10 Tips for Euro Travellers

Its summer time and all over Europe there’s thousands of young people on walkabout, pilgrimage, historical quests, academic journeys and short term missions. Here are some tips for traveling in Europe from someone that has been doing it over 20 years and has already made most of the usual mistakes.

Images-11. Your passport is king. Don’t lose it or it will take a week and a lot of money and hassle to get another. Keep it in the same pocket in your jacket, preferably with a zip, at all times. Sleep with it in youth hostels. Don’t leave it in a bag. What I do is use the same pocket always for my passport, another for my wallet, and another for my camera and keys.

2. Those £10 flights out of London might be really cheap but chances they are for 7am on Sunday morning and the underground train system doesn’t start up in time to get you there . . . and you cant afford a taxi. Sometimes you can get a shuttle but getting to the shuttle at 5am will also be a hassle. Might as well pay more to get a flight at a decent time.

3. Those £10 flights early in the morning are still a good deal but you will need to sleep in the airport overnight. I have slept in all of London’s main airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead and Luton) and its not a bad experience. A sleeping bag with a hood to cover your eyes from the bright lights which never go off is a good idea and a camping mat will soften the floor. For the best places in the airport to sleep, check out the site called sleeping in airports. I have also had good experiences sleeping at Frankfurt Hahn, Glasgow Prestwick, and recently joined the campers at Dubai airport.

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4. If you are driving/hiking/cycling around the continent, don’t expect to have really cold food or drink. Ice is hard to come by. Forget keeping anything cool. Instead, eat cheese, salami, fruit, and drink red wine rather than beer. You can survive quite well if you dont need to cool down or heat up food. Think French.

5. The bakeries in UK are great and they are also cheap. Eat big at lunch – pies, bread, whatever they have – but eat less at dinner time because the restaurants are expensive and the pound is strong. If you are really broke and need some hot food for dinner, most eating places will serve a plate of hot chips for £1.20 and that will keep you going. I am assuming you will avoid fast food chains like we do. Well done!

6. If you are driving across Europe with a team and dont wont to pay a fortune in hotel fees (or even camping fees), pay the extra for the autobahn/tollway and spend the night at one of the excellent rest areas. You can block off some space in the carpark with your car and lay out your mats. In the morning, have a shower and a coffee and off you go.

7. Tenting in Europe is charged according to how many persons but in the UK you often pay by the tent. Sometimes my family of 7 pays only £7 for the whole night because we have one big tent.

8. When in cities, youth hostels are great and old people use them also. If you are by yourself in a city then a youth hostel is a no-brainer. But if there are 4 or more of you, a hotel room will be cheaper. And camping on the edges of cities is also possible for large groups. We have camped in our tent in cities like London (Lee Valley) and Amsterdam.

9. Don’t be afraid to take a bus. I know Americans shun buses and envision themselves doing Europe by train but Europeans have no problem with buses and they can be a LOT cheaper. Trains might be a better solution that planes, however, because they take you directly to the city centers and they go everywhere.

10. Many of the airports that the budget airlines fly to are nowhere near the location you think. You may pay more to get to Frankfurt from Frankfurt Hahn airport (2 hours away) than you paid for your flight.

Also, you will be glad you took less stuff and a backpack is better than a suitcase. You probably don’t need your computer. You will need a padlock for the hostels. You cannot fly to UK and rent a car for the continent (someone asked me this recently). Rental cars don’t do the channel.

Europe is the best place on earth, for so many reasons. Enjoy your trip!

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

17 Comments

  • Keith – sorry – i accidently deleted your comment because it came out 4 times.
    you said
    “Fascinating! Absolutely Fascinating.
    I travel all over the US on business. Quite a different approach from the 10 tips above for Euro travelers. With 5 kids of my own, I love your style of travel!”
    yes – when i do business trips for a day or two, i probably travel similar to you. But when our family is on the road for long periods of time (sometimes 2 months around Europe in the summer, once for 2 years around USA) then tenting becomes the only affordable option.
    but sometimes i choose the youth hostel over the hotel just because i enjoy the company of young people from all over the world and hotels can be lonely.

  • Thanks for correcting my multiple comments error. I tried to back out and next thing I know there were 4 or 5 of the same postings up there. I saw it and thought..oh crud!
    Obviously for business, youth hostels would be tough. Still, I am just amazed, and awed at how you and your family travel. I think it is cool. My family will be traveling for almost two weeks in August and to keep the wife happy we have two rooms booked every night. It’s driving me nuts. I might try to convince them to do otherwise. Until I was married many moons ago I camped all the time. The wife…that will be interesting.
    Am I correct that even on speaking engagements you will readily stay in a youth hostel? In seems from your posts over the last couple of years I have read about it more than once?

  • Keith – depends on the hostel – some of them have private rooms (sometimes there’s a shared bath but other times you can get a private bath). I have also gotten relatively inexpensive deals at some B&Bs (always with shared bath).
    Another pointer I’d add is that my phone carrier (T-mobile) charged me twenty cents a day for international email and text access via my blackberry. (I tell them the days i am out of the US and am charged accordingly). I was in the UK for three weeks and except for one day when I had to find an internet station and download a book I had to print and proof, I was able to keep up on my email without any problem. I encouraged people to text me versus email when possible. As a writer, I have to bring my laptop.

  • Cool. and youth hostels usually give you a free breakfast in the morning. oh yeah – the thing about youth hostels when you have a family and or a group or team is that you have access to a huge kitchen, fridge space, etc so you can cook normally like you were in your own kitchen or you can cater for 60 people. you can do this at campgrounds also
    hotels, on the other hand, dont have kitchens and you end up paying through the nose at restaurants which are more expensive in europe than they are in USA.

  • …and what about staying at the jones’ home? any advice for that? haha. just teasing…can’t wait to meet you and your family!

  • Hi Andrew,
    I’m just putting together this week’s Indie Travel Podcast so it was serendipitous to find this in my feed-reader.
    I don’t know about breakfast included in European hostels…I’ve had that in Bulgaria and Turkey, but nowhere else in Europe. Being asked for 3-12 euros for a hostel breakfast has happened more than once. Something’s got to keep you laughing!
    I’ve found chain pubs in the UK, like Yates or Weatherspoons, often have a “beer and burger” type meal for around 4-5 quid. The quality really depends on how well they can handle the microwave, but it’s one of the most affordable hot meals around.

  • The hostels I stayed at in Glendalough and Belfast charged for breakfast. I found a hotel run by Quakers with a private room and shared bath in London that was 50 pound a night (included full English breakfast) that ended up being cheaper than what I found for a hostel. A full English breakfast filled me up enough that I could make do with smaller meals during the day. Definitely worth finding out if meals are included.

  • I would never use anyone who would spam my buddy Andrew. Why rent a car when there’s Eurail (unless you’re in like Ireland where there are places that aren’t available via public transportation)?

  • Ok- i read thru the link on sleeping in airports, and then read a bit further on the 10 worst….. had to laugh reallllly loud when i saw O’hare 3rd on the list…. —– also the JFK “thoughts” had me rolling! I came thru Gatwick last June… was a tad skitish… due to Brian and Whitney’s ordeal- Thankfully Mark was on time at that early of a flight.. – but you had me thinking of all my airport mishaps. – oh, did you hear Brian and Whitney are coming back to Texas!!!!! i’m stoked! – and a few are coming from NC- looks like by sept.. there shall be a mighty gathering –
    Oh, DnA and Phil and Me are discussing a Scotland trip… LIKE it looks like it actually happen… we’re just wondering Sept or Oct… or waiting till April or May….. any thoughts…. yeah… well be coming to PINCH you !!- can’t go all the way there and NOT see you guys!
    xo cat

  • Kiaora Tony, don’t knock the “to the airport taxi ride at 5am” 😉 I got a cab from Lambeth to Heathrow at 5am for £33. Not bad at all when shared between three. Wish I’d booked a return flight at a horrible hour too cos sitting in the taxi sure is a lot nicer than being on the tube.. .

  • I had the time of my life using the Eurail system over there. I once drove around Europe but with the gas prices today I couldn’t resist the fair pricing of the Eurail.

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