Just like traveling to any other continent, you’re likely to have your own share of mistakes as traveling to Europe is no exception. There are some things first-time travelers to Europe or even seasoned travelers might overlook or even do without realizing that they’re travel mistakes. Though traveling is all about letting loose, making mistakes and learning from them, in most cases, making preparations before your trip makes you travel better. So in this post, I am sharing with you some of the biggest mistakes to avoid while traveling in Europe
Mistakes to avoid while traveling in Europe
1. Only visiting the Big and touristy cities
There is no doubt everyone would want to visit the big and touristy cities like Paris, London, Venice, and many others – there is nothing wrong with wanting to see some of Europe’s most beautiful cities, I mean they’re the ultimate dream destinations for most travelers but it also doesn’t mean that they’re the only places in Europe worth visiting.
Europe has so many beautiful smaller towns and villages that you should add to your itinerary – you’ll be surprised by how much beauty you’ll find when you go off the beaten path while in Europe.
2. Trying to see too much in just one trip
Europe is one of the beautiful continents with so much to see from fairytales castles in France to incredible historical buildings in Rome and I’d totally understand wanting to see literally everything in one trip.
However, it is close to impossible to see everything in one trip – it’s better to focus on just a few European cities instead of moving from one city to another every other 2 days.
Yes, those cities will be ticked off your travel bucket list but you won’t experience or even enjoy the places that much and honestly, you’re likely to spend most of the time in transit. So I’d suggest making a practical itinerary which gives you time to enjoy one place before you move onto the next one.
3. Assuming that the entire continent uses Euros
This is one of those Europe travel mistakes that are more common than you would actually imagine. Since a Euro is mistakenly referred to as the “official” currency for Europe, most travelers imagine that they will just be using Euros everywhere they go to in Europe.
To give you an idea of what I am talking about, only 25 countries out of the 51 in Europe use a Euro as the official currency with countries like the UK using a Pound sterling (£)), Denmark using Danish Krone (DKK), Bulgaria using the Bulgarian Lev (BGN) and many others using their own countries’ official currencies
So this means that you don’t have to convert all your money into Euros just because you’re to traveling to countries in Europe.
4. Expecting everyone in Europe to speak English
Another mistake first-time visitors make is assuming that everyone in Europe can speak English. This might be somewhat true in the big cities as most people have a good command of English or they can at least create a few sentences to keep the conversation going but it is the opposite in smaller towns and villages.
You may not learn all the local languages of the European countries you’re traveling to but at least knowing that you’ll find locals that are not English speakers will save from looking “numb” when you speak to someone and they can’t reply back because they don’t understand what you’re saying.
5. Not buying skip-the-line tickets to touristic sites in advance
Europe has some of the most visited tourist attractions in the world and this means that they’re likely to be crowded all the time. If you don’t know what to do to skip the lines, you might spend even close to 3 hours just queuing – which 3 hours could have been enough to go to another attraction.
The best way to skip the long lines in Europe is by buying tickets online way before you make your way to the attraction. These skip the line tickets will give you immediate access to the tourist sites without wasting time.
To try and make it easier for you, here are some of the skip-the-line tickets to some of Europe’s major tourist attractions. Skip-the-line entry ticket for the Eiffel tower in Paris, a ticket to the Tower of London in London, and many others. You can also use getyourguide to buy all your skip-the-line entry tickets to major attractions across Europe
6. Not knowing the common travel scams in Europe
Just like in any touristy place, you can encounter travel scams in Europe as well. The mistake you’ll make is to not learn about them before you’re trip, otherwise, you might end up being a victim. But knowing them and how to escape them will help you keep your eyes open and prudent enough to avoid them.
Most travel scams are likely to take place near the major tourist attractions. If someone is being over-friendly with no clear intentions, don’t hesitate to move away. There is no such a thing as receiving a free bracelet from a stranger – say no, otherwise that’s the beginning of being scammed.
Or someone taking you to his friend’s shop who sells the best but cheap souvenirs, I know locals can be really nice and helpful but if the help is not really called for, use your judgment and say “No thanks”.
7. Not going for a European food tour
There is a friend of mine who swears that Europe has some of the best cuisines in the world – well she might be a little biased since she’s European but I honestly agree. European dishes are some of the best in the world – and I say this with a little bit of cringe because I love my African food.
So while in Europe, go for a European food tour and you might find yourself going back to Europe just for the food or at least dining at one of the European restaurants back in your country – yeah the food is that good and if by any means you don’t like it (which is highly unlikely), well, you at least tried out some new dishes.
8. Visiting Europe only in Summer
Well, I have to agree that traveling to Europe in summer is fun and easier but that doesn’t mean completely ruling out traveling there during winter. During winter, Europe transforms into a whole new fairytale and magical place and the number of tourists reduces – this means that most major tourist attractions won’t be crowded, the prices of hotels and other services will reduce hence enjoying Europe on a budget.
Traveling to Europe in winter especially during the Christmas season will not only give you an opportunity to enjoy the various Christmas Markets which is a great way to kick off the Christmas holidays and also experience a European Christmas but also participate in various winter sports at the many ski resorts in Europe.
9. Not having a proper itinerary
With so much to see in Europe, It is so easy to get overwhelmed or even get carried away! This is why it is important to come up with a rough idea of the places you want to visit, which country to go to first and where to go last otherwise you might end up being overwhelmed.
10. Not buying travel Insurance
Frequent and seasoned travelers know the importance of buying travel insurance and it has saved many people from huge loses. Though you might think that paying for travel insurance is a waste of money, it won’t be fun realizing that you could have survived losing thousands of dollars if you had initially bought travel insurance.
Anything can happen while on the road, from getting sick to getting mugged (yes, these things can happen though I hope nothing of the sort happens to you) – but if you have travel insurance, it can help you cover your costs while you’re away from home.
I recommend buying your travel insurance from Worldnomads as they are the best travel insurance provider in the industry – created by travelers for travelers like you.
11. Not being aware of each country’s culture
I realize the world is becoming a global village but it doesn’t mean that all cultures and traditions are the same in each European country.
So before you head out to Europe, research the culture of each individual country you’re traveling to so that you’re familiar with what is acceptable in each country and what is not.
12. Not wearing comfortable shoes
The best way to enjoy some of Europe’s major cities is by walking and since Europe is full of cobblestones and pavements, it is better to pack comfortable walking shoes.
It will really be a huge disadvantage to your feet if you choose to wear your designer heels or even your super cute flipflops just to look cool – honestly, there is nothing wrong with that but those will just not cut it while walking in Europe.
13. Packing too much stuff
While traveling to Europe, you don’t need to pack too much stuff – this will either slow you down while using public transport or even result in extra fees at the airport when you carry more than the recommended airline weight.
The best trick to help you pack light while traveling to Europe is using these packing cubes. They will not only help you pack light but also keep your suitcase/backpack organized. You can also purchase a travel luggage scale to help you ensure you don’t exceed a certain weight while packing. You don’t need to buy something fancy, even this cheap one from Amazon will do the job perfectly well. And actually, you can always buy those little extra items while in Europe!
Nevertheless, packing light doesn’t mean leaving behind the travel essentials. Even as you travel to Europe, make sure that you pack these travel items.
Travel Essentials you should never leave home as you travel to Europe
For more tips on how to pack light while traveling in Europe, check out my previous post that goes into details of all the ways you can travel light.
14. Not checking for opening hours of tourist attractions before you go
In Europe, opening hours to various attractions vary and might be a bit different from what happens back home! So instead of walking up to a closed gate, check the official websites of the different sites to see the opening hours.
You might actually be surprised that some of the major sites in Europe close on Monday but remain open throughout the weekend. So if you make the general assumption that everything is always open on Monday – you’ll, unfortunately, bounce back.
15. Not carrying cash on you
Generally speaking, cards are widely accepted across Europe especially in the big cities, which might not be the case in smaller towns or villages, but still, don’t make the mistake of not carrying any cash on you.
Some public transportation might require cash or you might just want to tip someone who has been really helpful. Regardless of what, it’s always important to have some bit of cash on you all the time while traveling through Europe.
16. Thinking that you’re “ultimately safe”
Europe is generally a safe continent but however safe it is, you’ve got to take caution to stay safe at all times while traveling.
Pickpockets are not only in Africa, Asia or South America, but they also exist in Europe. Be mindful of your property especially at crowded tourist attractions. And try not to scream tourist, as that will make you an easy target for scammers and thieves.
Want more tips on how to stay safe while traveling in Europe? This post has all the tips to keep you out of trouble while on the road.
17. Thinking that public restrooms are free
If you’re like me who comes from Uganda, then you’re probably used to paying for public restrooms but if you’re like some of my friends from America, you might find this European norm irking a bit.
Though you might land on some that will be free of charge, it is still prudent to keep those small bills to give to the attendant sitting outside the restrooms.
18. Not signing up for free city walking tours
Joining free walking tours is one of the ways to experience Europe on a budget, and since most of the major cities in Europe offer free walking tours, it would be such a shame to miss out on them.
Sandemans New Europe has a number of free walking tours across different European cities. Check out their website and sign up for one that suits your city travel needs.
19. Eating near major tourist attraction
I get that part of you that might want to eat at the nifty restaurant near that famous site, but it will be your wallet that suffers.
Such cafes or restaurants are always expensive and are far from preparing the best food! However tired and hungry you might be after a great sightseeing adventure, try dragging your feet to another restaurant far from the major tourist attraction where you’ll get the best value for your buck.
20. Renting a car in major cities
While I’d normally advise you to consider renting a car while traveling in other places, I will say the opposite for when traveling around Europe’s big cities.
Unless you’re planning on going for a road trip across the country, it will be quite unnecessary to hire a car since most cities have proper public transportation systems and the traffic is quite insane to drive around in big cities.
21. Not investing in cities passes or at least considering it
Most European cities have a city pass or a city card that you can purchase at a one time fee and get access to many major attractions in that city and some times public transport.
Depending on how many sites you want to visit in that city, it might be ideal and cheaper to buy that city’s pass. The pass will also save you lots of hours queuing for entry tickets for those particular attractions. I recommend using this website to search for any city pass you might want to purchase.
22. Only concentrating on countries in Western Europe
Well, I have to agree that Western Europe is beautiful, I mean people flock to France, the Uk and others because of the beautiful places they have but this doesn’t mean completely writing off countries in Central or Eastern Europe.
Countries in Eastern Europe are equally beautiful and are more budget-friendly than those in the west. And since not so many people go there, you’ll not have to deal with the mass crowds of tourists at the major touristic sites.
23. Not investing in a Eurail pass
If your Europe itinerary has a number of countries on it, then your gateway to fast and cheap train travel across different European countries is the Eurail pass. With the Eurail pass, you won’t need to purchase a different ticket at each train station.
There are different types of Eurail passes you can buy, whether one focusing on one country if you’re only concentrating on one or a global Eurail pass that covers over 31 countries in Europe.
24. Not taking advantage of Public transportation
As I mentioned earlier, Europe has a good network of public transportation from metros to buses that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on private taxis.
It is so easy to connect from one place to another in Europe by metro – so as you travel through Europe, don’t be afraid to use public transportation as it is very efficient.
25. Forgetting to pack an international travel adapter
Though most parts of Europe have the same power outlet, (hence using the same adapter), some countries like the Uk and Ireland have different ones.
So if you’re planning to visit either the Uk or Ireland plus any other European country, it’s better and cheaper to pack a universal travel adapter instead of buying two separate ones.
26. Booking accommodation on the wrong side of the city
The worst mistake you’ll ever make while traveling in Europe is booking your hotel or hostel on the wrong side of the city. Instead of booking a really cheap hostel/hotel that is located a hundred kilometers away from the major city, it is always better to book accommodation near the city centers so that everything is just in a walking distance or even just a few minutes away by train to the major touristic sites.
Use Booking.com for hotels or Hostelworld for hostels to find out the exact location of the hotel and how far away it is from the major sites you want to visit before you book it.
27. Exchanging money at the airport
Though you might be tempted to sort out your money as soon as you reach Europe, with the first place coming to mind being the airport, I would advise not to exchange money from there.
Exchange rates are the worst at airports, so it’s better to wait until you reach the nearest bank or any foreign exchange office to exchange your money.
There you have it, folks! Those were the biggest mistakes to avoid while traveling in Europe. Have you made any of them or you’re just planning to travel to this beautiful continent? If you’re traveling to Europe for the first time, I hope these tips helped you know what to do and what not to do while you’re there.
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More posts about Europe to help you plan your trip?
- The most beautiful cities to visit in Europe
- The cheapest ski resorts in Europe
- Best places to visit in Paris
- The most beautiful castles in France
- What to pack for winter in Europe
- Reasons why you should travel to Europe this winter
- Best places to see the northern lights in Europe
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