By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: My husband and I are planning a 35-day vacation to Eastern Europe and Western Europe through Trafalgar Tours. It includes 13 countries plus. We would like to know the do's and don'ts of such a trip.

A: Planning a trip to any foreign country involves some level of research. The "To-Know" list runs the gamut including such things as particular customs, weather patterns, and currency.

Since your planned trip is booked through a tour operator as a group tour, you will have skilled and experienced tour guides to assist you and answer any questions along the way.

It's always nice to learn a few words like "please" and "thank you" for the countries you will be visiting. You'd be surprised what kind of service you receive when using the native language.

Once in Paris, I stopped at a fruit vendor's stand brimming with giant strawberries. While pointing at one robust berry, I mentioned how wonderful French strawberries are. "Les fraises sont absolument merveilleux." The next morning, upon seeing me pass by, the kind sir waved and warmly said, "Bonjour madame," as he tossed me a strawberry.

Besides knowing a few terms, it's also a good idea to stick to the old adage, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Be mindful of the destination's culture and watch how the locals behave.

When walking in Florence, generally the Florentines walking along the narrow cobbled streets, accommodate an oncoming pedestrian by graciously yielding. In Paris, time is yours to enjoy. You can leisurely sip a coffee at a café and not be bothered by the staff.

As always when travelling to unknown destinations, ensure you have your money tucked away safely. Money belts are good items. Keep your camera close by. Avoid dangling it loosely.

If you wish to obtain travel advisory information on any of the countries you are planning on visiting, the Department of Foreign Affairs issues regular travel advisory updates. For more info, contact the foreign affairs department at 1-800-267-6788.


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