Whether it’s your first time to Europe, or your tenth time, you’re always bound to see and experience something new while visiting this amazing continent! Europe has a ton of history, a multitude of cultures and people and great, delicious food! With so many reasons to visit Europe, there ARE things that you must think about in order to make travelling easier on you. I’ve compiled a list of travelling tips for Europe for anyone ranging from the newbie traveller, to the seasoned traveller, so here goes…!
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Be Prepared For Plan A not to go Exactly to Plan A
All I can say is, shit happens. The perfect example, coming from a personal experience was my first ever solo trip to Norway (see ticket stubs above). Plan A was to go something like this: Toronto-Montreal-Zurich-Oslo-Drammen (where I was staying). Let’s just say that due to short connecting times, which led to missed connections, which then led to heavy fog making me miss THAT connection for the OTHER connection, made my Plan A go more like this: Toronto-Montreal-Zurich-Copenhagen-Oslo-Drammen. Always be prepared when things don’t go according to plan, because it does happen!
Read more: The trip that opened my eyes to solo travel
Research & Plan
Whenever heading to Europe, researching and planning are two major steps you have to think about. Sometimes train schedules change due to the seasons, holidays etc. Overlooking this little task of researching train trips can definitely screw you over. Getting to Europe from North America is easy breezy. You get to the airport, get on your plane and when you wake up a few hours later, you’ve arrived. Not knowing WHERE or HOW to get to your first hotel once you’ve arrived, well, after many hours of travel, the last thing you want to do is have to figure out how to find your hotel. Do yourself a favour and plan and research how you’ll at least get to your first night’s accommodations. It’ll give you piece of mind, trust me!
Book Hotels In Advance
Nothing is worse than arriving in a new town during the high tourist season with nowhere to stay and all signs in local hotels and hostels say NO OCCUPANCY! UGH! Booking hotels in advance will save you from getting a headache, or having a nervous breakdown. By using sites like Booking.com , you’ll sometimes have the option of “pay when you stay”, which I absolutely swear by! If for some reason, you end up switching your itinerary last minute, or miss a flight, train or bus, you’ll have the option to cancel up to 24 hours in advance to save you from getting charged the full amount, or a cancellation fee. Nobody likes fees!
Don’t Drive, Take Trains
With the price of oil being as high as it is, driving in Europe will more than likely cost you a small fortune. Taking regional trains within Europe is fast, easy, affordable and convenient. Not to mention that they are almost ALWAYS on time! It’ll also save you the stress and anxiety of driving with some crazy drivers. I was taught how to drive stick for the first time while in Europe when I was 20 and everyone was passing me and zooming around me. I had to pull over in a corn field to relax for a moment. I haven’t driven in Europe since that time, actually. Scarred for life, perhaps? Also, by taking trains, you’ll also get to see some incredible scenery that might be inaccessible by vehicles, making for some amazing photo ops.
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Night Trains & High Speed Trains Will Be Your New BFF
While I was in Norway, I wanted to head to the town of Bergen for a day trip. One issue…the train ride to Bergen was about 7 hours away…ONE WAY! I figured that if I went first thing in the morning, I’d have pretty much wasted precious exploring time, so I opted for the night train from Drammen to Bergen, which left at midnight and got me there just before 7am the next day. PERFECT! Night trains are usually less crowded and they are sometimes express trains, so they make less frequent stops, getting you to your destination much quicker. They might cost a little extra, but it’ll be worth it in the end!
Watch Your Bags While On Trains
Whenever I’m travelling alone, I’ve only got one set of eyes looking out for my stuff, well, two sets of eyes if you count my glasses…so what I usually do is place my luggage in the luggage holding area and choose a seat that faces where I’ve placed it, or choose a seat right in front of the area. This way when the train makes a stop, my bag won’t mysteriously wander off the train with someone else. Someone I know once had his camera gear stolen right from his overnight train cabin while he was sleeping. Sooo creepy! I strongly believe that there are more good than bad people out there, but some people do some really shady stuff. Sometimes I’ll even reserve a seat on the train knowing very well that chances of someone reserving the other seat directly next to me are slim, so I can place my bag right beside me.
Pack Light and Remember Cobblestone is Everywhere
I haven’t been to a European country where there WASN’T any cobblestone. Do your body a favour and pack light because once you have to drag that luggage across cobblestone roads, sidewalks, walkways or alleyways, your arms will know true pain. I won’t even mention how fun it is when one of your wheels on your luggage gets jammed. That’s always my favourite…NOT!
Don’t Sleep In
Usually when I’m overseas, I am showered, dressed, had breakfast and out on the street well before 9am. I want to make sure that I am getting the most exploring done in the amount of time that I am in a new country, or city! Sleeping in will waste the day, so if you’re not a morning person, suck it up and become one while you’re in Europe. Some places have early closing hours during certain times of the year, not to mention you’ll be losing precious light in the day a lot quicker if you are in any Northern European country during autumn, or winter.
Walk, Walk, Walk
The best way to explore and learn about a new city is by walking the streets. Lace up a pair of good walking shoes, grab a local city map and hit the streets. There are a TON of hidden gems all over Europe that are only accessible by foot. Trust me, after all the pastry dishes and carbs you’ll enjoy while in Europe, your waistline will thank you!
Eat The Local Food
If you are heading to Europe, or any country for that matter, please, please, PLEASE enjoy the local cuisine. If you are walking into a McDonald’s and grabbing a burger and fries when you have the option of delicious food made by locals and made with local produce, I WILL make fun of you! Just sayin’!
Read more: How to Find Great to Eat While Travelling
Always Carry Some Cash Money, Honey
Cash is King in my mind. A lot of people steer away from using cash while abroad, simply because we’ve become a debit/credit/charge it society. Well, what happens when your precious debit card doesn’t work overseas for some reason? Credit Card got declined because you forgot to mention to your bank that you’re travelling and they think someone is fraudulently using your card, but it’s actually YOU!? Uh-oh! It’s happened to me before, but I always carry cash with me, just to be prepared for such a scenario. If you are going to use a Credit Card overseas, make sure it is one that carries no fees for overseas transactions. Like I mentioned before, nobody likes fees, especially hidden ones!
Happy travels! xo