Sharanya Misra

Come summer and most people throng to Europe for that perfect vacation! Discovering Europe is a dream come true for most of us. But before you head out to explore the magic these places await you with, here are a few great travel tips for your travel in Europe!

That the Colosseum in Rome is a mighty sight to behold on the exterior is no one’s doubt. Yet, nothing could prepare you for the sheer magnitude of the place that washes over you when you step in. To look out and imagine the gladiators and animals engaged in blood curdling battles as 50,000 people cheered on, gives you goose bumps! The most popular icon on Parisian skylines, The Eiffel Tower, offers magnificent views of the city and the river Siene below. But believe it or not, Gustav Eiffel’s piece of art was initially supposed to be set up in Barcelona and was considered an eyesore by both the Spanish and then the French. Be it the little stories behind the tranquil gondola rides in Venice, the astonishing artistic aura of the Louvre, the imposing Alps and rolling hills of Switzerland or the cobbled streets of Prague, Europe abounds in secrets waiting to be unravelled.

Boat Ride on Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

  • Europe is Highly Interconnected:

 

If your vacation plan zig zags across the continent, you can rest assured shed your worries on travel. Europe is extremely well connected. There are tons of flights, trains and buses connecting the remotest of areas. These are fast, reliable and frequent. And if you are comfortable driving, countries in Europe are close enough for you to plan a vacation behind the wheels as well. Vehicles can be booked in advance with car rental companies in Europe like Enterprise, EuropCar and Avis.

Eiffer At Night, Paris, France
  • Look for Scenic Routes & Worthwhile Experiences:

 

Before you hastily book flights as the fastest mode of travel, do your research on the travel options that would take you through routes that are experiences in themselves. The Bernina Express for example winds through panoramic views as it chugs between Chur in Switzerland and Tirano in Italy, while the Glacier Express is world famous for its 7 hour long scenic ride from Zermatt to St.Moritz in Switzerland. Similarly, certain drive routes in Scotland and Isle of Wight in the UK are breathtakingly beautiful! Another popular mode of travel in Europe are the ferries. If you are travelling from London to France by bus for example, the bus is onboarded a ferry while crossing the English Channel. This is a unique experience in itself, allowing you to enjoy an hour soaking the sun and the wind on the deck, treating yourself to a quick meal and a drink on board or indulging in some duty-free shopping before you drive away in your bus again!

Colosseum On The Inside, Rome, Italy
  • Find Options that Suit Your Budget:

 

If you haven’t booked your travel tickets way in advance, especially if you plan to travel in the European Summer, chances are the prices of trains and flights are sky rocketing. But that’s no reason to dampen your mood. You can always look for buses (like FlixBus or OuiBus) that are cheap. While that would extend your travel time by a bit, the journey itself would be very comfortable and timely. All these buses have emergency toilets onboard and stop for breaks in between.

Car rental rates may seem exorbitant at the outset but could actually end up being very cost effective based on the number of places and days you are travelling, making it an option worthy of consideration. Cars (both manual and automatic) can be driven across borders and dropped off in locations other than the pickup. If you do end up renting a car, do not cut costs by skipping the insurance and Sat-Nav, they are a must unless you are already familiar with the areas. Another interesting choice would be two-wheelers like the Vespa which are crazily popular in countries like Italy and Spain.

Margaret Bridge from the cruise, Budapest, Hungary
  • Intra City Travel in Buses/Trams/Metros/Tubes:

 

While in any European city remember to shed scepticisms, if any, for the local transport. These methods of travel are a boon if you do not have your own vehicle. They are very easily accessible and very reliable. Schedules and routes can be found online and hopping from one to the other becomes very easy once you understand the lines. Most bus/tube/metro stations have a city map available with all locations clearly displayed on their respective lines. Make sure to keep these maps handy and refer to them time and again. One word of caution though would be the common method of asking people for directions. Not everyone in European nations understands/speaks English well and sometimes well-intended directions can actually make you go around in circles. The best way to search is using Google Maps or physical maps.

Snow Capped Dachstein Range, Hallstatt, Austria
  • Sight-seeing with Hop-On Hop-Off Buses/Cruises/Funiculars:

 

Hop-On Hop-Off buses, as their name implies, are sightseeing buses that you can get on and off as per your convenience and interest. Every city usually has 2-3 bus routes defined with stops at particular tourist spots. These buses are particularly helpful because they come with audio guides that give you the history behind the monument or the stop you are looking out at. They have open decks, giving you an unobstructed view of the city beyond. Most hop-on hop-off tickets last for a minimum of 24 hours which means that you have an entire day to visit all the places you want to and tour the city any number of times. Hop-on Hop-Off tickets often also come with discounts on entrance to other tourist attractions. Another great way to explore the city is from the river. River cruises in most of Europe are an hour-long affair in the least. There are audio guides here too, and sometimes personal guides as well. The views of the city from the river, away from all the hustle and bustle, are always spectacular. For a beautifully mesmerising experience, opt for the laid-back serene gondola ride in Venice, and if you are lucky, the gondolier may turn out to be a thorough entertainer as well! A common sight across all mountains and castles in Europe are the cable cars and funiculars. The views these offer from atop them are simply breath-taking!

Prague Castle and Charles Bridge at Night, Prague
  • Walk the Walk…Or Pedal Away!

 

Keeping the best for the last, here’s the biggest tip I can offer if you are touring Europe! Walk. There is absolutely no better way to soak in the charm of European cities. Europeans are heavy walkers themselves and all roads have very convenient pavements. The cobbled streets of Prague town centre for example are beautified even further by the tens of performers on any evening. A stroll on the riverside of Budapest in the evening, getting lost in the narrow streets of Barcelona, finding a new world on the roads of Paris and discovering ancient Roman artefacts hidden away from tourist maps on every corner of Rome – nothing can compare to the charm of walking your way around Europe. In fact, some of the best tours in these cities are walking tours – and for a very good reason. These tour guides walk you to popular spots for an hour or two, sharing gems of knowledge and local stories on the monuments, that I can guarantee you wouldn’t find on any audio guide. These guides are in fact often students or teachers of history themselves. They share little snippets, give you local legends, take you to the best places to eat and know just the perfect nooks to click your pictures from! A final option that’s again as wonderful as walking is…cycling! You can rent a cycle or be a part of a cycle tour and pedal your way into the charms of the city! Amsterdam, in fact, is well known as much for its picturesque locales as the interesting way of commute used by the locals…the dear old cycles!

Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Austria

So, go! Make the best of your holidays and explore Europe all you can, for who knows you may end up discovering your own self in the process!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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