Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Europe for the First Time

If you're considering traveling to Europe for the first time, there is a lot to know before you go. Traveling internationally is not like traveling domestically around the US, but lucky for you, I'm a seasoned pro, and I'm happy to share what you need to know for a smooth European trip.

Here are things you need to know before traveling to Europe:

Make sure you understand the visa requirements

Depending on how long you plan to be in Europe, and which countries you're planning to visit, you may need to apply for a visa. For US citizens, if you're traveling to any of the 27 Schengen countries, you can stay for up to 90 days without applying for a visa. This rings true for many other countries, but I'm not as familiar with their requirements.

Violating the visa requirement can have serious punishment, including being denied entry into the Schengen countries in the future.

Avoid traveling to Europe in August

Hear me out on this one. While it may be a popular month to take a vacation, it's not a great month -- yes, the whole month -- to travel to much of Europe. They take this month off work and travel to other parts of the world. 

I'm the kind of person where I have to learn things the hard way, and unfortunately, this is one of those lessons. Before I planned the latest trip to Europe in August, my friend who has been living in Europe for over 3 years now, warned that I should change my plans and visit during a different month. I didn't take her advice, and went anyway. She had vacation plans, so I also had to plan around that to be able to visit her.

I spent the entire month of August traveling through Italy. So many stores and restaurants were closed, and even though they may still appear to be open on Google Maps, you'll be sad to find out that is frequently inaccurate.

Try to learn the language

You don't necessarily need to become fluent in the native language of the country you're traveling to, but it will be very helpful to know some key words and phrases. A lot of the rest of the world learns English and is bilingual, but don't expect to be able to communicate in English everywhere you go, especially if you're branching out of tourist areas.

Even if the phrases you learn aren't pronounced very well, the locals will appreciate the effort of you trying to learn and communicate with them in their language —except for maybe if you're traveling to France — I hear they just don't like American tourists that much.

Bring outlet converters with you

European countries use different style plugs than we do in the US. And not every European country uses the same thing. Make sure you know what type is used in the country you're traveling to, and bring a couple converters with you. Some places you'll stay in may have them for you, but better to be prepared than going and paying an outrageous amount for just one at the store.

Also keep in mind that their outlets may not allow the same wattage as those in your home in the US. I've had hairdryers that have been too powerful and have too high of wattage to use in Europe, and with using will start to smoke as if they're going to burst into flames.

Figure out your phone plan options

If you want to use your phone for texting, calling, and internet while you're in Europe, you'll need to look into what your options are for your existing phone plan. It's likely that your carrier has a $10 per day option, but that can get pricey fast. You can opt to go without internet when you aren't on wi-fi, but this requires you to be strategic with your phone usage.

Or you can opt for getting a local Sim card, or an eSim card like those from Airalo, which lets you choose whether you want to use the card in one or multiple countries, and how much data you need over a certain period of time.

I opted for an Airalo eSim in Germany when I booked an Airbnb that didn't have wi-fi. It was very simple to get set up and then remove when I went back to the US.


Follow these tips to ensure that your first trip to Europe goes smoothly.

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