Expert Tips for Traveling to Europe for The First Time
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Europe has always been a popular tourist destination, and it’s no wonder why. Europe has something to offer everyone with its rich history, stunning architecture, and diverse culture.
However, for first-time visitors, the continent can seem a bit daunting on your first trip. From figuring out the best way to get around to deciding what to eat, there are many things to consider before setting off on your European adventure.
As anyone who’s ever traveled knows, even the most familiar places can feel a little foreign when you’re away from home. Whether it’s the language barrier, jet lag, or simply the feeling of being out of your element, traveling to a new place always comes with a certain degree of culture shock.
Of course, this is part of the appeal of travel – exploring new cultures and experiencing major cities that are outside of your comfort zone. But it can also be frustrating, especially if you’re trying to navigate your way around a city that you’ve never been to before.
Luckily, we’ve put together a few tips to help make your entire trip go as smoothly as possible.
Why Europe Over Other Travel Destinations
Europe tops the list of tourist destinations for its diverse cultural and natural attractions. From the finest historical structures to breathtaking natural beauty or unique festivals, Europe has everything in store for you.
You will find museums with noteworthy artifacts, architectural wonders like the Eiffel tower, close-to-nature places like the Amalfi coast, unique festivities of Venice, and a lot of exciting reasons to choose Europe as your next travel destination.
Europe has also got other noteworthy benefits for travelers. Some of them are mentioned below:
Europe Is Less Expensive
Some parts of Europe are relatively less expensive travel destinations with a huge to offer. The conversion rate is 1 Euro= 0.96 dollars or somewhere around that.
So, a dollar can let you experience a lot within budget. Compromising some cost on food and hotels, you can use the spared money to travel a lot. Transportation fares are also cheaper.
COVID -19 Is Gone
COVID-19 is no longer ruling in Europe. Almost all the countries have declared to be COVID free and popular destinations are all open to their previous glory.
Cash Is No Longer King
Another best part of choosing Europe is that you will not need to carry tons of cash with you. European countries widely accept payment via a card or digital payment methods which saves a lot of hassle and even exchange fees also.
Outdoor Stay Experience
Almost all cities of Europe are walkable and camping in a piazza or park is very popular. To have an outdoor staying experience, Europe is the best option.
Safety Is Ensured
European countries top the list of being the safest countries around the world. Traveling to Europe is safe whether you’re going alone or with family. Some countries have almost zero rates of crime.
Expert Tips For Traveling To Europe For The First Time
Culture shock is an inevitable part of travel, and nobody experiences it more than those visiting Europe from other parts of the world. To ensure your first trip to Europe is as seamless and enjoyable as possible, we have put together a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know.
1. General Tips
Before we jump into specific topic-oriented advice, here are some general tips that will come with your help on the go. Being aware of these facts is important for a wonderful trip.
Check Wheelchair Accessibility
Wheelchairs are not that common in many European countries and public buildings. Some big cities have curb cuts but not all of them.
The cobblestone sidewalks are not suitable for wheelchairs. The best you can do is contact your hotel management to see if they have wheelchair access.
One important thing to keep in mind is that public washrooms are not free in western Europe and some in some parts of eastern Europe. You will have to pay a moderate fee but in exchange, you will get a fresh and clean washroom.
In some cities, there are coin-operated washrooms. You put a coin and get to use the washroom for 10-15 minutes.
Some big cafes or restaurants let their customers use their washrooms. They have a code for getting into the restroom which is printed on their bill. So, you just need to be a customer to use their washrooms.
VAT Refund Policy
Collect memos of all your big payments and show them to the proper agents at the airport. As an international tourist, you don’t need to pay VAT, so you will get a refund.
2. Get Ready For Traveling To Europe
Getting ready for traveling includes planning the budget, booking your tickets, and making other necessary preparations. Check out what tips you should follow to perform all these procedures perfectly.
Plan According To Your Budget
You should budget every penny you are going to spend on your trip. Divide the amount into sections like the cost of transportation, cost of hotel, cost of accommodation, etc.
Keep around 10% of your money aside for an emergency or unplanned expenditure. Having a clear budget will save you from overspending and being cautious during spending.
Make Advance Booking
If you are planning to travel during peak season, make sure to book flights and hotel rooms in advance. Otherwise, you will see that you will have to pay double the regular fare during the tourist season.
Some hotels or airlines even offer moderate discounts on their price if you book earlier. So keep this in mind to save a part of your travel cost. Websites like Booking.com can be used to reserve hotels and United Vacation, as well as Apple Vacations for a travel package.
Look For Open-Jaw Flights
Usually, travelers tend to purchase full-round flight tickets to avoid tension. While it is an easier process, this process leads to wasting a day and extra money. Choosing open jaw and cheap flights can save your travel day. Open jaw flight means landing in one city and then flying home from another city. You can go for budget airlines to help you save money even more.
You will not need to travel all your way back to your landing city to take the flight. For example, you booked a round trip from London to the US. Now, you went to Paris for three days.
So to get back home, you will need to travel all your way to London from Paris which is a waste of travel day and money. An open jaw flight lets you take your return flight from Paris. So the remaining day is all yours to enjoy!
Consider Traveling During Off-season
Traveling during the off-season or shoulder season can be a good option if you wish to avoid crowds and roam peacefully. You are likely to receive a discount, almost 50% on plane fares, hotels, and attractive places also tend to be cheaper during those times. The money you will save can be worth missing some seasonal events or favorable weather.
Familiarize Yourself With Your Destination
Knowing in detail about your travel destination can save you from a lot of unwanted troubles. Keep your mind open during planning. Research on google, and check out travel websites, groups, or forums of travelers.
You will know a bunch of important information from experienced travelers that no travel consultant will provide you. Ask more questions about the culture, food, and people.
Do the locals welcome tourists? Do they have any special restrictions on any specific dress or anything? Is haggling recommended? All this information will help you to travel and spend your money more wisely in a foreign land.
Keep Printed Copy Of Necessary Documents
Although almost all things are getting digitized every day, you shouldn’t entirely depend on digital devices. What if your phone that has all your documents gets lost or broken? Also, you may need to show copies in different places where digital copy or photo is not allowed.
To get over such circumstances, keep at least one printed copy of all your necessary documents, for example, passport, visa, national ID card, the ticket for plane, etc. It is even better to have photocopies also. Neatly keep these documents in a waterproof bag. It is better to be safe than sorry!
Travel Insurance Is A Must
This is probably the advice you hate to hear, but travel insurance is a must-have. We never know when danger lands on our footprint. Your travel insurance should cover any damage to you and your belongings.
The coverage should include trip cancellation, emergency return, medical, accommodation, baggage, and so on. You should consult with an expert to gain more details about travel insurance.
Keep Some Local Currency On Your Hand
Although it is convenient to use a credit or ATM card while traveling, keeping some cash in your hand is safe. You never know when you may need to pay a taxi fare or give tips for getting something done or you may like to buy something on the run.
So, carry a fair amount of cash before you step into Europe. Except for a few countries in Europe, most use the Euro. Get to know which currency is convenient for daily use.
Inform Your Bank
You must inform your bank about your travel time. The bank system may ban or block your account if they notice the withdrawal of money in a foreign country without any warning or update. To avoid getting broke in a travel spot, you must talk with your bank authority.
Make sure to know if your bank charges any fee for foreign transactions. If the fee is too high, consider opening a new account in a convenient bank that has zero or relatively less foreign transaction fee. Also, talk about using debit or credit cards in foreign countries and their limitations.
Check Your International Phone Plan
Contact your phone service company to check out if they have an international data plan or not. If they don’t have any, buy a local data SIM upon landing. Having an internet connection is necessary, especially in an unknown place.
3. Packing Tips
The thumb rule of packing is to take half of what you want to take with you. Trust me, you would hate to carry two heavy luggage during a trip.
Choose clothes that match the weather condition of your travel destination and choose a lightweight bag. Some other helpful tips are provided below.
Take Different Layer Of Clothes
While choosing clothes, keep in mind which weather you will be facing there. If you choose your first visit to a place with different weather, taking clothes that can be worn by layering is a clever choice. The cold is severe in Europe so don’t forget to pack the necessary winter clothes.
For example, the t-shirt you wear in the hot weather can be worn with a blazer in a cold place comfortably. This will save you from carrying loads.
Don’t Forget To Take Comfortable Footwear
European cities are best enjoyed by walking through those magnificent streets and observing your surroundings more closely. Cities like London, and Paris are highly walkable cities.
So it’s very important to take a comfortable pair of footwear. Let it be cades or sneakers, take anything that supports you best in a long walk even on the cobblestones that are famous throughout Europe.
Must Take Power Adapters & Converter
The electricity is 220V in Europe whereas it is 110V-120V in North America. So you will need to use a converter for charging your devices that don’t have a built-in converter.
Some countries in Europe have sockets that only take two plug pins or square-shaped pins. So you will have to plug in your devices using an adapter.
To ensure your well-being in an unknown country, pack your regular medicines, first aid kits, antibiotics, common medicines, and antiseptic creams. You may need them anytime. Avoid the hassle of searching for medicine in a foreign country.
Pack Essentials For Your Kid
Pack extra clothes, diapers, and water bottles for your kid. Taking a travel bassinet is helpful as it keeps your child safe during travel and lets them sleep in peace. In cold weather, use warm water for your child. Consider bringing a travel electric kettle for that purpose.
Other Packing Tips
Some helpful tips for having organized luggage are:
- Use packing cubes to store your clothes in separate sections. It makes it easier to find out the one you need.
- Carry some polybags with you. Buy those eco-friendly ones. Use them to pack wet clothes.
- Pack the liquids like shampoo, and perfume in waterproof containers to avoid any leaking.
- Take gadgets like earbuds, packable backpacks, and other must-have products to assist you in your travel.
- Use travel laundry bags
4. Accommodation Tips
Besides conventional hotels, there are other exclusive options for accommodation while visiting Europe. They even cost you cheaper.
A great way of cutting down your cost is to choose to stay in vacation rentals instead of hotels. Vacation rentals might be a more convenient option if you want to stay in a cozy environment and have access to a kitchen.
You can move there with family, in small groups or even alone. Access to the kitchen and fridge is a big bonus if you wish to take the charge of preparing your meal.
From a tiny cottage by the beach side to a uniquely designed home in the central location, you can find various excellent residences on Airbnb, Vrbo, or other sites.
Check The Actual Bed Size
Some travelers find the bed size very confusing at some hotels in Europe. You will find two separate mattresses with a separate duvet on a double bed frame or two twin beds pushed together. This system may not be comfortable for you so check out bed descriptions before you book a hotel room.
5. Transportation Tips
Trains Are Cheap
The easiest and cheapest way of traveling across Europe is train travel. Europe has a rail network that covers almost all the places. The system is fast, tickets are affordable and the scenery you will get to enjoy during the journey is eye soothing.
Get A Eurail Pass for your day trip
If you are set to travel by train a lot from one country to another or within the country, then consider getting a Eurail pass. Purchasing a Eurail pass is cheaper than buying individual tickets each time.
It will save both money and the tension of getting a ticket every time you go out. There are different types of passes, for example, global pass, mobile pass, country pass, etc.
A global pass allows anyone outside Europe to travel in 33 countries and around 40000 locations across Europe with just one pass. There are various plans available and the price starts from 50 pounds. Even people under age 27 and above 60 also receive a discount.
Ride-Sharing Is Better
Ridesharing is getting popular throughout Europe. Sharing a car or bike with someone can save costs for both sides. There are popular websites where you will get information about ride-sharing.
6. Tips on Managing Your Meals
Get To Know Restaurant Etiquettes
Restaurant etiquette is quite different in Europe. For example, the waiters will not come to you with bills. You can stay as long as you want and then you will need to ask them to bring the bill.
The restaurants serve bottled water instead of tap water. If you don’t like carbonated water then order saying ‘no gas’.
Europeans generally eat their dinner late. The restaurants have menus in different languages for foreigners. These are called tourist menus.
Bread Doesn’t Come For Free
You will find a lot of restaurants where bread is put on your table without asking. Don’t assume that it’s free. In some countries they will charge you for it so make sure to ask and don’t eat it unless you are willing to pay for it.
Ask A Local For Restaurant Suggestions
There are tons of food options except the famous tidy and expensive restaurants. It is better to ask a local person or experienced travelers to obtain information about unique food places across the city. It will cut your cost and let your taste buds experience something new.
Tipping Rules Are Different
Tipping is a convention here and you will need to do some calculations for it. Generally, you should round up the bill and pay 5-10% of the entire bill as a tip. 5% is general and 10% is considered high.
7. Travel Smart Around The City
Book Advance Ticket For Famous Destinations
Never forget to book advance tickets for the famous monument, museum, palace, or whatever famous place you are planning to visit next.
The last thing you will want is to wait in line for a few hours to get a ticket. The famous places are so crowded that online tickets are even booked one to two days earlier.
Download Useful Offline Apps
Online apps like Google Maps or translators are of great help during trips. There are also certain apps that provide information regarding the travel route, stores, hospitals, etc. in a city. Keep them downloaded and activated on your phone.
Manage Your Currencies
As bank fees apply, try to take out a moderate amount of money at a time. Paying by card is more recommended as the charge is less.
Europe has too many things in store for you and you can never cover all of them in your limited time. Don’t keep running and skimming through different places.
Take your time to visit a place, know about it and create a beautiful memory. Also, don’t ruin your health by always being under pressure to always catch the train.
8. Safety Tips For Best Experience
Be Careful In Crowds
Pickpocketing is common in some European cities, such as Barcelona, Rome, and Prague, during significant events or crowds. So remain careful.
Lock Your Luggage
If you are staying in a shared place, it is safe to lock your luggage with a padlock or regular locks.
Invest in digital security like buying RFID ( Radio Frequency Identification ) credit card protectors. It will cost a few bucks to get these and you can remain safe from RFID theft with your digital cards.
Inform Someone About Your Location
We never know about unforeseen circumstances. So keep someone who is not traveling with you informed about your whereabouts. If you fall into danger, they can help you through it.
Being Aware Of Local Culture
There are some customs in every locality. Be respectful to these customs so that you don’t hurt anyone’s sentiment and end up in an ugly situation.
When it comes to travel, there is always something new to learn. For first-time travelers to Europe, there are a few things that are especially important to keep in mind. From learning how to pack light, deciding where to stay and how to get around, to knowing local customs, following these expert tips will help make your trip go smoothly. With a little preparation, you can enjoy all that Europe has to offer without any stressful surprises.
- Which Countries Are the Cheapest In Europe For Traveling for a summer trip?
Considering the flight cost, food, and accommodation cost, some cheapest countries in Europe for traveling are Bulgaria, Romania, Montenegro, Portugal, Hungary, and Poland. Each of these countries has diverse nature to enjoy.
- Which Transport Is Widely Used in Europe?
Trains are widely used for traveling across Europe. The train communication is quick, affordable, and comfortable.
- Which season is best for traveling on a low budget in Europe?
Winter is the cheapest season to visit Europe on a low budget although the cold can be an obstacle. Late falls are also a relatively cheap season.
- How Many Days Is Enough For Europe?
You can visit 2-3 cities and some must-see places in about a week or 2 weeks. One month is enough to visit 2-3 different countries.
- What Is The Safest European Country?
Iceland is considered the safest European country for consecutive 10 years.
- Is Europe Safe For Solo Female Travelers?
Yes, Europe is relatively safe for solo female travelers as they have easy transportation, a strong judicial system, and an open-minded environment.