Six Things You Should Know Before Traveling in Europe
Europe is an amazing continent to visit. With 44 unique countries to visit and countless cities and small towns to explore, there is no shortage of good times to be had, people to meet and food to try. Obviously, the will to travel is something we all share in common, (and wish to do endlessly!) and as amazing as some of these memories can be in various destinations, there are a few things you should know before heading to Europe.
I’ve come to learn a few of these things throughout my travels, and I’m only detailing a few of these to help aid you in your future travels to Europe and beyond. If you have a travel hack or additional tip, leave me a comment down below, but for now, let’s get to it and hopefully these will help you on a future trip!
1) Pack Lighter Than You Think
Ahhhh, I’ve said this on a number of our previous, ‘What To Pack’ blogs for VoyEdge RX, but trust me…..you will want to pack lighter than you think for more than a few good reasons. First off, you will be walking more places than you will expect (oh, they don’t count steps in Europe btw like us Americans….) and you won’t want to be lugging your suitcase more than a half-mile from your arrival point. Cobblestones and uneven roads are everywhere in Europe, and unless you can take a cab everywhere you go - then you won’t want a bigger suitcase than necessary.
I always recommend taking one suitcase about 20-30 lbs. and split in half the number of outfits for the days I’ll be gone. Example: If I’m going for a 10-day trip, I’ll bring 5 outfits. I also bring a backpack for day trips (hikes etc.) with a water bottle, change of socks, underwear and t-shirt for emergencies. No more than two luggage pieces. One as checked luggage and one as a carry on. Trust me, you will NOT want to walk your roller bag of 50 lbs. across town in a hot European city. There is nothing more miserable than dragging your suitcase across uneven cobblestones en route to your hotel or destination. Pack less, you’ll thank yourself later.
2) Bring Just Enough Cash With You
People are always asking us, ‘How much money should I bring with me?’ And the true answer is: just enough. You will NOT ever want to exchange money at the airport kiosk (they will rip you off) but you will want to always have some cash on you when traveling in Europe. I recommend having about 30 to 50 euro on you at all times, which is pretty much enough for a snack, two meals and some spending money if you’re out on the town anywhere in Europe.
Most places DO TAKE CARDS, but many in Europe (especially in southern Europe) will be cash only and will lament if you pull out a Credit Card. Just to make things easier and more efficient, stop and hit an ATM, grab some money out and keep it in your wallet and NEVER in your back pocket. Avoid those pickpockets….
It is good to have a mix of cash and coins, too. Your wallet may get heavy, so use the 1 euro and 2 euro coins as often as possible.
3) You Will Have To Pay For Some Bathrooms
Ahhhh, Europe. The land of the….paid bathrooms? Unless you’re a customer at a given location, you will have to pay to use the restrooms in Europe. At many rest stops on the highway, or in shops, or touristy areas, many bathrooms cost between 1-2 euros to use. Yes, even if you have to just pee. Unless you are under the age of 12 (or a certain height) you will have to pay the attendant or drop a coin into the automated kiosk.
It is different and something Americans will have to get used to. But, there is an upside….all of the paid bathrooms you go into will be sparkling clean. Unlike back home, Europeans are big on their bathroom hygiene, so you can be rest assured, the money will be put to good use. You simply will not find a dirty bathroom, unless it is at a store, restaurant or somewhere else where it is free.
Moral of the story is always have a few euro coins on hand in the event of a much needed bathroom break. P.S. you may also only see a hole in the floor (for peeing) or toilets without seats on them. I am unsure why this is, but hey…..Europe, man…..do as the Romans do.
4) Take it S-L-O-W
Welcome to Europe, be prepared to hurry up and wait. Despite all the speedy drivers in Europe, Europeans for the most part will be slow to walk through the city. London may be the ONLY example of a city where I’ve seen people walk at a decent clip, but mostly everywhere else people really do take their time to get from place to place.
If you’re from the Northeast (like me) you’re probably someone who likes to get from place to place fairly quick and will likely walk much faster than the average European. Although it is nice to stop and take things in, I really really like to get from A to B so I have more time in said location. Europeans (especially Italians, French, Greeks, and the Spaniards) will be moving at half-speed. I can guarantee it. Now, maybe not all of them, but expect narrow streets, uneven surfaces, and really no systematic social compromise on which side of the street you should be walking on. For instance, back home, you walk on the right side of the street (like we drive in the U.S.), but in Europe, people walk wherever they want, at the speed they want. Most of the time they don’t even walk in a straight line.
Much to my dismay, this is just how it is. Expect to take things slow, be patient, and do not get upset at people. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve ‘bumped’ into someone who refused to get out of the way (despite me being 6’5” 220 lbs. and having a long beard). The locals know who the tourists are and often won’t think twice about who you are and where you think you’re going. Take it slow, be patient….I cannot stress that enough, and yes, it is a stark difference to how we operate back home here in the U.S.
5) Public Transportation - Get Used To It
Another thing that you can expect when going to Europe is to be using public transportation frequently. As much as we love our cars back in America, not everyone in Europe has one. Europe is OLD, and with a lot of the city centers having limited space when it comes to parking (and narrow roads) majority of cities, towns and everywhere in-between utilizes public transportation to get from place to place. What you can expect in Europe are bustling train stations, with a plethora of schedules to get you where you need to be.
If you’ve never been to Europe before and will be traveling on trains for some parts of your trip, definitely expect a smooth ride, but be sure to buy your tickets online first (or at one of the kiosks) and be sure to get them validated. The train stations in Europe can also be very busy, so expect a lot of people coming and going. If you’re bringing your luggage with you, you will want to have as little as possible since there is not much room on the trains for luggage (see above for my tips on packing!).
All in all, when traveling around in Europe, get used to public transportation. It’s actually quite efficient and easy once you get the hang of it! Just don’t miss your stop on the busy, subway or train!
6) Prepare to Walk
As amazing as all the city centers in Europe are, one thing you can definitely expect to be doing is a lot of walking. For us Americans, we are used to hopping in our car and getting everywhere we need to be in as few steps as possible. For Europeans, you will find no Fitbits or people counting their steps, as they know they’re getting enough exercise by walking everywhere.
With the above point on public transportation, one thing I didn’t mention is that while most cities are interconnected by rail and central train stations, a lot of times they can be outside the city center, or worse, smack dab in the middle of it. Which often means you will be hoofing it to the train station in order to get to your next destination.
However, the beauty of having to walk everywhere is that you WILL see more of the city you’re venturing out in. The good, bad and ugly sides of it all. Unfortunately, most European city centers can have a lot of riff raff close to the train stations, but as long as you move swiftly and diligently past it, you will have no troubles.
All in all, see the above points about packing and with luggage, and if you feel like you have too much stuff, you can always hail a taxi cab (they are expensive in Europe) to get you where you want to be going. If you are keen on seeing how many steps you’re taking, definitely use the, ‘Health’ app in your iPhone (comes standard with a step counter) or you can use your Fitbit. But, I guarantee, you’ll definitely be taking more steps than you would back home! All of which means YOU can have more gelato on your trip!
Have another travel hack or pro tip? Comment below as a guest or shoot me an email!
See you out there….
Cam // firstname.lastname@example.org