7 Tips For Travelling to France, Spain, Portugal or Anywhere in Europe


We arrived at the Louvre with 30 minutes left and the admission fee was 15€. I asked the lady if we could get a discount since we could only look around for 30 minutes. Now, I don’t speak French and she doesn’t speak English so that negotiation didn’t go too well.  

Me: “Val let’s go. Why pay €15 for 15 minutes”  

Val: ” Says something about it being a once in a lifetime opportunity and some Drake lyrics”  

Long stay short, he was right, it was worth it and we end up having a fun time (thank you Val).

I can’t believe I almost let €15 stop me from the opportunity to see the Mona Lisa.  

Funny how life works.

__

Recently I went on a 14 day blitz of Europe with my dad, then later my friend and business partner, Valentine visiting London, Paris, Nice/Monaco, Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon. I feel very blessed and grateful to have experienced all these places. I learnt a lot on this trip, so here are some of my tips for if you want to travel to any of these places. The title says Europe  (for SEO purposes 😁) but I think you can apply this to anywhere you travel.

Exchange Your Money in Your Home Branch and Download a currency Exchange App

Money makes the world go round and as you go around the world, you need to make sure your money goes with you. (Okay, that sounded more clever in my head).

Anyway, if you are going to Europe I recommend carrying some cash with you. Especially if you want to avoid the exchange rates that Visa or Mastercard will charge you. It’s also good to have cash for emergencies.

I did a relatively detailed study on the best places to exchange your money when travelling (more data coming soon). Airport, bank, currency exchange etc. and the best place to exchange your money, in my opinion seems to be at your home branch before you travel.

I also recommend downloading a currency exchange app so when the currency exchange at the airport overcharges you, at least you know how much they’re overcharging you. It’s also useful for doing quick currency conversions when you want to translate a price in Euros into a currency you more intuitively understand. I use the XE Currency Exchange App (android) (ios). I really like it and I would recommend it.

Note: I am still compiling the study so will add a link when (or if 😁) I finish the study. You can also subscribe to my blog and get notified when the article is published.

Buy a Sleeping Mask

In terms of bang for your buck, the sleeping mask is the best thing I have ever bought on a utility per dollar level ( the other is my Macbook).  Bright lights make it very difficult to get a well rested sleep or sunlight might make you to wake up sooner than you’d want to, a sleeping mask solves this. For only $2 I bought something that has significantly improved the quality of my sleep. A good Sleep is one of the three most important things you can do for your health (the others being diet and exercise), so the fact that you can significantly increase your health levels for only $2 is an undervalued investment.

I recommend getting one at the dollar store, make sure it is padded with that cloth type material, the synthetic ones tend to still let light through. If you can’t make it to or find it at the dollar store, here are 2 good options I found on Amazon, though they are more expensive than the ones you could get at the dollar store: Silk Sleep Mask or 3D sleep mask. I also recommend getting 2 as you may lose one or it may break. You will also probably end up using this in your day-to-day life long after you return from vacation.

Download Google Maps, Photos, Trips and Translate

First, if you haven’t already downloaded Google Maps and Google Photos. Stop what you’re doing and get those apps. The first 2 apps are possibly the most useful apps on my phone (Google Chrome and FB Messenger/Whatsapp, the other 2) and they make your trip so much better.

I mention this because if you are like 58% of my mobile readers, you are reading this on an iOs device and if you are like most Apple users you are using the Apple default Photos and Maps app. Google’s apps are way better, in my opinion:

Google Photos: Unlimited photo storage, easily sync between devices and share with family and friends, very cool photo search feature

Google Maps: Intuitive UI for finding directions, finding nearby things to do and eat, offline capable, integrate with other Google Services and a VERY cool timeline feature that shows you all the places you’ve been and photos taken there.

The other 2 apps are just generally useful apps to have when travelling. I like Google Trips because it automatically gets your hotel/Airbnb/plane reservations all in one place and auto recommends things to do. While Google Translate has cool features like live camera translations and translate audio conversations you’re having with someone.

Also, Google is more advanced at machine learning than Apple and most other companies. So I’ve noticed that the more I use the app, the more it knows about me and the better the user experience.

Buy a portable USB Charger

Despite all the advances we have made in smartphone technology we still have not conquered the elusive beast of short battery life. Its very frustrating to be spending precious instagram-photo-op time looking for a nearby coffee shop and idly sitting there for 40 minutes because “my phone is at 12%”. I didn’t use a portable charger this trip but I think it’s worth the investment because stopping what you’re doing to charge your phone is costing you your most valuable asset, time.

I have used Aukey products before in the past and have been impressed by their quality and a travel blogger I listen to often (Vicky Lai) recommends Anker. Also make sure you get one with at least 2 usb ports. The Aukey Power Bank and Anker PowerCore both look like good USB chargers and match 3 simple criteria:

1. A trusted brand

2. Good Reviews on Amazon

3. Lightweight and compact – very important when traveling

Rent a Bike to Explore Barcelona and Madrid

Both Barcelona and Madrid are very nice cities that are perfect for walking and biking to explore and I think renting a bike was the most fun and underrated way to explore the city. I think biking is great option because:

  • You can explore more of the city before getting tired
  • Explore scenery and locations you wouldn’t be able to cover by uber/public transit
  • Pause whenever you want for photo opportunities
  • You can take really cool scenery videos and selfies while biking (don’t try this at home)
  • Great exercise

In Barcelona we used On Line BCN and in Madrid we used Rent and Roll. The staff at both places were very friendly and helpful and the bikes were good quality.

Travelling in Winter is underrated and travelling summer is overrated

If you live somewhere with cold winter months in the beginning or end of the year (November – February) i.e. Canada, parts of US, UK etc. In my opinion, I think that travelling in the winter is underrated and travelling in the summer is overrated.

First, the summer is one of the few months of the year where the weather in your home country is enjoyable and there’s a lot of things to do, why travel to another part of the world at that time? Better to travel in the grey, melancholic months of November, January etc.

Some other reasons include: the flight tickets tend to be cheaper, there are less tourists crowds at popular locations, if you go somewhere with hot summers the weather will be milder during that time (e.g. barcelona is 30 degrees celsius in July vs 10 in November).

Be Willing to Spend more for experiences (don’t be penny wise pound foolish)

Please, learn from my almost mistakes! I like to be minimalist and frugal with money. Often this is a good thing but this almost caused me to miss out on once in a lifetime opportunities (see story at the beginning). When it comes to experiences, especially those that you can document, take pictures of, and carry around with you for a lifetime, be willing to spend more money for it. I used to think “tourist traps” were overpriced but in the long run they may actually be underpriced. The memories you get from seeing pictures of yourself at the Mona Lisa or a video of the Barcelona skyline from Sagrada Familia 25 years from now is worth far more than the admission fee.

Giving Back

Looking at those pictures and even while writing this article, I still can’t believe I actually saw the Mona Lisa, Sagrada Familia, watched a Barcelona game etc. I feel very grateful for being blessed enough to have these opportunities and I will continue to give back so others can have this opportunity as well.

I did some research on charities and here is a cool one called Take Flyte that gives underserved communities the opportunity to travel to different places. I donated some money to this charity and if you are privileged enough to have similar experiences to the ones I’ve had, I would encourage you to give back in your own way as well.

Merci d’avoir, lu bonne journée.

Gracias por leer que, tengas un buen día.

Obrigado pela leitura, tenha um bom dia.

Thank you for reading, have a nice day.