Dazzling, artistic, phenomenal, romantic, gorgeous, historic, splendid, and inspiring, Europe means travel. We’ll stop with that considering the fact that there aren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe the beauty of Europe. But if you are a newbie to the world of international travel, you might be a little lost when it comes to planning a Europe trip. Time to rejoice now. We have put in all our efforts to help you plan a Europe trip right from scratch and experience Europe to the fullest. Read it, bookmark it, share it, and pack your bags.
Plan your budget
One of the first things to do before you start narrowing on a destination is establishing a proper budget. Thinking of a budget figuratively is different and putting it on paper is different. Write your budget on a whiteboard and then plan your trip around it. So, every time you plan on doing something related to your trip, you will actually find it easier to arrive at a conclusion given you already know your budget to the dot.
Interesting read: Top 10 affordable destinations in Europe for the budget traveller
When to go
Going on a Europe vacation or any vacation for that matter is greatly dependent on the number of days you can take off. With stringent holiday policies at workplaces, we Indians rather find it difficult to go on a long vacation, Euro trip included. Bring out that calendar and try to plan around long weekends and holidays that you may have. We have a solution right here for you.
Interesting read: Where to go in February for a fabulous holiday experience!
Europe has four different seasons. Generally spread out like this: March to May – Spring, June to August – Summer, September to October – Autumn, and November to February – Winter. While the peak season in Europe is during the summer, the prices and the crowd will be on the higher side as well. The ideal time to visit Europe is during the shoulder season (Spring and the Autumn season) when the crowds are fewer with good day-light. Thereby giving you a chance to enjoy the perks of both peak-season and off-season.
Alternatively, you can plan your Euro trip during the Winter which is also the off-season. The prices are at an all-time low but be wary, as most of the attractions might be closed.
Choose a destination and work on an itinerary
Now that you know your budget and the season you will be travelling, start looking for destinations that will best suit your interest. While you are at it, also ask yourself these questions. Are you a person who loves history or art or culture? Or perhaps adventure?
Interesting read: Of Serendipity and Spain – things to do on your 10 day Spain trip
Moving on, look for the list of popular festivals celebrated in Europe and see if you really want to be a part of one of those. Next comes planning the itinerary. While you are planning your itinerary, make sure you give ample of time to explore each destination. You will never be able to travel at breakneck speeds all the time. Especially, when you are in a major destination like Paris, London or Barcelona, you will have to stay a minimum of 4 days to experience the city. Also, never underestimate the time that it takes to travel between destinations.
With so many things to do in each destination, it is very easy to get lost and wonder what you should actually be doing. If all this seems like a tedious task, then try Pickyourtrail. You can create your itinerary to wherever you want to go, customize it according to your interest, get the split pricing for each activity. All this done within 5 minute tops!
Look for flights and finalize the best route possible
Ready with a rough itinerary and destinations to visit? Start looking for flights. While there is no standard time to book flights, booking it 10 to 12 weeks prior is the ideal time to do it. Look for standard round-trip flights which work perfectly if your itinerary is a proper loop with the start and the end being the same destination. Standard round-trip flights are generally cheaper than one-way flights. On the other hand, if you want to add more flexibility to your plan then one-way flights are the best bet.
If you are looking to strike a deal while booking flight tickets, then the best way to do it is by constantly checking the flight prices from time to time. Also, red-eye flights are cheaper than ordinary flights. A frequent flyer who has earned decent Airline Miles? Then you can save a lot using reward points.
Interesting read: Travel Hackers Guide: 7 well kept secrets of Flight Hacking
Also, you have to work on several permutations and combinations before you arrive at the best possible flight prices. This may also mean that you have to make adjustments to your route. At the end of the day if saving is what you are looking forward to, then be ready to put in the effort and the time.
Get your documents ready
So you are planning your Europe trip and wondering what all visas you have to apply for. The answer is this, you just have to apply for a Schengen visa. We have written an entire article that will enlighten you on the visa front. Further, if you are planning to travel to multiple countries within Europe, then you have to apply for a multiple-entry Schengen visa. And remember to apply the visa to the country where you will be staying for the longest. In case, you stay at two different countries for the same duration, then address your visa to the country you will be entering first. VFS Global has also announced a helpline number which you can use to gain assistance on your Schengen visa. So, Schengen visa from India is just a call away!
Travelling between destinations
Now that you have sorted out how to travel from India to Europe, start figuring out how to get between destinations in Europe. If you are travelling to only a single destination in Europe, then your task becomes even simpler. You just have to figure out the local transportation within the city. Metros are a very good option to use to get around the city and is highly preferred by the locals.
The first thing for you to do is to get a transit map of the city that you are in, either from the tourist office or from the subway ticketing office or from your hotel. There are also city specific transport apps which will help you with all the information that you will need. Based on the frequency of your travel, you can get metro passes that come with unlimited travel options, reloadable cards, or multi-ticket deals, which multiple people can use at the same time. Then again the best place to learn about the different options is either at the tourist office or at the subway ticketing office.
For a more cultural experience of the city, ride a bus. It’s a great way to see the city. Seek the help of the locals to understand more about the bus timings.
Most of the European countries are also bike-friendly. You can rent a bicycle for minimal cost and experience the city like never before. Some of the bike-friendly destinations include Amsterdam, Strasbourg, Copenhagen, Bordeaux, Seville, Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, and Vienna.
Other options to get around the cities in Europe include trams, taxis, and rental cars.
What if you are travelling to multiple European destinations and not one? Then there is a list of options that will come in handy.
Flight – If time is a huge constraint in your Euro trip and not money, then flight is the best way to get around destinations in Europe. Some of the budget-friendly airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, Norweigan, Wizz Air, Air Berlin, and Eurowings have deals running all the time and it is not that difficult to strike a bargain. Remember that the ticket prices increase with your baggage.
Train – Thanks to the effective Eurail system, train travel is one of the most popular ways to get around Europe. Not to forget the wonderful landscapes that you get to see as you travel along. Western Europe is so well connected that you can get through even small towns on a train. In Central Europe, you can visit all the major cities on the train. On the other hand, travelling within Eastern Europe on Eurorail is let alone a problem. It isn’t as well connected as Western or Central Europe. If you have plenty of time on your itinerary, try taking the overnight train. They are cheaper. And if you are planning to travel extensively on Eurail? Get a Eurail Pass.
Bus – Looking to cut down on your expenses? Travelling on the bus is the best way to do it. The luxury, the extra legroom, the fascinating views, WIFI options, and the cheaper updates are few of the perks of travelling on a bus. Just make sure, the destinations you are looking for is covered on your bus journey. There might be frequent hopping in and hopping off. If you can bear it and have the time? Then, you can save huge by opting for a bus. There are also package bus excursions which you can opt for.
Some of the major long-overhaul bus companies include Eurolines, FlixBus, Polskibus, Alsa, Avansa, and Hello.
Car – Driving a car to get around Europe might come in as one of the toughest things to do. But if you are in Europe as a group and are interested in exploring Europe on your own time, then renting a car will best suit you. While the expenses of renting a car vary depending on the country, they are generally on the higher side.
If you are ready to manage the expenses then go ahead and rent a car, make sure you get a rental car insurance along with renting the car. And do not rent the car right away from the airport, you will end up paying extra money in the name of airport taxes.
Choosing the right car company is a combination of things – best rates, the range of cars, service option, pick up and drop off locations. Automatic cars always cost more than a manual car and the European cars differ greatly from the cars in other countries in the fact that they have lower legroom space and a bigger trunk space. Also, European cars are rented out for a 24 hour period. So, in case you rent the car at 11 am and return it back the next day after 24 hours then it will be counted as one day extra. Driving in Europe is on the right-hand side of the road.
Some car companies offer the flexibility to rent the car at one location and the drop off at a totally different location. And when you are renting out a car, always pay upfront to get discounts.
There is also the option of ride sharing.
To drive a car in Europe, you must carry a valid Indian driver’s license, along with International Driving Permit (IDP) – which is essentially the English translation of your driving license. On that topic, here’s a list of countries that don’t need an international driving license for driving.
Interesting read: Coolest transports in the world that will surprise you
Plan your accommodation
From luxury hotels to mid-range accommodations to bed & breakfasts, the range of accommodation in Europe will amaze you. While hotels always cost a little extra, some of the cheaper accommodation options are as follows.
Hostels – Think budget, think hostels. A popular choice among the backpackers and the youth, hostels are highly budget-friendly and provide you with the option to interact with travellers from all around the world. And there is often a common misconception when it comes to hostels that they will be shabby and are suited only for young people. On the contrary, modern-day hostels are clean and carry rooms that are suited for solo travellers, couple, and family-travellers as well.
Stay with locals – Wondering if staying with locals is actually possible? The answer is yes, totally. Sites like Couchsurfing are a great place to connect with locals and finding an accommodation during your travel. What’s more interesting is you get to understand the culture and experience the local part of the destination. Just make sure, the profile checks out on Couchsurfing and you are good to go.
House Swapping – While the concept of house exchange has been there for a long time now, not many people are actually aware of it, until recently. This is how it works – you offer your house to someone visiting your hometown and in exchange they offer theirs. House Exchange might not work for you all the time but if you find like-minded people, then house swapping is a great option to consider.
Monasteries – Staying in a monastery may come in as one of the offbeat things to do but it is a real money saver. While some monasteries demand a rent or a donation, some offer free accommodation.
Short rentals – Priced somewhere between the hotels and the hostels, short rentals offer the comforts of home while in a new destination. Plus, most of the short rentals come with a kitchen so you can prepare your favourite even when you are in Europe.
Interesting read: Five unusual hotels in Europe
At the end of the day, the type of the accommodation that you want to stay depends on the budget and the type of the people you will be travelling with.
One of the major issues, most of us Indians face when we are travelling to Europe is language. While Europeans can speak & understand multiple languages, English isn’t actually their cup of tea. So be prepared to be surprised. If you still want to get away with speaking English, then consider speaking slow and be sure to use internationally popular words.
Further, start with learning the basic phrases that you will be using during your travel. Duolingo is one of the many apps you can use to do this. Further, you can listen to podcasts and watch movies as well to cultivate the habit better. The locals appreciate you trying to learn the local language and will generally be more than willing to help you out.
Europe has a wide range of cuisines to choose from and you will be literally spoilt for choice. Eating out is generally costlier than eating out in India. Looking to save money on food? Always eat like the locals do, at cheap eateries and other local hot spots. While Europe has a decent chunk of Indian restaurants to eat from, the food is a bit expensive than what we normally pay in India. Alternatively, you can shop for local produce at the markets and prepare it by yourself to save money.
Interesting read: 15 must eat foods in Paris that will grow your obsession
Drinking is not a taboo in Europe, except for a few countries. The legal drinking age is somewhere between 16-18 and the Europeans love to wine and dine.
What to pack for your Europe trip? A major question on any traveller’s mind. With each destination having its own style and culture, it is hard to come up with a default set of things to pack. But based on the season, we have tried our best to compile some of the essentials that you should be packing on your Europe trip. And remember, always try to pack light.
- 2 pair of casual comfy tops
- 4 bottoms (pants/skirts)
- 5-6 pairs of innerwear
- 5-6 pairs of socks
- Light scarf
- Ankle boots
- Waterproof jacket
- Light shaded trench coat
- 4 shorts/skirts
- 1 pair of sandals
- 1 pair of casual walking/running shoes
- 2 pair of tank tops/casual tops
- 5-6 pairs of innerwear
- 5-6 pairs of socks
- Thermals/long johns
- 1 sweater/fleece
- Layered tops
- Rain-friendly boots
- Thicker scarfs
- 5-6 pairs of innerwear
- 5-6 pairs of socks
- 1 pair of thermals/long john
- More layers
- Warm sleepwear
- Winter boots
- Thicker Scarf
- Woolen Socks
There is a common tendency to feel insecure and rush straight to the ATM to withdraw cash the minute you land at the airport. It’s a reflux reaction. It can happen to anyone but don’t ever drop by the currency exchange booths at the airport in Europe (any destination for that matter). The currency exchange booths at the airport have the worst exchange rates. Avoid them at all costs. For best exchange rates, either head on to an ATM or use your credit card. Also, make sure to inform your bank that you will be travelling outside India and that you will be using your credit card. This will prevent your card from getting blocked if the bank detects any fraudulent activities.
How much to tip?
While tipping is not a norm in India, tipping is a part of the culture abroad. When it comes to tipping in Europe, there is no particular standard and you don’t have to tip a hefty amount as you do in the U.S. The waiters in Europe are paid well and it is up to you if you want to tip the waiter. If the service charge is already included in the bill, then you can refrain from tipping at all. But, if you still insist, tip 5-10 percent of the total bill which is more than enough. Hand over the tip right when you are paying the bill, then leaving it on the table. If you are just ordering food from the counter, don’t tip. In addition to tipping at the restaurants, you are free to tip for the extra services that you are offered. Even that is not mandatory.
The standard voltage in Europe is 230V and the frequency is 50HZ which is the same in India. But the socket type varies from country to country in Europe. In France, the socket type is C & E. In Germany, it is C & F and so on. While you don’t require a voltage converter, you will definitely require power adapters to help you use your electrical appliances.
Tips for when you are there
- Don’t try to explore too many destinations in a short frame of time. You will end up missing on the essence of the place.
- Look for offbeat/local things to do in each destination rather than the same touristy stuff.
- Put in an effort to blend in with the locals. This will help you get the best of the destination, not to forget the money-saving tips and the authentic experience.
- Avoid taking too many photos and rather try to be there in the moment.
- Keep your passport and other valuables safe.
- Do not skip travel insurance.
Still not sure if you can handle the heat? Then go Pickyourtrail for a hassle-free Europe vacation.