This continent is a dream destination for many. It is the one that, for those of us who come from America, makes us “cross the pond“, an expression that gave this blog its name. In Europe, you can change countries quickly, you can hear different languages, you can see different customs, the possibilities are enormous. With so many possibilities, you will get plenty of questions, it is normal, this is a major journey. In this article, we are going to give you the tips for traveling to Europe for the first time.
- Tip 1: choose the most suitable season
- Tip 2: decide how long you will travel
- Tip 3: decide how long you will stay in each city
- Tip 4: know the means of transport available
- Tip 5: Plan your itinerary
- Tip 6: get an idea of what to see in each place
- Tip 7: book your accommodation in advance
- Tip 8: Bring proper documentation with you
- Tip 9: Take out travel insurance
- Tip 10: Pack wisely
Tip 1: choose the most suitable season
Before planning an itinerary, most likely, the first thing you have to decide is what season of the year you will travel to Europe. And it is when we look for advice to know what is the best season to travel to Europe? Well, there is no fixed answer to this, everything will depend on several factors.
Let’s go by parts:
July – August
These are the summer months when most people travel. In some places it is very hot, the monuments will probably be full and not to mention that the prices of hotels and planes go up at this time.
September – October – November
It is the transition from summer to autumn, a good period to travel. You just have to keep in mind that in some places it can rain.
Christmas markets in all their splendor in many cities. But also plenty of people traveling for the holidays, with which the prices go up.
January – February – March
It is freezing, but it is also when the prices are low and the places are not full.
April – May – June
Good time, springtime, in June the weather is already good, but the students have not yet gone on vacation, so there are still no summer crowds. Of course, if you want to avoid the problem of July-August, then you have to avoid the dates of Easter, preferably.
When is the best time to travel to Europe?
As you can already imagine, I cannot give an absolute answer to this question, but I hope that with this breakdown of the months you get an idea. And it is that “the best” is not the same for everyone.
For example: if for you the best thing is that it be “as least expensive as possible, but that it is not cold”, then the spring period, and even the month of June would be the answer. But if you want “as cheap as possible regardless of the weather”, then the month of January would be ideal.
To decide when you are going to travel to Europe, also consider your personal expectations, no matter what the recommendations tell you. Let me explain, if what you most want to see are the Christmas markets, so to speak, then you have to come during the month of December. And that would be the best time for you to travel to Europe.
Tip 2: decide how long you will travel
This is a difficult decision, there are many factors that intervene, such as the budget, the vacation days available, among other things.
But in general terms, one of the primary tips for traveling to Europe, is that the recommended minimum is to come for two weeks. You have to consider that upon arrival you will not be 100%, since jet lag will affect you to a greater or lesser extent, so consider that at least (and I am being very optimistic) for one day you will be a bit of a zombie.
If you have the possibility of taking more weeks, excellent.
How to deal with jet lag?
Jet lag is an imbalance produced between a person’s internal clock (which marks the periods of sleep and wakefulness) and the new time that is established when traveling long distances, through various time regions or people living in countries that change the time in summer and winter.Wikipedia
Everyone finds their own method, there is no absolute one that works. Some take melatonin, I have never taken it. For some, jet lag has practically no effect, lucky ones. I’m going to tell you what I do, although it’s not perfect either.
When I get on the plane, I change the time on my watch, and from there I begin to consider the time of the place where I will arrive. And I force myself to sleep at the time of the place where I will arrive, it is not always easy. Another thing I do, but I don’t always get it either, is book flights that arrive at night, this to arrive and go straight to sleep.
Tip 3: decide how long you will stay in each city
Another difficult decision, but calm down, let’s go in parts. First, you have to make a list of your dream European countries, those that you have always wanted to visit.
This is where having applied tip 2 before helps, since at least you will know what your limit is. Let’s see your travel time as a bag. Yes, a nice velvet bag. To which we are going to throw the countries that we want to visit.
Let’s say that if you are going to travel for two weeks, focus on two or three countries. Avoid being greedy, “he who covers a lot does not squeeze”.
Now in the same way, for each country, make a list of cities that you would like to visit and put them in an order of preference. Then comes the hard part, cutting down the list. My recommendation is that you dedicate at least 3 full days to the big cities. But I’m going to the minimum, really. To a medium city, 2 days is fine. There are some cities that can be visited in one day, such as the city of Bath in England.
But, do not go to make one-day visits to all the cities, exiting one to enter the other, please do not do it. You are not going to enjoy your trip, you are going to have great fatigue and discomfort. The visits to one-day cities are complements and considering that they are close to another city that we visit for two or more days.
Tip 4: know the means of transport available
To change places, you will have to take several means of transport, we will see the most common.
A very comfortable way to travel, you can also go admire the landscape. Trains are divided into several types: fast trains, night trains, regional trains, tourist trains. You have to see which is the one that best suits you in terms of schedules and level of comfort, remember that the concept of “comfort and speed” changes depending on the country.
The slowest way to move around Europe, but also the cheapest. For the same reason that it is not very fast, it has been a long time since I took the bus in Europe. One of the last times was when I went from Vienna to Budapest. But in any case, taking the bus within Europe is an option to consider because, depending on the destination, maybe the schedule is more suitable or even this is the only option to get there.
If you dare to drive in Europe, it is a suitable option since in several countries the network of fast highways is perfect. As for having the steering wheel on the opposite side, this will happen in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta. In the rest of the countries, the steering wheel will be on the left side, as is the case in most of Latin America.
This is the category that unexpectedly surprised me the most when I traveled to Europe for the first time, since airplanes as I knew them were not the only option here. And I mean, it was in Europe where I saw that you could go from one city to another for 26 euros, a ridiculous price! But true. Of course, do not expect a very high level of comfort, and you have to be careful because once you buy the ticket, they will want to charge for absolutely any extra service. As for luggage (tip 9 will be very useful in this regard). But also choose a seat, any food or drink on the flight. Believe it or not, “traditional” airlines are starting to charge for water too, as happened to me with British Airways.
Looking for a flight to Europe?
Book your tickets at the best price here!
Tip 5: Plan your itinerary
Once you have defined both the duration of the trip, the cities/countries you are going to visit and what your means of transport will be, comes the stage of capturing all this in an itinerary.
For this and any long trip, my recommendation is to capture it in a spreadsheet (although those who prefer it can also rely on a map in addition to the spreadsheet). Here is an example:
On the sheet I put the dates, the name of the City in which we will spend the day (in the example it would be the city column, which is not filled in), then where to sleep because sometimes the city where we spend the day is not It is the same where we sleep. In the hotel column, I also usually put the name of the hotel.
In transportation, the means of transportation to be used, the next two columns are for costs, the next ones for planned activities, and the last one is to note if the hotel includes breakfast. Let me explain: it happened to me several times that having made the reservation well in advance, then I got lost and had no idea whether breakfast was included or not. And I needed this information to include one more meal in the budget, for example.
If you have any questions, leave them below in the comments, I will gladly answer them.
Which cities are advisable to visit on a first trip to Europe?
The options are enormous and these tips for traveling in Europe would be endless, so here are some options:
As always, everything will depend on your own priorities.
Tip 6: get an idea of what to see in each place
It is not a question of being rigid and saying, what I put here on paper is what I will see and nothing else, no, not at all. It’s just so you don’t arrive and say “and now what am I going to see?”, rather already have something to start from. In fact, think that it can happen that you realize that there is something that you want to see and that you had not considered, and that you will probably have to “remove” something from what you had planned, for example. No problem.
In the blog we have made several articles mentioning what can be seen in the cities, to name a few:
Another thing you can do is: when you arrive, take a “Walking tour”, an excellent option to get a general idea of the city. These are generally free, you tip the guide at the end of the tour, they last about two hours, and you walk through the city, for example, this one we took in Budapest helped us see things we hadn’t seen walking on our own the day before (that we arrived just at the beginning of the afternoon and took a walk on our own, but it was not the same).
I leave you a list of the “Free walking tours” of some European cities:
The idea here is that you book, but don’t pay yet, you only pay what you consider at the end of the tour.
Here is a more complete list of Free Tours in Europe
If you are looking for another city or country, enter one of the links that we put above and from there you can carry out the search.
Tip 7: book your accommodation in advance
I understand that each person has their own style of traveling, and in this style there are people who prefer to take accommodations on the go. But one of the pieces of advice that I would give is that to travel to Europe, certainly, it is best to have accommodations reserved in advance. This will help you with tip 8, but wait, don’t go there yet.
These reservations, of course, will be easier to make after you have already implemented the previous advice to this, that you have already decided which places you will visit, for how long and you will have defined an itinerary.
Now you just need to search and here, too, there is something for all budgets and tastes.
Accommodation options in Europe
- Hostel: this was my first choice during my student days. In general, the room is shared with several people, what is rented is the bed. The bathroom, therefore, is usually shared. There are all kinds of hostels, from the most uncomfortable, where you can hear everything that happens in the adjoining rooms, to those that once you are within your bed you feel some privacy, it is appreciated. The great advantage of this lodging is, besides being very cheap, is that if you are looking to meet other travelers, this is a good place.
- Airbnb: This is a different type of hosting, it works all over the world. It is a good way to see what the apartments are like in the center of the city, which is generally where the best accommodations are.
- Hotel: hotels in Europe can range from something basic to the most luxurious, going through something that is expensive and of poor quality, that is why you have to pay attention to the reviews. When making your reservation, depending on the hotel, you have the option of pre-paying or paying once on the spot. Sometimes I prefer to pay it in advance, so it’s an expense that I won’t have to do later, but then it’s up to you.
Tip 8: Bring proper documentation with you
If you require a visa to travel to the European Union, then you must cover this point before traveling, for obvious reasons. However, many countries in Latin America, including Mexico, do not need a visa, but one of the tips that you cannot miss when traveling to Europe is to make sure you bring everything you need to be let in. You must meet certain requirements:
- Passport with at least 3 months validity after the date of departure from the EU
- That the passport was issued less than 10 years ago
- Prove solvency for the duration of the trip
- If you will be staying at someone’s house: invitation letter (a document that your guest has to process at their town hall), in case you are in accommodation reserved by you: a proof of accommodation, now tip 7 makes more sense, and a return ticket
All the list of information is here, check the page to see if there have been any changes.
Something critical, these requirements mentioned above apply to the Schengen Zone, and what is the Schengen Zone? Well, well:
It is the area comprising 26 European countries that have abolished border controls at common borders, also known as internal borders.Wikipedia, here you can see the list of those countries
You just have to keep in mind that the European Union is not necessarily the same as the Schengen Zone.
Tip 9: Take out travel insurance
I think this point does not need much explanation. You have to be protected for any eventuality because you have to keep in mind that if we are from a country that is not a member of the European Union, we are not covered in any way. This is one of those pieces of advice that we would not even want to give, for not being seen as a bird of bad omen, but when traveling to Europe you are not exempt from some eventuality, and neither are we.
But before hiring any insurance, first see if your cards do not already have it included. Sometimes it is the case and there you already save money.
In case you do not have insurance included in your card, we recommend you look at the “Cap Schengen” insurance with assistance and repatriation from Chapka, for non-European travelers traveling to Europe. You will have a discount for being a Charcotrip reader.
Tip 10: Pack wisely
Try to make everything fit in a backpack or suitcase that you can carry as a carry-on, if you are going to fly on low-cost airlines, the idea is to travel really light.
Try to look if your accommodations have a washing machine, for example, if you stay in an Airbnb, and it is an apartment, it will most likely have a washing machine. If you can go washing clothes, it would lighten your luggage even more.
Also think that, very surely, you will bring some purchases for which you will need to have space in your luggage.
I hope these tips for traveling in Europe will make you feel more comfortable when planning your first trip to the old continent. Think that everything will be fine, yes, preparing everything calmly and trying to stress as little as possible.
If you have any advice to share, feel free to leave it in the comments.
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