A trip to Europe is always an exciting one to look forward to. From jaw-dropping landscapes to majestic structures (seriously, I can never get how detailed some of the buildings are, especially when they were built without the technology we’ve got today), each holiday there feels like a unique adventure. So make your trip a fruitful one with these 10 things to note before travelling to Europe.
#1 DO YOUR RESEARCH
Watch clips of each country you’re visiting to get a feel of what it’s going to be like. Note which way the traffic in each city goes, as different countries abide by driving on different sides of the road (obviously).
And, this is one thing you may learn through experience, but here’s this: each city has its own rules when it comes to crossing the road. Germans may wait patiently for the green man to flash, but in Italy, be careful, even when there’s a traffic light. Its drivers go pretty fast, so make sure they come to a complete stop before making your way across the road.
#2 LOOK FOR CHEAP ACCOMMODATION
Hotels in Europe don’t come cheap, especially if you’re hoping to get a good night’s rest. We recommend using apps like Airbnb, where you get to rent rooms or apartments from locals. Other options include couchsurfing or hostels, but it really depends on how adventurous you are.
#3 DOWNLOAD THE NECESSARY MAPS BEFORE YOU GO
It always helps to know where you’re headed to, especially if it’s your first time in a new city. And, instead of calling attention to the fact that you’re a tourist with your printed maps and guidebooks, let your smart phone do the job instead.
You can download the map of the area you’re looking for via Google Maps. Just type in ok maps in the search bar, and wait for it to load. Evernote, a popular notetaking app is also useful when it comes to clipping receipts and other paperwork such as your documents.
#4 SKIP THE GUIDEBOOKS
They may be useful, but why spend a couple of dollars on it when you can download information for free online? There are plenty of travel apps online which has guides for major cities such as London, Rome and Copenhagen and Paris can be useful when it comes to getting information on the site that you’re going to be visiting.
Also, Google Translate is your best friend, if you don’t speak the language of the city. You may not be an expert in the field, but all you really want, is to get your message across. Right?
#5 TRAVEL DURING OFF-PEAK SEASON
It really depends. Summer’s usually the high season for travellers in Europe. That’s also when most of the stores and tourist attractions are open. But if you’re a winter person, you’ll face less crowds and shorter queues… and lesser stores will be open.
For example, if you’re headed to Cinque Terre or the island of Capri (both in Italy) in winter, you’ll find an empty town, as most of the stores are closed. But if you’re there for the sights and photographs, you’ve got more time to admire the scenery!
#6 STRETCH YOUR DOLLAR
Focus on your priorities and determine what you’re going to spend on. Are you going to indulge in gourmet food in Europe, or would you rather save it on covering as many sites as possible? Is having comfortable accommodation important to you, or would you rather spend it on shopping? These are questions you should ask yourself, so you can set aside some money for each aspect of your trip.
#7 HEAD TO THE LOCAL TOURIST OFFICE
It varies from each city, but you may find useful tips, as well as discounts, free passes to attractions or public transportation and fun events you may want to suss out.
#8 DO AS THE LOCALS DO
The locals know best. Don’t be afraid to ask them for their recommendations. You’ll never know where they may lead you to. But of course, keep your eyes peeled. If you feel uneasy about a situation, please get away from it as fast as you can.
#9 PACKING TIPS
Make a list of essentials you must have. They include: international adapters, chargers, comfortable footwear, a formal outfit (in case you’d like to visit a fancy restaurant or something), toiletries, and the list goes on. But our point here is, pack light.
Read: Here are the top 10 essential travel items and accessories that will make your life that much easier, as well as save time and money.
Chances are, you’re going to be there for two weeks or more, and you need to save space for shopping! Bring clothes you can mix and match easily such as separates that are easy to work with. Think of the outfits you’re likely to wear each day, and plan from there.
#10 KEEP YOUR VALUABLES SAFE
It’s so obvious, but we can’t stress this enough, especially in larger cities like Barcelona, Rome, Paris and Athens, where pickpockets are prevalent. Look out for them (don’t stereotype – the person who looks least like it may clean out your pockets if you’re not careful), try not to look lost, and don’t flash your valuables about.
Don’t keep all your valuables in one place, and invest in a money belt or a hidden pouch for your cash and travel documents. It may look (and feel) unglamorous, but it’s worth it. Also, don’t forget to make photocopies of your passport, papers and itineraries, as well as email them to yourself in the event it gets lost or stolen.
About the writer:
Amanda Tan has written pieces for several publications, which include stories on food, lifestyle and beauty. She believes life is too short for regrets, and hopes to live in London (just for the experience). She is also a self-professed cake addict, and can never resist a slice, at any time of the day. If you’d like to share life hacks, travel tips and general advice, you can drop her a note at email@example.com.