Welcome to Europe Travel Guide!
Europe, the most economically and socially developed continent, is also the cradle of the so-called Western civilization. Mother of empires like the Roman , Byzantine , Germanic , Spanish , Portuguese , Russian , French and British , is full of small countries but in each of its corners hides a long history. Its cities like Paris , London , Rome , Moscow , Madrid or Athensthey are recurrent destinations of the universal history, but at present they manage to merge the past with the contemporary, becoming great metropolis that are part of the world economic motor. Although its great wealth lies in its historical heritage, its geography opens space to outstanding natural destinations. A few hundred kilometers one can go from the harsh climate of Lapland to the immensities of the Black Forest (Germany), the heights of the Alps or bathe in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea.
Climate of Europe is largely milder than other regions at this altitude due to a warm Gulf Stream. Overall the continent is very diverse in terms of climates that may range from Arctic desert to a hot Mediterranean climate in the South. Summers in the northwest are usually cool and rainy. Scandinavia in the very North part of the continent can be very extreme in winters with little light, while summers are mild with so called White Nights then the daylight may persist till midnight. Southern Europe on the other hand is influenced by African continent. It is dry and can be unbearably hot in July and August. If you chose this time of the year you might have to deal with forest fires that are quite frequent. These are also the busiest months of the year in terms of tourist load. More preferable months to travel to Europe usually range from May to September. However if you want to ski in Europe February and March will probably suit you better. Although you have to execute certain degree of common sense since the trails in Europe have less safety precautions.
Maps are essential if your trip planner is filled with places to visit and locations to see. Streets are often lacking any organization or logic. Even directions from local people might be confusing and misleading. Simply take a city guide with the names of major streets and this will save you lots of time and worries. It is especially true if you travel by yourself or with a few family members or friends.
Telephones in Europe
Be aware that not all telephones work everywhere. If you want a cell phone while traveling abroad you can check with your provider if you will get coverage in Europe or simply buy a cheap version then you will land in your point of destination. Roaming charges can hit you hard and they can be quite high even for short conversations.
Times Zones in Europe
Believe it or not it is different from wherever you live. Keeping an idea of this minor difference can save you from bothering someone home by calling at 3 am. These times zones also vary greatly. If you live in the US or Canada you are behind European time zones and should subtract hours to get Western Hemisphere time. For example Great Britain, Ireland and Portugal are on GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) which is 5 hours ahead of the New York time zone, while the eastern part of the European Russia might be 9 hours ahead. Europe has Daylight Saving so consider this while traveling in March or October.
Internet Cafes is probably second best thing after Internet itself. Nowadays you can find access to internet in pretty much every city and even a village in Europe. All you have to do is to pay a certain amount for the number of hours and use your access to the internet. The quality might range from place to place, but generally the connection is pretty fast.
Passports and Visas in Europe
This will be covered from country to country, but most of Western European countries don't require visas for short visits from the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Japan. For longer stays in Europe or for travels to Eastern Europe you will need a visa.
Safety while traveling to Europe
While Europe is generally a safe place to travel they are exceptions. It might be from country to country or from region of a country to another region. There will be more on this by country, but it is a general rule that you should avoid dark alleys and walking by yourself. Petty crimes are fairly common, especially in big cities. Avoid taking all of your jewelry to impress. It will most likely will draw negative attention from thieves. Leaving your belonging also might not be a good idea. Unattended things have an mysterious quality of disappearing in the shortest period of time. You might also want to carry traveler's checks with you to minimize the amount of cash that you have in yourself.
Money Exchange in Europe
Although the introduction of Euro on January 1st, 2002 decreased number of currencies in Europe you will still need to change your money into local ones. There are a lot of locations you can do it, but probably your hotel will offer a better choice. If you chose to use an ATM you have to take in consideration interests that banks might charge you for taking out cash. Another thing you should not forget is excessive protection that banks might have. If they see your card being charged in strange places like Milan or Saint Petersburg they might block your card. So you can either inform the bank before you go to Europe or keep a number of your bank so you can call them immediately to inform them that it is you who is actually using the card.
Customs, Duty Free and Value Added Tax
Here is some bad news. Members of European Union are considered almost a single entity so there is no duty free if you travel between these countries. It is only if you travel between EU and other non- EU countries. Here is some more bad news. Most of goods and services have Value Added Tax which is included in the prices of all stuff that you might buy while traveling to Europe. If you really don't want to pay this tax you can go two ways. One is the long one by waiting for a refund if you are not a European Union citizen. Keep your refund and present your unopened purchases at the Tax Refund desk. Another way to avoid paying is by visiting stores with "Euro Free Tax" sign. You will need a passport to prove you are not a citizen of the EU to get your discount.