fbpx Skip to Content

25 Helpful Tips for Traveling to Europe for the First Time

25 Helpful Tips for Traveling to Europe for the First Time

Sharing is caring!

Are you planning your first trip to Europe? Keep scrolling for my top tips for traveling to Europe so you’ll have a stress-free vacation.

Have you booked an overseas vacation and looking for tips for traveling to Europe for the first time?

That’s so exciting! If you’re from North America, visiting any European country will push you out of your comfort zone but not so far that you won’t enjoy this incredible experience.

While you could simply book a flight and hope for the best, Europe is a vast continent with many languages, laws, and unique cultural quirks.

You can avoid common pitfalls and have a less stressful, more rewarding trip by learning a few essential tips.

This guide will show you exactly how to plan a trip to Europe and tell you everything you must know before traveling to Europe for the first time.

Join our Traveling Europe with Kids Facebook group to get real-time planning advice! JOIN NOW

25 Essential Tips for Traveling to Europe for the First Time

Travel in the Shoulder Seasons

When you start planning a Europe trip, travel in the shoulder seasons of April – June and September – October.

Like Goldilocks, these months should offer weather that’s not too hot or too cold. You will avoid the oppressive heat, crowds, and high prices in summer and shuttered businesses in winter.

Fewer Destinations = Better Experience

One of the most difficult questions to answer when planning your first time in Europe: where to go?!

Find out how to spend 10 days in Italy with kids with tips by top family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. Image of a family of four in front of the Colosseum in Rome.
Photo credit: Guido with Flytographer

Many first-time Europe itineraries are way too hectic. If you move around every other day, you’ll visit everywhere and see nothing.

As a general rule, stay in no more than two cities per week. Take day trips and small group tours so you’re not constantly repacking and hauling your luggage around.

Budget for Your Specific Trip

You’ll receive so much advice on how much to budget when planning a trip to Europe. 

Some will say a three-week trip to Europe costs at least $10,000, whereas others could live in Europe for three months with that amount.

Backpacking through Eastern Europe will cost you much less than a two-week road trip in Iceland. Create a budget based on where you’re traveling to and research flights, accommodation, activity, and food prices for those places.

Apply for Visas or Waivers

If you’re traveling to Europe for the first time, you may not be aware of what visa you need.

American citizens can apply for a Schengen visa waiver which allows them to stay 90 days in 27 participating European countries within a 180-day period. 

Many other visas, like the UK visitor visa, are easy to obtain for North Americans. But you won’t be going anywhere in Europe without applying for one first!

Not Every Country Uses the Euro

Only 20 countries use the Euro as currency, so keep this in mind.

You may want to exchange multiple currencies before your trip or pick up a travel-friendly credit card.

Get Travel Insurance

Whether you’re going to Europe for the first time or the fifth time, you need to get travel insurance.

It’s not just helpful in the event that you leave your phone on the metro or the airline cancels your flight, it’s essential in case the worst happens and you have a medical emergency.

Check whether you already have travel insurance through your credit card company.

Book Ahead for Major Attractions

Don’t have tickets for the Anne Frank House or Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam? Unfortunately, you won’t be able to go as both always sell out.

Photo credit: Steven with Flytographer

Left it too late to pre-book tickets for the Uffizi Gallery or see the Statue of David in Florence? Prepare to wait in a 90-minute line.

Your vacation time is precious! Plan ahead and book tickets to the major, can’t-miss attractions.

Stay in a Central Location

You don’t want to spend your first trip to Europe riding metros or walking 30 minutes between every museum, church, or city square.

It’s usually worth it to pay a premium to stay in a central location. If you’re not sure where that is, look for the ‘Old Town’ or choose accommodation close to the most famous landmark.

Embrace Public Transport

However, public transport in Europe tends to be so much better than in the US and far cheaper than taxis or Ubers. That’s something you’ll quickly realize during your first time traveling to Europe.

Most major cities have an easy-to-use, affordable underground metro train system e.g. Paris, Rome, Copenhagen, Berlin, and Vienna. Others have buses and trams like Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Milan, and many more.

Book a Family Photo Shoot

Whenever we travel, we almost always book a family photo shoot with Flytographer. They are super easy and affordable AND guarantee that I’ll be in some photos. You can get $25 off if you book through this link or use the code HAWAIITRAVEL.

Learn Some Local Phrases

You might know Spanish for ‘yes’ and ‘thank you’ but do you know how to say those words in Swedish or Hungarian? Learn before your trip!

Most people working in hospitality in Europe can speak English, but definitely not all. Knowing how to say these key phrases in the local language will be very useful:

  • Hello
  • Goodbye
  • Please
  • Thank you
  • Excuse me
  • Sorry
  • Yes 
  • No

Download Google Translate

However, knowing ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in German isn’t going to help you read a menu in a small Austrian village.

Download Google Translate and then download the language you need so you can research phrases even when you don’t have an internet connection. 

You can even take photos of words written in one language and Google Translate will work its magic and translate them into English.

Pack Comfortable Shoes 

On a first-time Europe trip, you probably want to pack your cutest sandals and Instagrammable sundresses.

Image of a family walking down the stairs for a Venice photography session
Photo credit: Marta with Flytographer

But many cities and towns in Europe are either hilly or have cobblestone streets. Pack comfortable, hard-wearing shoes that will last your entire trip.

Consider Investing in a City Pass

City passes are available in most major tourist destinations e.g. London, Amsterdam, and Rome. For a one-time fee, you will have entrance to dozens of major attractions included with this card.

Some even offer free public transport!

However, if you weren’t planning to spend any time at the attractions it offers, it’s not worth it. Research your options and see if will getting a city pass will save you money.

Take Advantage of Free Attractions

There will be a point during your first Europe trip when you will realize that Europe can be a fairly expensive place to travel! Take advantage of free attractions.

Museums in the UK, churches in Spain, fountains in Italy, and memorials in Germany are just some examples of the amazing free things to do in Europe.

Wear Modest Clothing in Churches

Depending on when you travel, Europe can be hot! Pack those short shorts and tank tops if you like but also throw in a maxi skirt and a light T-shirt. 

Photo credit: Kiril with Flytographer

Many churches in countries like Spain, Italy, and Malta have dress codes and require visitors to cover their shoulders, chests, and knees.

Be Aware of Business Opening Times

If you’re used to businesses opening early and closing late every day in North America, you’ll soon learn this isn’t the case everywhere on your first trip to Europe.

It’s common for businesses in Spain to close for a few hours in the afternoon for a siesta. You can also expect some supermarkets to be closed on Sundays and many museums to shut on Mondays.

Only Withdraw Cash from Bank ATMs

There are lots of sketchy ATMs in souvenir stores and bars across Europe. Don’t use them!

Only withdraw cash from ATMs attached to legitimate banks. To be extra safe, use machines inside the banks’ lobby during business hours.

Watch Out for Common Travel Scams

While dodgy ATMs are one travel scam, it’s far from the only one in Europe.

Keep as little cash and as few valuables on your person as possible as pickpockets tend to operate in crowded tourist areas.

Never accept flowers, bracelets, or any other free ‘gifts’ as they will get money from you somehow.

Book Local Tours and Cultural Excursions

One of the best things about traveling to Europe is taking part in cultural experiences specific to each place.

Photo credit: Rajesh with Flytographer

The Danish are avid cyclers, so why not book a bike tour of Copenhagen? Check out pizza-making classes in Naples, vineyard tastings in Bordeaux, and waltz lessons in Vienna.

Flying on Budget Airlines? Pack Carry-On Only

If you’re planning an epic European adventure and visiting lots of countries, you’ll probably be taking lots of flights. The cheapest and best way to visit Europe for the first time is to take advantage of budget airlines like Ryanair, Easyjet, and Jet2.

Save money by traveling carry-on only as these airlines charge extra for checked bags. 

Shop at Markets and Eat Street Food

Another way to save money while delving deeper into the local culture is to check out local grocery stores and order from street food markets. 

Foreign supermarkets are always super interesting! Check out Palermo, Berlin, Madrid, and Istanbul for cities with the best street food. 

Save Coins for Public Bathrooms

North Americans are spoiled with free bathrooms everywhere but this is not the case in Europe.

Always travel with a few coins in case nature calls while you’re in a park or train station. Bathrooms are always free in museums and restaurants so use those when you can.

Learn Any Unusual Laws and Guidelines

Good travelers should always be mindful of local laws and customs that might be different from those back home.

For example, all tourists in the Czech Republic need to carry their passports at all times. 

People in Denmark would never dream of crossing the street unless the crosswalk light was on green, and it’s not uncommon for restaurants in Italy, Greece, or Spain to open at 7 pm.

Get Excited With Books and Movies

Half of the fun of travel is the anticipation. So, get even more excited for your trip by reading books and watching movies set in the European destinations you are visiting!

Some recommendations are Under the Tuscan Sun, A Year of Living Danishly, and A Year in Provence

Plan for Spontaneity and Get Off the Beaten Path

When building your first-time-to-Europe itinerary, it’s tempting to cram in as many top sights as possible. But part of the fun of travel is spontaneity. 

Image of two boys jumping off stairs in front of a Roman church
Photo credit: Guido with Flytographer

Stop and watch a bag-piper in the streets of Edinburgh instead of rushing off to another museum. Wander into a charming Roman gelateria that’s not in your guidebook and stop and stroke a cat on the streets of Athens

It’s these little moments that you will remember the most fondly.

Traveling to Europe for the First Time FAQs

Where are the best places to visit in Europe for first-timers?

There is no right or wrong answer! Generally, the must-see cities for first time in Europe are Rome, Paris, and London. These are places you’ve probably spent years dreaming about.

Or, they might not! The best Europe trip for first-timers matches their travel style and interests.

Foodies might enjoy eating tapas in southern Spain, hikers will love the mountains of Switzerland, and budget travelers may love Albania.

Which is the best city to visit in Italy for the first time?

Rome is one of the best cities to visit in Italy for the first time because it has good infrastructure for tourists and tons of iconic, bucket-list-worthy things to do. 

Florence and Venice are also good options for the same reasons.

What are the safest countries in Europe?

According to the Global Peace Index, the top five safest countries in Europe are Iceland, Ireland, Denmark, Austria, and Portugal.

If you are a solo female traveler, for example, you may feel more confident visiting these countries when traveling to Europe for the first time.

Tips for Traveling to Europe for the First Time Wrap Up

Europe is a diverse content made up of dozens of countries and hundreds of cultures.

It’s impossible to prepare for every potential issue. Mishaps are part of the fun of travel!

But with these tips for traveling to Europe for the first time, you will be able to save precious time and money and stay safe while creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Looking for more European travel content? Get my top planning tips for Paris, London, Barcelona, Madrid, Mallorca, Venice, Florence, Rome, Germany, Amsterdam, Portugal, Santorini, and Athens!

Unlock Your Free eBook

Our exclusive eBook, Top 10 Unforgettable Family Adventure Destinations, is your ticket to a world of wonder and excitement. Get your free copy today!

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.