My summer trip to Europe was a real eye opener. Not only was I shocked to see reliable public transportation and committed dedication to recycling and reducing the use of plastic bags (this is not a norm for us in The Bahamas) but there were a few other things I learned as well. For some people these are no brainers. Some of them I was even pre-warned about, but others really took me by surprise. I'm sure I sound very uncultured and unexposed by admitting to these things, but I'm proud that I made the effort to learn about them first hand and not through the glossy pages of a magazine.
The first thing that took me by surprise (but I won't include it in the list) was the lack of summer. My best friend that I was meeting said the weather was pretty hot so I packed warm weathered clothes. Boy was I in for a surprise. Apparently even if it is warm, it won't stay that way for long. Sure some days will get warm and even hot, but for the most part, you can enjoy a cool 60-70°F temperate. This was really nice for someone like me looking to escape sweltering heat. I just wish I had known it would've been like that so I could've packed warmer clothes. Luckily I had packed two sweaters for the plane so I was able to rotate between the two.
So if you're planning a trip to London, here are the 5 basic things you should know before making the journey.
1. You'll need adaptors to charge all of your electronics
Thank goodness I stayed with a friend. I was able to just use his adaptors. Between charging my cellphone, laptop and camera batteries, I needed constant access to a port. When we went to Amsterdam, we had to make an emergency dash to a local department store to buy an adaptor. And when we went to Switzerland, we had to make another emergency dash to an electronic store to buy more adaptors. I ended up with adaptors for three different countries amounting to over $30 (probably more with the conversation rate). So order your adaptors on Amazon before making the trek across the world.
2. American money is not accepted
I travelled with about $100 USD, and used some of it while in the airport in Canada. What I didn't know was my USD was completely useless in Europe. Luckily for me, there was a post office just around the corner from me that I was able to exchange my cash for. Just know that the US dollar is higher than the pound so when you exchange it, you'll actually get less. I exchanged $77 USD and got about 53£ and change.
3. Debit/credit cards with chips are ideal
I was lucky to be able to use my MasterCard while I waited for my money to be transferred to my Bank of America account, however, all point-of-sales require you to insert your card. While at least 95% of retail allows you to swipe your card, there were a few places like the Tube station and Lidl's that didn't allow me to swipe and only accepted card inserts with chip technology. So just keep that in mind.
4. There's typically more daylight than nighttime
It may have been the time of the year that I went, but all of my friends agreed that there is generally more daylight than nighttime. Even though we barely saw the sun, we had daylight well up until 9 in the evening. And the sun was up again by 5 am. The first time I saw it, I thought I overslept and it was 9 in the morning, but when I checked the time I had at least 3 more hours of sleep. I thought this would've negatively affected my sleep cycle but it really didn't.
5. Make sure you have all the necessary visas
THIS IS THE BIGGIE! I connected through Canada and NO ONE told me I needed an ETA just to CONNECT through Canada. I found out at the airport as I was checking in for my flight. I was about to break down in tears fearing that I was about to miss all of my connecting flights and tours. Luckily, a Canadian ETA cost only $7 CAD and can be applied for and approved in exactly 10 minutes. I'm not kidding. It took only 10 minutes for me to fill out the application and be approved. I almost was denied access to Amsterdam for whatever reason but was fortunate that my best friend is a Dutch national so maybe that's what I saved me. To avoid the headaches I endured, research all of the visas and travel documents you'll need before buying your ticket.