Whether it’s your first time visiting Europe or you visit multiple times per year, avoiding some of the most common travel mistakes will make your trip so much more enjoyable! A little planning goes a long way and these tips will help you a smarter and more relaxed European traveler.
Travel in the Off Season
While you might dream of sunbathing upon the Mediterranean beaches during the summer months, so does the rest of Europe — causing overcrowded beaches and long queues at tourist attractions.
Traveling during the off season is the best way to avoid the crowds and save money on accommodations, airfare, train tickets and tours. Most of the main tourist attractions are open year-round, just make sure to check closing times as some might have shorter hours during the off-peak travel season.
Use Budget Airlines or Travel by Train
With more than a dozen budget airline carriers throughout Europe, you can fly to almost anywhere on the continent for cheap when booking with a budget airline. Airfare will often be cheaper than train tickets, but the least expensive seats tend to sell out the fastest.
While you might be getting a bargain on airfare, make sure to check for additional fees and taxes which are often not included in the advertised rate. Also avoid sizeable baggage fees by researching each airline’s rules on hand baggage and luggage size.
Traveling by train in Europe is often efficient easier than air travel. Book your ticket at the train station with an actual person because some options are not available at the kiosks.
Learn the Local Language
Practice a few phrases before you arrive and use them with locals if you feel comfortable. In most cases, they’ll appreciate a tourist trying to speak the local tongue.
Try listening to a few podcasts to get the right pronunciation, or spend some time with a language program like Rosetta Stone leading up to your trip.
Stay Longer in One Place
It always feels more rewarding to stay in one place for a week or two rather than city-hopping every few days. Not only does that mean less packing and unpacking, you have the chance to get to know a neighborhood, find a favorite cafe, and even make a few friendships.
Stay in a Smaller City
Large cities like Rome, Paris, London, Amsterdam can all be overrun with tourists—making it difficult to blend in, and meet and speak with locals.
Choose a smaller town with its own city center, and one that doesn’t get as many tourists, but are still just a short train ride away from the main hubs: Girona near Barcelona, Bologna near Florence.
These cities are usually quieter and run at a slower pace, allowing you to enjoy yourself with less pressure. You will also find there are more accommodations in the form of apartment rentals and homestays available farther from the city center.
Don’t Plan on Using Credit Cards Everywhere
While it seems that most of the world now accepts credit cards, it’s not uncommon for places in Europe to only accept cash. Having euros on hand for tips, taxi rides, restaurants, purchases at local markets and daily activities will make your transactions go smoother and it will save you money on foreign transaction fees.
Prior to your trip, order foreign currency at your bank or visit an ATM at the airport upon arrival. Airport ATMs don’t always have the best exchange rate, but it’s better than finding yourself stuck without any cash.