10 Things to know before Traveling to Europe

Do you consider going on a trip to Europe in 2021? Have you been thinking of recovering the lost year of traveling you missed in 2020 in the year 2021 and getting soaked in the Oktoberfest in Munich or the Northern Lights in Norway or the Christmas markets in Europe? It is interesting to know that if the COVID-19 pandemic has been well contained in 2021, what else are you still waiting for? Then, you can travel to Europe.

No one knows when the pandemic will end, but we surely know that it won't last forever. The spread of covid-19 could ease by the summer of 2021. Because of this, you should be in a relaxed condition to make plans for your trip to Europe. But don't plan for your trip without having updates and advice on European traveling because things have changed from January 1, 2021.

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Here are things to know and plan ahead of your traveling to Europe in 2021.

1. Check If You Need To Renew Your Passport

If you ever plan to travel to a European country in 2021, find out if there may be a need for you to renew your British passport as early as possible and which countries do these new rules apply to. Ensure that your passport meets the entry requirement of the country you are traveling to before thinking of booking the trip.

The new law requires that you have at least six months left on your passport (either adult or child) to travel to European countries, excluding Ireland. The extra month may not be added to the expiry date if you just renew your current passport before it expires.

If, for example, you have an additional month on the passport over 10 years, it may not be counted toward the required 6 months needed. Applying for a new passport when you still have plenty of time will save you a lot of stress.

2. Check Whether Your Insurance Is Covered

Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will give you full access to the state's health care during your temporary stay in a European country. Your EHIC will indeed remain valid if traveling to European Union countries. Try and get appropriate traveling insurance if you travel to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein to ensure that it covers any preexisting condition formerly catered by your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

You can get a provisional replacement certificate (PRC), or you can continue to use an EHIC if there is a need for treatment and you don't have a card to use. From Jan 1, 2021, you will not be covered by UK EHICs or Global Health Insurance Card (GHICs) if you plan to travel to Norway, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein. Ensure you have traveling insurance with health cover if you are visiting European Union countries.

This might seem unnecessary at first, however, it is always best to think of all the possible things that could go wrong. What if you get sick during your stay in a foreign country and you have no idea how to afford the cost of the hospital? Having your healthcare covered is a lifesaver.

This way, if you get sick it will be easy to reach nurses and other medical workers. They will all have passed the NCLEX RN examination and will be well qualified to be in your service.

Bring prescription medication you need and enough of it to last you the whole time, unless you are going to countries where you can buy it over the counter. Check the availability in countries you are going to.

If you are on a road trip in Europe or have brought a car on the rent, you should get car insurance to cover the damages to your vehicles. It is good to have a proper backup plan in case you have to face an accident or harm to the vehicle. You should find a good insurance company and opt for the insurance according to your vehicle type, needs and time period of the stay.

Car insurance or caravan insurance or the ones who want to take the pleasure and comforts of traveling around the area in their homes, for those mobile home insurance is a must thing. There are many good companies who provides some inviting insurance covers for all the wanderlusts in the country. Take our advice to get your car insurance or caravan insurance or mobile home insurance done from a good insurance company to make your trip both entertaining, safe and secure.

3. Driving in EU countries

To ensure safe transportation in Europe, it would be of your benefit to avoid using public transport. Instead, it would be preferable to rent a car and enjoy every moment in your favorite country in Europe. However, it is required that you get an international driving permit so you need to make sure you take care of it.

No need to trouble your mind though, as it is an easy process and brings a lot of benefits. You will be able to get around the city and enjoy it on your terms.

You’re not alowed to stay on the left lane as long as you want. You have to move back. The left lanes is only used for passing. In Germany you’ll get quickly educated about that by people coming at 200–300 km/h and slowing down basically inside your trunk and driving centimetres from your rear bumper. And in Italy people will signal-light you very soon after you fall asleep on the left lane. Italians like to signal light in most of the cases.

And people drive on the right side on continental Europe and on the left side in UK and Republic of Ireland. Ah and lots of countries have driving circles. In France they are basically everywhere, a low-maintenance form of traffic light. And most cars have manual transmission, especially the cheap ones. That, can be difficult for some people.

And most big cities especially in Western Europe, have very few parking lots at the advantage of bicycle lanes. Better buy a bicycle, no need for a driving license, loads of bicycle lanes (depends on the country).

You might feel like a good driver but the surprises can come anytime in your life especially while you are on the roads. While you are driving your vehicle on the road, you should know the rules applied by that country under the road regulations. Whether you are in any part of the world, every country has its own rules for the roads.

In Ireland the vehicles are driven on the left lane of the road in this country. You can easily understand its rules if you are from the country where the same lane rules apply. But there are tips we are bringing you below which you should consider while driving.

As we discussed earlier, the vehicle is on the left side of the roads. The steering wheels of the cars are on the right sides. It means that the driver will stay always at the center side of the road rather than the corner sides. You must have to give this some time to properly understand the whole adjustment.

If you are from the countries where the road directions are opposite, you can consider taking classes by a good driving school.

There are two types of vehicles available, Automatic and Manual. It is good to have your hands and feet on an automatic vehicle control system rather than on a manual transmission. If you are on a narrow and unfamiliar road, an automatic vehicle will help you a lot to get rid of that situation.

You should do a deep study about the road signs available on the roads. There are very fewer road signs used. You will find a few road signs on the long roads. So, you should know the meaning of every rare road sign which comes in your way. By doing this, you can ensure the proper understanding of the diversions, lanes, and specification of the roads.

While doing a car rental for your visit, you should take care of the size of the car. Small cars are easy to drive even on the narrow roads. Rather than renting big luxury SUVs, you can go for small cars in which your family can be adjusted appropriately. These cars also have comparatively less car insurance prices and also it will reduce your fuel costs.

Like any other country, European countries also has strict regulations for a drink and drive cases. You should stay away from the driver seat if you are drunk. If you are caught by the officers in this situation, you might have to pay huge fine amounts or have to go inside the jail for some days. So, it is good to avoid these types of road rule breakages.

You might not be a learner, but if you are driving in the roads and want to stay at the safer side, you should consider getting a big L sign on your windscreen or the rear glass too. This will help you to maintain space from other vehicles because most of the people feel safe to stay away from cars with the learner signs.

If you try to implement these things while driving, they will definitely help you to get a good travel experience in this country.

4. Food and Drinks in Europe

Dairy products, fruit, vegetables, meat, or animal products from a country outside the EU cannot be transported when traveling to an EU country as of Jan 1, 2021. If you are taking food on board, ensure that it is well packaged in commercially branded packaging with an expiry date and necessary information.

Moreover, most airlines do not allow the passenger to carry products with a short shelf life. Bringing liquid in hand luggage is prohibited by safety regulations. In short, the liquid should be held in a 100ml container. Make sure you have a good understanding of the rule of your destination and transit countries if you need to bring food.

Eat as much as possible from supermarkets and small local stores and street shops. Eating at a restaurant can easily set you back from $10-$20 per person, per meal depending on which country you are. Do not complain about slow service in restaurants. You will wait for everything, use this time to relax and enjoy your company. Europeans prefer parceling the leftovers but aren’t familiar with the concept of sharing food.

Absolutely do not waste a meal by eating a complimentary breakfast at your hotel/hostel. Europe has some of the best pastries and bread in the world. The coffee isn’t half bad either. They take coffee black, but it’s not bitter. It has a really smooth flavor to it, and the sweet pastries are a perfect pairing to the coffee, to start your day on a good note.

In Europe, milky coffees are as firmly entrenched in the culture as a breakfast (or morning) thing, as cereal with milk or runny boiled egg with toast are in other cultures. That’s the real reason why Italians have such a strong and negative reaction to the idea of a cappuccino or even worse, a caffe latte after a main meal. But behind this, there’s another reason.

It’s a commonly held belief by Italians that having a milky drink after or during a main meal is bad for digestion. Whereas in the morning, it only usually goes with a very light breakfast of pastries, biscuits (the UK meaning of the word biscuit) or perhaps some bread with a little jam.

The concept of coffee after a meal in Italy (and in other places in Europe) is as a digestive - which a strong, short black espresso coffee is actually very good for. Italian cafe/coffee is certainly the best in the world, and the Italians take great pride in it. The baristas and bartenders were also really friendly, and are actually responsible for the Barista culture in Starbucks all over the world, as Howard Schulz mentions in his book, Pour Your Heart Into It.

Entering any cafe usually involves a loud and expressive Bon Giorno! with a smile, and acknowledging everybody else sitting there. Almost gives you a communal feel. Nordic coffee culture makes use of coffee as a social lubricant like no other place in the world. And not just in terms of “having a nice time with people”, but no, something far more desperate. Here it comes:

The thing is that the Nordic countries all suffer to an extent of a generally introvert and awkward mentality when it comes to socialising. Having something to wrap your hands around and divert attention away from oneself with is a godsend. When there is coffee to be made, nursed, offered, and appreciated, it builds all those little bridges in personal interactions that would otherwise make the engine run rough.

It doesn’t matter where you go; eat like the locals do! Many are afraid to try any of the street food because of fear of food poisoning. You’ll experience the place through its food. You’ll enjoy plenty of the boring McDonald’s tastes back home. Eat more at small eateries than plush restaurants. If possible, cook yourself in case you have a kitchen in your hostel or if you’re staying in an apartment.

There are two main distinguishing features of the breads of Northern Europe including Germany, Scandinavia and Poland as compared to the breads popular in countries like France, Italy and Britain. They typically use rye rather than just wheat for flour. In Germany, breads made from mixtures of different grains are quite popular, but breads made predominantly from rye are also common.

They normally use sourdough for leavening rather than baker's yeast; this gives them their characteristic sour flavor. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of other wonderful styles of bread. Take a nice baguette, for instance! Depending on what you’re comparing it to, there may be more to it, though: a good German or Danish rye bread, a fresh baguette, a warm pita bread – those are solid.

Prices in most of southern Europe are more on par with prices in the rural Midwest or South, at least when it comes to food. Specially for people who do not eat meat, should carry their own snacks. Even though vegan culture is largely spread across different countries now, there are still very less options for veg/vegan food. The food is absolutely awesome, and there's a lot of variety as well. From their prosciutto to their Sicilian pizzas, this is where it all started and undoubtedly, no other place can match.

Before starting your day, do visit a supermarket in that particular city. Like Albert heijn in Amsterdam, Lidl in Germany, they provide lot of ready to eat options and are way cheaper than the restaurants you will see on your way. Don’t waste money on buying food at the airport, have some rice wafers or peanuts with you.

The further south you go, the later meals are. If you are hungry around 6 pm you may consider having an aperitivo, which means ordering a long drink (non-alcoholic options are OK) and grab whatever you like from a buffet. Most larger bars offer some kind of aperitivo, which range from just a few strips of pizza and focaccia to an array of finger foods, to pasta and meat in covered warmers.

In restaurants, no tip! Love it! But they charge a service charge which is a charge to use their silverware, tablecloth and complimentary bread. WATER IS NOT FREE! You have to pay for a bottle of tap water. Also, lots of restaurants have outdoor dining. They have a fan, but it has some sort of mist attachment. So the air that blew out, was cold and not hot air.

Don’t order paella, it will not be at all authentic unless you really did your homework.

At least, in Paris, when you walk into a cafe or bistro, don’t order your drinks at the counter and then carry them over to a table in order to sit down and consume them there. You’ll get yelled at (adding to the Parisian rudeness cliche). The waiters in these big city cafes (excluding the small family run businesses) are actually self employed people.

They rent off a number of tables from the manager/owner and operate these seating's as if their own shop. This is why the drinks bought and consumed at the counter are cheaper than the same ones served at a table. The waiter buys the drinks and sells them back to you at a premium. That’s how he makes his living, he’s not on any wages from the owner.

This is why he is not too happy to see you pay for your drink at the counter and bring it to sit down at a table in an area he’s rented for the day. Also make sure when at a table, once you’ve finished, to pay the waiter who has been serving you, not one of his colleagues (actually his competitors), or the guy behind the counter. You are depriving him of his earning.

You can recognize these self-employed waiters by the pouch or fanny pack they carry, in order to give you back your change when you settle your bill. You always deal straight with them not anyone else.

5. Carrying credit and debit cards in EU countries


Increasing numbers of businesses don’t use cash at all. Be sure to bring a credit or debit card. If you don’t want to bring your own bank’s card, you can buy pre-paid cash cards at currency exchange places in airports. Don’t bother with traveler’s checks.

6. Carrying Passport in EU countries


In case you are a student, carry your ID. A lot of places in Europe offer discounts to students. Apply for a multiple entry Schengen Visa before making bookings of flights, trains and accommodations. Once your visa is approved, then go ahead and plan. Always make a habit of uploading or saving copies of your important docs on cloud.

In many Schengen countries, like Spain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, carrying an official ID document (which for foreigners normally means passport or EU ID card) at all times is compulsory to some degree. In others, like Germany, there is no requirement to carry official ID, but it is advisable to have some form of ID.

It’s not always easy to find out what the rules in any given country are. Now, in some countries you may risk a fine if you’re checked by police when you don’t have your passport with you. This is fairly unlikely in the first place. If you’re a tourist, you’re carrying a photocopy of your passport, and you’re polite, most police officers will probably be lenient even if they could theoretically fine you.

Depending on what you’re doing and how old you are, you might also need your passport for other purposes, like buying alcohol or getting age-based discounts in museums. Now you have to weigh the risk of pickpockets against the possible inconvenience and the risk of a fine.

7. Prefer to stay in the centre of town


Prefer to stay in the centre of town, so all the best things to see are within walking distance. After that simply take one day at a time to explore lesser known sites, avoiding the tourist traps. Traveling like this allows you to authentically experience the lifestyle and culture in these areas, and at the same time, avoid the hustle of tourist crowds, lengthy lines and money wasting.

8. Compare the picture of the driver


If you're using Uber or Lyft, be certain the vehicle that shows up is legit. Compare the picture of the driver you are expecting with the person driving. Download offline maps of your route. You can't trust network everywhere. Just download the maps of all the cities in your phone and you wouldn't need to buy a local SIM card everywhere.

Saving offline maps can help but you always need to search hotels/metro time and all. Buy a local plan. You can find its much cheaper than what you pay in-country for an international plan. It also helps to find when is your next metro bus train. Learn to read the metro lines in the google app. It's helpful.

9. Planning the destinations


In general, any destination in Europe is worth going to! You really can’t go wrong. Almost everyone speaks English, and important information is displayed and listed in English. The easiest way to save money is to visit cheaper eastern European countries. Euro rail passes are popular but if you aren't on the train everyday you are better off buying individual tickets. Don't be afraid to use a ULCC airline (EasyJet etc) to save money especially if you are traveling longer distances. Don't travel for travels sake!

There are lot of beautiful cities and places than the ones we normally see on social media. Paris is not so romantic, but Nice in France is. Take you time and enjoy each destination, if you are bouncing around all the time that's costly and you are only getting a tour of the public transportation system.

Don’t limit yourself only to the big cities. There are so many small cities and towns with amazing local dishes and historical sights (like the 2,000 year old amphitheater of Merida or the 40,000 year old cave paintings of Nerja).

If you are visiting a place give it a minimum of 3 days, so you ensure a full day of sight seeing. Do not plan trip to 7 countries in 10 days, just to update them all on your timeline. You will not even enjoy half of them, because you will be exhausted while travelling and there is much more than a single monument in any city.

Planning down to each hour would be little excessive, as you might end up spending more than planned time at a certain place or the place you really want to visit is closed. This is particularly relevant when you travel to see natural phenomenon such as the aurora. You need to spend at least 3 days in the middle of nowhere to increase your probability of being able to see the northern lights. So make an itinerary, but keep enough buffer.

European countries have diverse landscape and unless you visit it all you would not know. However for the first time traveler, it would be impossible to visit each and every city. Visit one of the Scandinavian countries like Norway, Sweden, Finland or Denmark.

Visit the beaches of Lisbon in Portugal, Barcelona in Spain, Nice in France, Naples in Italy, or Athens in Greece. Visit cities rich in art and history like Paris in France, Rome and Florence in Italy, Vienna in Austria. Visit east European cities like Hvar, Plitvice national park in Croatia, Krakow in Poland, Budapest in Hungary. Visit cities that are not in the list of first time travelers like Budapest in Hungary, Prague in Czech Republic, Valletta in Malta, Berlin in Germany.

If you are on a one week trip through Germany or Austria and want to see a theatre play every evening in a different city, you can accomplish it with ease by driving perhaps 50 kilometres a day. There will be theatres and cultural offerings every few steps. Don’t pay for a Flamenco show. Real Flamenco happens spontaneously and is always free.

It is good to make a plan while traveling and sticking to it. But sometimes it is certainly better to wander the city without any plans. It will help you get to know the best restaurants, places to visit and experience the local culture better. Also, this spontaneity will help you make the trip even more fun and adventurous.

Try that approach in Sweden, and you are spending the days in your car, powering through probably more like 200 kilometres of blissful scenery to get to the next town with a theatre. That’s because Sweden is three times the size of Germany, but with only one-eighth the population. There’s simply nobody here!

Visit cities that are not touristic but beautiful Sofia in Bulgaria, Tallinn in Estonia, Andorra la Vella in Andorra. Visit the cities at its best like Amsterdam when tulips are blooming during March to May, Provence region when Lavenders take over the landscape in July, Cologne in Germany during the Carnival or Oktoberfest, Swiss mountains when they are covered in snow.

Do visit places that you always wished to visit even if it is a tourist trap. Yes Eiffel towel is overrated, the Oia sunset in Santorini is overcrowded, but when you grew up reading about these places and wished to visit these once, you should. If you went to Paris, and didn’t see the Eiffel Tower, did you even go to Paris? Don’t limit yourself to just one region, each part feels like a totally unique country.

Plan in your mind what is it that you exactly want to cover, and read reviews online. You’d maximize the satisfaction you get after the trip. Book tickets for popular monuments like the Eiffel, Louvre online beforehand or you might have to stand in long queues.

Time is money and you wouldn't want to waste 2 hours standing in a queue just to book tickets! Book tickets at least 3 months in advance. Book in advance for the best prices and make sure to be flexible. The more flexible your itinerary is, the more advantage you can take of last minute events and festivals, which never seem to end in Europe.

Make sure you choose different types of countries to avoid getting fed up! Mix it up between ones with beaches, jungle, tropical, mountains and more cultural. Don’t miss out on going during a annual fair in the springtime.

Any travel destination on Instagram is probably over rated and overcrowded already. Many people tend to have a romantic notion of certain European countries, and when they visit them, many people are disappointed in seeing the not-so-romantic parts of them. Because no country is perfect, not every part of those countries are flawless, but that’s what they saw in brochures and videos before the actual trip.

The dark side of Italy is that too many tourists come with a checklist of things they must see. They rush through it all with barely enough time to appreciate where they are, and return home with nothing but a few pictures that nobody will remember in 6 months and a bit of extra credit card debt.

Your brain can only absorb so many works of art before it gets saturated. No matter how well you plan, you’re not going to see everything, and if you try to hard you’ll ruin your vacation. Try to deeply enjoy a few things, and give yourself plenty of time to relax. Your greatest memory won’t be craning your neck in the Sistine Chapel while 139 people are pushing you.

Finally, respect local culture, laws and traditions. If its not allowed to drink at public places (Amsterdam), swim in Venice canals don’t do it, even if you can without someone noticing you. Don’t go with a bachelor/stag party or act like a drunk fool. Don’t go during holidays, most places will be shut down and most locals will be away, usually at a shore town.

The entire trip will be an immersive experience. It is about getting lost in the streets, stumbling upon great places, meeting people and preserving memories. It is about people gazing in Paris, calmness of canals in Amsterdam, sunrise at Charles Bridge in Prague, spine-chilling bull fighting in Madrid, serene beaches in Ibiza and Spanish music in Barcelona.

The Ring Scam is one seen in Paris. You, the unwitting tourist, are walking on one of the paths in the Tuileries Gardens when you see a glittering gold wedding ring lying in very plain sight. When you pick it up, the person who laid it there, usually standing unobtrusively about 40 feet away, rushes over to either sell you the ring she has lost or demand a payment from you.

The other variation is for them to run up for the ring just as you reach for it and then let you keep the ring you both found if you just give them a small payment. The language varies but the ruse is all based on your picking up the ring. So just don't.

In fact, go off to an unobtrusive distance yourself and watch how the scam artist manages the whole process with the next unwitting tourist. It is a bit like watching a creative squirrel raid a bird feeder - fun to watch if you are not the bird.

Avoid Museums and castles in Switzerland. There are other European countries having famous museums and castles which are cheaper to explore and better.

10. Post-Brexit Tourism from the UK to EU

Ever since the spread of coronavirus took place from China to Northern Italy during February 2020 we have observed a massive hit for the tourism industry in Europe. Entire countries were locked down due to quarantine, flights were canceled, and travelers were worried about visiting Europe for a good reason.

Although no one knows when the pandemic will come to the conclusion most European countries are opening for tourism from the UK and other parts of Europe. But keep in mind that there will be changes in the way tourists travel across Europe from the UK.

Here are some precautions you need to take.

  • If you are older than 60 use common sense while deciding on the trip.
  • Be aware of the change in travel plan fees and cancellation charges while booking the trains, airlines, and sightseeing tickets.
  • Ensure that you can cancel the accommodation reservation without having to pay a penalty.
  • Be careful while renting cottages, villas, and holiday apartments.
  • Do not count on travel insurance for protection against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The culmination of the Brexit process means newer border control between the UK and EU. Some of the changes are,

  • There will be a new points-based immigration system and the free movement of people has ended.
  • Anybody traveling to the EU from the UK for more than 90 days Within 180 days will need a visa.
  • Duty-free shopping is back.
  • UK police no longer have access to the EU-wide database of fingerprints, criminal records, and wanted people.
  • According to the new rules, the UK mobile roaming network providers can impose roaming charges if they have to for EU travelers. But, they have adhered to a common theme saying that there are no current plans of changing what was on offer to their customers. The customers will continue to enjoy all-inclusive roaming in the EU and beyond and the Brexit outcome has no bearing on it.

Don't wait too long before you make plans for your traveling in 2021. Many people want to travel, and there will be many demands immediately after restrictions are lifted.

Kalyan Panja