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Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Lisa B., Nov 6, 2003.
It has been a very long time since I've lived in Europe.
Europeans use completely different AC power outlets. The jacks are different, they deliver different voltages, etc. So you're probably better off not bringing over any electronics from here unless you want to mess with the hassle of putting transformers on nearly every power outlet in your Swiss apartment. So yes, buy your blow dryers over there. Less headaches that way. If you're bringing over expensive computers, stereo equipment, etc., then yes, start buying adapters now. Don't bother bringing over a TV (hey, it's only 4 months) as your American TV won't be able to interperet the European signals without another funky adapter anyway. IIRC, the phone jacks are different, but don't hold me to that. I was just a kid and my memory's fuzzy.
Switzerland is sorta vaguely close to Germany and I love German blood sausage. Over here in Chicago I can find tons of bratwurst but I can't find rotwurst to save my life. You can't imagine the withdrawal I've been enduring all these years!
A few years ago someone told me internet connections were more expensive in Europe than over here. Of course you know how much that sort of thing can change in a few years.
If you like mountain country, there is some beautiful countryside for you to explore in Switzerland. In places the Alps are easily as beautiful as the Rockies.
Germany (can you tell that's where I lived?) has tons of castles to explore. The former West Germany alone had over 10,000 castles.
There are tons of really good art galleries and beautiful ancient churches all over Europe. You'll kick yourself if you don't visit a couple.
Never eat pizza in Luxembourg. It's not dangerous or anything, just awful.
Sorry I couldn't be more useful. Have fun!
The voltage is totally different as mentioned above so if you are only going for 4 months then don't bother taking anything except battery powered stuff.
Internet cafe's are usually easy to find in all major european cities now. I haven't been to Geneva for a long time, but I'm sure they are plentiful there. I've had no problems in finding web access while on hol in brussels, barcelona, rome, and loads of smaller places in spain and italy.
I've visited some places in the black forest region of Germany and really loved it. Probably not as much of a tourist destination as france/italy spain.
The tuscany region in Italy is beatiful and has loads of nice wines.
In general stuff (nearly everything) costs more in europe than it does in north america, but if you are only there for a few months then you should be able to last without.
The vast majority of customers I speak with at night (mostly germans) have DSL now, and the prices are about the same as I'd expect to pay here, FWIW.
if you have a laptop many of the AC adapters will automatically switch between 120VAC and 220VAC, your computer has a switch on the power supply to do this also, they will run on 220 volts (what they use in germany, switzerland too I assume) The outlets are different, but the adapters are like 10 bucks
I'm currently in a study abroad program for a year in Munich. Question, what will be your living arrangements when you get there?, will you be in some kind of dorm, or an apartment? Internet access seems be available in most student housing, and there are many internet cafes all over the place. It would be almost always cheaper to purchase things like small appliances once you get there. If you can put it in your suitcase and it will work on 220v take it otherwise buy it when you arrive. Shipping is very expensive, by the time you buy something at home and ship it, it will have cost more than buying it there. Plus you will most likely be able to find fleamarkets where you may be able to purchase items even cheaper, than normal. Second hand shopping is much more popular than back home.
I'm not familiar with what there is to see in Switzerland but you can find good deals to travel to many different areas in Europe.
Watch the dollar closely before you go, when you get traveler's checks try to buy them in Euros, it will save you money when you go to cash them, especially if the dollar starts to drop again. I cashed some checks a few weeks ago at a 1.24 exchange rate plus the fee, that definately hurt.
that's all I can think of right now, if you have any other questions feel free to email me.
BTW, some things are a bit cheaper over here, I find groceries to be cheaper, most personal items are about the same prices as at home. Clothing is more expensive so if you like to shop you'll have to hunt for the good deals. Though it is all hard to gauge because Munich is a very expensive city.
Having just returned from a 13 day (was supposed to be 10 but I lost my passport ) trip to Europe where I stayed with a friend who teaches at a design school in northern Italy and seeing how to live as a 'student', I have a couple suggestions:
- for music, get an iPod ! You can hook it up to powered speakers and load all your CDs into it.
- for a very cool weekend trip, you've got to go to Berlin. We went there two weeks ago and I found the history & aura of the city amazing. It helped to be traveling with a fluent German speaker so buddy up with one if you can and go there for a weekend. Flights can be had for about 150eu.
- Interlaken in central Switz is the place to go for adventure type stuff like rafting, canyoning, skydiving, etc.. It's also a big stop on the college backpacker route so I'm sure you'd meet tons of people.
- if you're looking for guidebooks, i'd suggest the 'Eyewitness' guides published by Dorling & Kindersly. They have a general Euro guide:
plus individual ones if you want. They are great -- tons of pics, good maps, great tips.
Have fun !
My daughter spent the first semester of 2002 in Turin. Though she tried to get an adapter for her laptop, she still persisted in screwing something up and pluged in to the apartment wall outlet. After seeing a blue flash, she awoke to find herself on the other side of the room.
She went over a lot of Europe and took thousands of photos. She did handglding in Switzerland and made heavy use of the Eurail pass and took the ferry around the Aegean and Adriatic.
She will remember it for ever.
Some info directly from Switzerland... though not Geneva, I live in Zurich.
Expense of living: Generally, it's going to be more expensive than in the US and you will not normally find as many 'deals' in the shops as you find there. However, some can still be found. Let me know if you wan't some example prices...
Special section on shopping for R2 DVDs: since you will be in Geneva (which is in french speaking part of the country) you will have access to many great movies on french R2 DVDs with not too bad prices. Buying R1 stuff is not usually recommended because of higher prices (and they are not as readily available because of licensing laws passed last year).
As others already said, no need to bring electronics appliances (unless they have dual voltage transformers they are going to get fried on 220 volts that is used here). Swiss wall sockets are quite unique from the rest of Europe and usually cannot fit the more widespread German standard which means that if you buy adaptors for use with devices that can handle 220V you probably won't be able to use them in other countries (and definitely not in places like Italy and UK which again have their own idea of what a socket should look like).
Telephone sockets are also completely different from the rest of the Europe (see a pattern developing here?) though adaptors are easy to find.
The telecommunications system is one of the best in Europe, therefore Cable/ADSL Internet access is widespread and readily available--in the cities it is definitely possible to have it all set up within 24 hours (speaking from my own experience). There are several companies offering this kind of service with tends to drive prices down.
Traveling around switzerland: the easiest way to get around is by train. Trains are clean, safe and very punctual and have great connections with each other and with the rest of the public transport system. Since you will be staying for several months it may be a good idea to get a half-fare train pass if you plan on traveling a lot it usually pays off for itself after a couple of journeys.
Switzerland is eye-wateringly expensive, even by European standards. Glorious scenery, though and sometimes there's a new variety of Toblerone on sale that hasn't reached the rest of the world yet. Some lovely architecture, decent art galleries and concerts, but the really 'big name' stuff in this category is elsewhere (principally Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK).
Some answers to your additional questions...
for internet cafe's, well I haven't used any for a while, but from memory they aren't much differnet to Canada (a few euro for an hour).
If you want to get from Geneva to the UK (or other european locations) then check out easyjet for cheap flights. Just before you book it check the exact location of the airports as they can be around 1 hour travel from the city they claim to be in!
I personally wouldn't recomend them becasue if anything goes wrong they are impossible to deal with, but the filghts are incredibly cheap. I've had a bad experience with them around christmas time (problems due to bad weather) and so nowadays I would always spend a bit more in the hope that bigger airlines will treat you better in the case of things going wrong, but for a cheap getaway thet can't be beaten.
The cheapest place to buy a power converter will probably something like Radio Shack. You definately want to purchase that before leaving. Also you computer probably won't need a converter, if you look on the power supply for your laptop, there will probably be some text that says Input: 100-240V
if it says that where it says input it should run off of 220V fine, you just need a plug adaptor to let you plug into the Swiss outlet, which should only be a 1-3 dollar item.
Another tip is you may want to look into buying a prepaid cell phone when you arrive (I believe the types of cellphone systems are pretty much the same thoughout Europe)with a prepaid phone it is free to recieve calls, for example anyone can call me from home and talk as long as I/they want and it doesn't cost me anything. With the use of dial around numbers like 10 10 987 it is quite cheap for people to call you (approx 3 cents/minute), plus it will probably come in handy for keeping in contact with other people in you program/people that you meet.
You should be able to purchase a phone for around 70 euro, with prepaid there is no contract to sign.
Targus has a range of good travel products when it comes to power and phone compatibility. Perhaps something like http://www.targus.com/us/product_details.asp?sku=PA033U would take care of your needs?
A couple of years ago I purchased a travel kit containing adapters for pretty much the whole world that was in the $50-$70 range, can't find it on targus.com though.. perhaps they don't make it any longer.
Another great place to go for castles is the Loire Valley in France.
Chambord, Chenonceau, Cheverny, Villandry, etc. are all in that area and are beautiful castles.