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Travel Guide Europe

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Encompasses an area of 10,180,000km² (3,930,000 square miles), stretching from Asia to the Atlantic and from the Mediterranean to the Arctic. European countries welcome more than 480 million international visitors per year, more than half of the global market, and 7 of the 10 most visited countries are European nations.

It’s easy to see why – a well preserved cultural heritage, open borders and efficient infrastructure makes visiting Europe a breeze, and rarely will you have to travel more than a few hours before you can immerse yourself in a new culture, and dive into a different phrasebook. Although it is the world’s smallest continent in land surface area, there are profound differences between the cultures and ways of life in its countries.

The eastern border of Europe, for instance, is not well defined. The Caucausus states are sometimes considered part of Asia due to geography, and much of Russia and almost all of Turkey are geographically Asian. The UK, Ireland and Iceland all manage to sneak in.

Must-visits include FranceItalyGermanySpain, and the United Kingdom. Don’t let your sense of adventure fail you by missing out on ScandinaviaGreeceHungaryPolandPortugal, or the microstates of AndorraLiechtenstein and Luxembourg. For a more exotic European adventure, be sure to tour the Balkans.

Many European countries are members of the European Union (EU), which has its own currency (the Euro) and laws. There are no border controls between signatory countries of the Schengen Agreement (only at the outside borders). Note that not all EU members adopted the Schengen Agreement (open borders) or the Euro, and not all countries that adopted Schengen or Euro are European Union members

Travel Guide Europe

Balkans (AlbaniaBosnia and HerzegovinaBulgariaCroatiaMoldovaMontenegroNorth MacedoniaRomaniaSerbia)
Balkans have a rich, though often turbulent, history with wonderful nature, charming multicultural towns, impressive monasteries and citadels dotting the hillsides, and mountains with beautiful forests, pleasant lakes, and stunning beaches.
 Baltic states (EstoniaLatviaLithuania)
Three fascinating states that have glorious beaches along an extensive coastline, medieval old towns, and beautiful natural scenery. Estonia has linguistic and cultural ties with Finland.
 Benelux (BelgiumLuxembourgNetherlands)
The Netherlands is known for its clogs, cheese, tulips and windmills, and for its liberal attitudes and painters. Belgium is a multilingual country with beautiful historic cities, bordering Luxembourg at the rolling hills of the Ardennes and the Netherlands at the cycling paradise of Limburg.
 Britain and Ireland (IrelandUnited Kingdom)
Britain is a diverse patchwork of Celtic and Germanic cultures, possessing a fascinating history and dynamic modern culture, both of which remain hugely influential in the wider world. Ireland has rolling landscapes and characteristic customs, traditions and folklore.
 

Central Europe (AustriaCzech RepublicGermanyHungaryLiechtenstein,

 PolandSlovakiaSloveniaSwitzerland)
Central Europe is the region where Germanic culture meets Slavic culture. It is home to innumerable historic towns, fairy-tale castles, beer, forests, unspoiled farmland, and plenty of mountain ranges, including the mighty Alps and Carpathians.

 France and Monaco
France is the world’s most popular tourist destination known for its gastronomy, history, culture and fashion. Some of its tourist attractions include Paris, the French Riviera, the Atlantic beaches, the Alps, castles of the Loire Valley, Brittany, Normandy, and the rural landscape of Provence. Monaco is a beautiful, ultra-wealthy principality overlooking the Mediterranean.
 GreeceCyprus and Turkey
Counting the most amount of sun-hours in Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean is a haven for beach-goers, party-people and cultural enthusiasts alike.
 Caucasus (GeorgiaArmeniaAzerbaijan)
A region presenting a remarkable mix of landscapes, ranging from high mountain peaks and wine-growing valleys to lush Black Sea resorts. Like the Balkans, Caucasus is at the intersection of Christian and Islamic cultures and is among the more diverse areas of the continent
 Iberia (AndorraPortugalSpain)
The Iberian countries are great destinations for their rich and unique cultures, lively cities, beautiful countryside and friendly inhabitants.
 Italy (ItalySan MarinoVatican CityMalta)
Rome, Florence, Venice and Pisa are on many travellers’ itineraries, but these are just a few of Italy’s destinations. Italy has more history and culture packed into it than many other countries combined.
 RussiaUkraine, and Belarus
Russia is a country of vast, empty expanses that spans all the way east to the Pacific Ocean with an immense diversity of peoples along the way, and cultural hot spots such as Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Novgorod on the European side. Ukraine is a diverse country that has a lot to offer, from the beach resorts of the Black Sea to the beautiful cities Odessa, Lviv and Kyiv. North of Ukraine lies Belarus, a country unlike anywhere else in Europe.
 Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, IcelandNorwaySweden)
Spectacular scenery of mountains, lakes, glaciers, geysers, waterfalls and volcanoes. Finland is culturally distinct as it has a language unlike the Scandinavian languages

Top cities

How do you choose a few cities to represent a continent full of deep history and profound culture? This will change over time; but here’s our “top cities”:

  • Amsterdam — canals, Rembrandt and red lanterns, the epicentre of liberal attitudes and especially gay friendly
  • Berlin — the capital of reunited Germany since 1990, it was divided by force for 45 years during the Cold War and has emerged as a international cultural centre and an area of rapid development since the fall of the Berlin Wall
  • Copenhagen – Capital of Denmark is a beautiful city which sits in two islands: Zealand and Amager.
  • Istanbul — the only major city to span two continents and a fascinating melting pot of East and West
  • London — Britain’s vibrant capital, a true ‘global city’
  • Madrid — Spain’s capital city
  • Moscow — Europe’s largest city is famous for its nightlife and the iconic Kremlin
  • Paris — the capital of romance (and France) on the banks of the Seine
  • Rome — the eternal city of seven hills and two thousand seven hundred years of history

Other notable cities

  • Athens – the Acropolis, ancient temples, medieval churches, early modern neoclassical mansions; the birthplace of Western civilization with a history of 3,400 years
  • Lisbon – Top world destination 2018, world discoveries started from here.
  • Barcelona — Gaudi’s cosmopolitan home on Mediterranean coast
  • Budapest — One of the most picturesque capitals of Europe
  • Prague — magical city with its renowned bridges spanning the Vltava River
  • Riga – the capital of Latvia, is beautiful of its architecture and medieval town.
  • Saint Petersburg – a magical city with beautiful palaces
  • Sarajevo – the capital of Bosnia, is a small city, but nice, because its museums shows nearly everything you want to hear about
  • Tallinn – The capital city of Estonia, is a wonderful city with a medieval town and modern towers
  • Valletta – the capital of Malta, a true definition of “walking through history”.
  • Vilnius – the capital of Lithuania, is an old city with a glorious history.
  • Venice – a city in Italy, when you can move only by sailing on it

Other notable destinations

  • Alhambra — part fortress, part palace, part garden, and part government city, a stunning mediaeval complex overlooking the city of Granada in Spain
  • Alps — very popular mountain range for skiing/snowboarding and mountaineering, with Mont Blanc as its highest peak
  • Cinque Terre — a gorgeous national park, which connects five picturesque villages in Italy
  • Białowieża National Park in Poland — the last and largest remaining parts of the immense primeval forest that once spread across the European Plain
  • Lagoa das Sete Cidades in Azores , Portugal, a beautiful hour glass green and blue body of water known as a caldera northwest of Ponta Delgada. It is storied with myths and legends.
  • Blue Lagoon — amazing geothermal spa with the water temperature around 40°C all year round, even in Iceland‘s freezing conditions
  • Meteora — six Greek Orthodox monasteries built on natural sandstone rock pillars
  • Neuschwanstein Castle — the well-known fairy-tale castle in the Bavarian Alps in Bavaria
  • Plitvice National Park — beautiful turquoise-coloured lakes surrounded by a large forest complex in Croatia
  • Stonehenge — the well-known Neolithic and Bronze Age stone monument located on Salisbury Plain, England
  • Tara River Canyon – the deepest canyon in Europe is located in the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro

Travel Guide Europe

  • Climate

    The lighthouse on the Cape Taşlık (Gelidonia), which juts out towards the Mediterranean south of Antalya

    Most of Europe has temperate climate. It is milder than other areas of the same latitude (e.g. northeastern US) due to the influence of the Gulf Stream. However, there are profound differences in the climates of different regions. Europe’s climate ranges from subtropical near the Mediterranean Sea in the south, to subarctic near the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean in the northern latitudes. Extreme cold temperatures are only found in northern Scandinavia and many parts of Russia in the winter.

    Average annual precipitation diverges widely in Europe. Most rainfall takes place in the Alps, and in a band along the Adriatic Sea from Slovenia to the west coast of Greece. Other regions with plenty of rainfall include the northwest of Spain, the British Isles and western Norway. Bergen has the most amount of rainfall in Europe with 235 rainy days a year. Most rain takes place in the summer, due to westerly winds from the Atlantic that hit the British Isles, the Benelux, western Germany, northern France and southwestern Scandinavia.

    The best time to visit Europe is in the summer. In August, the British Isles, Benelux, Germany and northern France have average highs of around 23-24°C, but these temperatures cannot be taken for granted. That’s why in the summer many flights go from northern to southern Europe as northerners flee the rain and possible lower than average temperatures. The Mediterranean has the highest amount of sun-hours in Europe, and the highest temperatures. Highest average temperatures in August are 26°C in Budapest, 28°C in Barcelona, 30°C in Rome, 33°C in Athens and 39°C in Alanya along the Turkish Riviera. A general rule is that the further south and east one goes, the warmer it becomes.

    Winters are relatively cold in Europe, even in the Mediterranean countries. The only areas with daily highs around 15°C in January are Andalucia in Spain, some Greek IslandsSicily in southern Italy, Malta and the Turkish Riviera. Western Europe has an average of around 4-8°C in January, but temperatures drop below freezing throughout the winter. Regions east of Berlin have particularly cold temperatures with average highs below freezing. Russia is an exceptional case as Moscow and Saint Petersburg have average highs of -5°C and lows of -10°C in January. Some activities are best done in the winter, such as winter sports in the Alps. The highest peaks of the Alps have perpetual snow.

    The Network of European Meteorological Services website provides up-to-date information for extreme weather, covering most of the EU countries

  • By plane

    The largest air travel hubs in Europe are, in order, London (LON: LCY, LHR, LGW, STN, LTN), Frankfurt (FRA, HHN), Paris (CDG, ORY), Madrid (MAD), Brussels (BRU) and Amsterdam (AMS) which in turn have connections to practically everywhere in Europe. However, nearly every European city has direct long-distance flights at least to some destinations elsewhere, and other smaller airports can make sense for specific connections: for example, Vienna (VIE) has a very good network of flights to the Middle East and Eastern Europe, while Helsinki (HEL) is the geographically closest place to transfer if coming in from East Asia.

    By train

    The Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing and Vladivostok to Moscow is a classic rail journey. Also after the finalized construction of a railway link between Kazakhstan and China, the Historic Silk Road is becoming increasingly popular with adventurers, trying to beat down a new path, this new Almaty – Urumqi service runs twice per week, and Almaty is easily reached from Moscow by train. Other options include several connections to the middle east, offered by the Turkish Railways (TCDD). There are weekly services from Istanbul via Ankara to Tehran in Iran, and Damascus in Syria, as well as a sketchy service to Baghdad.

    By ship

    It is still possible, but expensive, to do the classic transatlantic voyage between the United Kingdom and the United States. The easiest option is by the historic, and only remaining Ocean Liner operator, Cunard Line, but expect to pay USD1,000-2,000 for the cheapest tickets on the 6 day voyage between Southampton and New York done around 10 times per year in each direction. If your pockets are not deep enough for this price range, your only other options of crossing the North Atlantic are pretty much limited to Freighter travel.

    Most major cruise ships that ply the waters of Europe during summer (June – September) also do cruises in Latin America and Southeast Asia for the rest of the year. That means those ships have a transatlantic journey twice per year, at low prices when you consider the length of the trip (at least a week). These are often called positioning cruisesMSC has several ships from the Caribbean to Europe in April and May.

    There are several lines crossing the Mediterranean, the main ports of call in North Africa is Tangier in Morocco and Tunis in Tunisia (See Ferries in the Mediterranean for more details), but there is also a little known option of going via Cyprus where you can use Louis Cruises crossings to Port Said in Egypt and Haifa in Israel as a regular ferry service. Keep in mind though, that you can only do this on routes out of Cyprus, and it requires special arrangements – Varianos Travel in Nicosia seem to be the only tour agency offering this option

  • By thumb

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    Liftplaats at Prins Bernardplein

    Hitchhiking is a common way of traveling in some parts of Europe, especially in former eastern bloc countries. It can be a pleasant way to meet lots of people and to travel without spending too many euros. Don’t forget to check out the tips for hitchhiking.

    Note that in the former Eastern bloc, you may run into language problems while hitchhiking, especially if you speak only English. It is not advisable to hitchhike in former Yugoslavia, for example between Croatia and Serbia, because you could run into big problems with nationalists. Between Croatia and Slovenia, it’s usually not a problem. In Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine, hitchhiking is a common way of transport (you might even have to queue up). It’s easier to take train or bus because of the low rates and the fact that drivers usually expect to be paid. In Western Europe, especially in the Netherlands and Germany, it’s highly uncommon (the Dutch and many German county governments issue free public transport to students enrolled in local universities) but easy and fast to hitchhike. In most countries, it is forbidden to hitchhike on highways

  • Skiing & Snowboarding

    390px Ski Matterhorn

     

    Skiiing with the iconic Matterhorn as the backdrop

    Europe is home to some fantastic ski resorts; the Alps are home of some of the best ski resorts in the world, and there are more here then anywhere else. Austria and Switzerland, contain hundreds of resorts alone. Other Alpine ski destinations include, France, Italy, Slovenia, Germany (Bavaria) and even tiny Liechtenstein. The largest area is Les Portes du Soleil, made up of 13 linked ski resorts in Switzerland and France, boasting over 650km of marked runs.

    But the fun doesn’t stop in the Alps; The Scandinavian Mountains features some of the worlds most civilized and family oriented Skiing areas, but the lower altitude also means it’s a trade-of for shorter runs – Åre is the biggest, while way up north Riksgränsen allows skiing well into the summer. Scotland is home of 5 ski resorts: Nevis Range has the highest vertical drop at 566 metres, while Glenshee is the largest. A surprising option is Sierra Nevada in Spain, fairly large, just hours drive from the Mediterranean coast, and with a season often running into May – you can ski in the Morning, and chill on the beach in the afternoon. To the North the Pyrenees shared with France and Andorra also offers excellent skiing in up to 2,700m (8,000 ft) altitude, Domaine Tourmalet is the largest resort in the area with over 100km of pistes.

    Eastern Europe is seeing increasing popularity since prices are much lower than elsewhere on the continent, the downside is that facilities are not as expansive or modern as elsewhere in Europe, but things are rapidly improving. Slovenia is cheap alternative in the über- expensive Alps, Kranjska Gora is the largest resort in the country. The Carpathian mountains with the highest runs at almost 2200m (7200 ft) is another popular area; Poiana Brasov (Romania, 20km, 11 lifts [1]Zakopane[2] (Poland, 30km, 20 lifts) and Jasna (Slovakia, 29km, 24 lifts) are the largest and most popular areas in the respective countries.

    National Parks

    There are more than 360 national parks [3] on the continent, which is not a surprise since Europe is the world’s second-most densely populated continent. Many parks are small, some less than a single square kilometre, but there are also some expansive national parks to explore. The Vatnajokull National Park on Iceland is the largest, covering around 12,000km² (7,500 square miles), and the fascinating national parks of the Arctic Svalbard are not far behind, while Yugyd Va National Park in the Russian Urals is largest on the mainland itself. In total the national parks of Europe encompass an area of around 98,000km² (37,000 sqare miles).

    Outdoor activities

    Many cities in Europe are great for cycling. Europe has several places for whitewater sports and canyoning

  • The euro (Symbol: €, ISO 4217 code: EUR) is the common currency of many countries of the European Union. One euro is divided into 100 cents; sometimes referred to as ‘euro cents’ to differentiate them from their US and other counterparts. Established in 1999 and introduced in cash form on 1 Jan 2002, the euro removes the need for money exchange. As such it is not only a boon to pan-European business, but of course also to travellers.

    Each member nation has a unique design at the back of the euro coins minted in their country. Rest assured that regardless of the origin of the designs at the back, the euro coins are legal tender anywhere throughout the Eurozone.

    The euro has not been adopted by all EU countries. Those countries which have replaced their own national currencies are commonly called the Eurozone. By law, all EU countries (except Denmark) have to eventually adopt the euro. In practice, though, plans for this in the remaining newcomer EU states are often put on hold pending the outcome of the current economic crisis facing Europe.

    Outside the EU, AndorraKosovoMonacoMontenegroSan Marino and the Vatican have unilaterally adopted the euro. All of these nations, except Kosovo and Montenegro, are allowed to mint a limited amount of national Euro coins. Because these are so rare, they are often worth more than their face value, so are prized by collectors. Andorra was due to release its own Euro coins in July 2013, but this has since been delayed.

    All other countries in Europe still retain their own currencies. Euros are widely accepted in European countries outside the Eurozone, but not universally, and at shops and restaurants the exchange rate is rarely in your favour. Many hotels, however, price and accept payment in euros. Also, a large number of filling stations and motorway service areas in European countries outside the Eurozone accept the euro, and both Croatia and Serbia allow payment of highway tolls in euros. Money changers will generally give good to excellent exchange rates for the euro, and in a pinch they will be accepted by nearly everybody.

    Do not accept any of the obsolete currencies. While several countries’ banks will still change them into euros, it’s a lot of hassle and there is no guarantee that this will be possible everywhere or on short notice. You should also expect to leave your personal information with the bank as a precaution against money laundering

  • Eat

    A term “European Cuisine” could reffer to more generalized term of “Western Cuisine”, or to common characteristics of various cuisines of Europe. The biggest similarity between these countries is that the meat plays important if not central part of their dishes, as well as dressings, seasonings and sauces. Potato dishes or wheat bread stand for what rice represents in Asian culture. There is a vast use of olive and sunflower oil and butter in cooking. Portion sizes tend to be larger then in Asia and smaller than those in USA.

    French, Italian and Greek cuisine have received a worldwide acclaim. France might be the best place to eat cheese, bisque, foie gras, crème brûlée, crêpe, macaron, baguette, croque monsieur, escargot, cheese fondue and confit de canar. Italy is famous for pesto, pizza, the biggest world selection of pasta (most famous being spaghetti and ravioli), mozzarella, prosicutto di Parma, pancetta, risotto and tiramisu. In Greece the most favourite to eat are moussaka, Greek salad, pita-bread, different kinds of mezedes (appetizers), tzatziki yogurt, Greek yogurt, feta cheese, gyros and souvlaki.

    In Russia you can find beef stroganoff, blini and borsch, in Germany bratwurst and currywurst, in Austria weinerschnitzel, in the Netherlands stroopwafel, while Spain in known for tapas. Turkish and Arabic food is spread throughout the continent due to migrations.

    In recent times the diaspora has spread Serbian cuisine across the continent. Its is praised for its mild, fresh and natural flavours, and the freshness and good quality ingredients. It is described as a mighty combo of Mediterranean, Central European, Slavic, Turkish and Arabic cuisines

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