Even the most seasoned traveler can make mistakes while trekking through a foreign country. It’s in our nature. And believe me, any half assed blogger can slap together a “3 common mistakes travelers make abroad” and call it a day. No, screw that, we’re going to dig a little deeper here and learn from my mistakes that I actually made. However, because I’m not a complete dimwit, I’m proud to offer just three of the unfortunate mistakes I’ve made.
- Being Careless at the ATM.
So you’re an all star. You’ve got a foreign transaction free-less credit card, and you have some local currency on hand as well. But it’s not enough, and you’re stuck in a mostly cash-centric country. What’s a guy to do?
Well, if you’re like me, you’re probably in Prague, and you’ve also probably done your homework, learning that ATMs at the airport, or that most local Foreign Exchange shops really, will rip your head off with exorbitant exchange ratios. You’ve been advised that the ATM’s closer to the city, however, offer the best conversion rate, which is where you’ll end up soon anyways. So far so good.
See, I thought I was playing it smart. And before you ask, no I did not get my account information stolen (not that I know of). You see, all I needed was the cash equivalent of $100 dollars in Czech money. That comes out to 2344.29 CZK. What I found out was, however, there is an option to withdraw 23442.9 CZK which comes out to $1000. Holy crap.
As you can guess, I totally pressed the wrong button. I hit the 23442.9 CZK option. So instead of incurring a few dollars in exchange fees, I was charged 20 extra dollars for the privilege, and I had to exchange it all back into money I could actually use. This could have been avoided had I double checked the amount of CZK that I needed. You live and you learn.
Moral of the Story: It’s easy to withdraw more cash than you actually need, so pay close attention.
- Not Double Checking Your Train’s Departure Time
I’m still regretful I ever made this mistake. But in my defense, by this point I had already been traveling for a week, and I wasn’t exactly fully rested. Before I even stepped foot in Europe, I had bought my Deutsche Bahn tickets online, from Berlin to Amsterdam. It was an overnight train ride with plenty of transfers, but it was also dirt cheap. Not having to pay for a hotel meant that I could push my spending towards eating like a king the next day. At least, that’s what I had hoped for.
On my last day in Berlin, I had a ticket to Amsterdam that left at 7:01PM. What’s pretty neat is that, in Europe, they have a different way of presenting he time. For example, 1:00PM would be 13:00. Without getting into too much detail, I basically paid way less attention to the time than I should have, and so I overestimated the amount of time I had. I took my time exploring the Reichstag, then went back to the hotel to grab my backpack. Finally, my German adventure had come to an end. I arrived at the train station, ordered a kick-ass Kebab, and waited for the train.
Once I took my seat on said train, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I would not be making it to my next destination in time to transfer. I took a closer look at the ticket… and realized I was exactly one hour off. Boy, did I feel dumb. Meaning, I was still going to Hamburg… but on a completely different train. One hour later. Not good. The train conductor came by, and I explained my situation. However, he was not sympathetic at all, and I was forced to pay the “flexpreis,”fare, otherwise known as the “screw you” fare. My new ticket to Hamburg turned into 4x the amount I had paid for the entire trip to Amsterdam.
Once I was in Hamburg (which was around 11PM, by the way), I learned the next train to Amsterdam was at 6:45AM. The next seven hours and forty-five minutes were spent in a McDonalds, where countless people came up to me begging for change. I was also lucky enough to witness an all-out brawl, because, why not? Everyone, including myself, was too tired to really care. I sipped on my coffee while trying to stay awake so that no one would steal my belongings.
Eventually, I made it to Amsterdam, but not before leaving my international charger behind. It was the worst night of my trip.
Moral of the story: For the love of god, double check your departure time!
- Leaving my International Charger on the Train
This goes hand in hand with the incident where I missed my train to Amsterdam. As you read above, I was at the Hamburg train station in a McDonalds filled with weary travelers and beggars. I forced myself to stay awake the entire night. In case you haven’t been to a McDonalds where they are essentially the same all over the world, my night was filled with delicacies such as: French fry grease aroma, halogen lights that buzzed loudly, sticky seats, and coffee that made my heart race but did nothing to help me stay alert.
Imagine my relief when the train actually came through – I was ecstatic! Even better, these trains had electric sockets under the armrest! Jackpot. I plugged in my international charger and charged the hell out of my iPhone. And that’s actually the last time I ever used it, because I totally left it behind when I arrived in Amsterdam. This would have been terrible had my Airbnb host not had a bowl full of different adaptors. So I guess it didn’t turn out to be a total inconvenience.
With that being said, if you come across it, please let me know.
Moral of the story: Look around thoroughly so that you don’t leave anything behind.