Here’s How to Plan Your Very First Trip to Europe

first trip to europe

If you dream of your first trip to Europe and need guidance, I’m here to help. As a local European citizen, I have all the insider knowledge to make your journey across the pond seamless and unforgettable. You can trust me to confidently guide you through every step of the way.

The First Question: When to Go?

Consider the Seasons

Europe is a year-round destination, but each season has its unique appeal. For beach lovers, the Mediterranean coasts of Greece, Spain, and France are best explored from late May to early September. But remember, these tourist hotspots will teem with people, and prices will skyrocket. On the other hand, if you’re enchanted by snowy landscapes and winter sports, the Alpine regions of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are heavenly from December to February. Just remember to pack accordingly.

Holidays and Festivals

Part of the charm of Europe lies in its rich tapestry of traditions. Every country and every city has its unique festivals. The famous Oktoberfest in Munich is something to behold. If you prefer the romance of Italy, the Venice Carnival is breathtaking. However, book your accommodations well in advance during these peak seasons. Rooms fill up quickly, and prices can double or even triple.

Crafting the Itinerary

Big Cities vs. Hidden Gems

Yes, Paris, London, and Rome are almost mandatory for a first-timer. The landmarks in these cities are iconic for a reason. However, consider dedicating a portion of your trip to lesser-known towns. Places like Bruges in Belgium or Hallstatt in Austria offer a more intimate experience, away from the hustle and bustle.

The ‘Less is More’ Rule

Remember to consider the size of Europe. It may look small on a map, but the travel times can add up. When crafting your itinerary, stick to a handful of places and explore them deeply. That’s much better than a mad dash across the continent, which will only leave you exhausted and unfulfilled.

Money Matters


A European trip can be surprisingly affordable or jaw-droppingly expensive, depending on where and how you travel. Eastern European countries like Poland and Hungary can offer a rich experience for a fraction of the price you’d pay in France or the UK. Plan your budget carefully, accounting for travel, accommodation, food, and activities.

Currency and Payments

The Euro is not universal. Countries like the UK, Switzerland, and several Eastern European nations have their own currencies. While many places accept credit cards, keeping some cash in the local currency for small establishments that may not take cards is wise.

Accommodation and Transportation

Where to Stay?

Europe offers many accommodation options, from Airbnb apartments to luxury hotels and cozy B&Bs. Use trusted websites for bookings and always read the reviews. In the age of digital nomads, consider co-living spaces for more extended stays; they are economical and offer the chance to meet fellow travelers.

To Rail or Not to Rail

Rail passes like the Eurail are popular among travelers hopping between countries. But do the math first. Individual tickets can often be cheaper in countries with efficient local train systems, such as Germany or the Netherlands. Remember budget airlines; they can be economical, but watch out for hidden fees.

Driving in Europe

Consider driving if you like to control your itinerary and go off the beaten path. Countries like Germany, with their world-famous Autobahns, make driving a joy. Ensure you know different driving laws and always have a valid International Driving Permit alongside your standard license.

Tips for a Smooth Experience

Language Barriers

While English is widely understood in major cities and tourist spots, it’s not universal. Learn a few phrases in the local language of the countries you’re visiting. Even a simple ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ can go a long way in making your interactions more pleasant.

Safety First

Europe is generally safe, but like anywhere, always take basic precautions. Keep your belongings close, especially in crowded tourist spots and public transport.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do I Need a Visa?

Visa requirements vary depending on your nationality. Citizens of many countries, particularly those in the Schengen Agreement, can enter without a visa for short stays (up to 90 days). However, always double-check the latest visa requirements for each country you visit.

What’s the Best Way to Stay Connected?

Local SIM cards are generally affordable and offer good coverage. WiFi is also widely available in hotels, cafes, and major tourist spots. However, a local SIM card is invaluable if you plan to explore more remote regions.

Should I Get Travel Insurance?

Absolutely, travel insurance is highly recommended for any trip, but especially when you’re heading overseas. Ensure your coverage includes medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost belongings. Different policies offer different coverages, so read the fine print carefully.

What Electrical Outlets Are Common in Europe?

Europe mainly uses Type C and Type F plugs, unlike the Type A or B found in North America. Carrying a universal adapter to charge your electronic devices is a good idea.

How Should I Pack for Varied Climates?

Layering is key. Europe’s weather can be unpredictable. It might be sunny one moment and rainy the next, especially in places like the UK. Invest in a good quality, lightweight raincoat, and comfortable shoes for walking.

How to Handle Language Barriers?

While many Europeans do speak English, especially in bigger cities and tourist areas, don’t expect everyone to. Downloading a language translation app can be incredibly helpful. Also, learning basic phrases in the native language of the country you’re visiting is not just courteous, but it also enhances your overall travel experience.

Is Tipping Required?

Tipping culture varies significantly across Europe. In some countries like Spain and Italy, it’s appreciated but optional. In others like Germany and Austria, tipping is more customary, usually around 5-10% in restaurants.

Public Transport or Car Rental?

While public transport is efficient in many European cities, renting a car might be more convenient for rural areas. If you decide to drive, ensure you’re familiar with the local driving laws and have an International Driving Permit and your regular driver’s license.

Are Credit Cards Widely Accepted?

Credit cards are generally accepted in most places, especially in larger cities. However, carrying some cash is wise, particularly when visiting smaller towns or rural areas where card payment might not be an option.

What About Health and Safety?

Europe is generally safe and has an excellent healthcare system. However, it’s advisable to know the emergency number of the country you’re in. For most European countries, it’s 112.

How Can I Make Reservations for Popular Attractions?

Book your tickets online in advance for must-see attractions to avoid long lines. Many popular spots like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Colosseum in Rome can have wait times exceeding two hours.

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