As a budget-driven college student, whether you be studying abroad or just traveling abroad, chances are you will not always stay in the city’s Ritz Carlton Hotel. Often times, you will be staying in shitty hotels or backpacker’s hostels. Often times, these hostels can be a great time and accommodating in its own ways, since they are geared toward college students and backpackers. However, there are some things to know as you travel abroad to Europe that may not be in your standard travel book. Here’s some things to know after the jump.
Expect Bed Bugs
Something I’ll never forget is when several people in my traveling group woke up with a line of bites on their arms. Yes, they were itchy. No, they weren’t mosquito bites. They were bed bugs. Besides the obvious reasons, the most annoying thing about bed bugs is you have no idea where they are or where they came from. These bed bugs may have now infiltrated your luggage and be hiding in any of your clothes. This means you have to find the nearest laundromat (hard to come by since most hostels and hotels do not have laundry facilities) and wash all your clothes. Do I scare you? Well, maybe you should be scared.
Don’t Expect Hot Water
When I was in Europe last year traveling through different countries, I did not have or expect hot water in most hostels I stayed in. Many hostels actually shut off your water every 3 minutes or so while you’re taking a shower. This is not a huge deal since you can simply keep turning the water on, but unfortunately, this does mean the water pressure will be less than you’re used to, and the water will get cold quickly, if it was ever hot at all. You will learn to take showers quickly, and will learn to appreciate hot water when you’re back in America. Having a quick dry towel will help when you get out in case you’re constantly on the go.
Expect Many Places in Europe To Smell Like Sewage
If you’ve ever been to New Orleans, you’ve already witnessed first-hand the sewage stench I’m referring to. As you walk into some hotels in Europe, there are certain pockets where it smells like someone just released a whole pile of feces and left it out to dry. Just be aware of the stench, and come to expect it in Spain, Italy and France.
Expect to Share a Bathroom
As a budgeted college student traveling abroad, hostels are your best bet. Often times, especially as a lone backpacker, you will be placed with other random backpackers. However, on a study abroad trip, traveling on the weekends with your friends, expect to stay in a non-descript room in a hostel that hopefully has a bar and common rooms. Either way, most of the time, you will have to share a bathroom with the rest of the floor. There will be one female bathroom on the floor and one male bathroom on the floor. This means, bring shower shoes, your own towels since they will not be provided, and expect to shower at random times to ensure the stalls are free. This last piece of advice may be erroneous, however, since we all know European women hardly shower anyway.
Do Not Expect Hand Soap and Potentially No Toilet Paper
There’s nothing worse than taking a shit (or even a piss) in your hostel bathroom after a long day of traveling, reaching over, and there’s no toilet paper. That’s fucking disgusting. After scampering for some paper towels or napkins lying around, you go to wash your hands. No hand soap. In other words, hostel bathrooms in Europe are not the most accommodating. It’s best to carry your own toilet paper wherever you go (may come in handy for gas stations anyway) and ALWAYS bring hand soap. 95% of hostels do not provide hand soap, and we all know hand sanitizer doesn’t always do the trick. To avoid a case of pink eye, invest in some Dove soap asap.
Expect to be Charged a Sitting Fee at Restaurants
While it will not say “Sitting Fee” on the bill, that’s basically what this is. In many restaurants in Europe, you will be charged for merely sitting at the table. Try not to be alarmed by this and do not handle this fee (called a Service Charge on the bill) in the same manner I did in Florence. When I was in Florence, some girl friends and I were so fed up with paying this service fee that we decided to run out of the restaurant without paying the whole bill. We left it about 10 euros short, and literally FLED down the street, running as fast as possible. My friend left her sweater behind and I nearly pissed myself I was so terrified of a semi-dine and ditch. Karma? I think so, considering this fee is basically in place of tip. Don’t be an asshole, pay the whole bill.
Don’t Expect the Men to be Circumcised
Mmm…Smegma. Just kidding, but seriously, expect men in Europe to have a little turtleneck keeping their members warm. Don’t worry, it all looks the same when they’re excited, but something to look out for.
Don’t Expect Sexy European Men to Always Be Nice to You
The meaner the European guys are to you, the more they want you. While they may love the fact that you’re Americans, in places like Ireland, the “men” act like five-year-olds. By this I mean, remember when you were younger and a boy would punch you then run away? This normally meant he liked you. The same applies with Irish guys, as well as some men in other countries. If they’re not incredibly nice to you, expect to get it in later that night. Once you do get them in the sack…guaranteed it will be amazing. Once they stop the game, they’re the best lovers you’ll ever encounter.
Don’t Expect to meet Non-Americans on Pub Crawls (Except Australians)
If you go on any bar crawls arranged by your hostels, do not expect to meet any Europeans. While you will most likely have a great time, you will not be meeting Europeans and seeing the culture if you attend a standard bar crawl. What you can expect is to meet a bunch of Australians on these tours. While their accents personally annoy me, they love to drink and will show you a good time for the night. But what you need to know is this: Australians are stereotypical Americans. This means that many people think of Americans as drunk, sloppy, obnoxious, uncultured people. While that may very well be true, Australians meet this requirement even better.
Expect to be Charged For Not Printing Out Your Boarding Pass
When you travel on Ryan Air (an airline that travels through most of Europe), you can expect a couple things. It’s super cheap when it comes to tickets but also super strict. It’s a small plane and they try to charge you for literally everything. You’re allowed one carry-on, are sometimes charged to use the bathrooms, and are charged 40 euros if you forget to print out your boarding pass outside of the airport.
Expect To Never Wear Sweatpants in Public
Something you’ll notice in Europe is no one wears baggy sweatpants and sweatshirts with college names written across them. They wear classy zip-ups and hoodies, but hardly ever sweatpants. If you wear sweats, you will stand out as an American. If in Italy, dress to impress, even if you’re hungover as shit and not in the mood. This doesn’t mean wear heels all the time, but if you dress in the European style, you’re more likely to fit in.
Expect to Be Charged To Use Bathrooms
Something that REALLY pisses me off in Europe (and trust me, I’m a Europe snob) is you have to pay for bathrooms everywhere you go. There are “WCs” (Water Closets) nearly everywhere, but they always cost a couple euros. Many gas stations and bus stops charge for bathroom usage, and never try to just walk into a restaurant and use their bathrooms. It won’t work, and they will curse at you in Italian and force you (trust me, it’s happened). Something you can try that I would often get away with, is to sneak into a hotel and act like you belong there. As we all know, many hotels have bathrooms in the lobbies and Europe is no different. They can’t possibly know if you’re staying at the hotel or not if you act casual enough, so avoid paying to piss, and sneak in whenever you can.