From the raucous beer-drinking in Munich’s Oktoberfest to Amsterdams’ smoke-filled coffee shops to the ruins of ancient Rome, there’s so much to see in Europe that you’ll scarcely have a problem choosing the most fun-filled activities whether you’re visiting for a few weeks or spending a couple of months on vacation.
From north to south, east to west, Europe is a cauldron of cultures, cuisine, heritage and architecture all over the continent. The common market and the eradication of customs restrictions within the member states means that visiting Europe is more comfortable, more convenient and more pocket-friendly. The continent is home to stunning beaches, terrific food and wine, monuments, landscapes, people and every country is distinctly different from its neighbour.
And when it comes to transportation, Europe is straddled by fast trains with names like fashion labels, the majority of which require seat reservations.
It all started with the Eurostar and the TGV, now we have the RJ, SJ and AVE, not to mention the Intercity Express, ICE in Germany, Thalys in Belgium, Euromed in Spain and Le Frecce in Italy, to mention but a few.
So if you’re planning to travel around Europe this summer, here are ten tips to make your trip an unforgettable one:
1. Travel During Off-Season
Travelling in Europe during peak period can be a real headache, with hordes of travellers and long queues in London and Paris. June to September may not be an excellent time to travel. During summer, Europeans themselves travel a lot, so to get a real feel of the place it’s a good idea to visit during off-peak season, preferably spring or early fall.
2. Buy a Eurail Pass
Travelling by train is comfortable, spacious and easier than flying. Eurail Passes are the best option for travellers on longer trips. If you’ve already planned the places to visit, and you won’t need much flexibility, you’ll be far better buying your pass as early as possible.
3. Book Budget Flights
If you’re a mindful traveller to Europe, then use their budget airlines. Europe has many cheap airlines that will fly you from one city to another at a minimal cost.
4. Save Your Money
To save your cash, consider travelling to those countries outside the Euro such as Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. These are all fascinating European countries with their own unique cultures and tend to be less costly than their European neighbours.
5. Talk to Europeans
Strike conversations with strangers. Many Europeans are friendly and will welcome an opportunity to know strangers. Talk to street vendors, bar patrons, hostel colleagues and even shopkeepers.
6. Visit Venice
Venice is a favourite of many travellers as it’s known to offer something for everyone. Visit the sleepy alleyways where local restaurants offering mouth-watering cuisine sit on dark corners, inviting you to a great meal as you reflect on the Venice waters and canals.
7. Choose the Smaller Cities
If you’re a first-time visitor to Europe, its okay to riot in the major cities of Barcelona, Paris and London, but if you’re a seasoned traveller, choose the smaller towns with their city centres and places that don’t get as many visitors. Things run at a much slower pace, and this allows you to enjoy yourself.
8. Walk, walk, walk
Taxis and trains are expensive in European cities. So look for budget accommodation outside the city centre and nearby suburbs and plan on walking or cycling. If you take into consideration the transport system and the hassle of trying to get a decent restaurant, jumping into a taxi all the time can drain your money fast.
9. Respect Afternoon Closures
Europeans love their lunchtimes, and these can extend for hours. So expect to find a utility office, or a salon closed from say noon to 2 pm. When in Rome, do as Romans do and take a long lunch yourself.
10. Respect Local Culture
Most Europeans are usually quiet, sober and reserved. So if you’re loud and boisterous, try to observe how locals behave and follow suit. For example, if you plan on visiting a Church, avoid wearing minis and tank tops.