This blog post was updated on August 29, 2018.
Lately, I have been dishing out advice about traveling to Europe for first timers. Being asked what I perceive to be simple questions so frequently, I realized how much seasoned travelers forget the little things about first times in Europe that can either make or break your experience. I dialed back to some of my novice mistakes of traveling in Europe on my first few visits along with those of other novice travelers. If you’re visiting Europe this summer, avoid these fiascoes and in the process you will evade going sour over one novice mishap in a continent so rich in culture, history and people.
The Restaurant Rip-Off: A friend recounted a bad experience in Barcelona. They knew better and yet fell victim to the restaurant rip off. Prices weren’t posted for a couple of sandwiches and a drink. When the bill arrived, 50 euros was not a welcome number. In Europe in particular, eating out can be a gamble in terms of quality and price. If you don’t see prices, chances are they are whatever the owner decides customer to customer. Travelers can avoid the restaurant rip off by researching restaurant recommendations beforehand. If a friend who knows the city recommends several spots, eat at them. Don’t turn your dining experience into a lottery of overpriced, poor meals.
The Target of Pickpockets and Scams at Train Stations: I made this error after several trips to Europe. I was traveling solo in Italy with a giant suitcase, facing the daunting task of having to lug up and down stairs to the other platform. A man quickly offered to help, hoisting the bag over his shoulders and carrying it to the other side. I was so surprised by his kindness and then, he reached out his hand. Many people loiter in European train stations either looking to pickpocket you or assist you for a fee. Sometimes travelers mistake these seedy souls for just simple kindness. While it is important to be open to meeting new people and learning about different cultures in Europe, go about these transport hubs with caution.
The Wallet in the Back Pocket: A country boy who had never left the United States lost his wallet after being in Europe for five minutes. It sounds like a cliché but it is actually an everyday occurrence in Europe. You might feel comfortable placing your wallet in your back pocket at home, but in crowded spaces in Europe, pickpockets won’t be able to resist. Travelers should utilize a money belt or some sort of wallet chain. Women should carry purses that have zippers and are slash proof.
The Athletic Shoes and Short Shorts: If you want to feel like a celebrity in Europe, just wear athletic shoes and short shorts around Paris, Rome or Madrid. You will quickly be met with more stares than Brad Pitt receives. Packing for Europe warrants more thought than other places. Overly revealing clothing can draw unnecessary attention. Find a covert athletic-walking shoe you can bring rather than those shiny white sneakers you jog in back home.
The $5,000 Cellphone Data Bill:My parents came to visit me in Sicily when I was studying abroad. My Dad proceeded to send friends and family email postcards of our travels. What he didn’t know is those email postcards were costing a fortune. Before I take off, I reset my data tracker. I then turn off data roaming. I put in place a small international data plan just in case of emergencies. I then utilize WiFi on my iPhone to check emails and tweets for free. Europe novices might think they can just leave their phones on for emergencies, but you could face a large bill when you come home. Another option is to buy a SIM card at your destination should you spend a greater amount of time in Europe.
What are some of your tips for Europe novices? Have any live-and-learn scenarios to share?
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