8 Travel Essentials
If you follow me on instagram (@janelleelisetan) you would know that I spent 2.5 weeks in Europe!
8 Cities, 4 Countries and 5 flights later, I’m back to Singapore before the next travel bug comes around. Bank account took a hit but what better to spend on than experiences when you have time on your hands.
It wasn’t a full out ‘backpacking’ and ‘roughing it out’ tour like what most student travellers do in Europe – there was a healthy mix of restaurant dinners and packed food, sleeping in airports and hotels. Lets get this list started.
1. Debit Card
A debit card is the extreme lifesaver especially if you’re travelling with limited cash (so that you don’t get mugged at Barcelona) and country hopping. Having spent 10 over years in Singapore, I’m inherently kiasu and I hate ‘losing money’ through the exchange rate. ‘Oppotunitist’ money changers will try to get as much value as they can. Take for example in Milan when we had to change SGD to Euro, the rate my bank gave me at the time was:
DBS card rate: 148 SGD to 100 Euro
Milan money changer: 160SGD to 100 Euro.
WHAT THE F. My advice would be, swipe when you can, and keep cash for emergencies. Make sure to activate your card a couple of days before and regularly go online to check bank rates.
2. Scarf thing
A scarf/shawl/pashmina is the one thing I didn’t think I needed but was so grateful to have shoved into my bag.
-Its an amazing fashion accessory to brighten up your look
-Keeps you surprisingly warm
-Great makeshift pillow/blanket for long train rides
In Europe, I visited a lot of churches. The average temperature of all the countries I went to would probably be 14C. I have thick enough skin to wear shorts in this weather but this is a huge mistake when we tried to enter St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. The general rule for churches is shoulders covered, skirts/shorts to the knees, no flip flops. Enter scarf 🙂 Just wrap that around you like an Indian sari and you’re good to go!
3. Basic please & thank yous
Basic key words like ‘How much/Toilet/Thank you/I don’t speak ____” will go a long way especially in the less touristy spots in Europe. I took 2 semesters of Spanish and had the pleasure to (embarrass myself) practice with native speakers.
I remember my desperation when I needed water and the following was my conversation with the airport security in Barcelona.
Me: Hola, por favor, agua este?
(Hi, please, water where)
Jose: [In spanish] Theres no water fountain here, you can go to the toilet for the tap water
Me: Oh, gracias, lavabo agua can drink? No *gesticulate stomach ache* painful?
Jose: [Laughs wildly at this idiotic thirsty asian mine] No, you can drink it
See. Better a few key words than none. Hmph.
4. Document Bag
A document bag to keep passports/emergency money/boarding passes/train tickets etc. It saved us a lot of scrambling for tickets especially when in Europe the ubiquitous train conductors will come to every cabin to check. Its also good to put at the bottom/inner/safe place of your backpack so that you won’t drop it while running to catch a train.
5. Universal Adaptor
Let me just outline the different plugs you need with this very cute diagram:
Although Italy looks like it has 3 holes, your 2 rounded plugs will be enough. Not sure why they try to be fancy by adding an extra hole in the middle….
The best thing would be a universal adaptor with USB holes. WIN?!
6. BIG Water bottle
My travel partner/travel burden is such a fail. Did not bring a water bottle…are you asking for death-by-slapping? If you know me, I camel down water like the Loch Ness monster. One of my biggest pet peeves is buying bottled water. Water is free, water is 70% of the earth and I have to pay for it!? Hell naw. I always have my trusty Nalgene, its big – 1 litre, its leakproof and its shatter proof. This is my 6th year with this same cute green Nalgene, longer than any of my past relationships. Haha.
Water is fresh and clean everywhere in Europe just like in Singapore. Usually Im not used to drinking tap water cause Imposhlikethat but in Europe on a budget, I saw myself going to the toilet and filling up my bottle more times than I shat during the trip. They also have the shadiest fountains that spout water nonstop but locals just stop to take a drink anytime anywhere. Bryan says its like Evian on tap. Placebo.
7. Bomb ass camera
One of the greatest joys I recently discovered is the wonders of a DSLR. I used to think it was stupid and ‘hipster’ but bring on the label! The picture quality is significantly different from a mirror-less point and shoot. If you’re gonna blow upwards of $4000 on a trip, you better have some amazing quality pictures to immortalise the experience.
I personally use a Canon 70D, still in the infant stages of playing with Manual. But if you’re gonna take a trip of a lifetime with an iPhone… please reconsider.
8. Instant freaking noodles
Maggie mee/ Mami/ Ramen/ Char mee/ Tom yum. Whatever. You name it.
Once you step out of asia, the wonders of instant cook noodles are G-O-N-E.
After 10 days in Italy I just died if I had another cheese laden pasta. The carbs and the cheesiness and the ugenbgsoiflnajbdshoiejnr. Not to mention the expense of eating out all the time. If you have a kitchenette or some microwave available, instant noodles are an amazing way to save money and feel at home with all the sodium and MSG.
In Europe the only instant thing they have in stores is cold baguette sandwiches and cheap alternative would be cooking your own pasta at home. Again, so western.
Total cost of pasta noodles/pasta sauce/mince meat/instant mushroom soup for 2 pax for 2 meals = 15Euros. Cheap considering 1 Pasta at a restaurant is 15 Euros. Handy travelling with a domestic goddess huh!
8.5 An amazing person to share it with!
Whatever it is, you’re bound to get into some sort of trouble during your travels. Stay safe, use a little bit of common sense and have the experience of a lifetime just like I did 🙂
Till next time! Hopefully I get the will power to actually post something related to Trendcents.