driving Europe

Driving in Europe

With great roads, driving in Europe is a great way to indulge in its dramatic scenery. It may also be necessary when staying in a villa or apartment located outside major cities. Considering driving is easier said than done when you’re from a foreign country.

Having to familiarize one’s self and to remember Europe’s driving rules are daunting as it is. You may also be worried about getting stuck in London’s roundabout as per the more memorable scene from National Lampoon’s European Vacation.

In order to address this woes, you can hire a full-time chauffeur to drive for you. However, it will be costly and your companions may not approve of it. So you will need to know the general guidelines about driving in Europe to avoid running into problems especially if you are the assigned driver.

Expect Aggressive Driving

If you’re driving in Italy, France, and most especially in England, a leading country in the world for road rage, you will need to stay calmer and more focused in order to drive with confidence in Europe.

British roads can be congested. And with average speed hoving around at 11 mph in London, drivers may tailgate you, honk, or yell just to get everyone to drive faster. It is best not to react with aggressive tactics of your own out of frustration or annoyance. Antagonizing selfish drivers may only increase danger and can lead to a road rage incident.

Meanwhile, as you reach Germany, Germans cruising at over 140 mph is common due to good roads and tires. You have to drive as fast if the rules state it. More importantly, it still boils down to focus. You can’t do anything else while driving so you can act quickly.

If you find yourself driving in Europe at a slow pace, let the cars drive around you. Pull over if someone flashes their lights. It just takes a few seconds so you can continue driving in peace after. Stubbornness is rude which may make you on the receiving end of yelling, cursing, and honking.

Speaking of honking, be thoughtful about the usage of it. Others may use it to communicate anger but don’t do it too. Aggressive driving doesn’t make you a better driver. Use honking for its original purpose of potential crash or danger.

Encountering Roundabouts

round-a-bout

When you find yourself driving in France, a roundabout, an efficient form of an intersection without a traffic light, is commonly encountered. So it is important to know the general rules in case you don’t see the “yield sign” at the entrance of a roundabout.

The traffic flows anti-clockwise. Vehicles inside the roundabout have the right of way so you should prioritize letting them out first. When you’re already driving inside the roundabout, stay on the outside lane if you are exiting. Make sure you use a signal when doing so. Stay in the inside lane if you need to make a U-turn or left turn.

This is easier said than done especially if you’re driving in Arc de Triomphe roundabout as it has 8-lane with no visible lanes painted on the ground. The plus side here is that you may circle it as many times as you need. So don’t be discouraged if you miss your exit the first time.


Road Signs to Remember

Since the implementation of the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals in 1978, members of the European Union utilize a standard set of signs and signals You should familiarize yourself with it to make driving in Europe easier for you.

What you’ll see below are the common advisements and sights and not one that is valid only in a particular country. It may not be all of it but it helps.

Priority Sign

  • An inverted white triangle with a red border means that you need to give priority to oncoming traffic when entering. It is otherwise known as yield and may not have a text indication.
  • A yellow diamond sign indicates that you have the right of way at approaching intersections. Other lanes of travel will yield.

Mandatory Signs

  • If there are two cars inside a red circle, one black, and one red, neither passing nor overtaking is allowed for the duration of the no passing zone.

Prohibitive and Restrictive Signs

  • A blue circle with white numbers indicates the minimum traveling speed zone. A number will be indicated on it.
  • A red circle with a dash inside means no entry is permitted. This is usually due to an approaching one-way traffic.
  • A red circle with a slash on a blue background means no parking is permitted in the advised zone.
  • A white circle with a red border and a car inside it means vehicles are not allowed in the approaching area.

Direction, Position, and Indication Signs

  • A sign with arrows arranged in a circle means you’ll be approaching a roundabout. The sign will indicate the direction of the exit.

Additional Panels

  • An upright triangle with a red border advises the public of a particular form of danger as indicated e.g. merging lanes, bumps, etc.

Parking

crowded street

A good rule of thumb is to use common sense to avoid parking inconveniences. Don’t assume that just because there is no meter, you can leave your car. If the rules are unclear to you, ask locals.

Finding a parking spot in European cities are fairly difficult as it is not designed for parking. Prices of parking in central areas are at a steep price. Meanwhile, at touristy places where pedestrians are prioritized, cities have removed parking spots. Thus, it is best to park on the outskirts of a metro stop and take the public transportation.

Another alternative is to park on the outskirts of town and avail government sponsored park-and-rides if applicable. You spend less because the parking itself may be free. At the same time, you avoid having to park at Europe’s narrow streets.

Carry Cash

Despite the availability of cashless payments via credit cards and mounted tags for tolls, it is always a great idea to bring cash. Some of the reasons include the following:

  1. You may need to fill up at an old gas stations which only accepts cash for payment.
  2. There are still toll roads which will require you to pay cash.
  3. In a lot of countries like France, if you incur a violation, you will need to pay the fine to the office on the sport. It is good to be ready in case it happens.

It may seem that European drivers are aggressive but you have to know that they are just accustomed to their ways. Keep in mind all the information in this and follow the rules. Driving in Europe will soon be a breeze for you. Finally, one important piece of advice to all Americans driving in Europe: keep both of your hands on the wheel and focus.

airport in thailand

Arriving at an Airport You Can’t Even Pronounce


In the early ’70s, I was stationed in Bangkok. And, after I returned home, I returned there for vacation at least twice or thrice a year. So for the past 35 years, I had been periodically traveling to Thailand. This led me to know Bangkok’s international airport like the back of my hand.

Bangkok’s international airport was Dong Muang until Suvarnabhumi, pronounced as su-war-na-poom, opened in September of 2006.  Considered as one of the world’s oldest international airport, Don Muang currently serves domestic flights and international flights of low-cost airlines.

With Suvarnabhumi as Bangkok’s main international airport, I focused on learning my way around it.

Suvarnabhumi International Airport

Suvarnabhumi means “Golden Land” in English and is known to have the world’s tallest air traffic controller. This airport is located about 30 km east of Bangkok in an area known as Nong Ngu Hao, or “Cobra Swamp.” Thus, what surrounds it are paddy fields.

The architecture of this international airport has a futuristic design and aesthetically beautiful metal and glass corridors.

With the complex covering 32 square kilometers coupled with 360 check-in desks and 120 gates, 45 million passengers a year can be handled by it. It is certainly huge that I had to walk a long distance from the arrival gate just to reach the immigration lines. It truly seemed far-flung for me just getting from one place to the another.

After Immigration

The good side of this airport is that there is a giant electronic display board which indicates where your luggage can be retrieved. Knowing exactly where to get your luggage amidst the numerous luggage carousels helps you quickly be on your way.


Passing through customs after getting bags is an easy task. Actually, in over 35 years of flying to Bangkok, I have never been checked. What you have to dread is the operations of taxi mafia.

Taxi Mafia

Thailand Taxi


With bags at hand, you will go through a crowd of well-wishers and individuals who will harass you. The latter is the infamous touts of taxi mafia. They will ask you where you want to go and assign a fixed rate. At times, they’ll sell you at a metered rate. You still have to be wary of it though since they may utilize an unlicensed vehicle with a tampered meter system. In both cases, you’ll pay more than you should have.

The best you can do is proceed directly to the taxi booth. You will have to pay an additional fee but it is minimal compared to the peace of mind you’re getting. Taxis in this booth are registered and use their meters.

Good Taxi Experience

Amidst the scams and dishonesty of some Bangkok taxi drivers, there are still good ones. I rode a taxi during my visit last year and forgot my credit card wallet in the cab. The driver contacted my hotel and arranged the return of my valuable. I decided to reward him handsomely since everything contained in my wallet remained intact. His honesty saved me from a lot of hassle and the possibility of losing a lot of money.

Other Option

Getting out of Suvarnabhumi airport by cab, you will get to experience a controlled chaos of driving in Bangkok. Another alternative if that isn’t your cup of tea is to ride the Bangkok Airport Link. Not only is it the best choice if your accommodation is accessible by train but you also get to avoid taxi scams altogether.

Overall, Don Muang may not be as busy as Suvarnabhumi but my fondness for it won’t disappear. As for Suvarnabhumi, having been there twice, I have already learned to accept that it is the new international airport and treat it as my close buddy.
Good thing for my next Thailand Holiday, I will be heading to Khon Kaen. I get to land at Suvarnabhumi and fly out via Don Muang which brings back to me memories of my numerous Thailand trips. The upcoming trip allows me to visit both my old and new friend.

7 Tips for Successful Travel


Travel is easier and more accessible compared to the time of our forefathers. This is thanks to the technological evolvement of airlines and the availability of cheap air travel.

With the cost of flying relatively affordable, travel enables us to experience the unknown and discover a new culture. Those are good reasons for traveling but, in general, it is actually key to understanding others.

Ready to head on an adventure? Go through these essentials first to improve your chances of a successful travel.

1. Passport is Valid

There is nothing wrong with quickly seizing the opportunity of cheap air travel particularly when there are promo fares and discounts.

Just don’t overlook the validity of your passport as you may be refused to board the airline at your point of origin or on your connecting flight. What is worse is that you will be refused entry on the country you are going to. This will make you incur unnecessary expenses that may be hefty in price.

Thus, ensure that your passport won’t expire within six months of your actual travel date. If your passport is expiring soon, allot sufficient time for renewal before booking your overseas travel.

2. Have Required Documentation

Travel documentation passports ect..

A valid passport is an obvious document you need to have with you when traveling. What you also need at hand is a printed copy of your ticket. It serves as proof that you are planning to return to your home country.

Another documentation you may need to obtain depending on the country you are going to is a visa.

3. Know the Basics of Country You’ll Travel to

Aside from knowing if a visa is required to enter the country you’ll travel to, you also need to know the currency exchange rate. This is to avoid being scammed.

Learning basic phrases as well is helpful since head and hand gestures may mean differently due to cultural differences.

You also need to know if there are clothing restrictions to avoid disrespecting a country’s norms.

4. Know the Weather Condition

bus in bad weather condition

Knowing the weather condition of the destination you’re traveling to enables you to determine which type of clothing to bring. You will want to stay warm and dry especially when it is freezing outside. On the other hand, when it is hot and humid, you will want to wear a breezy type of clothing.

5. Obtain Travel Insurance

Don’t neglect to secure a travel insurance even if you think you don’t need it. More so if you already saved some cash from booking a cheap air travel.

There are unlikely situations that you may encounter. And depending on the travel insurance you availed, your medical costs, trip disruptions such as flight delay, and/or stolen luggage will be covered.

Choosing the right travel insurance depends on your trip and the activities you’ll partake in.

6. Get Vaccinated
Vaccinated

Find out which vaccinations you may need depending on the place you are traveling to and get the shots needed. Or better yet, visit a health care professional, at least a month before for international travel, to ensure that you will complete the series of vaccine needed. Such helps keep you from contracting serious diseases as well as keep you healthy while traveling.

7. Acquire an International Driver’s Permit

Finally, if you plan to get behind the wheel in a foreign land, secure an international driving permit. Know if you can quickly adjust to driving on opposite side you’re used to. Familiarize yourself also with the traffic laws you’re driving in.

girl sleeping while on vacation

7 Killer Ways to Beat Jet Lag


Traveling is a joyous activity but flying through a different time zone for a vacation or a business trip can throw a body’s rhythm out of whack. This may leave you feeling tired, restless, and/or unproductive. The good news is that the inevitable jet lag can be fought with these seven helpful tips.

Stick to Usual Routine

If your trip is short, simply stick to your usual routine — eating, sleeping, and etc. based on the time you’re used to. You may feel odd by doing so especially if the time zone of the place you’ve traveled to is completely the opposite. However, when you return home, your body won’t notice the time zone transition. You can go on your daily life without trouble.

Adjust to New Time Zone

Time zone change 4 jet lag

If you’ll be at a different time zone for an extended amount of time, it is best to adjust yourself in the new time zone. Do this by setting your watch to the local time as soon as you arrive. Plus refrain from checking the time of your home.

Do your activities based on the new time zone. Eat when you are supposed to. If there is still daylight, fight the urge to sleep. On the other hand, when it’s dark, crawl under the covers and get some sleep. Your body clock will eventually adjust in the next few days.

Stay Hydrated

Being dehydrated worsens jet lag. Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water en route and, more importantly, throughout the flight.

To begin with, planes have low humidity. So you have to be mindful in drinking water even if you have a lot to attend to.

An additional preventive measure on being dehydrated is avoiding alcohol if possible. And if you can’t resist the temptation when you’re offered alcohol, drink lots of water afterward.

Exercise

Exercise to reduce jet lag

Exercising when you arrive at your destination is one of the best ways to re-synchronize your body and to adapt to a different lighting condition.

As you will most likely be exhausted, a walk, stretching, and/or jumping jacks will do. It does not immediately address jet lag but it reduces jet lag symptoms. This helps you go back to your old self faster.

Sleep is Essential

When traveling to a different time zone, a long, restful sleep is necessary. This helps to reset the body’s clock according to the new time zone.

You may end up using your electronic devices because you’re having trouble sleeping. Stop using it as it disrupts sleep quality. Best you can do is wear comfortable clothes, lie in bed, and close your eyes until you fall asleep.

Natural Remedies

travel Remedies

Before dealing jet lag with a prescription, consider going for natural alternatives. Pack essential oil blends which naturally ease jet lag and refresh travelers.

For instance, lavender oil is good for relaxation and promotes calmness. It is one of the most popular options for those who couldn’t sleep. As mentioned earlier, deep rest is crucial to resetting the body clock.

Prescription

If the above tips do not work on you, seek a medical professional. He can prescribe the right dosage of medication for you. Such is ideal as well for those who frequently need to adjust time zones.
Sleeping pills improve your ability to sleep which helps mitigate the effect of jet lag. While most pills help travelers sleep better, there are also pills that do the opposite. You can stay alert and awake when it is daytime.With all these tips, you can beat the dreaded jet lag every time you travel.

First Aid kit

First-Aid Kit packing tips for your next trip

You always have to have first-aid kit in your package while you are traveling.

You never know when you’ll need a first-aid kit while you are on a vacation. And not just on a vacation, you may need it for any occasion, like just take a walk, go for a hike or any other activity in the nature. You only need the simple first aid stuff that basically fits in any small container. The most important thing is, the container has to be small and lightweight. For example a small size lunchbox or a toolbox or a mini kitchen Tupperware.

If you plan to go on a trip, it’s always important to pack well. Let’s see then what few things you should always include with your first-aid kit.

7 Things to Have in your first aid kit

  • One of the most important is to be ready with disinfectant to treat small cuts and scrapes safely, so you should have sterile gauze with adhesive tape and scissors to cut them. You always have to make sure the scissors are sharp enough before you pack. Band-Aids are an obvious item to pack, as well as light bandages just in case. You can also add some sterile Sanitary napkins; they can be very functional when you need to clean the bleeding area.

  • A general pain reliever is good to have in your first-aid kit to relieve swelling as well as aches and pains and common headaches, like aspirin and acetaminophen, instant cold packs, calamine lotion and hydro-cortisone cream. Antibiotic cream, hydrogen peroxide and antiseptic wipes are good for cleaning cuts and wounds should be added too.

  • Always good to have antacid, insect repellent, motion sickness medication, anti-diarrhea medication, sunscreen, cold and flu tablets.

  • Never forget that if you or your travel mate is taking prescription medicine, always bring enough for the whole trip.

  • Nowadays everyone has smartphones but in case of any problem you really should keep emergency contact numbers and your medical insurance information in your first aid kit.

  • Having a “first aid manual” in your kit can be very practical. You never know when you’ll end up using it in any emergency situation.

  • Splinters can happen at any time, no matter how careful you are. So be sure you have latex gloves, tweezers. Also a thermometer and a flashlight with spare batteries can be very useful as well.

Always keep your travel first-aid kit in a reachable place but away from small children. Here’s a First Aid kit we recommend