So Europe is on the table!
You’ve talked to you friends or loved ones and it’s going to happen. How exciting!
But where the heck do you start? I mean Europe only has about fifty counties with hundreds of cities, towns and places worth visiting. Maybe you have a few European vacation ideas already. Or a list raiof top destinations in Europe you’ve been wanting to visit for a long time. Well, once you’re done with my guide you’ll have plenty more!
Not much to think about to travel Europe right 😉
Ha! That sounds like a nightmare to plan. But fortunately you’ve come across my MEGA guide on how to plan a trip to Europe. After you’re done here you’ll have all the information you need to plan an adventure of a lifetime. And those you’re going with will be blow away by how much you know about Europe and thank you for planning and epic adventure!
Use my guide as a full Europe trip planner or just pick and choose the sections you need. Let’s jump right into my Europe travel guide shall we!
Best Places to Visit in Europe
Table of Contents
- Best Places to Visit in Europe
- Best Cities in Europe to Visit
- Western Europe
- Southern Europe
- Eastern Europe
- Budapest, Hungary
- Bratislava, Slovakia
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Krakow, Poland
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Zagreb, Croatia
- Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Belgrade, Serbia
- Sofia, Bulgaria
- Skopje, Macedonia
- Bucharest, Romania
- Kiev, Ukraine
- Tirana, Albania
- Minsk, Belarus
- Riga, Latvia
- Vilnius, Lithuania
- Tallinn, Estonia
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Moscow, Russia
- Best Cities in Europe to Visit
- Booking A Flight To Europe
- Getting Around Europe
- Where To Stay
- Events You Can’t Miss!
- Before You Go Checklist
Let’s jump right into the fun part. Where do you actually want to go and what do you want to see. Mapping out how to get there and how to get around can come later on.
Best Cities in Europe to Visit
The list is endless really for the best places to go in Europe. What are you into? Massive buzzing and busy cities then London might be on your Radar. Or you might prefer the liveliness and abundance of tapas in Barcelona. Are the mountains your thing? Well how about Switzerland and the endless valleys of with picturesque views for as far as the eye can see?
Don’t let me pick for you. Below is a massive list of some of the biggest cities in Europe to get you started. My only job here is to help push you along. This is your trip at the end of the day. The top european cities to visit and best countires to visit in Europe are something that only you can pick and choose as it’s your trip.
Spanning from across the Channel and another sea with starting with Ireland to as far as east as the interlocking countries heading towards Germany and down to the mountains of Switzerland and Austria. Western Europe is a must for anyone! With more expensive than other parts of Europe there is so much to do, endless jigsaw of art, history, culture and cuisine and so many memories to be made in this part of Europe with so many time honored traditions. It can’t be missed and Western Europe as a whole is on my top places to visit in Europe. Let’s jump right into where to go in Europe. The west side that is!
While it comes with a price tag London is worth a visit and it’s one of the biggest cities in Europe.
Wander through world class museums and then grab some fish and chips at a local London pub. Or why not try a world famous curry? ‘They’ say the worlds best curries comes from London and not India.
Perhaps catching a musical in the West End is your thing or touring the Tower of London. Into modern things? Why not ride the London Eye Ferris wheel for a nice view of the city. Be sure to go in the evening for the best view! With plenty to do make sure London is on your bucket list.
Ahh the city of love and romance.
A visit to Paris can be as romantic as you personally make it or it can be a ‘boy’ drinking trip. Don’t miss the iconic monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. Relax at the endless amount of sidewalk cafes and then head to some world famous museums like the Louvre.
Wrap up your day visiting the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral and don’t forget to have an amazing meal out in the evening along with some French wine.
A city of what seems like endless canals has more than the ‘seedy’ side you’ve heard about.
Bike along the canals and picturesque streets. Buy some famous Dutch cheese and have lunch at Vondelpark. Visit one of the countless pubs and have a drink with the locals. Then head to the Van Gogh Museum and the perhaps check out where one of Europe’s most famous stories took place at Anne Frank House.
But don’t leave Amsterdam until you have wandered the red light district.
Will you partake in the shenanigans? I’m not one to judge. Stroll past the ladies of the night in the many windows or maybe see a live sex show. Light a blunt in a coffee shop or perhaps on the street. Walk past an officer of the law and they will likely be telling off someone for street drinking and not even bat and eye about your weed. Amsterdam is one of the most accepting and liberal places on the planet. From my experience in Amsterdam if you keep to yourself and don’t cause trouble you will be fine.
Be warned though laws can change overnight and I’m not liable if you get in trouble for anything.
One of the best cities to visit in Europe is Amsterdam in my opinion.
Waffles, chocolate and beer. I say again. Why go to Brussels? Waffles, chocolate and beer! Brussel is on my top cities to visit in Europe list for this very reason! Everytime I go back my stomach magically grows. I wonder how?
So that’s the obvious side. Don’t forget to wander the streets and be gobsmacked by the really amazing architecture and historical sites. Sip coffee at one of the endless cozy cafes. Or why not visit the “Bozar” cultural center or explore Matonge the cities African quarter. But don’t finish your trip in Brussels before being blown away but the impressive architecture of the main square Grand Place.
Some of the best nightlife in Europe is found in Berlin. Want live music? Berlin has it. Want a club? Every style is available. Berlin is one of the best cities in europe to visit.
By day Berlin is a cultural epicenter. With countess art galleries, historical neighborhoods and even a ‘museum island’ as it’s got nothing but museums.
Don’t forget to try a world class Berlin style Döner Kebab. Walk along the Berlin Wall and take in the sights and when you make youre way there imagine what it felt like to be at Checkpoint Charlie back in the day. Berlin is young, old, historic, modern, classic and cutting edge. Do not skip this amazing city from your bucket list!
The capital of Bavaria. More beer and happy food is within Munich than you can possibly handle. Head to Munich in later September and early October and experience the cultural phenomenon of Beer and weisswurst that is Oktoberfest.
Not going to be in town at the right time? Don’t fret! Dine at one of the endless beer halls or gardens surrounded by hundreds of Germans drinking from steins that are so heavy you can barley pick up. Don’t forget to walk the endless streets that will take you back in time with buildings that are centuries old.
Visit the Viktualienmarkt for lunch. Get your mandatory bratwurst. Then take a quick stroll to Marienplatz the main square of Munich and be prepared to be dazed by architectural magnificence.
A city with many stories. Best know for music and monarchs. Walk down the most beautiful boulevard on the planet, Ringstrasse . Get lost of the grounds of Habsburg’s Schönbrunn Palace and then stroll the narrow streets of the Innere Stadt. Don’t miss the MuseumsQuartier.
But one can’t say they have truly visited Vienna if they don’t try an authentic Wiener Schnitzel right from the source.
Made famous by things like Temple Bar part district and impressive Hogwart-esque library inside Trinity College. All the way down to cute lovable tea parlors Dublin should be on your list.
Don’t miss a tour of the Guinness Storehouse that will finish up at the Gravity Bar where you will experience and authentic Guinness with a 360 degree panoramic view of Dublin. Of course you can’t skip town before indulging in a Guinness pie. Bringing together Irish beef and Guinness, two things that Ireland most famous for.
The largest city in Scotland is full of buzz, style and grit!
Glasgow is a cultural arts hub, live music, renowned architecture and creative enrichment. That aside get on the local subway, get off at a random stop and go into the first pub you see of the endless array of them and order a Scotch whiskey! Have a chat to the locals and brush of on you language skills as English is quiet different in Scotland.
With a reputation for being more of a business hub and no sex appeal why visit Zurich?
Well it’s starting to come out of its shell and is emerging as one of the hippest destinations and best places to travel in Europe. There is also just something nice about visiting a place where everything simply works and taking the hassle out of travel that you sometimes experience.
Wander down hidden alleyways that are homes to countless indie designers and creative cafes. Go for a swim at Utoquai. A special section of Lake Zurich. Wander though the Old Town that boasts 19th century architecture that spans over windy cobblestone streets.
Into your shopping? Zurich has it all. Designer stores in the bustling Bahnhofstrasse to boutiques vintage goods in Viadukt. If you like to get out and about Zurich is tucked in nicely around rolling hills. Go for a hike or take a bike and go for a pleasant ride through the country side. Don’t miss out on Zurich as a travel destination!
The Mediterranean Sea is basically how you know you are in Southern Europe. There is just something about being in the south that is different with it’s laid back attitude. Spain, Italy and Greece and the main countries in Southern Europe but don’t be fooled as Portugal is a bit further away but it’s similarities get it a spot in the south. Dine on mouth watering seafood cuisine, relax to beautiful music and lots of outdoor dancing. Sun bath on warm beaches in summer months and take a dip in the nice cool sea. Welcome to the south a place to not be missed when you travel Europe.
Madrid is the capital of Spain. A city with beautiful boulevards and manicured parks such as Buen Retiro. And it’s one of the best destinations in Europe in my opinion. I remember walking through the streets in the middle of September thinking how perfect the weather is. It’s warm but not to hot. Just perfect!
It flaunts its rich European art including works by Velázquez and Goya at the Prado Museum. Something you just can miss is visiting the Royal Palace and Armory that displays an array of historic weaponry used in Madrid throughout the ages.
For night life don’t miss the endless amounts of bars and clubs plus the outdoor marvel of Las Ramblas. A long tourist street full of street performers, food and Spanish culture.
Lisbon is a unique city that you don’t find very often in other places in Europe. The capital of the Portugal is hills meets coast.
Just outside Lisbon are a string of beaches to keep your tan in check. With tee shirt weather almost all year round Lisbon is worth a visit. The city center is full of windy cobble stone streets that are easily explored on foot or you can get around on old fashioned trams.
Look out for the fado singers and listen in to the music genre that started in Lisbon in the 1800’s. There is amazing seafood to keep your stomach happy and more cafes that you could visit in a lifetime!
Keep an eye out when in the main square area. You can eat at several buffets for less than €10! One is Buffet do Leao that costs only €7 that I would happily go back to to eat that mouthwatering freshly grilled meat once again!
Rome, the heart of the Roman empire and one of the best places in Europe. The list of attractions is almost endless within Italy’s capital and its 3,000 year history.
How about walking around the Colosseum and imagining the barbaric fights that used to take place. Or you could technically head into another country by visiting the Vatican City. How about St. Peters Basilica? Or maybe you want to relax and take in the view of the 18th century Spanish Steps.
Rome is a historical playground but don’t be fooled. It also has amazing night life and more authentic Italian food that your watering mouth can handel.
The capital and the heart of Ancient Greece.
A visit to Europe is not complete without seeing Athens. The city is dominated by its 5th century landmarks including the Acropolis towering over the city on a hilltop. All you need to do is grab a map from where you’re staying and you could wander around for hours sightseeing ancient ruins. Square kilometer wise it’s one of the biggest cities in Europe.
Athens is also a busy night city that stays alive until dawn in the hubs of Kolonaki, Gazi and Psiri. Not into the party scene? How about a stroll through the windy lanes of the pedestrian only neighborhood of Plaka lined with cafes and local taverns and neoclassical houses. One does not visit Athens would a tradition meal in the Plaka!
The biggest region of Europe by far. What is commonly referred to Eastern Europe is actually made up of several smaller sections like the Balkans being all of old Yugoslavia. The Baltic states being Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. I could even throw Central Europe into the mix to confuse you some more. But to keep things simple you can general say Eastern Europe spans from Russia all the way down to the bottom of Bulgaria before you hit Greece. Some of the best places to visit in Europe are in the east. Don’t miss out especially if you’re on more of a budget as the east is full of cheap European destinations.
Eastern Europe saw an unfair share of war atrocities in the past. Even after the downfall of the Soviet Union countries started to fight amongst themselves to gain their independence. A few decades later Eastern European countries are either part of the European Union or working towards getting their rightful status within the EU.
This is making Eastern Europe very accessible to travel as it falls under the Schengen area. And once you are inside the Schengen Area no more visas are needed.
Eastern Europe is full of culture, marvelous food, landscapes with views to die for and experiences you can’t get anywhere else. Don’t miss your chance to at least see a handful of the eastern countries.
One of most architecturally beautiful cities in Europe.
At times you will think you’re in London with the impressive English architecture but you’ll know you’re in Hungary. Budapest is split by the Danube river into Buda and Pest. Make sure to visit both sides! Buda is where Buda Castle is located and is much more residential. Stroll up the hill for an impressive view of Pest. You won’t miss the parliament building right across the river from that view point. It’s my favourite building in Europe!
Head back over into Pest for the hipper side of town. Offbeat coffee shops, endless pubs, museums and “ruin bars” built inside old building will keep you busy all while surrounded by magical architecture. I know I’ve said this before and how can I say another city is the best places to travel in Europe? If I’ve said it so many times already about other cities? It’s becasue I find it hard to have favorites. I’ve actually lived in Budapest twice before long term so I’m not just talking fluff!
Set along the beautiful Danube river lies Bratislava the capital of Slovakia.
While the city center is very small it has its charm in its own unique way. The center is a pedestrian only Old Town that will time travel you back into the 18th century. Known for its lively bars, cafes and outdoor dining a stroll trough the city center can’t be missed. Perched on top of a hill looking over the Old Town and the Danube River is Bratislava Castle. And amazing castle that offers and even more amazing view of the city.
Prague, Czech Republic
Paris of the east is how Prague is often described by tourists. With its cobble stone streets and a historical fell a visit to this Amazing city can’t be missed. It’s another one of the best destinations in Europe.
Wander through the Old Town Square with colorful baroque buildings and Gothic churches. Don’t forget to get your photo of the world famous Astronomical Clock that gives an hourly animated show. Wander over the pictures Charles Bridge lined with statues of old catholic saints on your way across the river to Prague Castle.
Once your tour of Prague Castle is over why not follow the windy roads to Letná Park? Take in the view of Prague’s bridges and red roof tops and enjoy a beer at the beer garden. Don’t forget to try an original Budweiser Budvar while in town.
If you happen to be in town during Christmas don’t miss the Christmas markets in the Old Town square!
A well preserved medieval city close to the Czech border known for its Jewish quarter. Wander though the main square in the center of town and grab a bite to eat from the many street vendors while surrounded by 14th century buildings.
Don’t forget to visit Wawel Castle perched on the hilltop overlooking Krakow. A sprawling Gothic castle showcasing European paintings and sculptures. Then head into the old Jewish quarter that is now full of hip cafes and and bars.
If you want to visit the famous concentration camp Auschwitz or Wieliczka salt mine. Then Krakow is your city of choice. Both are easy day trips if you’re staying in town.
The edge of Europe and the start of Asia begins across the Bosphorus Strait. Here stands the major city of Istanbul. It’s old city is a vast array of cultural influences that many empires once ruled and this can be see with how much history is within the city. Such as an Egyptian obelisk in the Sultanahmet district. Or the Byzantine Hagia Sophia, a 6th century dome featuring rare Christian mosaics.
A visit to Istanbul is not complete without visiting what the Ottoman Empire left bein. The Blue Mosque and Red Mosque are monolithic structures for their time. Just be sure to remember that you are entering a place of peace when visiting a Mosque.
Stroll through the Spice Market and indulge in a million smells. Or why not wander through the Grand Bazaar and try to find your way out within an hour and not get lost. Don’t forget Taksim Square for a fun night out in stylish bars and clubs.
Across the river on the Asian side is worth a visit also. While its more residential you can still dine at waterfront restaurants quite cheaply while taking in a beautiful view. The best freshly caught fish I’ve ever eaten was at a random little restaurant we walked into in this area of Istanbul.
Don’t forget to try local kebabs and Baklava. Both are very different to what you are used to with their westernized counterparts!
While most travelers head to the coast of Croatia why not visit its capital on the way there?
An amazing city covered in 18th and 19th Austro-Hungarian architecture. The main square can’t be missed with its endless cafes and restaurants is sure to impress . Close by is the pedestrian-friendly Tkalčićeva Street. This is where you can get some serious shopping done!
Head to the top of the hill in the Upper Town and be thrown back into the 13th century with the twin-spiked Cathedral and the colorful St. Mark’s Church. Be there at noon and watch the daily cannon be fired from Lotrščak Tower. Cover your ears though! It’s loud!
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
A hidden treasure of the Balkans tucked away in a valley surrounded by the Dinaric Alps. Sarajevo needs to be on your list of out of the way places to visit. Stand on the exact street corner that Archduke Franz Ferdinand stood when he was assassinated sparking the start of World War I.
Walk through the cobble stone Old Town and get lost in the maze of local stores while being surrounded by Mosques and century old churches and synagogues. Visit at night and experience local dinning culture, more bars that you can handle plus some night clubs.
Don’t even think about leaving town without trying ćevapi! That’s pronounced ch-e-pa-chi. Ask the reception where you’re staying for the best ćevapi in town and you won’t be disappointed!
An extremely underrated city that can’t be missed!
Belgrade is the home to the Beogradska Tvrđava. A massive fortress looking over the Danube and Sava rives. It’s a testament to the strategic importance of it’s location that spans across several empires in its historical past. Well worth a visit and so is Kalemegdan, the park that leads into the fortress.
The old city (Stari Grad) is home to 19th century mansions, an opera house, a cafe riddled walking street called Knez Mihailova. And don’t forget the Nikola Tesla Museum in the suburbs of Belgrade. Nightlife is vast in Belgrade in all forms. Head to the bohemian quarter Skadarlija to drink and dine at one of many local taverns. Or how about partying till dawn at a floating night club on a boat? Tell any taxi drive you want to head to Splavovi and they will take you to the right spot.
With more than 2,000 years of history and next to the beautiful Vitosha Mountain you need to visit Sofia.
Medieval Boyana Church is a 13th century is UNESCO world heritage site that is just spectacular. Then move on the National History Museum, spend an hour at the National Art Gallery and the Museum of Socialist Art and wrap up your history and then stroll through the Sofia History Museum. Wrap up your sign seeing with taking in the impress sight that is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (pictured right).
Make sure you try some local banitsa. It’s a pastry that is baked with a special Bulgarian feta cheese and eggs. Once you have your banitsa relax at one of the many parks in Sofia.
You can’t leave Sofia without trying so Rakia! It’s a local national drink that is made in many ways. Try the plum and grape to start! Ready to move the night on? Sofia is full of bars and night clubs to get your social fix, fixed.
Skopje is the capital of Macedonia. All you need to do is walk around the center of Skopje and you will be blown away at how new everything fells while you know you have been thrown back in time.
There are so many statues and monuments you would need a week to see them all. But there is one that can’t be missed called ‘Warrior on a Horse’. It’s an 80 foot tall statue in the center of Macedonia Square. On that note Macedonia Square is a fantastic place to relax and grab a meal. Especially at night when the Warrior on a Horse statue comes to life with lighting. It’s one of the best places in Europe to relax.
Don’t forget to walk over Stone Bridge and marvel at the beauty you seen all around you. You can’t get to the Old Bazaar without the bridge. In the Old Bazaar it’s an untouched historical stroll. Once you are done there head over to the Memorial House of Mother Teresa and learn about her impact in Skopje.
One last thing you can’t miss is Kale Fortress for some spectacular views of the city.
A buzzing city labeled the ‘New Berlin’ with a strong party scene and recovering from soviet rule. That is how to describe Bucharest in a single sentence.
Start by heading to the Old Town that is new. Why? As the Old Town has been redeveloped in the last few years. Streets full of bars, restaurants, kebabs and music. Need we say more? If you want a lively experience the Old Town is for you.
A great way to explore the rest of the town is by bike. Start at Charles de Gaulle Square, ride through Herăstrău Park. Then ride to the Palace of the Parliament and Revolution Square. Then finish the bike tour off by stopping at a local restaurant and trying Romania’s national dish called Sarmale. It’s cabbage mixed with ground pork. Super tasty!
On the edge of Eastern Europe lies Kiev.
Wander through century old churches and monasteries to upscale cosmopolitan life. Kiev is a mix of young and new. Start with Kiev Cave Monastery, wander around the whole complex of churches and other religious buildings. Then head over to St. Sophia’s Cathedral dating back to around 1,000AD whose ownership is disputed by various religious organisations.
Looking for museums? Why not check out the Chernobyl Museum and learn more about Europe’s worst nuclear disaster. You can even do a day trip out to Chernobyl if you like.
Like the beach? Kiev has one. It’s called Hydropark. Then head to the deepest Subway station on the planet. Arsenalna metro stop is 105m down under ground!
With intense turmoil since the 1600s Tirana is a unique place. Soviet-era buildings in the city and amazing country side next door. Tirana is quit the adventure! Start with Piramida a pyramid look structure with a cultural significance. Next head over to Skanderbeg Square where you can see Tirana’s premier monuments. Tour the National History Museum and take your picture of the Clock Tower.
Want a nice view? Head up the Dajti Ekspres. Marval at the awesome view that is Tirana while dining at one of the many restaurants at the top. Don’t leave the city before trying some Tavë Kosi. Imagine a quiche like dish with lamb. Yum!
The capital of Belarus is Minsk. A modern style city with Stalinist style architecture. But also a buzzing modern city.
Start by checking out the KGB headquarters. You can’t get inside (I’m sure that was obvious!) but at least you can see this amazing building. Next head over to Victory Monument and check out the eternal flame and that was lit in 1980.
Another great place to see is the Island of Courage and Sorrow. You will find a war memorial and on the other side a statue that is visited by almost all wedding parties in Minsk.
With it’s nouveau houses, beautiful historic town center and narrow alleyways it’s no wonder so many travelers flock to this hidden gem of the north. But that’s not all! How about eating food that is unusual but very affordable and around the corner finding hidden markets with concerts. That is Riga for you!
In the town center all you need to do is wander around and you’ll come across the gunpowder tower, the castle and the opera. You’ll also find the town hall square. This could keep you busy for a day or so if you’re really into exploring every little corner of the old town thorough it’s narrow alleyways.
Then make your way to the House of Blackheads. It’s impressive to say the least! Built by the rich in the 14th century to house unmarried merchants of the city. And no it’s got nothing to do with blackheads you get on your skin in case you’re wondering. Next up is Nativity Cathedral. This huge orthodox church is a sight for sore eyes with truly remarkable architecture. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate this mega structure and it’s golden coats domes.
Wrap up your day with a view of the city. Head to St. Petri cathedral and take the elevator to the top. You will be amazed at what you see especially if you visit during winter time and see snow capped rooftops.
It does not matter if it’s summer or winter the city is simply so charming with endless narrow streets. Amazing churches and so many quaint and alternative places. Stay in the heart of the Old Town so you are within walking distance to everything.
In the Old Town itself is fairly big so it’s easy to get lost in the maze. And that’s the point. Wander around and chase the narrow streets and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find. Next head up Giedyminas’ Tower for an amazing view of the city. Once you’ve taken in the breathtaking view head to the Gates of Dawn. A religious site but still a great place to see if you are not religious. Come later at night to avoid the crowds and watch the older local women pray.
A trip to Vilnius is not complete without a trip to another country. Enter Uzupis! Uzupis is a self proclaimed republic and the bohemian heart of the city. It has it’s own army, currency, flag and president. What is there to do? Go to the pub, spot some street art, and just generally enjoy life at a slower pace in the beautiful neighborhood.
Overlooked by most and underrated. Make sure you get to this beautiful coastal city.
Like most cities in the Baltics the Old Town is a great place to start. A small medieval square with street markets open all year round with locals dressed in medieval clothes! If you like what you see why not dine there in the evening. You will find many medieval style restaurants giving you an authentic experience of time past. Dine with no lights and just candles. If you’re veterinarian you might want to skip this as most cuisine serve red that these restaurants is very meat heavy.
Once you’re done with the old town head out to the Telliskivi Old Factory. Telliskivi is an old factory that has been converted into a hip cafe and restaurant. It’s also a creative center and meeting point for the cool and creative types in Tallinn.
A very laid back city. Welcome to Ljubljana. A small city that need no motorised transport to explore. Or perhaps a bike. First head to the Metelkova area where you will find impressive street in an abandoned military barracks. Buy a beer and chill for a while at the pub if you like.
Next head up the hill you see towering over the city to Ljubljana Castle for an impressive view of the city and some overpriced cake and coffee. How about some river side restaurants? The center of the city is divided by the Ljubljanica river. On each side for as far as the eye are you guessed it… restaurants and cafes. Stick around at night and many bars and pubs open and so do some night clubs.
Don’t leave town before tying Ričet. One of the oldest and most traditional foods in Slovenia. It’s a stew with beans and a choice of sausages, ribs or smoked pork. You will get a mix of things and it just depends on where the chef is from.
Moscow is a city full of history, amazing food, museums and monuments and the best part is it’s very easy to get around with the metro. The downside is practically everyone who visits need a visa except a select few countries. But the trip is well worth it!
Start by walking Red Square. You’ve seen it in the movies and it is the place visited by most tourists. But that being said you can’t miss it. The beauty of St. Basil’s Cathedral on one side and the Kremlin on the other. Next you should head to the city center as you’ll be right next to it. Here you will find Alexanders Garden, Tverskaya the main street in Moscow and the Bolshoi Theater.
If you want to see something impressive that’s modern then Moscow City is for you. A series of high rise office building next to each other in a line that are the tallest in Europe. Finally make your way to Tsaritsyno. Tsaritsyno is full of beautiful parks and a great place to relax and just take in the sights.
Scandanavia has some of the best cities to visit in europe. The region also comes with some unique experiences.
Want to see the midnight sun? That’s in Scandinavia. What to see the northern lights? That’s in Scandinavia to. Want to visit ‘hell’. No not the hell you’re thinking of but a town call hell to just be able to say you’ve been to ‘hell’. Well, you can do that in Scandinavia also. To add to this the countryside is so vast and big you will never get bored of exploring and you will eat more unique food than you can get your hands on! How about trying some rotting fish? No, really you can eat rotting fish. If you dare…
If you’re into camping and the outdoors then Iceland has some of the top destinations in Europe for exactly that! Ok that’s enough of an introduction lets jump into where to where to go in Europe when it comes to Scandinavia.
What is there to do in one of the most expensive cities on the globe?
Quite a lot actually without bankrupting yourself. Start with Akershus Slott Fortress the most important medieval monument in Norway. Norwegians believe the fortress is full of ghosts! Next head to the Oslo Opera House that is pictured on the right. This is the only opera house in the world that you can walk on the roof. The roof gives you a nice view of the city.
A trip to Oslo isn’t complete with something to do with vikings right?
So head to the Viking Ship Museum. You will be able to learn more about vikings and see some ships that are over 1,000 years old. Next we recommend Vigeland Park. You will find 212 bronze and granite sculptures there so take a few hours to relax and stroll through the park.
Bring some local delicacies with you such as smoked salmon. Get some bread and that smoked salmon at the supermarket and have a picnic at the park.
One of the friendliest and most charming cities on the planet is the capital of Denmark. Explore the endless canals and historical squares all while admiring the cities amazing architecture. Don’t forget to stroll through the Tivoli Gardens.
The city is very bike friendly. While the cycling lanes can be a bit confusing I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Ever had a delicious pastry with jam in the middle? Well that’s a Danish pastry. You are at the source when you’re in Copenhagen so make sure you try all different styles!
One way to describe Copenhagen is also the lack of tourist attractions and it’s more about the lifestyle. This give you more of a relaxed experience. Take your time and cycle around, have a long breakfast, just enjoy yourself like the locals do as there is no rush.
One last mention is Christiana. Christiana is a small district in the center of Copenhagen founded by hippies in the 1970. It’s home to about 900 residents. While there is not formal border patrol you are leaving the EU when you enter. Basically people go in there to buy weed. It’s main export is pot. Aside from the dark side of Christiana when you wander though you will find pubs where you can get a drink and chill by the water for a relaxed afternoon.
Undeniably beautiful, exciting and hip is how to describe Stockholm.
It’s ideal to visit in Summer so you can spend you day wandering the cobble stone streets of Gamla Stan (Old Town). One of the most preserved medieval centers in Europe due to Sweden’s ability to stay neutral in World War II. Next up is the Royal Palace (Sveriges Kungahus). With over 600 rooms it’s one of the biggest in Europe. It’s official residency is the King of Sweden. Make sure you don’t miss the changing of the guards out the front!
To get around Stockholm make sure you take the metro. The metros are an attraction in and of themselves. Each one has unique character. One may be painted in bright colors and another might be like an art gallery.
Like islands? Why not go island hopping? There are over 30,000 islands at your doorstep from Stockholm that make up the skärgård archipelago.
Iceland being Europe’s most northern country might be a little out of the way but it’s worth a visit. Earning top honors as the the most peaceful country in Europe you will never fell more safe walking foreign soil. The perfect mixture of beauty and wilderness makes this quirky city perfect to actually go out of your way to explore. Like camping? Well camping outside of Reykjavík in the country side is like stepping into a coloring book with the amazing picturesque landscape.
In summer you will get to experience near perpetual day time with 22 hours of daylight so there is plenty of time to explore. In the winter why not chase the northern lights or aurora borealis as it’s technical name and take in a view of a lifetime not many people get to experience. Within Reykjavík itself you can bath in geothermal waters and party hard with more clubs, bars, pubs and live music than you can handle. Love hot dogs? Then why not get the most famous meal in town at the Baejarins Beztu Pysur hot dog stand made famous by Bill Clinton.
If you love the outdoors then Helsinki is for you. A seaside town with coastal beauty, lots of maritime history, green spaces and parks you will never get bored. Cycle everywhere! Cycle to Punavuori Park you can hang out at. There are a bunch of coffee shops you can get some snacks at and relax. When you’re done there right next door is Sinebrychoff Museum. The museum is full of old European art.
Helsinki Cathedral is next on the list. This place will make you say “wow” with how big and impressive the structure is. Another religious site to visit and hard to miss as it sits on a hilltop overlooking the city is Uspenski Church. Head up there for for an impressive view of Helsinki and of course to tour the church itself.
Finish up with the Central Market. It’s right down by the harbor and you can get some local food into your belly for a decent price and buy some souvenirs.
- The Man in Seat Sixty-One
- When I first planning my massive four month trip to Europe I used this site extensively.
- Nomadic Matt – Europe Travel Guide
- Over the years I’ve read a lot of Nomadic Matt’s stuff to help me book my travels. I highly recommend his stuff!
- I like how WikiTravel cuts through the fluff. They get right to the point on each page. Because in the end the site is a wiki…
- Rick Steves’ Europe
Booking A Flight To Europe
So now that you have decided on where you are going to go it’s time to think about getting to Europe. It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned traveler or you’re traveling to Europe for the first time. Don’t stress out!
If you’re looking how to find cheap flights to Europe well it’s not really a big deal. In fact it’s probably never been cheaper and easier to get a good deal with how the internet and social media has connected the globe in 2017 and beyond.
The best thing to do is think ahead. And lets be real here for a moment. This is a holiday you’re planning right? It’s not a spur of the moment trip you will take in the next few days or next week for business. So you will have time to find a good flight deal as you’re not going to be travelling Europe tomorrow.
What does a good deal look like? Something along the lines of this:
- Under $1,000USD return if you are flying to Europe from Australia.
- Under $750USD return if you are flying to Europe from Asia
- Under $750USD return if you are flying to Europe from North America (USA & Canada)
- Under $1,000USD return if you are flying to Europe from Central or South America
A great deal would be slashing the prices above in half!
How do you find such deals? Well it’s quite simple. My favorite place is SecretFlying.com. Why? Well take a look at a few of the deals I’ve been emailed recently:
Australian cities to Athens, Greece from only $626 AUD roundtrip
Major USA cities to Major Europeans cities from only $353USD roundtrip
Major Canadian cities to Major European cities from only $427CAD roundtrip
- Major Asian cities to Major European cities from $413USD roundtrip
- Major Central and South American cities to Major European cities for $464USD roundtrip
These are only a few deals to show you as an example.
Every day I get deals in my inbox for specials that are around this price. There is actually nothing special about these deals. In my inbox right now I get about 50 deals a day that can take me around the world for what I used to think was unimaginable. If I did a search in my inbox for the website I use that sends me these deals I would be able to look at 1,000+ past deals in this price range.
I could give you all the secret tips for booking cheap flights like booking at 3am on a Monday morning or some other nonsense that someone else would spin. Is there a way to book cheap flights by just checking places like SkyScanner and Expedia using secret tips? Of course there is but why would I bother getting into all of that and teaching you something that can take hours of research to get a find a single good deal when I could give you something more deals that you need instantly?
Seems quite pointless right? Here is the instant solution.
Allow me to introduce to you the godsend that is SecretFlying.com.
Simply scroll through their current deals and you will find what I talked about above. Even better would be to get on their mailing list so you’re the first to know about new deals. Then you can book in the right deal when it comes along. I have no affiliation with Secret Flying at all. It’s just website I’m helping spread the good word about.
I remember when I first went to Europe on my big tour. I was 21 and I was working two jobs for about 6 months to save as much money as a I could. I didn’t know how to get good deals back then and I ended up booking through a travel agency that nabbed me for about $2,500AUD for Perth (Australia) to London (England) return. About $1,500 to $1,800 more than I should have paid! Not cool!
Imagine if you saved the same? If you backpack around Europe then a modest budget is $100 a day if you mix up some more expensive Western Europeans countries with some cheaper Eastern European countries. The money you saved just bought yourself another two weeks of travel instead of lining the pockets of a travel agency.
There is no need to worry about the cheapest place to fly into Europe. Or the cheapest time to fly to Europe. Or googling things like ‘cheap flights from USA to Europe’ or even ‘cheap flights from Asia if you live in Asia. No, none of that. Just use Secret Flying and find what suits you.
- Euro Travel Life’s own Ultimate Flight Hacking MEGA guide
- Nomad Fly is run by Beck Power an ex-travel agent turned digital nomad. Almost everything I know aside from the self taught stuff has been from taking Beck’s Nomad Fly course. Her course is paid but her free content is also so valuable. Check out here YouTube Channel and watch as she walks though flight booking websites showing you have she gets chap flight deals.
Getting Around Europe
Once you’re arrived you also need to get cheap flights within Europe. You can also get around by train, bus and car.
Even in the middle of summer in peak tourist season you don’t need to stress about this to much as there are so many options. In the 10+ times I’ve been to Europe in Summer I’ve booked transport well ahead of time and also done things on the go booking trains, flights and buses a day or so before hand heading to my next city and I never ran into problems.
Once I even booked a private car transfer between Prague and a small town in Germany around Christmas and it was fine. I wouldn’t say that this is the case for flights though. Book a flight a few days before Christmas or Easter and you’re going to pay!
Since we just got finished talking about flights lets continue there. Remember SecretFlying.com? Don’t forget about them! There is a European section on their site and it’s here that you find all the flights within Europe amongst other things.
Here are a few examples:
- Krakow, Poland to Nuremberg, Germany (& vice versa) for only €6 roundtrip
Kiev, Ukraine to Warsaw, Poland for only €19 roundtrip (& vice versa for €23)
Frankfurt, Germany to Palma de Mallorca, Spain for only €16 roundtrip
So as you can see you want to use this site!
I’ve even seen flash sales go up that let you book fares for a few Euros. And this has happened more than once! If you know your dates before hand and where you will be you can save a lot of money doing this! Obviously that link I just dropped above is an expired deal but this stuff does happen. Using SecretFlying.com means you don’t have to do things like search Google for a “low cost airlines Europe list”. The best deals will just be thrown your way already.
Now of course this is not going to cover everywhere you want to fly. So here is what I personally recommend you do to book your flights within Europe if Secret Flying doesn’t cover you.
For Short Holidays
If you are only going to Europe for a short holiday then I simply recommend organizing everything before hand. For example if your trip is two weeks to a month then you likely are quite set of where you want to go and you won’t deviate from this plan.
If this is you then you have time on your side. From what I’ve experienced most airline start their sales promotions a few months out. So if you’re heading to Europe for summer then you will start seeing sales popup around April. If you are going in Winter then you will start seeing those sales show up around September.
But this is not a holy grail rule. It’s just what I’ve experienced. At the end of the day the earlier you book the better as long as it’s not more than 6 months out. And if you need to book later try to book at least one month before. This biggest difference I’ve personally notice. Fly within 30 days and the price seems to go up.
Wait a sec! Hold up guy! Didn’t you just say that you booked things days before and there was not much of a difference.
Well why yes I did and by ‘not much difference’ I mean you’re not going to get robbed for $500. If a cheap flight in Europe is normally $40 or so on a budget airline like Vueling and then you book something for tomorrow or in the next few days you might pay $100 or $120. So yes you’ve tripped your flight cost but you have not been taken for $500. Does it suck? Yes it does? But it’s not going to break the bank and send you home without a dollar left in your pocket.
But remember I did mentioned above that if you need to book a flight a day before Christmas or Easter then you can forget it. And this applies to all major holidays when flying. Do a quick search on Google and you’ll find out about local holidays within particular countries also. Those can jack up prices to. If you get into that situation and you can’t cough up the cash or just don’t want to then just stay where you are for a few more days or take the bus or a train.
For example when writing this in November 2017 I’m looking at leaving Thailand to head back to Europe for the winter to do a ski season in Bulgaria. I plan on flying early January. When seems the be the case is that till January 5th to January 10th the prices are jacked depending on the airline. After that they drop down significantly. So I’ll just stay in Thailand for another week and save myself a good amount of money if I can’t find a deal that fits my dates with Secret Flying.
For Long Holidays
There is really not much more that applies for long holiday. The ideas I talked about above are the same for long holidays. Just because you’re going on a long holiday doesn’t mean some mystical fairy is going to come out or the woodwork and give your cheaper flights 😉
But what I will say is this. Keep your flexibility open. Unless you’re say a family who needs to have everything booking in before hand as you are travelling with kids or say your’re a couple doing a 6 week Euro tour and you’re deadset on where you want to go then keep your options open.
When I was 21 and did my first mega trip in Europe for four months I had my flights booked from Australia to London as a return. I planned everything quite literally to a “T”. I was backpacking with a friend and we were both on ‘board’ with this awesome plan and were quite anal about exactly where we wanted to go as we had this trip planned out and saved for it over about 1.5 years both working out asses off.
I knew where we were going to be on what date. We had flights booked from Dublin to Barcelona after two weeks into the trip. And what do you know… We met some cool people after a few weeks in main land Europe and for six weeks of the trip we went the other way around Europe. If I had a dollar for each time I heard someone changed their plans… well you know they saying I’d be a millionaire.
For the rest of the trip everything was off the cuff and it all worked out fine. Be flexible!
Train Tickets Europe
Unless you’re travelling long distance in a rush then trains are the best way to travel Europe. It’s more expensive than bus tickets but you’re going to be so much more comfortable while not dealing with the frustration of traffic. It’s also how to travel Europe just like the locals do.
You don’t have to worry about how to travel Europe by train being this big complication task. The train system is very easy to figure out in Europe.
There are lots of site you use to book your tickets online such as Bahn.de, GoEurope.com or Rome2Rio.com just to name a few. For the most part I’ve only used these three sites to book all my tickets online in Europe. You’ll get the PDF to print on the spot or print it later from your email. These sites are great for Western Europe.
When you get more into Eastern Europe it gets a little more complicated. But it’s nothing that’s to hard to figure out. Just use Rome2Rio.com when you go more east. For example booking trains in Hungary is little different. If you do a search on Rome2Rio you will be directed to the local Hungarian railways website to buy your ticket.
Or you could always go with a rail pass.
Europe Train Pass / Rail Pass / Eurorail pass
Have you heard of the EU Rail Pass (formally Eurorail pass) you can get your hands on? If not here is how Eurail.com describes their pass:
Eurail is the comfortable and fun way to travel across Europe by train. Using just one Eurail Pass, you can access extensive rail networks and even some ferries in 28 European countries. Whether you’re a first-time traveler, an experienced globetrotter, or a family with young children, we have a pass for you.
It’s an age old dilemma that most visitors in Europe have. Should I get a rail pass or wing it and buy tickets. Both sides of the argument have valid points.
The goal of buying a potentially expensive rail pass before your trip is to same money. So you’re going to have to do some maths. I’ve personally used a rail pass myself so I have my own opinions but I was on a long four month trip. So lets run though something more realistic for the average traveler on holidays.
Lets take a trip around some of the best European countries to visit for one month going to seven cities.
One Month Europe Travel Trip Itinerary:
- Amsterdam, Netherlands to Berlin, Germany
- Berlin, Germany to Prague, Czech Republic
- Prague, Czech Republic to Vienna, Austria
- Vienna, Austria to Milan, Italy
- Milan, Italy to Bern, Switzerland
- Bern, Switzerland to Lyon, France
- Lyon, France to Paris, France
To find out the pass you need you must head over to EuRail.com and click on the EuRail Passes up the top. Then you will see what passes are available. There are one country passes, a select pass for several countries and a global pass that covers all the countries in their network.
From what we can see above we are heading to seven countries. So that means we have to get a Eurail Global Pass. Lets assume we need an Adult Pass. Now we have a few options and one just so happens to be “7 days within 1 months”. This means we can use the pass seven times in a month. This just happens to line up perfectly for the trip.
The Eurorail pass costs €568 and that works out to each train trip costing roughly €82.
Now something that I need to mention is reservation costs. When you reserve a seat for your ticket it doesn’t come free. You need to pay an extra reservation fee. Eurail mentions on their site the average for international trains is a €15 reservation fee. All our train rides are international except our last one. But to get more accurate information I went to EuRail Reservations fee page to get the exact prices.
It can be hard to figure out each route. Some route were not available so I had make do and I came up with a total figure of €100 for reservation fees. Some reservation fees were very cheap being only a few Euros and some are quite expensive.
So now we are at €668 or €96 per train.
The next step is to check the price for each ticket if we were not going to use the rail pass. Below are the prices for those same European destinations I got for booking tickets two weeks out from today:
- Amsterdam, Netherlands to Berlin, Germany – €50
- Berlin, Germany to Prague, Czech Republic – €100
- Prague, Czech Republic to Vienna, Austria – €22
- Vienna, Austria to Milan, Italy – €150
- Through Zurich and staying a night as this is a long trip.
- Milan, Italy to Bern, Switzerland – €63
- Bern, Switzerland to Lyon, France – €90
- Lyon, France to Paris, France – €97
The total price was €362 and I also looked at train times that were at reasonable departure times and not 6am. Some trains could have been €20 cheaper here and there but who wants to be up a 4am to get a train for 6am! Not you and not me!
So it’s easy to see that the rail pass is not worth it for this trip as the rail pass plus reservations costs €668. So you are wasting about €300 by getting a rail pass.
So there you have it. If you don’t use a rail pass you save a lot of money. Cheap train tickets Europe is a thing if you do some digging. And honestly you don’t need to dig much if you just buy tickets from GoEuro.com. It’s really that simple. There are a lot of over-priced websites out there selling tickets with jacked prices. Ignore them all and just use GoEuro.com.
Trains prices vary though. If you make a last minute booking in the middle of summer? Will you get a ticket price that is priced sky high? It’s doubtful. I’ve bought point to point ticekts in the middle of summer in Europe on the day of travel and the prices are reasonable.
My personal advice to you is to do the maths and have a think about your trip. Is there a possibility you’ll change plans or are you sticking to your trip?
Even if you over pay with a rail pass is the peace of mind what you want knowing you don’t have to worry about thins during your trip. Then maybe a rail pass is for you.
Do you want the hassle of booking in reservations for a rail pass. Although its easy to do on the EuRail.com website or their app it’s also just as easy to simply book all the tickets you need for your trip online and pay full price and have the peace of mind that you’re not locked in to a rail pass that will expire if you don’t use it.
What I will say though is if you are going to do a big trip for two or three months then the odds are that you are going to save quite a bit of money using a rail pass.
Well, so I thought. I really did think that was true for about 10 years. I’ll explain below.
On a side note about a year ago out of pure curiosity just because I love travelling so much I mapped together my four month Europe trip I did about ten years ago. I bought the 3 month Global Pass and it ended up saving me about €500 based on the price of the pass and reservations verses booking each ticket individually if I had of done the trip today. I believe the main reason for that was because a lot of time was spent in expensive Western European countries and those train tickets in the middle of summer can really add up.
At the end of the day how you choose to travel is your choice. I recommend using trains. You have your own list of best European destinations you want to visit. So I say why not relax and get the train to see them and watch life go by looking out the train window while you get there.
If you do want to get a Eurail pass it might be best to also get a Europe train map to take on your trip also. I got mine free when I bought my rail pass so you should get one to. It comes in handy when you are looking at where you are going next to see the possible routes to get there without using a phone or laptop.
So that last part I wrote recently and I’m going to leave it there so you have the back story. When I did the maths it was using RailEurope.com and they are heavily overpriced with their tickets.
When I did the maths with real ticket prices with GoEuro.com it worked out that using a rail pass was way more expensive then just buying tickets point to point at the station or a few days before online with GoEuro.com.
At the end of the day it’s up to you on what you do with your trip. A rail pass an be handy. Or it can cost you a lot of money if you don’t use it properly. So I would suggest reading the Rail Pass vs One Way Tickets section of my Rail Travel In Europe MEGA Guide so you can make you’re choice.
Buses and Coaches in Europe
If you don’t mind travelling by bus and coach to save some money then buses and coaches can be the cheapest way to travel Europe. And when I say buses Europe I mean decent coaches. Most countries you travel to have good coaches. But as you get more into Eastern Europe the quality of the coaches is downgraded but nothing like being in Thailand and getting on a $3 long distance bus.
The sites I’ve already mentioned can be used for buses. Those were GoEurope.com or Rome2Rio.com. If you want to go more direct then the biggest bus company in Europe is EuroLines.com. Within he UK MegaBus.com is my go to choice.
There is really not much to say about buses and bookings. The same rules really apply to bus that you already knows about for flights and trains. Unless you come across some promo deal then book at least a few weeks out but it’s always better a month in advance. That being said I’ve showed up to bus stations a day before to by a ticket locally and the price was very similar to online prices if not the same.
The advantage with buses is that you will get to explore the path between two cities that the trains can not take you through. Trains always go through the country side. Buses end up taking your through random little towns and down all kinds of streets with interesting stuff going on as they make their way through the little towns to stop over as they take you to the main city your heading to.
One word of caution with buses is to always check how long the trip actually is. For example if you were to book Milan, Italy to Bern, Switzerland with a bus that trip is about 16 hours!
On a train you can get up and move around. You can head to the dining cart and grab a meal and a drink. You can take in a nice view in comfort. 16 hours on a bus that only stop every few hours to stretch your legs… Well enough said. I think you’re smart enough to figure out what I’m getting at. And when you get to you destination you’ll be so exhausted from having a bad sleep you can write another half day off to catch up on sleep.
So if you need to cover a large distance on a bus it might be best to break it up. Those 16 hours on that trip could be broken up by doing half the trip and spending a night or two in a town half way to your destination and then continuing on your trip. This way your Europe travels will be more comfortable while still using the cheapest way to travel Europe.
This section is a MUST read if you’re travelling in a group!
A time may come when you are in a position that a getting on a train, bus or flying is not really the best option. I was in this position once when I was in Prague of Christmas 2016. I had caught up with my sister and her partner for Christmas as they were doing a holiday in Europe. Our next stop was a very small town in Germany close to the bored of the Czech Republic.
When we tried to figure out how to get there by trains and buses we would end up 50km away in a town called Passau. A 100km round trip for my grandma to pick us up. Or we could eventually end up in Freyung that was only 15km from where we were going but that would make the trip planning messy.
When we figured out how to get to Passau we would have had to take a train from Prague to Munich. Then get another train to Passau and finally get another train or bus to Freyung. That trip was averaging out to be €150 each. If we searched hard and really played with dates (not an option for my sister and her partner) we would have got down to €120.
In the end we decided against doing this as it would have been quite stupid to pay €450 to get three people 170km to a small Germany town.
If we did that we would have lost our frigging minds!
Our solution? A private car transfer for about €200 total or €67 a person and the best part is we got door to door service. We were picked up right from our hotel and dropped off right where we needed to go. No lugging out backpacks half way around Prague before to get on a train.
The company we used to book the trip is OneDayTrip.com but the company is actually called DayTrip. I can’t recommend them enough. The driver was cool, he let us use his hot spot on his phone for WiFi and he stopped as we needed. One thing I will mention about this service is that where we needed to go was not actually listed on their locations. We booked it anyhow and just told the driver where we needed to go and he was fine with it as it was closer than the destination so that was less driving for him at the end of the day. Try doing that with a train or a buss? Not possible 🙂
After doing a little research a similar service is MyDriver.com. I’ve never used them before but as far as I can tell I will be in the future as I like what I see.
So now to get to my main point with all of this. Don’t just think this is something to use when you are in strange situations and doing odd routes. Check the price difference for all your trips between cities. If you are a group of four friends travelling around or you’re a family for example then you might save a lot of money. Or even if it’s the same price wouldn’t you rather have door to door service? I know I sure would. It’s the best way to travel Europe if it works out for you and your group.
Where To Stay
So you’ve figured out how to get to Europe, where to go and how to how to travel Europe. Next up is where you’re going to stay. There are so many options in Europe and whatever it is that suits you, your budget and style of travel is available! It doesn’t matter if you want to stay in nice hotels, camp around Europe, stay in apartments and guesthouses or even travel Europe cheap with backpackers and hostels. Europe caters to all.
Staying in hotels is a great way to travel around Europe but don’t be fooled into thinking they are that expensive. While the obvious is that it won’t be cheap like hostels it’s not near as expensive as you’ve lead to believe if you have a modest budget and use a few of my tips!
You can stay at nice hotels for your entire trips without breaking the bank. Now that’s not to say you’re going to spend each night in the famous Kempinski hotel chain that only operate 5 star hotels. No that’s not my point at all. You will be able to stay in normal hotels for a reasonable price. And just below I’m going to run through how I managed to stay in a $180/night hotel for only $70.
Without going into a novel length guide on getting cheap Europe hotels that I could write 20 pages on the biggest tip I can throw out there on how to book cheap hotels is to use Hotels.com.
Let me explain…
Over all the hotel booking sites out there that I’ve booked hotels with Hotels.com always wins.
By simply signing up to their newsletter you will get offers sent to you all the time that range from small discounts to massive 80% off deals that happen for often than you’d think. Quite recently I’ve personally been seeing a lot of emails from Hotels.com with 50% sales. These emails have been coming in each week. So get over to Hotels.com and subscribe to their newsletter and start watching out for these deal emails to book in your stay.
Here is an example of one of these deals:
I selected some random nights in August and scrolled through the hotels in Munich and came across the Hotel Erzgiesserei Europe. So this is in the middle of summer when you’d expect prices to be higher and deals to be unavailable.
So lets break this hotel deal down:
- You’re getting to stay in a 4 star hotel for $119. This in itself is quite amazing.
- The price is discounted by about 40%
- You’re less than two km to the center of Munich. After doing a little digging it’s about 10 minutes into the center of Munich by metro or tram.
- Buffet breakfast is included
- Tax not included – extra $30 for the whole stay.
When I went direct to the hotels website it looks like at this point in time they are running a similar deal on the hotel as it was not the full price of $200/night. This hotel was $140 a night booked direct. So by using hotels.com you’re saving 10% instantly.
So there you have it. I could go on and on about Hotels.com and give you 20 example but I fell like I’ve made my point. I found this deal in less than 2 minutes!
To reiterate what I just said and give you a real world example in case you’re thinking I’m just recommending Hotels.com as I get some kind of kickback from the company here is a screenshot of my bookings. Right now I’m living in Asia. When I head back to Europe for the winter ski season I’ll update this sections with the deals I book in. I had two accounts on hotels.com and I asked their support team to merge them into one and all my old bookings in Europe now show up as can’t be found for some reason.
Here are a few of my bookings:
To dig deeper into my old bookings lets take a look at the Mai Holiday booking. This was a little two night get away for me and my girlfriend while in Phuket, Thailand. I paid ฿4,788 / ~$145USD and got 70% off as I got an email from Hotels.com mentioning a big sale that was taking place.
I went to Hotels.com while still logged in and I got the ฿10,660.02 / ~$323USD if I was to go back for two nights. So more than double price!
I then opened a new a different web browser and looked at the hotel price again without being logged into Hotels.com. I was given a price of ฿12,299.98 / $373USD. About 60% more than what I paid.
How much effort did I put into saving about $230USD you might be asking?
Practically zero as all I did was sign up to the Hotels.com for a free account and watched my email for hotel deals. That extra $230 I saved was more money than we spent for the entire two day getaway. That included a day trip to some awesome islands and eating at nice restaurants for every meal.
Another bonus with Hotels.com is that you can basically take 10% off the nightly price due to the rewards program you can sign up for.
You won’t get 10% off right away but the short version of how the program works is that when you book an eligible hotel (most hotels on Hotels.com) you get a night added to your total. Here a snap from my account right now.
Once you have stayed 10 nights at hotels then you get to book a free night at a hotel for the average price of the ten nights you paid for.
For example if you paid $100 a night for 10 nights then you have a $100 credit in your account. If you did 3 nights at $75, 4 nights at $180 and 3 nights at $120 then you would have a credit of $120 for a hotel.
If I factor this into my overall savings with the Mai Holiday getaway I saved about another $15 upping the total to $245 saved.
So there you have it. Use Hotels.com. I have no affiliation with the company. It’s simply my preferred way to book hotels as you can always find good deals. No need for some hotel booking secrets. Nothing secret like the best day of the week to book hotels. Or some secret method on how to get cheap hotel rates last minute. Even though that is a thing you don’t need to know about it to get great deals. Just use the overly simply method I’ve shown you.
Before wrapping up this section I will leave you with a handful of extra tips in case you really can’t find a good deal to suit your needs.
- Book Directly With the Hotel: I used this example above and it failed. But this is not always the case and at times you can actually get a discount when you book directly with the hotel. Use the hotel website or pick up the phone and call them. If you don’t have a good international rate plan just buy some Skype credit and calls are cheap.
- Business Hotels: I’ve stayed at my fair share of business hotels in the past. Why? Because when it’s tourist season business hotels don’t really get the business travelers they are looking for. Weekend are also another good time to get a great price for a business hotel.
- Read Reviews: I once booked a random cheap small local hotel in a rush and didn’t read the reviews. I ended up paying online and then the scummy hotel owner told me that it’s just an authorization and my card won’t be charged. I was tired after travelling for a few hours so I paid cash at the hotel also. I was shocked when I got to the room with how bad this place was. Then I went back and read the reviews read things like “something out of a Liam Nesson movie” and another was along the lines of a police raid and drug dealers got busted who were staying there. After reading those there was no surprise the hotel owner conned me into paying twice for the hotel. Read the reviews! It takes a minute to skim a few reviews and you will get an overall fell if the hotel is a good place to stay.
- SecretFlying.com: If you didn’t find it before then head back to SecretFlying.com as there is a hotels deal section they run with some quite amazing deals.
- While in Europe: Keep an eye on your email while in Europe also. You might get an awesome deal come through and you could end up taking the best european vacation for a few days in the middle of your longer trip is you end up at an 80% five star hotel that is close to where you were heading anyhow!
Even if you’re living in Europe you could easily use my flights guide above and my hotel tips to do short and cheap Europe trips. Go away for a five star weekend for a fraction of the price!
- Nomad Wallet – The Ultimate Guide to Booking Cheap Hotels The Ultimate Guide to Booking Cheap Hotels
- Nomadic Matt – How To Find Cheap Hotel Rooms
- Nerd Wallet – 7 Ways To Find Cheap Hotel Rooms
- TripIt – The Best Way to Book Cheaper Hotel Rates
Backpackers and Hostels
Hostel, Backpackers or sometimes ‘Youth Hostels” a great way to get in a cheap European vacation. I’ve stayed at my fair share. If I counted them all up it would be over 100 hostel to date. Backpacking Europe was basically my first massive trip to Europe and it was a blast!
Back when I did my massive four month Europe trip when I was 21 I only used hostels. And for more trips in Europe that I can remember I’ve used hostels to travel on the cheap. Hostels are great. They will slash the cost of your trip dramatically and you will make many new friends along the way.
Most of the time you will be in dorms with bunk beds. I generally tend to stay in dorms that don’t have more than eight beds. You can end up in rooms that have up to forty beds if you really want to save money and travel cheap. Personally that’s not my thing I prefer to pay the extra few dollars to be in dorm rooms that don’t have many people and have an en suite bathroom.
Most dorms are uni-sex but a lot of hostels these days have female only dorms. I’ve also seen male only dorms popping up. Normally you’ll find better hostel providing lockers in the room. Power points right at the bed and a night light.
A good plus is that hostel take up a lot less space than hotels do so you can find yourself in the middle of a city for a reasonable price when the hotel across the road could be $300/night.
Depending on where you stay you can get a night stay for as little as $5. But I wouldn’t ever recommend staying at such a cheap hostel. Spend at least $15+ a night if you are in a cheap county in the Balkans or Eastern Europe for a nice hostel. Trust me when I say it’s worth paying the extra $10 with how bad the $5 hostel will be. Being on less than a shoe string budget is a totally different thing than a travel Europe cheap trip. Do it once for the ‘experience’ but that’s it.
The best countries to visit in Europe for me persaonlly are in Western Europe and you will expect to pay an average of $30+ a night for a good hostel.
You can actually get private rooms in hostels but you can pay $40 – 50 in cheap countries and $100+ in more expensive countries so why would you bother? You might as well head to a hotel at that price.
Who Will You Meet?
Hostels are great for all kinds of travelers backpacking through Europe. It’s actually almost impossible to be anti social at a hostel.
Even the mega hotel style like hostels with 500+ beds. As you will always meet people in your dorm room. Hostels are perfect for solo travelers for this very reason. When I’ve stayed in hostel by myself and even with friends I’ve always meet people and more than once I’ve totally changed my plans and traveled somewhere else once we all became friends.
In my travels I’ve meet all kinds of people at hostel. Most people are on holidays and aged from 18 to 35. But you also come across people who are in town for a few days doing business. I remember once being in Dusseldorf, Germany and there was a guy from the Balkans who would fly to Dusseldorf to track down cars to take back to the Balkans so he could fix them up and sell them for a profit. I’ve meet people on study exchange, digital nomads who run their business on the road, people who are locals stopping by for the night before going back to their home town and even people taking a break form life and living in the same hostel for a few months. It’s quite simple. Some people really want a their cheap European vacations so they use hostels longer term.
You will meet all kinds of people. Everyone generally gets along and you get used to being around new people who come and go quite fast.
What Makes a Good Hostel?
First lets squash the elephant in the room.
Good WiFi! Yes, in the day and age we live in you need good WiFi. So make sure you read the review of the hostel and you will find out quite fast if they have good WiFi.
Free breakfast is another must. If you’re in hostels in the first place and on a budget then you can remove that cost form your trip if you always end up booking a hostel that serves free breakfast. But keep in mind that most hostel breakfast is just cereal, bread, spreads, tea and coffee. Sometimes you’ll find hostels that make you pay for a cheap breakfast and it’s a little better but if it cost more than 5 euros you might as well go out to a cafe.
A hostel bar is also a sign of a good hostel. This way you know you’ll find people to mingle with and then you can head out for the evening. And the next day you have a new group of friends to check out the city with. Drink prices at hostel bars are generally quite reasonable to.
How To Book Hostels
The biggest hostel booking sites are HostelWorld.com and HostelBookers.com (owner by Hostel World). And these days you can actually find hostels on all major booking websites such as Hotels.com and Expedia.com also. Backpacking through Europe is easy to do. Don’t worry about to much just book your flight. And book your first and maybe second hostels and off you go!
Lets be real here for a moment…
You’re going to be in dorm rooms. People will come into the dorm room at 2am drunk and turn on the light and be loud. When you’re at a hostel this is in almost unavoidable. Unless you remove the light bulb from the socket. Yep, not saying I’ve ever done that at all…
- Bring a sleeping mask and bring some sound proof earphones, headphones or ear plugs. This will keep you sleeping nicely when those rowdy folks come back from their pub crawl or if night time “shenanigans” take place in your dorm room. And if you use hostel enough a time will come when it will happen or you might be the one taking part in the “shenanigans”.
- Most hostels actually give you instructions on how to get there when you book on HostelWorld.com or HostelBookers.com so keep that information on your phone or print it off.
- Book hostels that are 18+ if you don’t want to end up being around school groups with kids doing holiday camps.
Airbnb Apartments and Houses
Maybe your style of travelling doesn’t suit hotels or hostel. Maybe you’re travelling as a family or as a group of friends. Then it really does make more sense to just rent an apartment where everyone can stay. With how the world is changing with sites like Airbnb popping up it’s easier than ever to book apartments.
Personally I’ve booked a few places myself with Airbnb in Hungary, Portugal, and Spain and I have to say each time the experience has been great.
There is just something different about staying in an apartment. Hotels have this felling of really being a tourist while staying in an apartment makes you fell more at home.
Having a living room to relax in. If you have a balcony you get your own private view of the city and can watch the hustle and bustle of the city go by. Generally where you will stay with you Airbnb apartment won’t be on the main strip where all the hotels are so the area you’re in will also be quieter.
There is also something to be said about not being in a hotel and consistently seeing other people. When you stay in an apartment for the most part everyone else is a local so you don’t have endless people traffic and cleaners always disturbing you. With your own place there will not be any loud noises waking you up, people at elevators chatting away drunk at 2am that you can hear from your room.
You’ll be in your place and you’ll fell much more like you’re at home.
Value for Money
Another benefit is the price difference. You will generally find that even when you are in an expensive city you’re going to get a much better deal with Airbnb than a hotel.
What is Airbnb at the end of the day? It’s a digital platform that simply allows people who have spare rooms or entire homes the ability to rent them out. While there are people who buy property just to rent them out on Airbnb for the most part the places you find on the site are simply people who have a holiday home to rent or an investment property they are renting out so they can cover their loan costs and so on.
A hotel is not being run that requires a lot of cash flow to keep it afloat. And this is why you will find great deals on Airbnb.
Lets have a quick look at a real world example. 6 nights at a hotel in August in the heart of Prague where you’d actually want to stay. Using Hotels.com and being logged into my account that is giving me discounts I came across this nice deal:
The total cost is $739.35 for six nights as just under $100 was added in tax. So an average of $123/night.
So lets do a comparison of Airbnb vs hotel.
Lets compare this to a search of Airbnb Prague. I did make sure I selected the same dates and filtered the search so I only looked at entire homes and places with WiFi. This way we are comparing apples with apples.
From what is available in the area you would actually want to stay in Prague to have an entire apartment to yourself you’ll be paying an average of $50/night. Now Airbnb will generally have a cleaning fee attached for when you leave and there is also a service fee of 6% to 12% depending on nature of the booking.
The apartment that caught my eye was the one in the bottom right hand corner in the image above. It’s $64 a night. When I looked into it I found it was 2 bedrooms and had four beds with two being double beds. And this place is literally on the water close to Charles Bridge. This is a prime location as far as places in Europe go. Having been to Prague several times myself if I was heading back there I would book this in a heartbeat.
With the extra fees the total price is $439 or about $73/night. The hotel above was $123/night. So that’s $50/night cheaper and $300 in total savings to be in a better location and staying somewhere you fell at home. And what if you’re travelling as two couples or say a group of four friends? Well if you stayed at the hotel above you would double your cost for two hotel rooms. If two couples split the cost of the Airbnb apartment it would only be $36.5/night or $219 total for each couple. That’s about $525 savings compared to the hotel.
So there you have it. Using Airbnb will save you a lot of money and you will end up in a better location.
Here are a few tips for you to use so you don’t end up having a bad experience.
Beds and Bedrooms
In Europe not all bedrooms actually count as bedrooms. From my experience and after speaking to locals about this a ‘bedroom’ is simply somewhere that is consider a room that has a bed. So if the living room has a couch that converts into a sofa bed that is technically a bedroom in Europe.
The photos the host puts up on Airbnb of the place should let you know what the situation is. If they say there are two beds there should be two real physical beds in the photos. If something looks ‘off’ then contact the host first to verify how many real beds and bedrooms there are.
Sometimes you may actually see hosts say things like ‘two real bedrooms’ or ‘two real beds at property’ as they know there is cultural difference between Europe and other parts of the world.
For the most part my experience has been good with Airbnb but I do look carefully at photos. Just like anything in life Photoshop can touch up photos of a property to make it look much better than it really is. Look out for places that look to good to be true based on the price as there might have been a lot of photo editing that took place. For example if the average price is $100/night in a city and you find something that looks like a five star apartment for $15/night tread with caution.
Watch out for properties that have only one or two photos. The host is likely trying to hide something. Also watch out for properties that have 50 photos but most are of the town you’re travelling to and only one or two of the property. This is not always the case. The place might be good but why take the risk?
Personally I like to book places that have 20 photos or so of the property and a few of the outside. That way all your bases are covered and you should be getting what you actually saw online.
Airbnb has its own reviews system. When you do a search for a city you will see the star rating of the host under the list. Keep in mind this is a rating for the ‘host’ and not of the property itself. Read the reviews and you’ll soon find out if the properties the host rents out are good or not. There is also something call Superhosts on Airbnb. This is basically a seal of approval from Airbnb that the person renting out this property (the host) does everything they say and at very high standards.
Below I did a search for Airbnb London and I’ve highlighted how to find the reviews and superhost status. It’s simply under the listing when you do a search.
Like the idea of Airbnb over hotels and hostels? Well why not signup today and $25 in free credit?
Events You Can’t Miss!
Europe is jam packed with culture at every turn. That is what happens when a continent has thousands of years of history behind it. You probably won’t be able to get all of these into your holiday but at least try to squeeze one or two in as they will be an experience of a life time.
In no particular order lets jump right into it shall we!
Oktoberfest – Munich, Germany
When: Varies by year. But always the last week of September to the end of the first week in October.
Oktoberfest is the biggest beer festival / fair on the globe. It’s been running for more that 180 years having started in 1810. It’s so popular that many cities around Europe and the rest of the globe also host their own smaller version of the festival. But you can’t beat the authenticity of actually heading to Munich and experiencing the madness for yourself. Being part of over seven million other people that will drink over two million gallons of beer throughout the festival!
What is it exactly? Endless German beer, music, parades, singing, Bavarian lederhosen attire and more bratwurst than you can stomach in a lifetime. The drinking takes place inside tents. But these are no ordinary tents. No sir! The biggest tent can hold 10,000 people. That is one big drinking game! And the smallest tent only hold about 100. There are many more other tents for you to visit ranging in sizes.
With how popular Oktoberfest has become in the recent years it’s best to book a spot for your group of drinking buddies. Muenchen.de allows you to reserve your spot from as early as April. And I recommend you book as early as possible! Tickets sell out fast as Oktoberfest is damn popular!
Something else to consider is accommodation. If you know you want to go to Oktoberfest then book as early as you can. If you know 9 months before it starts then I say again, book your accommodation even that far ahead.
Why? Oktoberfest is the perfect example of supply and demand price jacking. Even hostels will charge $100+ for a bed in a dorm room. Hotels won’t be cheaper than $250/night but that is going to be for at least two people and you could pay for a roll out bed also and have another person crash on the floor if you’re on a tight budget. So you might as well book a hotel compared to booking a hostel just to to save on $25. Why? Well it’s a hotel room that is your own for a start and you’ll avoid finding someone sleeping in your bed. I’ve heard all the stories and hostel end up jam packed with people crashing in the hallways.
Get a hotel room to two booked or an Airbnb organised for your group. And don’t even think about turning up excepting to find a place to stay without a reservation during Oktoberfest.
St. Patrick’s Day – Dublin, Ireland
When: March 17th
Like the idea of partying with half a million drunk Irish?
Then head to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day! Wear a bright green leprechaun hat, a fake orange beard and something related to shamrocks and you’ll fit right in. But it’s more than just alcohol. People of all ages attend to celebrate Celtic folklore and Irish history. Hundred of elaborate floats and musical performances will take place.
Start you day early with a good breakfast and enjoy the parade. Make sure you head to the city center before 10am to get a good spot for the parade. The party will be everywhere but if you can manage to make it into Temple Bar you might need a spare liver waiting for you when you get home with how much Guinness you will drink!
La Tomatina – Buñol, Spain
When: Last Wednesday in August
Imagine for a moment that you are crammed in a small street at around 11am. This small street is only 20m across with 10 stories building on each side so you have no escape. 50,000 crazed tourist and locals surround you. A cannon fires and all of a sudden and the mob has access to millions of tomato and the biggest food fight of the year starts. Your heart starts pumping, the adrenaline has set in. Will you freeze up or will you throw that first tomato?
For the next two hours your only job is to survive a beating and throw as many tomatoes at random people as you can manage! You will get separated from your friends so of course if you manage to find them once again in the thick of the chaos you have to make sure that you pelt them in the head with the biggest tomato you can find!
Welcome to La Tomatina my friend. I was fortunate enough to participate in 2008 and it was an experience of a lifetime to say the least.
Things have changed since I went to La Tomatina. Back then anyone and everyone just showed up and I’d say there were easily 150,000+ people there. Since then the event has become a little regulated and you actually need to buy a ticket.
La Tomatina is held in the normally small and very quiet town of Buñol. The closest main city is Valencia. I recommend staying in Valencia as it’s a nice city and you can just add Valencia into your trip. On the day of La Tomatina you can easily get the train to Buñol and even with the crowds you’ll be there within an hour or so.
Back in 2008 I was on a budget and touring Europe with a backpack. We were booking our accommodation at hostels a week or so ahead. When it came time to book accommodation in Valencia there was nothing available. We ended up at a hotel. Don’t do what we did. Book ahead.
If I had to do it again and I was not on a budget I would just pay for a tour package. If you match up the prices of hotels and doing your La Tomatina experience solo then the deals work out to be quite reasonable. You can also avoid the crowds on the train as you’ll be getting a private transfer to and from Buñol.
I would also bring googles. Tomato juice stings you eyes! That sucks. I didn’t have any. I also wore flips flop. I lost one half way though or so. That’s also sucked walking around with only one for half the event. Take some old trainers that you can throw out at the end of the day or just buy some cheap shoes the day before.
Running of the Bulls – Pamplona, Spain
When: 6th to the 14th of July
A controversial festival that takes place in Pamplona, Spain. Hoards of people flock to the festival to partake in street parties, watch firework displays, get drunk and obviously watch the gruesome (to say the least) running of the bulls.
Let there be no misinterpretation here. If you are going to run with the bulls you are putting your life at risk. If there is a not a death each year there are at least a few cases of serious life altering injuries that happen. But maybe you’re just that kind of crazy and looking for an adrenaline rush?
A much safer place is to simply watch from the sideline behind the barriers. But even then you might not be 100% safe.
The actual running itself takes place each morning nice and early. When the church of San Cernin strikes 8am the bulls are released and charge at the runners. The course is 825 meters long from the start to the finish in the bull ring. It’s normally over in a few minutes. But if a bull get separated from the others then it can take over 10 minutes.
The bulls do get killed every afternoon in proper authentic Spanish bull fights so give this one a miss if you love animals.
Before You Go Checklist
Before you can indulge in croissants in Paris with a view of the Eiffel Tower or eat authentic pasta in Rome view a view of the Colosseum you’re going to have to get a few things in order. Now don’t freak out as this is easy to handle and you’ll be off on your trip to Europe before you know it!
The logistics of planning a trip might bore you to death. But trust me when I talk from experience that you want to spend a little time on this before heading overseas. Go through this travel checklist before heading off.
Don’t have a passport yet? Or is your old passport expired? Make sure you give your self adequate time to get this step sorted out. I remember once when I was renewing my passport I ended up running into all kinds of road blocks because of some silly rules. It took me about a month to get it all sorted out.
If the process flows and you get no surprises then it might still two weeks to get your new passport issued. Unless you pay to have your application fast tracked and that might end up stinging you for a few hundred dollars.
If you already have your passport then everything should be great, right?
Generally speaking it should be but make sure you have enough validity in your passport. Most counties want to see that your have at least six months validity in your passport when you enter. But to be on the safe side make sure you have at least six monthly validity from the date you plan to return home.
Don’t risk it by a day or two. What happens if you have to transfer through another country on the way home and get delayed. You may end up going through immigration if the airline comps you a hotel for the night. Then you’re then under six months validity and might not be allowed to enter the country. This puts you in a bad position.
So it’s best to have at least seven months validity in your passport form the date you plan on being in the last destination on the way home. If you don’t have that renew your passport.
Europe is very easy to Travel. There is something called the border-free Schengen area.
Once you enter this area of Europe you generally won’t have to show your passport to anyone for border control reasons except for example if you are on a train and say local border patrols are doing random passport checks or when checking into your accommodation.
This makes travelling Europe a breeze as most countries in Europe are part of the Schengen region. If you’re a passport holder of a main Western country then generally you’re allowed to travel around the EU for 90 days in a 180 day period. This allows you to visit the top European cities with the need for more visas.
Countries that are not part of the Schengen area generally allow you to visit for at least 30 days visa free .
This European Commission website has an interactive map that tells you if you need to apply for a Schengen visa or if you can just show up to Europe and are allowed to move around freely.
Other documents that you might want to have copies of are things like your passports, emergency contacts, drivers license and travel insurance. Print these out and keep them with your passport so you know where they are or if anything happens to you and someone has to look after you they can easily find them.
Another good idea is to keep copies of all your documents in something like DropBox or Google drive so you can easily access to digital copy from a laptop or on your phone via an app. And let your travel buddies know how to access them also.
Travel Insurance Europe
Travel insurance is a must. It’s not just about being covered for a lost bag or a cancelled flight. Those are the added benefits of having good travel insurance. It’s more about the medical coverage. You might be thinking “that will never happen to me” yet millions of claims are made with travel insurance companies each year.
It could be something simple as stupid driver on a scooter in Italy hitting you and smashing you to the ground as they came to close to you while you were just minding your own business on the sidewalk. It could a cut that gets infected and needs a hospital visit. It could be a typical travel stomach bug that you can’t fix with normal medication from the pharmacy and you get admitted to hospital. Anything can happen abroad.
My motto has always been it’s better to be safe than sorry and I’ve always got travel insurance when I’m abroad. And the reality is that it really doesn’t cost much and having that peace of mind is actually quite comforting. I’ve used a few companies for travel insurance but my got to for the past 5+ years has been World Nomads. They offer the best travel insurance for Europe and the rest of the world.
I’ve had a few injuries happen on ski hills and some other small stuff to. You want the best travel insurance in Europe. And not some back alley cheap insurance company that won’t pay up when you need your insurance. With World Nomads while I’ve still been abroad I’ve submitted a claims and it’s taken no longer than 20 minutes to use their online form. World Nomads has really made the process flawless and really user friendly. Within a week or 10 days I always had my money paid back to my bank account for the times I paid myself and got reimbursed.
Let Others Know You’re Abroad
A little while before you go abroad let others know of your holiday. If they end up calling you they might get hit with heavy international calling fees and you might get hit with roaming charges for accepting the call if you don’t have a good international phone plan.
On that note call your phone company and find out if they have some special package for being abroad. For example Vodafone in Australia has a deal where it lets you use your existing data abroad for a $5/day fee. Compared to the craziness out that I’ve seen that charges up to $50 for a single megabyte then $5/day to have data abroad is a great deal if you are only going on a short trip. Don’t worry though WiFi is everywhere in Europe but it’s always more handy to have your own data.
Call all the banks you are with and let them know about the countries you’re travelling to. Some banks even allow you setup travel plans within their online banking system or by just using the contact form on the banks website.
But it might be best to call your bank if this is your first trip abroad and find out what the fees are going to be for using your card internationally. Generally speaking you will get a $5 – $10 ATM withdrawal fee plus an extra 3% charge on the money you took out. So say you take out $200. You will have a $5 – $10 withdrawal fee for using the ATM and then a $6 fee to cover that 3%.
You bank will be able to confirm the actual fees and charges. Ask your bank if they have any special deals with the credit cards you may have as some banks do have 0% fees with credit cards for international transactions.
On another note only a fool travels with one card. Before you go organise at least three different cards with different banks. If you only have one and lose it you are in a difficult situation. If you lose two of three it’s still not good to only have one but the odds losing all three are a million to one if you don’t keep all the cards in the same place.
Exchanging Cash at Home
99% of the time I don’t bother taking any local currency with me.
Getting a foreign currency in your home country is one of the worst exchange rates you can get. The best exchange rate is using your cards to pay abroad or using the ATM to get cash.
The days of hiding travelers cheques in a pair of socks hidden in a secret pocket in your suitcase is also something I’ve not even heard talked about for the longest time. It always did seem quite stupid to me also.
I’ve been on the road currently for coming up two years at the time of writing this. Before that I was on the road for about two and a half years while having a five month break back in Australia. And to add to that I’ve got about 15 trips abroad to my name.
I can say with the up most certainty that you don’t need to have local currency in your pocket when you arrive abroad.
What I generally do is just have whatever cash is in my pocket. Say I’ve got $100. That’s my backup in case I have issues with my cards when I get to a new country. That’s $100 lets me exchange the money into local currency at the airport with the horrible exchange rate as a backup. This gets me to my accommodation and from them I get on the WiFi and call the bank.
It’s also a stereotype that airports have bad exchange rate. It’s a stereotype for a good reason as though as generally it can be quitea bad exchange rate and you can lose 10% plus on fees.
But it totally depends. I was in Singapaore in late November 2017 and I excahnged 2,000 Thai Baht and got $80.20 Singapore Dollars. I checked the XE.com app on my phone before I made the exchange and if I got the real rate (that you can’t get) it would have been $82.64. So I only lost 2.9% and this is about the same as using the ATM.
So it’s worth it to check the rates at the airport and have the XE.com app on your phone to know what the real exchage rate for the day to make a comparison. As the rate I got was fine. Two weeks before when I was in Malaysia and needed to get about $30 exchanged and I lost about 10%. But it was only a few dollars so I didn’t mind.
In fact most airports have decent WiFi so if you really wanted to you could call the bank after you land from your phone or laptop using Skype. They will unblock your card. Although most bank just take down your travel plans and then don’t block your cards abroad in my experience sometimes banks will still block the first transaction you make so you need to call.
I’ve personally had this happen and I remember it quite clearly. It was when I had just landed in Budapest (Hungary) airport having come in from a ski season in Canada. My card from US Bank declined at the ATM. I got on the airport WiFi and called the bank. I was using my card 10 minutes after I was at the ATM the first time and it didn’t work.
This also shouldn’t be an issue as you will be travelling with at least three different cards with funds on them like you read above. The odds of them all not working is astronomical. The only reason I called the bank at the airport in my example above was because I was waiting for a friend who wasn’t arriving in Budapest for another five hours or so and we were going into the city together. I was not desperate for money so I decided to call the bank and sort it out then and there.
If you are the type of person who need the mental stability of knowing they have cash in their pocket. Only exchange a few hundred dollars worth. If you’re planning a trip to Europe and you go an exchange all the currency you need before hand and travel around with thousands on you, well, to some that might be ok but to me that would be stressful.
Use the TripIt App
This app will make your life a breeze when travel in Europe. The best part is all you need is the free version of the app. There is no reason you wouldn’t use it. I’ve been using it for years and once you get the app you’ll realise why going to be you Europe trip planner of choice.
TripIt allows you to see your entire trip in one handy app. That means all your flight details are in one place, all your tours you booked, all your trains you’ll be on, all the hotel bookings and so on. Everything is in one place. For the most part you don’t even have to do much work as the app scans your email and detects all your travel plans and imports them automatically.
I remember the days before smart phones travelling around. I would have the address hand written down on some scrunched up paper crammed into my bag somewhere. I’d find a local map when I got to town or printed off directions in the last city I was in and went on an adventure to find where I needed to go getting lost 18 times before getting there. But it was fun walking though random side streets and asking locals if I was on track getting replies in broken English.
Those were the good old days. But there is just something so comforting about having everything in your phone and Google maps with it’s GPS locator guiding you to where you need to go even if you don’t have WiFi. And it makes planning a trip to Europe so much easier also. Everything is just in one app.
Worried about running about of battery after a long flight?
Well it’s not like you won’t be travelling with a charger or a powerbank. So if both your phone and your powerbank are dead when you arrive. Find a power point in the airport and charge up to 20% in low power mode and you’ll be ready to go in a few minutes.
Get TripIt on your phone for when you travel Europe. It’s a life saver! Then once you’re luggage is at your accommodation you can go get lost in the city 20 times down random back allies. It’s much more fun doing that anyhow without a massive suitcase or backpack to drag along.
Well that’s it! I hope that my guide one how to plan a trip to Europe really helped you and that you have a big list of places to go in Europe you now want to explore. Fell free to comment below. I do get an email every time someone comments so I’ll get back to you very quickly as your Europe travel guide with a comment reply.