Travelling around Europe is definitely in everyone’s bucket list. To date, we have visited 24 countries in Europe and hopefully, this article is able to ease your travel planning by sharing the difficulties we encountered and mistakes we made.
1. Crucial Question: How Many Days do You Have?
First, you will need to decide how many days do you have in Europe before you can start planning your trip. The number of days available will determine how many places you can visit on a trip. There are 44 countries in Europe thus rarely one can visit all of them on a trip.
2. Which Countries & Places to visit
The most common mistake for a first-timer is to cover as many places possible in a short trip. The idea of visiting 5 countries in 7 days seems cool however the only experience you earned is to rush from one point to another. For a huge amount of money spent, you should be enjoying the trip and exploring new places, cultures and food instead of rushing to catch the next train or afraid of missing the flight.
Our advice is to explore in-depth in a country rather than hopping around a few countries. No doubt the temptation of visiting another big city like Paris, Madrid, Rome is high, however, it is the smaller villages such as Colmar, Positano, Cinque Terre, Burano that captures our heart more.
There is a high chance of you never able to visit them if you miss them as there is less motivation to visit once you covered the well-known cities.
For example, Burano is 45 mins boat ride away from Venice. If you missed out visiting Burano during your last Venice trip, will you fly all the way back just to visit Burano? Or for the same amount of money to visit another European country you yet to visit?
Choose one or two countries if you have less than 2 weeks in Europe and visit more places in the country instead of hopping around. Not only you get to explore more of the country’s culture, people, food and attractions, you will also save quite a lot on inter-country transportation as travelling domestic is usually cheaper.
3. When should you visit Europe?
Every season is unique and we have been to all four seasons for different purposes. In general spring and autumn has the best weather among all seasons.
When comes to savings on hotel, summer and winter have the most hotel offers! The discount on hotels in summer and winter can be as high as 50% compared to other dates. This is due to off-peak seasons for business travellers. Most city hotels in Europe depend on business travellers who are able to pay much premium rate just to participate in the conference. However, during these seasons, most are away on holiday thus city hotels tend to offer higher discounts.
But the opposite is also true for vacation destinations like beaches and ski resorts tend to be more expensive during summer and winter as most vacationers flocks for holiday.
Not only that, but summer and winter are also the seasons for Sales. If you are into shopping, these are the seasons to visit! There is more daylight in Summer where sunsets at 10 pm thus allowing more sightseeing time compare to winter. However, summer can be miserably hot (more than 40 degree Celsius) especially Southern Europe in August. It is best to avoid to visit these places during this period. (Most shops are closed in Italy in Aug)
The season for Northern Lights will start from September to March and we were lucky to catch the magical lights on 2 separate trips in Finland and Iceland.
4. Do I need a visa to travel to Europe
To find out whether you need a visa to travel to Europe, you can refer: Europe Visa Policy
For Malaysians & Singaporeans, you can travel in most Europe countries (except Russia) 3 months visa-free & 6 months in UK visa-free.
5. How many days should I spend in a city?
This is usually a concern during the planning stage. I have compiled a list based on our travel style & personal opinion. This guideline is sufficient for travellers to visit the main attractions with additional time to spare before moving on to the next city.
A friendly reminder, you flew all the way for an unforgettable experience and everlasting memory, not to rush here & there.
Check the article: How Many Days in Europe Cities?
6. Intercity Transportation: Plane, Train or Bus?
Rule of thumb, if the journey on the train takes more than 4 hours, you can consider flight. If less than 4 hours, it is more convenient to take the train.
Most airports’ location is at least 1 hour away from the city and you will need to arrive 2 hours before your flight time and another 1 hour from the airport to the city. The journey to and from the airport already consume 4 hours of your time.
On the other hand, most train stations are located in the city centre and you can even board the train last minute (except those requires immigration checks) although not advisable.
If you have more time to spare or do not mind sleeping on a bus to save a night’s accommodation, there are also low-cost buses available. Check out Flixbus, they offer extensive bus routes across Europe.
Tips on taking flight in Europe
Bigger cities like London, Paris, Rome have few airports and airlines might be flying from 1 or 2 airports. Make sure to double-check which airport you should be heading to. We missed one of our flight thinking Easyjet only operates from Paris Orly however the actual airport was Paris CDG.
Low-cost carriers in Europe have different policies on luggage. Make sure you understand them before booking it. Most usually do not allow passengers to combine their luggage weight. If you bought 20kg each, you are unable to check-in 25kg one and the other at 15kg. Some will only allow 1 hand-carry and that includes your handbag or laptop bag.
One more factor to consider is the cost and distance to the airport as some airport’s distance more than 1 hour away and might not be suitable for an early flight.
Tips on taking the train in Europe
Remember to double-check on your departing train station as there might be few train stations in a city to avoid going to the wrong station.
Arrive 30 mins before departure time or earlier as you need time to search for your departing train. Also, there is limited space for luggage storage hence the earlier you board the better chance of storing your luggage.
Rail pass used to be useful however nowadays we usually buy point to point ticket as it is much cheaper or by flight if long distance. The key is to buy 3 to 5 months ahead as it is much cheaper than buying last minute.
Here are some links to buy trains in each country. Let me know if you know other countries so I can add them.
France – SNCF
Italy – Trenitalia
Germany – DB Bahn
Tips on taking Bus in Europe
Taking an intercity bus might save you more money than a plane or train provided you have more time to spare. Bus routes usually double compare to train and subject to traffic condition.
If you are on a short trip, the bus might not be a good option. However overnight bus can save you one-night accommodation, waking up in the next city.
7. Staying Connected with Portable Wifi
For most of us, staying online is crucial. With an internet connection, we are able to share travel experience with family & friends and also useful to find info & reviews, check public transport schedule or use maps when travelling.
We recommend RoamingMan Portable Wifi. You can book & pick up instantly from KLIA or KLIA2. They are open 24/7. The price is RM30 per day for Europe and can be used in 47 Europe countries.
8. How to Budget your trip
The lists below are the basic expenditure per person per day for most Western & Eastern Europe. This guideline will allow you to explore and enjoy the city with some indulgent. Do adjust according to your needs.
Food – €30
Public Transportation In the City – €7
Accommodation – €40 per person for twin sharing / €80 for 1 person
Sightseeing – €25
Emergency Use – €8
Therefore it is about €110 per person per day to be comfortable. We usually stay in a hotel and Airbnb during our Europe trips. City hotels can be affordable especially during summer and winter. Get Extra RM120 off on your Airbnb booking when you sign up new Airbnb HERE!
Eastern Europe countries tend to be cheaper than in Western & Northern Europe. Northern Europe countries are usually the most expensive and can easily cost triple.
This budget does not include shopping which is very subjective & intercity transport as it depends on what mode of transportation you plan to take & how many places you will be visiting.
9. Beware of Pickpocket & Scams
The horror stories you heard from friends and family on how they got pickpocket are true and occurring frequently especially in Paris, Rome and Barcelona.
Do not bring loads of cash as pickpockets target tourists especially Asians as they are well aware of Asians rather bring loads of cash just to save on credit card transaction fees to buy their Chanel & Hermes. In the end, buying luxury bags cost double after losing their cash.
To date, we encountered more than 10 pickpocket experiences in Paris & Rome, the most were 2 cases in a day. Fortunately, we managed to get our staffs back. Stay alert and vigilant especially in crowded areas such as trains and when queuing up.
We prefer to use the credit card during our travels as it is safer and the loss is minimal. Not only that, we are able to earn points for flight redemption.
There are few scams that can be found in certain places in Europe.
- African Friendship String – A person will give u a string or tie it on your hand and say it is free. After that, they will gang up and extort money from you.
- Bird Feed – Giving you bird feed especially in front of Duomo in Milan & Venice. After feeding the birds, they will charge you an exorbitant price.
- Guess the ball – A group of 2 or 3 will be playing guess the ball in which cup game. You will see them winning and losing as if it is a normal game. However, once you start playing, you will end up losing.
- Sign the petition – The group will ask you to sign a petition for whatever reason and once you signed it, they will pressure you to donate usually 50 euro.
Just strictly say no to them and if they continue to pester you, use louder voice to reject them. While scams & pickpocket seems scary, do not let them deter you from heading to Europe. We enjoyed every one of our visits to Europe.
We will be writing more articles on each Europe destinations we visited soon to help readers in their travel planning.
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