Your first trip to Europe will be unforgettable, whether you visit the romantic boulevards of Paris or the bustling streets of Barcelona. But for first-time travelers, these cherished memories are often tarnished by rookie mistakes, which are actually easily avoidable.
To help you keep your travels enjoyable, stress-free, and affordable, we’ve put together a list of the top 10 simple mistakes you should avoid to make you travel-savvy, even on your first trip to Europe.
Trying to see…EVERYTHING
Europe is an incredibly diverse continent full of bucket-list locations and attractions – but you can’t do them all in your first trip. If you try, you’ll find yourself exhausted, stressed, and strapped for cash.
Take a step back and think about what you want to see the most; give yourself plenty of time to take everything in. Doing less will enrich your experience – you might not go to every single museum in Vienna, but you will have time to truly soak up the local culture.
Many first-time travelers cram too many cities into their trip, giving themselves a week to see the sights in Rome, ride a gondola in Venice, and party in Dubrovnik. While it is worthwhile to travel between cities on your trip, if you don’t plan carefully you’ll end up spending more time on trains and checking into hostels than exploring what the city has to offer. Instead, give yourself more time to spend in fewer cities; you’ll get to know the culture much better and find yourself more relaxed.
Your first trip to Europe isn’t likely to be your last, so take your time and don’t overload your itinerary.
Using travel agents
While travel agents can certainly make your trip less daunting, booking independently on your terms will make it more personal; tailored by you, for you.
You’ll also have the freedom to change your plans as you travel. You might arrive in Amsterdam and decide that you’d rather relax in Vondelpark than visit the Anne Frank house, the Van Gough museum, and the Rembrandt house. You can’t predict how you will feel a certain day, or even what the city is really like.
There’s a lot to be said for playing it by ear, but some planning ahead and booking is also essential – you don’t want to arrive in a city and have no clue what to do. What’s important is to do your own research and follow your instincts – you’re likely to find some hidden gems.
And in case you weren’t convinced enough, flights and accommodation are almost always cheaper when you book independently. With sites and apps like SkyScanner and HostelWorld, you won’t struggle to find the best value for your money.
European cities may seem like a playground of monuments and attractions, but their tourist-heavy nature means that scammers lurk to take advantage of wide-eyed, naïve travelers. Don’t worry – they’re easily avoidable if you’re aware and on guard in the continent’s capitals.
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t believe everything someone tells you, especially if they approach you out of the blue. Street vendors and performers often trick tourists out of their money; they gather around the city’s biggest attractions to tempt tourists with a photo then demand their money in return – one of the most notorious traps is the gladiators outside Rome’s Colosseum.
Vendors are easy to avoid, and more elaborate scams are easy to sniff out. Having your wits about you is important wherever you go, so don’t let it put you off getting out there.
In terms of scams, it’s no secret that taxi fare scams are one of the most common kinds in Europe – drivers sometimes take advantage of a traveler’s foreignness to take a ridiculously long route, or fabricate a fare that is double the usual.
Yet avoiding taxis will improve your trip for more important reasons than this – taking public transport or walking will allow you to get to know a city far better and save you money.
Live like a local – take the metro, the tram, or walk the streets – and save money doing it.
Avoiding local areas
Traveling is about getting out of your comfort zone, learning new things, and immersing yourself into a culture vastly different from your own.
Cliché tourist attractions are popular with tourists for a reason: they’re amazing. You shouldn’t write off big tourist areas, but going off the beaten track will give you a unique and memorable experience that is more true to the culture of the city. Don’t dismiss the Brandenburg Gate or Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, but take the time to explore the more laid-back, local feel of the East-side.
Many travelers feel intimidated by locals, but there is no reason to feel unwelcome. If you are respectful, friendly, and don’t expect everyone to speak perfect English, you’re more than likely to make some friends.
Taking planes between cities
When looking at travel times between European cities, a 1 hour flight might appear more efficient than a 3 hour train, but this is almost always not the case.
When flying, you must factor in not only check in and security times, but also how far away the airport is from the city. Stations are central to the city, and are usually a short walk or metro journey to your accommodation, as opposed to a 50€ taxi from the airport.
Taking a train is simply easier, cheaper, and in the scheme of things, quicker. On top of this, you’ll be treated to gorgeous views of rural countryside ad stunning landscapes as the train traverses from country to country.
They are absolutely the best way to travel around Europe – in fact, ‘Interrailing’ is an extremely popular, straightforward way to get train passes to last your trip without having to plan ahead too much.
Not booking tickets in advance
Being spontaneous and taking things as they come while travelling are key pieces of advice, but in some cases booking ahead is crucial – otherwise you will queue for hours.
Attractions like the Vatican in Rome, Le Louvre in Paris, or the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam are not places where you can simply show up to and expect to walk through. If you do, you will queue all day, and you may not even get in.
Queuing is frustrating, stops you from exploring a city, and is easily avoidable.
Packing too much, and not the essentials
This is one of the most common travel mistakes, and yet we still kick ourselves for making it almost every trip.
Packing light is essential when traveling around Europe; you don’t want to be struggling with bags on the train or through the city. For a European summer you won’t need many clothes, and many hostels, hotels, or Airbnb’s will have facilities to wash the ones you take.
While many remember their 6 hoodies, 4 pairs of jeans, and 3 pairs of shoes, they often forget the things that really matter. Firstly, a towel – most hostels won’t give you one for free. Other useful travel items are portable chargers, adapters, sun cream, plasters, and many other small things that will save you a lot of stress.
Not taking enough money
It is well worth scrimping at home for a few months so that money isn’t a limiting factor on your travels.
We’re not saying to splash out and spend every penny you have, but it’s important to remember that many European cities are outrageously expensive. Don’t spend your evening in the hostel lounge because you can’t afford to go out; make every part of your trip worthwhile.
Unfortunately this sometimes means you simply have to spend a large amount of money (in places like Paris, Rome, and Venice), but other cities like Budapest, Prague, and Krakow balance the scale by being unbelievably cheap – a beer in Prague averages at $1.53!
Saving more also means you can treat yourself to a few amazing experiences that would usually be out of your price range. Budget travel makes your trip last longer, but if you splash out on an expensive meal, spend the night in an incredible hotel, or relax in the city spas, you won’t regret it.
Forgetting to get a data SIM for your phone
A sky-high phone bill is not the welcome-home surprise anyone wants, and it can leave a sour taste in your mouth after your trip of a lifetime. Take a few moments to avoid unexpected charges and get yourself a prepaid SIM before you leave.
Our dataroam SIM is the perfect solution. It works in 36 countries across Europe, gets you super-fast data, and has no hidden costs – simply throw it away once you’ve used the data.
Get your SIM on Amazon today to stay connected in Europe and travel stress free without breaking the bank, so you can enjoy your travels and share your memories as you go.