During my initial days of solo traveling I should’ve used some tips for traveling in Europe myself, however, I didn’t make an effort, and spent half of my time getting lost and the other half finding places I wished to visit. And then it was time to leave.
After a few trips of taking buses in the opposite direction of my destination, going in circles, boarding the wrong metros, did I mention going in circles and missing flights, I discovered, to commute in Europe is as simple as eating junk and getting fat. You just need to eat the right kind of junk.
Therefore, I decided to dish out a post based on my adventures and lessons learnt from the mishaps in Europe.
Read about my mishap in Barcelona here.
Here are my tips for traveling in Europe:
1) Visit the place virtually via research
Before you roll your eyes, click “X” and move on to FB, take heart. I once went to Ireland converting every last euro, a meager amount of money I had, into Pounds. After my arrival, as I ordered my first meal, I found out that the Ireland’s currency is the Euro.
Exploring a place virtually before visiting saves a lot time and stress. This holds good for any place.
Some information I gather before I visit a place:
- Local currency (definitely).
- Weather, so I can pack accordingly.
- Information about commuting, best routes, day ticket, weekend ticket as they are cheaper as compared to a single journey tickets.
- Information about food and culture.
- Famous monuments, attractions, things to do, and then I filter based on my interest.
- Wi-Fi availability, for google maps or for information. In cities like London, Paris, Estonia, The Hague, etc., Wi-Fi is free in certain locations, sometimes for a specified time.
- Do’s and Don’ts. You know, flashing a fashionable Swastika/Nazi emblem (although means auspiciousness for Hindus) in any form will not go down well in Germany.
2) Tourist Information Center – the best place to start
This, to me, is the best place to start your trip. For one thing, it is centrally located in most places. For another, it is a gold mine of discount coupons and incredible tours.
Buying a Tourist card at the Tourist Information Center gives you a lot of perks, like free entry or discount to most of the attractions, free public transport, discount vouchers for restaurants, shopping centers, etc.
Typically, I budget some time for Tourist Information Center and the assistant. I browse through the columns of brochures and choose a few that piqué my interest.
One of my favorite activities is picking the TIC assistant’s brains. They are mostly friendly because they don’t have a choice and give you some of the best tips, example, free Wi-Fi locations, recommendations on offbeat tours, inexpensive things to do, food, and sometimes even tell you a local joke or two.
Later, while I’m waiting for a bus or food, I read through the brochures, and make my plan based on the information I gather.
Here’s the new Church of Delft city, Netherlands and the Tourist Information Center is a minute’s walk from the church. In fact all the hot spots in Delft city is within half kilometer radius from the Tourist information center.
You’ll probably enjoy seeing: An Indian artist on Berlin Wall
3) Hop on Hop off a bus/cruise and repeat
This option is especially good if you didn’t take care of the research bit we just spoke about. It’s also best for big cities or if you eat a lot of the “right kind of junk” and feel lethargic.
How does it work?
It is a guided bus tour covering the famous spots of the entire city. You could buy a day ticket or a weekend ticket and use it until you can’t hop on hop off no more. More info here.
What I do is, flop on the bus and relax. Cover all the spots once, listen to the audio guide and make notes of the places I would like to visit. It is during the second round, I hop off the bus, explore a place and hop back on the next bus and go to the next spot I like and repeat.
The best part of Hop on Hop off is that you get to enjoy gorgeous cityscapes sitting on the top deck.
You might also like to read: Exploring Luebeck: The first German city that got bombed during WWII
4) Free walking tours – your workout while traveling
This is my favorite, for I love walking and there is no better way to learn about a place than through a local guide. It’s so perfect especially for small places and to get rid of the holiday weight you might gain.
Most walking tours are tip based. You pay based on what you think the tour is worth. From nothing up to as much as you can afford. The advantage of these tours is that, along with sightseeing and learning about local history, you will also find out the best insider secrets, myths and legends, best places to eat, best sunrise and sunset spots, inexpensive places to shop, some gossip, to name a few.
Some places also offer specialized walking tours, at a cost, for instance food tasting tours, Red Light district tours, Urban Farming walking tours, The Dam tours, Windmill tours, etc. These tours also offer a lot of discount vouchers for restaurants, shopping, events, activities and much more.
Check out some pictures of rainy Sylt: Rainy day traveling in Sylt: a different way to view the world
5) Pressed for time? Hit the Old town
I think the Old town is the cream of the crop of any place.
Most cities I visited had an old town. And it is here you will find the concentration of attractions: medieval architecture, gothic churches, history, art, culture, markets, souvenirs, shopping, eateries and the list goes on.
If you are transitioning through a city and have just two hours to spare, visit the Old town. You will come out feeling as if you visited the entire city. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Riga Old Town
Luebeck Old Town
Do you have some more tips for traveling in Europe or elsewhere?