Exploring Europe : Tips for First Timers

You’ve booked that ticket months in advance, packed your bags and finally set to leave on that jet plane. The next time you set foot on land, you will be among postcard-perfect villages steeped in old-world charm, that have long been a fascination of poets and writers.

No matter how many times you have been to Europe, it never fails to mesmerize. From its dreamy country sides and cobbled stone streets, to its sea side villages and  medieval architecture, snow-capped mountains and turquoise blue waters it never stops to ‘wow’ me!

Read on to find out how to enjoy the beauty of the prettiest continent while still being kind to your wallet:

  1. All over Europe, are friendly and hygienic hostels and Bed & Breakfast accommodations. Hostels are the best bet for solo travellers, giving you easy access to clean facilities and the opportunities to chat up new folk from around the world. @Airbnb have delightful accommodations with pretty vintage houses, giving you a local feel and an authentic local experience. You could choose from variety of houses, locations and budgets, but do ensure to try out at least one homestay during your time there.
  2. In every town and city you will find plenty on ‘i’ – information offices, giving you details on tourists’ attractions nearby, entry fee, visitor timings and a take away map of the place. Practice your map reading skills to make your holiday even more enjoyable, though wandering off the beaten path and loosing you way comes with its own share of adventure, like the time we got lost in the Alps driving from Germany through the Black Forest to Switzerland. You could hire a car and drive around or else most places are easily accessible by train, trams, Eurail and are cheaper on the pocket as compared to taxis.
  3. Take a class in the local language even before you set off for your holidays. Knowing a few words of the local dialect will make the holiday even more enjoyable, giving you the opportunity to chat up locals, warming yourself up to them. Before my first trip to Europe, I took a 1 month crash course around basic greetings, directions and food. Wishing my homestay owners Bonjour in Paris, Gracias in Barcelona, Benvenuto in Venice helped break the ice and form stongers bonds and connection. If taking a class is not feasible, google the common words and sentences used to get past and make light conversation. Most West European countries, apart from UK do not speak English or any other language apart from their National language, while in Central and East Europe conversing in English is easier as people understand the language.
  4. Spend time soaking up the culture. Walk or cycle around, while you breathe in the crisp, fresh air. Talk to locals in a shop, bar, café, garden, beach. Understand their way of life. In our increasingly intolerant world, appreciating another’s way of life can go a long way in spreading peace and harmony. My personal favourite is sitting by the quaint road side cafes, people watching while sipping on local wine. Often these are moments when you meet other travellers, bringing on the start of a new friendship.
  5. Enjoy the local cuisine. Make it a point to enjoy a new local dish each day. Bite into the freshness of Italian peaches or taste the multiple flavours as the authentic wood fire Italian pizza explodes in your mouth, nibble on a platter of cheese or morsel on crispy schnitzels as the luscious Sauvignon Blanc trickles down your throat. Not all of this needs to be expensive. Be a smart traveller. You can pick up all of this and more from local super market chains and enjoy a lavish European meal followed by Swizz chocolate right on the porch of your B&B as you watch the sun paint the sky deep shades of orange.
  6. While visiting a few tourists spots is important and I would never recommend you to miss out on the beauty of the Eiffel or the grandeur of the Colosseum or street walking the red light district of Amsterdam, make time to cycle through the country side to witness the real untouched beauty of Europe. Many of them, stand frozen in time with horse drawn carriages, acres of fruit orchards, warm and friendly folk you where you could get invited for a local meal.

Embrace life the way it is in Europe. Let go of the hustle and bustle of crowded tourist spots, long ticket queues and let the charm of Europe entice you.

Best Time to Visit Europe:

  • Europe is beautiful all year around. I can spend the whole year there and still be yearning for more. However if you are a first timer to Europe, summer would be a wonderful time to experience the beauty, cycle through the woods, swim in azure waters and spend long days sitting by road side cafes gazing in awe. July to September are holiday months across Europe and you will find many Europeans visiting nearby countries to spend their vacations.
  • Europe is splendid during winter thanks to its many Christmas markets. These markers are dotted all over mainland Europe in every city and town and bring in the festive spirit with shopping and ice skating, mulled wine and Stollen cake.
  • Autumn is another beautiful time to visit Europe, when leaves start to take on hues of purple, pink, magenta. You can experience the gorgeous landscape while enjoying a mild dip in the air, announcing the oncoming of its rather frosty winters

Clothes to take:

  • If you are visiting Southern Europe in summer carry light clothes. Plenty of shorts, tees, skirts and dresses. A light cardigan is good to keep you warm at night. A hat,  sunscreen and good shoes to manoeuvre the cobbled stone streets
  • If you plan to travel to northern Europe in summer, ensure to carry a light jacket in case the weather gets a bit chilly post sunset
  • During winter it is absolutely essential to carry at least 2 thick warm jackets, gloves, thermal wear and snow boots.