“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” Susan Sontag
Travel, in my opinion, is like your soul mate. You never know they exist but the day that you actually meet them, you can’t fathom ever spending a day in your life without them.
Now, you don’t manage to fall in love right away, but over time you develop such a bond that it becomes unbreakable.
I love to travel. It has been this way since I was 3 years old. I grew up on an island, feeling at times trapped and I think that is why I travel so much to this day. From my backyard, I would look to the skies on passing planes and ponder their destination. Taking geography classes help build my knowledge of locations but my passion to fly takes me there.
For anyone who has been around me for five minutes will tell you, travel is all that I think of, talk about and focus on. It is this passion that I hope to one day use in my contribution to one of the airline groups in the world. (MBA graduate as of August 2016, just in case they’re reading) One of the things I look forward to, as well as my classmates, will be our field study this summer in Frankfurt and Cologne, Germany.
Frankfurt is known for being the largest financial hub in Europe. Cologne is a more historic city, famous for the Cologne Cathedral and the Museum Ludwig. We anticipate a great time and an even better experience.
From a conversation with classmates, they all have separate queries with regards to our trip. Some are excited as this is their first trip outside the United States, others are excited because they haven’t been on a trip in quite some time and some want to know what the atmosphere is like, the people, how much to carry, things to do, what to eat amongst other things. Even though I haven’t been to Frankfurt or Cologne, I imagine it would be like visiting any other European country but offer its own diversity and distinction.
Here are a few helpful tips that I hope will benefit the class on our upcoming trip.
Currency - Germany is a part of the European Union. It uses the Euro as its currency. The current exchange rate for buying currency is 1.2042 (as of 06/20/16 and fluctuates daily) for purchasing currency. Considering most of our expenses are paid, I wouldn’t take too much cash since selling it upon return is exchanged at 1.0594. The difference in the rates is the bid and the asking price. Which means it would cost you $120.42 cent to buy €100. If you try to sell that same €100, you will only receive $105.94. Different companies have different exchange rates but most importantly estimate your needs accordingly to avoid loss. Another thing I would add, don’t use airport currency exchanges, they are convenient but have the worst exchange rates I’ve seen. Instead, purchase currency from your local bank.
Debit Cards – Most U.S banks have switched to EMV chip and pin cards, which will be accepted at most stores and ATM’s around Germany. I tend to only use my ATM card to withdraw cash to buy street food and use my credit card for all purchases. (See below) Most US banks charge 3% on all currency withdrawals. Bank of America is a part of the Global ATM Alliance which allows for their customers to have free withdrawals at Deutsche Bank in Germany. My go-to ATM card while abroad is by Charles Schwab. They don’t charge an ATM fee and they reimburse all fees charged by other banks at the end of each month.
Credit Cards – Travel credit cards significantly reduce your costs while traveling and rewards you for traveling as well. A few things to look for in a card are no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, and a signup bonus. Since some of us are flying Brussels Air, Lufthansa (both Star Alliance) I suggest getting the Chase United Explorer Card, currently offering a 50,000-mile bonus if you make $3000 in purchases in 90 days. For those flying Delta (Skyteam), get the Delta Gold Sky miles card which gives 50,000 points after $2000 in purchases. Since you will be earning miles on the trip, the cards put you close to a vacation of your own in the near future. (Email email@example.com for more)
Discounts – As college students, the object is to save a lot and travel more. A good thing to have when traveling is the International Student Identification Card (ICIS). It acts as an ID so you don’t have to carry around your passport and gives you discounts all over the world. Visit www.icis.org to find out more. These cards are sold at the Local STA office. These Id's are valid for 1 year at a price of $25.00
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