Tips for Your First Visit to Europe

So you wanna come visit us, eh? GOOD! We want you to come visit! 🙂 We are so in love with where we are living and we can’t wait to share it with our family and closest friends. Europe is a beautiful continent with so many amazing places to discover.  We have had a few visitors so far and we have had a great time showing them around our new city, country, and several other countries near (and not so near). We have learned a lot from our first year of visitors and want to share a few tips with you to help you make the most of your trip. If you are thinking about planning a visit to come see us, read on for some ideas on how to have the best Eurocation ever!

 

REMEMBER, indecisive does not equal agreeable 

If you want to take a trip to Europe to see us, we are more than happy to help plan the details but you should have an idea of a few things you want to do in each city. It is your trip so you should come up with a plan to make the best of it! Do a little research online. Ask your friends who have traveled there before. Because we have been living in Europe for a year and have several other trips before that under our belt, we can fill in the details and take care of logistics of getting there and back, but arriving in a town with no idea of what you want to do/eat/see there means a lot of standing and staring at each other until a decision is made. Try to have a few opinions or ideas. Help us help you have the best trip possible!

A great resource that I have found is The Independentand/or The New York Times‘ “48/36 Hours in ______.” If you do a Google search for “48 hours in Amsterdam” for example, one of these publications will have an itinerary complete with sights, entertainment, restaurants, and accommodation information. Pick a few things from there that sound interesting or try searching for another city until you find something that suits your fancy. There are also several good travel blogs I can recommend that have fantastic ideas for sightseeing and food. My favorites are S Marks the Spots for Brussels and Nomadic Matt for greater Europe. Let us know a few things that sound good and we will add them to our handy-dandy Google Doc Itinerary that we will then share with you after we have finalized the travel logistics of the trip. May I kindly remind you, tips are accepted at the end of the tour. 😉

Wear Good Shoes

We cannot emphasize enough the importance of comfortable, sturdy shoes for walking. It is inevitable in Europe that, even with public transport or a taxi, you will do more walking than you do at home in the US. If you want to see and truly experience the famous cathedrals, museums, landmarks, shopping avenues, etc  expect that most of them are in pedestrian areas closed off to buses and cars and as a result, you will be spending a lot of time on your feet. While it is important to bring comfortable shoes, it is equally important to have broken them in PRIOR to your arrival here. Nothing is worse than suffering through a gorgeous church or beautiful little streets with blisters on your feet.

We have had a lot of good luck with Clarks, Eurosoft, and Aerosoles and have found that they have really updated their selections. No cafeteria lady shoes anymore! Yay!

Bring Money for Water & Toilets

Remember, you are traveling to a DIFFERENT continent made up of lots of DIFFERENT countries. Things work DIFFERENTLY here and that is a-okay! That is part of the journey! At restaurants and cafes across Europe, you generally will not witness a complimentary glass of water. Who knows why they charge for water here, but they do, so we just roll with it. Beer and wine are usually cheaper than water or similar in price so one good way to roll with it is have a little more fun on your trip and imbibe a bit! During warmer months, many cities across Europe have beautiful fountains with potable drinking water, so make sure to carry a refillable bottle to stay hydrated. I almost always have my Klean Kanteen with and top off whenever I see a fountain. Along with that, public restrooms (‘water closets’) are not in abundance and if you do happen to find one, they usually cost anywhere from 40cents to 1 euro. This usually means there is an attendant and the restrooms are kept very well stocked and clean. The important take-away is to always have a few coins on hand. Usually, restrooms in restaurants or cafes that you are patronizing ARE free so it is a good idea to try there upon arrival and/or before leaving.

Personal Space and Safety

Nothing scary, we promise, but it is important to keep a good level of awareness about you, especially in touristy or crowded areas. Alex carries his wallet in his front pocket and I carry a small cross-body purse with a zipper closure on top. I carry something like this. We have never been pick-pocketed but, if you are spending time at or around tourist attractions, it is more than likely that you will be approached by a stranger (for money, selling something, for a survey, etc). We have found that it is best to firmly, but politely say, “No, thank you!” or “No, sorry!” and continue walking. 9 times out of 10 that has solved it and we can get on with enjoying our explorations. In general, we have found most of Europe to be reasonably safe, but anything can happen anywhere so it is important to stay aware and not to draw too much attention to yourself.

Have a Good Attitude

Perhaps the big ticket item here is to have a positive attitude about your trip. Of course little bumps happen and some obstacles will occur, but that is what makes it an adventure. I cannot tell you how many times we try to go to a restaurant here in Belgium, check the website for opening hours, check Google Maps for opening hours, and discover they are different. Or, even more frustrating, is when this occurs and then the hours on the door of the restaurant are inconsistent with the online findings, non-existent, or they are closed simply because they want to be. We usually just have a good laugh, find somewhere else to go, and try again another time.  Weather happens, train schedules/platforms change in the blink of an eye, and maps aren’t always perfect. Things don’t always go exactly in accordance with the intinerary but it is my belief that having the ability to quickly shift gears and to make a lane change is more important than that cafe/store/show itself. Sometimes the side-trips or alternatives end up being just as good as your first choice, or better! Bottom line: you’re on vacation so remember to have a good time! Even bottom-er line: in Europe, you can alwaaaaays find a cold beer or glass of wine if you really need some cheering up. 😉

 

Okay so that should do it for now. If we think of anything else, we’ll tack it on here as an edit! Let us know when you’ve booked your tickets and we will begin to prepare the guest suite! 😉 Comment if you’re one of our lucky visitors and let us know if we missed anything OR if you are a seasoned traveler yourself, let me know if a overlooked a big tip!

*EDIT: My dear, sweet friend, Jeri pointed out that when you are traveling, it is important to remember that you are a guest in that particular country. You should not expect everyone to do everything in ways that you are used to and you should not be rude just because something is different. (I’m adding this) : Even if you don’t speak the language, a simple greeting or thank you in the language of your host country goes a LONG way. While many people speak English, it would behoove you to make an attempt at the local language, just out of respect and politeness.