Europe is a melting pot of cultures, languages and religions and can be pretty daunting on a first trip.
The way things work may leave you feeling confused on your first trip to Europe, and so after living and travelling in Europe for many years, I have compiled my top tips for travel to Europe. I hope that these essential travel tips will help you plan a trip to Europe that will be memorable.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Travelling to Europe
When should I visit?
Avoid the peak seasons – this would be one of my essential travel 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?
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 famous 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?
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 apparent essential travel tips for Europe is to have small denomination banknotes and coins with you for gratuities.
Do most Europeans speak English?
English is such a widely spoken language that most Europeans can speak it very well; however, in remote villages or when talking to elderly locals, don’t be surprised to find they can only speak their native language.
It is a nice gesture to learn a few basic phrases while on your trip to show you are willing to try. Even if your pronunciation isn’t correct, 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?
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?
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 areas as prices will be inflated for tourists. Try the local wines with your meal; they are generally delicious. One of my all-time favourite white wines was one I tasted in Croatia!
Should I hire a car to get around?
If you plan to travel around Europe, then a car is the best mode of transport because you can stop wherever and whenever you want. Hidden villages and beachside locations will be easy to access.
Another option is to take the train. This mode of transport is quick, easy and reliable. One of the most effortless journeys 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 usually a member of staff around to help you with any difficulties you may have.
How will I get around the city?
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 attractions 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?
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. Be aware that taking portrait photographs of particular cultures or religious buildings can be very offensive without permission.
Showing that you are aware of and respecting your host country’s customs will go a long way.
Is Europe safe?
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 at the same time 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.
Should I let anyone know where I am?
Yes, Yes and Yes again! This advice is essential if you are a solo traveller, but it’s a good idea to share your European itinerary with friends and family at home, even if you are travelling with others.
In case of an emergency, they will be able to get you help from either your travel insurance company or the international embassy. Make sure you have the contact details of each country’s embassy you will be visiting.
If you are arriving from the US, the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program allows the US government to inform you of any problems in the countries you plan on visiting.
What is the best way to see a European city?
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 travel 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?
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 that retain their countries denominations.
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 can be relatively expensive as, since Brexit, the two currencies are of almost equivalent value.
Check out your local currency agency in person or online to see if they have any essential travel tips for monetary conversions once you are in Europe.
Which airline should I use?
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.
Should I get travel insurance for Europe?
Travel insurance and visas are a necessity – If you only listen to one of my essential travel tips for travelling to Europe, it is to get travel insurance. Please don’t think travel insurance isn’t necessary because it is!
Travel insurance companies will cover health issues, loss of property, flight curtailment and other problems that may occur during your travels. You can buy travel insurance for annual or individual trips but make sure your travel insurance starts as soon as you book your trip so you are covered against all eventualities from day one.
If you are from a country outside of the Schengen area, make sure that your international travel insurance can help you get your Schengen visa.
Do I need a travel visa?
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?
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 travel tips you will end up giving out advice yourself!
What should I be aware of before visiting Europe?
Be aware of Siestas, Weekend Closures and Religious Holidays – Europe has 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 if the date you will be visiting your European destination coincides with a national holiday and whether that will cause you a problem or not.
Where is the best place to ski in Europe?
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 recommendation is to try out Slovenia, Poland or even Scotland in the UK!
Check Out My Post – 17 Best Ski Resorts in Europe for Beginners
What should I wear in Europe?
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 so as 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!