Documents & Health
Make sure you are on top of your travel documents – check whether you will need a passport or a national ID. Is a visa required to enter your destination country? If yes, can you get it at the airport upon your arrival or do you need to apply for it beforehand?
Note: if you are from an EU country and coming to a non-Schengen country, although you can travel on your national ID card, going through the border control is much faster when you have an electronic passport, which you can scan yourself passing through dedicated gates.
If you’re travelling in Europe, make sure you get yourself a European Health Insurance Card – it’s free of charge and covers basic medical help across the continent.
It’s best to get some cash in the local currency ready – certainly most countries accept card payments. But you never know when you might need some bus change, few coins to use the toilet or get some street food, so it’s better to be prepared, especially when you’re arriving very late as you can expect many places to already be closed. Also, check the exchange rate, so that you know exactly how much you are spending and don’t get ripped off.
Itinerary, or how to solve the puzzle
Rome2Rio is an absolutely brilliant tool for planning your trip, and is pretty much what its name says – if you want to get from Rome to Rio de Janeiro, or from any place to anywhere else for that matter, this website will show all possible connections, with estimated prices, and different means of transportation: plane, coach, train, car, carpooling, ferry, etc. It also links you to the transport providers’ websites and their timetables.
Websites like eDreams come in handy when searching for best flight deals, though we recommend booking your tickets directly through the flight company’s website – this way you will avoid extra booking fees and you will be sure to deal directly with the transport provider later on, in case there are any issues with your flight.
If you’re travelling on budget, and planning on flying from city A to city B, check out other towns nearby – there’s a chance you will be able to get to some other nearby location for much less money, and it won’t be a problem at all to do the last bit by coach or train. This also opens you up to new experiences – I have discovered a bunch of fantastic places myself, merely because my flights where going through there.
There is also an interesting way of finding out where’s the best spot to meet up with your friends or plan a stopover. Websites like Shall we met in the middle, What’s halfway and Meeting halfway let you pick two different locations, calculate the distance, and then enlighten you with the information on what’s exactly in the middle. Some of them also take into account preferred free time activities or a proximity to the closest town, to tailor the suggestions better. As funny as it may sound, I would’ve never set my foot in Northampton if it wasn’t for those websites, and a friend of mine suggesting meeting halfway!
On Go Euro you can search and compare cheap buses, trains and flights to anywhere in Europe.
No roaming charges!
The EU "roam like at home" rules mean that when you use your mobile phone while travelling outside your home country in any EU country (plus Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein. Watch out for Switzerland though as they are not a part of this agreement!) you don't have to pay any additional roaming charges. You benefit from these rules when calling mobile and fixed phones, sending text messages (SMS) and using data services while abroad. These rules also apply when receiving calls or texts while roaming even if the person you are calling is using a different service provider.
You pay exactly the same price for using these services when travelling in the EU as you would if you were at home. In practice, your operator simply charges or takes your roaming consumption from the volumes in your domestic mobile tariff plan / bundle.
You can read more about it on the European website explaining Roaming in the EU.
Online travel portals
The Your Europe website
gives you plenty of information to start planning your trip: practicalities about the necessary documents, your rights as a passenger in the European Union, what you can take on your trip, how to deal with money issues and how to keep safe on your journey.
• Visit Europe
helps you discover Europe's transport options, like rail networks, cruise options and airlines. You can also explore the best leisure activities, whether you prefer parties, culture or nature and share your own trip or read others’ travel stories around Europe.
• Let's Go
, a travel guide written entirely by students for students, brings together 53 years of experience of travel planning. Check out the free apps featuring thematic walking trips with offbeat places through the most beautiful European cities.
Travel & Save
Budget is a very important part of any trip and you will be glad to know there are cards to make your journey more affordable:
• European Youth Card
: if you are under 30, check out the 60 000 discounts this card can offer you. Search the European map and find reductions on cultural activities, shops, transport, eating out and accommodation.
• ISIC Card
: if you are a student, this internationally recognised student ID card
can get you discounts on travel, museums and major tourist attractions worldwide. Check where you can get your card and have access to reductions in around 125 000 locations across almost 130 countries.
• If you are keen on exploring museums, it’s good to know that in some European Countries the admission to the national museums (permanent exhibitions) is mostly free, there are also schemes like 1st Sunday of the month with free admission, or a particular week day free all day or in the afternoon. France and Belgium offer free admission to most of their museums to visitors under 26. As you can see there is a variety of different systems, and the good news is that there is plenty of discounts for young people – just do a little research to find out what are the best deals, and plan your stay accordingly.
Do your research – don’t get tricked
A great deal of people in many places across the world live out of tourism, and with increasing numbers of visitors, locals have learned how to benefit from tourists to the fullest. If you don’t want to be taken advantage of, do a simple research before venturing out on your journey. Look up average prices of things like coffee, beer, lunch, pastries, dinner, as well as public transport, taxis, guided tours, and so on.
If you are backpacking, and haven’t planned your accommodation yet, have a look at different types of rooms in hostels/ hotels, apartments, whatever suits you best. It’s important to have an idea of what’s the price range of different products and services, so that you don’t end up paying 5 euro for a coffee normally worth 50 cents just because you look like a tourist.
Nowadays you don't have to carry a heavy book around during your journey; with all these online versions you just have to choose the best for your trip:
• Trip advisor
really comes in handy, even though it might seem too mainstream. But if you’re okay with not being too alternative, that’s your go-to place for checking reviews, recommendations and reading on prices as well as opening hours
. If you are staying somewhere for a long time, it might be worth personalising your plans more and coming up with something more creative. But if it’s a 1/2-day visit, Trip Advisor should be right up your alley – you won’t miss any important sights, and you will easily pick good places to eat or relax. It also has a forum, and you can find a lot of good suggestions from people who have already visited places you will only start exploring soon.
stands for no-nonsense tourist info for young people. USE-IT maps and websites are made by young locals, non-commercial, free, and up-to-date. Some also have a visitors’ desk, mostly run by volunteers. Every USE-IT publishes a Map for Young Travellers that will guide you through the city in a fresh and fun way
. It combines important sights with off-the-beaten tracks and funky local suggestions. You can get a free printable version or pick your copy from an info point or your hostel upon your arrival.
• BUG backpackers’ guide
: if you are planning on going backpacking
, you might want to check out transport, destinations and hostels around Europe, in order to organise your backpacking adventure better.
• Lonely Planet
: You may already know the printed version: search by country to see how to get there, how to get around and what to visit when you arrive. I have seen people rolling their eyes at Lonely Planet guidebooks
), but honestly, this is a super-decent and very trustworthy publisher, they really got you covered.
• Rough Guide
: a worldwide community where you can share your travel experiences.
• World travel guide
: includes country and city guides, things to see and to do, as well as special information about ski and cruise destinations.
Ask around! Basically brag about your upcoming travels, and see what might come out of it! Real people might have an invaluable piece of advice for you, and we also learn from our own mistakes while travelling.
Your friends might give you useful tips on what to avoid, what to keep in mind, and what are the definite dos and don’ts.
More often than not, you can get fantastic recommendations on cosy bars, mouth-watering food or some crazy, unusual sights - places that you come across either completely unintentionally, or advised on by a random local met on the street.
You won’t find those even in the best guidebooks!