Tips for travelling to Europe for the first time – from an expert traveller!
Thinking of travelling Europe this summer? You’re in good company! Our Trip Planner, Richard, gives you his top tips for exploring the continent for the very first time.
Whether it’s exploring ancient cities close to home, trailing the big four in the African bush, sipping a beer in downtown Manhattan or climbing a mountain in Kazakhstan, it’s safe to say I get a kick out of travelling. I’ve now well and truly caught the ‘travel bug’ – and I’ll never look back.
But let’s rewind. There’s always a starting point for every trip – whether it’s your first trip abroad, you’re heading off on a gap year or you’re taking some time out to travel. At any one time, there’ll always be someone feeling exactly like I did when I flew to Istanbul in 2013 – filled with nervous anticipation of what was to come. Even though it was a trip that I’d planned and thought about for several months, looking back, I made heaps of schoolboy errors and mistakes. But that’s how we learn ‘tips & tricks’ for life on the road, right?
So, drawn from travelling with my family and taking my own solo trips around the world, here are my 10 top Europe travel tips and tricks:
1. Don’t be afraid, just go with the flow!
This is easily number 1. Many of us book our big trip months in advance and are then faced with non-stop anticipation in the lead up to the trip. It’s perfectly normal, but there’s such a thing as giving a trip too much thought! Mulling our plans over and over in our head results in us feeling nervous, excited, anxious and any number of other emotions.
Remember, the hardest bit of any trip is booking it. Once you’ve done that, you’re on your way. Don’t worry – just go with the flow: get on your flight, head to your hostel, say hello to your roommates and grab a beer; the travel life will take care of itself.
I remember arriving in Istanbul at my hostel late one evening in October 2013. I was super tired after an early start and two flights. I just wanted to curl up in bed and go to sleep – but I grabbed a chair and joined the other travellers who were chatting in a circle. It was the best decision I ever made! Not only did it give me the confidence to speak to others, but I ended up meeting some really cool people who I spent the next few days with. So, if you’re in a similar position, just go for it.
Still nervous? Check out our top tips for meeting people while travelling.
2. Patience: it’s the journey – not the destination – that we remember the most!
It happens on any trip. Sometimes our arrangements don’t go according to plan. Sometimes the bus has a flat tyre. Sometimes we miss our train. It might not be fun but we always remember it! Things might not always run as smoothly as back home, but all these little mishaps are just part of the journey. Take the pressure off yourself and allow whatever happens to happen – that’s what travelling is all about!
Then again if you’re travelling with Euroventure, you’ve got nothing to worry about anyway… Our 24-hour helpline means we’re only ever a phone call away if anything unexpected crops up.
3. People watch!
You can’t always charge around cities, towns or villages – we all need our downtime. Head to the main park or old town, grab a coffee and just watch. This is a great way to learn and understand a place as you’ll be watching locals going about their day – and enjoying some well-deserved chill time yourself.
4. Snap away!
Your photos provide you with great memories and stories many moons later… so a decent camera has to be one of your travel essentials for Europe! You might want to lie in bed every morning or find yourself recovering from too many beers from the previous night… but make sure you get up for (or maybe stay up for?!) a sunrise from time to time.
The early morning is a beautiful part of the day and a brilliant time to take pictures… plus you’ll get a chance to see the city before all the other tourists wake up! what better way to end your first trip to Europe than by watching the sun come up on a Spanish beach after a long night?!! Check out our previous customers’ #myeuroventure snaps over on our Instagram!
Not sure what to pack for your trip? Check out our Europe travel essentials packing list video!
6. Get off the beaten path!
You don’t have to walk into the middle of nowhere but what I’m getting at here is that you should always try something different. Why not look up some quirky or non-touristy places/events? It could even be as simple as avoiding eating lunch in a touristy old-town square. Just go around the corner, down the cobbled street and more often than not you’ll find where the locals are eating. As you’d expect – especially in places like Italy and Spain – they know where to find the best eats and you’d do well to trust them! Remember, Europe isn’t all about cities either – you can discover amazing and less-discovered parts of the countryside by public transport – perfect for a day trip of a few days of downtime! Check out some of our favourites here!
7. Don’t speak the language? Fear not!
Just learn hello, goodbye and thank you in each destination. It’s a small gesture, but it makes a difference! I remember walking into a food market in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and saying hello to a lady at one of the stalls in Kyrgyz – she burst out laughing with a huge smile (probably my terrible pronunciation!). She was chuffed with the tiny bit of effort I made and even gave me some extra tomatoes – winner!
Wherever you are in the world, but especially in Europe, we tend to assume everyone speaks English. It’s easily done, but can come across as ignorant; going that extra mile will work wonders! Luckily for you, Euroventure includes language tips for every destination in your travel pack – so we’ve done all the hard work for you!
8. Treat yourself!
Now, don’t get me wrong – I always travel on a budget and try to minimise my expenses so I can stay on the road as long as possible, but don’t forget – you can and should treat yourself. This trip is a holiday after all – and those experiences will be worth so much more for the memories they create. So whether it’s a fancy hotel or dinner, a bungee jump or sea diving, do it!
9. Stow your cash carefully!
Don’t rely on one debit or credit card. Trust me, it doesn’t always work – or it’ll get blocked somewhere you least expect it! The best way of separating your
cash is to spread it between different wallets, money holders or a money belt. Some crafty travellers even have a throwaway wallet. I don’t think it’s necessary but that’s just my personal opinion – do what you feel comfortable with. There are plenty more money tips in our guide to costings for your Europe trip here.
10. Last but not least, HAVE FUN and be safe.
The media do a brilliant job of portraying the world as a scary place, but it really isn’t. That said, learn to be aware of who’s around you and always go with your gut feeling. You’ll most likely have no problems at all, and you’ll probably meet some people who’ll change your life! In need of more reassurance? Have a little read of our safety guide for kickass solo travellers.
So there you have my top 10 tips and tricks for travelling around the continent! I hope my examples prove helpful. All that remains is to book that flight, and the rest of the jigsaw will all fall into place!