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!
This Post Has 14 Comments
Chris23 Jan 2016
I’d say if there’s a chance to rent a bicycle somewhere, especially in a park, do it. Despite all the glory of Rome, one of my fondest memories is lazily biking around the beautiful Villa Borghese park.
Traveling Chic23 Jan 2016
I couldn’t agree more! If I get back to Rome a lazy afternoon at villa borghese park will be on my list!
sally bridge30 Jan 2016
I just read your list of 50 things to consider for traveling in Europe. You say plan for city and country( small village adventures.
I always do big city, small villages and water( lakes or Ocean ) in my travel. Also I take a picture with my phone of my drivers license, my passport opened and my travel insurance papers. Also I take a photo of two emergency phone numbers and put it in a file and email to myself and a close emergency contact.
Ive been mugged twice in Italy, my briefcase was stolen in the Florence Airport, when I reported it to the Airport police it turned out they were recording it! I watched the video with them. They watched a gut watch me, follow me into the gfit shop( my flight had been canceled and I was waiting to see what they where they were going to put us all over night). I watched the video with the police, the thief followed me in and the moment ( and I do mean moment) it took to sign a credit card receipt after buying a magazine he took my briefcase and took off! They watched him and did NOTHING! I was traveling alone, man was I mad. I ask them to go outside and see if he dumped the unwanted stuff in a trash can, they couldn’t even do that. So don’t count on a lot of help…….be vigilant…..pack light and keep your wits about you….
Traveling Chic30 Jan 2016
Hi Sally, Great tips! Thanks so much for sharing. Your mugging in Italy sounds horrible! I’m sorry you had to go through that!
tea4 Feb 2016
amen! These are great tips. I’d like to add that you make sure to check in online and print your boarding pass when flying with a budget airline like Ryan Air, otherwise that cheap flight you booked months ahead is gonna turn our expensive
Traveling Chic20 Feb 2016
Thanks, Tea! You are so RIGHT about printing your boarding pass–we got charged an arm and a leg in Dublin once for failing to do that ahead of time! Thanks for the reminder! xo
Marlene8 Feb 2016
Great tips! I would also recommend signing up with the State Department’s STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) which allows you to provide your travel details (countries, dates, lodging) as well as your emergency contact info and makes it available to the local US Embassy/Consulate. You can also provide the contact info for someone back home so that the US Embassy can contact them on your behalf should anything happen while you’re abroad. They’ll also send you email alerts if there’s any travel alerts in place (such as natural disaster or civil unrest) for the places you’ll be visiting.
Traveling Chic10 Feb 2016
Hi Marlene, Thanks for the great tip. I’ve never heard of that program–I will definitely use that on my next international trip. Thanks so much!
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Thirty30Courtney14 Jun 2016
I love this post and it’s getting me excited. I love your point about doing what YOU want to do, not what is expected. There are some sights I’m simply not interested in, I’d rather go on a street art hunt. It’s about -your- journey and what suits you best. People are asking me how many places I’m visiting and I truly don’t know. I’m going at whatever pace I see fit and will enjoy the trek while I’m doing it. Cheers!
Courtney | thirty30courtney.com
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Jennison23 Aug 2016
Such a great post! I used to be an avid European traveler, but met my husband in Spain and now live here! I absolutely love yours travel tips, thanks for sharing! I’d add to bring a small day bag that you can pack and bring with you for day trips or an overnighter. Store your luggage or large pack at a hostel or train station in order to enjoy the day traveling light. Download the maps of your destination cities from Google maps while connected to wifi. You can then use them offline when you arrive.
Steph16 Sep 2016
Love these tips! Great and straight to the point! Pinning now for when we start planning our first Europe adventure next year!
Sarah29 Jun 2020
Great tips for traveling through Europe! I love exploring European cities in the morning as well – it’s nice to see town before the crowds start rolling in.