Europe is my favorite place! If you are planning a trip in the near future, yayyyyy! You will love it! Matt and I have traveled to Europe 2 times in the last 3 years but we are always saying to each other “I wish I would have known that”. It is such a great trip but I would recommend getting some tips before going to Europe from people that have been before.
Here are some of things that we wish we would have known before going to Europe….
Well first, don’t forget it! But second, make sure your passport is valid up to 6 months after your date of travel. To be safe, I would make sure it is valid 7 months. Also make a couple copies of your passport and put them into the bag you are traveling with on the plane. Do NOT put them in your checked luggage. Snapping a picture on your cellphone works too. Last but not least, don’t lose it!
Get your Euros BEFORE going to Europe. You can order them right from your bank and it usually takes 3-5 business days. I stopped in a week before we left and ordered the amount of money (Euros) we wanted from the bank. I had all of my denominations figured out (highly recommend) so I didn’t end up with all large bills. Your bank will charge much less of an exchange rate plus you won’t be flustered with exchanging them at a high rate exchange booth in the airport. Earlier this year, I went to Mexico and exchanged my dollars for pesos at the airport…bad idea!
3. Credit Card Companies/Bank
Call your credit card companies and bank before going to Europe to let them know you will be traveling to another country. We’ve been on a few trips where our cards have been frozen due to “suspicious activity” so we always make sure to let our banks know. I would advise not using your debit card in Europe if you can avoid it. Each credit card company has their own international fee that they will charge you so be sure to check with your credit card companies to make sure you are using the card with the lowest fees.
4. Cellphone Provider
Check with your cellphone provider on different plans they offer for international calling and data before going to Europe. We used 1 phone the whole time we were there for data purposes when we were out and about. We had 3 more devices plus 2 computers that we used whenever wifi was available. To use the wifi ONLY on your devices, turn off the cellular data, put it into airplane mode and then connect to wifi. Usually an “international day pass” cost $10 per day.
5. Renting a Car
If you plan on renting a car like we did, we were surprised at how easy it was. To rent a car, bring your United States Drivers License and your passport when picking the car up. You will need both of these to rent the car. Most of the cars are manuals but if you reserve a car far enough in advance I’m sure automatics are available. We waited last minute so we didn’t have a choice. The actual driving itself is pretty easy in Italy and Spain because you drive on the same side of the road as we do in the United States. We used IPhone maps the whole time to get around and it worked great. I was really nervous to drive because I was scared of getting lost, not knowing the turns, signs and etc. but it was much easier than I thought it would be.
Speaking of cars, other forms of transportation are great too! We took a train from Florence to Siena and it was so easy! I was stressing out when we first arrived at the train station because there were so many people and I couldn’t find a worker that understood my questions (probably because I was out of breath, talking 100 miles a minute, lol!). The signs were kind of confusing too. But like all other train stations, it worked the same way. Once our train gate number was announced, we had to hustle to it because they do not sit for a long period of time. They are off again rather quickly. It was a great experience, cheap and easy!
7. Flights throughout Europe
I couldn’t believe how cheap airline tickets are when traveling from one European location to another. Matt and I were on the fence about going to Spain prior to Italy but then we found out the price, we couldn’t resist! We flew from Spain to Italy and the tickets were only $60 each. That was crazy to me! I highly recommend adding another locations if possible. It is worth it and we were able to check off a bucket list location. Note: bring a pen on the airplane! You usually need it to fill out customs paperwork and the airline does not provide pens.
8. Have an Itinerary
I am a planner but I’m not. I like to have a list of all of the places I really want to visit or see but then I like the day to flow organically. Wherever we travel to, I know all of the basic locations of everything we want to see and do (northeast or central, etc.). We will stick to one theme or one area for that specific day. We will start with the “must-do’s” and then if we can fit in more, great! If not, we at least saw our top things. I hate having a whole day and feeling rushed. If we see something cool or interesting, we will stop along the way without feeling pressured to meet a itinerary timeline.
I thought for sure there was going to be a language barrier in Europe but we quickly found out that isn’t the case. Everyone speaks some sort of English. Whether that being broken English or very fluent English. We could communicate with everyone in some form. We thought we were going to have a hard time communicating when we stopped into little towns but we didn’t have a problem at all. The taxi drivers were a little more difficult to communicate with but that is because I didn’t understand how to say any of addresses of our destinations. To solve that problem, I just handed them my phone with the address pulled up. Worked like a charm! Literally everyone spoke English.
Like I’ve said 100 times before, Europe is my absolute favorite! But just like any foreign country, you will need to do your research before going to Europe. Make sure you know the general information about where you are going. Asking around beforehand and then once we were there helped us a ton. Europe is a relatively easy place to navigate your way through. Enjoy it and soak in all the history!
What are some other tips to know before traveling to Europe?