There is this excruciating need to take a Europe trip which hits every twenty-something person. What is it about this (relatively) small continent that it always features on everyone’s must-see lists? You see, Europe, for most of us who’ve never been there, holds a dream-like quality. We all aspire to get high in Amsterdam, lose our way on the Amalfi coast, blitzkrieg on the autobahns, and be dazzled by the northern lights.
Europe, therefore, is a backpacker’s idea of heaven. It has on offer, something exciting for every aspect of our personality – be it the historian, the thrill-seeker, the shopaholic, the hermit, and even the skeptic. Your trip could be posh or even shoestring, but rest assured that Europe will give you your share of budget-appropriate thrills.
Tips About All Things Practical
Begin at the Beginning
The very first thing to deal with is your paperwork, naturally. You need a valid passport, and by valid I mean valid for at least six months beyond your departure. You also have to hunt for information regarding visa application, and the process leading up to it. Remember that you need separate visas to enter the UK and Ireland, and the Schengen visa for 25 other countries in Europe. You also need to set aside a certain sum to pay for travel insurance, which is mandatory. A pre-travel health checkup is also recommended, since you’re going to be away from home for a considerable period, and you wouldn’t want a health scare in the middle of the most awesome holiday of your life.
Make a Plan
Yes, planning does kill all the fun out of impromptu travel, but you need to have a skeletal plan on paper so as to make appropriate financial arrangements. Europe may not be mammoth-sized like Asia or Africa, but the number of ‘must-sees’ are overwhelming, and not to mention, exhausting as well. You may want to consider visiting a certain part of Europe (Scandinavia, Western, Central, or Eastern) as per your budget. Keep sourcing information from everywhere – the library, Lonely Planet, and of course, the Internet. Europe has innumerable options when it comes to staying and traveling, so you have to take your pick from an array of B&Bs, hostels, apartments, or even hotels. Nail huge discounts for early bookings, and find better ways to use the dough. The same rule applies for booking plane tickets as well.
Learn Some ‘European’
English won’t get you too far on mainland Europe, so learning a few phrases of local languages will help you soak in the whole European experience. Even a simple grazie or a merci or a danke will elicit smiles and open doors for you. Engaging in conversations with the locals is the best way to understand the region’s culture and spirit. Staying ensconced with your translation apps and GPS navigators may seem like a good idea if you’re vary of befriending strangers, but you’re going to Europe to experiment, to enjoy, and to blend in. Makes sense to make friends with the language, doesn’t it? And really, don’t be too concerned about how you sound, Europeans will appreciate the fact that you are trying to make an effort.
Don’t Pack a Punch
As your trip nears, you’ll begin listing out your ‘must-haves’ and your ‘can-do-withouts’. And the must-haves are bound to be at least a million more than your can-do-withouts. A real dilemma on your hands, isn’t it? Believe it or not, your 3 pairs of denims or 5 stilettos will seem like a load if you’re going cycling in the Swiss Alps. Remember that you’re going to be the one hauling your luggage from one place to another, so it would be nice to show some mercy for your poor back and shoulders. Consider the weather and the places you’ll be visiting and pack your clothing accordingly. Inner wear, on the other hand, should be carried aplenty, because you may or may not get a chance to have it laundered regularly. Carrying a few snacks would also help if you plan to travel long distances, as many trains in Eastern Europe do not offer food on board. Always wear comfortable footwear – you’d be surprised how many distances you’ll be covering on foot.
There are a few things to be kept in mind the moment you step outside your country. The most important item you need to safeguard is your passport. Keep copies of all your travel and insurance documents in every piece of luggage you’re carrying. Your passport, cash, and valuables should be carried on your person as far as possible. Ensure that you have your Embassy’s contact information with respect to every country you will be visiting. Keep informing friends or family members about your whereabouts, so they’ll know where to find you in case of any untoward incident. Your electronic devices will need converters for European sockets, and your cell phone plan needs to be changed to suit your needs as well.