Europe is one incredibly awesome continent to explore! With so many things to see, do and discover, it’s the perfect place to plan your travelling adventure and immerse yourself in its diversity of cultures, history and delicious foods!
As with any visit to a different country, or in this case, continent, particularly so if its your first time, you’ll no doubt have shed loads of curiosities and questions about how everything works, the etiquette and probably a burning desire to master as much of the jargon and slang as possible, so before you head around London shouting “Alright guv’nor” and the like, take a peruse at 20 essentials you should know before your trip to Europe…
*Contrary to what TV might lead us all to believe Londoners don’t really say “Alright guv’nor”… I mean, you can, but only if you want to! 😉
1.) Everyone takes public transport
Unlike some other places, public transport is for the masses and not specific to any notion of class, bias, or the type of traveller you are. Yes, we’d all love a jaguar to be rolling us around the Champs-Élysées, I know, but in the meantime a bus, metro or tube will do nicely! 😉
Embrace public transport in major cities and even in places like Cinque Terre (where the train is a must). It’s economical, typically fast and easy to use.
2.) Flights can be a steal
Love or loathe low-cost travel, flights have become incredibly cheap in Europe, thanks to the lower cost airlines that have pushed market prices down (with maybe a little less leg room, of course). Nowadays, you can book flights for as little a £4 each way (this was my cheapest ever flight from London to Gothenburg) – though be aware that it can still cost you a pretty penny to get to and from some of the quieter airports they fly to.
3.) Trains can be costly
Us Europeans seem to have a stormy relationship with trains, especially in and around London (grrrrr, delays).
Typically, train rides can be relatively expensive especially if you’re travelling at peak times. Try to avoid these higher costs by travelling at off-peak times by grabbing yourself discounts (through railcards and daily passes) that’ll make your journey easier on the pocket.
4.) City Centre accommodation can be pricey
Yep, everyone wants to visit Paris, London, Barcelona which are all incredible…Just not so incredible for your bank balance, gulp! Typically, the city centres of Europe are a hive of activity and very much in demand when it comes to somewhere to rest your weary head.
If you’re looking to splash out, grab a unique city centre property that’s individual to the city. If you’re looking to save a pretty penny, then consider the likes of Airbnb – typically you can cut costs significantly by doing this all whilst living like a local… just like we did in Amsterdam!
Alternatively, take a trip to another regional city. For instance, Monaco can be nose-bleed expensive but beautiful towns in the south of France like, Nimes are a fraction of the cost and have a picturesque charm that’s just waiting to be discovered.
5.) Learn the local lingo
Everyone appreciates a little effort when it comes to languages, with Europeans being no exception to this rule. If you’re travelling through multiple countries, make sure you pick up a few phrases that’ll help you greet, welcome and thank local residents…
*Perhaps just don’t be like me with my terrible German skills, the only two words I ever remember is Schokolade Erdnüsse (chocolate peanuts)… No clue why or when that’s going to help! 😉
6.) Same language, different nationalities…
Talking about languages, there are quite a few countries that are distinctly different but officially speak the very same language e.g. France, parts of Switzerland and a huge part of Belgium. Technically this should make your language-learning-job a lot easier but do pay attention to the subtle difference. No one from Belgium/Switzerland would want to be referred to as French… or vice versa – even if you meet them in a country that’s different to where they’re from. (Also, you don’t wanna be that person). 🙂
7.) Ice-cream should only be guzzled in Italy!
Okay, this is a bit of an exaggeration here and yes, there’s some pretty epic places to grab ice-cream all over Europe but none really compare to Italian gelato! It’s like how the Swiss are known for their chocolate, France for its wine or Belgium for its waffles, any trip to Italy, has to be spent eating your weight in this delicious goodness… after you’ve had your fill of pasta, pizzas and Florentine steaks. 🙂 Point is – one stereotyping that’s definitely very acceptable in Europe is eating food that’s typically from the region.
8.) Should you only sip wine in France?
France has become world-renowned for its estates and award-winning wines, but there are so many other delicious places to grab a tipple. Try some of the gorgeous, not so well know, local wines in places like Slovenia. There are some pure gems just waiting to be discovered, such as the laški Rizling that’s almost worth a trip to the country in itself!
9.) Should you only sip cider In the UK?
Okay, so cider has had a bit of resurgence in recent years with it being available in most places around the UK. For a while there, there were quite a few grim, commercial and almost chemical tasting cider brews out there but these days there’s so much more amazing choices on offer. As with quite a few British products, make sure to try one of the local microbrew varieties like; London Glider Cider where they produce this traditional apple-based drink from ground to glass with so much attention paid to it, which you can tell once you taste it.
As a Brit, I’d say we make the best cider but I’m open to hearing some suggestions if you’ve got a non-British favourite. 🙂
10.) Same currency but different pricing?!?
Although many countries have adopted the Euro, prices can still vary significantly – these are different countries after all with different economies. A bottle of water in the centre of Paris may cost you more than the local village store in southern Italy. This seems logical and a tad obvious but it can come as a surprise if you’re making fleeting stops as part of a bigger trip so it’s a good idea to keep this in mind when planning your budget, especially when it comes to expenses that are much bigger than a bottle of water.
11.) There’s visa-free travel but take ID!
The beauty of the EU is our freedom of movement between countries and although this fundamental principle is in place, you may still need your passport/ID to travel through certain borders. If you’re planning a day trip, or a drive through another country, it can be worthwhile to take your passport with you, just in case.
12.) Mainland Europe is more than just France, Germany, Italy!
Most of us think of the big-hitting destinations when we consider travelling to Europe; Paris, Venice, Florence, Barcelona which is great, but there are so many other amazing places to see! If you’re planning a trip, make sure to take in a few of the lesser-known destinations too, such as the micro-states of Europe, or venture off the beaten track in the more popular destinations (like the hidden gems of picturesque Dordogne Valley).
13.) Let’s talk safety
Safety is a big concern for every traveller and rightly so. Europe is typically a safe continent, though you should always check local information before you travel. A good source of updated and accurate safety information can be found and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Country Advice that is updated daily with facts and safety information about travelling to every country in the world.
As with any travels, always stay vigilant, take out comprehensive insurance and if you’re from an EU country, make sure to obtain a totally free EHIC that entitles you to emergency healthcare.
14.) Our cities are beautifully unique
One of the best things about Europe is that our cities are so diverse, which is something that should be embraced! From the hustle of London, the charm of Venice to the coolness of Berlin, our cities are vastly different both historically and culturally. Even if you’re staying in the same country, you’d be surprised at the difference in a city like London compared to one like Manchester that’s just two hours away on the train… let alone when you go further afield like Edinburgh and Glasgow. Point is – what works in one city, might be totally different for a different city so do keep your wits about you.
If you’re planning a road trip around Europe, make sure to include a variety of different cities that’ll allow you to discover our wealth of diversity and really get a taste of our diverse continent.
It doesn’t matter how cheesy you think it is, or how much you promised you wouldn’t do it, make sure to grab those infamous pics that we all love to hate. Pretend to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, touch the top of the Eiffel Tower and just let yourself be the tourist that you are. There’s so much effort being paid to ‘not looking like a tourist‘ that it can sometimes take away from the experience you’re meant to be having on your trip. Let the locals act like locals – you came here to see the sights! Travel is all about experiences, what the heck if it’s a cliche! 🙂
16.) We have lots of Royals
We all know about the Royal Family in the UK, but many other European countries have their own royal family too. If you’re looking for a taste of Royalty when in Europe, make sure to check out some of their impressive homes and castles, like these in Denmark, where you can still see the Crown Jewels today!
17.) Multi-country sim cards are a must
Data roaming costs can be pretty high, especially if you’re travelling between countries on an international sim card. Grab a low-cost sim, such as Three or Lycamobile in the UK that offers better deals on European roaming. No one ever wants to get stung with high phone bills.
18.) For the love of siesta
Yup, come early afternoon, you might find that siesta time has kicked into full swing, with many shops, eateries and services closing for a few hours kip. This is particularly in places like Spain, Portugal and sometimes in southern Italy and can be quite the unwanted surprise, especially if you find yourself hungry and with no choice for food for the next 4 hours. (This happened to us in Lille and we ended up finding a random pub that served pancakes all day so like it or lump it, pancakes for lunch it was).
19.) You WILL gain weight but on your holiday in Europe, that’s a good thing
I’ve yet to find one person who’s travelled to Europe and not held onto a few extra pounds upon their return! Truth be told, if ever there was a place to have a culinary holiday – Europe most certainly is it! All those delicious pastry’s, pasta and gorgeous wines are too delicious to ignore and you can’t do much better than having them in their places of origin….well, that’s my excuse, anyway! 😉
20.) Certain months can be costly to travel!
Travel prices in Europe can vary significantly depending on the time of the year you arrive. If you’re planning a trip and looking to trim your costs, make sure to book ‘out of season’. Typically, prices are higher in the months of August and the summer months so if you can book around Autumn or Spring, you can grab yourself some pretty epic deals on flight and accommodation.