What Not to Do in Europe: 12 Europe Travel Mistakes You Should Avoid

12 Common Mistakes That Travellers Make When Going to Europe

Be extra mindful and avoid these no-nos!

Travelling in Europe can be magical. The cultures, countries, scenery and history can make for an intoxicating blend and there is something for every traveller to love. But things can quickly go wrong, especially if you end up doing one too many Europe travel mistakes. Fret not, because we’re here to help you properly prepare for your adventure and avoid these common bloopers among foreigners. That way, you are sure to have an absolutely amazing travel experience.

Also read: 10 Best European Countries That Won’t Break the Bank

What not to do in Europe (especially if it’s your first time)

1. Expecting everyone to speak English

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If you travel to one of Europe’s cultural centres, then you will usually find that most people speak at least a little English; certainly enough to help you easily get out of any predicament you might find yourself in. People will give you directions or aid you in getting the help you need. But unless you are in the United Kingdom or Ireland, you should remember that English is not the first language of most locals.

In rural areas far away from tourist centres, you will likely find fewer fluent speakers. This applies even to most of the big cities; although English is fairly common, it is rude and culturally insensitive to assume that the people you are talking to speak English. Learning a few basic words and phrases in the local languages of countries you are passing through will go a long way.

2. Forgetting to check what the local currency is

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It is important to remember that though many European countries do now use the euro, not all do. This is especially true if you are travelling in Eastern Europe, where most of the countries have their own currency. For instance, there’s the UK, which uses the British pound. Currency can be confusing, so always make sure that you understand how much money you are handling.

3. Assuming that tipping is the same everywhere

Speaking of handling your money well, it’s also important to be wary of giving overly massive tips. Remember that Europe is a big continent with many different countries, each of which has its own culture and social mores. Tipping culture is different depending on where you go.

4. Underestimating overall costs

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As with any adventure, it is often difficult to work out how much your holiday will cost before you go. While it is possible to travel to Europe on a rather small budget, it can be easy to underestimate costs, too. This is especially true when it comes to touristy areas, where the prices of food, drinks, entertainment, and accommodations tend to be on the steeper end. And yes, this also applies to the relatively budget-friendly countries in Europe! That said, we recommend researching more affordable options beforehand (especially if money is an issue).

Also read: 12 Best Affordable Summer Destinations in Europe

5. Overspending

Of course, overspending is easy to do when travelling. But when in Europe, savvy travellers will avoid spending unnecessarily when they do not have to do so. By keeping tight control of your budget, you will still be able to have a great time and won’t have unpleasant repercussions when you get home. Try to stick to your allotted budget by keeping track of your daily expenses. This will help you avoid the trap of unnecessary spending.

6. Not being aware of cultural nuances

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This is also among the most common Europe travel mistakes. The continent is made up of so many different countries and so many different cultures. Hence, travellers should not underestimate the power to irritate or offend locals not being wary of cultural nuances. Some nuances are difficult to understand but can be the result of the long and intricate histories of people and places.

For example, a traveller might cause offence and irritation if they refer to Britain or the UK in general simply as England. (The UK is actually made up of four extremely culturally distinct countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland). Referring to a Scot, Welsh, or even an Irish person as English would not be well received. It is important when travelling in Europe to try to understand these nuances as best you can.

7. Sticking to tourist hotspots

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When travelling in Europe, many people only explore the most popular tourist spots and best-known cities. This is a big mistake because there are many, many places further off the beaten track that are truly outstanding; all the better for the fact that they can be enjoyed without suffering the big crowds. Getting away from the usual hotspots would allow you to understand European cultures a lot better. And sometimes, it might even help your budget go a lot further, too.

8. Only visiting Western Europe

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Another way to make your money go further is to travel to the less expensive and lesser-known eastern countries of Europe. Many travellers will head for France, Spain, and/or England because it’s common knowledge that these countries have many beautiful spots. But it would be a shame to overlook all the more underrated destinations; for instance, the Balkans and the Baltic states.

9. Falling prey to tourist traps

All over Europe, tourist traps abound; from overly priced souvenirs to strict group tours with too many hidden costs. Do not fall into the trap of spending inordinate amounts of money on these things. Some would even say that you are far better off avoiding heavily crowded areas entirely and forging your own path instead. After all, there are plenty of places to see and things to do in any destination — why go where the crowds are?

But we believe in striking up a good balance. Avoid tourist traps whenever you can, while also being open to both mainstream and relatively unknown spots.

10. Ignoring the locals and their recommendations

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One way to avoid tourist traps is to speak to local people. Communicating with those who actually live in an area is the best way to get the most out of your travels. Among the most common Europe travel mistakes is ignoring locals altogether and speaking only with your fellow foreigners. After all, locals are most likely to give you some amazing tips on the best places to visit — and even how to get there hassle-free. More importantly, you will get a window into a different culture. And who knows, you might even make a few new friends along the way!

11. Looking too flashy and extravagant

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We get it, you’re excited to flaunt your best travel OOTDs in a continent as reputably stylish as Europe. But make sure you don’t overdo it — unless you want to be a magnet for pickpockets and other thieves. Nothing screams “vulnerable tourist” more than dressing too conspicuously, whether it’s in the form of outfits with one too many designer logos, or accessories that look like they cost an entire year’s salary. Try to blend in as much as you can and avoid calling too much attention to yourself.

Also read: The Ultimate Guide to Avoiding Scams and Theft in Europe

12. Underestimating the size of the continent

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Finally, when planning a trip to Europe, do not underestimate the size of the continent. Sure, Europe often looks small on a map and it is definitely smaller compared to the likes of Asia. It is easy to be lulled into a false sense that you can travel all across it with absolute ease. But Europe is actually large enough; there is so much to see and do that you can’t possibly cover everything in a single trip (unless you’re staying long-term as a digital nomad).

To get the most from your holiday, decide which bits of Europe you are most desperate to see. Know which specific areas you want to prioritise. That way, you’ll get to explore more thoroughly rather than see more places but fleetingly. Remember: quality over quantity, always.

Also read: How I Backpacked Through Europe in 20 Days as an Exchange Student

Now you know what not to do in Europe on your next trip. Do you think we covered all the common Europe travel mistakes, or is there something else you think is worth adding here? Either way, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our Facebook page!

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Elizabeth Waddington
Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington lives in rural Scotland with her husband and her dog. She is part of a small community who are trying to live as sustainably as possible. A professional freelance writer who works from home full time, she has over ten years of writing experience and an MA in English and Philosophy. She mostly writes about travel, sustainability and permaculture and has a particular interest in adventure holidays, camping, walking and sustainable travel. She travels whenever she can.


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