Home » Best time to visit Europe. What perils wait?

Best time to visit Europe and the perils that lie in wait

Traveling to Europe will be on most people’s goal list. Why not? It’s a fantastic cauldron of mixed cultures, food and landscape. But what are the things you need to know?

When to go and what to watch out for. Perhaps this isn’t your first rodeo, maybe it is. Any travel has a risk aspect to it. In most cases you are going to the unknown. You do not know how the weather will be or are prepared for things that may surprise or shock you. Ignorance is not bliss in this case. Ignorance is making yourself easy prey to circumstances you could have easily avoided.

best time to visit Europe

First up, when would be the best time to visit Europe?

To answer this question, I guess you first have to know what you like.I talk about travel planning. extensively in this website. It is a vital ingredient to a successful vacation. Know thyself, as they say. What type of tourist are you?

A blanket suggestion of best times to visit Europe may not be a great time for you. It is highly subjective. Do you enjoy the heat or do you prefer cool temperatures? Do you have an aversion to crowds? What kind of travel do you enjoy? Do you like sightseeing or simply immersing yourself in the culture? These and many more questions will dictate when would be the good to visit Europe.

However, there are some definite times that you may find preferable. Spending most of my time with tourists in Europe throughout the year, I have identified when they, and myself, are most comfortable and enjoying the sights and cities.  I would say, that the best time to visit Europe is in the shoulder seasons. What is that? It is in the early spring, late summer and in the Autumn. These are the times when the crowds have thinned. Furthermore, the heat is not as intense and the costs are much lower because you are out of peak season.

Choosing the best time to visit Europe might not be that simple.

best time to visit EuropeYou have to bear in mind that this is a bit of a roll of the dice. You may find that early spring or fall can bring with it cold weather. Certainly the chance of rain is higher in Spring – even snow. It was snowing in Europe in May this year (2019). Some days can be blue skies and just the right temp at about 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 °C). That is perfect! Although, bear in mind the next day could plummet to a cold 50 °F (10°C).

***Consider that if you choose the shoulder seasons, you will have to pack double. You need to be prepared for the possibility of cold weather and hope for warm.

Avoid Europe, if you can,  in July and August. It is packed with tourists and can get seriously hot. Also, you have more choice of reasonable accommodation at reduced rates in the off-peak periods. Conversely, the good thing about these peak summer months is you can bank of being warm/hot and packing will not be such a quandary. Also, aside from the heaving masses in tourist destinations, the summers are hot but gorgeous and the evenings can be magical as the northern sun surrenders late in the evening.

Finally, consider what it is that you enjoy in the form of interests. Are they weather and season related? If you love Christmas markets (and Europe has the most magical) then your decision is made – December. If you enjoy the idea of going to Germany for the Oktoberfest, then September (yes, not October) is the best time to visit Europe. There are many events and ceremonies you may want to see while in Europe so, again, it all comes down to planning.

The hazards and pitfalls when traveling to Europe

Western Europe is a favorite for us tourists, mainly because it is first world. It is what we know and we make the assumption it will be an easier adventure then Eastern Europe, the Far East  or, perhaps, other less touristy destinations.

That’s myth #1. Yes, Germany, France, Netherlands etc are all well structured and set up for mass tourism. But language can still play an issue, as can cultural do’s and dont’s. Just because these countries have the infrastructure for tourism, it does not mean they are no-brainer novice tourist locations.

pickpocket targetThere are still the usual ‘black holes’ of confusion and scams that can assault the unsuspecting tourist . In fact, it is almost contrary to your assumptions that a destination that is tourist friendly and popular is going to be a breeze. The exposure to tourists has made space for a skilled learning curve to some savvy criminals.

How dangerous is travel in Europe?

Europe is not a dangerous place per se. Your home city could be more dangerous. The increase in terrorist attacks can make you nervous but at the end of the day, I think you have to accept that this is beyond your control.

Sure, you can stay at home and live bunker-like for the rest of your days or you simply just get on with your life and enjoy everything you can. Be vigilant and that’s about all you can do. One of the best times to visit Europe, from a safety point of view, and if you are feeling a little anxious, is when the tourists are not packing the streets.

Terrorism is the extreme and in a city of millions, you have to consider your odds.Obviously you do not want to be flippant about things. If you are sensible and avoid the “hot” areas of protests and demonstrations, you should be fine.  However, areas in Europe can certainly be a threat to your wallet and peace of mind.

Be vigilant always when traveling in Europe

when visiting EuropeWhenever you are out of your usual environment, you are naturally alien to the new place that you are in. That can make you an easy target for the unscrupulous unofficial taxi drivers, pickpockets and scam artists.

Obviously you just need to be aware of the fact that you are best served being cognizant of the challenges you may face and not assume that all locals love an Aussie, American, Canadian, Brit, South African or whatever nationality you may be. Armed with the knowledge that you are a tourist is a good place to start.

But that does not mean you want to dress like an obvious tourist with something that makes it simple to detect you are not local. Wearing flags or T-shirts that patriotically exclaim your allegiance to country is an absolute no-no.

Wearing cameras, binoculars and touristy paraphernalia is another give away. Just chill and be low profile. With your confidence and increasing knowledge of the new environment you can begin to assimilate and become less conspicuous.

Avoid making presumptions

It is easy to assume that the Europeans do things just like we do them at home. We just presume that they operate the same way we do so whatever we do that is lawful or acceptable back home should apply in Europe. Not so much. You will find they can and do things differently.

For example, public transport. A lot of the countries in Western Europe run their transport system on an honor code. Meaning, you can hop on a bus, train or metro and not have to furnish a ticket.

Ignorant tourists have tried to abuse that system and found out that it was not only stupid, but was an expensive choice. Once caught, they had a day or two of their vacation wrecked and paid a heavy fine.

That is deserved, in my opinion. But that’s not the issue. The rest of us who are law abiding, buy our tickets. All well and good. But what we may not know if that we have to validate our tickets before getting on the transport.

ticket validatorHaving tickets in your possession means nothing if you did not get them stamped in the validating machine before. If a transit cop asks to see your ticket and you show an invalidated one, they assume that to be theft…basically that you chose to keep the ticket as unused and tried to get a freebie ride.

What will most likely happen is you will be thrown off at the next stop and escorted to the police station. No amount of pleading ignorance is likely to help just because you are a tourist. Ignorance of the law is not a defense. Like our traveler who deliberately tried to play the system, you would get a fine and probably have your entire day and the next, ruined.

Accessibility for physically challenged travelers is not great

Parts of Europe are attempting to correct this but sadly it can be an afterthought. If you have a disability, check that the place you booked has an elevator (a lot of places have only stairs) and make sure that the elevator they do have is wide enough for you to get in with a wheelchair or walker.

Transport and getting around could also be a challenge. It is vital you do really thorough research before you go. Most tour buses do not have chair lifts and climbing up those stairs of the bus can be almost impossible for some physically challenged travelers. Tips for Physically Challenged Travelers

Booking your accommodation

Even if you are able bodied, check that you have not got a great price and a great looking place but missed the fact it has 8 flights of stairs to negotiate everyday. Believe me, it gets old quickly. Especially if you are lugging a couple of suitcases or have shopping bags. (Read- been there, done that. Urgh!)

Also, my classic oversight. Found a great apartment in Paris. I was psyched! 8 days of Paris living! I could hear Gary Moores Parisienne Walkways guitar riffs in my head. It was such a good deal. Had wi-fi, elevator, Nespresso machine, great kitchen, separate bedroom. It was a steal! Good area. I was amazed. 

This was July…peak season time. Yes! Got to Paris. It was 40 Celsius…heatwave beyond hell. (104 degrees Farenheit). I get into the apartment building and can feel the suffocating heat. No worries. Into a mobile sauna elevator and out onto the 5th floor penthouse floor. Yikes. Mega warm.

Yes, I open the door to the apartment and get hit by an added 5 degrees to the already choking 42 inside. No air-conditioner. Just a fan. Seriously? The ensuing 8 days was unspeakable misery. I showered at least 6 times a day and stood in front of the fan to cool off. Night time was no relief and sleep did not come easily.

It is incidents like these that we can so easily skip checking on and something like a missing air conditioner unit can ruin your entire vacation time. 

It's all about the money, honey

If you want to save money and enjoy Europe, do this...

Money is a big factor in Europe, especially the Western and Northern areas. Things can be very expensive. You really should save as much money as you possibly can for a trip in these places. Hostels and Bed and breakfast joints can help save money but transport costs, food and activities  and just going out for a night is pricey. As I have already said, the best time to visit Europe and save money is in the spring, autumn and winter months. (But not December/Early January)

save moneyI always recommend that whatever your planned budget total for the trip, add 10%. It’s the unforeseen in travel that will always get you.

Forgetting your phone charger in a hotel room (very common) means you have to replace it. Maybe you have to spend a night or two in another place than you had planned that could well be more expensive. By all means, travel on a tight budget, but keep some breathing space. And definitely have an accessible emergency fund to draw from at home. Western Europe can be traveled on a reasonable budget but you really want to spend some time researching and reading blogs of others that have gone before you. 

 

Seeing the sights without seeing much

Naturally you will be, and should be, excited to see all the great landmarks you have heard about and visit everyone of them. But be realistic. Try not to get caught in the syndrome of seeing every big ticket sightseeing spot that will be in your vicinity. You could spend your vacation like some travelogue and lose out on the real value of enjoying a foreign place. Schedule your landmark days and your free days or split the day into 3 – Landmark in morning or afternoon, walking aimlessly about in the free time and taking in the evening with some cultural experience or mixing with the locals. You can find a great balance and make it 100 times more memorable.

Treat yourself to some travel bling

By travel bling, I mean a few luxuries along the way. Maybe you really want to go to the Moulin Rouge in Paris or eat at some fancy restaurant in Lyon. Could it be that a day river cruise on the Rhine is something you want to do or perhaps you wanted to enjoy a lunch and tour of Salzburg. These little splashes of cash can also be very much value if you are in a region and have a little fantasy or two about doing something that may cost a bit more money.  Europe has loads to offer.

 I am not going to try and tell you that you will not have nasty surprises along the way. Luggage not arriving on the plane with you is a common ‘nasty surprise’. As they say – Sh** happens. However, if you do the research, read up on travel, remove the paranoia and replace it with good sense, you will avoid most of the traps. And keep a sense of humor. You will need it sometimes. Your time away in Europe will be one of the best things you did. Each time you travel, you will get more savvy and more at ease.  Honestly the best time to visit Europe is…..NOW! Just do it!

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