With medieval fortresses begging to be explored, towering gothic places of worship, customs that date back centuries, not to mention some of the most dramatic scenic vistas found anywhere in the world – it’s easy to see why Europe is a crowd favourite and on many a bucket list.
It’s one of the few locations in the world where you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, in three different countries on the same day, without having to whip out your passport once.
And for Europe, size doesn’t always matter. Monaco is less than two square kilometres; San Marino is barely sixty one square kilometres, and Liechtenstein, which is sizable in comparison, is one hundred and sixty square kilometres.
With countless destinations to choose from though, deciding where to go in Europe will be your hardest choice. But once you’ve made that choice, there are a few things you will need to know.
Here are five tips to make for a great European sojourn.
1. Grab a train timetable
Driving around Europe is a great option if you enjoy taking it slow and have plenty of time to spare, but train travel is often the cheapest and fastest mode of transport. Research and planning is a must ahead of time. There are many rail companies that will transport you at speeds up to 260 kilometres per hour past stunning countryside, with several ticket options available to purchase.
For the most part, there is economy and first class. Economy is just that, a seat from A to B. But don’t write off first class with its larger seats and private compartments (depending on the company and route). First Class is often not too much more on the purse strings than economy and well worth the upgrade.
If travelling overnight, there are carriage options with beds and bathrooms to maximise your rest if travelling long stretches at once.
Ticket options vary from single one-way tickets to multi-country and multi-day options. To ensure you get the best value for money, speak to a travel consultant for the best advice or a little self-research will go a long way. If researching independently, check several websites, as many are brokers that offer rail tickets and passes, but often have a service fee or commission added to the ticket price.
2. Pocket safety first
It’s an unfortunate part of travelling in Europe, but pick-pocketing is a common form of theft in some countries within the European Union.
Avoid a potentially disastrous holiday by always having your eye on your belongings in public spaces, such as train stations and airports. Would-be thieves often work in pairs or small groups. If approached by strangers in a public space, ensure you know where your belongings are at all times.
Of course not all countries in Europe have this problem, but like anywhere you travel in the world, situational awareness should always be used.
3. Smoking is the norm
While the European Alps offer a breath of fresh air, don’t expect to find the same in most city bars, restaurants and public spaces, as smoking is the norm. While Australia and many other countries have adopted no smoking policies, unfortunately this is not the case in most of continental Europe.
Hotel rooms are often smoke-free, but the lobby, restaurant and bar area are most likely not. This doesn’t always apply and will vary between destinations, but generally smoking is a way of life for Europeans, especially the farther east you travel.
4. Look up
There is so much to see, do and visually consume when walking the streets of Europe. To really appreciate your surrounds and the architecture, don’t forget to look up.
With so much history and culture dating back centuries, you will often be looked over by towering turrets, gothic gargoyle statues staring down upon you and ornate buildings perimeters.
So while you’re treading the cobblestone streets, take a look up and enjoy what may well be a centuries year old masonry statue staring back at you.
5. Loo(se) change
Public restrooms are normally metered in Europe with only bars and restaurants offering bathrooms to patrons. The cost can vary pending the destination and location (I recently paid 1.50 Euro in Venice near San Marco Square) but around .50 Euros seems to be the average, which can add up quickly.
Always have change on hand where possible as correct change is required. Larger public restrooms, such as ones found in train stations and popular tourist spots, have attendants to change money or a change vending machine.
Do you have any other European tips?
Let us know in the comments field below.