Europe Travel Check List: Are You Ready for the EU?

If you have just booked your holiday to Europe then you’re in for a treat. Europe is so varied that there’s something for everyone. It’s always popular with tourists from all walks of life with cheaper flights to new destinations added each year. We have put together this 10 step Europe travel check list to help you get ready for your European adventure.

View of Neuschwanstein Castle from Marion Bridge, Bavaria Romantic Road, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

If it’s your first time visiting Europe you probably have a few questions on what you need to get in order before you leave home. Our Europe travel check list will make sure you have everything you need before you set off for the airport.

1. Check whether you need a visa

The first thing you need to check is whether or not you need a visa. You may even need more than one if you’re travelling to different countries within Europe. You will be denied entry if you do not have your visa in order (if you need one) even if your flight allowed you to board.

The majority of European countries fall under a joint administrative area for travel – the Schengen Zone. If all of the countries you are visiting fall within this region you will just need one visa. You can check which countries are part of the Schengen Zone and wether you need a visa by visiting the Schengen website.

If you are a resident from Europe you do not need a visa. If you are from the UK then keep an eye on the news, currently we do not need a visa but that may change soon.

Current Schengen Zone map from SchengenVisaInfo.com

As you can see from the above map, there are a few eastern European countries that are not included in the Schengen Zone, as well as the United Kingdom. These are still worth your time visiting but you may need an additional visa for these countries. Check with each countries embassy in your own country (they will usually have a website) to find out your entry requirements.

2. Exchange some currency

Most countries take the Euro however not all do so you need to check which currency you will need.

Some countries such as Albania have a closed currency – this means you can’t get their currency in advance. In this case you must exchange your own currency for theirs after you arrive. This is simple enough – you can use the nearest ATM to take money out using your bank card or credit card, there’s likely to be an ATM in the airport.

Until recently there would be little benefit in buying your currency too far in advance. Sometimes better to wait until you arrived at your destination. However with the volatile political landscapes at the moment it could pay to get your foreign currency in advance if you can.

Whether you choose to exchange cash or get a pre-paid card each should offer a similar exchange rate.

Sweet stand at the Summer DOM in Hamburg, Germany

Pay close attention in the months leading up to your holiday what is going on in politics, in your own country and in Europe as this has an effect on the exchange rates. Any uncertainty politically will cause the value of the currency values to drop and if it is your currency that’s dropped you will get less foreign currency for your money. However if it is your destinations currency that has dropped then buy some.

Tip;

If you need a lot of foreign currency it may be worth your while buying half what you need months away from your departure date and the rest nearer the time. This should give you the best chance at getting a reasonable exchange rate.

3. Finalise your accommodation

motel one dresden am zwinger
Motel One hotel room

Book accommodation as soon as you can – as long as you can get a free cancellation deal. Large cities such as London, Berlin and Rome generally have the best accommodation prices more than 6 months in advance, you can book most up to a year before you plan to travel.

If you book your accommodation in advance with a free cancellation you loose nothing if you find a better deal nearer the time. Get the better deal booked and cancel your original reservation free of charge. Websites such as Booking.com offer a range of accommodation options including apartments with free cancellation.

In the smaller cities outside of peak seasons you will have greater flexibility on when you need to firm up your plans. Keep in mind that Europe is always popular during the summer even the smaller cities and any area with a ski season will be busy during winter. The time of arriving at your destination and finding a good deal on a place to stay for that night are pretty much over. You may not even find a bed for the night in the most popular destinations during peak season if you just turn up on the day.

4. Plan your European airport transfer

There are many options to get you from the airport to your accommodation. To find the best price you need to do a bit of research before you depart.

Each city will have numerous transport options and at each one the best method to choose won’t be the same.

Start by looking at public transport. Train or metro is great for getting into most cities.

If you are heading out of the cities when you arrive then consider renting a car right from the airport.

If you prefer your own space but don’t drive then UBER is widely available across Europe and offers taxi-like service at a reduced rate.

The options of airport transport methods really are endless.

SITA buses – local bus service around Naples and the Amalfi Coast area of Italy

5. Book major attraction tickets

The Cathedral inside of the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland

You will be wanting to see some of the iconic sights that Europe has to offer while you’re visiting. Fortunately Europe has a lot of historical sites that you can see and experience without buying a ticket or even entering a building.

You may want to get your tickets booked for major sights like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Pompeii near Naples, the Colosseum in Rome, La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and if you want to view inside of Buckingham Palace in London. These places are very busy and if you turn up on the day you will likely face lengthy queues – taking up valuable holiday time. Booking in advance will save you time and no matter how long you have booked for your European holiday you will want more time.

As part of your Europe Travel Check List choose which attractions are do not miss experiences for you and fix times for these, buying tickets in advance. Other sights can fit around these when you arrive at your destination.

Inside Pompeii, Italy looking towards Vesuvius

6. Familiarise yourself with some basic phrases

Don’t underestimate how much knowing a few words in the local language will help you. Just because you don’t know the language now doesn’t mean you can’t learn a few words – even if you’re due to fly out tomorrow.

You can use apps like Babbel to make a start learning something of the local language – and it’s free to use. However if you’re short on time using Google translate may be enough. Try to learn how to say hello, yes, no, please and thank you etc. and we find knowing the first few numbers and our favourite drinks come in handy too!

If you have any food allergies get that translated and copy down that phrase to take with you. You can then show that at restaurants and not worry that your pronunciation may be off.

Hofbrauhaus in Munich – zwei Liter Bier bitte

7. Decide on your method of transport – and book it

We find that the best way to get off the beaten path in Europe is by car. If you have a full driving licence you can rent a car easily and the process is straight forward. See more about the option of driving in step 8.

VW Polo in Germany
Typical budget car from European rental companies

You don’t have to drive to get around Europe, large cities tend to have excellent public transport and there is UBER where public transport doesn’t reach. You won’t need your own transport, such as a car, within cities.

There are options other than driving to get between cities so you can put together your own method of getting around using a mix of transport.

There is a fantastic train network across Europe, you can check if your destinations are linked by train by using the EU Rail website.

You can also get cheap flights. there are many budget airlines in Europe and so competition is fierce – making great airfares for customers.

If you want to see more than a plane offers but the railway network doesn’t cover the route you want to travel then your next option is to check buses. There are lots of bus networks across Europe so there will definitely be one that covers the route you need. You will also have a choice from low budget services up to luxury services giving you all the comforts a plane would offer.

To check a variety of transport methods between two places at once our favourite website is Rome2Rio. It will even give you an idea of prices before you click through to the transport providers website.

8. Driving? Read up on European driving etiquette

If you’re considering a road trip through Europe make sure you check out our detailed post on how to plan a road trip in Europe. If you are nervous or unsure where to start when planning a road trip in Europe then our guide will give you all the information you need to get on the road with confidence.

Driving through Bavaria, Germany

9. Check the weather forecast for each area you will be visiting

Europe covers a huge area and with it being so easy to get from one area to another, quickly too if you’re flying, you can find yourself in multiple climates during one trip.

If you combine the nordic countries such as Norway and Sweden with those around the Mediterranean like Spain and Greece within one trip you could be looking at a temperature change of more than 20 degrees celsius.

It’s an important point on our European travel check list to check the weather in all of the locations you will be visiting. This way you have the knowledge so you can pack for a range of weather conditions if you need to.

10. Buy your travel insurance

Arguably the most important point on our European travel check list.

Needing healthcare outside of your own country will be very expensive. The best way to make sure you don’t end up out of pocket in an emergency is to get the right insurance.

You will want to make sure you’re fully covered for visiting Europe along with being covered for any activities you’re planning to do – and there are plenty to choose from. Climbing, kayaking, Skiing and back country hiking are accessible activities for visitors to Europe, if you choose to do any of these activities even with a guide you need to check your insurance covers you.

Aside from cover for activities and healthcare it’s worth checking what you are covered for in terms of trip cancellation, whether your fault, the providers or weather conditions.

I’ve claimed twice on travel insurance, the first time was getting stuck in Australia when an Icelandic ash cloud covered Europe closing the airspace so I couldn’t get my flight home. Another time was when our flight to Prague was cancelled due to bad weather in the UK and another flight out couldn’t be arranged before our return flight would have already come back. In both of these instances my Boots travel insurance paid out. Richard had insurance with Virgin for our first attempt to visit Prague and his insurance wouldn’t pay. We lost half of the money we spent on the trip, even though we had travel insurance – and both policies cost about the same price.

Capri, Italy

Enjoy your holiday to Europe! If you have any questions just ask by leaving a comment below.

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