Travelling in Europe, if you have never done it before, can be a little overwhelming. As you move from one country to another, a few things will change such as the language and habits. Spain and Italy are quite different from Germany and The Netherlands. Here are a few tips that will help you make the most of your time in the Schengen zone.
Prepare your Trip Ahead
A trip to Europe is best prepared. That is because you might need a few things before leaving, such as a visa. Many countries are not exempt from a visa to get into the Schengen zone. Citizens of the United States will also need one, starting January 1 of next year. That also means you will need to show proof on health insurance, valid for the time you’ll be spending in Europe. Thankfully, that is quite easy to do, with insurance packages already prepared especially for a visit to countries part of Schengen.
Planning ahead also means finding your plane tickets (to Europe and between countries) and hotels before you leave. Not only will it make your trip easier, but it will also make it much cheaper. Booking a couple of months in advance can save you a large amount of money, which you will be able to spend to enjoy activities in the various locations you will visit. It may also affect the way you pack. If you decide to use low-cost airlines to save money, for your transport between each city, then you should definitely pack light. Otherwise, the additional cost of the luggage will negate any savings you might have made using this type of transport. If you can’t travel light, then you may decide to rent a car. Then, you will have to make sure it can cross countries border.
How to Pay in Europe
Before you leave, make sure to notify your bank, if you plan to use your credit or bank card. Otherwise, you may find yourself unable to use it during your trip. Once you land in Europe, the first thing you should do is find an ATM and get some cash out (euros). In some countries, you may need them, as some services don’t take credit cards. Better safe than sorry. Most countries in the EU use the euro as their currency but not all. You should look it up online before leaving, according to the countries you plan to visit.
Chances are you will accumulate coins rapidly. Unlike countries like the U.S. where they still have one dollar bill, euros come in the shape of coins when it is one or two euros. When you get to the cashier at the restaurant, the grocery store or the gas station, think of using them if you don’t want to find yourself with an endless growing pot of them. They can be quite heavy to carry around in your pocket as well.
When Walking Around
Europe is quite safe, in general. However, like everywhere else in the world, you are bound to come across pickpockets and other small-time thieves. Therefore, it is best to keep money and documentation somewhere safe, when you walk the streets of Europe. Keep them on you, instead of in a purse and don’t carry too much cash.
You should always carry your passport with you. If anything happens, it is the best way for you to identify yourself. You may be asked for ID, and a drivers’ licence won’t do it. Better to avoid any potential problem by carrying the right ID at all time.
Keep Some Free Time
As you have understood by now, planning is important when you go to Europe. However, you also need to keep some free time, otherwise, you will miss out on places you could not think of, while sitting in your living room or at your desk, in front of your computer. The best way to go is to select the most important visit you want to do and try to book them online before leaving. That way, you will be guaranteed not to miss out on them. Book at least three days per major cities, if you want to have time to really get a feel for them. Out of these three days, keep the last one entirely free, so you can go and visit the places you will have discovered while walking around town or visiting other attractions.
If you have a car, don’t be afraid to go outside the city. Some of the most beautiful sights you will end-up seeing will probably be off the beaten paths. Discovering the natural environment of a country is as important as its architecture. Spending time off, eating outside by a lake will most probably be one of the moments you will remember the most once you are back from Europe. Take the time to breathe and take pictures of the surrounding life before heading to another metropolis.