It is very hard not to fall in love with Europe with its amazing landscape, mix of cultures and rich history. Europe has so much to offer and is one of the most visited continents in the world. If you are planning on a European trip, then you are in for a treat. I know that you will love it as much as I do.
I thought long and hard about the lessons that I learnt from my European trips and have combined them all for your benefit.
It is a good idea to book your activities, trains and accommodation as early as possible. The prices only tend to go up closer to the date. If you are going in summer, you should really book all the necessary stuff such as accommodation as there is very limited availability.
Group your activities
European cities are big and activities and sights tend to be widespread. It is a good idea to group your activities by location.
Do your research
Given the endless options at hand, it is imperative you do your research before you go to Europe. There are countless guides and travel blogs on the internet. Some of my favourite bloggers for Europe (apart from my own blog ☺) are: World of Wanderlust, Department of Wandering and Hand Luggage Only. The Lonely Planet guides are also a very handy resources, but if you do not want to spend money on guides then make sure to check the blogs.
You simply can’t see everything
With so much to see and do in Europe, it is impossible to get to everything. The better option is to spend more time in one place and truly get to know it.
As a rule of thumb, we typically don’t spend less than three days in a place.
The best mode of transport within Europe, in my opinion, is by train. You can purchase tickets online and the main benefit is that most trains leave from central stations. Be careful with air travel, often the low-cost airlines leave from smaller airports which can be difficult (and costly) to get to.
I have probably never walked as much as I did in Europe. I had a Fitbit on while in Europe and one day I walked nearly 30000 steps. I have never managed to beat or go anywhere near that record again. So be prepared to walk when you go to Europe. I would strongly advise that you bring some comfortable shoes (not new) and some blister protection. The paths in Europe are often made of cobblestones, so I would not advise heels. They tend to get stuck in the path.
Given the amount of walking to be done and the strain to your body, I would highly recommend gently upping your fitness level before going to Europe.
It takes over 24 hours to fly from Australia to Europe. As such, jet lag is almost a guarantee. To be fair, everything is a long flight from Australia and over the years of travelling, I have developed some techniques to combat jet lag. I will write a post shortly about my techniques to combat jet lag.
Make sure to pack or buy some sunscreen. It is very easy to get sunburnt even while walking in the cities. The SPF in your makeup is not enough if you are going to be outdoors for long period of times.
If you are dead set on eating at a specific restaurant make sure to make a reservation, especially if it’s popular and it’s summer time. If you are struggling to make a reservation due to the time difference, you can contact your hotel and they will usually make the necessary arrangements for you.
Make a shortlist of restaurants and cafes
In order to avoid making poor choices when I am hungry (either bad food or bad restaurants), I make a list of places that I want to try. The list usually consists of bistros and cafes that do not require a reservation.
Do not eat near tourists attractions
As a general rule, these restaurants will be a complete rip off. Not only are they expensive, the food is more often than not bad and totally inauthentic.
Book your attraction tickets in advance
There may be queues to enter places but if you do not want to wait in long queues twice (once to buy tickets, once to enter) make sure to pre-book and print your tickets as much as possible.
Wake up early
The other trick to skipping queues and crowds is to wake up early. You get the best of the city by being an early bird.
Spend your money wisely
Some activities are definitely worth doing and spending the money on, such as a gondola ride in Venice or going to the top of the Eiffel tower. Use your resources wisely and pick and choose what you spend your money on.
Don’t over pack
There are two reasons to keep your luggage weight down. Firstly, the amount of stairs you will have to lug your luggage up and down, both at your accommodation and in metros. You are lucky if you can a find an escalator let alone a lift. The cobblestones will also not help; the heavier your luggage, the harder it is to drag. Secondly, you will invariably buy stuff on your European journey so you might as well leave some space in your luggage.
Don’t overdo it on the souvenirs
Talking about buying, don’t overdo it on the souvenirs. It is very easy to buy random knick-knacks only for them to be thrown away upon your return or stuck in the back of a cupboard. The best souvenirs from our trips has generally been food items or cookbooks or even linens (tea-towels).
Travel off season
Spring and Autumn (May and September) are two of the best months to be in Europe. You still have the benefit of nice weather but with fewer tourists.
We went to Europe in April last year and there were barely any lines. In fact, we got to pretty much walk into Notre Dame without having to wait at all.
That is what I call a win. You might however have to put up with changing weather. But that’s a small price to pay. Talking about price, travelling off season also mean that you have a plethora of options at a cheaper price.
Having said that, shops in smaller villages or weather dependent places (such as Positano) tend to be closed in off season. So keep that in mind while planning your trip.
There are 26 countries within the Schengen area whereas there are 44 countries in Europe itself. Most nationalities do not need a visa to enter the Schengen area but you should check the requirements for the other countries in the Euro Zone. If you are in the Schengen area you can only spend 90 days at a time with a total of 180 days in one year.
Scammers and thieves are rife in Europe, especially near the main tourist attractions and on trains. Be vigilant and keep an eye on your belonging and you will be fine.
Most of Europe uses the Euro (€) but you should still check the local currency requirement of each country. Accessing money is quite easy in Western Europe, but be vigilant when using ATMs. I have written a post on how to access money while travelling.
So here you go, these were my 20 tips for anyone travelling to Europe. Have you been to Europe? If so, what are some of your tips?