carbonated). We like tap water, we don't like bottled water in any form, to include mineral water. Every vendor and restaurant will only offer bottled water and they all act real stupid when you request tap water. If they have tap water and you ordered tap water, it often comes during the middle of the meal. The word for tap water is becoming a language requirement for us and we are pretty good at drawing the concept of tap water on paper. We really, often, have to be persistent in order to get tap water. Yes, there are a few places that don't have good or safe tap water, but they are few. The real problem seems to be profit. We Americans complain about the price of gasoline but pay three to four times the cost of a gallon of gasoline for bottled water. It has almost become a matter of principle, but ordering tap water seems to always be problematic.
Local Tours, Bus Tours
Austria and Hungary (and probably Germany):
Half day and full day Tours on busses often send a prepaid taxi to your hotel to bring you to the tour bus.
You are on your own to get back, so discuss any return needs with your tour guide as soon as practical to so that they can initiate suitable arrangements. Sometimes the tour service can drop you at or near your hotel if they just happen to go near it on the return trip and sometimes you may want to be dropped off at some particular location that you had it mind to visit anyway.
- It is wise to check with the Concierge
- This is a common practice and the hotels are used to a standard where a tourist is expected to know to be ready thirty minutes beforehand at the hotel's lobby.
- This also implies that you inform your travel agent and/or your tour company of any lodging changes.
Learn to ask if you tour will be mingled with other tours. There is not much worse than a hundred tourist standing around a table to watch one craftsman, where maybe the nearest six people will get to actually see the craftsman at work. This kind of tour is pervasive in communist and former communist countries.
Multi language tours (are quality deficient)
The following happened in a former communist country where they do not know the difference between quantity and quantity, in fact they think that quality is quantity.
While multi-lingual people and travel guides are to be appreciated and admired, a multi-language tour seems to consist of a guide dividing his or her time between two or more languages and inevitably it upsets the presentation timing (on your right is, on your right was, on your right there will be, ...). The guide always seems to be talking and everyone's desire to ask questions seems to diminish during the trip. The trip's feeling seems to be rushed. Frankly, our few experiences with this kind of tour seemed cheap or low class. Kind of reminiscent of cattle being herded from spot to spot (much like a large cruise ship). It may be one of those things that should be experienced once and only once. When a tour is said to be in "English," that does not mean "English Only." We now know to ask "Is the tour going to be a multi-language tour?" or state to the booking agent or travel agent that you do not like to participate in multi language tours.
Wine Festivals (former Communist countries don't get it)
Budapest and probably other former Communist Countries are NOT oriented for true wine tasting. They are still thinking quantity and not quality.
It is oriented for making money at the gate and by the sip. It is a very low class setup. It is profit oriented and not wine quality oriented. One pays a bunch a money to get in, which is common across the world, then additionally all wine tasting is charged by the glass (by drink tickets, sold separately). To make matters worse, one vendor may charge four or more tickets for tasting wine from just one bottle. Additional tickets for "Tasting" are sold in Drink Ticket Booths and if this sounds like how low class Carnivals are run, you would be correct, it is exactly the same. The tickets are used for money control where no money control is needed and someday the wineries will get smart about the problem. The existing system leaves no practical way to actually peruse the wine vendor products and learn what wine or wines that one may like because there are too many vendors, maybe a hundred, to be buying tickets for each.
The way a Wine Tasting should be is to have one charge to get inside and that is all. The vendors make their money by making bottle and case sales or by impressing a wine tasters and publishers and NOT by charging by the sip. The host makes their money at the gate. Enthusiasts will benefit by gravitating to quality wines and buying quality wines, the wine vendors that don't have a good product will get a chance to improve their product or go into another business, thus the consuming public and the remaining producers get the advantage of a quality product. Charging by the glass discourages wine tasting. The event should facilitate and encourage wine tasting and do nothing to discourage wine tasting.
Before entering a museum or any facility that requires payment, ASK if it is OK to take pictures! The taking of pictures may not be automatically included in the entrance price and the taking of pictures may not be allowed at all or may be allowed for an additional cost. Communist and former communist places tend to have a generalized attitude against taking pictures. This pervasive policy actually makes quite a few places not worth visiting - its like going to Disneyland and not being allowed to take pictures. Why go?
Clothing (Sicily, Mid to Southern Italy)
We wore bike shorts as we were biking!. Outside of tourist areas (i.e., where we biked) Terry would sometimes get disapproving looks from men and women for her shorts (not while biking but when entering a shop). We never saw one female on a bicycle. We went to visit a Norman Castle. The castle just happened to have a church as a part of the tour - we did not know. Terry was in shorts, they gave her a white cloth cover to wear. Terry was a good sport and wore the cover tunic. Terry said that it was designed to be uncomfortable and non breathing. A nice lady from The Netherlands spoke to us in English, she said it was obvious that we did not know that we were going on a church tour. She went on to say the most of the Mediterranean area is like this and that it is worse as nears the area of Greece (and sort of implying the area of the middle east). Ironically, Dennis was also in shorts but its OK for men to wear shorts.
We never saw any local females in short pants or sleeveless shirts, even for teenagers in the city of Palermo. On occasion, in cities, one may see a little belly or waist as is fashionable for teens elsewhere (but no shorts or sleeveless shirts).
Terry has a quick wrap skirt. It's actually to cover a swim suit so that a lady can quickly appear to change from a one piece swim suit top to a nice looking evening dress (kind of look). After the church incident, Terry kept that wrap handy. In the future, we'll be looking for an all black skirt wrap. It can do double duty as evening wear.
Most of the world operates on 24 hour clock time. Only inside
the USA is 24 hour time called military time.
You may see Hrs, Hs, or H as abbreviations for "Hours".
12:00 O'clock AM = 1200 Hours = 12H = Noon
12:00 O'clock PM = 2400 Hours = 24H = Mid Night
You may see a shop sign that merely states: 9 - 18
This is 0900 - 1800 Hours and translates to
Open from 9 AM to 6 PM (18 = 1800 hours).
24 to 12 Hr Time Conversion Loose Rule of Thumb
* The first twelve hours are the same.
* For the second twelve hour period:
For the TEENS:
Subtract 2 from the Unit
to obtain the 12 hour equivalent.
E.g., 14H (4-2 = 2pm), 16H (6-2 = 4pm), 18H (8-2 = 6pm)
For the TWENTIES:
Add Ten to the Unit, Subtract 2
to obtain the 12 hour equivalent.
20H (Unit=0, +10 =10 -2 =8pm), 22H (Unit=2, +10 =12 -2 =10pm),
24H (Unit=4, +10 =14 -2 =12pm)
Kind of like new math!
Time and Day of Week Planning Issues:
World Wide Shop Open/Closed Time Observation:
This is mentioned elsewhere, but outside of the US
and outside major cities, most shops close at 5 PM on weekdays,
they close at Noon on Saturday, and nothing is open on Sunday.
This is for all shops, including food markets, pharmacies, and
Twenty-Four Hour Clock Face
Weddings and Weekends: In the more remote towns the good local restaurants are often booked for Weddings, Anniversaries, and other celebrations on weekends. These locations are often the recommended place to go in travel books or online recommendations.
Travel Holidays, Sundays, and Weekends: Learn to take Travel Holidays, Sundays, and Weekends into account for travel planning. The following links show holidays but there seems to be no clear distinction between government closure holidays, people off work holidays, and special days.
Earth Calendar and
Meal Time Punctuallity (Scotland, probably the entire main UK): If a dinner meal is at, say 2000, no matter how many people are early at the door, the door will not be opend until 2000. don't arrive anywhere early. The weather is your problem, not the host's.
Meal Times (Sicily and maybe Southern Italy): In Sicily, Breakfast is at 8 AM and Dinner at 8 PM, Period, no matter how much of a hurried mindset that you may be.
Siesta Hours (Sicily and maybe Southern Italy and around the Med): Shops close at mixed hours for siesta between 1 PM and 4 PM, it may be 1 PM to 3 PM, 1 PM to 4 PM, 2 PM to 3 PM, 2 PM to 4 PM, whatever the shop owner feels. Note that in busier traffic areas (more customers, especially in tourist areas) some shops may not close at all during siesta - you will learn to develop a feel for shop closures for the siesta hours. Summer temperatures easily exceed 100°F / 37°C and that is a good reason for siesta and why one should not be outside in the heat.
About Cameras and Picture Tips for Travelers
Table of Contents
Think in terms of what do you remember long after the trip (usually its not scenery).
Think in terms of a memories story board layout (with a start, an end, and transitions as well as the main content). We tend to photograph the main event but not the before and after events. Also, while the younger generation is good at taking many digital photographs, the older generation still thinks in terms of "film and developing is expensive and time consuming." Loose that attitude, get a digital camera and take lots of pictures.
Know When to NOT Use Your Camera: See Museums. See Immigration/Customs.
Know How to Use Your Camera: Just as you should never buy new shoes and use them for the first time on an expensive travel holiday (hint), you should not be learning how to use your camera on an expensive travel holiday. Learn how to use your camera before hand. You already know the consequence (lost memories).
Camera operations that you should have down solid are:
- Flash on and off
- How to take pictures through a window
- How to set up an action shot
(pre focus on the spot and wait for the action)
- How to charge and change your batteries
- How to download your pictures
STORY: Terry and I took a bicycling trip to France. Everyone had cameras. Most people took a total of about 20 pictures. I was averaging 150 pictures a day, but keeping maybe half. I triaged the pictures about every other evening. I shared pictures with the other travelers. About three years later, after the immediate memory of the travels had departed the mind, I started getting thank you notes from the other attendees as the only record of the travels were from my pictures. My point is that after the fact, people always wish that they had more photographs. The point is that one can get rid of pictures after the fact but one can't make pictures after the fact.
Don't be afraid to be a tourist, take lots of pictures. The trick is to take pictures of the things that you will think about or remember after the travels. That comes from experience, so I am listing photograph ideas that I have learned over the years. And yes, I often forget these ideas until I'm part way into the next journey. I'll let you learn from my mistakes.
If pictures are very important to you, then consider carrying a backup camera.
In thirty years of traveling, we have had two cameras break and in each case the cameras were the only cameras on hand (FYI, once in Alaska and once in Sicily). Ergo, no pictures could be taken. In both cases, a new camera was secured within 24 hours and it cost more additional time than we ever wanted to spend. Also, in both cases, the camera selection only met the minimum needs of functionality.
From now on, we will always have a backup camera with us on a tour. The basis for a backup camera can be either to be of equal quality or good enough quality to allow a good quality camera purchase later.
Basic Picture Taking 101
There are typically two first time rookie issues:
- Center on the entire human body and not just the face. Face shots are the one's that cut off legs and have lots of sky in the picture. What's usually desired is to have the entire human body in the picture. This habit only takes a few practice sessions to master.
- What's in the picture that is undesired. People mentally filter what they see, cameras don't filter (at least not in psychological sense) - cameras capture everything in the frame. I'm always working on this issue and the people who have this issue resolved seem to work for National Geographic.
There are two complementary perspectives that can help a photographer remove undesirable objects from pictures:
- There are typically Three Zones in a Frame plus the Subject. It helps a picture taker to mentally look at all three zones before pressing the shutter button. The zones are:
The camera operator needs to ignore the subject temporarily and
mentally review the zones.
- Common undesirable foreground objects are trash, sticks and the edge of things like the road in front of grass, and car fenders.
- Common undesirable background objects are people, vehicles, electrical overhead wires, signs (big or small) and things that reflect light like windows and mirrors.
- Common undesirable side objects are things that detract from the object (dogs, kids, cars, ...) or cause unbalance in the frame (a trash can, fence, tree/bush, signs, ...). The side zone is usually the first to be subconsciously mastered.
- Another technique is the Painter Technique. If you were going to paint this picture, what is in the real frame that you would not actually paint.
The Picture Taking Solutions are very straightforward:
- Move yourself to, either or both:
- Balance the Frame (fore and aft, and/or side to side)
- Realign your lineup on the Desired Object to block out an Undesired Object
- Move the Subject.
- Move or Remove the undesired object.
Good Picture Subject Ideas 201
- Take pictures of Meals and the food establishments that you
participated (inside and outside)
- Take pictures of Signs (especially Arrival and Departure,
but also interesting Enroute signs).
- Pictures of Signs are a great help for organizing picture albums and slide presentations. Think like a movie director that needs transition material from Point A to Point B (or sometimes a reason, justification, or cause for a snap shot).
- With Digital, Take lots of pictures. Average 150 snap shots a day. Delete: duplicates, near duplicates, unfocused/blurry, and ugly facial expressions on the first round of editing which can be up to 50% of the pictures. I share editing with my better half, Terry, I'm good at deleting pictures for solid technical reasons and Terry is good ad identifying pictures of poor taste or negative emotions.
- Take pictures of Yourself and your party,
BUT avoid unnatural (still) shots of
people standing and doing nothing
- Make sure that you have some pictures of
you and your mate doing something together
- Always Smile for other picture takers and
tell people to Smile for your pictures.
Candid shots of people not smiling usually end up in the trash can.
- 90% of nuked pictures are of nice friends that didn't
smile and the picture makes them look bad.
- Don't keep bad pictures (nuke them)
- Generally capture the entire body of people. A classic Novice mistake is taking a picture of a person and centering their head dead center rather than centering the whole person in the frame. It cuts off their feet and captures lots of sky (a waste of space).
- Use the flash outdoors in the day to prevent shadow faces
- Beware of contrast situations like people positions in the shade on an otherwise bright day (this is where using a flash will really pay off, but repositioning should be considered, facial squinting is an indicator that the position is bad and the picture will also be bad).
- Beware of flash back from glass widows, glossy finished walls and doors
- Beware of situations where the subject is in contrast with bright back lighting, like sitting/standing in front of a window or doorway. This also happens sideways, where a person or subject is beside a bright light/contrast source.
- Consider pictures taken from unusual angles: shoe or knee level views, reflections in glass/buildings/mirrors, straight up, 45 degrees, from the hip, and while moving - experiment.
- Frame your shots. Take a moment to (quickly) think about how you would position and frame an oil painting for the best presentation of the subject matter, then imitate the framing for your picture. Framing may require you to move/reposition your picture taking angle and/or to zoom in or out. Deliberately balance the shot (yes, on occasion, you want it deliberately unbalanced, but whatever balance you desire should be consciously determined).
- Consider, capturing a picture of the subject and people taking pictures of the subject.
- When subjects are spread near and far, consider a telephoto:
- focus set to infinity (Digital: at mountain)
- focus near (Digital: normal)
- focus very near, use Macro (Digital: Macro)
- focus near or far with a Smaller Aperature Setting
(aka Low Number Aperature setting) will yield a narrower
fixed distance in focus, the rest to be blurred
(Very difficult on Digital Cameras)
- Telephoto lensing from a distance is how you capture the feel of rolling hill terrain and
it is how you may capture the bigness of a nature subject with a human taking very little
Digital Camera Purchase Considerations 301
- Pixel Count. Each dot on your monitor display is one pixel. All of my quality pictures have been done on 2 to 2.5 Megapixels of file size (Megs of Pixels - a meg is roughly 1 million) That used to be the high quality setting but now, on 8M Digital Camera's, its a lower quality setting (but is quite good for non magazine publishers or non photo jounalists). We mere mortals don't have a need for an image that prints well on a 8.5 x 11 inch piece of photo paper. Two Meg is all that is needed for a good color-photo printer. More pixels mean more digital detail - Go with the current sales line if that's practical and they have more Megapixel's of storage.
- Format. JPEG or JPG or jpg (all the same thing). If you can't take pictures in a .jpg format, look for another camera (and another place of business because you are being taken for a ride).
- Brands. The same brands that are popular in 35 mm film brands make quality digital camera brands; Canon, Nikon, Kodak, ... . Good digital camera's incude Sony and a few other known lines (like Casio or even HP).
- Size. To me, the smaller the better. I carry my camera in my pocket. Camera Size has nothing to do with photo quality, however picture pixel size does. To me, cameras should either be the same size or smaller than a pack of cigarettes, or the camera should be in the style like a 35mm and have the ability to change lenses (Macro, Standard High Speed, Telephoto) and use specialty lens adapters (UV, Dawn/Dusk, Polarized, ...).
If I may, people take more pictures if the camera is pocket size or smaller because the camera person doesn't feel or look like a tourist if they don't have straps of stuff hanging all about them. When they stick the camera into a pocket, they can become normal looking fixtures to the environment (also assuming appropriate attire).
- Digital camera's eat up batteries! Always carry at least enough spare batteries to facilitate a full day's photo session.
- Batteries are expensive! On my last international vacation, there were people that had only one rechargeable battery and some of them could not take pictures after noon. Bummer, I took an average of 150 snapshots a day with no worry of quality or battery and I probably nuked 40% to 50% of the pictures after each evening's download edit. All of the tourists had money but no access to camera stores or specialized batteries (which leads to the next item).
- The most common and cheapest battery in the world is the AA. Why not buy a camera that uses AA rechargeable batteries? If you invest in rechargeable AA batteries, get the high-speed 15 minute charge type along with the appropriate charging unit. I happen to have a 220 volt version and a 110 volt version. A combination would be best (but that doesn't exist yet, to my knowledge).
- Camera Operations / Modes. All quality camera's have these; Auto Mode for Still Shots, Manual Mode for Still Shots, Movie (learn how to use). Plus the ability to turn flash on/off/manual/red eye, and a Timer. Other stuff is just bells and whistles.
- Download. You want something that does use an USB port download and includes the download cable and software <OR> some [notebook] computers have a direct memory card interface slot. Avoid proprietary equipment (the manufacturers equipment that is not compatible with anything but their own equipment - Sony is the worst for thisand Casio isn't far behind). Note that the ME, XP, and Vista Microsoft Operating Systems already come with software to easily perform this function - Don't buy extra upload and download software and if the camara comes with a software you probably won't need to install it for image/file load/download purposes. During one of our past travels, I made a backup copy of everyone's digital camera memory on my notebook computer. It was well appreciated.
- Download. Get something that uses an USB port download and includes the download cable and software <OR> some [notebook] computers have a direct memory card interface slot. Avoid proprietary equipment (the manufacturers equipment that is not compatible with anything but their own equipment - Sony is the worst for thisand Casio isn't far behind). Note that the ME & XP Microsoft Operating Systems already have software to perform this function - Don't buy extra upload and download software and if the camara comes with a software you probably won't need to install it for image/file load/download purposes. During one of our past travels, I made a backup copy of everyone's digital camera memory on my notebook computer. It was well appreciated.
- Computer Slide Show. FYI, The slide show feature comes on the ME or later operating systems (MS OS software made after 2002) -- nothing to worry about. Don't spend money for extra software and ALWAYS HAVE A DATA BACKUP! BTW, the newest top of the line TV Monitors will allow you to show your pictures on TV (via your computer) and the latest top of the line DVD/CD Players have a slide show feature (for DVDs to play jpg files).
- Next-Picture Speed (Not Shutter Speed). The time that it takes between pictures is important. Name brands usually do as well as a camera can do. Sometimes, this is a battery function and some expensive battery cameras do this faster/longer than good AA batteries facilitate.
- Costs. If you have time and you are not in a hurry, we've had good luck buying through Amazon.com, Ebay, or online in general. Ignoring the lower online costs, Best Buy & Walmart usually have the less expensive memory card and camera prices among the offline stores but not a very good camera selection. Batteries, usually, must be ordered from the brand's store (they are expensive) or online (less expensive). Buy a good camera. Do not go cheap in a camera investment for an international vacation.
- Memory Card. Most cameras come with a 16 or 32 meg memory card (or internal memory). The first thing that I'd do is buy a very large sized memory card - this is a place to put out some bucks! - then, you'll never have space problems. Buy this online also, much cheaper. The major brands use standard memory cards. The only time that I've been able to reuse a memory card in a new camera was when I broke the original and replaced the camera with the same style, otherwise, technology is such that when a newer better camera will be purchased, you will likely be buying a new memory card as well. It seems futile to buy one memory card expecting that it will used again for a newer camera, but it does happen on occasion.
- Built In Zoom Lens. Get 3x Optical or better. 3x Optical is the standard. 2x or less is a joke and anything about Digital Zoom is a joke! Learn to spot the difference between the words Optical Zoom and Digital Zoom. Optical Zooming is a glass lensing attribute important for taking long range pictures (a very big deal). Digital Zooming is a software presentation attribute used after the picture is taken (so what). Anything with greater than 7x Optical will need gyroscopic stabilization (gyroscopic stabilization may be know by a few different proprietary names, like image stabilization). Mechanical stabilization features break very easily.
- Durability. Every time that Dennis drops a Canon, it breaks the first time and it is cheaper to buy a new one than have it fixed. On the other hand, Dennis can drop a Nikon four or five times before it needs replacing. Between the two cameras, Canon takes slightly better or more efficient pictures - there goes my endorsement sponsorships. Other known brands are equally considerable, but camera selection is NOT a place to be cheap! Dennis is notoriously very hard on cameras (almost one a year). If a camera can't travel in a suit case, brief case, pocket, or saddle bag its not worth having! [Dennis' opinion.]
- Addendum 2008: Dennis bought a Water Proof and Shock Proof all metal Olympus digital pocket size camera that has already survived an otherwise fatal drop (camera knocked out of hand by a rogue pool stick - long story, involves kids). The same camera has also survived a drop in Dip (Dip in bowl for crackers) and a coffee spill but not a water submersion, yet, except to wash of the Dip under a faucet. On trips, we always carry a second camera, now.
- Know How to use Your Camera. Practice, practice, practice.
United Kingdom (UK):
- Designated as "M" roads (e.g, M5). The UK equivalent of a US Interstate Highway, with virtually identical rules. No Bicycles and minimum speed limits with just a few exceptions.
- A Roads (e.g., A7)
- UK equivalent of a US Highway (e.g. US66). Bikes are allowed at the riders risk. The roads are busy and some places are marked as No bikes Allowed. The road itself can be very narrow and with one lane bridges or two lanes that allow parking in one lane. It mandates special attention but we find local drivers to be very courteous in yielding right of way. We've only been honked at once and that was our fault (can't blame the guy).
- B Roads (e.g., B68)
- UK equivalent of a State Highway (e.g. C108). Some places are marked as No bikes Allowed. The road itself can be very narrow and with one lane bridges or one lane road segments or two lanes that allow parking in one lane. It mandates special attention but we find local drivers to be very courteous in yielding right of way.
- UK equivalent of a sidewalk. Like the US, the Brits don't like people riding bikes on sidewalks - its a pedestrian safety hazard and very problematic in cities and towns.
- Take Out
- UK equivalent of food "To Go." If you ask anyone in any UK country for food to go, they will not know what you mean. In the UK its just called "Take Out."
- In Suite
- B&B Vernacular: The Toilet and Bathing facilities are private and located in the bed room versus being located in the hall which may or may not be private).
- Quid, Sterling, Penny, Shilling
- One Quid means One Pound and the term Quid is used more than the term Pound. Sterling is short for Pound Sterling which goes back to Silver and Gold monetary standards. A Penny is 1/100 of a Pound. Shillings don't exist anymore but the term is still around and One Shilling equals Five Pennies, so Five Shillings means Twenty-Five Pennies. A payment request statement will Often sound like "One Pound Thirty,"meaning a Pound plus Thirty Pennies.
- You are welcome. Prego is often said in reply to when one says Gracia (thank you). However, Prego is the greeting of a shop owner to a customer as soon as the customer enters an establishment - it is said before the customer speaks.
- Ready. The common verbal response by a person answering a telephone is Pronto.
- Buon Giorno, Giorno, Ciao
- Good Day, Day, Hi/Bye. A common casual or quick response from a person replying to your greeting of Buon Giorno (Good Day) is just Giorno (Day) or Ciao (Hi and Bye, in one breath, like Aloha in Hawaiian).
- Buona Sera
- Good Evening. In the evening, at about 6 PM, while the sun is still out, the greeting and response is Buona Sera (even if you say Buon Giorno).
- An Observed Custom
- Commonly, women will not respond to a day or evening greeting from an unknown man.
Consolidated Conversions for One Page Print Out
12-24 Hour Time Conversion
Fahrenheit-Celsius Temperature Conversion
Pounds-Kilograms Weight Conversion
Miles-Kilometers Per Hour Speed Conversion
Miles-Kilometers Distance Conversion
Meters-Yards Distance Conversion
Measures and Conversion Details
NOTE: Nearly all examples are rounded. Table of Contents
Temperature Conversions (Common):
Fahrenheit / Celsius [Relative Scale]
Blue Line is Freezing, Green Line is Comfort, Red is Quite Warm (Subjective)
Cut out copies for dashboard, handlebar bag, and/or room.
Fahrenheit to Celsius [((F-32)/9)*5=C]:
F C F C F C
-40 = -40.0 30 = -1.1 90 = 32.2
-30 = -34.4 32 = 0 100 = 37.8
-20 = -28.9 40 = 4.4 110 = 43.3
-10 = -23.3 50 = 10.0 120 = 48.9
0 = -17.8 60 = 15.6 130 = 54.4
10 = -12.2 70 = 21.1
20 = -6.7 80 = 26.7
Note: At -40 spit will freeze before it hits the ground (Jack London)
Celsius to Fahrenheit [((C*9)/5)+32=F]:
C F C F C F
-40 = -40.0 -10 = 14.0 22 = 71.6
-35 = -31.0 - 5 = 23.0 25 = 77.0
-30 = -22.0 0 = 32.0 30 = 86.0
-25 = -13.0 5 = 41.0 35 = 95.0
-20 = -4.0 10 = 50.0 40 = 104.0
-17.8= 0 15 = 59.0 45 = 113.0
-15 = 5.0 20 = 68.0 50 = 122.0
Other Online Temperature Conversions
Weight Conversion (Common):
Pounds / Kilograms (Kilos) [Relative Scale]
Kilograms to Pounds (1 K = 2.20462262 P)
K - P K - P
1 - 2.205 6 - 13.228
2 - 4.409 7 - 15.432
3 - 6.614 8 - 17.637
4 - 8.818 9 - 19.842
5 - 11.002 10 - 22.046
Calculate Kilograms to Pounds
Pounds to Kilograms (1 P = 0.45359237 K)
P - K P - K
0.5 - 0.227 6 - 2.722
1 - 0.454 7 - 3.175
2 - 0.907 8 - 3.629
3 - 1.361 9 - 4.082
4 - 1.814 10 - 4.536
5 - 2.268
Calculate Pounds to Kilograms
Other Online Weight Conversions (Grams, Kilograms, Ounces,
Pounds, Stones, Long Ton, Metric Ton, Short Ton)
Volume Conversion (Common):
1 Liter = 0.22 UK Gallons = 0.26 US Gallon
1 UK Gallon = 4.55 Liters = 1.20 US Gallon
1 US Gallon = 3.79 Liters = 0.83 UK Gallon
1 Liter = 1.06 US Quart = 0.89 UK Quart
1 US Quart = 0.95 Liter = 0.83 UK Quart
1 UK Quart = 1.20 US Quart = 1.14 Liter
1 Liter = 1.06 Dry Quart
1 Dry Quart = 1.10 Liter
Other Online Volume Conversions
Miles Per Hour / Kilometers Per Hour [Relative Scale]
Cut out copies for dashboard and/or handlebar bag ;-)
Miles/Hour - Kilometers/Hour (1 M = 1.609 K ):
MPH - KPH MPH - KPH MPH - KPH
5 - 8.1 45 - 72.4 85 - 136.8
10 - 16.1 50 - 80.5 90 - 144.8
15 - 24.1 55 - 88.5 95 - 152.9
20 - 32.2 60 - 96.5 100 - 160.9
25 - 40.2 65 - 104.6
30 - 48.3 70 - 112.6
35 - 56.3 75 - 120.7
40 - 64.4 80 - 128.7
Kilometers/Hour - Miles/Hour (1 K = 0.624 M):
KPH - MPH KPH - MPH KPH - MPH
5 - 3.1 65 - 40.6 125 - 78.0
10 - 6.2 70 - 43.7 130 - 81.1
15 - 9.4 75 - 46.8 135 - 84.2
20 - 12.5 80 - 49.9 140 - 87.4
25 - 15.6 85 - 53.0 145 - 90.1
30 - 18.7 90 - 56.2 150 - 93.6
35 - 21.8 95 - 59.3
40 - 25.0 100 - 62.4
45 - 28.1 105 - 65.5
50 - 31.2 110 - 68.6
55 - 34.3 115 - 71.8
60 - 37.4 120 - 74.9
Other Online Speed Conversions
Statute Miles / Kilometers (K or Click) [Relative Scale]
1 Miles = 1.61 Kilometers = 5,280 Feet = 0.87 Nautical Mile
1 Kilometer = 0.62 Miles = 3,280.8 Feet 0.54 Nautical Mile
1 Nautical Mile = 1.150779 Miles = 1.852 Kilometers = 6,076.16 Feet
Meters / Yards [Relative Scale]
1 Meter = 1.09 Yard = 29.37 Inches
1 Yard = 0.91 Meter = 91.44 Centimeters
1 Inch = 2.54 Centimeters
1 Centimeters = 0.39 Inch
1 Foot = 0.3048 Meters = 30.48 Centimeters
1 Meter = 3.28084 Feet = 29.37 Inches
Other Online Length/Distance Conversions
Two choices, for either choice, a World/Country Map is located one scroll page down:
Errata, Thoughts & Ideas, Under Construction
Add Map URLs.
Table of Contents
Always have 2 cameras. A cheap little 3x pocket sized digital makes a fine backup and it would be extra convenient if they used the same memory and/or battery type.
Scottish Punctuality. Don't arrive early, you will be left standing outside until the specified time - an early arrival is generally considered rude. If you arrive late, the host's schedule executes with or without you, to include dinner. Use a telephone to communicate any issues. If one is attending an event, like a museum opening, or a dinner, the doors are opened exactly at the announced start time (no matter the weather).
Milano (Italy's Milan International Airport) immigration/migration bureaucratic paperwork inspector - one person at a time, spouse must wait behind the line. This could almost be amusing. We've traveled a good portion of the world, and in every case we have gone through immigration/migration processing together, as a married couple, side by side, la familiar. However, in Milano, our line's inspector insisted that we go through his line one at a time. It didn't seem to be a safety or humanity issue, but it seemed to be an ego issue as other inspectors were processing couples. Maybe we helped him feel good by allowing him to boss someone? We try not to not upset bureaucrats and we try to be good travelers and guests.
World Time by Zone
International and Domestic Tour/Trip/Travel Planning Details Page.