Whether you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of traveler or a plan-and-fret-about-every-detail type, keeping yourself secure while you’re away from home is something even the most adventurous spirits need to think about. But just because you take some smart precautions doesn’t mean you need to lock yourself in an iron fortress; safe travel doesn’t have to rhyme with excess worry, nor require expensive security devices.
Do your part to prevent an unfortunate accident or incident, and you’ll give yourself tremendous peace of mind while you’re on your trip. No fortress required! Here are our top tips to ensure you stay safe and secure on your next adventure abroad– and free your mind to really enjoy it.
Bring Emergency Info & Contact Details Along
Irrespective of whether you’re traveling abroad or staying within your own country, bringing along a handy list of useful emergency information can save you a lot of panic if you find yourself in a scrape. Local police and ambulance information, the location and contact details of the nearest embassy, and identification information for your travelling party are all crucial details to have on hand. Don’t trust yourself to figure these things out when you’re in a panicked fog. An emergency plan on your phone and an offline hard copy that you keep with you can save you a ton of stress.
Secure Your Stuff
Bringing expensive valuables on a trip is inherently a little risky, as your tourist status makes you especially vulnerable to thieves and pickpockets. But it’s inevitable you’ll want something like a camera, laptop, or cellphone with you, so take some precautions with the expensive items you can’t leave at home.
Before you arrive at your destination, check with your hotel or guest house about whether they provide secure locations for valuables. Are there safes provides in rooms? How about secure bike storage areas and enclosed parking lots? Know the terrain before you get there. If you’re staying at a hostel, bring your own padlock in case they aren’t provided for you.
And although a TSA-approved suitcase lock can’t hurt, a determined thief can easily slash into a suitcase and bypass the zipper entirely. Without resorting to paranoia, your best bet is to keep your belongings where you can see them if you’re travelling with them outside the secure storage area at your accommodations.
Read related: Are RFID-blocking wallets a good option for travelers?
Use your backpack as a pillow, for example, when you’re riding on a crowded train. Keep one hand on your purse. Use situational awareness to prevent theft.
Get Travel Insurance
It might seem like an unnecessary addition, but travel insurance can make an unfortunate situation like a cancelled flight or a medical emergency far less stressful. Good travel insurance will replace stolen goods, help you to cover unforeseen medical costs, and give you the ability to speak immediately with a live person if you’re in a crisis. Plus, travel insurance gives you peace of mind, allowing you to really relax during your trip. Knowing you have a backup plan makes everything a lot more enjoyable.
Read related: Top Tips to Avoid Getting Sick While Traveling
A quick note: when you’re buying travel insurance, make sure you’ve read the conditions carefully so you know exactly what you can count on with your specific plan.
Register with the Embassy
An easy step to take before you leave home is to register with your country’s embassy in the area you’re visiting. This lets the embassy know you’re coming and ensures you’ll get the latest safety information when you get there. If you ever need to be evacuated, the embassy can get in contact with you and ensure you depart safely. The United States’ Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is free for all citizens, and Canada’s program is the Registration of Canadians Abroad program. Check with your own embassy to find out how to register: this list is a good one.
Don’t Dress Like A Tourist
While you’re on your trip, make an attempt not to stick out like a sore thumb. No one wants to look like a stereotypical tourist, especially not when criminals are involved. Do your research before you go: What does the average person at your destination dress and act like? What are the local manners? Aside from helping you avoid being a target, the cultural research makes you a better and more respectful traveler, and blending in with the locals gives you a more authentic experience. It’s a win-win situation!
Act Like You Know What You’re Doing
Dressing like you belong is only part of getting around your destination confidently and securely. The next step is to act like you belong. Body language is a powerful signal, and projecting confidence and authority as you move through your trip can reduce your visibility to criminals. Keep your head up and stay aware of your surroundings. If you think a pickpocket may be targeting you, meet their eyes to let them know you’re aware of them.
That said, your cultural research is important here, because in some conservative countries you’ll risk offending someone by making direct eye contact. Still, this might be preferable to having your pocket picked. Use your best judgement.
Be Cautious When Using Public Wi-Fi
Online security is just as important while traveling abroad. Be skeptical of public Wi-Fi networks, especially in tourist-heavy areas. Cyber security is a complex issue, and public Wi-Fi is especially vulnerable to attacks. Your hotel or hostel’s password protected network is a much safer bet than what you’ll find at internet cafes and free internet hotspots. No matter where you are, we suggest never loading and consulting sensitive information such as personal ID or bank statements on a public Wi-Fi network.
Stay (Relatively) Sober
While savoring fine wines and beers might be on your list of priorities for an enjoyable trip, avoid becoming wildly intoxicated. It’s hard, if not impossible, to be situationally aware when you’re drunk, and your risk of getting yourself into danger goes up exponentially the less sober you are. While you might feel like you know the city you’re visiting well enough to navigate it at night, alcohol can quickly make even the best laid-out city feel confusing.
If you plan on drinking, always go with a group and designate a sober person to help keep everyone else out of trouble.
Bring some Medical Essentials
Finally, bring a few just-in-case items to pre-empt any medical issues commonly faced by tourists. Your doctor can prescribe medication for traveler’s diarrhea and motion sickness, and you should also pick up some other drugstore favorites, such as sunscreen, ibuprofen, and hand sanitizer. If you do get sick, the last thing you’ll want to do is navigate a foreign drug store or pharmacy, especially if labels are in an unfamiliar language. Trust us.
Famously known for its cyclists, lively atmosphere, and chocolate, Amsterdam is a terrific place to travel. It has all the charm of Europe without any fuss, and you can have some really unique cultural experiences. If you’re currently planning a trip to the Dutch city, the I amsterdam City Card might just be for you!
(And yes, that’s the official spelling with a lowercase “A.”) Without further ado, read on to learn why the pass might be a good option on your next trip.
The I amsterdam City Card uses the same basic model as other travel passes: you buy the card and get free entrance to museums, attractions, and public transport systems for the duration of your travel package.
Here’s what the City Card includes:
- Free entrance to 50+ museums and attractions
- Free unlimited public transport
- Free canal cruise
- Discounts and coupons
- A city map and guide book
How it works:
You buy your City Pass online, and you can choose between 24, 48, 72, or 96 hour passes.
You’ll get a confirmation email immediately, and then you pick up your City Card at any of the following locations:
- Amsterdam Central Station: I amsterdam Store, on the North side of the station
- Amsterdam Airport Schiphol: I amsterdam Visitor Information Centre Schiphol Airport, Arrivals Hall 2: Holland Tourist Information
- Amsterdam Central Station: I amsterdam Visitor Information Centre at Stationsplein, Stationsplein 10 (opposite the main station entrance)
Your pass becomes active the first time you use it.
The City Pass covers most of the big name attractions in the Amsterdam area. The Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, the Rembrandt House Museum, the Royal Zoo, Rijksmuseum, and about fifty other attractions are all included. Here’s a link to the full list of participating attractions.
Plus, you can take a canal ride on any participating tour boat company! We suggest taking a tour that goes out onto the sea. Seeing the city from the water is an incredible experience, and even on cloudy days, the views are incredible.
The Anne Frank Museum is the only big name attraction not included in the City Card, so you’ll have to buy a ticket separately. It costs nine euros, and while the museum is being renovated you must purchase tickets online.
The I amsterdam City Card includes unlimited use of the GVB public transport system, including all buses, trams and metros in the city for as long as your pass is valid. One important point of note here is that your card does not include train rides, including the train you’ll need to take from the airport to Amsterdam Central station. You will need to purchase your own tickets to get from the airport into Amsterdam itself.
Pricing is solely based on the duration of your stay, so in terms of pricing structures, it’s very easy to decide which pass to get.
- 24 hour pass: €59
- 48 hour pass: €74
- 72 hour pass: €87
- 96 hour pass: €98
SHOULD YOU GET ONE?
- With one pass, you get access to almost every attraction in the city. It’s a massively simplified touring experience that saves you a lot in terms of planning time.
- The pricing structure is very simple and easy to understand, and the website purchasing process is seamless. This pass is seriously low-fuss.
- If you love sight-seeing, the City Card will absolutely save you money. Individual tickets can really add up, and you don’t have to see a ton of sights for the card to end up being the cheaper option.
- You don’t have to worry about figuring out how to buy tickets for public transport, which can ease a lot of travel anxiety. Just scan your card and hop on!
- The free canal boat trip is awesome. Boating around the city is one of the best ways to experience it, and the canal boat drivers are usually funny and friendly.
- The card won’t give you travel from the airport into the city, so you’ll have to arrange your own transport.
- You have to physically pick the card up at a pre-determined location, and that means you can’t pre-book tickets for larger museums until you physically have your card. This can be annoying if you’re trying to plan an itinerary, since you can’t pre-book before your trip.
- Your pass will automatically expire once your time frame ends.
- You can’t go to the same museum a second time; your pass only includes one visit to each attraction.
Should you get it?
The short answer is: Yes! If you like to visit attractions, then the I amsterdam City Pass is a money-saving and convenient way to do it. You only have to buy one pass, and in return, you get access to museums and attractions without having to wait in ticket lines. The pass makes public transport easy and convenient, and you get some extra perks.
That said, the pass may not actually be much cheaper for shorter stays. The longer the pass, the greater the savings, so do some quick math on a short itinerary to see if you’ll actually save money. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of public transport. And, of course, use your best judgment for your trip!
Happy planning and safe travels!
With a reputation for art, wine, cheese, and all the finer things in life, is anyone really surprised that Paris isn’t the cheapest place to travel? If you’ve been planning a trip to the country of love, fret no more! The Paris Pass, a sightseeing package, aims to save you money on tickets to major attractions and public transport by bundling them onto one card. It can be a real time saver, but is it something you need to have? Let’s get into the details.
Here’s what the pass includes:
- Access to 60+ attractions
- Fast track access to select locations
- One day of hop-on hop-off Paris Big Bus access
- Paris Visite Pass with unlimited metro access
How it works:
The pass can be purchased online. It is then either shipped to your house or you can pick it up when you arrive in Paris. You can choose between 2, 3, 4, and 6 day passes. The pass becomes active the first time you scan it. The Paris Pass serves as your ticket when you get to selected attractions, locations, etc. You just scan it and head in!
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The Paris Pass covers just about every major tourist attraction in the city. The Louvre, the Arc De Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Museé d’Orsay, Versailles, Montparnasse Tower, the Centre Pompidou, the Opera Garnier, and more are all included. The only major attraction that isn’t covered by the pass is the Eiffel Tower.
Here’s a link to the full lineup.
The Paris Pass includes unlimited public transport access for the duration of your pass. That includes unlimited RER trains, metro access, buses, trams, and SNCF Overground Trains. It also includes a Seine boat cruise!
Pricing is determined based on the duration of your stay and the age of the traveller. There are adult, teen, and child passes that all have different pricing.
Here’s the breakdown of cost. All prices are in Euros, and the prices go in order of adult, teen, and child passes.
2 day: €131, €81, and €44
3 day: €160, €96, €49
4 day: €189, €106, €56
6 day: €244, €126, €69
SHOULD YOU GET ONE?
- If you’re a heavy sightsee-er, the Paris Pass is a fantastic option. You get entrance to many attractions at reduced rates, and the list of included locations is very comprehensive.
- It’s far cheaper than buying the tickets individually. On some passes, you get savings of more than a hundred Euros, which in most cases covers the cost of the ticket.
- With the built-in train pass and the accelerated entrance lines, it’s one of the most convenient ways you can get around. You buy it once, and then you don’t have to think about it again. Straightforward and easy to use.
- If you’re not sure about the attractions element, you can buy a museum-only pass separately, if you prefer. Note that the Museum Pass doesn’t come with included metro access.
- The Paris Pass has a “purse value” maximum that you can’t go over during the course of your ticket. Basically, this means that you can’t exceed the total value of the attractions on your card. For example, the six day pass includes 350 euros worth of attraction entrances, so if you exceed that total value using your card by entering multiple places more than once, your card will expire.
- Your pass will automatically expire once your time frame runs out. There’s no grace period, and the clock starts when you first swipe it at an event.
- The unlimited transport system only includes metro zones 1, 2, and 3. Frankly, that shouldn’t be an issue unless you have your heart set on some of the outermost suburbs.
- Finally, note that the 3-day Paris Pass only includes a 2-day Paris Museum Pass. So if you get the three day pass, plan your museum trips on two consecutive days in a row.
So, should you get it?
The bottom line is that if your trip is heavy on attractions, the Paris Pass makes a lot of sense. It’s convenient and includes metro access, so it saves you time and will probably save you money. That said, it might be worth sitting down with your itinerary and actually doing the math on the cost of your intended attractions and a metro card. You may find it’s actually just as cheap to buy your own tickets directly, depending on what you plan to see.
Here at the Loftus Guides, we don’t like to generalize. From our experience, one size rarely fits all. Really, one size doesn’t even fit most. Everyone’s different, and whether we’re talking about your choice of dinner or your vacation destination, you shouldn’t put yourself in a box. And the same goes for travel preferences: everyone has their very own. This is the beauty of travel – to expand your horizons and experience a trip that you will remember for a lifetime.
Choose a travel style that suits your preferences, passions and habits, and you’ll find your experience to be more relaxed, personal, and experiential. Here are some different travel styles you should consider! Which one suits you the best?
Small Group Travel
For some, touring around the world on a guided tour is the ideal way to travel. With built in structure and a whole new set of like-minded fellow travellers to get to know, small group tours are intimate but still highly social.
Great for: People who enjoy structure but aren’t afraid to make new friends!
If you love getting lost in the majesty of nature (but hopefully not on the trail), you may be an environment-oriented traveller! This type of touring will take you to some of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights and remind you of your place in the ecosystem of our planet. These trips range from the rustic hiking tours across mountains and plains, to more easygoing trips that bring you to more easily accessible destinations.
Great for: People who love nature and own decent hiking boots.
If you love a good adventure, you may be among those who choose to approach their vacations as experimentation in the extraordinary. Why have an ordinary vacation when you can have a once in a lifetime experience? Sky diving, cliff jumping, zip lining, you name it, travelling for adventure is a surefire way to make memories you’ll never forget.
Great for: People who will try anything once and have an open mind!
Urban environments are home to some of the best food, the coolest art, and the most diverse culture. You can have access to a huge range of activities without having to move hotels all the time. Galleries one day, flea markets the next; city touring is a great way to get an energetic sampling of everything.
Great for: People who have a good grasp of public transport, a love of culture, and a thick skin.
Faith Based Exploration
For the modern pilgrim, visiting sites of religious importance can be an experience that touches every part of their life. Touring temples, churches, and religious historical sites can bring your faith to life and make your spirituality even richer and more personal.
Great for: People who want to experience a religion with every sense they have!
If you have a civic-minded heart, travelling to a destination and supporting a local community with sustainable volunteer work can combine a love of people with a love of seeing the world! Trips that focus on community development and assisting underserved communities can change you forever.
Great for: People who aren’t afraid to put their back into helping others.
Share with us which type (or types) or traveller you are!
Europe is one of our favorite destinations. What’s not to love? Good food, great wine, rich in culture, and…long lines. C’est la vie, unfortunately. But just because there tend to be dense crowds competing for entrance to popular tourist attractions, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to wait in them.
For those of you who love culture but don’t want to wait around, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the amount of time you spend in line. In some cases, you can even eliminate the wait altogether! Here are 7 key ways to avoid crowds and long lines when traveling to Europe.
1. Get up early…
Getting up and out between 6 and 9 am is ideal for sightseeing. Earlier times mean less wait and more experience with actual locals, giving you a calmer impression of the city or location you’re visiting. There will also likely be less kids around, which can sometimes be a disruptive element in places like museums or art galleries.
2. …and stay out late
Check to see if any of your destination’s attractions have a late night option! There’s typically a night of the week where museums are open later than average, allowing you to experience an attraction with less of a crowd.
3. This is especially true for very popular destinations
Avoid bus tour groups. Big name destinations get crowded with tour groups, so getting to a site right as it opens (or even a little before) can mean the difference between waiting for five minutes and waiting an hour, or more.
4. Use those self-service kiosks whenever possible
We’re always surprised by how few people seem to take advantage of the self-serve ticket kiosks. This is likely due to the fact that it’s a fairly new addition to most venues and they are often located in strange, out-of-the way places, however you can usually reduce your wait time by using a self-serve system. It pays to do a little research ahead of time as to whether or not your destination has one of these helpful digital ticket dispensers.
5. Skip the front door
This is another example of a little research coming in handy. If you’re going to a tourist destination, see if there’s a side entrance that can save you some time. The Louvre is a great example. While that famous glass pyramid is pretty, there’s actually a side entrance called the Portes des Lions which is far quicker than the main one.
6. Ignore elevators…and take the stairs instead!
Elevators can reduce some leg work, but taking the stairs instead of waiting for elevators, shuttles, or trams can actually be much faster. The line for the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tour is famously long, but if you take the stairs you’ll reach the top much quicker, even if slightly more out of breath.
7. Book a skip-the-line tour
If you’re experiencing a city with a tour guide, they can often do the leg work for you. Small group tours that work with specific locations move much quicker due to the guide’s advance planning, plus you can skip the lines and have an expert there to tell you all about it. This is much preferable to standing around waiting to buy a ticket.
What form of travel allows you to settle into just one place for your holiday, but at the same time visit multiple destinations?
A stay on a houseboat, of course!
From hotel riverboats to barges, yachts and houseboats small and large, luxury to basic, and everything in between, a floating holiday might just be the right choice for you!
It’s one of the best kept secrets of European vacations – for those who are already in the know. With a quick lesson and no special license required, the options are endless. You can rent your own houseboat and begin your adventure on the vast water landscape.
“Living on the water took away the boundaries created by land and custom and introversion. Without fences and driveways, the water provided a constant thread of connection and dependency.”
So, what are your options for houseboat travel?
In the following parts of Europe, Canalboats are available: Belgium, England, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Spain & the UK. (This is not an exhaustive list.)
You can choose between every style imaginable– from fully catered luxury stays to small group tours, to do it yourself stays- all depending on your preferences.
You’ll be surprised at how many choices there are. How about chartering your own cruise or joining a tour – with the latter, you’ll get to enjoy interacting with small groups of people on a floating hotel. Everything is built in for you to enjoy!
Renting your own houseboat is one option and one that gives you endless possibilities in terms of what you can do. This includes stopping at local villages, markets, shops, bakeries and patisseries. What better way to get a taste of a culture than to immerse yourself in these daily go-to places? For those interested in taking a bike ride through these towns, bikes are typically available to rent – just take them with you on the boat! Bikes are also a great way to visit local sites and vineyards.
Let us know in the comments: Have you ever been on a houseboat?
Marvel as you travel slowly along waterways that have served for hundreds of years to transport people and goods – so clearly the roads of a bygone era.
Are you looking for a more luxurious experience on the water? How about a full staff – running both the boat and the kitchen on your behalf? Personal chef, anyone? Local fare and delicious wines for dinner?
If all of this sounds like a dream, it isn’t! The good news is that we’re here to tell you it’s easier than ever and very affordable. It wins on so many counts, as the best way to see some countryside with views that only a canal or other waterway can show you. A vantage point that is truly unique.
Are you ready for how great this is?
Do you want to just relax, enjoy spectacular views, and create memories of a lifetime?
With just a few tips, you’ll be ready to navigate the canals, river-ways and locks. Then, it’s time to just admire the view, enjoy the most delectable local foods and wines, and visit some of the great sites along the way. No car or bus, no unpacking and repacking – just settle in for the duration of a magical life-enhancing experience.
Follow us as we bring you different suggestions for tours and itineraries for 2018. We will work with a selection of operators and owners to bring you some really great ideas, so stay tuned!