FAQ

Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain

FAQ:

--WHAT IS THE CURRENCY OVER THERE?

In Ireland and Spain, it is the euro. Please note, that unlike the good old days, exchange rates are no longer favorable for Americans. There are a bunch of internet sites that will show you how much the dollar is worth in respect to the euro and the pound. (The only good news is that it is better than it used to be a few years back)

--WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO GET CASH?

Some people still use traveler's checks; debit cards usually work just fine most everywhere. But don't carry too much cash at one time. PLEASE NOTE: every time you change currency you pay a fee. So, for example, if you convert a dollar into a euro you pay a exchange fee; if you then convert that euro into a pound sterling (should you go to England), you pay a fee again. Better to make each currency exchange directly from the dollar as much as possible.

--ARE THERE PICKPOCKETS?

--yes, at least in the big cities. Best strategy always is to keep your passport, credit cards, debit cards, cash--under your clothing. Just keep out enough cash for the day. And don't think you can outwit them.

--WHAT WILL THE WEATHER BE LIKE?

In May and early June it is unpredictable. You need to be prepared for rain, chilly weather and warm weather. Probably no extremes, though--but you never know. The usual rule of thumb is to dress in "layers" than can be taken off, put back on, as the weather requires. A windbreaker/rain jacket and hat is important, but it doesn't not have to be heavy. A light weight fast-drying balaclava can be very, very helpful, especially as you gain altitute and encounter colder and windier weather.

Good vendors for clothing that is good for traveling and for the outdoors are REI, ORVIS, and CABELA’S among others.

--DO I NEED HIKING BOOTS?

This trip we are hiking in several places in Ireland and Spain. In Ireland, at certain points we have to get off of the regular trail, meaning the ground can be uneven and boggy. Hiking in Spain is typically dry, but often rocky. So, something that is high enough to protect your ankles is very important. A hiking staff is a real help. Currently there are adequate but inexpensive staffs at Wal-Mart for about $15. They are light and even come apart to easily pack in your luggage.

--HOW DO I PHONE HOME?

Phone booths are more and more scarce. Most cell phones are capable of international calls. Check with your carrier. But remember, it is always expensive. However, many companies can at least offer you a texting package so you don't have to use as much voice contact. Some companies are beginning to offer "study abroad packages." 

--HOW CAN MY PARENTS/BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND CONTACT ME?

The very best solution is if you have a phone with you. We will have an EMERGENCY contact number people back home can use but it is ONLY to be used for an true emergency. 

--WILL I HAVE ACCESS TO A COMPUTER?

Maybe, but the only way to guarantee it is to bring you own computer/pad/smartphone. Many computers, phones, now do not require a conversion kit, only interchangeable plugs.

--iS THERE WIFI?

In more and more places, yes, but again, no guarantees from one place to the other

--CAN I FIND MY FAVORITE TOILITRIES THERE, LIKE SHAMPOO, RAZOR BLADES, ETC.

Maybe, but it can be harder than you think. Best to make sure you take what you want.

--HOW DO I KEEP FROM LOSING MY LUGGAGE?

Keep it close, mark it as distinctively as you can. If you are going to buy luggage, consider buying a different color than black. At least put some colored tape or cloth on it. Aside from the problem of airport thieves, someone can inadvertently walk off with your luggage if it does not have a distinctive appearance. It has happened before on our trip although we were able to retrieve it--barely--but not before it got to the Dublin airport and had to be returned by taxi.

--HOW DO I PACK?

As light as possible. You'll be much happier. Try to bring some clothes that can be easily washed and dried in the sink if a laundry is out of reach in a particular location. Americans have a reputation for not knowing how to pack when they go to Europe. In fact that's one of the ways you can easily identify Americans in Europe (besides the baseball caps and the new Nike's)--lots of luggage. Europeans sometimes find it amusing if not ridiculous.

Packing light is especially important on the 2013 trip since we don't have a "home base" so to speak; rather, we are on a kind of European pilgrimage, not staying in most of our sites, more than 2-3 days.

--SHOULD I BRING A TRAVEL/GUIDE BOOK FOR THE PLACES WE WILL VISIT?

By all means. You will have enough time to pursue some of our own interests that a tourist book will be very helpful; and, it will give you some familiarity with the history, geography, architecture and natural history of the locations before we arrive. This means you will absorb a great deal more. Pay special attention to the art museums we are visiting: if you are not at least a little prepared for the museums, you will be so overwhelmed that you will become overloaded and exhausted very quickly.