Planning a first trip to Europe and unsure what are the top 10 destinations and beautiful places to visit? With my guide, I answer all your essential questions, such as how much a trip to Europe costs, how to travel smart and all the things to buy before traveling to Europe for the first time to help you plan your itinerary, be it summer or winter
Going to Europe any time soon?
I got your back, my friend!
Ever since I was a kid and fell in love with Claude Monet during a 2nd grade class presentation, I’ve always considered myself having an European soul. It was my life goal to travel to Europe as soon as I could afford it.
Everything about this amazing continent has always fascinated me before I ever had the chance to come for the first time in 2008 (it is not a surprise that I decided to live here a few years later, but more on that later).
The old world, as we say it, has always been a matter of admiration and curiosity to me (so you have an idea, Brazil, my country of origin, is a bit over 500 years old – Such a baby when compared to Italy, Greece, Spain and all its counterparts).
One thing in particular that I LOVE about Europe is how close one country is from another and how easy it is to travel around (especially considering within the EU region, as the single currency and the lack of need for Visas make changing countries just as easy as changing your morning socks).
To visit France had always been a dream of mine (to the point I actually cried the first time that I saw the Eiffel Tower – yea, I know right?)
1. Sunday Funday (or is it really?)
Sundays in Europe are quite different than from the United States: Hardly any stores are open on Sundays.
So if that is your favorite weekday to hit the mall, might try and re-think that if you travel to Europe.
This applies even for major cities, such as Berlin, Paris, and Barcelona.
2. Pic-Nics and Bicycles
An alternative to shopping can be having a nice pic nic.
As in Brazil we don’t have the tendency to do picnics, I was pleasantly surprised the first time I came and noticed that people from every age would pack a basket filled with local goodies, a towel (and possibly a bottle or two of wine).
Pair that up with a bike and pedal your way to the park to enjoy your Sunday in the sun.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to buy the ingredients the day before, or you might have a hard time finding an open supermarket.
3. Do Not Underestimate Pickpocket’s Ability
These guys are con artists and you’d be surprised with how light-handed and discreet that can be.
When in Europe, everyone can be a suspect so keep your eyes open at all times and avoid getting your trip ruined because someone stole your wallet, or worse, your passport!
If you want to know about 8 super common travel scams, read this post.
4. Euro, I Love You!
Keep in mind that the common currency of the Euro is extremely convenient, especially if you are traveling to diverse countries. However, it is easy to get used to it and forget that not all countries in Europe have adopted the Euro, so you will have to exchange money.
Be smart and do your research of what currency you will need for each country you visit.
5. Ticket to Ride
To me one of the coolest thing about Europe is their rail system and how convenient it is to change cities (and even countries). Not only are trains safe, fast and easy (no airport security check or having to arrive 2h before your trip), but the view you get from inside is breathtaking.
Imagine those beautiful, endless Italian vineyards; the smiling French sunflower fields; the snowy Swiss alps…. The scenarios are endless!! Just don’t fall asleep!!
Tip: Always remember to validate your train ticket. If you don’t, you risk getting a fine.
Pro Tip: It is commonplace to bring food and drinks with you within the train. Why not pack some snacks and a bottle of wine and make the ride even more enjoyable? (just don’t forget the bottle opener!!)
5. Three Words: Low Cost Airlines
There are thousands of low cost options in Europe (from Vueling, EasyJet, RyanAir, Eurowings… pick your favorite – though I would not recommend RyanAir, yuck).
If you book in advance, you can find flights as cheap as 20 euros!!!! (I’ve flown to Ibiza last year for under 30 €, believe it or not!!).
6. Plan Your Day in Advance
The beautiful old world is filled with things to see: from ancient constructions to majestic modern bridges and museums filled with fascinating art, dated back to thousands of years!!
If you are a cultural freak like me, you will quickly go crazy if you don’t plan your days in advance. Most importantly, be sure to pay for tickets online so you don’t waste your precious vacation hours queuing.
7. These Boots Were Made for Walking
Expect to walk and quite A LOT. Even though there are many public transportation that work very well, Europe deserves to be admired by foot.
A good example is Rome. By walking around the city you might be surprised to find ruins dated back to Julius Caesar’s Empire scattered around the streets.
8. Indulge the Water Fountains
Be smart and always carry a water bottle with you. Remember you are in Europe and you can easily find beautiful water fountains everywhere to refill your bottle.
Not only you will be saving money and getting refreshed, but you will be doing the ambiance an immense favor #noplastic
9. The Many Beautiful Cultures
This might be one of the coolest aspects of Europe.
Since I came to travel and live here, I’ve met people from everywhere in the world!! I have close friends from China, Philippines, Russia, US, Venezuela… You name it! The cultural variety here is something to be curated, and not repulsed.
Say no to xenophobia.
One love, guys!!!
You shouldn’t have to pay for taxes in a country you do not live in (in theory). So when you travel to Europe, you may get a tax refund from all the shopping you do. Just be sure to carry a passport with you (or better, a copy of your passport) and ask for the tax refund receipt upon paying.
At the end of your trip, be sure to stamp those at a designated office and claim your money back at the airport.
As this process varies from country to country, I will not write where and how to do it. But do not worry, just ask around and you will see how easy it is to get your money back. As we say in Portuguese ‘’he who has a mouth, goes to Rome’’ (meaning you will find a way to get around simply by asking your way
11. Remember to Pack Light When you ravel to Europe
I know this is hard, and I am a big culprit in not being able to comply to this item, but do try and pack light.
Consider this especially if you will be traveling by train (it is TERRIBLE to carry suitcases up and down the train station stairs. Trust me, I’ve been there).
Also, if you will be traveling low cost airlines, keep in mind that if you take anything bigger than a cabin bag, you will have to pay (except RyanAir, where you pay either way). Can you believe they actually charge you if you want to take your carry on with you onboard??
Once I refused to pay and it took nothing less than 50 minutes for me to recover the suitcase at baggage claim #jerks
And these are only a couple of the maaaaany reasons that I had said why I do not recommend RyanAir.
Do yourself a big favor and don’t fly RyanAir!
12. Take Your Time and Appreciate
13. Listen to the Audio Guide (even if you have to pay)
Many attractions give the audio guide for free, but others require you to pay a price to rent it (usually around 5€).
Remember that money that you’ve saved from bringing a water bottle around? This is where it will be smartly re-invested.
Don’t underestimate how good the audio guides are, as they open your eyes to things you would not have normally seen. Plus you leave feeling like a ‘’bucket of culture’’ (literal translation to a Brazilian expression. I feel inspired today with Brazilian expressions, it seems)
Explore the Local Markets
Bet you agree with me that one of the absolute best things about traveling is discovering new cultures (and that of cooourse includes trying the local food).
And of course every time I travel to Europe I come back with a backpack filled with souvenirs from every country.
I absolutely love going to local mini markets, street markets (even supermarkets) very time I travel. I just love comparing the products and seeing the different things each country offers.
In especial, I go crazy buying exotic spices to bring back home with me and do some experimentation in the kitchen (such as going to Morocco and filling up in cumin, or going to Hungary and buying all the paprika
The challenge is understanding what the labels are saying in the local languages, as usually supermarkets don’t translate for foreigners. But hey…. that’s part of the whole fun!
Best Time to Travel to Europe
Be very careful when you go to Europe as peak months can be excruciating.
Popular months such as July and August can get extremely crowded (not to say expensive). On top of that, depending on which country you are, the temperature can get VERYYYY hot.
My recommendation? Either May or September are both safe options if you want a mild weather and better prices.
Are you planning a trip to Europe any time soon? Leave me a comment below telling me where you are thinking on going!
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- Italy Survival Guide
- Top Restaurants in Rome (according to my picky Roman boyfriend)
- Top Restaurants in Barcelona (according to me after living here 4 years)
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