Some useful Hints and Tips for first timers going touring Abroad
I first started to travel abroad under my own steam in 1981, the first trip being on my CX 500 motorcycle to Holland. The trip materialised after a friend and I met a Josee, a teacher from Leeuwarden in Friesland (in the far north of the Netherlands). She was on holiday in the Youth Hostel in Ambleside (Lake District), when we first met up. She extended an open invitation to us to visit her whenever we had the time. This really fired my imagination as I had no idea where Leeuwarden was, or indeed how far it would be to travel. Over the next few months I checked all manner of things and contacted her by 'phone to see if she really meant it. As it happened I was taking some leave and she would be free for some of the time, so I took the plunge and ordered the ferry ticket from Harwich to the Hook of Holland.
We have found that if you want to tour a larger area and not be on the bike or in the car all the time, then 3days turns out about right for a stop over. In Germany and Austria, most of the B and B places reduce the rate if you are staying 3 or more nights. 1 night only means that you never really get the feel of a place, and you are continually packing and unpacking. 2 nights and you can only do a little in the area and only have 1 evening meal to sample the local delicacies. We usually try for 3, because you get a break from the motoring, you have one full day exploring the immediate locality, and a chance to sort out a trip for the other day. This might be by bus, boat, train or even your own transport, and somewhere to come back to before the next move.
Another thing to try to avoid, especially in high season, is ending up having to look for somewhere to stay on a Friday, when the locals are hell-bent on enjoying their weekend away too! It's far better to do a 2 night beforehand if you are going to end up in that situation. We tend only to have a framework of ideas for a Holiday and plan and re-plan 'on the hoof'.
This situation has changed recently with the introduction of the Euro, and we tend now to take a little to tide us over for the first few days and then use the 'hole in the wall' in the country travelled to. I have tried all kinds of methods of securing the best deal (a Yorkshireman you see) for foreign exchange. There were times when obtaining cash with your Visa card was about the cheapest, but they have changed that system too. I tried an account with Natwest, but their charges are not competitive any more. The best rate we have obtained, bearing in mind that they do not charge for the transaction, is a Nationwide Flex account. You can access you own money in a great number of countries. On a typical transaction in Holland in 2003, the total cost for withdrawing 200 Euro was £141.69 from Nationwide and £149.87 from Natwest. This was at the same machine in the same bank within minutes of each other. This represents a difference of over 5%.
Christine is our Ace packer, and tends to get more in the pannier bags than I ever can. But what we normally do on the Wing is to pack the large top-box bag with the overnight stuff for use on the Ferry and have all of the holiday clothes and such in the main panniers, which can be left locked on the ship. As soon as we get off the bike on the ferry, we take the top box bag out and put both helmets (and gloves etc) in there.
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