Must Know Tips for Your Trip to Europe
The semester is almost over and summer is right at our finger tips! After such a long and stressful semester, what would be more rewarding than traveling through Europe? But before you get ahead of yourself, here are some tips you MUST know before embarking on this rewarding experience!
Don't Worry, Everyone Speaks English
There's no need to try and cram in a new language a few weeks before you go abroad. Even though every country has its own language, and sometimes multiple languages within one country, everyone speaks English. In any of the countries that we've visited not once did we have issues with language barriers. If you're at a restaurant ordering, there will be someone who speaks English that will be able to help you. Some restaurants will even be nice enough to provide translated menus for your convenience! If you are planning on doing a tour, then your guides will most definitely be able to communicate in English. If you ever feel like language will be an issue when you travel, don't worry, there will always be people who speak English.
Churches Have a Dress Code
The churches in Europe are absolutely magnificent! Visiting the many religious buildings all throughout Europe is a must do. And the best part... they're FREE! While some may require donations, we've never been to a church that required more than a one euro donation. Before you embark on your journey to visit these magnificent buildings, make sure your apparel fits the dress code, otherwise the churches will not let you in. Every church or cathedral that we've been to in Europe have had basically the same rules: make sure your shoulders are covered, and make sure your bottoms fall below the knees. Some of the churches will sometimes provide you with a cloth to cover your shoulders, but that's rare so don't count on it too much. Most of the time you will be forced to buy an ugly scarf you'll probably never use again just so you can get inside the church. So to avoid this, bring something you can cover your shoulders with and an extra pair of pants. Churches are sacred places so you must follow their rules if you want to experience their beauty. Some churches don't even allow you to bring in backpacks! We once had to disguise our backpack as a purse to be able to take it inside. Do your research before visiting one of these iconic churches.
Even though you are in Europe, not everyone uses the Euro. A lot of the popular European destinations do not use the Euro and instead have their own currency. Switzerland uses the Frank; England uses the Pound; Hungary uses the Forint. Every time you exchange money, you lose money. Those exchange booths are not there to help you get the best deal, but for them to take as much of your money as they can.
Pull Out Money From a Debit Card
You will notice that every exchange place has a different currency exchange rate. Some give you more cash for your buck and some have a lower fee for actually exchanging the money. Even though it may seem like the exchange companies want to help, they are actually just going to rip you off. If you want to get the best deal, just put your debit card into an ATM and pull out as much as you can for a one time foreign transaction fee (unless your debit card doesn't have one). Instead of taking loads of cash abroad, just keep it all in your checking account and use an ATM to pull out what you need. And once you go to another country, pull out what you need in that country's currency. This way no one is able to take advantage of you and you don't have to worry someone pickpocketing your cash! There's no need to waste your vacation days deciding what the best exchange place is. Make your life much easier and just pull it out of your checking account!
Get a Credit Card With Zero Foreign Transaction Fees
In every big city in Europe, merchants will accept credit cards. This is our favorite option because we didn't have to exchange cash from country to country. The best part about our credit card is that it has zero foreign transaction fees so we didn't have to pay any fees when making purchases abroad! We got to avoid the foreign transaction fee as well as the dynamic currency conversion fee saving us a lot of money on every meal, souvenir, or ticket we bought. Getting a credit card with zero foreign transaction fees is a really good way to save on your purchases abroad. Just make sure not to return with a high balance on your credit card!
Public Transportation is Your Best Friend
Jumping to a new city every week or so means you need to get to used to a new transportation system. Big cities are known for having easy ways to get around. Cities like London and Paris have some of the most intricate subway systems in the world. You can literally get anywhere in the city by just taking a bus or the subway. Public transportation is cheap and easy. If you are not from a big city, getting around on public transportation may be somewhat foreign. Luckily, Google Maps does an amazing job at providing tourists with accurate ways to navigate a city. Just type in where you want to go and choose the method of public transportation. Google Maps will give you the best possible route to take and will even provide the time the bus or subway will arrive. If you don't want to use your phone and want to find a location the old fashion way, you can always ask the locals for directions. Usually people are very friendly and won't mind helping a tourist.
The only time Google Maps gave us a little trouble was in Venice and Santorini. In both these places, Google Maps led us to the wrong location of our Airbnb. It knew the location of all the landmarks, just had a little trouble finding actual addresses. When you get to the city think about public transportation before ordering that taxi or Uber. It'll save you a lot of money that you can use on exploring the city!
When Visiting Museums or Landmarks...
Buy Tickets Online
One HUGE mistake we made on our trip to Europe was not buying our tickets online. We went to the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence, Italy in the afternoon thinking we would be in and out. Little did we know, people were waiting in the hot, summer sun for hours. We had to pay extra to go in with a tour guide to avoid the treacherous wait. After that, you can bet we bought all of our tickets online. These tickets will also require you to plan your days ahead. Our tickets to the Vatican museum required us to pick not only a date but a time slot, while our ticket to the colosseum required only a date. Certain locations, like Pompeii, will require reservations days in advance. So it all depends on which location you are heading to and what they require from their guests. Also, make sure to print your tickets! We went to the colosseum and since we did not have our tickets printed, we had to email them to the front desk so they could print it for us. People who did not have internet on their phones had to leave and find another way to get their tickets printed. By planning ahead, you can avoid having to stand in line twice.
Early Bird Avoids the Crowd
Most people on vacation want to sleep in until noon and go out in the afternoon. Keep in mind that if you do, you will have to wait in lines and fight through crowds of tourists. Whatever destination you are trying to explore, we suggest that you get to it bright and early. You will avoid having a lot of tourists around since no one wants to wake up early anyway! The best part about going early is that the pictures will come out amazing! Also, by going out in the afternoon, you risk leaving yourself little time to explore *insert location here* because most places close by 5:00 PM. So let the roosters wake you up at dawn and go spend the entire day exploring!
Do Not Stay in Hotels!
Sure... hotels are nice and they may even provide you with free breakfast, but most of the time they are the more expensive option. Instead, make good use of home sharing apps like Airbnb and Home Away. Hostels are also a great alternative to staying in hotels.
Airbnb and Home Away
Airbnb and Home Away have become very popular in the past few years and their popularity only seems to grow. With these apps, you stay in someone's home as if it was yours for a short period of time. You have the option of choosing between a shared room, a private room, or an entire place. Some listings are more expensive than others, but they will always have options cheaper than hotels. Click Here and received $40 off your first stay with Airbnb.
Europe is filled with hostels! They are the OG when it comes to alternatives for hotels. The biggest difference between hostels and hotels is with hostels you will sometimes have to share a room with other people. This brings for an amazing opportunity for you to make new friends and meet other fellow travelers around the world. Hotels are a lot more private and they tend to be better for families. If you're young and looking to backpack Europe, hostels are great lodging options to keep in mind.
Download Go Euro
Go Euro is an amazing app that will compare plane, train, and bus tickets. You can cross reference the total time of trips to their prices. Generally, planes are the fastest but also the most expensive while buses take the longest but are the cheapest. We generally traveled by bus because we were in no rush and did not mind sleeping through the night on a bus. Most buses come equipped with wifi and reclining seats. When it comes to trains, a popular option is to purchase the Eurorail pass that allows you to travel through several countries in Europe with one ticket.
Cellular Data Without Breaking your Bank
If you're thinking about traveling through Europe, then you'll probably be traveling for an extended period of time. Buying a sim card is a great way to get data throughout Europe without having to pay for those pesky roaming fees. We got a sim card in London for 30£ that provided us with unlimited internet inside of the UK as well as 12 GB in the rest of Europe. That was more than we could use in an entire month! We got the most expensive plan because we needed internet for the rest of our trip to be able to contact our Airbnb hosts, however this card ended up not working in Greece, so we had to buy a new one upon arrival. To get a sim card, just find a cellphone company specific to the country where you're traveling to and ask them about sim cards for tourists. The company we purchased from was Vodafone, a popular phone company throughout Europe. Make sure you ask all the necessary questions before purchasing the sim card. Make sure it works in the places where you're staying, and that it works with your phone as well. This summer we want to try Go Sim. This one sim card works in over 190 countries and you pay as you go without having to get a new sim card in each country. This will allow us to use one card throughout all the countries we visit, while only paying for the data we use.
Portable Wifi Devices
Sim cards are great unless you need to power several devices with data. Maybe one friend is on snapchat, maybe another needs internet on her laptop. If you are constantly in need of hotspots, you will run out of data quickly with a sim card . A great solution is renting a portable wifi device. It becomes even cheaper if you are traveling with multiple people. You can all split the cost, and just one Wifi device will be able to provide unlimited data to all. Since it is a rental, make sure to take good care of the device in order to avoid extra charges for damages.
TEP rents these devices for $9.95 per day and gives you unlimited data. So if you are planning on blogging this is a great device to keep handy. It works in over 100 countries and you can even use it on a cruise! Click Here to rent one now and use the coupon code TEPON for 15% off.
T-Mobile One Plan
The German phone company is an expert at providing reliable data plans. The T-Mobile One plan allows users to have unlimited text and data in over 140 countries (not LTE speeds but still unlimited data abroad)! It also allows you to have unlimited text, data, and calls in the U.S, Mexico, and Canada. It's a great plan for those who love to travel around the world and need to keep in contact with people back home. This plan came in really handy when contacting Airbnb hosts in Europe and finding transportation to various spots in different cities.
No matter where in Europe you're traveling to, these tips will be of great help for your trip!