Apr 9, 2023

People Share the Things You Should Avoid When Traveling To Europe

Traveling is one of the greatest things in the world. There are so many amazing things about leaving your comfort zone, but that said, it’s nice to have a head’s up when you’re heading somewhere totally unfamiliar.

If you’re a noob when it comes to traveling Europe, here are 15 things more experienced travelers say you should definitely avoid.

14. Where there are tourists…

Watch out for pickpockets in Western Europe.

There is a stigma that Eastern Europe like Romania and Bulgaria is dangerous but pick pocketing happens more in Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, etc.

12. Don’t feel bad.

Avoid any restaurant that tries to strong arm you into entering.

“come come sit down” as they shove a menu in your face, fast talking, usually offering a free drink/entree/dessert, basically trying to get you to feel bad about turning them down.

11. Mind your manners.

Don’t assume that everything will be open during the hours you’d expect in your home country–this is true no matter where you’re going. It varies by country and region, but in my experience, grocery stores, banks, post offices, etc., had much more restricted hours than they do in the US. In the US, it’s rare for a grocery store to close before 9 PM, if it’s not open 24 hours. In Europe, it’s normal for grocery stores to close quite early, and for things to be closed on weekends, though this varies by country.

Also, mind your manners. In America, you can often skip over the formalities without being seen as rude. In Europe, this is much harder.

Be more direct about what you want, and more polite about requesting it. Part of what perpetuates the unfortunate “rude American” stereotype is that Americans tend to find European manners blunt, and Europeans tend to find American manners invasive.

10. Bicycles are no joke.

Falling in canals and walking on bicycle paths if they come to the Netherlands.

9. Quivering ankles.

Do not, for the love of god, wear stilettos in Germany. You will slip and fall down in front of 100 people including children who will point and laugh at you as you wobble away on the cobblestone with quivering ankles

8. Quite entertaining.

Street scammers in Paris, anywhere really, I just mostly see it in Paris.

While grabbing wine on a patio in Rome we watched the police break up a scam ring in front of us. It was quite entertaining, especially after dealing with these schmucks all day trying to hustle you.

We just sat, sipped wine and watched the fun.

7. Be smart with your money.

Don’t rent a car if you’re going to stay at a major capital, it’s not worth it, it’s much better to use public transport and get an occasional Uber

One thing to remember is you will pay a fee if you drive from one country to another and don’t drive back to return the car.

For example, if you rent a car in Frankfurt, drive down through Switzerland and into Italy, you’ll pay a hefty fee to return the car to (Hertz or whatever) in Italy. Best to drive around in the same country with a rental, then take the train between countries.

At least that has been my experience.

6. It happens everywhere.

I’ve seen it in Paris, France, Barcelona, Florence…any popular tourist destination is going to have pickpockets.

These scams vary, and you should read about them before you go so you’re aware. Some of the ones I’ve seen:

People in costumes (mostly Roman centurions) will accost you for pictures with them, and demand an absurd amount of money for the pictures.

People will shove an object or a flower into your hands and then demand money. You may have to very aggressively say “no”

Someone will approach you with a map and ask for directions (their accomplice is behind you while you’re distracted, and helping themselves to your stuff)

Someone will lay out paintings on the ground near monuments like cathedrals, and when you inevitably step on one (because you’re looking up at the Duomo, not at the ground) they’ll demand an absurd amount of money for the painting you just stepped on.

Basically, you just have to understand that if you’re a tourist in a city, no one is going to have a good reason to talk to you. No one needs directions from you, no one needs a petition signature from you, anyone trying to stop and talk to you in a major tourist destination is likely a scam.

If you do get into a situation where someone is demanding money from you (maybe you stepped on a painting or took that ill advised picture with the Centurion) just say, “Okay, let’s go find a police officer and I will pay you in front of the police officer.” That usually gets them to back down quickly.

You may have to be aggressive about not letting people touch you or put something on you. My husband had to yank his arm away from someone trying to tie a bracelet on him outside of Castel Sant’Angelo. I had to quickly move away from someone shoving a rose in my lap on the Spanish Steps.

And also, watch your stuff. Don’t absentmindedly sling your purse over the back of a chair. Don’t leave your phone on the ground next to you while you have a picnic on the Seine. I have a black purse by PacSafe that has some anti-theft features, like a lock so I can lock it to a chair at a cafe and a lock on the zipper so it can’t be easily zipped open. Sure, a determined person could break into purse, but it’s all about not being an easy target – it’s enough of a deterrent that if someone does try to help themselves to the contents of my purse, it’ll be too much trouble and they’ll go pick someone else.

That being said, don’t let the fear of being pickpocketed deter you from travelling! Rick Steves has a story about a family that had their passports and thousands of dollars stolen from them immediately upon arrival in Amsterdam, and they still had an amazing trip. Just be aware, and have a plan in case the worst happens.

5. In good spirits.

To avoid, letting the taxi know you don’t know where you are or where you are going, the bad ones will drive you in circles and run the tab up.

However, one thing that opened Germany up for me while stationed there was one interaction. I would ask in German “Sprechen sie englisch”, do you speak English. Followed by “Mine Deutsch ist scheisse”, my German is s*%t. Everyone from women at the bar to elderly people would laugh hysterically and then immediately switch to English in good spirits.

They just like to see you try, then they are more than happy to help you out. So my advice would be to learn a quick fire phrase that you can pop off to quickly to avoid the fumbling and starting the interaction on a bad foot.

4. Hold tight to your stuff.

Do not put your bag/purse/backpack on the back of your chair when you sit down to eat, especially outside.

Thieves look for this, in groups of three or four. One of them will come from one side of you as a snatcher, and the rest will stand in a group very close to you taking or smoking, etc., pretending that they don’t know the snatcher.

Then the one guy will snatch your item, and run right through the group, in case someone is quick enough to chase. They will “accidentally” be in your way.

Happened in Rome, but locals recognized it and broke it up.

3. Inform yourself.

Be respectful to memorial places. Don’t come to the idea to make selfies or similar.

Inform yourself about the traditions of the country. In some countries, you can openly make small talk with strangers, while in another one, you do have to approach them like a wild animal.

2. Just walk away.

In major cities don’t let anyone hand you anything such as flowers or whatever.

Once it is in your hands they start asking for money.

They even gave a flower to one my kids and then wouldn’t take it back.

Just set it on the ground and walk away.

1. A fraction of the price.

If you’re from the US don’t sign up for the bulls**t $10 per day international service with Verizon or other service providers.

Nearly any airport you arrive in will have a place where you can buy an sim card to put in your phone at fraction of the price.

For instance, I once got a sim card in Seville, Spain for something like 12 Euros and it came with a month of service and 9 GB of data.

These are some great tips.

I can’t wait until I go traveling again and I can put them all to use!

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