Getting Around Europe

June 23, 2009

First-time travelers to Europe might be in for a culture shock. Different languages from one country to another, mode of public transportation and the way of life is much different in Europe than it is in the US even though Europe is, for the most part, far removed from the cliche “Third World” often used to describe poorer economies in Asia, Africa and South America.

But despite the cultural and socio-economic differences between the US and Europe, most people would agree that visiting Europe is one of the most magical experiences a person can have. No where else has history been preserved as it has been in Europe. So here are some things you should know before you let Europe intimidate you.

Start in London. No matter what country you call home, when visiting Europe, starting in London works well despite it being one of the more expensive places in the world. The most obvious reason is language. Being in London helps you acclimate to Europe, get over your jet lag and allow you to explore some of the most historic landmarks in the continent without having to worry about language barriers. You can also get around London via the Tube, which is even easier to use than the subway system in New York.

After London, you can pretty much go anywhere. The more tourist friendly cities are places like Paris, Amsterdam, Zurich, Rome, Barcelona, Venice and Florence. As you head deeper into Eastern Europe, places like Romania, Hungary and Poland, the use of English tends to diminish quickly and you really have to seek out tourist friendly hotels, which are a little more expensive, but will have English speaking staff. One of the advantages of eastern Europe is that it is much cheaper than the west. In fact, a cup of coffee can vary from an average of $5 in Paris to $1 in Bucharest. So even though East Europe is not as accessible or travel friendly, it is much cheaper than commercialized states like France, Spain and Italy.

One more thing to keep in mind is public transportation. Both Italy and France have wonderful and relatively easy-to-navigate train and underground rail systems. But eastern European countries may not offer the same level of reliability. But this is ok since cab fare will be relatively cheaper for the same distance in Prague than it will be in Madrid.

If you are planning a trip to Europe, don’t forget to get a Eurail Saver Pass

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