50 INVALUABLE TRAVEL TIPS FOR EUROPE
At first a Europe trip sounds like the best way to spend your summer – and believe me, it really is. Then you start planning your itinerary, and realise that there are way over 30 countries covering an area bigger than the United States – each with their own language (more or less), culture and people. You want to hike to Trolltunga in Norway, see the Northern Lights in Iceland, indulge in gelato in Positano, take snapshots in Paris, London and Amsterdam, and find off-the-beaten-track gems in Slovenia or Bulgaria. But you’ve only got one month; or two weeks. You have a tight budget on top of that. How is this ever going to work?
Don’t fret, here are 50 invaluable travel tips for Europe that will make your Eurotrip a great success.
How to get there
1) Keep your eyes peeled for glitch fares – those are error fares that accidentally show up in airlines’ booking systems. You can get amazing deals there – we’re talking somewhere between $100 and $400 for a return ticket to Europe! Our favourite website is called Travel Pirates – and we’re not being sponsored here, we just honestly use this platform to score great deals!
2) Be flexible with your entry port and consider flying in and out from two different airports. Recently we saw a lot of great deals flying into Madrid, Rome or Istanbul, rather than the more typical entry ports of London, Paris or Amsterdam.
3) Some airlines like Icelandair or Finnair offer multiple day stopovers without any additional cost for the flights.
How to get around
4) The most popular means of transport for a Eurotrip is probably the train – the famous Interrail ticket allows you access to trains all over the continent, and it couldn’t be more adventurous than experiencing the beauty of the diverse European landscapes from the train tracks.
5) However, especially if you travel around Eastern Europe, you can actually save a lot of time, money and energy by travelling by bus, as schedules are more frequent, more reliable and tickets are cheaper.
6) Popular low-budget bus companies with networks all over Europe include Megabus, Flixbus, MeinFernbus, Westbus or Eurolines.
7) Even more important to keep in mind is the development of incredibly cheap short distance flights. There are many budget airlines, such as Easyjet, Ryanair, Eurowings, FlyNiki, Wizz Air or WOW Air, that will get you from Glasgow to Greece, or Sofia to Madrid for less than 100 Euro (one way).
8) When traveling with low budget airlines always read the small print though. Check your baggage allowance and hand luggage requirements carefully!
9) Finally, to save even more money and meet nice people on the road, sign up for and try ride share platforms, such as blablacar.
Where to go
10) Europe is big and incredibly diverse – it can be a daunting task to plan the itinerary of your Eurotrip. We suggest focusing on one or two regions or themes (like Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, city trips or countryside) – especially when you only have two weeks.
11) Spend at least 3-4 days in each city or country. Unless you make it your goal to take a step in every country of Europe, we assume the purpose of your journey is to actually experience the different places you visit. And for that you need more than a day.
12) Think beyond the obvious choices of Western Europe. There are wide stretches of Europe that are still off the beaten track and more budget friendly than the usual suspects, such as London, Paris and Amsterdam.
Now for some concrete itinerary suggestions:
13) Iceland is a no-brainer and can no longer be considered in any way off the beaten track these days. But with Icelandair offering free stopovers between North America and Europe, and WOW air making flight prices even more competitive, it would be silly not to include Iceland in your itinerary. While it’s gorgeous in summer, our favourite season to visit Iceland is actually winter.
14) Much more of an insider tip among Northern European islands, are the Faroe Islands. The Faroese airline Atlantic Airlines offers great deals from the UK, Iceland and continental Europe, and the islands really are worth spending a few extra days in the wild before hitting up the European capitals. Here are 25 things to do in the Faroe Islands.
15) Scotland has been named one of Rough Guides’ top 10 travel destinations in 2017, and call me biased, but I totally agree! Many Eurotrippers make the mistake of only spending a day or two in Edinburgh, but I’d really urge you to stay a few days longer and check out Glasgow, the Highlands and the Isles too.
16) One of our all-time favourites is beautiful Portugal, which often gets overlooked in favour of its bigger neighbour Spain. Lisbon has stolen our hearts, but the rest of the country also offers opportunities for great road trips, surf camps or simply relaxing by the beach.
17) The Mediterranean includes so many islands it’s hard to choose sometimes – but if you’re in for a real underdog, then visit Malta. It is tiny in size, but big in history. The beaches and coves are pristine, and the architecture mind-blowing.
18) Greece and its people have suffered greatly under the financial crisis since 2008, and many tourists have steered away from it fearing disturbances. However, nothing has changed about the natural beauty of course, and because many islands’ economies rely heavily on tourism, staying away only makes things worse. My all-time favourites are probably Crete and the Peloponnes peninsula, but all of Greece makes for fantastic island-hopping!
19) Estonia finds its way on way too few Europe itineraries. But did you know its capital is quaint and cute, the festivals are great, the natural beauty is captivating and the food is absolutely delicious?
20) If you want to travel Europe on a budget, there is simply no way around Eastern Europe, and Poland in particular. Cities like Warsaw, Lodz or Krakow have a lot to offer, while the beaches of the Baltic Sea promise beautiful views and gorgeous sunsets.
photos by Katja Hentschel
21) Another hidden gem in the Mediterranean is Mallorca. Many Europeans might roll their eyes at this Spanish island, because they only know it to be a mecca for party crowds from Germany and Austria – and not the good kind of party crowd… However, the north of Mallorca is absolutely beautiful, a great destination for active holidays or a quiet beach trip. As long as you leave Palma de Mallorca to the revelers, you’re in for a treat!
22) One last tip, before it gets too much to fit, is Aarhus in Denmark. It has been named European Culture Capital for 2017, which gives you an even better reason to visit it for its museums, art installations and general creative vibe!
When to go
23) Europe is worth visiting year-round and there is always something going on somewhere on the continent. When you should go really depends on what you want to see.
24) Springtime is a fantastic time for city breaks in Paris, London or Rome, when the the cities are in full bloom.
25) March is also the best time to visit Amsterdam and the Netherlands if you want to see the tulips bloom.
26) The best time to visit Venice and other parts of Italy is the week before Palm Sunday – just before the season officially kicks off and the crowds of tourists come back.
27) If you want to visit the Mediterranean try to aim for May or June, which is before most countries in Europe start their summer holidays. Prices are lower, and it’s not yet as scorching as in July or August.
28) May and June offer the perfect hiking weather – whether you want to hike in Sardinia, the Alps, the Scottish Highlands or the Norwegian fjell!
29) The Edinburgh Festivals are a once-in-a-lifetime experience – head there in August.
30) Try to avoid Croatia in August. It’s holiday time for Italians and Croatia is an incredibly popular destination for them. This means slow traffic, long waiting lines at ferry ports, little available accommodation, and busy towns.
31) September can be a great time to travel all over Europe, as it’s still warm and relatively dry.
32) If you want to see the Northern Lights, head to Finland, Sweden, Norway or Iceland between October and March and pray for clear skies and high solar activities! Sometimes you can even see them as far south as the Scottish Highlands!
33) November can actually be the calmest month in many cities. It’s also rainier than others, so maybe instead of hitting up Berlin, come to Rome where there is always gelato!
34) For proper Christmas markets head to Vienna or Bavaria in December. Make sure to come before Christmas though, as most traditional Christmas markets will be taken down on the 25th or 26th.
35) Europe has so many amazing festivals that are worth traveling for; from indie music in Denmark or the Faroe Islands to food festivals in Portugal or Italy, and the Restival in the UK or New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh.
Good to know
36) You can get by with English, but it’s just polite to pick up a few words of the local language – and there are quite a lot of them in Europe!
37) If you haven’t given platforms like AirBnB or CouchSurfing a go yet, you should put it on your to-do list. While some big European cities have put a ban on certain kinds of holiday rentals, these platforms offer access to a community of world travelers and locals who would be happy to show you their home.
38) In Europe hostels are nothing like the hostels you might know from India or SEA. Boutique hostels are sprouting everywhere in Europe, as travellers demand low budget accommodation with a certain standard. For some of our top picks check out our lists here and here.
photo via Slo Hostel Lyon
39) Some of the smallest European countries you might have never heard of, and no, Austria is not part of Germany. In other words, brush up your geography skills if you want to make a good impression.
40) Card payments are not equally common in all of Europe. In Iceland or the UK you can get around pretty much without cash, but in places like Austria or Italy you will frequently find bars, restaurants or little shops that don’t take card payment.
41) Most, but by far not all European countries use the Euro. There are many local currencies around, and not everywhere do they accept payments in Euro. Make sure you pack and use the right currency.
42) Europe is generally very safe, also for female solo travellers. It is a great destination to try your first international solo trip!
43) Public transportation is key to get around in larger cities. Instead of hiring a car or taking taxis, figure out how to use the subway, trams and buses.
44) Stick to local food and produce. While you will find common international restaurant and coffeeshop chains, there is nothing better than the street food of Berlin or London, the 0 km food philosophy in Italy, Spain or France, or the cozy independent coffeeshops in Vienna, Copenhagen or Edinburgh.
45) Drinking in public is legal in many places, but not every country has the same relationship with alcohol. Always make sure you are aware of your surroundings, and behave appropriately.
46) Being a vegan or vegetarian is not a problem on a Eurotrip. Some national cuisines are heavy on the meat and dairy products, but this lifestyle choice becomes more and more popular across the continent. You will always find some vegan options – research (and learning the local words for vegan, no meat, no dairy etc.) is key.
47) A note on packing: Europeans dress less casual than many North Americans I know. Make sure you bring clothes you’re comfortable in – especially when you’re traveling in summer and plan to walk a lot – but a cute summer dress here, and some nice sandals there can’t hurt.
48) If you travel through the various climate zones of Europe in one single trip – let’s say, snow in Norway and gelato in Italy, then the most important packing rule is to bring layers.
49) Have a plan, but also be flexible. Sometimes the most beautiful memories are made by going with the flow – stay longer than planned in a town you liked, take up the offer to join a group you met in a hostel for a road trip to this tucked away lake, or book a last minute flight to a city that was previously not on your itinerary. In Europe it is easy to be flexible, walk into a train station and book the next available ticket no matter where it takes you.
50) Enjoy it – soak up and embrace the diversity of this beautiful continent, and make the most out of your trip, whether you have months, weeks or just days to explore.