Technology Considerations for US Travelers to Europe
Europe and the US are not that different, despite, of course, the obvious social, political and linguistic comparisons. Europeans’ love affair with technology rivals our own here in the USA, and so technologically speaking; you won’t be in for any major surprises. However, there are some important considerations worth knowing, whether you’re a traveling entrepreneur, a digital nomad or a summer backpacker.
Power Sockets and Plugs
In the US, we are all used to our 2-pronged electricity socket, serving out 120 volts of glorious electricity. However, in Europe, that serving increases from between 220 to 240 volts, and so, as you can imagine, an adaptor is wholly necessary. Even for trivial items, such as a phone charger, iPod docking station or a hair dryer, an adaptor should always be used as they are not simply a means of being able to fit the prongs into the odd shaped holes. Should you plug in a device without an appropriate adaptor to regulate the electricity flow, the result will most likely be the complete short-circuiting of the supply to the room/building, and even in some cases rendering the device you plugged in completely inoperable – something you definitely don’t want to happen to your MacBook Pro, right?
The best way to avoid this is to simply pick up a universal adaptor that will work anywhere in the world. This way, wherever you go you know you have the peace of mind that trying to charge your camera or phone wont set off a firework display that may destroy more than your appliance…
As in the states, Internet is widely used. In Fact, most major European cities have citywide Wi-Fi coverage, or at the very least numerous Wi-Fi hotspots where you can connect to for a nominal fee. However, just look out for a McDonalds or a Starbucks, or any major (American) chain to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi services these establishments always offer. Hotel rooms are also increasingly offering Wi-Fi services too, though occasionally an additional fee will be incurred for access.
Data roaming across the ocean can quickly add up. If your phone is registered to an American network, then make sure you turn off roaming. Bear in mind, with smartphones, even when your device is not engaged in a call or receiving a message, it is still connected to the Internet and still downloading information. This way, without you knowing it, your phone can be gradually topping up a rather jaw-dropping bill waiting for you when you return from your trip. Therefore, make sure roaming is turned off, or the phone is set to airplane mode.
If you need the coverage, it may be worth unlocking your phone and buying a local SIM card. This will still mean you cannot call or receive calls from international numbers, however, so if this is your primary concern the best advice here is to resort to Skype.
You can even download the app straight to your smartphone, and as soon as your connected to Wi-Fi chat with your friends through your handset. By purchasing Skype credit, also, you can actually call numbers, such as landlines and mobiles internationally, at incredibly cheap rates. A service highly advisable if you need to call a bank or another ‘official’ institution with notoriously long hold-queues.
It is always good idea to set up an Internet bank account, especially when traveling abroad. If you are away for an extended period, there will surely become a time when you need to pop online and check your funds. Therefore, ensure you alert your bank, explaining to them that you shall be accessing the account from a foreign country and name it where possible. When they see an alien I.P address accessing your account, then, they won’t immediately freeze you out, rendering you helpless in a foreign country.
Technology can be confusing, however, it needn’t be. A quick crash course over any of the above before you leave should be ample experience to ensure a hassle –free time in Europe. Technology is making travel easier and easer, every day, so make it work for you, and you will reap the benefits in Europe and elsewhere.