Don’t let anxiety and unwarranted fears prevent you from traveling to Europe and diving into its rich cultures. Planning a trip to Europe can seem like an intimidating task, but Europeans really aren’t that different than Americans. They are really kind and inviting when approached politely and most even speak some English! Use my list of 34 tips to travel Europe like a pro!
- Wear a money belt – Some countries require travelers to keep their passport on them at all times, so a money belt is a great way to ensure it’s always with you. Also, just in case you get pick-pocketed, carry your credit card and some extra cash in your money belt while only carrying one day’s worth of spending money in your wallet.
- Always carry your passport – I mentioned it above, but it’s important enough to have its own place on this list. Always carry your passport on your person. If you get stopped by the police and do not have your passport you might get sent to tourist jail until someone is able to retrieve it for you. No joke.
- Photo copy passport/credit cards – Just in case of a freak accident, it is always a good idea to have a copy of your passport (the page with your photo) and your credit card (front and back) in a separate location than you carry these items.
- Alert banks of travel plans – If you plan on taking a credit or debit card with you on vacation, then visit your bank branch or call the number on the back of the card to put a travel alert on your account. This lets the bank know you plan on being out of the country so your card won’t be denied when you use it.
- Currency – Exchanging money in the U.S. can be expensive and isn’t really necessary. ATM’s provide a good exchange rate, so as soon as you arrive in a new country, find an ATM. Minimize your fees by taking out as much cash as your bank allows.
- ATM’s – When possible, try to use ATM’s at a bank when it’s open. If your card gets eaten you can go in the bank to get immediate help.
- Get a chip card – Debit and credit cards with chips are becoming more popular, but if you still don’t have one then request one from your bank. The chip provides increased security against fraud and many of the machines in Europe don’t accept the cards that only have the strip.
- Pack light – You might need to actually carry your suitcase long distances between train stations and hotels, and the ones with wheels don’t fare too well over cobblestone streets. My wife and I only travel with carry-on luggage. Two pairs of shoes is generally all I pack, and wear my clothes multiple times, washing them in the hotel sink when necessary.
- Consult my Packing List – Make sure you have all of the essentials. Don’t pack for every scenario you can think of. For example, leave your bulky umbrella and rain boots at home, buy a cheap umbrella if you need it and just deal with wet shoes for a day – they’ll dry.
- Bring electric converters/plugs – Many electronics have built in converters, so the plug adapters might be all you need. Before splurging on a pricey converter, check your electronics to see if the input is in the range of the country you’re visiting.
- Don’t wear the flag – I’m glad you love your country, but leave cliché American clothing at home like your American flag shirt or romper.
- Dress to impress – If you want to blend in with the locals, don’t wear athletic shoes unless you’re exercising. Instead, opt for a pair of fashion sneakers or flats if you’re doing some walking.
- Forget the shorts – Unless you plan on visiting the beach in Europe, leave your shorts at home. In general, Europeans don’t wear shorts in the city. Yes, you will see plenty of shorts – all worn by tourists who aren’t as travel savvy as you.
- Toiletry bag – The hotel bathrooms in Europe often times only have a pedestal sink with no counter. A toiletry bag with a hook allows you to keep all of your bathroom necessities close and organized.
- Earbuds – Bring your own earbuds and earbud splitters to save some money on audio tours. You can purchase one audio tour and share with a friend for free. The only setback is that you two will remain connected for the duration of the tour.
- BYO – Nature might call at inconvenient times. You might get stuck using a public toilet in the middle of a busy park that is completely out of paper and/or handsoap. Come prepared with a small pack of tissues and some hand sanitizer in your day bag.
- Museum passes – If you’re touring a city for a couple of days or intensively touring for one day, research if that city has a museum or city pass. These passes can save time and/or money by providing discounted entry fees or skip the line access to busy attractions.
- Get a map – Bus routes and train routes can be tricky, so make sure to get a good public transportation map when arriving in a new city. It’s definitely worth the minimal investment.
- Validate your tickets – Many bus and train tickets need validated, so either ask someone about validating them before your ride, or just closely watch the locals. If you don’t validate your ticket you could receive a hefty fine.
- Tourist information centers – Tourist information booths often sell museum passes if you don’t want to pay an additional fee by purchasing them in advance. Also, sometimes you can get a good map of the city or transportation system for free.
- Plan ahead – If at all possible, plan ahead and make reservations for popular attractions if a skip the line pass isn’t available or isn’t an option. A tiny bit of planning can save hours of standing in line.
- Rental cars – The public transportation in Europe is pretty extensive and affordable, so a rental car is not necessary in cities. In fact, a car is actually a huge headache. So only opt for a car if you’re exploring the country.
- Keep the change – Coins are awfully handy in Europe. When sightseeing in churches you might need them in order to illuminate the artwork. Or, when nature calls, you might need them for a pay toilet.
- Tipping – Tipping in Europe is very different than in the U.S. Tips are only given for good service and are not as generous. The following tips are just guidelines and differ depending on how nice the establishment is, your personal circumstances, and of course the service received.
- Tipping a taxi driver – Just round up a Euro or two for a short ride, or add a few Euros for a longer ride.
- Tipping in restaurants – Servers at restaurants make a higher wage than in the states, so giving around 10% of your bill is generally a good practice. If your bill states “service included,” then a tip isn’t necessary; however, if you received excellent service you can leave a Euro or two per person on the table. Always tip the server in cash, otherwise he/she might not receive it.
- Tipping in hotels – 1-2 Euros per bag is adequate for a hotel porter. Set aside a couple of Euros per night for the housekeeper.
- Water – A refillable water bottle is a great money saver because the tap water in Europe is safe to drink and tastes delicious on a hot summer day.
- Sit down restaurants – When you sit down at a restaurant in Europe you have that table for as long as you like. Tables are not turned over multiple times in a night, so servers don’t rush you. Because of this, dinner can take about 2 hours, so be patient, and if you need something flag down your server.
- Picnic – Picnics are a great way to save time and money while in Europe, but be careful about where you eat it. Not all public parks and piazzas allow picnicking, so watch the locals to see if they’re eating before you whip out your mouth-watering spread.
- Hands off that apple! – The produce in Europe is fresh, presented well, and it’s very enticing to grab that beautiful apple from the display, but you must resist. It’s considered rude to touch, squeeze, smell, or knock on the produce, so instead, capture the attention of the shop keeper and tell them what you would like and how many. He or she will then select the best produce for you.
- Por favor, merci, hallo, arrivederci – Where ever you go, learn a few words of the local language like please, thank you, hello and goodbye. It’s really minimal, but it can grant you much better experiences and service.
- Travel phrasebook – Carry a pocket phrase book or download Google Translate for those times you are in a bind and need help. The menu decoder in phrase books is also helpful and can prevent you from accidentally ordering a meal that’s a little too adventurous for your tastes.
Be flexible – If you have everything planned down to the minute you’re going to be disappointed. Unexpected circumstances happen all the time like strikes, construction, or delayed flights. If you remind yourself to be flexible you’ll be mentally prepared to endure and possibly even appreciate unforeseen events.
Do you have any other helpful tips for traveling to Europe? Let me know in the comments below! Thank you!
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