So, you’ve decided to travel to Europe? Whether it was the dazzling art, epic history, or scenic beauty that took your fancy, one thing is for sure – you won’t regret it. Europe is where ancient meets modern and urban meets rural. It’s a land to get lost in, discover yourself, and meet new friends from all over the world. It’s also a destination where knowing a few essential tips can go a long way. From worrying about language barriers to figuring out what to pack, here are some tips to help make your first time in Europe an absolute blast.
Europe is massive, and there’s simply no way of seeing it all in one go. Unless you’ve been blessed with years of free time, it’s best to pick the places you really want to see. Maybe you’ve always wanted to check out the Berlin Wall? Or walk across the Tower Bridge in London? Whatever it is, jot down your top five or so ‘must-do’ things and plan your trip around these. Because it’s your first stint in Europe, it’s even worth looking into an organised tour like one of these to help you find your feet and meet some travel buddies.
It’s the golden rule. You don’t need to bring your whole wardrobe. Nor do you need laundry detergent, three cans of deodorant, and all those special “travel” gadgets. Europe might have lived through the middle ages, but nowadays it’s a fully-fledged modern continent – filled with all the travel necessities you’ll ever need. Put simply, pack the essentials (and maybe one nice outfit for a fancy night out).
Learn some local lingo
Getting over the language barrier isn’t as tricky as you think. Many waiters, hoteliers and activity providers speak English, and they’re used to tourists. However, you’ll definitely get more out of your trip if you learn some of the native tongue. Master basic phrases like “Hello”, “Thank you”, “Do you speak English?” or “Where is the toilet?” for each country you go to. Even this small effort will get you a long way – and the locals will appreciate it.
Get app happy
The world is more connected than ever – so take advantage of this. Download apps such as Citymapper, Google Maps and TripAdvisor, as well language apps and local destination guides. When you’re short on travel time, technology can help you make quicker and better decisions. By the same token, don’t forget to put your phone away and look around. Some of the best experiences you’ll have in Europe are spontaneous!
Take a full wallet
Depending on where you go and what you do, Europe can be both cheap and expensive. Either way, go over with as much money as you possibly can – even if it means slaving away seven days a week for a few months beforehand. Whether you need to get yourself out of a tight spot, or you just want to splash out on a fancy hotel, the more money you have, the better off you’ll be.
Do things by the guidebook…
The Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower, and Buckingham Palace might seem like cliché attractions, but there’s a good reason for that – they’re incredible. Sure, the famous sites are only a click away on the Internet, but nothing will prepare you for how majestic they are up close. So don’t shun the big attractions just because they’re wildly popular or expensive. This is your first time in Europe, which means it’s time to embrace everything – clichés and all.
…but don’t do everything the guidebook tells you
Of course, you’ll want to tick off those bucket list items, but don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path too. Whether this means exploring some of the lesser-known European cities, or simply the lesser-known parts of the big ones, there are some amazing things to see and do by straying from the tourist trail. Just do a little research and have your wits about you.
Travel by train
Generally speaking, trains are the best way to get around Europe. The rail network is huge, and the ticket costs are quite affordable. Plus, the scenery is jaw-dropping. If you’re planning to make a lot of train trips, consider buying a Eurail Pass – it might work out cheaper than purchasing single tickets. The public transport networks in big cities like Paris and London are also easy to use and affordable. But if you have to jump in a taxi, just make sure the company is reputable.
Time it right
The summer months can be absolutely insane in Europe. The weather might be glorious, but you’ll be sharing the rays with millions of other tourists. Plus, accommodation may be booked out months in advance, and prices are hiked up significantly during this time. Think about going in autumn or spring when the crowds have died down a bit, to make sure you get an amazing look at everything. You’ll have more opportunities to fully immerse yourself by travelling in the shoulder seasons.
Have fun and talk to lots of people
It’s that simple. It might be your first trip to Europe, but don’t fret – it’s easier than you think. The people are friendly, the places are spectacular, and if you’re armed with a few tips like the ones above, you’ll be sure to have a fantastic time.