Compared to many of the places we’ve been, travel in Europe is easy, relaxing and comfortable. There are literally tons of things to see and do here, about a million guides to help you decide what to do, and buses do not break down nearly as often as they do in Africa…what’s not to love?
Most people come to Europe for culture, history and good food; the real challenge with all of that is knowing where start. There are a plethora of free walking tours, usually starting off from the main train station or tourist information booth. Generally a short tour of the main city attractions, these tour companies might either try to sell you on another more traditional tour or just ask you to tip your guide. If you’re having trouble finding a free tour just drop into a nearby youth hostel and browse through their rack of information…they won’t mind, when you show up for the tour with the map from their establishment in hand they might get a small kickback.
Local transportation can also be a pleasure with bicycles in abundance here and often very easy to find and rent. Some cities (e.g. Vienna) have bike-sharing systems in place while others (e.g. Berlin) have shops around every corner offering rentals for as little as 10 € per day. These are cheap and enjoyable and often beat the cost of a day-long transit pass. Speaking of transit, be sure to check out all the options if you do choose to buy a transit pass as our 3-day rail pass in Vienna ended up only being about a half dollar cheaper than the week-long pass which would have been much better to have when we extended our 3-day stay to four.
As American’s we’re told that the best way to travel Europe is via a rail pass. We met one pair of travelers who had a month in Western Europe, purchased a month long pass, and were making the most of it traveling to nearly ten countries, mostly in Western Europe. Unless this is your story, you are probably better off staying away from a pass as these often come with a variety of restrictions, hidden fees, and a high base price. For our travel we’ve found that the unlimited bus pass would be cheaper and easier but still not worth its weight in Euros. As it is, we didn’t buy a pass and have saved tons of money by purchasing the cheapest option of transportation when we find it; making use of trains, buses, airplanes, and even ride share programs.
And of course, the last and most important part to the success of any trip is to have a good night of sleep each night. The nice thing about Europe is that there is a full range of options from youth hostels all the way up to 5-star resort hotels with all the accoutrement you would expect from a big budget location. As always, be sure to shop around as we’ve even found 3 star hotels in downtown areas that cost less than a double room in a youth hostel. Sometimes searching through the options can be a hair-raising challenge in itself and it can’t hurt to hire a travel agency to give you a hand so that your trip is a little less backpack and a little more vacation. We’ve used Liberty Travel for family trips to the Caribbean and they also organize trips to Europe.
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