The continent of Europe is filled with amazing things to see and do. From stunning historical cities to picturesque country landscapes, there is a seemingly endless number of sights waiting to be seen and experienced. While every country is quite different, there are also similarities. Here are our best 10 travel tips to help you make the most of your European holiday, no matter where you go!
1. Travel by train wherever possible
Europe benefits from an extremely extensive train network that connects nearly all countries together. These trains are comfortable and convenient, and a perfect way to travel. Forget arriving hours early at the airport and the stress of making it through security, jump aboard the train and admire the scenery on the way to your destination!
2. Learn a few words of the local language
While you can easily get around Europe with just English, I have found that learning even the most simple phrases in the local language will be greatly appreciated by locals. Even simple things like 'hello', 'how are you' and 'do you speak English?' show that you have made the effort to at least try the local dialect!
3. Never eat at the main tourist attractions
The food all over Europe is absolutely delicious, but there is one notable exception: the food that is found right next to the main tourist hotspots (think the Champs Elysees or near the Colosseum). It is twice the price and half as good! Wander a few streets away and the quality will improve drastically, while the price will drop.
4. Beware of afternoon closures
In many European countries – Spain, for example – a lot of businesses (and especially family owned ones) close for an extended break in the afternoon. If you want to visit something and can't miss it, be sure to check up online or give them a call beforehand to find out what the opening hours are.
5. Hop on your bike!
This is especially true for the cities. Many European cities are hundreds of years old (at least) and as such, are struggling under the weight of so many modern cars. This can mean long and frustrating traffic jams! Avoid them altogether by hiring a bike and riding it like the locals do. Even better, riding a bike is good for you, the environment, and your wallet!
6. Watch out for pickpockets and other scams
While even Europe's biggest cities are incredibly safe to visit, they do often have a pretty big problem with pickpockets. Make sure to keep your valuables safe, for example never keep your wallet or any cash in your jeans pocket. Many pickpockets use distraction tactics, such as approaching you to tell you that you've dropped something or that you have something on you (bird poo is a common one!), while someone else robs you. Keep on your toes, without being paranoid.
7. Consider lesser-known destinations
The major cities of Europe have incredible reputations for good reasons. They are really beautiful! However, Europe is full of hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. Think picturesque French villages with farmers markets and hole-in-the-wall cafes, or historical medieval towns in the Czech Republic, that has been nearly entirely forgotten by time, and the tourists. These make wonderful places to visit and are easily accessible by car or by train.
8. When in Rome, do as the Romans do
One of the most amazing things about Europe is the diversity of places that you visit. There are so many cultures, religions and backgrounds across the continent, which is a big part of its charm. In order to have the best possible experience, do some research on the customs in your destination before you visit, so that you can have the best possible trip. Small things like whether tipping is customary and what is considered acceptable attire can make a big difference to whether or not you feel comfortable in your destination. Also be aware that what is true of the cities isn't necessarily true for the countryside.
9. Bring a suitcase you can carry
Many European cities are famous for their cobblestone streets, which make for beautiful photographs and a lovely atmosphere. Unfortunately, they are also a nightmare for bringing suitcases on wheels! You may also find that your hotel is right at the top of a steep staircase (there were no lifts when most of Europe was built!) In order to minimize the fuss, bring a suitcase that can easily be carried, such as a backpack or a hybrid.
10. Don't be afraid to get lost
Most people arrive at their European destination with a set itinerary or at least a list of things to do. This is a good idea so that you can see everything you want to in the time you have. However, I highly recommend leaving at least a bit of time to "get lost" wandering the streets of your destination. Within Europe, there are just so many beautiful cafes, shops and buildings that aren't featured in any guidebooks. Leave aside some time to wander with no destination in mind, and you will be amazed by what you might stumble upon!
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