Exploring the European continent is every traveler’s dream. This continent has nature, adventure, history, royalty, cuisine, fashion and shopping re-treat to satisfy every type of traveler!
There are 50 sovereign states/countries in the European continent. Out of the 50 countries, 26 countries are part of the Schengen Visa agreement, which makes traveling very convenient.
This post highlights the basic information and research that you will need to plan out your trip to Europe.
Welcome to Europe Planning 101
Choosing the Country
- Choose where you wish to travel to. There are different visa requirements for different countries in Europe.
- You can choose a specific country based on personal interest, wishlist, time you wish to spend in exploring a country or simply based on a great vacation deal
- I have always wanted to visit London, just cause 🙂
- I wish to live in an igloo in Finland
- Oh Paris ~ or everything French, I want to spend ample time in that country, may be a month or two – explore its countryside, attend a cooking class or two
- Iceland-Air flight deals from Canada/US – $449 return trip, now who can ignore that! Visit Iceland and experience the Northern Lights = Amazing
- Travel to European countries for up to 90 days (within a 180 day period) is available without any visa for passport holders of certain nationalities, including Canada. Use this website to find out, if you qualify to travel visa-free Do you need Visa to travel?
- If your passport doesn’t allow for entry without visa, then you will need to apply for Schengen visa or individual Visa Application
- Schengen visa – The 26 Schengen countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Read all about Schengen Visa here Schengen Visa Info
- England and Ireland do not belong to Schengen scheme and hence individual (country) visa needs to be applied for. For visa to England, view resources here Visa for UK
- General Resource on Visas
- Budget your trip based on flight availability. Consider frequency and pricing when you decide to fly to Europe.
- Flying with Lufthansa to Frankfurt (Germany), British Airways or WestJet to London Gatwick can be a great and economic way to explore Europe. Flying from Canada to London Gatwick can be as low as $500 CAD for a return trip.
- Use railways thereafter entering the main country to explore other European countries to stay on budget and save time
- There are different ways to save on accommodation in Europe. Choose from luxury hotels, hostel, airbnb or couch surfing. Resource on couchsurfing
Exploring within European nations
- Its a great option to venture into Europe by train. You can reach another country in less then 3 hours (London to Paris is 2.15 hours by high speed trains) and also look at the beautiful terrain outside.
- Learn about rail journeys here Rail Europe
- Rail Pass or no pass – If you planning to explore Europe in chunks, like say visiting Amsterdam, Luxembourg and Brussels – get a rail pass “Benelex” – these passes allow you to travel within the 3 countries at a great price. I found rail passes to be effective and economical, especially if you intend to stay in that zone for a substantial period of time. If you have your hotels, itinerary set and planned by day – it would be better to skip the passes and get a train ticket with a set date and time on it. I did the math for passes or no passes and in some situations, you are better off without buying a pass. Rail Pass website
- Ferry – Ferries are another way to get to nearby countries. Its a 3-4 hour ferry ride from London to Dublin, Ireland, costing about £40-50 Train and Ferry Information for Europe
- Low cost Flights – Flying within the European continent is cheap too. With flights starting as low as £70 for a return trip to most destinations
Off Season Travel
- Major tourist destinations in Europe are bustling with people during summers and winters, especially around Christmas
- February- March, September-November are good months to explore Europe with less crowd and may be also score on a hot flight/vacation deal around the same time
Style of Travel
- Back Packing – Backpacking across Europe is a cost saving and adventurous option to explore European country side
- Travel at your own pace, one city or one country at a time. Decide to stay at hostel, if looking for cheap accommodation or at a 5 star/luxury hotel
- Travel in small or big groups to explore many countries at a glance and cover more places. Its a great way to get an orientation to the main cities and then select your favorite ones to explore it at length later.
- A part of travel insurance includes emergency medical assistance. Most EU nations require you to have a medical insurance for 30,000 EUR upon entry. So its a good idea to shop for insurance quotes
- Check with your employer benefits plan, travel credit card plan to see if you have insurance covered for travels
- Consider trip cancellation, loss baggage, flight accidents, terrorism coverage as some of the premium coverage options
- Getting insurance is advisable when travelling outside the country, mainly for medical reasons, followed by reimbursement if a trip cancels.
These are certain elementary things to consider when deciding to explore Europe. If you still need some guidelines and have never been to Europe, consider doing a trip via tour agents like Contiki, Intrepid, Cosmos, Trafalgar, CostSaver, etc~ most of these pre-packaged vacations are fast paced and offer great first-hand exposure at exploring the mighty, yet wonderful continent of Europe!