I'm taking off from the US for Europe in a few days and I've got a couple questions for you guys.
It has occured to me that if my backpack is stolen I am completely screwed. It will have everything in it. Do you have any tips for making sure I keep my backpack?
What is the best way to get money from my US bank account over there? If I just go to a lot of ATMs I will lose money from the ATM's fee, my bank's "non-Wells Fargo ATM used" fee, and my bank's "currency conversion" fee. Is there a better way?
Maybe just use your credit card.
I normally just use my credit card and the atm machines and for me the currency conversions are never that bad.
For you pack i would say keep an eye on it and maybe lock it so that pickppocketers don't have a change.
I suggest that you don't keep all of your valuables (passport, money, etc) all in one place. Clothing can be replaced relatively easily, that kind of stuff can't. Having a money belt is great to carry those things in it, with photocopies of your important documents both with you and with someone at home (in case you need ID numbers for replacements). Most people don't like money belts - heck, I don't - but I found it's great to have when backpacking. Make sure you lock your backpack in either storage lockers at your hostel or to your bed (with a bike or snowboard lock), and lock all the openings on it (both when you leave it in the hostel and in transit). Never let your bag leave your sight and if you're taking an overnight train, sleep with it (it may get uncomfy, but there are a lot of cases of stolen backpacks on some overnight trains).
As for the money stuff, if you're not going to be using traveller's cheques or your Visa/Mastercard, the only way to get money would be by ATM. Don't forget to change your PIN to a 4-digit one (if it isn't already) because ATM's over there don't accept anything longer than that. Also, on another plastic note...don't forget to alert your credit card company that you will be travelling overseas (so they don't freeze your card due to abnormal activity).
Hope that helps!
the ATM fees are not so bad as long as you take out a lot at a time. (a few hundred euros).
Keep your passport and credit/atm cards and traveler's checks in a money belt, as mtlchica suggested.
some good advices above.
i agree with all, just adding some comments:
1) use credit cards. take out enough money for a couple of days. Always have atleast one days cash in reserve in your shoe, sock, sowed in you short or something. You might feel stupid doing it, but it will feel as a lifesaver if anything happens.
2) Your backpack should be your siamese twin on this trip. Overnight trains - tie it to your foot or belt. Hostels - your friendly room-mate might not be so friendly.. Dont trust anyone to watch your stuff, not even the pretty girls.. Believe me, loosing your baggage will ruin the trip and months of planning. Use boxes at train stations for storage intra-day. Use receptions at hostels or hotels for free storage. Remember - they often dont know if you're staying at the hotel or not..
3) Dont flash expensive jewellery, watches or rings.
Keep some distance from others. When I was travelling in Pisa with several friends, a local beggar holding a wooden board with her sad stories written on it came up to us; she sticked to one girl whose bag was hanging in front. Just under our eyelids, she stole my friend`s credit cards and wallet without arousing any notice. It was just within several seconds, and my friend was dodging from her.
Later we recalled and figured out that she must used the wooden board as a tool to cover her hands and distract our attention. We were fools and the beggar was definitely a quick-hand.