×

Europe

Europe Regions

Athens

Austria

Balkans

Belgium

Croatia

Cyprus

England

France

Germany

Ireland

Italy

Luxembourg

Monaco

Netherlands

Northern Ireland and Belfast

Portugal

Prague

Romania

Scandinavia

Scotland

Slovenia

Spain

Switzerland

Wales

Europe

Europe is a hugely varied and stunningly beautiful northern hemisphere continent. It ranges from its cooler yet fascinating, often mountainous north to its magic Mediterranean south with beaches to die for, and from the enchanting Iberian peninsula, with its sun soaked sub-tropical Atlantic islands and Moorish palaces in the west, to the majestic and far flung Ural Mountains to the East.

Sunshine and Attractions

Whatever your requirements for a perfect holiday, there is a European destination that fits the bill. You want wall to wall sunshine? Head to the glitzy and romantic French Riviera, dreamy and fascinating Provence, cultural and historical  Italy or vibrant Spain. They all offer great weather and have some of the world’s most iconic monuments and historic cities.

Visit Vieux Nice, the fabulous Italianate town at the centre of the French Riviera; the Gorges du Verdon, the Grand Canyon of Europe in Provence;  imperial Rome with its immense Forum and the Vatican City; or Seville in Andalucia with its fascinating Moorish past.

Mountains

You want mountains that offer cool scenery as well as winter and summer sports? Well Europe has them too in abundance. Just about all European countries, with a few well-known exceptions, have mountains. The most well known are the French , Swiss and Italian Alps.

There are also the Pyrénées straddling the French/Spanish border, the Sierra Nevada in Andalucía and of course the fantastic Highlands of Scotland, home to the Cairngorms and Grampians not to mention of course the highest Scottish mountain of all, Ben Nevis .

Lakes

Of course where there are mountains there are also lakes and Europe offers some of the world’s most idyllic. Many of these lakes are deservedly world famous like the Italian quartet of Maggiore, Lugano, Como and Garda. In France who can resist the beautiful and tranquil Lake Annecy while in neighbouring Switzerland there is an abundance of magnificent lakes such as Lucerne and Geneva.

Oh, and don’t forget the lovely English Lake District and the Scottish Lochs such as Lomond, Venechar and Katrine not to mention Ness where you might even catch a glimpse of the mythical monster ‘Nessie’!

Add to these beautiful expanses of inland water the abundance of mighty rivers. The Rhine, the Rhône, the Loire the Dordogne, the Thames and the Po all offer a kind of watery heaven to indulge yourself in.

Vibrant  Cities

Many travelers head for the buzzing, happening and exciting cities. Europe has so many, at least one in every country. Where to start? A good place would be Seville with its wonderful dynamic culture and Moorish Architecture or Paris the legendary, romantic City of Light on the banks of the River Seine with its world renowned galleries and museums.

Across the English Channel is London one of the world’s great cities resplendent with royal residences like Buckingham, Palace, magnificent churches such as St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey not to mention landmarks like Big Ben and Tower Bridge.

Back in mainland Europe, in Belgium you find the EU’s capital city Brussels and its amazing Grand Place with its wonderful Flemish Architecture and, most celebrated of all, its beer!

Finally what would a European trip be without a visit to Amsterdam with its fabulous canals, museums and galleries not to mention its rich cultural heritage?

Pretty Villages

Finally, once you’ve had your fill of  cities then Bindu can offer the ultimate contrast which is the pretty village. In France the best of these, ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages’, have formed an organisation to promote themselves. Check out Collonges-la-Rouge, Domme and La Roque-Gageac.

In Spain the White Villages of Andalucia such as Cómpeta and Sedilla help to create a stunning landscape in the Axarquía. Italy too has its fair share as anyone who has been to the Cinque Terre in Liguria and the Italian Riviera and the hills of Tuscany and Umbria will confirm.

Where To Go

Austria
Balkans
Belgium
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic (Prague)
England
France
Germany
Greece (Athens)
Italy
Republic of Ireland
Liechtenstein
Luxembourg
Malta
Moldova

Monaco
Netherlands
Poland
Portugal (Madeira and the Algarve)
Romania 
Scandinavia
Scotland
Spain
Switzerland
Turkey
Wales

When To Go

No matter what time of year Europe offers something for every season from a vast array of winter sports during the colder months to all the usual summer activities from lying on the beach to walking sun-kissed trails. The shoulder seasons too provide plenty of opportunity to explore and enjoy the old cities of Europe with their distinctive Medieval and Renaissance architecture and café culture.

Events and Holidays

Local Events include:

European Holidays include:

January 1st New Year’s Day
Good Friday and Easter Monday
May 1st or the first Monday in May
May 14th   Ascension Day (not UK, Spain, Italy)
May Whit Monday – last Monday of month (not Greece, Ireland, Italy or Spain)
August 15th Assumption Day (not UK, Netherlands, Scandinavia, parts of Germany)
December 25th: Christmas Day
December 26th: Boxing Day

Public holidays vary throughout Europe and some countries have more than others eg Germany has 14 while Spain has only 8. The exceptions above for Ascension, Whit and Assumption are not exclusive. Many countries also have a National Day e.g. June 2nd in Italy (Republic Day) and July 14th in France (Bastille Day).

Consult: http://www.feiertagskalender.ch/

Time Zone

Europe spans 4 main time zones:  GMT – Greenwich Mean Time, CET – Central European Time, EET – Eastern
European Time and MSK -Moscow Time

To check the local time in Europe, click here: http://www.worldtimeserver.com

Daylight Saving Time (DST) happens in the Spring (last Sunday in March at 1AM) when clocks are advanced one hour. In the Autumn (last Sunday in October at 1AM), clocks shift back one hour to standard time to give more daylight in the morning.

What it Costs

By and large Europe is not an expensive continent but there are large variations. The northern destinations, especially the Scandinavian countries, tend be quite expensive as does Switzerland while it is generally cheaper in the south reflecting the relatively low standard of living compared with the north. Bear in mind too that islands, of which Europe has many, tend to be a little more expensive than the mainland due to the costs associated with shipping in food and other necessities.

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’€™t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in €

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
Free
€ =>Tickets less than €15 per person
€€ => Tickets €15- €30 per person
€€€ => Tickets €30 per person

Sleep — Out of town/rural
€=> Rooms less than €60 for a double
€€ => Rooms €60 – €100 for a double
€€€ =>Rooms €100 for a double

Sleep — Large Cities
€ => Rooms less than €100 for a double
€€ => Rooms €100 – €150 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €150 for a double

Eat
€ => €5- €10 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€ => €10 – €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€€=> €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)

Shop     
N/A => Not applicable

Tours
€ => Tickets less than €25 per person
€€ => Tickets €25 – €50 per person
€€€ => Tickets €50 per person

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Fly the Friendly Skies

Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.

But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.

That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings. European operators such as easyJet, Ryanair, Air France-KLM, Jet2,  British Airways, flybe and Lufthansa offer an extensive range of routes in Europe.

Have Car, Will Travel

Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.

Zipcar is another choice for rentals. Available in many major cities and college towns in the U.S., Zipcar is a great alternative for super-short term rentals. Picture this scenario: you are in a big city with terrific public transport, so you don’t need a car. But then you hear about an amazing restaurant 20 miles away in the suburbs. You can’t go home without trying it. A taxi would cost a fortune. You’d have to wait a long time to get a return taxi. Download the Zipcar app; search for a nearby Zipcar locale. Memberships cost about €8/£6 a month; rentals are about €8-13.50/£6-10 per hour; fuel and insurance are included.

Ride-sharing companies, such as Uber, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smart phone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.

All the major car rental companies such as Avis, Sixt, Hertz and Europcar operate throughout Europe.  It is not normally possible to rent in the UK and take the vehicle to mainland Europe or vice versa.

Insurance

Hopefully, your trip to (or within) Europe goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?

Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.

Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:

Trip Cancellation €” About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.

Medical €” Travellers within Europe from European Union member states should obtain an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) card which entitles them to healthcare on the same terms as citizens from the country they are visiting. This is a reciprocal agreement which means for example that EEA visitors to the UK will receive free care in NHS hospitals in the same way that UK residents do.  Some countries e.g. France make a charge known as a patient contribution for GP visits or stays in hospital for both their own citizens and visitors from the EEA. Even so, travellers are well advised to have additional medical insurance to cover for example the cost of repatriation, mountain rescue in ski resorts and other emergencies.

For travellers from outside the European Union the cost of health services in Europe, while not as high as in the US for example, can be relatively expensive for the uninsured. For this reason it is essential to consider purchasing medical insurance. If you have a Health Care Plan back home it may cover you for most situations which arise abroad but you need to check this out and in any case additional medical travel insurance will cover you for private health care or other expenses.

Some countries outside the European Union have a reciprocal agreement for healthcare with certain European countries.  For example Switzerland has an agreement with all European Union countries and Australia has agreements with the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and others. It pays to check before leaving home.

Trip Interruption €” For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.

Travel Delay  Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.

Baggage €” Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.

Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travellers.

Do I need travel insurance?

If your trip is expensive it’s essential and even if it isn’t it’s certainly a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. Your English or other European language skills are also crucial because insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.

How do I choose an insurance provider?

Do your homework — check around.

The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.

Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).

In Europe the largest insurers are Allianz, AXA and Zurich but there are many smaller providers such as insureandgo and Direct Line.

Pre-existing health conditions — Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition or charge an additional premium related to the condition.  Some companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’€™s best to check the fine print.

Credit card insurance €” If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.

Exchange Rates and Currency

The main currency of Europe is the Euro which is currently used in 25 countries a few of which are not even EU members. Some countries within the European Union have retained their original currency including the UK (Pound), Denmark (Kroner) and Poland (Zloty). Most non-EU countries such as Switzerland (Swiss Franc) and Turkey (Lira) continue to use their own currency. All are decimalised and have 100 ‘pennies’ in each main unit.

Euros come in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 notes. They vary in size from 120mm x 62mm (€5) to 160mm x 82mm (500) and colour, so it is easy to differentiate between them. All feature European architecture throughout the ages. (Smaller businesses may not accept the larger notes, so plan to have €20s or smaller notes in hand)

There are eight denominations of euro coin: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent plus a €1 and €2 coin. All have a common side and a national side. Remember to spend all coins before you leave – they can’t be exchanged!

UK pounds come in £1 (Scotland and N. Ireland and used only in these two countries), £5, £10, £20 and £50 and, like euro notes, come in different sizes ranging from 135mm x 70mm (£5) to 156mm x 85mm (£50) and all are different colours. The pound is often referred to by its slang name of a ‘Quid’.

There are eight denominations of British coin: 1p (penny), 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p plus a 1£ and £2 coin.  All feature Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse side and a segment of the UK Coat of Arms on the reverse side except the £2 coin which features a variety of designs. Again remember to spend all coins before you leave – they can’t be exchanged!

Many travellers like to have a small amount of local currency when they arrive in a country but this is becoming less and less important as ATMs and Bureaux de Change appear everywhere especially in transport terminals.

Money, ATMs, Credit Cards

ATMs

If you get money from an ATM machine abroad you will usually incur charges (typically 1.5 or 2% per transaction)

Credit Cards

Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout Europe.

Don’€™t forget to call your debit and/or credit card company before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary. If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card denied/declined when you try to use it in a destination far from home. You should also call your company immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card — which doesn’t make sense if they are lost or stolen. So make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access.

Recently, companies have been issuing cards with embedded chips that prevent counterfeit fraud. Banks and merchants that don’t offer the chip-and-PIN technology are beginning to be held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details on your specific cards.

Tipping and Costs That Add Up

The good news for travellers in Europe is that you don’t need to get stressed about tipping – you don’t have to do it and when you do it really should reflect good or excellent service rather than be something you are expected to do. On the whole workers in tourism are reasonably well paid and don’t depend upon tips to make up their wages. In some cases over-tipping can be embarrassing for all concerned.

Restaurants
Many restaurants include a ‘service’ charge in the price so check and, if it isn’t mentioned, then a tip of between 5 – 10% is quite enough. Even where it is included but you feel that you’ve had really excellent service then the same amount is adequate but ensure that your server receives this by handing it directly to them. Other methods are to add a euro/pound for each member of the party or round up the bill to the nearest 5 or 10 euros/pounds.

In the UK many restaurants add an ‘optional’ amount to the bill when you are paying with plastic, but in many cases the servers don’t receive any of this and it simply becomes an extra profit for the owner. The server won’t mind if you decline to do this!

Taxis
With taxis, just round up to the next euro or pound for a short journey or, for a long ride, to the nearest ten. Again 10% is the maximum you should consider unless of course the driver carries your bags into the hotel or airport when a little more will be appreciated.

Hotels
You may wish to give the porter a euro or pound for each bag he carries but, while it will be appreciated, it is not normally expected. Similarly you may wish to leave a small tip for the housekeeping staff, especially if they have been particularly helpful, but this is completely up to you.

Other

Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between €7.50 and  €30 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, insect repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery, super/hypermarkets and pharmacies will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.

Transportation

Fly the Friendly Skies

Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.

But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.

That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’€™t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings. European operators such as easyJet, Ryanair, Air France-KLM, Jet2,  British Airways, flybe and Lufthansa offer an extensive range of routes in Europe.

Have Car, Will Travel

Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.

Zipcar is another choice for rentals. Available in many major cities and college towns in the U.S., Zipcar is a great alternative for super-short term rentals. Picture this scenario: you are in a big city with terrific public transport, so you don’t need a car. But then you hear about an amazing restaurant 20 miles away in the suburbs. You can’t go home without trying it. A taxi would cost a fortune. You’d have to wait a long time to get a return taxi. Download the Zipcar app; search for a nearby Zipcar locale. Memberships cost about €8/£6 a month; rentals are about €8-13.50/£6-10 per hour; fuel and insurance are included.

Ride-sharing companies, such as Uber, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smart phone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.

All the major car rental companies such as Avis, Sixt, Hertz and Europcar operate throughout Europe.  It is not normally possible to rent in the UK and take the vehicle to mainland Europe or vice versa.

Background

The land area of Europe, including European Russia, is 10,180,000 square km compared with North America which has 24,709,000 square km. Populations are 743 million and 361 million respectively. With very few exceptions, the 58 European countries or dependent territories are democratic and there is a widespread acceptance of political freedom. Some 28 of these countries are members of the European Union and most of these currently allow freedom of movement between them. A variety of languages are spoken and while English is common in most major cities, especially in restaurants and hotels, it is not usual to find English speakers in the more rural areas. As ever though, it is a good idea to learn a few basic words of the language of your chosen destination if only as a matter of politeness.

Culture

Europe was the birthplace of Western Civilization starting with the Ancient Greeks more that 2500 years ago. They gave us the Theatre, Democracy, Philosophy, Astronomy, Mathematics and Architecture to name but a few. This was all refined and taken forward by the Romans whose forte was conquest, a process which helped to spread the learning of the ancient world throughout much of Europe.

The fall of the Roman Empire in the West during the 5th Century AD put a stop to this process in much of Europe but fortunately the empire continued in the East becoming known as Byzantium and many of the scientific and cultural advances were retained and even refined through the Middle Ages by the Islamic societies which dominated the Near East, North Africa and Southern Spain.

This made possible the Renaissance which began in 15th Century Italy and helped to revive many of the traditions of the Ancient World, especially architecture and learning and this soon spread throughout Western Europe bringing about a widespread reawakening. The following centuries have been characterised by the colonisation of the Americas, Africa, the sub-Continent of India and Australasia by the European Powers who exported their culture with the result that a process which begun in Greece all those years ago flourishes in much of the world today.