We are currently travelling through Denmark and Norway. And we thought no better time like now to share a few travel tips with those planning to head here soon:
1. Check the weather and pack wisely: The best thing that we brought with us was a windcheater and raincoat. If you thought the English weather was the most temperamental, you ain’t seen anything of the Danish summer yet!
2. Avoid eating in restaurants at the city centre: This is a lesson to internalise. The restaurants in the beautiful squares of Europe’s oldest cities look grand and straight out of movie sets and…most importantly full of people (a sign to you that food must be good!). Chances are they are suckers like you…tired and in need of food and a place to catch their breath and wifi. These restaurants are in prime tourist real estate..so the food is likely to be doubly expensive and more often than not, not even worth the price you shell out. Don’t always go by the look and location!
(This Norwegian national cake served in a restaurant that advertises it as a must try on its board, was stale and masked in double cream. We paid 99NOK for this because this restaurant was on the main thoroughfare Karl Johann’s gate in Oslo)
3. Listen carefully to local advice: Whenever you can, strike up conversations with locals. If you are staying at Air BnBs, ensure your host gives you his take on where to go and what to do. It helps you avoid the ‘tourist traps’ and see the lesser known nooks and crannies of the city. It also helps you avoid the restaurants mentioned in 2. That said, use your discretion too. N was happy to give ‘The Little Mermaid’ a miss after seeing every Dane we spoke to gag at the mention of their most iconic statue. We walked along the harbour front for quite a while before we chanced upon it and that too due to the crowds around it. I, on the other hand, had always wanted to see this, so I loved photographing her. (The beautiful sunny day that it became after drenching us thoroughly helped too!)
4. Double-check your itinerary and hotels: If you, like us build your own itineraries then spend some time planning whether you would need to look for places closer to the city centre or the airport or the train station. Double check accessibility and the options of transportation. Walking up a hill with a 15kg backpack in rain has the potential to drive a deep wedge between travel partners. And the gods save you if you are already married to each other! Moreover, since accommodation is very expensive across the region, you will have to do some clever juggling with your options.
5. Always try and make time for a Free Walking Tour: Most cities in Europe now have free walking tours. This means you can pay what you can afford and only if you really liked the tour. You decide what the price of the tour you got is. More often than not, you get to see the city with a local and they will take you by foot through paths you’d otherwise never explore and share their city with you.
Some other travel tips are universal but it never hurts to hear them again: Don’t always hunt for your local food in someone else’s city. Try theirs, learn to appreciate, offer a please and a thank you. And a smile. Don’t constantly whip out your currency converter. That is a sure fire way to a permanent heartburn while in Scandinavia. And my final tip: if you’d like some advice or are lost but are loathe to admit it, stand by the side of a road and focus hard on a local map on your phone or paper. Four times out of five, someone will walk up and volunteer help!!! This has been tested across various cities in Europe.