A Beginners Guide To Traveling Through Europe
Europe is by far the easiest continent to travel through. Luxury is comfortable, budget travel is accessible and every highlight is close to another one. Making it easy enough for everyone to travel around.
Europe is big, though. And as a beautiful landmark appears around every corner, you might find it hard to choose your itinerary for this one in a lifetime trip.
As it is your first time to travel around Europe – there are plenty of other things to think about – such as language, public transport, money and routes. So, traveling through Europe? I’ll talk you through the basics.
Let’s talk money
MAKING SENSE OF THE CURRENCY. Most countries in Europe are part of the EU – which simply means: one currency. Hurray! In most countries you’re good to go with the Euro, and that means you can go nuts whenever you find an ATM. However, with every rule you’ll find exceptions, and the same goes for the Euro. For example – while the UK (still) is a part of the EU you’ll need to pay with pounds here. In the Czech Republic you can pay with euro in most places BUT you’ll also find a local currency here. Denmark also don’t join in with the Euro fun, just as Hungary, Sweden, Croatia and Bulgaria, for example.
Then, there are also a couple of countries (like Montenegro) who aren’t in the EU but do make use of the Euro. And of course you’ll also find the countries who aren’t a member of the EU and have their own currency.
Short conclusion: traveling through Europe for the most part is made easy because of the Euro – in the other countries you’ll just have to find another ATM and get the local currency.
Let’s talk budget
CAN YOU DO EUROPE ON A BUDGET? Not as cheap as Asia, not as expensive as North America. Doing Europe on a budget is fun – basically because it is possible while staying comfortable.
How about hotelstays? Just search Hostelworld.com for great European hostels – they look great, cool and funky – but are mostly available for under 30 euros per night. How is that for a budget?
How about transportation? Of course, everyone knows airline Ryan Air – famous for her extremely low air fares – less known for comfortable flights. However; it’s true: Ryan Air basically is the cheapest airline you can find in Europe. I once flew to London (and back!) for 20 euros. I flew to Riga, Latvia for 30 euros and Zadar, Croatia for 33 euros. If you’d like to travel more basic – you can always check out Eurolines for extremely cheap bus connections. Eurolines basically goes from everywhere to anywhere – I once took the bus from Prague to the Netherlands for only 16 euros!
How about food? The price of food really varies per country. Scandinavia for example, Iceland and the Faroe Islands – as well as the UK is pretty expensive when it comes to food. Countries like The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France and Portugal aren’t cheap – but aren’t exactly expensive either. However, the biggest part of Eastern Europe is pretty cheap when it comes to food – you can have a full dinner for 5 euros!
How about tourist attractions? If you really want to travel through Europe on a budget you should determine your budget around tourist attractions. Most cities in Europe have certain hours or days during the month or week when museums are free to enter. Which always comes in handy. You can also join free walking tours, which are my forever favourite tours. AND you can check your hotel or hostel for discounts at certain tourist attractions!
Let’s talk transportation
HOW TO GET AROUND EUROPE? I’ve given some of my favourites away already. But just to sum it all up:
Car rental. Rent a car in Amsterdam – hand it in in Italy. Most car companies in Europe work together which makes it easy for you to rent a car and drive from a to b without having to return it. As far as price concerns: renting a car is never cheap, just as buying petrol. If you’re on a budget – stick to public transport.
By train. To be honest; some countries have great train systems – other countries really lack of them. Traveling by train is easy through out the UK for example, with good train connections to Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain and Germany, for example. But I’ve once taken the train in Italy and that really wasn’t so great. It took me ages to get somewhere, to find out I wasn’t even there!
If you want to travel by train, you can buy a multiple week train ticket. So you can take the train to wherever you want to during the weeks you’re in Europe! Of course you can also buy day tickets, a return ticket or a single.
By bus. As I said before: Check. Eurolines. Eurolines is by far the biggest tour operator in Europe when it comes to busses. Of course, there are a couple of other companies, but if you don’t know where to start your search – you should start with Eurolines. It’s cheap, quite easy and there are a lot – a lot of busses going daily!
By plane. Europe has so many airports – and because all the distances are relatively short it is just as easy to catch a plane. Skyscanner always knows when you should fly and with which airline. If you are looking for a cheap option check airlines as WOWair, Ryanair and Vueling – but mostly Ryanair. So. Ridiculously. Cheap.
Let’s talk time
WHEN SHOULD YOU TRAVEL? If I Google this subject I find articles that tell me ‘when the best time is to travel to Europe’. Nonsense, I feel like. There isn’t ‘one’ best time to travel to a continent.
Some countries are still quite warm during the winter months. And if you prefer snow in Scandinavia you shouldn’t travel in August, obviously. There isn’t one period of time or one season that is best for traveling through Europe. But I’ll give you my preferences.
I wouldn’t ever advice someone to travel in high season. The cities are crowded, the nature parks are busy and you’ll just get annoyed by the heat, the people and the pushing. Or at least – I would get annoyed. I really don’t like traveling in high season (not even talking about the prices yet), but maybe that’s just me.
However, it depends on your goal too. This year I am traveling in high season for the first time in three years for the simple reason that I’m going surfing in Portugal and want the weather to be good.
I’d say that the cheapest months to travel are from January to April and October/November: no big holidays – no spectacular weather conditions and hardly any events. These months are mostly the quietest months too. As well as my personal favourite months to travel as well!
However – do your research before going. If you have a specific travel month in mind, then search for countries to go in that month. If you have a specific country in mind, search for the best/cheapest months to travel.
Let’s talk borders
IS IT HARD TO GO FROM ONE TO ANOTHER COUNTRY? One of the best benefits of the EU is that traveling between EU-countries is soo freaking easy. No border control – no stops and no lines. I remember that when I was a kid this was a lot different. Driving to Austria, for example, took a lot longer. There were more toll roads and at every border we had to show our passport. Nowadays, you just drive.
Seeing that most countries in Europe are a member of the EU, you can probably guess how easy that makes it for you to travel around. Also – if you buy a visa for Europe, you probably buy one for the EU, which means that you can travel around (for I guess 90 days) through all the countries that are a part of the EU!
Again – there are some exceptions – the border controls of the UK are a bit more strict and countries like Switzerland – that aren’t part of the EU of course have their own regulations of border controls.
However, for the most part – you’re good to go!