First Time Visitors to Europe
Here we cover the essentials of what the first time visitor will need to think about before traveling to Europe. Good preparation is important to the success of any trip and you will find the sections on each country will provide information specific to that location.
These are what you will need to think about before you leave your home country. We don't mean clean underwear and your lucky t-shirt. All items are essential, but some are more essential than others.
Your passport is your most important piece of documentation. First, make sure you have one. Next, make sure that it is valid for the entire time you plan on traveling. Remember to always keep your passport with you. Although it contains your photo, it will fetch a high price on the black market. Do not leave it in unsecured locations or in hostels or hotels.
Certain countries may require you to apply for an entry visa before you arrive. Travelers from the US, Canada & the UK only need visas for a few select countries. Those from Australia and New Zealand are not so lucky. You can check for entry requirements in the individual country sections as restrictions vary.
Imagine you break your leg in Germany. How much would the bill cost for medical expenses? Definitely more than you planned to budget for the day. Medical insurance is cheap for young travelers and you should not leave home with out it. A basic policy will cover emergency medical while a comprehensive policy may have provisions to cover your possessions, trip interruption and even liability.
When backpacking, you will need to make a budget based on the style of travel you plan to take and the countries you plan on visiting. Visit our money section for more details on how to prepare your budget.
Your next decision is how to carry your funds in a safe and convenient way. Your options include cash, bank cards, credit cards or traveler's cheques. We recommend a mixture of each. Cash is good to have when arriving in a new city as you don't know when banks or exchange centers may be closed. Do not carry too much value in cash because if you lose it, there is no way to get it back. Bank cards are great as you will get up to date exchange rates, but you may be charged a service fee for using them abroad. As a back up, credit cards are accepted world wide. You may find you need one to make reservations. Before you leave, put extra money on to your account. This way, you do not need to worry about paying the bill while traveling. Finally, comes the issue of traveler's cheques. You may encounter problems with cashing them in terms of availability of exchange locations and high fees for processing. As a back up we recommend taking them as you need to show ID to cash them. Do not use them for primary funds.
Consider buying a money belt so you can keep your money and important travel documents on you and in a safe place, beyond the reach of pick-pockets.
Other Useful Documentation
On top of the essentials there may be other documents you should bring along. These will make life easier as you travel and perhaps even save you some money along the way.
The ultimate way to tour Europe is by rail. Fast and easy connections and few restrictions on border crossing within the EU make travel a breeze. Purchase your rail pass before you leave as you will find it works out a lot cheaper. You can buy your pass based on the countries you plan to visit and the amount of time you plan to travel. Most passes are sold in zones and will cover a few countries. European citizens or individuals who have been living in Europe for the previous six months can purchase an Inter-Rail pass while the rest of the world can buy a Eurail pass. Both passes are similar but have their own terms and conditions. Always check with your provider, but most passes include travel on certain ferry and bus routes.
Hosteling International & Camp Memberships
A hostel membership is useful if you plan to stay at accredited Hostelling International (HI) hostels. It is not essential for private hostels but again can be cheaper if picked up before you leave. You can even earn stamps based on how many nights you stay that add up to a free night. Also, as a member you can take advantage of their Book-a-bed ahead program. This allows you to reserve your spot in hostels through out the HI network. Similar to the HI card, you can get a camping card. The savings make purchasing these memberships worth while as they are valid for a year.
Student Identity Cards
Students attending approved establishments can save even more money with an International Student Identity Card (ISIC). These savings are commonly applied at the time of booking rail, bus and ferry tickets. Even some fast food chains will offer a discount so remember, if you don't ask you don't get.
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