The first time I traveled to Europe, there were some incidents that I wish I could have avoided. I had no experience traveling abroad. And although traveling is like that, we cannot always plan every detail, we can take some measures to avoid unpleasant situations. Here I give you some travel tips to plan your first trip to Europe.
These suggestions come from my experience and travel style, which is with a low-budget. Not as economical as a “backpacker”, I like comfort, privacy and I’m not as adventurous as to hitchhike. I will also tell you some stories about my bad experiences and what I learned. I do not want the same thing to happen to you.
1. Book your accommodation ahead.
I know this seems obvious, but for me, on my first trip was not that obvious. You can always “forget” to book, especially if you are traveling to more than one city, something usual in our first trip to Europe.
Some travelers, maybe some time ago or those more adventurous have dared to arrive somewhere without prior booking, but I don’t recommend it. Once it happened to me that “by accident”I didn’t book ahead and I found myself walking the streets of Paris at 9 p.m seeking a cheap hotel. Of course, I didn’t find it and had to pay €175 euros! just for sleeping one night in a warm bed.
Sometimes it can be solved, sometimes not, and well… I just hope you don’t have to sleep in a train station. In my case that was not an option, although I had Gare du Montparnasse very near, the station was being closed and there were cops around, I didn’t want to risk spending the night in a Parisian jail haha!
However, if it happens to you, I can give you 2 travel tips: if you have internet on your mobile then you can easily check available hotels online. If you don’t have (On my first trip to Europe I had no roaming) you can go to the tourist offices. It happened to me twice and on both occasions, they saved my life. Once in Madrid, we arrived super early, without having booked a hotel. At the tourist office in Plaza Mayor, they provided us with free computers to search online. They also had a large list of hostels. The second time was in Bordeaux, where the girl from the tourism office found us accommodation with the budget we had.
2. Print or keep the maps of the cities where you will travel
And also maps of the public transportation. You can easily get them online. If you travel on a low budget you cannot afford to pay taxi every time you arrive at a new destination; maps will help you to find your hotel, hostel or apartment. If you can use your GPS then even better.
For me it has been economic and convenient to travel by bus or train between cities in Europe, that’s why I use to book an apartment near the station I will arrive, this way I don’t have to walk much or to take the metro with my big luggage. I am not a backpacker and normally I don’t travel with very little baggage as many other travelers ( I buy many souvenirs and scrapbook stuff, sorry) so this has been more practical for me. Depending on the city you arrive some options are better than others.
3. Consider times for check-ins, check-outs and transportation schedules.
Also related to the convenience to access your hotel, it is important that you coordinate the arrival times of your transportation to the city and the check-in time to your accommodation.
Many times happened to me that I arrived in a city at 7 in the morning or earlier and then I had to suffer tiredness, drowsiness, cold, etc until the time you can have a nice shower or a nap. In fact, it has happened to me many times, because in long distances we take the bus or night train.
In most bus or train stations they have lockers where you can store your belongings and go for a walk to know your new destination without carrying your luggage while you wait. You can also ask your host or hotel if it’s possible to check-in before. They will tell you yes or no, depending on whether they have availability. You may be pleasantly surprised at how friendly some hosts are.
In Sarajevo, my host saved me from tiredness and cold, as he offered to pick us to the station. Even though my cell phone had no coverage there and I could not call him, he arrived at 7 a.m. for us. By the way, check carefully if your cell phone company has coverage to the country you are traveling to or it might happen the same to you.
If you haven’t read my post Sarajevo, a city with a soul,⇐ here you can read it.
4. Take into consideration the holidays or festive days when planning.
Make a research if there is any celebration at your destination because it can affect the availability of accommodation and transportation, as well as the opening hours of stores, museums and offices, etc.
Recently, before traveling to Prague, I waited a long time before making my apartment reservation. I had searched for some accommodation options months before, so I didn’t worry. But oh surprise when I wanted to book, there was nothing that fit my budget and my needs. Between the days I planned to stay in Prague, there was the Easter celebration so all the lodgings were full. So, instead of staying a week, as I wanted, I had to stay only 4 days and in an apartment far from the center.
If you want suggestions on what to see and do in Prague, you can read my post: A magical city, what to do in Prague in 4 days
On another occasion, I couldn’t buy some macarons I had seen in a supermarket in Belgium. They were at a great price and I bought a package (which of course I ate). The next day I returned to buy another box to give as a gift. The supermarket was closed as it was a holiday.
Another of my travel tips is to check the opening hours on Sundays because in Europe all stores are closed on Sundays, or close very early. Normally only supermarkets open on Sundays. In Italy, they only opened in the mornings. Oh and not only on Sundays, usually stores close pretty early. For example in Vienna, between 7 and 8, everything was closed.
5. Do a short investigation of the city or towns you will visit
This way you can plan your activities according to your interests. Especially if you will spend few days at your chosen destination. You can check in advance opening times of the attractions you want to visit. Check If you need a reservation or not, and what it’s worthy to visit and what’s not.
when I was in Sintra, Portugal, it happened that there was a very attractive palace called Quinta da Regaleira whose existence I found out later and, of course, I didn’t visit. I got terrible regrets about missing it, especially since it seems to be very interesting
sometimes it is little complicated or impossible to visit all we would like that’s why it’s important to decide what we like the best and organize our time well.
And talking about regrets…
6. if you like much something, buy it!
well unless that it’s something super expensive that will leave you hitchhiking the rest of your trip, in that case, you better think twice.
Sometimes you will see the same products, let’s say souvenirs, everywhere (in the same country), but other times not. Even if you think that you could come back to buy it later, the truth is that when we travel, time seems to pass much faster and you may not have time to return.
So if you think that you could regret later or it is something that you will hardly get somewhere else, buy it, buy it!
7. Take enough photos and videos
If you don’t like them you can always delete them but if you didn’t take them… well, you know what I mean right? Take photos of the streets, your hotel, the landscapes, your companions, train stations, everything!. Your photos and videos will be the only thing will remain after your wonderful experience, because inevitably you will begin to forget. Then don’t say I didn’t warn you
8. Pack enough batteries and memories for your gadgets
Related to the previous advice, you would not want your camera suddenly running out of battery when you’re about to take a photograph of the Mona Lisa after making your way pushing a crowd of tourists, right? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me in Paris.
That’s why you should always carry enough memory and batteries for your camera and mobile. Recharge your devices every day and check that they are full before leaving the hotel.
9. pack the medicines you know you might need.
Despite this precaution, it has happened to me that I don’t have what I need when I need. Usually, I only pack for dizziness or for a headache. But sometimes you need something more specific like for stomach ache, diarrhea, blisters, burnt, etc. Many times you might be traveling by bus and you cannot buy them or you cannot communicate due to the language.
Once after a long walk in Paris, I got big blisters on the soles of my feet. I didn’t even know was possible to get blisters there!. And I’ve got everything: flu, constipation, dizziness. Sure, we expect for the best always and we think we’ll not get ill but, you know what they say: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Check my post about my first impression of Paris A fleeting romance: 3 days in Paris + first impression
The last of my travel tips is dedicated especially to ladies like me 🙂
10. Go to the restroom every time you find one
Even if you don’t feel the need to go, every time you find a clean toilet, go! You don’t know how much I suffered about this in my first trip. It is complicated when you are out the entire day enjoying a beautiful city. Especially when obviously you get tired of walking and need to drink more water than usual.
Some places have public W.C., some places don’t. Even sometimes you have to buy a snack in a restaurant just to be able to use the restroom. In McDonald’s they give you the code only on the receipt. In other places, you will have to ask
If you visiting a museum or a shopping center go to the restroom before leaving. Especially if you plan to spend more time outside. Normally in these places toilets are cleaner
I hope these travel tips have been useful for your first trip to Europe. I know there are many more, but I mentioned those that were more important in my trips. Or mistakes that I kept repeating. As I mentioned before, these things happen and will continue to happen. The important thing is to learn from them, find the best solutions and, above all, not let them ruin your trip.
Finally, if you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to write on the part of ⇓ below. And if you liked this publication, I would appreciate it if you share it on your social networks. Thanks and Bon Voyage!