Here’s nothing quite like exploring the vast continent of Europe. From pristine beaches that mimic paradise to ancient ruins and fairy-tale castles, there is such a vast amount to see and do here. Whether you’re on your first travel adventure, going on one of the many holiday packages on offer, or are travelling solo, here are 19 Europe travel tips you should know before you leave!
1. Go for as long as you can
Travelling to Europe is a mission. Being at least a 24-hour flight away from New Zealand you will want to take this Europe travel tip seriously. Europe is made of a whopping 44 countries that are each unique and have something different to offer. Therefore, it’s best to get as much time off work as you can so you can really take advantage of exploring different parts of Europe.
2. Be sure to check visa requirements
Although 16 countries are within the Schengen zone, there’s still 18 that are not and all have their own visa requirements. Before you leave home make sure you do a quick check to make sure that you can visit the country for the time you are planning to visit.
3. Pack wisely
Chances are that you will want to buy some goodies to take home with you after your trip and to be honest, you probably won’t use half of the things you are planning to pack. Make sure you pack wisely and only take the essentials such as:
- 2 pairs of shoes (sneakers and something a bit dressier)
- 2 pairs of pants/shorts
- 4 T-shirts
- 1 dressy shirt
- 2 light dresses
- Toiletries (take Ethique to save room and be more environmentally friendly)
4. Don’t forget to check out the markets
There are some incredible markets to visit in Europe. If there’s one thing Europe does well, it is markets! From clothing to fresh food and local crafts you can find everything. When you get to your destination be sure to ask where the local markets are to see the best of what the area can bring. It’s also a great place to people watch and to learn more about the local way of life. You find out a lot about a place by visiting the markets!
5. Travel slower
Don’t try and see everything at once. Europe is HUGE and chances are that you won’t have a decade to explore it. If there’s one mistake that a lot of people, make it’s that they plan to see too much in a short space of time. You cannot see and learn a lot within a country if you’re only spending a few days in it so pick a few countries instead of 10! Remember quality travel is far better than quantity travel!
6. Visit in the offseason
One of the best Europe travel tips I have is to visit in the off-season if you can. Some places within Europe can get quite crowded in the summer and prices can rocket so try and visit in spring or autumn. Even Europe in winter is lovely because in places like Germany, Poland and the United Kingdom, the Christmas cheer and lively Christmas markets are in full swing!
7. Don’t forget Scotland
If you get the chance, visit Scotland. For New Zealanders, it has this charm because a lot of New Zealand Europeans originally come from Scotland so there’s lots of family history. Scotland is also surprisingly just like New Zealand in many ways with the same rolling hills however the country has a much older history than NZ. Expect to see beautiful castles and hear tonnes of great Scottish tales.
8. Do a train journey
Whilst you’re in Europe make sure you have a train journey planned. There are many great train trips within the continent. Whether it’s the West Highland line in Scotland or the Golden Pass in Switzerland which is arguably one of the best train journeys in the world, you are bound to be left speechless after a train journey in Europe.
9. Don’t be afraid to try the food
One of the best ways to learn about a country is through its food. Don’t be afraid to try new and exciting cuisine that you come across. There’s a wide range of cuisines within Europe. One of my favourites must be Albanian as the food is so fresh and comes straight from the garden (or the sea) onto your dinner plate. There’s some incredible Balkan food in general within that region so make sure you check it out.
10. Don’t forget Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe has some of the most interesting countries including Poland, Romania, Hungary and Ukraine. The cultures are rich, the prices are very affordable for travellers and Eastern Europe offers a completely different experience than from the likes of Western Europe. I highly recommend you check out at least one of the Eastern Europe countries whilst on holiday!
11. Try to visit during a festival
If you can, try to time your holiday as a festival is happening. Some of the most popular ones in Europe are:
- Oktoberfest in Germany (October)
- Tomorrowland music festival in Belgium (July)
- St Patrick’s day in Ireland (March)
- Hogmanay in Scotland (New Year’s)
12. Take note of the currency
Take note that not all countries use Euros as their currency. Most countries have a different currency than the euro so it’s always a juggle when you’re visiting a few different European destinations. My top tip is to withdraw money as you go from the ATMs. These days the fees are usually not too high but do check with your bank.
13. Get to know the locals
Don’t miss out on getting to know the locals. Many travellers miss the opportunity to learn more about the country’s customs and cultures. The best way to get to know a country is to strike up a conversation with your waiter or bartender and ask them about life. A great question you can ask is “What’s the most interesting thing about your country’ That’s always a great icebreaker!
14. Secure cheaper flights by doing this
When purchasing flights overseas make sure you do a few things. I always search for flights on Skyscanner as they are always the cheapest. Before you do your search:
- Go to incognito mode
- Change your location to somewhere in Asia like Vietnam or India
- Don’t look at the weekends as flights are always more expensive
- Look into the middle of the week for the cheapest flights
- Choose a time within the day that people are busy at work (not on a lunch break or when they have finished work)
Those are my top tips for getting cheaper flights!
15. Buy local sim cards
It’s always cheaper to buy a local sim card rather than use your phone plan. You can usually just go into the closest telephone shop and ask to purchase a sim card. Make sure you bring your passport with you as you nearly always need to have that to register.
16. Bring a reusable drink bottle
Cut down on plastic bottles during your trip and bring a reusable water bottle. You will have saved so much plastic and money by not buying water bottles every day. In most countries, it’s safe to drink water from the tap or if not, grab a bottle with a water filter system built in.
17. Try public transportation at least once
Make sure you jump on the local bus or train at least once on your trip. Usually using public transport is far cheaper and sometimes quicker than using a taxi all the time.
18. Bring comfortable walking shoes
Make sure you bring some great sneakers with you because I can guarantee you will do lots of walking when visiting Europe! This is one tip which I wish I had known about before my first trip abroad. Forget fashion, go for comfort.
19. Always carry your passport
In a lot of European countries, they require that you always carry your passport in case the police need to identify you. You can grab one of those passport waist holders if you don’t want to keep it in your bag or pocket, so it’s always kept safe!