Rookie Travel Mistakes in Europe
Argh, making travel mistakes in Europe is no fun, but fortunately, you’re able to prevent them from happening at all! As a solo traveler, I’ve made frequent mistakes in Europe. Embarrassing? Sure, maybe a little and my missteps create hilarious stories to tell over dinner.
But now, thanks to my own ridiculousness and lessons learned, I can share my knowledge with you and stop you from making similar silly errors on your journeys. Which makes my own mistakes worth it. I created this blog to help fellow travelers, after all.
At the end of the day, though, I want you to remember travel is a learning experience. Sometimes it’s impossible to go through a trip without hitting stumbling blocks. You learn from those blocks and move on. Don’t beat yourself up too much when travel plans go astray.
In this single post, I comprised thirty rookie travel mistakes in Europe for your own convenience. Happy travels and good luck. Remember even if you feel anxiety traveling alone, you’ll still be able to country hop with complete confidence and indulge in the adventure of a lifetime.
So avoid these errors and your trip to Europe will go well (more than well). And even if you screw up? It’s not the end of the world.
Without further ado, here are thirty travel mistakes in Europe that a lot of people make.
1. Not Buying Travel Insurance.
I know I’ve said this a million times on this blog, but it bears repeating again:
If you can’t afford to buy travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel.
While Europe is very safe, unforeseen health emergencies can happen. Your local health insurance usually doesn’t cover injuries or illness that happens overseas. Trust me on this. You don’t want to lose thousands of dollars because you didn’t purchase travel insurance.
I use Allianz Travel Insurance for all my trips. Haven’t had a problem yet! Travel insurance brings the best peace of mind you could ever ask for.
2. Not Visiting Smaller Cities and Towns.
One of the biggest travel mistakes in Europe that you can make is not adding the smaller cities and towns to your itinerary.
Sure, Paris and London and Rome are all wonderful cities. They are popular for good reason. Book me a ticket to any of those three cities, and I am on board.
But what about Cesky Krumlov? Obidos? Bruges? Europe’s small towns are even great for solo travelers. You don’t want to miss their warmth, magic, historical vibrance, and culture.
3. Eating at Restaurants near Big Tourist Attractions.
Okay, we all know Europe’s biggest tourist attractions. We always see them on Instagram and travel magazines, and we all want to visit them in-person. However, when it comes to meal times, move away from the major tourist centers.
Usually, restaurants in close proximity to major attractions will overcharge patrons and the quality of the food won’t be as great.
4. Bringing Your Hairdryer from Home.
Your hairdryer might explode if you bring it with you. I’m not joking around. At the very least, it will break and who wants to deal with that hassle?
Instead invest in a dual voltage hair dryer to safely style your luscious locks while you’re exploring Europe.
5. Not Contacting Your Bank Ahead of Time.
Make sure you tell your credit card company and your bank that you’re traveling overseas. Give them the dates and countries. If you don’t call them, then your cards will be blocked at the airport and beyond. Believe me, there’s nothing more stressful than arriving in a new country, jetlagged and confused, and discovering you have no access to your bank account.
Avoid, avoid, avoid.
6. Not Being Prepared for an Emergency.
However, there are other ways you need to be prepared for emergencies. Know the location of your nearest embassy in case you lose your passport. Write down phone numbers in case your phone is stolen. Bring a small travel first aid kit if you’re traveling to places where a pharmacy isn’t readily accessible.
Preparedness goes a long way. Don’t slack on emergencies.
7. Trying to See Too Much On One Trip.
I totally understand making the most out of your vacation time. Americans, especially, are totally shafted when it comes to free time. So, of course, you want to see everything on your European trip.
However, don’t pack too many cities and countries in one trip. For example, if your plan is to see Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany in eight days, you’ll spend most of your time in transit. You didn’t fly all this way to stare at the inside of trains and buses.
Instead focus on a small region and travel deeply. You’ll have a much better trip. Less is more.
8. Not Keeping Your Day Bag Safe.
Don’t be paranoid, but at the same time, stay aware of your surroundings and take good care of your day bag.
If you want to take safety a step further, then invest in a bag with additional security features that help keep your belongings safe. For example, Pacsafe makes theft resistant crossbody purses and backpacks.
Losing your day bag isn’t the end of the world. Still a hassle, though, and better avoided. Guard your belongings.
You don’t need to stuff fifty outfits into your backpack even if you’re planning on a long trip around the European continent. Too much luggage only bogs you down. You’ll pay extra fees on the airlines. Moving between train platforms is a chore. And the more stuff you bring, the more stuff you can potentially lose.
Pack light. My suggestion is to bring packing cubes to help stop your tendency to stuff to your backpack or suitcase to the maximum limit.
10. Not Sampling the Local Cuisine.
Don’t have every single meal at McDonalds or Starbucks. And honestly? Don’t have Thai food every day in Italy. Or Italian food every day in Poland. You wanna go local whenever possible. The ingredients are fresher and the meals are better prepared.
Even with dietary restrictions, try to eat local food. For example, if you’re vegan and understandably can’t eat at some restaurants, then check out the local fruit stand rather than buy berries shipped all the way from California or something, haha.
11. Too Tight Connection Time.
I know how exactly tempting a cheap airline ticket is. Believe me. I’ve impulsively hit that “reserve” button many, many, many times. But, you guys, a tight connection time isn’t worth it. I’ve seen connections as short as 35 minutes on major sites, and all I gotta say is, “no, no, no don’t book that ticket.”
Ugh, story time. For example, I barely made my connection in Brussels to Madrid. And this was with an hour and thirty minute connection time. First of all, I was delayed in Newark (not much of a surprise there, of course). Then I had to go through Passport Control, and sadly, only one person worked and it took forever to move down the line. At last, I ran through the airport to my next gate. I only had about ten minutes until the doors closed. The experience was ridiculous, stressful, and not worth it.
Avoid a too tight connection time at all costs. It’s one of the worst travel mistakes in Europe.
12. Not Checking Closures Ahead of Time.
Always research closure times particularly when you’re traveling on major holidays such as Christmas and Easter.
Closures aren’t only important around holidays, though. For example, a lot of Europe’s best museums are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so make sure to check the websites ahead of time.
13. Wearing Uncomfortable Shoes.
Ouch! Now’s not the time to wear those super high and strappy Dior heels.
Some of my favorite shoes include the following ones. And, oh, I guess you can tell Merrell and Clarks are my top brands for traveling, haha:
- Women’s Around Town City Slip on Air Sneaker: Basic sneaker to wear around the city. Simple colors match with most clothing choices.
- CLARKS Women’s Cheyn Madi Loafer: A simple black loafer that is best for city stays. More formal than a sneaker yet still comfortable for sightseeing.
- CLARKS Women’s Arla Jacory Wedge Sandal: Cozy sandal to use for summer vacations.
- Merrell Women’s All Out Blaze Aero Sport Hiking Shoes: Hiking shoes for easier walks. Suitable for beginners hills and the like.
- Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot: Sturdy boots for more challenging hikes such as walks through rugged mountain terrain.
As you can see, I listed a variety of different shoes, but all are comfortable. Your feet will thank you for your considerations.
14. Not Writing Down Important Details.
Write down reservation numbers and times on your phone and physical paper (in case your phone battery dies). Having this information will make your life easier. You might also want to call to reconfirm items on your itinerary such as a private driver picking you up from the airport.
Furthermore, not only should you write down passport and credit card numbers, but you should also try writing a travel journal on your adventures.
15. Not Using the Right Credit Card.
You don’t want to get buried deep in credit card fees on your travels. Find a card with no international transaction penalties.
As for cash and exchange rates, using your debit card at a trusty ATM is the best way to go. Sure, you might have to pay a small fee, but the ATM give a more reliable rate than money exchange offices do including the ones at the airport.
16. Not Reading Hotel/Hostel Reviews.
Carefully read reviews of your accommodation ahead of booking a room. Now, okay, we all know some reviews are ridiculous. Like, I don’t care if the hotel’s cleaning staff didn’t leave gourmet chocolates next to my pillow every evening.
Instead focus on reviews regarding cleanliness and location. Location is a BIG one when traveling alone. Even if other reviewers describe a neighborhood as “shady” or “far from the main attractions,” you want to know that information ahead of time and act accordingly.
17. Not Taking Care of Your Skin.
Your skin will go through some hellish experiences when you’re traveling to Europe. Sorry, but it’s true. Commercial jets and their recirculated air provide very dry conditions. Staying in the sun too long, as you’re exploring the streets of Lisbon or sunbathing on the beaches of Croatia, increase your risk of burns.
Therefore make sure to treat your skin with care. Always use sun lotion as well as moisturizer to prevent extensive damage to your lovely face. You’re worth the extra love.
18. Being Culturally Insensitive.
Each European country has its own culture. Languages, cuisine, history, myths, mannerisms. All different. Learn about these norms so you don’t inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings.
Being willfully insensitive is even worse. Look, I’m sure your country is amazing, but in a new place, you want to adapt and go with the flow. Showing respect for your temporary home makes everyone’s lives either. Who knows. You could make new friends that last a lifetime simply by not being culturally insensitive.
19. Forgetting Your International Outlet.
Don’t leave your international charger behind unless you don’t want to use your phone or laptop until you’re home again. It’s better to buy an “all in one” charger especially if you’re visiting both the United Kingdom and continental European countries.
Some hostels and hotels are using universal USB plug ins, but the charger is still important. Don’t forget it.
20. Not Learning Bits of the Local Language.
English speakers are very lucky. At all the big tourist spots, you’ll find other English speakers and travel assistance without too much difficulty. Still, it’s polite to use a couple words of the local language. Even workers in the tourist industry appreciate the effort on your part. Believe me.
21. Flying into the Wrong Airport.
Spoiler alert: Europe’s biggest cities usually has more than one airport available to travelers. Be careful you don’t go to the wrong airport or need to drive to two different airports during a connection. You also want to avoid flying into airports far outside the city limit.
For example, Girona–Costa Brava Airport is actually located in the nearby town of Girona and not Barcelona. Girona-Costa Brava Airport is an hour and a half away whereas Barcelona-El Prat Airport is much closer.
Consider your priorities when booking planes that land outside of your destination city.
22. Not Trusting the Locals.
Okay, I’m not saying act gullible and climb into a strangers’ car at four in the morning. You’ll probably end up in a nasty situation.
However, not trusting the locals at all is a rookie traveler error. For instance, if a shop keeper gives you the name of a restaurant to try, don’t immediate assume that person is receiving a commission.
Staying on high alert 24/7 will spoil your trip.
23. Not Learning Military Time or Metric System.
Three miles? How far is that? Four pm? Surely, you mean before the sun rises, right?
Europe uses both the metric system and military time. So get familiar with seeing 18:00 closing times on museum websites or hearing about Celsius when discussing the local weather. Convert all measurements on your device or learn how to make rough estimates prior to your travels.
24. Talking LOUDLY in Public.
Americans are loud. Well. At least I’m loud.
Keep your voice lowered on public transportation and at restaurants. I understand feeling excited. I do. But don’t disturb others around you. Use your “indoor voice” just like your kindergarten teacher used to say!
25. Sticking to Western Europe Only.
Western Europe, undoubtedly, has some incredible places to visit. We all know and love them. But don’t overlook the Eastern European countries if they tie in well to your itinerary. All the rumors about Eastern European being unsafe and dirty and scammy are insanely untrue. Ignore them.
Backpacking Eastern Europe is great so don’t overlook seizing the opportunity simply because you’re afraid to go. It’d be a big mistake.
26. Keeping Your Money All in One Place.
You want to have a secret stash of money hidden in an interior pocket in your suitcase or backpack. I would even keep a spare credit card tucked away if you can swing it.
If, god forbid, a pickpocket gets the best of you, then you won’t be broke nor will you have to ask family to wire you money.
Keeping all your money in one place makes a pickpocket’s job too easy to accomplish. So don’t give them any chances.
27. Assuming Restrooms Are Free.
If you’re from the United States (like me!), then you already know most public restrooms are free for you to use. Cool, right? However, free public restrooms don’t always exist in Europe. You’ll need to pay.
Personally, I don’t mind paying a few coins to have access to a clean and comfortable restroom. Just make sure you carry those spare coins on you. Public restrooms don’t take credit card, haha.
Having to pee but carrying no coins is the most annoying out of all the travel mistakes in Europe.
28. Not Researching Basic Scams.
Ugh, I hate talking about tourist scams, but I have no choice here. They exist.
Not everyone you encounter at big attractions is your friend. No, that free golden ring isn’t really free. And no, that friendship bracelet isn’t a sign of wonderful affection. And, no, even though I’m sure you’re a gorgeous person, that man isn’t giving you flowers because you’re Grace Kelly reincarnated.
Read ahead about popular tourist scams, and you’ll have no problems. Don’t be polite when someone approaches you either. A firm “no” works wonders.
29. Taking Way Too Many Pictures.
Haha, sounds like one of the sillier travel mistakes in Europe, but it’s truthful.
You don’t want to live your travels via camera lenses. Of course you want to take some pictures. After all, the images are free and tangible mementos from your adventures. However, make sure to put the camera and phone away, and simply enjoy your surroundings. There’s nothing quite like living in the moment especially in a new magical location.
Instagram can wait on the backburner.
30. Being Paranoid (AKA Forgetting Your Confidence)
And now for our final error out of these thirty travel mistakes in Europe.
Leave your worries and fears at the door when you leave for the airport. Yup, no worrying. Done.
Now I know letting go of your anxiety is much easier said than done. It’s almost natural to transform into a messy bucket of worries while you’re traveling in Europe. Especially if you’re normally an anxious person.
Have you ever made rookie travel mistakes in Europe? What happened? What advice would you share to avoid making these errors?
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