25 European Travel Tips
The 25 European Travel Tips is a guide on what to prepare before you leave and also some of the differences you can expect. This is general guide of course, but it will help reduce a lot of the stress while you travel. First we list the top 15 things to sort out before you leave, then we list the Top 10 Differences to expect.
Top 15 Checklist
- Ensure your passport has 6 months validity, dated from the end of your trip.
- Check the Visa requirements for the countries you are traveling to. If your tour goes through multiple countries, please check each one as they can differ. You can check your Visa requirements for Europe here: Schengen Visas for Europe. Turkey has extra requirements on top of the Schengen. View them HERE
- Print your vouchers and all other travel documents and pack them in your carry on luggage.
- Travel insurance is a must for all travelers. We provide a great travel insurance comparison for North American residents. For our other guests we recommend you contact your broker. Review Insurance Options Here
- Check if your tour includes airport transfers at the start and end of the tour. If not, and you would like this service, please contact us. Click Here to make an inquiry.
- Most group and private tours allow one checked bag per participant and 1 piece of hand luggage. If you plan to take more luggage please check with us beforehand.
- For early flight arrivals, your hotel room may not be available until check in time which is often after 2pm. Early check in can be requested, however, it is contingent on the hotel’s occupancy on that day and cannot be confirmed before arriving. The hotel reception will store bags and make available seating areas and in many cases a restaurant for refreshments. If not, the reception desk will be happy to give directions to a local restaurant or café. Getting out on foot is a great way to orient yourself to a new city.
- Extra night’s accommodation and city tour packages are also available on request and preplanning them will reduce any unwanted excitement.
- If there are special attractions you want to see on your “leisure days” on a tour, be sure to mention them to us or to your tour director so arrangements can be made.
- Check if the hotels you are staying at are in central and relatively safe areas. You want to be able to walk around, either to a gallery, museum, castle or cathedral. You also might just want to get a good coffee.
- If WiFi access is important, check with us beforehand as some tours /cruises offer this as part of the package and others do not.
- Advise your bank that you will be overseas, especially if you live in America. Your bank will suspend your credit card, if they see overseas charges that they were not warned about. Then you may have to wait for a replacement. You should also ask if your bank works with a bank where you are going, so that you don’t incur extra fees.
- Ensure you have the correct power adapters and batteries (see battery info here). There may not be many power outlets, so be prepared to rotate equipment for charging.
- Research and agree a telecommunications plan with a provider before you go. But be careful, you still need to choose the right plan. We signed up for the wrong plan and ended up with a $600 bill for January 2018. Ask your mobile phone company for a daily maximum plan. We use ‘AT&T International Day Pass’ which you only have to activate once. When you go overseas and turn the phone on it is automatically detected and (at the date of publishing this blog) charged a fixed rate of $10 per day. The cost of USD 10.00 per day is reasonable and means you can budget your costs for calls, texts, internet, hotspot, emails, video and even streaming.
- Make both print and digital (phone camera) copies of your travel documents, credit cards and passports. Pack the printed ones in a different part of your luggage, in case you lose your phone and wallet.
Top 10 Differences
If you want things to be the same, the best place to be is home. Please bear in mind that you are a guest in someone else’s home. Always be respectful, courteous and inquisitive. Here is a list that we have noticed are different:
- Most European hotel rooms don’t have things you do want and may have what you don’t want. For example, you may not have facilities for making tea and coffee. Hotels make money by selling you food and refreshments in their bar or restaurant. Your new favorite coffee shop is waiting to be discovered right around the corner where you can sip coffee and watch the locals. Hotel rooms in Europe often have fully stocked mini bars. You can ask to have them removed at check in if you wish. I once phoned reception to ask for an iron and was told that THE iron was being used by another room. Again, they make money with the laundry service. As I was in the same city for a week, I ended up walking to the local supermarket and buying a cheap one. So be prepared with ironless shirts and packing clothes in a manner that will ensure less creasing.
Here is a great You Tube Video to help packing:
- A majority of buildings in the old towns of Europe were built centuries ago and do not have elevators. You might have to carry your own bags up the stairs. Packing light will help you in this instance and also allow you space for gifts.
- Be patient. On a group tour there will always be the straggler, who has difficulty being on time or there are often elderly people who just don’t move as fast. On one cruise a bunch of like minded travelers formed a group who would enjoy dinner and the daily tours together. We would rotate who would walk with Jim. He was over 70, interesting, great fun and wonderful conversation at dinner, but a little slower on the walks.
- Wear comfortable shoes. The Romans were admirable engineers and used cobblestones to build the roads, some of which are still in use today. Many of the roads are narrow and uneven. So, wear sturdy but comfortable shoes that will help with the terrain.
- Clothing is important for two reasons. The first is that it protects you from the weather and is vital in your level of comfort. The second is that it communicates who you are in a few seconds to those you are about to meet. Europeans tend to be a little more formal and stylish (similar to the larger and colder cities where you live). So, it won’t hurt to balance style with comfort. Sweatpants and sneakers are comfortable, but you will get the table next to the toilets every time. Layers help with warmth and shawls or wraps will help with the sun or cold and will also help enter religious institutions.
- The key when entering Churches, Mosques and Temples is to be discreet. If you have your arms and legs covered, this will help a lot and maybe a shawl for ladies in Mosques. There are numerous people turned away from the Vatican on a daily basis for inappropriate clothing.
- Service staff in Europe tend to be paid a lot more than their counterparts in the United States. They view themselves as professionals and don’t need tips to earn a living wage. Of course, they still they still like a 10% tip, but it is bonus, not essential. Because of their professionalism, they are more apt to share their thoughts and not just offer platitudes. Don’t be surprised if a waiter in France advises that you are making a poor choice, just go with it and enjoy the sincerity. She may well be right! Here is a link to our guide on tipping in Europe.
- It is common to ask for a double bed and get Twin beds, pushed together. This is normal so if you really want a double bed you will need to ask beforehand.
- It is always good to have a little local currency in cash. Go to your bank and get enough to get you through a day or two if you lose your credit cards. Get enough money for food, taxis, tipping and rest rooms (yes, they can cost up to 1 Euro in some places). If you have local currency in notes you can always get change.
- A full bathroom with separate shower is not common. Often hotels in Europe will have a shower head over the bath. If you wish a separate shower, please ask at the time of booking.
We hope that The 25 European Travel Tips is useful and gives you some ideas on things to confirm before you travel, and some differences to be ready for.
Please contact us if you have any questions or would love to add advice which we can include in our next blog about European Travel.
Other blogs that might be useful:
- A Guide to European Hotel Taxes.
- What visas do I need for Europe?
- How much and when to tip in Europe.
- New guided tours to Britain and Ireland.