Getting back from Europe was awesome & enjoyable, especially when your plan works pretty fine in a continent that most people find very expensive yet very captivating.
It took me 1 year to research & plan for my Europe trip. (Traveled ourselves around Europe for 70 Days). Hopefully from the experience, I’m able to simplified your Europe planning.
1. Where should i visit?
It all depends on which European cities are your dream destinations before branching out to other places. Take a paper, list down all the cities you dreamed of. If time is limited, prioritized the cities by order.
Worst thing you would not want to do is to crammed lots of places in a short period which ends up instead of enjoying Europe, you are spending the entire journey rushing here & there, stressing yourself to catch the plane or train & missing out the real experience of European Culture.
Trust me, you wont be able to enjoy London & Paris in 1 or 2 days. Instead of bragging about your travel, you will end up a laughing stock for missing out on so many things.
2. How many days should I stay in each European cities?
This is a big problem when planning. On one hand, you worried not enough time, & on the other hand, you worry too much time that bored you to death.
I have compiled a list based on my travel style & personal opinion. Definitely to say you are able to cover the whole place in mere 2 or 3 days is not going to happen. This guideline is only enough for travelers visiting the main attractions with some time to spare before moving on to the next city.
Check out my blogpost: How Many Days in Europe Cities?
3. When should i visit Europe?
Every season has its own specialty and to dictate which season to go does not make sense at all. For me personally, I chose Summer although generally I prefer Spring or Autumn.
Why I chose to travel during Summer for Europe? It comes back to budget, summer is the time where hotels in cities are slashing price up to 50% as their regular customers which are businessman are away on vacation. Hence, traveling in summer means cheaper & better accommodation! 50% savings per night in Europe is BIG MONEY !!
Second, during summer, there is more day light. The sun doesn’t set until 9 to 10pm every day. It also means you have longer time for sightseeing places which have no time restriction. Not only that, you feel safer walking around in daylight rather than in the dark. Third, summer is full of activities & some special ones are only available in summer. Lastly, who can resist Summer Sales where prominent & luxury European brands are clearing their stocks at dirt cheap price?
However, plan wisely, Italy is not the place you want to go in mid summer. With scorching heat up to 42 degree Celsius that’s impossible for comfortable sightseeing & with most shop closed for vacations, you will definitely miss out the authentic Italian culture !! Therefore visit Italy early summer before their annual vacation starts in end of July till end of August.
As I explained, summer is the season where people go vacation hence if you plan to visit the beach or hill resort prepare to pay hefty price for accommodation! Even tourist attractions, you will need to endure very long queues. So if you intend to avoid the crowds, spring or autumn will be a better choice.
Why not winter? My personal opinion is that traveling in winter is a hassle. First, it is very cold in Europe. Second, snowstorm will causes unexpected delays to your plan. Third, you have less day light compared to other seasons. However the choice is still yours, if you are planning for snow sports such as skiing, it would an idiot choice to go Europe in summer right?
4. Do I need Travel Visa to travel Europe?
To find out whether you need visa to travel Europe, you can refer: Europe Visa Policy
For Malaysians, you can travel around Europe for 3 months visa free & 6 months in UK visa free.
How much should I Budget Per Day?
I will only list out the basic expenditure per day per person as a guideline for you. This guideline will allow you stress free travel with occasion indulging in fine dining or pampering. Feel free to adjust according to your needs.
Food – €20
Public Transportation In the City – €7
Accommodation – €40 per person for twin sharing / €80 for 1 person
Sightseeing – €20
Emergency Use – €8
Therefore it is about €95 per day per person to be comfortable. By budgeting on some meals, around €10 per day, you will be able to enjoy some fine dining as well.
This budget does not include shopping as it is very subjective & intercity transport as it depends what mode of transportation you plan to take & how many places you will be visiting.
Again, it is still up to your travel style, as some travelers will skip the paying attractions or some will stay in budget hostel or couch surf. Hence it varies per traveler.
How can I Save Money or Enjoy More Value with Less Money?
Every €1 save is a lot of money for me as a traveler from Malaysia. Therefore finding ways to save & enjoying more things with less money was always my priority when traveling in Europe. Therefore I’m sharing some ideas which works for me & hopefully for you as well.
I’m pretty sure you have been exposed to Groupon or other group discount sites in your country. Hence if you can benefit in your country, why not during your travels?
Groupon is a group discount website which allows business to bring in new customers that actually buy or try their products by providing huge discounts. Therefore, 3 course fine dining in Paris might just cost you €15 per person instead of €35!
Please bear in mind that there are risks when buying. Some deals requires reservations & if you don’t speak their language especially in a country that English is uncommon, you might have to resort to walking in or email them to reserve.. Most of the time they allow walk ins especially when the restaurants aren’t pack however few of them require us to reserve on the spot for next day or later meals.
Before you buy, make sure you read the terms carefully. Some deals allows you to claim on weekdays or specific meals such as lunch or dinner. Second, take note the day the business close, to avoid disappointment not able to use the deal as it is closed & worst, you are leaving the next day which means total waste of your money. Third, check where the business is located & make sure it is easily accessible with public transport & not too far away from your place. Finally, make sure you know what are you buying for easier ordering & expectation.
How to check the business location? Just copy the business address and paste in Google Map and compare with your place to see how far & how accessible is it. You dont know French, German, Dutch? No problem. Just download Google Chrome as there is automatic translation for all languages.
As they say No Pain No Gain, a little more of hardwork & research results in Massive Savings. Memories of indulging fine dining, massage, staying in luxury hotels in Europe – Priceless.
Day Pass & Group Discount
Always ask if there is Day Pass for public transportation. Not only it allows you unlimited travel, it also saves you money & giving you more convenience in traveling around. However please compare with your itinerary, if you are planning to go Lourve Museum which will takes you 1 full day or Disneyland there is no point buying a Day Pass as it will be more expensive.
If you are traveling with a bunch of friends, always ask if there is group discounts especially for public transportation. For example, a day pass in Munich cost €5.40 per person however a Group Day Pass for 5 people only cost €9.80! That’s just €2 per person for unlimited train rides!
If you are a student, remember to bring your student card or apply for ISIC card. Some attractions offers Student Price which are up to 30% cheaper than normal price. And if you are below 25 years old, you are eligible for discount for Rail Pass.
Travel by Train or Plane?
With more low cost carriers in Europe, traveling around has become cheaper. So the question is should you choose train or flight?
Most people will purchase a Rail Pass before arriving Europe which offers more value. You can buy it at Eurail or Rail Europe. Depending on how many days & countries you plan to visit in Europe, there is a pass that suites your needs.
If you are traveling for a extended period, Global Pass will be a better option. So which to choose? Consecutive Days Pass or Flexible Day Pass? Both have its own benefits hence depending on your travel requirement to choose. If you plan to stay at every place for more than 5 days, flexible day pass will suite you as you can choose the days you travel. However if you are planning to move from cities to cities within 3 or 4 days, consecutive day pass will suite you better.
I bought Consecutive Day Pass & I was glad I did. Reason was with Consecutive Day Global Pass, I do not worry about when I would travel, all I need is to hop on the train or just reserve beforehand thus giving me more value. For example, when I was in Milan, I took a day trip to Lake Como on the next day, so instead of losing 1 day for flexible day pass or buying a train ticket, I just hop on the train without spending more. Same with my day trip to Pisa from Florence & Garmisch-Partenkirchen from Munich.
You can easily find Europe Train Timetable with OBB Travel Portal.
What’s not to love about getting from a city to another within an hour? Especially when flight tickets are much cheaper than train ticket!
I took a flight from Paris to London for only €25 with Easyjet. Transportation to Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport cost around €7 & from London Luton Airport to London for only £2 with Easybus. Total cost €35. Compared with taking Eurostar from Paris to London would cost at least €70! That’s a savings of minimum €35 which could be spent on a romantic fine dining in Paris or London.
Flights will also decrease your travel time, instead of wasting 12 hours on train, it takes only 1 to 2 hours by plane. For example from Lisbon to Madrid which takes 11 hours by train while 1 hour by flight. More time can be spent on relaxing & sightseeing.
Conclusion : Train or Plane?
Both have its pros & cons therefore mix & match would be better. Rule of thumb, if the train ride is more than 5 hours, consider taking the plane.
Why not taking flight for train rides less than 5 hours? First, train stations are generally in the middle of city hence getting there is quick, cheap & convenient opposing getting to airport which could takes you 1 hour and more. Second, you will need to arrive airport 2 hours before your flight. Third, flying by air could be stressful especially when you are worried about check in luggage limit & hand carry limit & size. Last, the travel time to your destination.
Hence, you will need 1 hour to reach, 2 hours waiting & 1 or 2 hours flight time + stress of arriving airport, luggage weight & size which is the same as taking less than 5 hours train ride or longer. One advantage for train, if you miss it, you can just hop on the next one or reserve a new ticket for a minimum fees if you have a Rail Pass. One exception example would be Paris to London when the cost of train is way higher than flight.
Ryanair or Easyjet?
Before I actually bought the air ticket, I was planning to fly around with Ryanair (due to the cheap flights offer) however that might not be the actual case when I started buying.
First of all, Easyjet price might be averagely cheaper than Ryanair hence make sure to compare. Secondly, most of Ryanair’s airport are quite far away from city which your transportation cost might be even higher than your air ticket itself! Talk bout time consuming when you should be enjoying Europe leisurely.
Finally, Ryanair’s check in luggage policy, hand carry policy & flight policy are very stringent and stingy. The hand carry luggage is smaller than Easyjet and when you miss your flight, it is all over ( new tickets are very expensive ) where else Easyjet allows u to change flight with some charges. Worst, for Ryanair, you need to check in online, if not a hefty charge is imposed!
However, not to say you should avoid Ryanair totally. If you are traveling light and able to purchase cheap flights, just obey all the rules & you will do fine.