31 Jul Overcoming Minor Bumps for a Successful Visit in Brussels
We were thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Belgium for the first time. It seemed to be an often-overlooked European destination and we were eager to uncover its quiet charms. Despite a few minor set backs, we felt we had a successful three days in the city of Brussels.
When traveling to other countries, you soon learn that nothing can be taken for granted. Procedures and customs that you’ve never thought twice about at home are suddenly called into question. Each place does things a little differently, and it’s never quite what you might expect. Travel itself also brings its own inherent challenges, causing you to be at the whim of unexpected, external factors. As an example, here are some of the little bumps we encountered in our recent journey through Brussels- hopefully others can learn from our experience.
Bump #1: Credit Cards Rejected
We arrived in Brussels by train after our long weekend at the wedding in France. Our only hiccup was that the machines in the metro would not accept our credit cards (we had a similar problem at a gas station in France). We tried multiple cards – all with chips and with travel notifications in place – and multiple machines. Nothing worked. We had euros but mostly in bills, and the machine would only take coins.
Fortunately, there was a ticket window open in the metro and we were able to use the same credit card without a problem when we purchased it from a live person. This actually happened to us a second time, on our way out of town. That time, there was no ticketing window open, so we broke a twenty euro bill by purchasing a cookie at the bakery and asked for all the change in coins.
Bump #2: AirBnB Rental Cancelled
We had learned over the weekend (right before the wedding, in fact) that our AirBnB apartment reservation for Brussels had been cancelled last minute, due to the hosts’ building no longer allowing them to rent out the space. We had two days to figure something out and very poor internet service to do it on.
Thankfully, AirBnB anticipates these kinds of problems and notified us with some options, including helping to cover some additional costs if our replacement reservation ended up being more expensive. We found another apartment on AirBnB that we could “instant book,” so we didn’t have to wait to hear back from the host to confirm. It ended up being a fantastic space and a very convenient location.
Our host met us at the rental and gave us a thorough orientation to both the apartment and the map of the city.
Finally made it to our AirBnB replacement and it was wonderful!
Bump #3: No More Summer?
We were surprised to find the weather in Brussels to be quite un-summer-like for late July. It rained a few times and the evenings got really blustery. It could have been much worse, but we were thrown a little off guard.
We lucked out on our big walk around town because we got to the Royal Palace just as it started pouring. Apparently, the palace is only open to the public in the late summer, so we were lucky we could enter. It was free, and we got to walk around while waiting out the rain. We also perfected the art of taking group selfies in big mirrors.
To combat the change in climate, we made good use of our umbrellas and our down Uniqlo jackets which pack up into a tiny little pouch (thanks, Mom Chang!).
We wore our down jackets a lot in Brussels!
Bump #4: Supermarkets Close by 8pm
We ate out at a nice Italian restaurant on the first night, but when we wanted to pick up some breakfast food for the following morning, we were told that the store would no longer be open. This really wasn’t a big deal, as we could just as easily walk to a supermarket the following morning. We just made sure to plan around their opening hours for other purchases during our stay.
All of these challenges are relatively minor in the grand scheme of travel, and it didn’t take much to move past them. What are some of the bumps you’ve encountered in travel? How have you overcome the unexpected in an unfamiliar place?
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