This week, on Wednesday, March 25, I will be flying to Belfast to visit a friend who is studying abroad through College of Charleston’s exchange program with Queen’s University. It took some puzzling to figure it out, so I’d like to share some tips with you regarding travel throughout Europe. For those studying abroad at the University of Groningen, there is a three week period between the first block of the semester and the second block of the semester during which you have no classes, only (midterm) exams. After quadruple checking your exam dates, take advantage of this period to travel as much as you can afford! The University of Groningen does not have a spring break, so this is really the only time to travel for more than a few days without missing class.
I purchased my flight to Belfast from EasyJet.com; EasyJet is a budget flight website that offers some of the lowest fares in the business. Be aware of the flight restrictions: your luggage must be under a certain size in order to avoid being charged extra for checking your bag. I will be bringing a (relatively small) duffel bag. As long as you pack efficiently (roll your clothes! Pack only a few sweaters that you can re-wear with a clean t-shirt under it!), the luggage restrictions should not be an issue. As always, be aware of the restrictions on liquids as well. Travel sized toiletries can be purchased at most drugstores in the Netherlands, such as Kruidvat, Trekpleister, and Etos. Since I will be staying in my friend’s dorm for the week, I did not have to worry about booking accommodations, but if you’re traveling on a budget, hostels are usually a good option. Nothing fancy, but good if you just need a clean place to stay–make sure you bring shower shoes.
Another thing to remember when traveling is to check what the local currency is. Although most countries in Europe use the Euro, there are several that don’t, such as Northern Ireland, which uses the British Pound. (The Republic of Ireland, however, does use the Euro.) Try to avoid exchanging money at the airport, since they will likely give you a worse exchange rate. If you can manage, find a local bank instead once you get to the city. Until then, try to use your credit or debit card if possible–MasterCard is most definitely preferred throughout Europe.
Lastly, although this may seem like a given, make sure you know how you’re going to get from the airport to your accommodations and back again, as well as around the city (or country) you are visiting. Many European countries have a great public transportation system, so take advantage of that as much as possible. Of course, you can often also walk from place to place.
Wherever you decide to go, a little preparation goes a long way. Above all, have a great time!