Travel Treasures: London 2012 – Part 4 (What to Know Before You Go)

by Tom Reed
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Story filed August 30, 2012

The Olympics are over, but London is a wonderful place to visit at any time. Here are some tips on what to know before you go. If you’re a seasoned world traveler, you’ll probably not find anything new here. But if your overseas travel has been limited, or non-existent, you may find some helpful information, whether you’re going to England or some other country outside North America.

Money – If you obtain some foreign currency from your bank, make the request several days in advance. I requested British pounds from my bank and got it three or four days later. Coming back home, I exchanged my remaining cash into U.S. currency at an American Express kiosk at Heathrow Airport, saving me the hassle of going through the reverse procedure here.

ATM Cards – A convenient way to obtain cash abroad. Check your card to see what networks are accessible and what the fees are.

Credit Cards – Check in advance to find out if your card imposes an additional charge for conversion. Most do, and 3% is typical. Try to find one of the few (such as Discover and Capital One) that do not. Of the cards you take with you, be sure to notify the issuer in advance that you’ll be out of the country. Otherwise, sudden charges from overseas could trigger a fraud alert.

Electric devices – The power systems in most European countries use 220 volts. Many commonly used devices, such as chargers for cameras and cell phones, are designed for either 220 or 110 volts. So you may not need a converter, but you’ll still need an adapter for the different types of wall outlets.

Cell Phone – Check with your service provider. In my case, I added an international calling option to my AT&T mobility account, then cancelled it after I got back home. But I turned off cellular data on my iPhone to avoid being hit with excessive roaming charges. This meant I could only check email or websites from a wi-fi area, a small inconvenience that was offset by the money I saved.

Plan Ahead – Most tourists do some research before going overseas, reading guidebooks and websites. That much is obvious. But taking it one step further, you can order many admissions online, so you don’t have to carry so much money, or stand in line at the attractions. This does limit your flexibility if you have to order tickets for a specific date. But you can get around this at some attractions. The Tower of London, for instance, gives you a price break on tickets purchased in advance, and allows a seven-day window in which to use them. The more advance planning you do, the more you’ll enjoy your trip, and you’ll probably save money too.

To read the previous journals of Tom's London mini-series, click the links below:

Travel Treasures: London 2012 – Part 1

Travel Treasures: London 2012 – Part 2

Travel Treasures: London 2012 – Part 3


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Copyright 2012 Tom Reed