By Peter Ch. Bucki
Europe may be one of the smallest continents, but it’s also one of the most diverse. From the fjords of Norway to the Alps in France; from Ouzo in Greece to Goldwasser in Poland; from the subtropical climate of the Mediterranean to the polar regions of Scandinavia, diversity and contrast make Europe one of the most interesting continents in the world to visit.
To truly enjoy a European adventure there are a few things that must first be considered. Exploring Europe is neither logistically, nor technically, difficult. The customs aren’t too bizarre, the food is not (too) strange, and since English is more or less spoken in most of the countries, it communication should not be a problem. Europe is also safe and, since many of the EU countries operate the common currency Euro, it’s also fairly easy to track your budget.
Europe may be a small continent, but if you think you can have it all in 7 days, you’re wrong. One travel trick that many of my friends use is designing a mission. A mission, for example, might be to discover the castles of Europe or the summer art festivals. It gives the trip a purpose, but also allows you to visit other attractions during the journey.
Alternatively, some prefer to limit their trip geographically by visiting only certain regions, such as the Mediterranean, the Alps, or Scandinavia.
Regardless of the method, it’s usually much more practical to limit the trip to a manageable itinerary than to try and to see everything in one go. Traveling is not just about collecting landmarks,. It’s about having an enjoyable and memorable experience.
However, there is also and excellent a train system and Europe-wide train pass enables holders to travel to 24 countries.
Transportation within most European cities is cheap and convenient. A local tram, subway, or bus won’t cost you more than $2 USD (on average) for a one-way ticket. Intercity train prices vary wildly from country to country and depend on the class of train. For reference, here are a few high-speed train prices (these prices accurate at the time of writing, but may change):
Buses are cheaper than trains. The main bus service is called Eurolines and its network spans the continent. Every country also has its own national bus service. These often have good deals, but for for long, international trips Eurolines is a popular choice.
Hitchhiking is also a popular method of travel in Scandinavia. You might want to give it a try.
Many of us have heard the popular packing advice; lay out all the clothes and money you think you’re going to need, then pack half the clothes and double the money.
Traveling light is always easier no matter what form of transportation you choose and travel in Europe is no exception. It’s also worth remembering that you’ll be able to buy pretty much anything that you need along the way.
In Europe, a camera, bottle of water, bottle of sunscreen, and some money are all you’ll need most days. It’s also advisable to pack a swimsuit. Even if you don’t plan to visit the beach, there are still swimming pools in most of cities.
Europe could very well have the largest population of people who speak English as their second language in the world, but it’s always nice to brush up on your French, Spanish, or Italian.
Even just the basics — such as hello, please, and thank you — will serve you well. Surprisingly enough, people in the the big three – France, Italy, and Spain — don’t speak English as well or as commonly as those in places like Slovenia, Croatia, Belgium, Holland and Sweden. So, it is possible that you will meet people who don’t speak English and you’ll have to do your best to communicate with gestures.
Remember, there is no such thing as a silly question. And, when it comes to helping a traveler, most people are eager to lend a hand. They will not only help you find places, but will also offer advice about on food, accommodation, and sites to see.
It’s often best to ask the locals. Asking questions is a simple and very effective way not only to gather information, but also to meet new people, which is always interesting and rewarding. Just remember, you may want to learn a bit about local customs before hitting the road and to avoid making embarassing faux pas along the way.
It’s also advisable to learn the name of the local soccer team wherever you are — especially before entering a pub.
A summer trip around Europe can be amongst some of your most memorable experiences. Follow our tips and do it right! From beautiful Paris to the smoke filled coffee shops of Amsterdam; from Oktoberfest to the remains of Ancient Greece; there’s much to see on this relatively small continent.