Planning your first trip to Europe – Useful info and tips

We all dream of visiting Europe at least once. My first trip to Europe happened all of a sudden: One day at work, I saw a cheap plane ticket and as an impulse I bought it. 4 months later I was ar the old continent. I assure you: Europe is a must, regardless of the country you decide to visit. Planning a trip to Europe for the first time can be tedious and overwhelming: figuring out how to get from one city to another, booking hotels and activities, etc. It is hard work. This post will help you organize and plan your first Euro Trip.

Itinerary

Europe is a continent divided into 50 countries. Every country seems small and close to each other compared to countries in America. This leads many travelers to jam as many cities and countries as possible in a 2 or 3 weeks itinerary. Every city is different and deserves time so don’t over-pack your itinerary. It can be exhausting and costly, and you’ll end up seeing nothing in each city. My recommendation is to spend 5-7 days (minimum) per capital (London, Paris, etc) and 2-4 days (minimum) in other cities.

Make a list of all the cities that you would like to visit, then read about each place, transportation, and synthesize the route according to the days that you have available. Try to choose a group of countries according to their location. For example: London-Belgium-France-Netherlands.

Information and tips for planning your first trip to Europe
Louvre, Paris.
Visa

 The citizens of some countries need to apply for a Schengen visa, you can check the list here.The Schengen agreement allows you to move between the countries without any border checks. United Kingdom and Ireland are not part of the Schengen Agreement. 

Transport

The majority of European countries are very well connected by land and air routes. These are the options that exist to move between countries and cities:

  • Aircraft

There are several low cost airlines that allow you to move cheaply from country to country. Some of these companies are: Ryan Air, Vueling, etc. You can get some really cheap flights.But, remember that you will have to add the cost of transportation to and from the airport and also the waiting time.

  • Train

Trains are generally the best way to get around in Europe because they are really fast and comfortable. You can travel looking out the window,the scenery is gorgeous. Train stations are in the city centres, you you won’t need to add extra cost or time. If you plan on visiting numerous countries or making a lot of train trips in Europe, consider purchasing a Eurail pass which gives you unlimited travel by train by a certain number of days (depends on the type of pass). Train fares can be expensive, but you save time and travel comfortably. 

Useful websites: Seat61, Rail Europe, Eurostar.

  • Bus

This is less used transport to travel between European cities because there are not many options and travel time is usually very long. But it is always good to check as bus rides are usually very cheap.

  • Other options are: ferries (some cities are connected), hitch-hiking, rent a car (Might be a good choice if you are going with a group), or carpooling.
  • Within the cities I recommend using public transportation in most cities, it is excellent. Also walk, European cities are very walkable and there is no better way to know a city. 
Information and tips for planning your first trip to Europe
St Pancras in London.
Accommodation

Accommodation is usually the most expensive cost of the trip, some of the options are:

  • Hotels: Hotels in Europe are quite expensive and more if it’s peak season. However if you book in advance, you can find very good deals. My favorite hotel booking websites are: Booking, Expedia, and HotelsCombined.
  • Hostels: There are hostels in all cities and tend to be very cheap. There are many options in terms of hostel category, and you can book in a private or shared room. They are my favorite websites to book hostels: Booking, Expedia, and HostelWorld
  • House/apartment/room for rent: If you want to live like a local, you can rent an apartment or room using AirBnB.  It can be really cheap if you are travelling with a group of people. 
  • CouchSurfing: CouchSurfing is really popular in Europe and allows you to save money considerably.
Information and tips for planning your first trip to Europe
A hostel in Paris.
Budget

How much money do I need? Your budget depends on many factors: how you want to travel, type of accommodation, travel time, what you want to eat… Some cities like London are more expensive, and others like Prague tend to have lower prices. Here are some average costs so you can estimate your budget according to the type of trip you choose to do: 

  • Accommodation: Hostel (€15-30 per night), hotel (€50-80 per night), AirBnB apartment (the whole place,€ 50 per night). 
  • Transportation between cities: this is very personal because it depends on how many transfers to make and in which means of transport.
  • Transport in the cities: A subway trip usually costs between €1 and €5. In London, it is a bit more expensive (£3).
  • Food: Main dish and drink in a restaurant (€10-25), a sandwich in a supermarket (€3), coffee (€1-3), fast food in small shop (€5-10), beer in a bar (€6). Obviously buying food in supermarkets is the cheapest option and you can take advantage of that if you stay in a hostel with kitchen or an apartment. For only €10 at least 3 people could eat.    
  • Museums/activities/other. Prices of the museums and other attractions vary so it’s hard to give a good general cost. Some museums have a free day, so check each museum’s website before leaving. In London, most of the museums are free. Going up the Eiffel Tower will cost between 7-17 EUR and the Tower of London is about  £25.
Information and tips for planning your first trip to Europe
Entrance to the British Museum in London is free.
When to go

In my opinion Europe is always a good idea. In winter it can get quite cold, but it’s not a problem. Summer is a great time to travel, except for the crowds and high temperatures. Ideally I would go in spring, from April through mid-June, or during September and October. You’ll enjoy decent weather and fewer crowds.

Information and tips for planning your first trip to Europe
Amsterdam in winter
Other info:

-Bring an all-in-one universal adapter, plugs are not the same in all countries.

-Get travel insurance. You never know if you’ll need it. 

-Bring printed hotel reservations, proof of health insurance,etc. They can ask you to show this at the airport or train station. It happened to me in London returning by train from Brussels.

-European passport. If you have a passport from any country of the European union and you’re under 26 years of age you can get discounts and even free admission in some museums.  

-Luggage. Try to travel as light as possible, you’ll be more comfortable. If you are traveling in a low-cost airline, you will be charged for checked luggage. 

 Are you planning your first trip to Europe?  Which cities are you visiting?

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Planning your first trip to Europe - Useful info and tips



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