Europe is a melting pot of cultures, languages and religions and can be quite daunting on a first trip. How do you order coffee in Hungary? Where should you stay in France? How do you use water transport in Venice? All these questions may leave you feeling confused on your first trip to Europe and so after travelling there many times myself, I have compiled my top tips for travel to Europe. I hope that these essential tips will help you plan a trip to Europe that will be a memorable one.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Travelling to Europe
When should I visit? #1
Avoid the peak seasons – this would be one of my top essential tips. Avoid the months of June, July and August, and you will avoid the scorching heat and crowds.
Cities such as Seville and Nice will be sprawling over with tourists meaning queues will be long, and landmarks will be busy. Summertime is also when Europeans take their holidays and so most countries will be overflowing with visitors.
Plan your trip for Spring or Autumn – March, April and May or Sept, Oct, Nov when the temperatures are cooler, and the crowds are considerably less.
Do I need to pre-book activities? #2
Yes! Make reservations in advance – Europe and its many wonders get booked up quickly each year, so make sure you aren’t going to miss out on anything and book well in advance.
Secure your flights, accommodation, tours and train tickets and arrive with peace of mind. Skip-the-Line admission tickets for popular sights are a must, and in my opinion worth every extra penny they cost. I once turned up at the Vatican and glided straight past a queue of at least 500 people.
How much money will I need? #3
Take a mix of cash and credit – While you won’t want to be carrying around a wallet full of notes, it is advisable to always have some cash with you as credit cards aren’t accepted everywhere.
Small local tavernas, taxis and markets may only be able to accept cash, and you don’t want to be left unable to buy that unique souvenir or be stranded without a ride home.
One of the less obvious essential tips for Europe is to have small denomination banknotes and coins with you for gratuities.
Do most Europeans speak English? #4
Most do, but learn some of the local languages – English is such a widely spoken language that most Europeans can speak it very well; however, in remote villages or if talking to elderly locals don’t be surprised to find they do not speak any English.
It is a nice gesture to learn a few basic phrases to use while you are on your trip to show you are willing to try. Even if your pronunciation isn’t quite right, the local person will appreciate your effort.
Phrases such as Where is? How much? and Can I have? are all good ones to learn.
Where should I stay? #5
Stay in a centrally located hotel – Over the years I’ve heard so many stories of visitors staying outside of a city centre for cheaper accommodation only to find out that the cost and inconvenience to travel back into the centre has added considerable time and money onto their trip.
Find a hotel in the central area, and you will be able to walk to all the landmarks and restaurants without the need for a taxi or bus.
Where should I eat? #6
Avoid any restaurants with plastic menus showing pictures of the meals – they will serve cheap, tasteless food. Instead, look for small family run tavernas who pride themselves on local home cooking. After all, you didn’t travel to Italy to eat a burger, did you!
When looking for a restaurant, stay away from the main central tourist areas as prices here will be inflated. Try the local wines with your meal; they are normally delicious. In fact, one of my all-time favourite white wines was one I tasted in Croatia!
Should I hire a car to get around? #7
If you are planning to travel around Europe, then a car is the best mode of transport because you can stop wherever you want to take photos.
If you want to see what is near the place you are staying, opt for the train. It’s quick, easy and reliable. One of the easiest journies I took was from Nice to Monaco, two countries in less than an hour!
If you think you will be using the train quite a lot, then ask your hotel reception where you can buy a travel pass. There will be self-serve ticket kiosks at the train station; don’t worry as there is normally a member of staff around to help you with any difficulties you may have.
How will I get around the City? #8
Get a City Pass or walk – most cities have city passes for the various number of days you will be staying and cover travel on public transport, entry to landmarks and often discounts on restaurants and activities.
It is worth buying one online before arriving at your destination as discounts usually apply. If you purchase one on arrival, then head to the tourist information or airport kiosk at your destination.
How should I behave in Europe? #9
Be Considerate of the Local Culture – every European country will have its own culture, and it is worth doing your homework before arriving to see if you need to adapt to it.
Don’t expect to enter some religious buildings if you aren’t wearing the correct clothing and be aware that taking portrait photographs of certain cultures or inside religious buildings without permission can be very offensive.
Showing that you are aware of and respecting your host country’s customs will go a long way.
Is Europe safe? #10
Yes and No – like anywhere in the world you must be vigilant at all times. Don’t leave personal items or money in back pockets or open bags; this is just the kind of opportunity a pickpocket is waiting to take.
Ensure you are aware of who is around you and if you think you are being followed head into the nearest hotel to sit it out. These aren’t master criminals at work; they are just opportunists trying their luck.
It is also worth checking that there is no political unrest in the country you plan to visit. I once turned up in Moscow right simultaneously as a political rally was in full swing and ended up having to stay in my hotel room instead of going out sightseeing. Unexpected occurrences like this can be frustrating, but personal safety always needs to come first.
What is the best way to see a European city? #11
Go on a Free Walking Tour – not always entirely free as a tip is appreciated, but this is a brilliant way to see the city you are visiting and hear insider essential tips and stories from your tour guide.
I have done free city walking tours in Prague, Rome and Venice to name a few and they have all given me a good insight into the history, architecture and fun facts regarding the place I am visiting. You can find free walking tours online for just about every location in Europe.
Which parts of Europe are the cheapest to visit? #12
Travel outside of the Eurozone to get more for your money – countries not in the European Union but still within Europe don’t use the Euro and instead use their national currency. Croatia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Denmark and Estonia are a few of those that retain their countries denomination.
They offer some of the more cost-effective destinations to travel to and some of the most beautiful.
Travel from the United Kingdom to a country using the Euro is currently expensive as the two currencies are of almost equivalent value (Oct 2020).
Check out your local currency agency in person or online to see if they have any essential tips for monetary conversions in Europe.
Which airline should I use? #13
Use Budget Airlines – EasyJet flights are probably the most familiar and most used budget airline and offer incredible deals to travel around Europe.
Prices can be brought down lower if you are prepared to travel at unfavourable times of the day, either very early in the morning or very late at night or if you fly in and out of two different airports, i.e. Gatwick and Stanstead if travelling from the UK.
Do I need travel insurance for Europe? #14
Travel insurance and visas are a necessity – If you only take the advice of one of my essential tips for travelling to Europe, it is to get travel insurance. It is vital and please don’t think it’s not worth it because it won’t happen to you.
Unfortunately, it might. Cover for health issues, loss of property, flight curtailment is all needed during any travel. You can buy annual or individual trip insurance but make sure you get some before you go.
Check here to see if you will require a visa to travel from your home country to Europe.
How can I find out about the area I am visiting? #15
Talk to Local People – from the hotel receptionist to the barista in the corner cafe, make sure you talk to locals and find out what is going on in the city.
Are there any events taking place while you are there? Is there a best time to visit the city cathedral? Where is the best restaurant to eat for local cuisine? You will pick up so many essential tips you will end up giving out advice yourself!
What should I be aware of before visiting Europe? #16
Be aware of Siestas, Weekend Closures and Religious Holidays – Europe has its own protocols for relaxing and spending time with family.
Closures of many offices and banks due to siestas (afternoon naps) will be commonplace, closure laws in some cities forbid consumerism on Sundays. Of course, Holy Festival holidays result in towns closing down for days.
Do your homework and check whether the date you will be visiting your European destination is going to coincide with a national holiday and whether that will cause you a problem or not.
Where is the best place to ski in Europe? #17
Luxury vs Budget – if you are coming to Europe with mega amounts of cash then head to the French or Swiss Alps prices are high in these areas. If you are on a budget, my Europe travel tip is to try out Slovenia, Poland or even Scotland in the UK!
What should I wear in Europe? #18
Most of Europe is very cosmopolitan, and so anything goes from high-end designer labels to casual shorts and t-shirt attire. However, remember to observe cultures and not to offend local people.
An essential item of clothing you should pack is a pair of comfortable walking shoes because you will certainly cover many steps exploring the incredible European cities that are waiting for you to discover!