Questions for anyone who's ever travelled to Europe


#1

I’ll be travelling to England in a few weeks and had a couple of questions. I’ll probably think of some more along the way, and post them here as I go.

First, if you have any prescription medications, do you have to do anything special to travel with them? I assume just having them with you in your carry-on bag would be the safest bet, is that right? Also, what about over the counter medications? For instance, I us Benedryl for allergies and to help me sleep sometimes. I don’t know if it’s even available over the counter in England, so I was thinking I’d just bring some. Can I safely/legally do that?

Second thing: money. How do I go about getting some spending money in the local currency there? Failing that, will my debit card (drawn on a US bank) work overseas?

TIA! :slight_smile:


#2

Take any meds. in a baggie in checked luggage. Best to bring what you can, as over the counter may be different there. (I'm not sure about England, but in Germany there is not such thing as "over the counter" even vitamins are prescribed.)

Use an ATM for the best exchange rates. Although most banks charge a 3% fee for foreign usage. But the pound is going to hurt no matter what the fees.


#3

If you're bringing any prescription drugs that are addictive, or that could be abused or resold (such as tranquilizers or painkillers), you may want to bring a doctor's note. I've heard that you should always bring medications in their original bottles, with their original prescriptions (to make it clear that you are not drug smuggling), but I've done many border crossings and nobody has ever cared about medications at all.

Make sure that you bring your medications in a carry-on bag (not your checked luggage), because checked luggage can be lost.

Outside the US, I have noticed that pharmacists play a more "active" role in the dispensing of medication than they do in the US. A pharmacist will discuss your symptoms and select an appropriate medication for you (maybe even medications that would have required a prescription in the US.) The American experience of walking into a pharmacy and browsing through the boxes of medication does not seem to be as common...but I have never had problems getting medications (possibly because the pharmacist has the authority to prescribe on the spot?)

Regarding money -- definitely call your bank and ensure that your debit card is activated to work overseas. Then, use your debit card in ATMs to withdraw all your money, because you will almost always get the best exchange rate that way. Your debit card is more likely to work if it has a VISA logo.

I've gotten flak on this forum for pointing this out in the past, but if your debit card was issued by a large national bank, it's likely that they have an agreement with some banks in England to waive your ATM fees (which can be sizable abroad). For example, if you have a Bank of America debit card, you can use it in Barclay's ATMs in England with no fees. If you have such a card, seek out a list of these banks.

You will also be able to use a credit card (if you call your bank first), but do not use a credit card in ATMs unless you want to pay ridiculous fees. Bring enough US currency to last a couple days, which you could exchange at the airport if you find that your debit card does not work after all.

Finally, don't forget that England uses the Pound, while Europe uses the Euro...

[quote="ac_claire, post:1, topic:182406"]
I'll be travelling to England in a few weeks and had a couple of questions. I'll probably think of some more along the way, and post them here as I go.

First, if you have any prescription medications, do you have to do anything special to travel with them? I assume just having them with you in your carry-on bag would be the safest bet, is that right? Also, what about over the counter medications? For instance, I us Benedryl for allergies and to help me sleep sometimes. I don't know if it's even available over the counter in England, so I was thinking I'd just bring some. Can I safely/legally do that?

Second thing: money. How do I go about getting some spending money in the local currency there? Failing that, will my debit card (drawn on a US bank) work overseas?

TIA! :)

[/quote]


#4

I brought both prescriptions and over the counter the two times I went to England and never had a problem. I got the British pounds, called quid in England, at my local bank and I withdrew pounds from an atm in England which did the conversions for me. The airports and rail stations usually have places for currency conversion. They did at King’s Cross Station in London and Heathrow airport. My regional American bank card as well as debit card worked just fine in London, Norwich, York, Coventry, Birmingham and Wigan. In fact, in many places in England debit card is preferred because many Europeans do not carry credit cards at all and it costs extra to the vendors when you use a credit card. In England, they have something called a switch card which is the same thing as a debit card and it is very popular there.


#5

Why did you get flak for pointing it out?


#6

Thanks everyone for the replies.

Hm, well unfortunately (in this instance) I don’t have a large national bank; my card was issued by a local bank. I’ll ask them if I can use it overseas next time I go in. Also the card has a MasterCard logo instead of a Visa logo. Do you think that’ll be a significant problem?


#7

We’ve never had a problem with carrying prescription drugs - the advice you’ve received is excellent. You would surely be able to find an equivalent “over the counter” medication at a pharmacy, and the pharmacists are, indeed, a little more “hands on.”

Definitely use your ATM card. We have one from a credit union and they provided a list of ATMs (not at banks!) in England that didn’t charge fees; very helpful, as they can add up. Some credit unions (maybe banks, as well) also reimburse you for fees incurred overseas. No need at all to get any local currency ahead of time (we used to do that years back…what a pain!)

Have a wonderful trip. I adore England. Try to catch a show in the West End of London, if possible.


#8

With regards to money, you have several good options before you even get to the UK. First, most airports have money scalpers…i mean…money changers. The exchange rate at airports is usually terrible, but you should have at least some cash on hand when you land, presumably in Heathrow. In alternative to this, some banks where you live might have foreign currency on hand for a small fee and/or better exchange rate. Your debit card has a 99% chance of working in the UK and Europe in general, but beware of hidden fees. As aforementioned, make sure your bank knows that you are overseas because some cards have a security feature built-in that will alert the bank that a “thief” is trying to use your card number to withdraw money.

So, in short, have some cash in hand when you get there and carry some with you around; I have yet to hear of a restaurant or a cab driver refuse a paper bill in payment. Your debit card will work and debit is better than credit because of the way the exchange rate works.


#9

Inform your credit card company and your bank or any other institution that you will be using while in England…if they see international transactions, they may freeze your account for fear of fraud and then you would have to contact them somehow to unfreeze…ya know?

I would just use a credit card that whole time or set up a new banking account, get a debit card and load that account up with what cash you plan to spend…the bank should have no problem converting the dollars for you.

You can take cash and exchange at the airport with no problem. Most airports have this readily available, even here in the states.


#10

[quote="ac_claire, post:1, topic:182406"]
I'll be travelling to England in a few weeks and had a couple of questions. I'll probably think of some more along the way, and post them here as I go.

First, if you have any prescription medications, do you have to do anything special to travel with them? I assume just having them with you in your carry-on bag would be the safest bet, is that right? Also, what about over the counter medications? For instance, I us Benedryl for allergies and to help me sleep sometimes. I don't know if it's even available over the counter in England, so I was thinking I'd just bring some. Can I safely/legally do that?

Second thing: money. How do I go about getting some spending money in the local currency there? Failing that, will my debit card (drawn on a US bank) work overseas?

TIA! :)

[/quote]

Hi ac claire-

You've already gotten lots of good answers it looks like. I've always just packed my prescriptions and medicines in their original packaging and gone to ATMs once I got to the country I was traveling too. Those were both suggestions I got from an international professor when I was going to live overseas in college and they've worked great almost everywhere (in Israel I wish I'd brought dollars because that's what everyone wanted, but everywhere else it worked great!).

Have a wonderful trip!


#11

[quote="ac_claire, post:6, topic:182406"]
Thanks everyone for the replies.

Hm, well unfortunately (in this instance) I don't have a large national bank; my card was issued by a local bank. I'll ask them if I can use it overseas next time I go in. Also the card has a MasterCard logo instead of a Visa logo. Do you think that'll be a significant problem?

[/quote]

Hmm... I do know that if your card is an ATM card with a Cirrus or PLUS logo (and no other logos), the card is likely to fail. However, because your card is a Debit card and it has the Mastercard logo, you are more likely to find success, although I've never tried using a Mastercard in ATMs.

[quote="flyingfish, post:5, topic:182406"]
Why did you get flak for pointing it out?

[/quote]

This is really off topic but...the discussion was a credit union vs national bank argument. I pointed out that national banks have alliances with foreign banks that allow you to withdraw foreign currency without a fee, and the credit union advocate told me that this is a drawback, not a benefit, because banks that do international business are un-American and not to be trusted. :confused: Now from this thread I've learned that some credit unions have the same alliances, so I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean now. :shrug:


#12

There shouldn’t be any problem locating Benedryl over here - it’s advertised on the tv.

Beware the 100 cc rule for liquids in hand-luggage, though.You can buy liquids after you’ve been through security, of course. I don’t think I’d risk packing a sticky liquid like Benedryl in hold-luggage, so perhaps buying it at the airport pharmacy after going through security would be the best, and then just throwing any unused stuff away before your return.

Oh, and by the way, ‘quid’ is very much a slang term for ‘pounds’, and is probably best avoided.


#13

Oops! I’m so sorry, I’ve been confusing Benadryl with Benelyn (sp?), so please igore my irrelevant comments about liquids, sticky or otherwise.

But I’ve googled Benadryl, and there’s several UK sites selling it , so it shouldn’t be a problem obtaining it over here.

Sorry again.


#14

As a Londoner that lived in the US for 13 yrs I found debit cards easy to use in the UK but I would check with your bank so that you can take advantage of any partnerships your bank may have with UK banks’ ATMs. Definitely have some cash on hand when you first arrive.

Be prepared for severe sticker shock when you get to England. The British pound Sterling is much stronger than the US dollar. One American dollar is only worth 62 British pence. As of today for $500 you will receive 312 British pounds in return, so immediately you will lose virtually 2/5 of your money. Then everything is generally more expense, especially if you are staying in London i.e. accommodation, clothes, food etc. Be wary of going shopping with your credit/debit card without double checking exactly what that will translate to in dollars on your next card statement when you get home.

England is currently experiencing their worst winter weather for 30 yrs so I would recommend you bring suitable clothes and footwear for severe cold, snow and wind. The weather may have improved by the time you are ready to fly and you can easily check current conditions on the BBC news website.

I hope you have a wonderful time in England and if you have some flexibility in your schedule you may like to visit Walsingham, a small village in the county of Norfolk which is the home of the English National Shrine to Our Lady. She appeared to a local noble woman in 1061 so the shrine is over 1,000 years old. :getholy:


#15

:)When on a flight i have never been questioned about my medication although i keep them in the original packaging etc… at the main airport when you land here there is a kiosk where you can exchange your money im unsure of the rates. those allergy tablets i buy them here so yes we do have them available. if you need any help or advice please pm me. we are at the moment having a bad winter snow freezing temps ice ice ice im sick of it. I fell christmas night on the ice and dislocated my knee which is ok now. It is the worst winter that i have seen here in a long time so be prepared. Warm clothes etc… have a safe trip and welcome to Great Britain.:wink:


#16

[quote="ac_claire, post:6, topic:182406"]
Thanks everyone for the replies.
Hm, well unfortunately (in this instance) I don't have a large national bank; my card was issued by a local bank. I'll ask them if I can use it overseas next time I go in. Also the card has a MasterCard logo instead of a Visa logo. Do you think that'll be a significant problem?

[/quote]

Definitely check with your bank. I have not gone myself but when my daughter went on a group trip to Europe they were told they needed something particular, seems to me it was something like the PIN number needed to be 5 or 6 digits not 4, to use their cards there.


#17

Without having the time to read the other answers…

1.) Bring your own prescriptions yes. Have plenty on hand. There is nothing wrong with bringing it over as long as it is prescription. Bring all non prescription stuff you anticipate using like Benadryl. It is hard to figure out what the equivalent medicines are in Europe, and the pharmacies are not always as nice and helpful as they are in North America. The pharmacists are sometimes called Chemists… or Apothek… apothecary (sp?) and aren’t open long hours like they are at home. Better to bring all your own stuff than navigate their system. There shouldn’t be any customs issues if it is clearly for personal use.

2.) Assuming you live in the US and you have interac and a VISA, you can just slip those into the ATM’s there and bingo, you’ve got cash. You can use your VISA (maybe Mastercard too) anywhere. Yes they charge a bit (higher exchange rate than you would get otherwise ), but it is convenient and I prefer it, to carrying around a bunch of cash in a fanny pack for instance. You can get travellers cheques too, but you have to find a bank, open, and get the cash that way which can be annoying and can sometimes be problematic. I once had a problem doing this in the US, with a Canadian travellers cheque. (check in American… hahah)

How long will you be there for?


#18

BTW what I find strange when I use my VISA in the US, is that often I don't have to sign anything... that is weird. We almost always have to sign a receipt in Canada, even for a $3 purchase.

At the pharmacy here, the pharmacist always discusses the medicine with you and you get a print out of all side effects and possible drug interactions.


#19

Thank you, trish. :slight_smile: I’ll probably take you up on that PM invite. I’m actually going to be in the far, far north of England, very close to Scotland. What part of Scotland are you from?

For quite awhile. Two or three months.


#20

Since I do not live in the US, my response regarding currency is likely to be different from most of the replies above.

I have traveled to Ireland, the UK and Italy a number of times in the past 10 - 15 years. I always get the currency I need before I travel. The UK uses pounds and Ireland and Italy both use Euros, so I purchase some cash in each from one or other of my banks (I have accounts in 2 banks and can check out a number of branches of each for cash). For the rest, I purchase travelers cheques (which never go out of date) in both pounds and euros. In Ireland or the UK, I have always found it easy to change the travelers cheques in a bank. You need to bring your passport with you. That’s all. They usually charge about 2% commission to change them.

In Italy, there are many bureaus de change available. You need to be careful with some of them - some are great and charge about 2% commission, others can charge huge amounts, so you should (language permitting) try to determine what they charge before you make the transaction.

Travelers cheques are particularly good because if stolen they can be replaced quite quickly.


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