In this post, we share the transformational tips for travel in Europe that we’ve learned through 20 years of exploring this great continent. It’s a deep dive into making your next trip to Europe life-changing, whether it’s your first time there or your 50th!
- Best Places to Travel in Europe
- Planning a Trip to Europe
- More Posts About Europe
- A Final Note about Travel in Europe
Travelling in Europe is special for so many reasons.
It all starts with history.
In Europe, the traveller is confronted with hundreds of years of history on every street corner.
Cities in Europe have stood through wars, plagues, earthquakes, and floods. They have seen kings and queens come and go, they witnessed the birth of Shakespeare, the invention of the printing press, the car, the personal computer, and the cell phone.
They have even survived the ascension of the low-cost airline.
Though borders change, new governments rise and old buildings fall, in its many incarnations, Europe has been a steadfast witness to all of it.
But it’s not only history that makes Europe travel unique.
It’s all those cultures, living cheek by jowl, just an open border crossing away from each other. All those languages, the varying religions and traditions, the cornucopia of foods, the opposing cultural norms — a few hours on a train or a bus can transport you to a whole different world.
Europe provides travellers limitless opportunities for seeing a new perspective, learning more about the world, and transforming as a result. Exposure to European culture can truly change your life. That’s why Europe is the ultimate bucket list destination for so many people — and it’s why we never tire of visiting.
Though we have written more about Asia, and we come from North America, we’ve travelled in Europe more than any other place.
- Our first trip outside of Canada together was a six-month backpacking trip in Europe.
- We followed that up with 7 years of living in London. We even became British citizens!
- During that time, we travelled to almost all of the countries in Western Europe.
- More recently, we spent 6 months cycling eastern and northern Europe.
- During the last few years of full-time travel, we’ve been to expand our European experiences even further!
All this is to say:
We know Europe intimately.
We’ve already explored most corners of this great continent — but there’s still so much more to see! That’s why we never get tired of going back. There’s always someplace new to explore and something new to discover, about the world and about ourselves.
In this post, I share my best tips for travel in Europe based on the past 20 years of travelling there.
Whether you’re travelling to Europe for the first time or the 10th, the Europe tips you’ll find in this post will help you create a truly transformational vacation.
The post is divided into two sections.
I start with the inspirational, sharing our favourite places to visit in Europe, including some of the most budget-friendly destinations, the best city breaks, and the best places for life-changing outdoor experiences. This section will give you a place to start building your personal Europe bucket list.
In the second part, I get into the nitty gritty of European trip planning, budgeting, getting around, and travelling safely so you can make the most out of your time in Europe.
Best Places to Travel in Europe
There isn’t really any “best” or “worst” of Europe.
Picking the best destinations in Europe for you all depends on your travel style, what you like to do, and what you hope to get out of your trip. All I can do is recommend the places we love so much that we return to them again and again — or we dream of doing so!
Best Cities to Visit in Europe
Picking the best Europe city breaks is like picking the best kind of chocolate — they’re all delicious in their own unique ways! So, to narrow this category down a little, I’ve chosen my favourite cities that are:
- Not overrun by tourists
- Not too expensive
- Small enough to feel friendly
- Deliver bucketloads of old world European charm
Don’t be fooled by these choices. I absolutely love some of the more obvious best cities in Europe — like Rome, Paris, Venice, Prague, Dubrovnik and London — but I’m guessing you already know plenty about them!
Salzburg is one of my favourite cities in Europe!
Maybe it’s because my grandfather was Austrian, but going to Salzburg feels a lot like coming home. There is so much eye-candy architecture set amongst picture-perfect rolling hills and bisected by a wide lazy river. There is culture, history, nature and some of the world’s best cake!
I’ve only ever been to Salzburg in the cold crispness of winter, when snow falls gently on the fairytale streets and the perfect afternoon involves hot chocolate and decadent cake in a traditional cafe.
It couldn’t be more romantic!
Want European Romance?
Our guide to the most romantic cities in Europe will inspire your travel passions!
If you’re old enough, you’ll know Sarajevo by one of two major events:
- The 1984 Winter Olympics
- The Siege of Sarajevo in the early 90s.
But Sarajevo, of course, is so much more than that. It is one of the most moving cities I’ve ever visited.
Narrow streets lined with coffee shops, bakeries, and boutiques, sit snugly in a steep valley with mountains on all sides. It is precisely this idyllic location that enabled an army to surround the city with snipers and maintain their siege for 4 years.
It’s the contrast between beauty and devastation that makes Sarajevo a fascinating place to visit. The traumatic history is moving (and a little depressing) but experiencing the resilient culture that has sprung up in its wake is life-affirming.
Spending a few days in Sarajevo broadened my perspective on religion, war, and the strength of the human spirit. I hope it does the same for you.
Hot tip: Hotels in Sarajevo can be pretty expensive. Instead, check out our guide to the most beautiful Airbnbs in Sarajevo.
I recently made a shortlist of European cities that I wanted to live in, and Lisbon came out on top.
In Lisbon, there are cool quirky neighbourhoods, grand seaside buildings, ancient narrow streets winding past candy coloured homes, and trendy restaurants to feed the local population.
As a bonus, Lisbon is cheaper than most of the comparable cities in Western Europe, making it an excellent choice whether you’re travelling on a budget or not.
Turin / Torino
Italy is hands down one of the best places to travel in Europe.
I love Italy for the food, the wine, and the vivacious culture — but so does everybody else. As a result, Italy’s most famous cities, Rome, Venice, Milan, and Florence, have become overrun with tourists, which somewhat dulls their appeal.
While they are still absolutely incredible cities to visit, Turin has earned its place in my heart because there, it’s easy to get lost in real Italian culture. Even at the most touristy sights, you’re far more likely to encounter an Italian school group than a bus load of foreigners.
We spent three months living in the countryside just outside of Turin last year — and I’d love to go back for another year. If Italy is on your bucket list, don’t miss out on the great northern city of Turin.
Our posts about the city and the surrounding region will inspire you to visit:
Bonus Pick: Amsterdam
I know Amsterdam is super-touristy and an obvious choice when you’re travelling to Europe — but I still love it with all my heart. Any city where there are more bicycles than people (it’s a fact!) is my kind of place.
Along with Lisbon and Turin, Amsterdam is another European city I’d love to live in.
The trick with Amsterdam is that, when you visit, you must get off of the main streets and canals and venture to where the locals live and play. Luckily, this is easily done by bicycle, tram, or ferry.
We’ve been to Amsterdam at least a half-dozen times, most recently to cat-sit for a few months. My complete guide to 2 transformational days in Amsterdam will help you make the most of the major sights and also get off the beaten path into the heart of what makes Amsterdam so special.
Here are a few more essential posts about Amsterdam.
Cheapest Countries in Europe
For this section, I’ve chosen the cheapest countries where I think you’ll still have a great travel experience. There are a few cheaper places but they may be less traveller-friendly.
I made a quick trip to Bulgaria a couple of years ago and I immediately wished I’d planned a longer stay. Sophia is a magnificent city and the smaller city of Plovdiv really stole my heart.
Plovdiv has a quirky arts district where small boutiques offer handmade wares and services. In the town centre, there’s a wide pedestrianized thoroughfare where locals gather to shop or sit in outdoor cafes and drink. Plus, most impressive of all, there’s a freaking Roman Hippodrome that runs beneath the whole thing!
Talk about layer upon layer of history.
You’ll find that almost everything in Bulgaria is super budget-friendly, from the accommodation, to the food, to the travel experiences.
Next time I’m in Bulgaria, I’d love to explore the Black Sea Coast, the interior of the country, the Rila Monastery and the many other historical sites dotted around the country.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
I’ve already waxed lyrical about Sarajevo, but Bosnia & Herzegovina has so many other attractions, natural and man made, that it deserves at least a couple of weeks of exploration. So far, I’ve only ventured to Mostar and Sarajevo and have missed out on so much more!
There are extraordinary waterfalls in Una National Park, hundreds of hiking trails in the Dinaric Alps, a warm welcome in the city of Banja Luka, an outdoorsy wonderland at Pliva Lakes, castles, monasteries, picturesque villages and much more.
While prices are a little higher in Sarajevo and Mostar than the rest of the country, even these popular tourist spots are much more affordable than similar cities in western Europe.
One of my biggest regrets about our 2-year cycling tour is that we missed out on cycling Romania. Fortunately, Stephen and I got a chance to explore the country by train more recently — and it made me want to cycle there even more!
Romania offers a rich tapestry of experiences at a very affordable price. Airbnb apartments are a great deal in Romania, while food, wine, and transportation are equally budget-friendly.
From the up-and-coming city of Bucharest to the cute-as-a-button towns of Sibiu and Sighisoara, from the rural villages of Maramures to the relatively modern cities of Timisoara and Cluj-Napoca, Romania offers a huge variety of cultural experiences.
If you love the outdoors, there’s also plenty of hiking, cycling, and skiing, not to mention the Transfăgărășan highway, one of the world’s most famous roads.
I can’t wait to go back!
So far I’ve arrived in Croatia by ferry from Italy to Split (with bikes), by bus from Bosnia to Dubrovnik, and by bus from Slovenia to Istria. Every time I return, my love affair with this little coastal country grows stronger.
The Adriatic sea acts as a sparkling turquoise backdrop for lying on the beach, exploring historic walled cities, and sipping your way through the wine regions. Dubrovnik is one of my favourite cities in Europe and only failed to make the list above because it is absolutely wall-to-wall tourists during summer and through most of the shoulder season.
Even with all the other attractions, the biggest pleasure in Croatia lies in its people, who are open, friendly, optimistic, and warm, despite (or perhaps because of) the years of war they endured in the early 90s.
While prices in Dubrovnik are far higher than in the rest of the country, you’ll still be able to happily travel Croatia on a shoestring, especially if you go in off season.
You might know it better as the Czech Republic (or that country where Prague is), but whatever you call it, Czechia is unmissable.
Despite Prague’s relatively recent skyrocket to fame (and coinciding skyrocketing in prices), Czechia is still one of the less expensive countries to visit in Europe. So when you’re planning your Europe trip, make time for Prague but don’t fail to explore some of Czechia’s many other attractions.
There are a seemingly endless list of perfectly picturesque towns to visit in Czechia. The most popular is Český Krumlov but Holašovice, Litomysl, and Kutna Hora are contenders for most adorable.
Plus, I loved the month I spent housesitting in Brno, a modern city where tourists are few and cool cafes, bars, and young people abound. It’s quickly becoming one of Europe’s most popular choices for digital nomads.
Above, I have recommended countries in the EU/Schengen area, but there are countries that are geographically part of Europe where you’ll find extraordinary travel experiences at very low prices.
I’m thinking of Armenia, Georgia, and Turkey. With one foot in Europe and one foot in Asia, these countries hold a unique place in geopolitics and culture, so they deliver a travel experience quite unlike anything you’ll find in the rest of Europe.
If you’re interested in exploring Eurasia, check out our guide to the wonderful region of Izmir, Turkey and find out where to stay in Izmir. Plus, learn all about hiking in Armenia.
Choosing Between Countries
On paper, certain European countries can appear quite similar to their neighbours. It can be hard to choose! We’ve written a few (controversial) country comparisons, so we’ve got you covered if you need help choosing between:
Of course, these are just our opinions based on our experience and you might draw a completely different conclusion when you visit!
Cheapest Cities in Europe
If you’re on a budget, one of the best tips for saving money when you travel Europe is to stay away from big cities. However, in Europe, the cities are a vital part of what makes travelling there so special.
Not to worry. If you can’t afford London, Paris, Oslo, and Stockholm, you can travel to some of these cities instead:
- Bucharest — Romania’s biggest city is fast developing into one of Europe’s coolest.
- Sofia – Bulgaria’s beautiful gem of a city where parks and striking architecture take the main stage.
- Krakow – Poland’s second city doles out history by the bucketload.
- Sarajevo – An atmospheric beauty with a heart-wrenching past.
- Budapest – European charm on a grand scale with a vibrant underbelly of progressive youth culture.
- Riga – Latvia’s cool jewel of a city with amazing architecture and a tasty foodie scene.
Best Winter Destinations in Europe
If you’re looking for the perfect place to spend a few days or a few weeks over the Christmas season, Europe is the place to go!
- For cities decked out in lights and seasonal sparkle, we love London, Monte Carlo, and Helsinki.
- For a Christmas right out of a fairytale, head to Hallstatt in Austria, Aarhus in Denmark, or Rovaniemi, Finland.
- If all you want for Christmas is a sunny beach, the Algarve in Portugal or Kalamata in Greece are ideal.
You’ll find your perfect European winter escape in our guide to the best places to spend Christmas in Europe.
Best Countries for Outdoor Experiences
Of course, Europe is not all majestic cities and picturesque villages. Nature and life-changing outdoor activities abound.
Here are a few of the best countries if you want to get outside while in Europe.
- Iceland – A long-distance hut-to-hut hike in Iceland is firmly on my bucket list.
- Switzerland – The Swiss Alps are an adventure storybook come to life.
- Romania – Charming villages, rolling hills, stunning landscapes. The perfect place for a cycling adventure.
- Ireland – The wild Atlantic coast of Ireland is one of the most spectacular places in Europe.
Planning a Trip to Europe
Planning the perfect Europe itinerary can be difficult, time-consuming, and incredibly exciting. Before you start putting your itinerary on paper, read our planning tips for Europe below to avoid some of the most common mistakes.
Tips for Your First Trip to Europe
1. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in Museums and Churches
If I could go back and give advice to my younger travelling self, this is the first thing I’d tell her: don’t visit too many museums and churches in Europe!
Guide books like Lonely Planet can make it seem like every altar and dusty painting on your route is a must-see. After a while, they all start to look alike and, before you know it, your Europe trip becomes a blur of vaulted ceilings and ornate gold picture frames.
Unless you are a religious scholar or a nut for painting and sculpture, limit your exposure to attractions that are frozen in history and spend more time out in the living, breathing, changing world.
2. Don’t Try to See It All
The place we call Europe is huge and magnificently diverse – as a traveller you can only absorb so much. Unless your trip is years long, you’ll need to break off a bite-size chunk of the continent and be grateful to get to experience that much.
Please (please please!) don’t fly from Dublin to Rome to Stockholm to Istanbul to Athens in the space of two weeks and then go home saying you’ve “done Europe” — you’ve really only done Europe’s major airports.
Instead, pick a small region that lights your imagination on fire and see it up close, on foot and bikes and trains and busses. This is where the true revelations will come to you and where life-changing experiences happen.
3. Figure Out What You Want
When I first travelled to Europe, I had no idea what I wanted from the trip or from life in general. Travelling Europe was just something people did before college or before “real life” began. For me, it was just a way to get away from the stifling smallness of my hometown.
Still, I wish I had factored my interests into our travel plans more.
Like I said, we spent huge chunks of time in churches and museums, even though I’m not particularly interested in art or religion. I wish I had spent more of that time learning about the different periods and styles of architecture — which has always fascinated me — and exploring the abundant nature.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t see things that are outside your areas of interest — you absolutely should! — but make sure you weave these around activities that bring your soul to life.
Game of Thrones Fan?
If you love Game of Thrones, Europe is the perfect destination to indulge your GOT fantasies. Our guide to the best Game of Thrones experiences in Europe will give you some great ideas.
4. Read All the Books
One of the best ways to find inspiration for your Europe trip is to read read read. Whether you like historical fiction, contemporary fiction, biographies, non-fiction history, travel memoirs, or even fantasy books, you’ll find a huge selection set in the countries where you’re about to travel.
For me, reading historical fiction is the ideal way to get into the hearts and minds of the people and understand how their lives and experiences have shaped modern culture.
While you’re planning your Europe trip, devour as many books as you can about Europe — your newfound understanding will have a huge impact on how you view the people and the places you encounter when you get there.
5. Watch (and Read) Rick Steves
If you’re a novice traveller, or if you’ve only ever done trips that involve taxis, big chain hotels, and a complete lack of adventure, devour a dose of Rick Steves before you head to Europe.
He’s kind of an American everyman and he’s pretty nerdy — but that’s why he’s the ideal guide for your trip to Europe.
This totally ordinary guy will teach you how to experience Europe in an extraordinary way. You’ll learn tips to see everything from a local’s point of view instead of being another one of the tourist mob that descends on the continent each year.
If you’re going to spend money on a guidebook, skip Lonely Planet and check out Rick Steves instead.
Tips for the Perfect Europe Itinerary
1. Make a Bucket List
Europe is a huge place and only the foolhardy traveller will try to tackle it all in one short vacation. The first step in planning a manageable and fulfilling Europe itinerary is to make a bucket list. Just grab some paper and scribble down all the things in Europe you MUST see before you die.
Don’t get caught in the trap of just listing the most famous sights.
To one pair of eyes, the Eiffel Tower is a marvel of engineering, to another, it’s just a pointy eyesore. One traveller might see Stonehenge as a mystical marvel, while the other might see just a pile of old rocks.
Your bucket list should be YOUR bucket list. Include the things that interest you, not the things you’ve been told to see.
Once you have your list, plot it on a map. Find the spot where the biggest cluster of bucket list places lives and go there. You can leave the outliers for your next Europe trip.
2. Slow Down
Your trip to Europe is not The Amazing Race.
There are no cash prizes for who can see the most cities in two weeks. You don’t win if you somehow pack 15 countries into 10 days. In fact, travellers who do this come home with nothing but a huge credit card bill and foggy memories of bus stations, airports, and waiting in line.
Travelling slowly in a smaller area is not only more fulfilling, it’s also less expensive, better for the environment, and helps improve the lives of local people.
I guarantee a slow trip is a better trip and will give Europe a chance to work its magic on you.
Where to Go Slow?
If you want to plan a slow trip, don’t miss our guide to the best destinations for mindful travel in Europe.
3. Don’t Fly in Europe
Part of slowing down means avoiding those cheap and nasty flights that are the scourge of Europe. I have met so many people whose Europe itinerary involves flight after flight after flight — it makes me want to weep.
Once you land in Europe, make that the last plane you see until you’re heading home.
Airports are the world’s most soul-sucking places (if you don’t count shopping malls) and I hate the thought that you might waste most of your time in Europe jumping between security lines, baggage claims, and airport taxis.
4. Never Stay for Just One Night
I can’t think of a single place I’ve been in Europe that only deserves a few hours or a single night. If you only have a short time in Europe, don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’ll see more if you give each place less time.
In truth, so much travel time is wasted searching for your hotel, unpacking, repacking, checking in and checking out that you’ll be better off staying in each place a little longer.
Staying for at least 2 nights (we aim for 3 or more) in each place will give you the chance to really experience the world you came to see.
1. Budgeting for Europe
How much does it cost to travel in Europe?
How long is a piece of string? How big a tub of ice cream? How much water does a lake hold? How much does my head weigh?
In general, Europe is expensive compared to most other places in the world. Northern Europe can be eye-wateringly pricey, followed by western Europe, eastern Europe, and countries in the south and that are not part of the EU.
Prices also fluctuate depending on the season and depending on what you choose to do while you’re there. So, of course, we can’t exactly tell you how much it costs to travel in Europe — the answer is different for every person.
But, we can provide you some sample costs (in USD) to give you an idea:
Mid-Range Traveller in Paris
- Approximate Daily Budget $175–250
- 3-Star Hotel Room $150–250
- Meals for One Day $30–50/person
Budget Traveller in Paris
- Approximate Daily Budget $60–80/person/day
- Hostel Bed $25–40
- Meals for One Day $15–25/person
Mid-Range Traveller in Budapest
- Approximate Daily Budget $80–100
- 3-Star Hotel Room $75–100
- Meals for One Day $18–25
Budget Traveller in Budapest
- Approximate Daily Budget $30–40
- Hostel Bed $7–15
- Meals for One Day $10–15
You can drive yourself crazy trying to estimate the cost of every day of your trip to Europe, especially when prices fluctuation so much from country to country. Instead, use our simple travel budget formula to figure out your budget for Europe and then adjust as you go.
2. Travelling Europe on a budget
Even though it’s expensive, the good news is, it is still possible to travel Europe on a budget. Start by saving on the big expenses, like flights and accommodation, so you don’t have to scrimp too much on the small stuff, like sights and meals.
Here are a few tips for making your money go further in Europe. As a bonus, following these same tips often leads to more transformational experiences!
- Book international flights early – Flights to Europe will be your biggest travel expense, so as soon as you know your dates, start searching for the cheapest options.
- Fly the cheapest route – Some cities in Europe are far cheaper to fly into than others. Use this index and Google flights to save hundreds of dollars on your flights to Europe.
- Take the bus – Trains are a romantic way to get around Europe; flights are a quick way. Busses, however, are the cheapest way! You can save hundreds of dollars by taking the bus between destinations. We have used FlixBus all over Europe and have found it to be generally quick, efficient, clean, and cheap.
- Go during off season – By avoiding summer in Europe, you will save big, so if you can, go when other tourists are staying home.
- Go east or south – You’ll save a ton of money by exploring The Baltics, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece.
- Get out of the city – Europe’s grand cities are impressive but they’re also expensive. Go to less popular cities or small towns to save.
3. What are the best travel credit cards for Europe?
Sometimes the credit card you already have is the best one to take to Europe – simply because it’s far less hassle than applying for a new card.
However, we do recommend that you travel with two credit cards from different banks. That way, if something happens to one, or your bank suddenly decides to decline your transactions for security reasons (this happens more than you’d think!), you’ll have a backup.
Here are few things to look out for when searching for a new travel credit card:
- Does it charge foreign transaction fees? If so, don’t get it!
- Does it offer cash back or travel points for purchases? We prefer cash-back cards because, unless you’re going deep into travel hacking, points can often be hard to use.
- Is there a sign-up bonus? If you get a card that offers points, then make sure they’re also offering a hefty sign up bonus with a low minimum qualifying spend.
- Is there an annual fee? For most people, the annual fee won’t pay off, so it’s better to stick with a fee-free card. However, if you’re a big spender, annual fee cards sometimes pay dividends.
- Is it accepted everywhere? For travel, get Visa or MasterCard — other cards are not always accepted.
4. Handling cash
Just like everything in Europe, the cash situation varies depending on which country you are in. The Euro which has simplified things a lot. So has Apple Pay / Tap, which is widely accepted in some countries and means you don’t really have to carry cash.
In other countries, you won’t be able to use your foreign credit cards or will only be able to pay with cash.
For those countries, you’ll want to have a good cash-handling strategy, because pickpockets can be found across the continent.
The first step is to get a debit card that doesn’t charge you a fee for foreign transactions. Then make ample use of ATMs to avoid carrying huge wads of cash with you. Finally, follow our safety tips in the Precautions section below to keep that cash safe.
Eating and Drinking
I am obsessed by food — and there’s no place for foodie travel like Europe. It offers up flavour after flavour to tantalize your tongue. The pirogies in Poland, the pizza in Italy, the pain au chocolate in France, the pastéis de nata in Portugal.
Oh, what mouth-watering fun awaits you!
Despite that, I know people (travel bloggers even!) who go to Europe and eat at McDonalds and drink in Starbucks.
This is just wrong on every possible level!
Please don’t miss out on Europe’s great restaurants and cafes by eating at corporate giants. Instead, follow these tips to help you find the best food while travelling in Europe.
- Don’t eat near big attractions – This applies mostly to the big cities. The restaurants packed with tourists right outside the Coliseum in Rome are not your best options. Plan your day so you can have time to seek out better food a little further away.
- Explore cheap neighbourhood restaurants – We’ve had the best meals of our life in tiny delis and cafes on backstreets in some of the world’s most impressive cities. These restaurants have to be great because they serve the same clients day after day. If the locals love it, there’s probably something delicious going on for great value!
- Eat at markets and supermarkets – When we’re travelling on a budget (which is almost always), we try to eat breakfast and lunch from markets and supermarkets. You learn so much about a culture by browsing the market stalls and grocery shelves and seeing what everyday people buy for lunch. Plus, picnicking in a park or at the side of a scenic canal in a strange city is fantastic.
Vegan travel in Europe
Just because you’re vegan or vegetarian does not mean that you’ll miss out on the best food experiences in Europe. Seeking out animal-friendly food is a great way to meet like-minded locals and visit neighbourhoods you might never have seen otherwise.
Europe also has some cities which are just amazing for vegans and worth visiting just for the food. If you’re going to any of the cities below, our extensive vegan travel guides should be the first stop on your food adventure!
Tips for Finding the Best Accommodation
1. Book hotels early
Booking accommodation ahead is almost always the way to go when travelling in Europe. You’ll get the best prices and the best places if you plan ahead. Hotels in Europe usually offer a 48-hour cancellation policy, so you can feel comfortable booking in advance and changing your plans if you have to.
Usually, we opt for independent hotels, but we’re treating ourselves to a little luxury on a budget, we love to stay at Citizen M. They’re a small chain that makes boutique comfort affordable in some of the most popular cities in Europe.
2. Use a trusted booking site
We almost always use Booking.com for our hotel bookings because:
- The site makes it easy to find accommodation that suits our personal needs.
- The cancellation policy is usually 48 or 24 hours.
- They have given us great customer service on the rare occasions when something goes wrong.
- Plus, since we book a lot, we get a frequent booker discount.
3. Don’t forget about Airbnb
There are certain countries in Europe where Airbnb is the only good place to find accommodation. In Romania, for example, Airbnbs are plentiful and affordable, while hotels are sparse and expensive. So if you’re having trouble find the right accommodation, check Airbnb.
A word of caution though.
Airbnb is becoming a big problem in cities across Europe.
In Lisbon, locals have been priced out of some of the oldest neighbourhoods because businesses are buying up apartments to rent to tourists. In Venice, locals have also been priced off of the islands and now some refer to it as “Disneyland on the sea”.
To avoid making this problem worse, in historic or popular tourist cities, we either:
- Book in Airbnbs that are a spare room in a local’s apartment.
- Book a place far outside the historic city centre.
This way, we do our best to ensure our travel dollars are benefiting locals, not harming them.
4. Hostels in Europe
The hostel scene in Europe is freaking awesome!
The bar is really high for hostels these days, so most come with all the amenities you might expect and then go above and beyond to ensure you have a great stay. This all comes at a price, though, and in some of the more popular cities, you won’t be able to get a decent hostel bed for less than $40.
5. Camping in Europe
If you come from north America, then camping in Europe is… weird.
Campgrounds in Europe are usually more practical than beautiful. You might have to set up your tent on a large open lawn, amongst RVs, cars, and other campers. Other campgrounds are more like villages, home to long-term RVers who stay all summer and even set up fences, gardens, and other semi-permanent structures.
What they lack in privacy, European campgrounds make up for in facilities. Most have big indoor kitchens with pots, pans, and stoves where you can cook your meals and hide from any nasty weather. These facilities have saved our sanity more than once while cycling and camping in Europe.
Best Way to Travel Around Europe
Getting around Europe is half the fun of travelling there! Keep this in mind when you’re planning: the fastest way is not always the best way to get between points A and B.
Flying in Europe
The worst thing to happen to Europe travel is the rise of the low cost airline. Yes, it has made travel accessible to more people, which is a good thing. However, it has also driven up prices on long-distance trains and irreversibly damaged the planet in ways we don’t yet understand. Plus, airports suck!
Planning a trip to Europe that involves flying from place to place is a sure-fire way to ruin your experience. Avoid it at all costs.
Train Travel in Europe
There is romance in train travel and, if you can afford it, it’s the best way to get around many parts of Europe.
Trains are an undeniably exciting way to travel, especially if you come from a place where cars are king. So book yourself at least a few train journeys when you’re in Europe and do an overnight by sleeper train if you can! You might not get much sleep but the experience is worth it.
Train service and cost varies markedly from country to country. In some countries, there’s nowhere you can’t go by train, while others only have bare bones services to a few destinations. In certain countries, trains are major budget breakers while in others, they’re the most affordable way to get around.
Buying train tickets in Europe can be a challenge, too. In some countries, if you leave your ticket purchase until the last minute, you’ll have to pay extra. In other countries, booking online can be a challenge.
Use this invaluable guide to get the best price on train tickets in Europe and if you’re wondering whether a rail pass is worth it, this guide will help.
Travelling in Europe by Bus
There are many countries in Europe where the train service is either overpriced or extremely limited. In these places, it’s time to get on the bus, Gus. We’ve done a ton of long and short bus trips around Europe and have found it’s a surprisingly good way to travel. Plus, it’s often faster than the train.
After lots of experimentation, my rules for bus travel in Europe are simple. I’ll take the bus if:
- It’s significantly cheaper than the train.
- It’s significantly more convenient than the train (departure times, bus station location etc).
- If there is no train service.
I always try to limit my bus trips to 5 hours or less. I’d rather stop off overnight in a small city and continue the next day than spend 10 hours on the bus!
FlixBus usually has the best deals and timetables for tourists, especially if you book a few days ahead.
Renting a Car in Europe
Depending on where you want to travel, renting a car might end up being the best option for portions of your trip.
For example, I rented a car to travel around Ireland in off season because there were train services and very limited bus services for the places I wanted to go. In fact, I ended up driving a fellow traveller to some sights because she couldn’t get there without a car.
There are pros and cons for car travel in Europe.
Pros for car travel in Europe
- Car rental in Europe is very affordable.
- You can go where you want on your own schedule.
- You can reach places that other tourists are unable to see.
Cons for car travel in Europe
- Gas prices in Europe are really high.
- Driving on Europe’s narrow winding roads and their massive fast highways can be terrifying.
- Not an environmentally friendly way to go.
Overall, I would only recommend renting a car if you have several destinations you want to explore that are inaccessible by other means.
Europe by camper van
Travelling Europe by camper van has been a dream of mine for a long time. Europe seems like the ideal place to do this because:
- Accommodation in hotels is generally very expensive in Europe.
- There are campgrounds everywhere.
- You don’t have to drive very far to get to a new and different place.
The big drawback, and the reason we’ve not yet done it, is that renting a camper van in Europe is super expensive. It’s more affordable to buy a used van and then sell it at the end of your trip!
Even if you don’t want to do a full-blown independent cycle tour in Europe like we did, we still highly recommend getting on a bike at some point in your travels.
- One-day city bike tours are a great option for cities that are a little too spread out for a good walking tour.
- One-day countryside bike tours will show you a very different style of life.
- Multi-day bike tours, where the company provides a guide and all the equipment you’ll need, plus books your accommodation, can be a life-changing experience packed into a very small window of time.
When in Europe be prepared to walk everywhere.
There is so much too see in European cities that just walking around and looking can be a mind-blowing experience.
Add more depth to your walks by joining a free city walking tour on the day of your arrival in a new city. A walking tour will help you:
- Get your bearings.
- Learn about the local history and culture.
- Discover great tips for the rest of your time in the city.
What to Pack for Europe
While I’m not providing a complete packing list for Europe (I’ll leave your underwear decisions up to you), these are the items we think you’ll be more than happy to have along on your Europe trip.
- Comfy walking shoes – The number one item for Europe! You will walk so much in Europe your feet won’t know what hit ’em. Protect your knees and save your legs with some good quality lightweight walking shoes.
- Travel journal – If I could go back and do it all over again, I would spend more time journalling on my travels. The accounts I wrote of my first trip to Europe are priceless to me now and I wish I had kept up the practice on subsequent trips. Bring a small notebook and set aside time each evening to think and write. You can thank me later.
- Travel umbrella – Europe has all the weather and you don’t want it to ruin even a moment of your trip, so pack a travel umbrella for those sudden rainstorms that are sure to hit.
- Great travel dress – If you like convenience, comfort, and looking cute, a travel dress or two is a must-pack. Dresses are great because it’s easy to wear one all day and then dress it up for an evening out.
- Lightweight pants – There’s nothing that will mark you as a tourist in Europe like having your knobbly knees on display. A lightweight pair of pants that you can wear on sweltering days in European cities will keep you cool while still blending with the locals.
- Warm layers – Even in summer, you can face some pretty cool weather in Europe. If you’re heading anywhere where the mercury dips low, make sure to pack a few layers to stay warm.
- Sunglasses – Summer or winter, sunglasses are essential travel gear, no matter where you go!
- Water bottle – Almost all of Europe’s tap water is perfectly drinkable, so save the world by bringing your own refillable water bottle. You’ll thank me when you’re filling up at an ancient fountain on the streets of Venice.
- Secure travel daypack – Probably Europe’s worst scourge is its petty thieves and pickpockets. Keep your stuff safe with an anti-theft backpack.
Precautions for Europe Travel
Less dangerous than the US, more dangerous than most of Asia… Europe falls somewhere in the middle. The biggest dangers tend to come from pickpockets and scammers, so staying aware of your surroundings and who you’re dealing with will go a long way to keeping you safe.
Above all, don’t ruin your Europe trip by imagining dangers on every corner. For context, Stephen and I have travelled all over Europe, both as a couple and solo, and only ever had one bad incident.
While on a solo trip to Spain, Stephen was followed down a quiet alley by a kid who pulled a knife. The kid ran off with about €150 in cash and Stephen learned a valuable lesson.
Our safety tips below will help you avoid that kind of situation and have in incident-free trip to Europe.
Don’t go without travel insurance
This is just a blanket recommendation for every time you travel anywhere. Shit happens and though I heartily hope it won’t happen to you, nobody can guarantee that. Get travel insurance to avoid that “oh my god how am I going to pay for this disaster?” moment.
SafetyWing Travel Medical Insurance is our number one pick — it’s the travel insurance we use and recommend to friends and family.
We like it because:
- Covers lots of adventurous activities.
- Covers all the standard travel emergencies that might come up.
- Is super easy to sign up.
- Can be purchased or extended while you’re travelling.
- It’s one of the cheapest options, starting at just $37/month.
Travelling solo in Europe
While solo travel in Europe is generally safe (I’ve done it all over the place without a single calamity), you’ll have to stay a little more aware than when travelling with friends.
Rely on your instincts — if you think a person or place feels dodgy, get away. Keep your camera, bag, and phone, secured at all times, and follow our tips below to avoid pickpockets.
Foiling pickpockets is not as difficult as you might think. They do work in teams but it’s not like the streets of Europe are crawling with Artful Dodgers and Fagins.
The best way to avoid being pickpocketed is to avoid keeping stuff in accessible pockets! Pickpockets look for easy targets, so tucking valuables away in hidden zipper pockets and using an anti-theft travel bag will discourage would-be thieves.
Keeping cash safe
Cash safety is simple. Make frequent use of ATMs and credit cards to avoid walking around with big bundles of cash. If you’re in a cash-only country, then keep most of day’s cash stowed deep in the bottom your daypack, or in the hotel safe. Put a few small bills in your wallet to pay for incidentals on the street. That way, if it does get stolen, it’s no big deal.
In general, people in Europe aren’t big extroverts the way they are in North America. (Major generalization but useful to know!)
That’s why, for the most part, when people approach you on the street, it’s unlikely that they’re just being friendly. It’s OK to be open and friendly to someone who approaches you. However, if they try to offer you something or ask for something, extricate yourself from the situation quickly by ducking into a shop or a cafe.
Using common sense
If you have learned to survive incident-free in your home city or town, then chances are you already have the skills to avoid trouble in Europe.
Just use your common sense:
- Stay aware of your surroundings.
- Don’t flash around wads of cash or expensive belongings.
- If a situation feels wrong, then remove yourself from the situation.
- Don’t go wandering down deserted streets by yourself drunk at 2am.
If you follow these tips, you should be absolutely fine!
Travel has an impact on the environment and the world. Some of it is positive but much of it is not. Move your balance to the good side by giving back when you travel in Europe.
If you can afford to travel to Europe, you can afford to set aside a small part of your travel budget (we suggest 1–10%) to help make less fortunate people’s lives a little better.
Here are a few European organizations we can suggest, but ideally you’ll look out for social or environmental causes to support as you travel so that your donation means something to you personally.
- Friends of the Earth Europe – Campaigns on today’s most urgent environmental and social justice issues.
- World Wildlife Fund Europe – Advocates and campaigns for better EU policies that benefit the European and global environment.
- Anti-Slavery – Works to provide people at risk from slavery with an opportunity to build sustainable futures.
- European Women’s Lobby – Brings together the women’s movement in Europe to influence the general public and European institutions in support of women’s human rights.
More Posts About Europe
A Final Note about Travel in Europe
Although people often talk about taking a European vacation or “doing Europe” (my most hated travel phrase), there’s really no single European travel experience.
Each trip to Europe is unique — you might spend your time in art galleries and historic cafes, while someone else will spend their days hiking and their nights clubbing. Other people will go deep into the historical side of things, while still others will focus on getting to know the modern culture.
The point is, there’s no one perfect European itinerary and no one “right” way to do Europe.
So we encourage you to use our travel tips for Europe as a launch pad to creating the most amazing and transformational European trip you can!
♥ Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen
I hope you found these travel tips for Europe useful in planning an amazing trip for yourself. Our goal is to help our readers experience the world in a way that helps change their perspective, their outlook, and ultimately, their lives. So here’s to your transformational travel experience in Europe!
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