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Europe Travel Guide: 100 Beginner Tips for a Memorable Trip

100 tips for europe travel
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With over 44 countries, Europe can be overwhelming for first-time visitors. This comprehensive guide offers 100 tips, tricks, hacks, apps, and insider secrets from frequent European travelers to kickstart your Euro adventure.

Getting to Europe - When To Go and How To Get There

Getting to Europe - When To Go and How To Get There
When to travel to Europe – Summer is pretty much always the peak season for Europe travel, no matter where you go. If you like the bustling crowds and busy tourist attractions, plan your trip for June, July, and August. If you’re looking for a more authentic local experience, Europe is best in the Spring and Fall months. Avoid winter, though, as it can get unbearably cold, even in southern countries like Spain and Greece.

Getting your itinerary together – Europe is great because there are so many cultures, languages, cuisines, and historical monuments all in one (relatively) small area. But that doesn’t mean it’s possible to see all of Europe in one trip. It’s best to decide on one region or a few countries and plan your destination around them instead of trying to see too many countries and spending your whole vacation on transportation.

Create a travel map – Map apps like Google Maps are perfect for creating a visual list of places you want to see. You can create maps based on different categories to organize your must-see European destinations.

Planning your flight – Getting to Europe is one of the most expensive parts of the journey if you happen to live, well, anywhere besides Europe. Especially for those in North America, the cost of flying can be a sticker shock. Google Flights lets you track prices for your destinations and will let you know when prices fall below average, allowing you to snatch up great deals on international flights.

Book early – Flights, especially international ones, are often much more expensive the closer to your trip.

Find great flight deals – There are plenty of subscription services and websites that can help you find great deals on flights. Popular ones include Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights), Fare Drop, Skyscanner, and Thrifty Traveler.

Research your destination ahead of time – Resources like Reddit, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok can be fantastic for finding recommendations from real people about various European locations. These can be great for starting a list of attractions, restaurants, museums, and parks you’d like to see on your trip.

Look at smaller cities for a change of pace – Many tourists tend to stick to the biggest European cities because they tend to be the most visitor-friendly, but there are many incredible smaller cities with tons to do and plenty of charm. Examples include Dubrovnik, Croatia, Bruges, Belgium, Annecy, France, and so much more.

Don’t over plan – Include some flexibility in your schedule. You’ll likely meet other travelers, have a change of itinerary, or run into unexpected circumstances, so having a ton of set-in-stone plans may end up causing more frustration than less.

Keep your dates flexible for the best prices – Searching for flights and keeping things flexible can be a great way to save a few hundred dollars on airplanes alone.

Let your bank know you’re going abroad – Most banks will freeze or even cancel your card if they see transactions in a country they don’t expect you to be in. Let them know of your travel plans ahead of time (typically banks will have an online option for this).

Apply for visas early – Obviously, if you’re from one of the countries that do not require Schengen visas, this will not apply. However, if you’re from one of the approximately 108 countries where a visa is mandatory, it’s best to apply early and not leave it until the last minute.

Be aware of how long you’re allowed to stay – The Schengen tourist period is typically 90 days, and staying beyond that may result in a ban.

Check the political, social, and safety reality of your destination before booking – This is just a generally advisable travel safety tip, but always be apprised of your destination country’s current safety landscape. The US State Department has a regularly-updated travel database with warnings about travel safety around the world. Additionally, for LGBTQ+ travelers who face additional discrimination and safety concerns, this LGBTQ+ travel safety index is a fantastic resource.

Book a cruise – Cruises can be a relaxing, stress-free way to see multiple countries while on the water. There are plenty of European cruises that port at various popular destinations.

Fly between your EU destinations – Trains and buses are super popular, but many European destinations are a short, cheap flight away. What could take you 10 hours by bus may be a 45-minute flight. Rome2Rio is a great resource for comparing the different travel options throughout Europe.

Packing To Get the Most Out Of Your EU Trip

Packing To Get the Most Out Of Your EU Trip

Pack light – One of the greatest parts of traveling around Europe is the robust public transportation and inter-country travel options, but carrying tons of luggage across international borders can be a (literal) pain. Packing light is a great way to save time, money, and your back while exploring Europe.

Pack the right things – Since Europe is such a large and varied continent, knowing what to pack can be tricky (especially if you’re traveling to several countries). Get an idea of the perfect packing list by checking out these top recommendations.

Check your luggage requirements – International luggage weights and dimensions are often different (and more strict) than domestic ones. Also, if you plan to be flying between EU countries, check the requirements of those airlines too to avoid nasty last-minute fees.

Bring supportive shoes – Europe is exceptionally walkable in most places, meaning you’ll definitely get your steps in. Bring high-quality shoes and prepare to walk a lot.

Travel adapters – Adapters are essentials for keeping your devices running overseas. It’s best to buy them before venturing out, as they can be incredibly expensive in places like airports. This adapter works with the EU, UK, and 100 countries in total for all of your charging needs.

Electric dryers are not common in much of Europe – This often comes as a surprise to many North Americans, but a lot of European countries don’t have electric dryers and will often rely on clotheslines and air drying. This can make traveling with certain fabrics or during certain seasons difficult. Packing fast-drying fabrics and a quick-drying microfiber towel are essential for making sure you always have fresh, dry clothes.

Bring a backpack, not a suitcase – As previously mentioned, Europe requires a lot of walking. Many cities still use cobblestone streets, and elevators are not as ubiquitous throughout the country. Packing with the expectation that you’ll be carrying your belongings will save you a huge hassle during your trip. For families, check out sturdy rolling duffles since backpacks may not be feasible with the little ones!

Don’t forget necessary medications – Finding needed medications abroad and in another language can be a hassle. Often the medication names are different, or the language barrier at the pharmacy can make it a frustrating process. Bring all the medications you’ll need (both prescribed and over-the-counter) for your trip and even extra if your travel gets delayed.

Packing cubes – These are essential for staying organized, especially for longer trips. If you know that your stuff tends to explode in your luggage after a day or two, packing cubes can help contain the mess and keep things organized (not to mention save on space).

Portable charger – It’s impossible to do anything these days without a phone. Make sure you always have the power you need for your devices by bringing a reliable portable charger. Keep in mind that charging on-the-go isn’t always easy because European outlets need adapters, so having a portable charger is definitely your best bet.

Dress in layers – Depending on when you go, the weather may be unpredictable. Some places get very cold at night, while others can be swelteringly hot. Air conditioning is a luxury in Europe and isn’t common at all. Bringing clothing items that can be layered will help avoid getting too hot (or too cold) while bustling around Europe.

Bring a water bottle – Most cities will have public fountains where you can refill your water bottle, saving a ton of money over the course of your trip (not to mention tons of plastic waste). Having a filter bottle is often recommended, as some places have less-than-ideal public water conditions.

Make sure your bags have strong zippers – It’s easy for experienced thieves to just reach into an open bag. Always have a zippered bag, so your items are protected. Or even better, a great neck wallet is perfect for avoiding theft of your valuables while walking about.

Leave your liquids at home – Europe has plenty of budget-friendly shops to pick up the necessary soap, shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste. Make your travel life easier by foregoing the liquids and just buy them when you get to your destination.

Bring a light cardigan or sweater, even in summer – Many of Europe’s religious sites will require shoulders and midriffs to be covered.

Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs are a must – Europe can be quite noisy. Whether it’s loud public transportation, busy tourist attractions, or a rowdy hostel, having a pair of noise-canceling headphones or earplugs can save your sanity (and your hearing).

Europe Travel 101 - The Basics

Europe Travel 101 - The Basics
Get a crash course on the language – Europeans speak upwards of 200 languages (though the majority speak one of Europe’s 24 official languages). While many do speak English, many, many do not. Depending on what countries you plan to visit, this will impact the likelihood of finding English speakers. Learning a few useful phrases in your destination language will do wonders in helping you connect with locals.

Know the currency – Most countries use the aptly-named Euro currency, but there are a few countries that do not. Countries in the United Kingdom, for example, use the pound, Denmark uses the Danish Kroner, Bulgaria uses the Bulgarian Lev, Sweden uses the Krona, etc.

Some parts of Europe are far, far more expensive than others – Not all European countries are the same. In fact, some countries (like France, Belgium, and Germany) are significantly more expensive than others (like Bulgaria, Croatia, and Poland). And there are a few Scandinavian countries (like Norway, Finland, and Sweden) that are out-of-this-world pricey! Numbeo is popular for calculating the costs of all the countries and even most cities within Europe.

Google Translate – Navigating many languages can be tricky, but Google Translate is a tried-and-true app for communicating with locals. You can also translate signs and maps, text-to-speech translations, and more. Deepl is another popular and highly accurate translation app.

eSims – eSims are becoming increasingly popular, and this is especially true in Europe. They’re inexpensive, often have higher data plans, and are becoming ubiquitous around the EU. Search “eSim [destination country]” to find out the most popular eSim options. Airalo is one of the most used around Europe, but others may offer better rates and packages depending on the country.

My Currency Converter & Rates – Great for doing quick calculations and conversions so you don’t accidentally overspend.

Plan for “rest days” – Europe has so many amazing cultural and historical sites, but it can be a bit much, especially if you plan on traveling for 2+ weeks. Give yourself days of rest and relaxation between heavy travel days.

Find a local Facebook or Reddit group for making friends and getting advice – If you plan on being in one location for a longer period of time, it’s worth joining a local expat group to find rentals, make friends, or learn about activities going on in the city. Search “expats in _____” to find related groups on Facebook or simply search the city/country on Reddit.

Keyboards are different in the EU – If you plan to work or may find you need to purchase any tech, keep in mind that many European countries have different keyboards. This means if your work computer kicks the bucket or you need to buy an external keyboard, you’ll need to make sure you buy an American keyboard, not a French (AZERTY) or Swiss/German (QWZERTY). They can be reprogrammed, but the layout is often different enough to be a hardship for those familiar with the standard QWERTY keyboard.

Always have a little bit of cash – Some places will not accept credit cards, and many public bathrooms require small cash payments. Long story short, keeping a bit of cash on hand is always a good idea.

Each city can be seen in 2-4 days – Unless you’re planning a really long trip through Europe, spending more than two, three, or even four days in a city will seem like a long time.

Transportation - Getting Around Like

Transportation - Getting Around Like the Locals

Use Google Maps over Apple Maps or other alternatives – Google Maps tends to be the preferred favorite in Europe for getting around. It’s typically the most up-to-date and accurate. Waze is also pretty popular in the cities but can be a big phone battery drain.

Save maps to your phone for offline use – Before arriving at your destination, save your destination city map onto your phone in case you don’t have internet access. Getting lost in a new country can be daunting, so never be without maps. Google Maps allows you to download entire cities onto a phone or tablet and it functions normally (with some reduced functionality) while offline.

Always, always have a ticket – Because tickets aren’t required to get onto many trains around Europe, it may be tempting to try and get away without buying a ticket. The trains are frequently checked for tickets, and those without a ticket will be steeply fined and kicked off.

BlaBlaCar – The popular European travel app BlaBlaCar lets you share rides with people going to the same place as you for a super low cost, often even cheaper than trains and buses.

Skip the car rental – Renting cars in Europe can be a major headache, not to mention a big expense. In addition, some cities are difficult to drive in, and parking can be a nightmare. With the amazing public transportation around much of Europe, skip the car rental (and the headache).

Trainline – This European-specific train app is popular with locals and travelers alike. It’s great for finding trains and booking tickets all over Europe.

Rome2Rio – Rome2Rio is a popular app for navigating inter-country travel.

Reserve a seat if you can – Often you will get an option to reserve a seat on trains and buses, which is always better than not reserving a seat. Yes, it might be a bit more expensive but finding a seat otherwise is a huge headache and could mean you’re sitting on the floor or standing for much of your trip.

FlixBusFlixBus is a popular bus company that provides transportation to and around many of Europe’s most famous destinations. Not only is it generally quite reasonably priced, they run often and are decently inexpensive.

Interrailing – Interrailing (or taking trains in and around different European countries) is a popular way to see as much of the continent as possible. Check out the app Rail Planner. There are different levels and plans that provide limited or unlimited train passes.

Book trains in advance – Train prices in many European cities will vary based on how far in advance you book them. A train that would cost $20 will cost $60+ on the day of the trip.

Staying Safe While Traveling Around Europe

Staying Safe While Traveling Around Europe
Avoid pushy restaurants – Many restaurants will encourage their staff to aggressively encourage passersby to come in. These places are typically to be avoided, as there’s often a reason they need to rely on tactics other than the food to get customers.

Research local scams – Each country and even city will have its unique local scams that they’re known for. Knowing the scams in the places you’ll be visiting can mean avoiding some nasty surprises when you arrive.

Be wary of “helpful” strangers – Many Europeans are naturally friendly and kind, but plenty of scams involve someone offering to help with the expectation of catching you alone or off-guard. Always have an idea of where you’re going and how to get there, and should you get lost, approach a business for assistance over a random stranger.

Write down your embassy information – Ideally you won’t need it, but it’s better to know how to get to your local embassy should you run into any problems. Your embassy is your advocate abroad if you run into any problems or need assistance getting home.

Beware of pickpockets – Speaking of scams, pickpocketing is quite common in Europe. Always keep your valuables stowed. Neck wallets are perfect for keeping your things tucked away from thieves.

Bring backups of necessary documents – Bringing a photocopy of your passport, ID, travel itinerary, and other crucial documents is ideal if anything goes missing. Just make sure to shred them after to avoid any identity theft issues. Also, for extra security, bring scanned copies of necessary documents as well and back them up to a cloud service provider. That way your most important information is accessible should the worst happen.

Don’t let people know if you’re traveling solo – Solo travelers are often targets for theft or worse. Avoid mentioning if you’re traveling alone, even if the person you’re talking to seems harmless. It’s always best to mention that you are traveling with friends or meeting up with someone at some point in your trip.

Avoid large crowds – If possible, avoid anywhere that is congested or crowded to prevent being pickpocketed.

Don’t leave your bag, phone, or anything valuable on the table – Theft is exceptionally common around Europe. Leaving items on the table means they can be scooped by thieves before you can even react. Keep your bags hidden away and attached to your body at all times.

Share your location with friends and family back home – It may seem paranoid, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Apps like Life360 are great for making sure loved ones know where you are at all times.

Leave the designer items at home – Try and avoid expensive labels and flashy jewelry while traveling through Europe, especially in tourist hot spots.

Always lock your valuables – Keep important things like money, electronics, and passports locked away in your room. Many accommodations will provide safes for your valuables.

Don’t keep your phone in your hand – Phones are sometimes snatched right out of peoples’ hands, especially by the road where thieves on mopeds can get a quick escape.

Avoid traveling alone at night – As a visitor, you likely won’t know which are the “good” or “unsafe” neighborhoods and you might unknowingly stumble into a dangerous situation. Travel in groups or during the day for optimum safety.

Where To Stay In Europe - Finding the Best Accommodations & Housing Hacks

Where To Stay In Europe – Booking is a popular rental app throughout Europe for reasonable prices and reliable rentals.

Hostels are often a great option – Europe is known for its robust hostel culture. Hostels are common all throughout Europe, and can be a great way to not only save money but meet fellow travelers. Popular websites like HostelWorld are fantastic for finding great deals all over Europe and beyond.

Hostels aren’t just for young people – There are youth hostels, which tend to trend younger (18-25) and then there are regular (also called backpacker) hostels, which have people of all ages.

Housesit – If you’d like free accommodations and don’t mind the responsibility of watching over some animals or pets, check out

Book in advance – Like flights, hotels get booked up during peak seasons quite quickly and can be very expensive if booked close to your trip. Try and book as early as possible for the best rates. Particularly in extremely expensive places like the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland, last-minute accommodations will make a huge dent in your travel budget.

Prioritize finding a hotel near transportation versus near attractions – Instead of looking for a hotel next to a major attraction which can often be very expensive, look for hotels near a major bus or train station. This way you can easily access the major attractions easily, but without the elevated cost.

Look for free breakfast – Many hotels offer free breakfast, which can save a significant amount of money on food. A late breakfast can replace one or even two meals.

Always check the reviews – Never trust the hotel pictures or listings. Google the accommodation and check unbiased reviews to make sure you’re not walking into a nightmare.

Don’t assume there will be an elevator – Many European apartments and hotels, especially in the cities, do not have an elevator. If you have mobility issues, definitely check with the property manager to make sure your room isn’t on a ridiculously high floor with no lift (an all-too-common occurrence in Europe)

Food & Restaurant Info for Europe

Food & Restaurant Info for Europe

Food isn’t as preservative-heavy outside of the USA – Many people may not realize this, but food stays edible in the US far longer than in places like Europe. Your European groceries and leftovers may not last for several days like in the states. This often means that Europeans shop more frequently and buy less during each shopping trip. Also for this reason, refrigerators tend to be smaller.

Tips and gratuities aren’t as costly nor expected – Tipping culture in Europe is far less intense than in the United States, with tips ranging around 0-10% and some places not requesting tips at all. This will vary based on the country, but generally, servers and waitstaff are paid a regular wage that isn’t contingent on tips. Tips are, of course, always appreciated.

Don’t skip street food – Street food is often delicious and a fraction of the cost of a sit-down restaurant.

Some restaurants require cover charge – It may not be advertised but the establishment will add a fee after your meal. You can always ask if you’re uncertain.

Try the local markets – Local markets are common and full of fresh, local produce and homemade staples like cheese.
Restaurants don’t always serve ice in water – This is often a surprise for travelers, but drinks in Europe often do not include ice like they do in the USA and other countries.

Tap water is typically safe – Speaking of water, tap water is generally safe throughout Europe, particularly in the cities. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to check with local authorities and resources, particularly in remote areas or in less developed countries. Regardless, it’s always best to filter your water, and a fantastic filter bottle is ideal for traveling!

Water is almost never free at restaurants – Typically when you request water at a restaurant, they will charge you (and the markup is quite steep).
Many restaurants serve water “with gas” – If a restaurant asks you if you want water “with gas” it means carbonated water.

Google your city for the best restaurants – There are many awesome resources for finding great food in and around Europe. Want to see how your destination city ranks? Check out our Foodie Index!

Carry a tote bag everywhere – Plastic bags are rare in Europe, and you’ll be charged extra for buying a bag at grocery stores. Having a tote bag to carry any food or drinks you buy will save money and the planet.

Don’t eat in tourist areas – Everything is always more expensive the closer you are to a major tourist attraction. Go a few blocks away to get more authentic, cheaper dining experiences.

Sodas and other drinks, including water, almost never have free refills – Free refills are not normal at restaurants throughout Europe.

Saving Money In and Around Europe

Saving Money In and Around Europe
Pick your countries strategically – If you want to save money, prioritize travel in Eastern and Southern Europe and skip Northern and Western Europe. This is a big generalization, but overall Northern and Western European countries tend to be incredibly expensive, particularly compared to their Eastern/Southern counterparts. Countries to skip for budget travel include the UK, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, and Denmark. The best countries for budget travel are Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania, Portugal, Latvia, and Croatia.

Rick Steves Audio Europe – No need to pay for an expensive tour. Just download and listen to free guided tours courtesy of Rick Steves, which include many popular European destinations. These guides also include handy maps!

When using a credit card, use local currency – Conversion rates can end up costing quite a bit of money over the course of a trip. If given the option, always opt for local currency. The conversion rates are typically better.

Bring a credit card or debit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees – The 3-5% foreign transaction fees add up very quickly! Many great credit and debit options don’t charge this insane markup.

Bring your student card (if you have one) – Many attractions offer student discounts. Senior discounts are also available at many attractions.

Avoid Uber, Lyft, and taxis – Because public transportation is so robust, spending money on ridesharing is often a big waste of money, particularly at airports and bigger cities. Many major airlines will have shuttles from the airport to the city center, which will save a significant amount of money compared with taxes, particularly for airports that are far from the major cities, like the London Heathrow Airport, Istanbul Ataturk Airport, and the Brussels National Airport.

Eat meals at your rental – Eating out at restaurants can get incredibly spendy, particularly in Western Europe. Save some money by shopping for food at local supermarkets, like Aldi and Carrefour.

Don’t use Euronet – Euronet is a common ATM service throughout Europe but it’s notoriously expensive. Opt for ATMs at banks if you need them.

Track your spending – It’s easy to let travel spending get out of control. Even a few dollars here and there all day can add up very quickly. Tracking your spending is a great way to make sure you stay within your budget while traveling internationally.

Set a budget – Travel expenses can run away from you. Having a set budget and sticking to it will ensure that you don’t fly home completely broke.

Europe is an incredible place to see, with so much culture, history, and variety packed into one continent. Have an amazing trip, and remember that learning (and making mistakes) along the way is half the fun!

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