Monday, February 27, 2006

This post may get updated as info is forthcoming.

Visa requirements: With EU passport (have Italian), none required for Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Slovak Republic (but only 30 days stay as opposed to 90 if from Italy--don't care since only passing through by Bratislava for a day or two.), Romania, Bulgaria. For Turkey need sticker visa with Italian passport (get at border crossing for a fee). With Mexican passport, info is harder to find, but pretty much same as above (no visa required through Schengen countries) except Slovak Republic (needs visa). So, make sure Italian passport current. Mine expires in November. Went to consulate in San Francisco about a week ago to get it renewed, since presumably could still be bike-tripping in September, too close to passport expiry. Consulate to my surprise said passport will take approximately one month. Yikes! Hope it is done before departure date!

Health/travel insurance: Must look into. Would suck to be in accident or get sick with no money.

Storage: Rented 5x11ft storage space in nearby Cupertino for about 60 bucks a month. Place is fairly clean and very secure. Will give set of keys to a couple of friends in case need stuff sent, but plan is to come back to US after trip to retrieve/send stuff to permanent address afterwards. Storage space will keep all books, clothes, and assorted belongings, junk and other impedimenta accumulated during the past 13 years of U.S. living.

Bill paying and mail forwarding: Set up online bill pay. Otherwise too painful and risky by check while travelling. Bank account stays here, ATMs and credit cards accepted everywhere in E.U. Snail mail forwarding to home in Mexico impractical: mail takes 1 month or more. So will ask local friend to keep and open my mail for me, and notify of important matters via email, but volume of mail should be reduced since no longer paying for usual bills like electricity, phone, etc, and the still-existing bills (credit card and tail end of college loan) taken care of over the web.

Travel companions: Emailed Patrick, a British dude who is cycling to Singapore from his home in London (found him through a post of his on the biking forums of Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree site). It appears he will be in the Berlin area around the same time I am, with plans to go from there to Istanbul also at around the same time. However, his plans appear to involve a route that is highly orthogonal to mine, passing through Poland and several of the Balkan states...this may be a problem. At any rate, we are in touch. Hoping to also possibly pick up people along the way, and trying to convince brother and a friend or two to join me at least for the Eastern Europe part of the trip, thus buying them a little bit of time for deciding and raising money if necessary.

Communications: Email of course is preferred mode. But will take cell phone. A good friend from work kindly offered to lend me his GSM900 phone (I'm a technophobe so I don't own a mobile myself), and all I need to do is supply the pertinent SIM card. Roaming fees are outrageous in Europe (around 1 Euro a minute!) so the plan is to buy the prepaid SIM cards at each country I arrive at and use that for the duration of the travel through that country. Cell phone is substituting for the "shotgun" he suggested for Nebraska (see prior post here), namely, quick access to emergency assistance, and chit-chat with friends if I happen to get terribly lonely (another emergency of sorts ;P). Routinary phone calls to home will be done on landline (cheaper), prepaid calling cards exist everywhere.

Maps and Guides: Buy off the web and/or local bookstore. Maps need to be scale 1:300,000 or less to show minor roads. Favorite map company is the Reise und Verkehrsverlag which is also known as the American Map Company in the U.S. Got the Spain/Portugal road atlas a few days ago. Rare edition, had a bit of trouble finding. Spain looks a bit sparser (in terms of proximity of villages) and hillier than I thought. More yikes.

Friendly eyes: Emailed old college friends and asked brother to email his to see who is in Europe and can provide an address for visit, stay, or mail delivery. Have brother's friend in Berlin, have friend's family in Budapest and Bucharest, family of close friend in Istanbul, friend of brother in Sofia (though probably won't be passing through that city, at least a friendly person in the country is good to have for emergencies), and friend of friend of family in Vienna. Still looking for people in Spain and Paris, and counting on meeting people along trip as well. Craigslist may not be a bad place to look in, either.

Other misc/notes to self: Need to start learning cyrillic alphabet to be able to read roadsigns in Bulgaria. Friends in Hungary and Romania say language not a problem for me, most people there speak German or English, so should be able to get by. Still, no fun without trying to learn the local customs and language (language is culture! *grin*), so will take phrasebooks anyway.
Can't think of anything else at the moment. Will update here as things come up.

No comments: