It’s all waiting for you: the ancient Colosseum, the turquoise waters of the Greek islands, the cobbled streets of Paris, the all-hours nightclubs in Berlin, the gondolas of Venice and the mayhem of Oktoberfest. If you’re trying to escape the wintery weather and heading out on a European holiday, you’ve likely got a countdown going. While Europe is notorious for its culture and charm, it’s equally notorious for its pickpockets and scams. But fear not, we’ve created a list of 12 essential things you need to know before you head out on your Euro trip. Whether you’re strapping on a backpack or joining a tour, we’ve got you covered.
1. Make sure your passport is valid.
In order to travel to Europe, you will need to have a passport that is valid for at least another six months. Before you get turned away at the airport, check well in advance that your passport is valid. It usually takes a few weeks to get a new one, so check the expiry date before you book your trip to Europe.
2. Check visa requirements.
As an Aussie, you don’t need to get a visa to travel to Europe, however if you’re heading out on an extended trip, you need to be aware of limitations in and around Europe. In the Schengen Zone, which includes popular countries like France, Spain and Italy, you can only stay for a total of 90 days in 180 days. If you’re planning on going to Europe for a while, make sure you don’t overstay your welcome.
3. Download apps.
Before you leave, take the time to download some helpful apps to your smartphone. Not only can some of these apps help you discover new places, you can also avoid looking like a lost tourist, which can often attract unwanted attention. Some apps allow you to use offline maps, while others provide you with the best places to eat, sleep, sightsee and party.
4. Notify your bank and credit card provider.
This is another key thing to take care of before you board the plane. Call your bank and credit card providers and notify them of your upcoming trip. Your bank may wonder why you’re suddenly spending money in the UK or Greece and freeze your cards as a safety precaution. Notifying them of the dates and locations where you will be travelling will ensure you can safely and consistently use your cards overseas, without having to worry about your bank or credit card provider freezing them.
5. Beware of scams.
It’s true in Europe there are more scams than there are countries. From bag snatchers to seemingly friendly faces selling fake day trips, the variety of scams in Europe is almost impressive. Take some time to research some of the common scams in the countries you’re heading to. One way to avoid pickpockets and bag snatchers is to use an anti-theft bag, like these ones, which is not only slash-proof, but is also difficult for a thief to unzip and access.
6. Be aware of any travel alerts.
In recent years, Europe has been hit with some of the most tragic terrorist attacks. Before you go, look into any travel alerts set out for Australian travellers. While you shouldn’t let these deter you from having a great time, do take them seriously and avoid any areas that are deemed high risk.
7. Don’t pass up on the famous sights or festivals.
While famous sights tend to be busy and overcrowded, you shouldn’t pass up on them. After all, there’s a reason these places are famous and you simply must take the time to visit them. If you’re keen to avoid crowds, try to head out earlier in the day to avoid the afternoon rush. Europe is also home to some of the best summer festivals in the world, which you might not want to miss either. Get your tickets in advance and keep your wits about you, as festivals and tourist attractions tend to attract pickpockets and scammers.
8. Have some cash on hand, but not too much.
Since robberies are common in major European cities, it’s wise not to carry too much cash on you. Try to use your credit cards for most purchases and use cash for small things like transportation costs and museum entrance fees. Keep your cash close to you at all times and consider using a clip-on money pouch, which allows you to hide your money away from the hands - and eyes - of pickpockets.
9. Buy local sim cards or change your phone plan.
It’s possible to pick up cheap sim cards in almost every country in Europe, so while you can change your Aussie phone plan to include long distance calls and internet, it’s probably cheaper to pick up a local sim. You can usually get sim cards at major airports, convenience stores and phone provider kiosks across Europe.
10. Don’t plan too much.
Europe is filled with iconic cities, stunning towns and quaint little villages, and while you may be a control freak who wants to plan as much of the trip as possible, try to avoid this. It’s fairly easy to get around Europe on your own, even if you don’t speak the local language, which means you can take your time, head off the beaten path and let spontaneity take the reins. After all, you’re on holiday and taking your time should be your number one priority.
11. Pack light.
We’ve all been there - in our bedrooms jamming as many clothes, accessories and shoes as possible into our suitcases. Instead of lugging around a heavy suitcase or backpack on your next trip, try to pack smart and frugally. Use packing cubes, like these ones, to organise your clothing into days, types or colours. Anything that you’re not sure you’ll actually use or wear, leave it behind. Keep in mind anything you forget, you can buy overseas anyway.
12. Look for student or senior discounts.
If you’re a student or a senior heading to Europe, look for available discounts. You can usually find discounts for transportation cards, museum entrance fees, shops and sometimes even discounts at local restaurants and cafes. While you might not save a lot in one go, you’d be surprised at how much you can save over the length of your trip if you constantly take advantage of discounts.
Now that you’ve checked your passport and mentally packed your outfits and shoes, you’re probably already feeling more prepared for your trip. Remember, the more prepared you are before you get on the plane, the less you’ll have to do or worry about once you’re there. Call your bank, do your research and don’t overpack - the less you have to worry about, the more fun you’ll have! Now, we want to know what your best travel tip is for anyone heading out on a European adventure. Leave your suggestion in the comments below!