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How to plan a first time in Europe

How to plan a first time in Europe

It may be the second smallest continent on the planet, but Europe’s cultural diversity (over 250 unique languages are spoken within its borders), architecturally prominent cities, and natural beauty see it rank as a top travel destination for many. If you’re planning to visit Europe for the first time, you may be wondering how best to prepare. That’s where we come in!

Re-evaluate your euro bucket list

Europe is packed with endless must-see places and must-do activities. Heading up The Eiffel Tower, taking the obligatory cutesy picture alongside the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and going on a canal tour in Amsterdam are just a few. Realistically, it’s impossible to do it all on your first trip.
While the temptation to race through Europe doing all that you can may be there, our advice is to scale down your list of activities and pick those that are most special to you. Give yourself time to really appreciate each town and country – plan for four nights per city to get the most out of it.


Tipping in European restaurants, while appreciated, is not quite as expected as it would be in North America, for example. If you do decide to tip, 5% is considered normal and anything more quite generous, so you can factor this into your budget planning. Expect any water you order, to be bottled, and sparkling or carbonated to be the default option unless you specify something else.

Getting around

For shorter distances, ensure you bring along a comfortable pair of shoes as Europe’s cities and sights are best experienced on foot. If the journey is longer, the well-developed transportation network competes easily with the world’s best, and we would recommend trains. Not only can you enjoy their isolated interiors, and speed but you can also take in some gorgeous scenery along the way. If you are visiting multiple countries, consider purchasing a Eurorail Pass for a convenient way to move around.

Europe’s cities are so well documented in the media that you may think that you know everything there is to know about it, but you’d probably be wrong. These are six more things that may surprise you about Europe:

  • Meal times are different. Europeans eat later than you’ll be used to if you’re from Australia. Around 9.30pm is normal, and you’ll get the best experience by holding out for a later dinner.
  • Queuing is failing to plan. No, not every major tourist attraction in Europe comes with a two-hour queue. A purchased tour of The Vatican can see you bypass the main queue, and entering Paris’s Louvre at the right entrance can be a major time-saver. As with travelling anywhere in the world, research is key.
  • You’ll need different SIM cards. Frustratingly, one SIM won’t work across all of Europe. As many first-time travellers to the continent will see more than one country, this can come as a nasty surprise.
  • Serious crime is rare, but be aware of pick-pocketers. Especially in the busier cities and areas popular with tourists, you should take the usual safety precautions such as zipping up your bags and being aware of where your valuable belongings are stored.
  • English will get you by most of the time, but consider learning just a few common phrases in the local tongue and you’ll not only endear yourself quickly to the listener, you’ll probably get helped more readily too.
  • Noisy nights. Europeans don’t see a lack of sunlight as a good enough reason to call it a day. If you intend getting some peace and quiet in the cities, try to pack in earplugs or book a room further away from the street.

If you take away just one point from this list, remember to take it slow… Europe is a sensory overload in many ways, and you’ll get the most out of your first visit by giving yourself the time to properly see, taste, smell, and hear. 


Contact a Travellers Choice agent today and find out how you can experience Europe for yourself.

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