All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware.By Martin Buber
Just like every continent, Europe has its own way of doing things and to help you make the most of your trip, here are 8 travel tips to help you get around Europe as the locals do and make the best of your trip!
PUBLIC TRANSPORT IS THE WAY TO GET AROUND
In some countries taking public transportation might not be the most efficient way to get around, but in Europe, it is definitely the way to go.
- In big cities like London, Amsterdam and Berlin there are multiple ways of getting around, such as train, tram, metro, bus and boat. That reaches a greater part of the city with easy access. Smaller cities might only have a bus system but they are usually reliable and punctual as well.
- At night in Sweden’s capital, when the trains stop running, the city makes sure everyone can still get home by providing night busses. They run right from the central station and it goes to every destination the still-running metros don’t go.
- Europe also has lots of historically fun transportations like the Portuguese trams, Dutch boats and the Swedish ferries. The Portuguese tram is particularly beautiful because it goes to Bairro Alto, a neighbourhood on top of the city full of delicious restaurants and a great view.
- Some public transportations provide Wi-Fi and USB plugs for you to charge your phone. Which is a life saver when you need to get somewhere and your phone is dying.
- In the Netherlands the most common form of transportation
arebicycles. You get to leave whenever you want without having to when your train comes next, exercise and save money all at the same time! European streets are much more narrow and one way, making them much more suitable for bikes than cars. When in Amsterdam, make sure to rent a bike for at least a day. YourCityBike is a great company to rent strong and easy city bikes.
If you are a foodie that loves authentic and traditional dishes, make sure to go to local restaurants. They might not create a big impression from it’s size and location. But trust me, the oldest and family-owned it looks, the better the food will be. Especially at the beach, it’s very common for the chef to catch their own seafood and prepare it themsevles. These chefs always know everything there is about their sea life. Not only is the food amazing but it also has other benefits:
- Get to try local wines, liquors, teas and coffee brews from regional brands. Homemade wine in Italy is a million times better and stronger!
- In Mediterranean countries, restaurants have “out of the menu” dishes for the locals that are familiar with the region’s food. The trick is to know the local sea life so when you are ordering, ask the waiter what’s freshly caught.
- For those who like to meet new people, local places are the best places to hear stories. There might be some language barrier but there is always a foreigner that quit their jobs, moved abroad and has an incredible story to tell.
- For a foodie trip to the Netherlands, I suggest joining the “small meals” Dutch culture instead of dining at a restaurant. In every city of the
Netherlandsyou can find food stands that sell everything Dutch, like thick fries, bitterballen (fried little balls), raw haring, stroopwafles (baked caramel waffles) and fried seafood. All the dishes are cheap, fast and very easy to find. There is also the FEBO wall vending machine that sell frikandels(minced meat hot dog) and other fast food dishes.
Stay at a bed and breakfast or at a rented house
Staying at an airbnb will give you the opportunity to stay at a local’s house and get to see first-hand the country’s interior architecture.
- For example, in warmer countries like Greece and Italy, houses don’t have carpeted floors and double glass windows like Scandinavian houses do. Staying at a local place will give you the chance to see these small details you wouldn’t be able to see at a hotel.
- Netherlands is a country that I mainly recommend staying at a rented city apartment, because of the beautiful Dutch colonial architecture. Specifically for their large iroko wood-framed windows. Another perk is that the apartment will most likely be in front of or close to a canal. Imagine waking up every morning to beautiful sunlight and a canal view.
- The best time to rent a house in Europe is off Catholic holiday season. During these holidays, it’s not as common for people to travel,
insteadthey host large dinners and parties for their entire families.
Take a bus or car when
European countries are much smaller compared to other countries like the United States, Canada and China. Where travelling outside of the state can take over seven hours. Au contraire, in Europe, you can get to a whole other country in the same amount of time, even more than one in some cases.
- This specifically applies to those that are planning on seeing as many countries as possible. It gives you the opportunity to pass by and explore smaller towns that you would have never gone to otherwise.
- If you are on a budget, buses are going to be your home. They are much cheaper compared to trains, planes and boats. Flixbus is a good company to use and GoEuro suggest and compares the best way to get to your destination.
- Busses might take the longest amount of time but most companies offer night buses that leave late at night and arrive early in the morning at your destination, giving you plenty of energy to go explore upon arrival.
- If you are travelling with the family, it would be better to travel by car with Europcar. It still gives you the opportunity to pass by beautiful small cities, stopping whenever you want with the comfort of your own vehicle.
- European cars are also pretty different. Due to their street sizes, the cars are much smaller. And in countries like the United
kingdom, Ireland and Malta (first colonised by the U.K.) and Cyprus all driver on the opposite right side.
Adapt yourself to the local time & schedules
Since each country in Europe has it’s own culture, they also have their own schedules.
Observe and learn what time the locals go out for dinner, have drinks and go clubbing.
- In northern countries like Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom they tend to eat earlier. Lunch is around 11:30 AM to 12 PM and dinner around 6:00 PM. Southern countries like Italy, Greece and Croatia eat much later around 8.00PM to 9.00PM. Central countries such as the Netherlands and Switzerland also eat around 6 PM, but not all central countries do. For instance, France has adapted a much later dinner etiquette.
- Eating times can give an idea of when the happiest of hours happen and what times do clubs open. In most countries, the main rule is; the earlier dinner time is, the earlier closing times are.
In most European cities, clubs start charging for entrance after a certain time, around 10.30PM or 11 PM. In others like London, you need a promoter to get into the clubs. I know it sounds super difficult to go out in London, but in reality, promoters come to you at the entrance of clubs. They become your guide and make sure you’ll have the best time.
- Each country also has its own deals and offers of the day. In the Canary Islands, on Thursdays, you can get a tapa and a drink for just €1 in the streets of Veguetta, Las Palmas.
Go to markets
Europeans love markets, of every kind. Full of all the foods and goods you’ve been dreaming
of before your trip.
- Stockholm can get pretty cold during winter up to -13 degrees, so the city mainly
hasindoor markets like Hötorgshallen and Östermalm Saluhall. Hötorget also has an all-year-round farmers market right at the main square. Where you can get incredible mushrooms and other Swedish goods. On Sunday mornings the market becomes antique with beautiful paintings, china, decor and others.
- The San Miguelindoor market in Madrid is in a beautiful steel building with ornate iron and glass walls. This market is much more elegant and pricy because of their delicious gourmet food and sangrias. Definitely worth going there for lunch or dinner.
PersonallyI love outdoor markets, like the El Rastro (open on Sundays), also located in Madrid. I love this place because you get to shop for vintage goods while walking around the city and admiring the architecture.
No need to tip
In Europe you are not required to tip at all- unless you want to, of course. Which is great when you are travelling on a budget.
In fact, some countries might consider the act to be rude. Italians take pride on having the best service and a compliment with a smile is much more appreciated.
Always keep coins with you
In countries like the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Germany, you have to pay for public bathrooms and these bathrooms include inside malls, some restaurants, clubs and bars. Which can be stressful when you’ve had a couple of drinks and reeelly need to go.
- So when travelling, make sure to always exchange cash and keep it with you.
- Also, the smaller the city the smaller the chances of you being able to pay with credit card, or for your card to even be available. Especially in Mediterranean countries like Croatia, Greece and Italy.
- On a positive side, at least the bathrooms are always clean and have toilet paper.
- If you find yourself without any cash and super hungry, I suggest going to an international chain or fine-dining restaurant because they will most likely accept cards. The bill might be expensive but at least you got a delicious meal out of it, right?
Disclosure: Of course, these tips do not apply to every single country in Europe, it is marely a generalized guide to help travellers make the best of their trip by suggesting alternatives.