Money Money Money

Travel Tip TuesdayToday is Travel Tip Tuesday! Novembers tip is about finances, not necessarily my strong suit, though a topic that should be covered, especially when so close to Christmas shopping. When travelling we all hope for a picture perfect trip with no frustrating situations, and often the unexpected can happen. Here are some ways to protect yourself from money theft and getting stuck in an unpleasant vacation.

When travelling, I always pack several different cards with me (both debit and credit). Even if the intent is not to use all of them, sometimes your bank may block a card, or your card simply won’t work in that specific country (It’s happened to me in Poland and South Africa). So just in case, I always bring a few cards which are all linked to different outlets. I would suggest keeping at least one tucked away in your room, in case your purse or bag gets stolen! On that note, it may be a good idea to give your bank a heads up that you will be travelling – depending on the institution you may be able to do this online for convenience.

Cards are great, and as they say, cash is king…sometimes. Some restaurants will not accept cards, in Europe you may need change for the water closet, and transit can be tricky to pay for when in a rush. Flea markets are usually cash only and normally a good way to bargain is by only showing them a small bill or a few coins. Cash is also good in case of emergency! I also suggest splitting between your wallet, bag, sock and money belt. It will seem a bit ridiculous, especially when taking off your shoe to pay for something, it will at least offer some protection against losing everything to an opportunistic pickpocket. This hidden cash can get you a meal, somewhere to sleep, and a call home for help.

I never owned a money belt until we went to South Africa. And now, I think they are a great investment. I’d suggest not using it as a replacement for a purse and only for the essentials (this includes your passport/residence card, one bank card, a photocopy of health cards and a bit of cash). Have it hidden under your clothes, and don’t go digging for it in public. This way even if your purse gets snatched, you can still get home.

I get this sounds a bit paranoid and over the top; as safe as you may feel in your surroundings, you never really know what can happen when abroad in a strange land. Neighbourhoods can look fantastic when the sun is up, which can drastically change after sunset. Why test it? Be prepared and therefore you can worry a bit less about logistics and more about enjoying your trip!

Money

Cheers,
Melissa

Amsterdam Vs Toronto

AMS vs TOIt has been a year this weekend since we packed up and ventured to a new way of life in Amsterdam. It has been exciting, challenging and liberating. To celebrate our one year anniversary here, I have created a list of 20 differences that I have experienced between Toronto and Amsterdam.

  1. Cityscape: There are very few “skyscrapers” in Amsterdam. Downtown most of the buildings have the same look and feel, yet they are different with various colours or characteristic details. I do find the old look to be quite charming. If you want more of a modern look check out Rotterdam nearby!Amsterdam Buildings
  2. Alcohol: Wayyyy cheaper and more accessible here in Amsterdam. Who needs the LCBO when you can walk into your neighbourhood grocery store and purchase 3 decent bottles of wine for 10 euros! That is around $15 CAD! What?!
  3. Communication: Here the official language is Dutch; however, most residents will speak to you in English if needed (especially in touristy areas). Signage and transit announcements are usually in Dutch, which has led to a few funny stories of trains being cancelled and being stranded in the train yard. Fun…
  4. Food: Traditional Dutch dishes are amazing for your mouth, but not so much for your waist. Deep fried, sugary, savoury, cheesy and yummy are all the food groups you can look forward to here!Say Cheese
  5. Way of Life: Amsterdam tends to have more of a work life balance. This is probably since most stores are not open past 6 pm and have limited hours on the weekends. Not so great for the shoppers that are used to typical North American hours – such as the 24/7 Walmarts. On that note you will not find many big department stores in the Amsterdam core as it is majority boutique shops. Great for local businesses, not so great for one stop shopping.Toronto at Night
  6. Weather: Everyone lied to us. It does get cold and it does snow in winter – luckily not as much as Toronto, still enough to cause panic when it snows. Another important fact to know is the significant difference in sunlight hours: 2066 for Toronto and 1662 for Amsterdam. It seems like it is always dreary and cloudy, and I have yet to see anyone skating to work. However this week has been amazingly sunny, so today I am not complaining at all!Toronto Snow
  7. Nature: Amsterdam offers large parks with green space for its residents, and has an abundance of beautiful canals. Toronto also has many park options, especially along the beaches/ island. Pretty even playing field here. There is also less wildlife in the suburban neighbourhoods of Amsterdam (I haven’t seen a squirrel in ages), but a lot more varieties of birds and ducks.Vondel Park Amsterdam
  8. Cleanliness: Though Amsterdam tried to implement a recycling program, I do find that Toronto is much cleaner and more progressive in protecting our environment. In Amsterdam (or Europe rather) you will also find more cats and pigeons inside restaurants. On top of that, places often allow you to bring in your dog!
  9. Bathrooms: Unfortunately there is a theme across Europe that lots of public restrooms are not free. Even in restaurants. It can range from 50 cents to a Euro just to relieve yourself of all the alcohol…I mean water… that you’ve been drinking. Although at night men’s urinals do pop up in the streets for easy usage, but I wouldn’t use one of those. One would expect that paying for the usage of a water closet would ensure a nice and sanitized environment, this is not the case and most can be smelled from meters away. No location signs required!
  10. Extra charges: They don’t just charge you for bathrooms here. Restaurants often put items on your dinner table that are typically free in Toronto. When you go to pay for your dinner, expect that water, bread, condiments and more will be added to your tab!
  11. Location: Toronto has many great spots to visit nearby, but it is not always very convenient via transit. Amsterdam is a prime location to travel to because it is centrally located within Europe. Just do not expect for all your transit to be cheap. There are so many more travel options here, that you are bound to be bitten by the travel bug.Toronto Transit
  12. Shopping: Clothing is quite expensive in Europe. Essentially a shirt in Canada could be 25 dollars, while the same shirt in Amsterdam is 25 Euros, converting to 39 Canadian dollars! Bananas! Although Amsterdam has some really cute boutique shops, it also has some of the same stores that you can find on Queen St. There are still some stores that I miss from Canada and get excited about visiting on my trips back.
  13. Bike Culture: Although hipsters in Toronto love their bikes, Amsterdam has them beat. Honestly, crossing the street here as a pedestrian can be really scary if you don’t look both ways (and then again). There are massive lots for bike parking everywhere; with almost as many bikes as people in this city. Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly large cities in the world, with 400 km of bike lanes and nearly 40% of all commutes are done via bike. Here most cyclists don’t wear helmets, and bike theft is a big problem. We had one of our bikes stolen within 2 weeks of purchase!Amsterdam Bikes
  14. Crime: Speaking of theft… I felt pretty safe in Toronto most of the time even with the constant reminder of crime on the news. Amsterdam has its pickpockets (especially in tourist locations), bike thefts and large amount of home burglaries. However there appears to be less violent crime here. I have never felt unsafe walking around at night in Amsterdam.
  15. Arts: Although there is a love of culture, and lots of theatre and film options for performers here, if you do not know Dutch it is very very limiting. I’ve been lucky enough to book a few roles, however, here you really have to search for them. It does limit the competition though when the role specifically requires a native English speaker!
  16. Prices: Rent, food and entertainment seem to cost more overall in Amsterdam. This could be because I am still constantly converting the Euro to Canadian dollars in my head every time I make a transaction. But it definitely is cheaper to drink (alcohol) here. Yay!Amsterdam Food
  17. Population: Toronto may have more residents but Amsterdam is BUSY, though most of this population are tourists. Also I do find that overall there is more butting in line here, and less of the Canadian way of lining up. “Sorry!” And to go on a bit of a tangent here, customer service is not always as quick or friendly in Europe like what you can get in Canada. Amsterdam Boat
  18. Living: Kitchens are much smaller in Europe. We were very lucky to land a place with an “American Size” oven, stove and fridge. Dishwashers seems to be non-existent in pre-furnished homes. And dryers? Not everyone has them. If you do, it probably takes hours to dry a single load and normally the clothes just get warm and less damp. I also don’t see very many apartments with elevators or AC, especially if you live in the downtown core. The trade-off? You live in a charming old historic Dutch apartment in the heart of Amsterdam, and have a view of a canal if you’re lucky! Many people also live in houseboats along the canals, how cool is that?Houseboat
  19. Laws: There are laws here, yet they seem more lenient on safety. There is texting and biking, drinking and boating, young kids playing with fireworks at New Years and most canals do not have a railing. In a way it’s a bit refreshing to not feel so restricted and have to own up and be responsible for yourself.
  20. Fashion: I cannot speak for all the men here, but women’s fashion is more laid back. I wouldn’t say its years ahead like the old stereotype goes, but it does have a different vibe from Toronto. Here no one really cares what you wear. Typically you see women sporting jeans, a plain top and jacket. They don’t seem to spend hours on hair and makeup and look like they just rolled out of bed and decided to change out of their PJ’s, and yet still look fabulous.

Overall it has been a year filled with lots of ups and downs. I do not regret the decision to move and am so grateful for the opportunities that have come with moving. Who knows what will happen in this next year to come! Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Are you an expat? Have you lived or traveled abroad? What differences have you noticed in your journeys!

Thanks so much to KVDV Photography for the beautiful photos!

Cheers,
Melissa

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