You've always wanted to travel to Europe and seem like the dream is about to become reality... You are ready to go but you don't want to waste the trip on visiting places that may not be the best Europe has to offer. You should prepare and pre-plan as best as you can and that is where this Ultimate Guide to Travel to Europe comes in!
Flying into and around Europe
For most people, the easiest, and sometimes the cheapest way to reach Europe is flying in. If you are traveling from USA or one of the distant Asian countries, research your air fare prices good. There are flights not many will pay attention to, because of the longer lay overs or having more than one stop, but if you are budgeting, you may want to use one of these. They are often hundreds of dollars cheaper than one stop flights with short layovers.
If you are staying in a place further away from one of the big "hub" airports, you can find great deals on air fare with one of the low cost companies. In some cases, you will be able to fly cheaper than you could travel by train.
Most European countries require visas for tourists. The type of visa you need or the length of your stay allowed without visa will also depend on your citizenship.
Note: Make sure you have a valid passport before traveling to Europe. Even if you don't need a visa, you will need a passport (USA citizens included). Make sure it doesn't expire during your stay.
Most European countries use Euro as their currency and you can either exchange your money before coming to Europe or do it at the destination (at the airport, banks or exchange kiosks). Another way to do it is draw money in Euros from the ATM machines, but you will need to notify your bank before the trip. Here are the steps for the best way to exchange money.
Note that countries that are not in European Union and are not using Euros have their own currency and in most of them, you will have to have local currency to buy goods and pay your hotel and restaurant bills. For example, if you are from USA, instead of exchanging USD to EUR and then exchanging EUR to local currency, you will be better off exchanging dollars directly into local currency at the destination.
Some credit cards are not accepted so try dealing with cash as much as possible. If you plan to use your credit and debit cards in a foreign country, make sure your bank is notified or else you may end up with a blocked card and no money.
Europe is pretty safe, and there is always some police presence in tourist areas as some of those are the main flow of income for the cities. Of course, as any other place, some risks exist. You can avoid most of it by avoiding places likely to be crowded by "problem seekers" like bars off the beaten path.
You should definitely have insurance, especially medical insurance, every time you leave your country. You are not at risk of any serious diseases in Europe, as you would be for example in Africa, but you never know when you may get food poisoning, or fall on the slippery cobblestone path while sightseeing.
Make sure you have all this handled before the trip and here are the tips on how to do it and what kinds of insurance you can have.
Packing and what to bring
Before you pack any clothes, make sure you have copies of all your documents. Pack them separately from your originals. This way, if you lose your documents you will have something to show when you go to your embassy to get a new passport.
Depending on the time of the year and country you are visiting, you will need different type of clothes. European countries are very different when it comes to climate, from very cold winters in the north to extremely hot summers in the south. Check the weather before you pack.
Another thing to pay attention to, especially for ladies, is that some of the clothes you wear on daily basis may not be useful in Europe.For example, you can not wear shorts, short skirts and flip flops if you want to visit some of the cathedrals and churches.
As far as style goes, Europe is very stylish, especially countries like France and Italy.
One thing you don't want to forget - converter for your electronics. Plugs are different between USA, UK and the rest of Europe so you want to make sure you can charge your electronics.
Traveling through Europe can be interesting for those used to their car, if they don't plan to rent one.
Of course, car rental is available in European countries, but you may want to experience other ways of transportation as well.
I've already mentioned low cost airline companies. Note that they are not available in all countries.
Ground transportation is great, and in some cases you can use trains or if you are traveling to some smaller cities without a train station, you can use a bus. Western Europe is nicely covered by the train system and you can even save money by buying rail passes.
Some countries will have other means of transportation, for example, using ferries in Greece. They make island hopping a great experience.
Top European destinations
Considering Europe is a continent and not a single country, traveling to see as many destinations as possible can be an overwhelming task, so a list of favorites can help you narrow it down. Some of the top destinations are in the same country, or in neighboring ones, so you can organize your trip to see as many as possible.
Europe has some really amazing beaches. I don't even have to mention Greece and Croatia, most people already know how amazing those are. But there are other places you may not think about as a beach destination, that you would like to visit.
What better than beaches chosen by those who visited them - a list of top 25 beaches in Europe.
You should not spend all your time walking along the tourist path, when in Europe. Night life in a lot of European cities is to die for. Some of the countries allow you to have a really great night out for much lower price than you would pay, say in USA. People are welcoming and you will have a blast.
Here is a list of top 18 European cities to party at, and I can personally guarantee you that majority of these cities are definitely worth partying at.
Not everyone wants to see Europe in the hottest months of the year. Some prefer skiing and winter fun.
Find a perfect ski resort for your vacation - 30 best skiing vacations in Europe.
Europe has some beautiful lakes. Some are well known tourist destinations, like lake Como in Italy (Italian lakes are amazing no matter which one you choose) while some are less known but beautiful, like Ohrid in Macedonia/Albania or Plitvice in Croatia.
Even if you are not a history buff, going to Europe and not seeing any of the historical sites would be a missed opportunity. Some cities will have ancient history right in the middle of the city (Rome for example) while others will have "younger" sites away from the town but still magnificent and a must see.
If you are not sure what to visit, try seeing the most popular sites, like the 10 outlined here.
If you are picking one city or country to get the most out when it comes to history (and food), I would go with Rome, Italy. Here is a great list of things to visit there and you can do all of these in one or two days if you organize yourself good.
There are some great festivals in Europe, like Running of the Bulls in Spain or Corpus Domini in Italy. Don't miss the chance to attend some of them.
On a budget?
There are many great things you can do and see in Europe when on a budget. In fact, here is a list of 50 great things you can do for free in Europe.
The cheapest beds are of course hostels and they are a great solution for younger travelers. Here are some great tips on European hostels.
Sure, there are hundreds of places in Europe everyone will tell you to see, but what about those less known but equally amazing?
A lot of travel guides focus on Western Europe and the countries of the European Union. But there is so much more to see in Europe. Here are some great ideas on destinations you should visit that are located in Eastern Europe.
All this info is enough to make your trip planning easy and effective. Create a mix of everything, vacation, resting, sightseeing and action. You will absolutely love Europe!
Feel like we've missed something or do you want to add something? Let us know in the comments below!