11 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid on Your First Trip to Europe

These stress-reducing and money-saving tips will help your trip go smoothly.

Jetsetting to Europe for the first time can be both a blessing and a curse. Though you'll never forget the once-in-a-lifetime moments like seeing the Eiffel Tower at night or taking a gondola through the canals of Venice, if you go unprepared, these beautiful memories can be tarnished by rookie mistakes.

To avoid all that from happening, we've laid out exactly what not to do overseas with the best travel tips for Europe. Learning from the following rookie mistakes ahead of your trip will minimize the stress of traveling, while also saving you time and money.

People using smartphone on Barcelona street, Spain
Getty Images

1. Taking a Cab

Nope, not even from the airport. Most major European cities have reliable public transportation, so use it as soon as you arrive. For example, in Paris and Amsterdam, the train is the fastest way to get to the city center. Shuttle buses can also be a convenient and surprisingly fast alternative, such as Barcelona's Aerobús which can get you into the city in under 40 minutes. Not only will it give you a better feel of the area, you'll save money by avoiding high cab fares. And if there's ever an option to walk, and you're able, don't miss a chance to experience the historic streets.

2. Buying Tickets Late

Waiting to get museum or popular attraction tickets when you're there is a bad idea. Scrambling last-minute — especially in Paris or Rome — will either leave you in a terribly long line or worse, the venue will reach capacity and you may not even be able to enter at all. Do yourself a favor and book all that you want to see in advance. In major cities, multi-day sightseeing passes can be a great way to pre-plan your trip and confirm tickets to major attractions. For the extremely popular tourist attractions, like Barcelona's Sagrada Familia, you may even want to book your timed-entry ticket as soon as you know the dates of your trip, as there is a limit to how many people can enter per day.

3. Settling for the First Restaurant You See

Don't be surprised if the prix fixe option by the mob of tourists isn't as good as you'd hope. When it comes to food, don't take any chances. Do your research and make a separate meal itinerary with reservations to local hot spots that will likely be more affordable or at least worth your money. Local blogs and social media accounts are a great way to find classic and new restaurants to plan your trip around. If you do find yourself in desperate need of a meal, but smack-dab in the most touristy part of town, do your best to avoid restaurants that advertise their menus in multiple languages and prepare a polite "no thank you" for the waiters waitings outside to usher in lost and hungry tourists.

4. Carrying a Ton of Cash

Don't worry, a lot of places actually take credit cards and we bet you have one in your wallet that won't charge foreign transactions fees. (If you don't, look into signing up for one.) While it's good to carry some cash, don't carry around a ton. Pickpockets are quite common, especially in areas that attract a lot of tourists, so it's better not to have large amounts of cash on your person if you can avoid it.

5. Not Spending Plenty of Time Outside

Europeans love eating and drinking outdoors, so do as they do. Bring along a picnic blanket, pick up some refreshments at a grocery store, and have one of your meals at a plaza or by a river. It's a budget-friendly and fun way to switch things up so you aren't constantly dining out.

6. Forgetting to Check Your Phone Plan

More mobile carriers are incorporating international roaming with their plans. Read through your plan's details or give the company a quick call a few days before leaving to see if you have data abroad. Don't miss out on being able to use your Google Maps app.

7. Ordering All the Bread and Water

You probably think these things are a given, but at many restaurants they're not free and can quickly drive up your bill. Unless you're sure you want it, make it a point to refuse that bread basket once you sit down. To cost-effectively steer clear of dehydration, grab a jug of water for a fraction of the cost at a convenient store, fill up a water bottle, and carry it with you.

8. Not Claiming Your Refund

If you did a lot of shopping in Europe, you may be eligible for a VAT refund. All you need to do is ask the retailer for the proper documentation and show it to the proper agents at the airport. The exact processes may work differently in each country, but getting money back makes them all worth a try.

9. Ignoring 24-hour Time

If you're on a schedule or have timely plans, we recommend setting your phone to 24-hour, or military time, to make sure you don't miss anything. I once hung out at the Real Madrid gift shop while the game was already going on because I misread the time — don't make the same silly mistake I did.

10. Downplaying Comfort

Regardless of where you're off to, there will be walking involved and it's important to pack accordingly. Exploring in uncomfortable attire or footwear is no joke. Don't be that person who complains and slows others down because you're dressed inappropriately. Trust me — been there, done that, and it's awful for everyone. (If you don't already have a go-to travel shoe, here are some comfortable, travel-friendly shoes to consider.)

11. Neglecting to Smile

Even if you remember not to do all the things on this list, there will likely be some bumps along the road. However, you can't let just any mishap get you down because at the end of the day, you're on vacation — and probably somewhere beautiful. Take a deep breath, and enjoy yourself.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles