How to Travel Through Europe

So you've graduated from high school/college, or you have retired and you have some money stashed away and plenty of free time on your hands. It's time to see the world. Seeing Europe is something that many people dream about but never actually do. Though it may seem intimidating, planning a "Eurotrip" is relatively easy, especially with modern technology and all of the travel guides we have today.

Europe is one of the most common trip destinations for many people and for good reason: the breadth and volume of art, culture, and perhaps most importantly other travelers is second to none. Here is some guidance on how to have a stress-free, trouble-free time while visiting continental Europe.


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    Get Started.
    • Commit to your decision and start saving money right away. You won't have an exact budget yet, but airfare alone will probably be in the range of $500 to $1000 if you live in the U.S.
    • Get there by boat or plane. Cheap flights from the United States to London are far cheaper than any other European destination. If purchased well in advance and during the off-season, flights to London can cost less than $500 round trip!
    • Get a passport if you don't already have one!
    • Decide where you want to go. This is the hardest part of the planning process. Most people have a limited amount of time to travel, so focusing on your top desires is key.
    • Make a "must-see" list - this can be cities, countries, specific monuments, open-air markets, whatever! Arrange them in a top-ten list.
    • Map out the most reasonable travel plan. Using Google Maps, plot all of your desired locations on a map and figure out a route.
    • Figure out how much time you want to spend in each place. This may depend on your budget, but for now list the minimum number of days it would take to really see your destinations. For example, only one day in a major capital like Madrid or Paris would be a shame.
    • Don't make your travel plans too rigid. You will want the ability to take an extra day or follow your new friends to a destination you hadn't previously thought of.
    • Remember that everything takes longer than you expect so ease up on "seeing it all" and add a buffer, extra experience day into your itinerary! Ideal is 2-3 nights (1-2 sightseeing days) depending on destination & personal interests. Use travel days to see sights en-route.
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    Get your budget in order.
    • Add up the price of your, flight, Eurail/Interail Pass or whatever transportation you have decided upon, your food and lodging, and the prices of your main attractions (most of which can be found online).
    • Take an ATM card instead of money. Use it at banks to withdraw cash. On each trip, withdraw enough cash for a few days. Alternatively, pay by card as carrying large amounts of cash is a risk. Check your bank fees, it might incur less charges to use your debit card than to withdraw cash.
      • Keep most of your cash in a money-belt, and wear it underneath your clothes, but keep a little cash in a pocket so you have fast access to it.
    • Pickpockets are everywhere. It's advisable to take a second ATM card or credit card in case one is stolen. Some banks (and AAA) sell re-chargeable Visa Cards (be aware that Credit Cards used in Europe will charge 2%-4% transaction fees. The exchange rate on transactions should run at the BBR (Bankers Buying Rate) plus percentages - but who has the time to check? Cash is king.
      • Take enough cash to last you until your first trip to a bank.
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    Pack light.
    • Under-pack. A collapsible umbrella not a rain-coat or hat. Opera Spyglass not binoculars. Walking shoes not pretty shoes. Use hotel soap/shampoo to wash out socks and under garments. Less is more.
    • Remember, you will be carrying your duffel bag/backpack/suitcase for miles every time you travel, so make it as light as possible. Also you will want to leave room for souvenirs to take home. All major hostels have laundromats nearby.
    • Search travel packing lists on the web and adjust according to where you're going. Remember that you can always buy stuff when you get there...Europe has thin towels that are great for traveling, and toiletries are pretty much the same there as anywhere else! Above all, get a good backpack and make sure it's comfortable.
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    Decide Where to Stay.
    • Make a Reservation for your first one or two nights and your last night (if possible) accommodations before you leave home.
    • Begin to search for accommodation in the cities you'll be visiting. You could just book Hotels, but if you're on a tight budget (like most), staying in hostels is your best bet.
    • Review the ratings (there are tons of hostel booking sites, including specialty hostels for students, female, senior, etc.) and use common sense, you will be fine! Hostels usually run a little under 20-40 euros a night. They are usually the safest, friendliest, most social and best located options available to you. Often times they have pubs and meeting places located on the premises. They book up fast, so reserve well in advance.
    • Another option is "couch surfing," which basically means staying at someone's home. Again, it seems sketchy, but there are verification processes, reviews, and you have your common sense! Not only is it free, it is a wonderful way to experience the city you're staying in; many hosts are willing to show you around and take you to the non-touristy parts.
    • Make allowances for travel fatigue which is very common and very real. If you pack your travel schedule too tight, you will spend more money on a daily basis and have less time to enjoy each place.
    • Arrive at your next over-night before dark. Vary your touristic experiences from location to location (museum, market, play, boat-trip, 'local' dining, bus, tram, bike, ferry, hike...).
    • Ask your host/hotel/hostel to make a reservation at your next destination - they usually oblige without charge. Stop for lunch and later for coffee or beverage along the way no matter where you are to soak up that location's uniqueness.
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    Choose a mode of travel.
    • Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each mode of travel.
    • Travel by rail (also known as the train). This goes for the majority of Europe, though buses are used in smaller towns. If you don't have a problem with travelling by coach then that's great, because it works out cheaper. A useful coach comparison website to check out is
      • Trains can be slow compared to planes, until you factor in airline check-in time, and trains are good for shorter distances (less than 200 miles). However, it gives you more of a chance to see the scenery.
      • The Eurail/Interail Pass is something you can consider. You alter its terms to fit your trip. Most of the time a 30 day pass even includes small, local trains. The best part about the Eurail Pass is that you pretty much pay all of your transportation expenses up front - it's something less to worry about while travelling.
      • It may cheaper just to buy the train tickets. European Rail Companies have websites that offer special one-way off peak tickets. Some are 'domestic' and some 'international'.
    • Fly. Take advantage of amazingly cheap flights (often 30 to 40 euros) between all of Europe's major cities. For long distances you can save time and money by traveling with one of Europe's many budget airlines (some charge for baggage).
    • Rent a Car (age restrictions). Cars allow you to take the long and scenic route, stop in local villages and eateries, picnic, photo stops and carry your luggage for you and get you to less expensive accommodations.
      • A number of Major Car Rental Companies allow free one-way rental, without drop-off charges within certain countries (example: Pick-up Berlin - drop Munich). Most Car Rental Companies allow you to take cars into adjoining countries. Portable GPS systems can be down-loaded with European Maps to make finding destinations (in English) easy.
      • Driving is very similar to the USA & Canada (except UK and Ireland where they drive on the left!).
      • If you arrive and stay in a large city on arrival it is recommended you pick-up your car on departure of that city. By picking up cars IN the city (Train stations normally carry surcharges as do Airports) you will save money (dropping off at Airports does not cost extra and is very convenient) and the hassle of city parking is avoided.
      • Pick up car with 24-hour rental periods in mind. If only large cities are on your itinerary car rentals are not recommended. Public transport is the key in large cities.
    • Take local and long distance coaches/buses. Or use a combination of any or all of these options.
    • Ferry.


  • Eat the local food. Try something you've never had before. It is truly a crime to go to Italy, France or Austria and have all of your meals at McDonald's.
  • You'll be dealing with different languages, so learning a few phrases or picking up a slim phrase book wouldn't hurt, especially if you're visiting more out-of-the-way spots. If you learn how to say "hello," "goodbye," "please," "thank you," "I want the..." and "how much does this cost?" you will make a lot of people happy. They will be gratified that you have made the effort.
  • Also, the International Student Insurance Card (ISIC) offers travel insurance, discounts all over the world, and a cheap calling card, all for around $22!
  • Read up on all different parts of Europe that you may want to visit. Besides all of the major destinations, take a serious look at Portugal, southern Italy, Greece, eastern Europe, and Scandinavia. These great travel destinations are often overlooked, but there may be something there that strikes your fancy.
  • Make friends with the locals. Europe has a highly social culture and you will find that all of them are warm, enthusiastic and more than willing to be your friend and show you around. You may remember the sights, but you will never forget the friends you make.
  • Buy water in supermarkets. Refill often. Empty water bottles can be taken onto planes. Tap water is usually safe to drink -- unless there's a sign saying it isn't.
  • If you are traveling with a partner or partners, each partner should make a top-ten "must-see" list without the influence of other people! Then, negotiate using your top three or top five.
  • Leave a photo-copy of your Passport with someone you can contact at ANY time in case you loose yours or it is stolen. Carry a copy of your Passport somewhere in your luggage but not with your passport. Incidentally making copies of your USA passport is illegal.
  • If you have lots of time - Ride-Boards at Universities are always looking to share rides(and costs).
  • Buy a guide. Try to stick to the more opinionated ones with less options.
  • Know the exchange rate but realize that it is the experience not the price that counts. You have spent good money to get here; remember to have a good time.
  • Take extra batteries/memory for your camera, and figure out how to charge may need an adapter (just go to an electronics store and ask). Some trains have outlets either near the seats or in the bathroom.
  • If you are a student, under 26, or a senior, take advantage of discounts! If you are a student, make sure you take a school ID.


  • When you travel, you represent your country and you are also a guest in a foreign country, so make sure you're polite!
  • Make sure you have all important documents, know how to get money when you need it, and have a way of contacting someone back home if you need to (phone cards are decent, and most cities have cheap internet cafes).
  • Pickpockets prey specifically on tourists. Don't carry too much cash (your ATM card will work all over Europe) and be street smart.
  • Remember that Europe is not a country, but a continent. Europeans aren't particularly excited about being referred to as 'Europeans'. Instead, refer to them as 'Germans' when they are from Germany, 'Swedes' when they are from Sweden, etc.
  • Remember, some planning is essential, but too much planning can ruin a trip. Make concrete plans only for the things you must see, but leave the rest of the time to wander.
  • Lock up valuables. Never leave cash, passports cameras, i-pods, laptops in Hotel/Hostel rooms.

Things You'll Need

  • Money
  • A plane ticket
  • A few reservations
  • A backpack, suitcase or duffel bag

Article Info

Categories: Europe