Hey friends! It’s been a minute, I know…My blog was on pause while I was on my Europe trip but I am now back and ready to share my experience with you all. It was a trip that I have always dreamt of and I am very grateful to have lived that dream at the age of twenty. I got to meet my cousins in France which were hands done my favorite moments spent in Europe. With my Parisien bestie, we visited 3 countries and 8 cities. During our one month Europe Girl tour, we visited the most beautiful places, ate delicious food and lived our best life. With all that being said we learned a few lessons so without further ado here is the ultimate Europe travel guide!
5 things that shocked me about Europe
1. Almost everyone owns a tiny car, it’s rare to see a truck, a van or an SUV.
2. You have to pay for water at restaurants, free tap water isn’t an option, therefore, you are better off just getting a drink.
3. You have to pay to use the washroom in some public places.
4. When you eat out in a group, the waiter or waitress will bring the table one bill instead of individual bills.
5. Smoking cigarettes is a lifestyle that a large portion of the population, young and old, practices regardless of the fact that smoking kills.
5 things to do before you arrive in Europe
1. Go to your local bank and exchange your money for euros. By doing this you will get the best currency exchange rate and avoid paying international bank fees whenever you use your debit card overseas. I highly recommend doing this before leaving because once you are in Europe, the currency exchange stores charge you for their service plus they might not always provide you with the best exchange rate, plus sometimes your card might not work at certain ATMs. The dangerous side about traveling with all the cash for your vacation is that it comes with a stress of what if I get robbed or I lose my wallet so be careful.
2. Book all your accommodations and transportations ahead of time! Especially when it comes to booking flights, trains or buses, the earlier the better because as you get closer to your travel date the prices increase. If you can book your activities ahead of time as well that’s great because at most touristic landmarks they have a limited amount of people that can visit per day, plus when you buy your tickets ahead of time you can skip the long lines.
3. Preplan outfits to wear during your trip so you do not have to waste time trying to figure out what to wear. By doing this you pack your suitcase more efficiently and save space.
4. Buy a wall plug adapter in order to be able to charge all your devices.
5. Buy a suitcase that has four wheels and that is light to transport, this will make a difference if you will be constantly moving from city to city.
5 things that will help you while traveling in Europe
1. When you arrive in a new city, take the time to go to the city’s tourism office. They will help you tremendously on what to see, where to eat and how to get around. Locals know best, therefore, it’s worth the visit. The perk of visiting any tourism office is that they give you a free map of their city with all the main attractions to visit and that is filled with a lot of helpful information.
2. To avoid the tourist masses in your photos, wake up early to go visit the main tourist attractions. Another reason to wake up early is that it allows you to do more activities in a day and you won’t feel as crowded or rushed.
3. Carry a cross body bag that falls in the front of you or a fanny pack style kind of bag to avoid getting pickpocketed. This method is the safest way to carry your belongings.
4. If you plan on going on a day trip to a nearby city but do not have a place to store your suitcase, don’t worry, Europe has a solution for that problem because it has millions of tourists daily. The solution is to store your suitcase in a suitcase storage place, they are plenty throughout most cities. It’s about 10 to 20 euros for them to store your belongings for 24 hours.
5. Avoid tourist traps. When we were in Paris there were groups of people who would set up tables and play guessing games with a ball and cups as a way to earn money. They are a gang of professional scammers that work together to rob tourist of their money. There is a leader and he has his accomplices that pose as tourists also playing the game like regular people. His accomplices all put in 50 euros each to play and they play the guessing game, some lose and some win all the money. When one of them wins they celebrate joyfully and loudly, which attracts tourist to come and join in the game. When a tourist joins in the game they grab the 50 euros from you and they start to speak in codes, controlling tightly the number of players to make sure that you the tourist/ outsider NEVER win. If you are ever in Europe and see this, keep walking and do not waste your money because it’s a tourist trap.
5 ways to save money while traveling in Europe
1. In certain stores the final price is negotiable. A lot of the tourist shops that I visited did not have price tags on their items because the seller would wait to hear my accent in order to know if I am a tourist or not so that they can get the most money out of me. A few times in Paris local vendors tried to rip me off and if it weren’t for my Parisien friend, Flora, I would have innocently paid ridiculously high prices because I don’t know how much locals usually pay. If you love to negotiate then you will have fun with the vendors across Europe.
2. Instead of buying a bus or metro ticket each way, go to the city’s public transportation office and buy a weekly or monthly pass depending on how long you will be there for. These passes are used by locals and will give you access to all their public transportation methods which is great because you save money this way.
3. Look at staying in a clean and beautiful Airbnb instead of a hotel if you are looking to save money on accommodations. Before reserving any Airbnb make sure to read through the reviews and double check the location of where the house or apartment is located. The closer the Airbnb or hotel is to all the main attractions the easier it is for you to get around to the main attractions.
4. When booking transportation to your next destination look at the competitive airlines, bus companies or train companies because they will be way cheaper than the mainstream ones. For example in Paris the main train station company is SNCF but it’s leading competitor is Ouigo which is a train company that has cheaper prices and allows the population to travel to the same destinations as the SNCF.
5. If you plan on making an expensive designer purchase, then make sure that you bring your passport at the time of purchase so that the sales assistant can fill out a tax-free form for you. When you are leaving Europe present the tax-free form at the airport’s tax-free VAT office and you will receive a VAT refund on your purchase. This is what I did when I went to Gucci, I saved money on my Gucci belt because first of all in Europe there is no tax then at the airport I got a percentage back with my VAT refund. This process doesn’t take too long if the workers at the designer store fill out the form for you but I do recommend that you arrive at the airport earlier than usual because the lines for the VAT refund are very long. I was in line for about one hour and almost missed my flight to return back to Canada.
Behind the scenes
If you follow me on Instagram then you probably followed my Europe trip through my Instastory. It may have appeared that everything was going smoothly and that nothing went wrong but that’s false lol. Behind the scenes most of the time we were running trying to not miss the metro, the train, our flight or boat. We reserved for the wrong date the day that we had to leave for Nice but didn’t realize this until the day of, so we had to rebuy tickets which were very expensive on the spot. When we were in Italy the weather was extremely hot, so we were sweating and it was not cute. Something else that happened to me while in Italy was because of the boiling hot weather and all the walking, my feet swelled up like a fat tomato. Thank God that the swelling did not come with pain or else the rest of the Europe tour would have been ruined. The swelling was so bad that my shoes were not fitting me anymore. I had to go buy new scandals that are comfortable for walking. Once we had access to a pharmacy, the pharmacist gave me blood circulation medications and a rubbing cream. Every night behind the scenes Flora had to rub my feet, she is a real one for taking care of me for the rest of the vacation. All in all, not everything is as it seems on social media so don’t envy the “perfect” life that we see others living. Thanks for returning to my blog and remember that you are fearfully and fashionably made!