Traveling through Europe is incredible, but it can also be hard work. I put together a list of 50 quick Europe travel tips that I hope will help you avoid some travel mistakes that I’ve made over the years! So without further ado, here are my best tips:
- Book major sites ahead of time (when you see the lines, you’ll be so thankful you did!).
- If you get lost or have a question, I’ve found that in almost all countries, by the time you’ve asked 3 different people for help, someone should be able to help you get to where you’re going. I like to call this the rule of 3.
- Public bathrooms are hard to find in many cities in Europe, but McDonalds and Starbucks usually have public bathrooms available in the event of an emergency.
- Don’t keep your wallet in your pocket.
- Which brings me to my next point, pick-pocketing is a real thing in all tourist destinations, so be on guard on public transportation and in crowds.
- Table wine at restaurants is usually excellent in both Italy and France –unless you’re REALLY into wine, stick to the inexpensive house offerings.
- Using the ATM to exchange your money will probably help you avoid the most fees, but check with your bank first.
- Pack light. Travel through Europe is work and even if you’re on a tour bus, you still might have to climb stairs with your luggage, drag it over cobblestone streets, or get on and off trains with it.
- Don’t sign petitions as they are most likely a scam—actually just don’t sign anything on the street!
- English pubs (and probably other places) sometimes require that you order your food at the bar. If you find yourself waiting at a table for awhile and no one approaches you, head to the bar to make your order.
11. Tip less than you do in the US, but still tip.
12. People dress up a bit more in Europe, so if you’d like to blend in don’t dress too casual.
13. Don’t take #12 too seriously. If you happen to be a tourist, don’t worry so much about looking like one–just enjoy yourself!
14. Don’t let people take your luggage off trains.
15. Get up early and see the city before the crowds come out. There is something magical about having the city to yourself for an hour.
16. Comfortable shoes are key. It’s okay to sacrifice style for comfort. I can promise you that sightseeing = long days and your feet will thank you.
17. Hats and sunscreen are musts in the summer.
18. In Italy don’t expect to find olive oil and vinegar with your bread. You can ask for it, but the server may look a little confused.
19. Take advantage of the ancient public drinking fountains. You won’t experience anything like that back home.
20. Take time for long picnic lunches in parks.
21. Take full advantage of the aperitif hour.
22. Locals eat much later than you probably do at home. Try to eat when locals do (8pm or so) at least once.
23. Watch a movie or two before you go. Check out my European movie inspiration list here.
24. Do as the locals do. If there is a market or street fair going on, stroll through it. If the local team is playing in the pub, sit down and watch. Try to make the most of experiences you won’t find at home.
25. Museums are closed on some days. Do your research before you go.
26. If you plan on driving, book your rental car far in advance–especially if you need an automatic. Check out my European driving tips here.
27. Don’t over plan.
28. Similar to #27, don’t try to see the entire continent of Europe in one trip. Packing too many countries into one trip is stressful. While it will allow you to maximize what you see, it won’t allow you to savor the moment. You’re much better off to have the mentality that you’ll be back to visit one day.
29. It’s the journey and not the destination that you’re after. Take time to have coffee and long meals.
30. Don’t go straight to sleep when you get in and try to get on local time as quickly as possible. Check out my tips to fight jet lag here.
31. Rick Steves has free podcasts for many of the big museums. Download them before you go.
32. Adjust your expectations about what hotel rooms should offer you. In Europe the showers will be different, the rooms will be smaller, and the beds will be harder. But let’s be honest, you’re not going to spend a lot of time there anyway!
33. Seek out restaurants with balcony views. It’s always fun to see the town from high above.
34. Plan a good mix of city and small town trips. A lot of first-time Europe travelers book only major cities for their itinerary. This is a shame as a lot of times the small towns are the most memorable.
35. Have emergency contact information and know where hospitals are if you need one.
36. Don’t keep all of you valuables in the same bag.
37. Stay up late at least one night. I know, I know. No good things happen after 10pm, but sometimes it’s fun to get into a little trouble!
38. Walk a couple minutes away from major tourist areas to find some of the best restaurants.
39. Ask a local or your hotel concierge where they love to eat and NOT where they recommend that you go!
40. If you’re a light sleeper, bring ear plugs.
41. If you’re traveling as a couple try out these tips.
42. Take some photos with you in them. It’s annoying to ask someone to take your photo at the time, but you’ll be thankful you did when you get home.
43. Learn a few basics in the local language – especially hello and thank you.
44. Whenever possible, explore the city by bike.
45. Don’t go to every museum. Unless you are REALLY into museums.
46. Keep a journal. Even if it is only a few anecdotes here and there, it is always fun to read a few years later.
47. Don’t visit something because it’s a must see. Really think about YOU and whether it’s something you would enjoy.
48. Attitude is everything.
49. Be an ambassador for your country.
50. Don’t go home regretting something you didn’t do.
What else would you add to the list? I’d love to hear!