Europe ….sighhh, brings in a kaleidoscope of diverse images. From images of snow-capped mountains which served as the perfect romantic backdrop to dozens of Bollywood movies, non-descript turquoise blue beaches which transform into the party capitals of the world, entire cities built on lagoons and carved by canals, to museums, museums & more museums! If you are travelling to Europe for the first time, we guarantee that it will leave you breathless, but it is also good to be a little guarded. Here are some useful tips for your first European trip!
Europe Is Not A One-Time Experience: Don’t cram your itinerary with 10 counties over 20 days. Europe is a place that needs to be revisited, so don’t stress yourself on trying to see everything on your first trip. Our reco is to visit a maximum of three countries in 3 weeks.
Packaged Tour Or Independent?: While a packaged tour does have the allure of offering the chance to see several countries in a short time, Europe is best experienced at leisure and solo or in a small group, with a flexible and not-set-in stone itinerary.
Book Wayyy In Advance: Sometimes you can luck out and get unbelievable deals on trains, hotels and flights. The best time to travel is the shoulder period between on and off season when rates just begin to fall.
Get A Season Pass: Most tourist destinations and major cities in Europe incentivize commuters with the option to buy passes. These are much cheaper than their individual counterparts. For instance a one-way ticket in Paris for the subway might cost as much as 3 Euros and that too for a single zone! Do your homework on the various zones in each city’s metro network and get a suitable pass.
Checkout Airport Distances From The Mainland: Some airlines land at smaller airports which are really far from the mainland. For instance, Ryan Air, though offering dirt cheap flights, has airports almost 3 hours away from the mainland like the airport in Venice or in Paris which is located in the countryside. So don’t end up shelling extra for that additional transport from the airport to the mainland.
Know Your History: It’s worth it! Europe is choc-a-bloc with stories, so read up on a place before visiting it in the flesh and you’ll see it with a whole new perspective.
Plan Weather-wise : Europe is a diverse continent – and ranges from sunny beaches to sub-zero mountains to temperate Mediterranean regions, so it’s prudent to carry the right mix of clothes.
Keep Luggage To The Minimum: Travel light! It can be exhilarating to not have excess baggage, and if needed, and you have just the day to spend in a city, you can walk around the streets and take in all the sights that Europe has to offer with your light luggage instead of checking into a hotel. Also, some airlines charge extra for a check-in bag, so you can save a bundle by travelling light.
Stay in Hostels or Stay with a local: Europe can be planned on a shoestring budget if planned right. There are dozens of hostels that offer single rooms or dormitories. Check out sites like Hostelbookers.com and do make sure to read reviews before settling down on a hostel. Price is not everything. If you want more local options, choose to Couchsurf or try AirBnB.
Plan your budget well: Eat like the locals, plan your accommodation and transport in advance. If you want souvenirs, avoid touristy spots for they are overpriced. Carry just the right amount of Forex with you and top it up as you need, this way you can stick to a budget. There are some trusted foreign exchange dealers in India that offer the reload option online as well as multicurrency cards, so you can buy pounds in India, and buy euros online later when needed and load them all onto the same card!
Be prepared for a dash of Racism: If you are from the subcontinent, you might experience a dash of racism in some cities in Italy and France. Take it with a pinch of salt.
Beware of Con men: If someone seems overly helpful, especially at ticket vending machines which are in local language or popular tourist spots be a little watchful. These are people looking to make a quick buck for the ‘helpful’ services rendered and they tend to make a scene when not paid. So, politely decline and head to the information counter, if you do need help.
Respect culture: Some churches are very fastidious on what people wear, so carry a light jacket with you if you are planning to wear sleeveless that day. Cover up if culture demands it, sometimes its good to fit in. So, when in Rome, do as the romans do.