OK you did your homework and picked your perfect European countries to visit. You have a list of cities to visit and the major things to see in each city. Now what? How should you get around Europe? You have three choices:
- Tour – which I would never do
- Trains – European trains are fast, on schedule and comfortable. They are also very easy to use.
- Rental Car – Cars are the most convent for small cities. They should not be used for large cities.
Trains – European trains between major cities are fast and travel faster than cars do. In France they travel much faster than cars do. You can buy tickets in America on-line but you pay a premium plus an increased exchange rate. In Europe there are machines that can be put into English and are easy to use. You enter where you are going, choose one way or round trip and pick your train (time). They take credit cards and your tickets are printed at the machine. You can also go to a window and speak to someone. They normally speak some English. There are usually lines at the windows. However you buy your tickets don’t forget to have them validated at machines by your track. Validation says you are using this ticket. It is an honor system and the conductor may never get to you to check your tickets. If you are checked onboard and do not have a validation stamp, the fine is very high. Online tickets may have “No Validation Needed” stamped on them. These are good for only the train listed so validation is not necessary. From big cities to small cities there are trains but they are local trains. They are slower and usually stop at each city along the way. Europe’s train system is extensive and can get you to or very near your destination town.
Rental Cars – Rental cars are convent at most airports. You can usually pickup your car in a parking garage or lot attached to the terminals. There are many companies including the American rental companies and the European companies. We usually don’t use the American companies because they are more costly for the same car. We like Eurocar. I also pay to take the insurance. It is easier to deal with an accident if you have insurance from the rental company. If you are using a rental car you really should have a GPS unit. You can rent these with the car for an additional fee. You can also use the one on your smart phone. We bought the Tom-Tom app for our iPhones. We have one for the USA and one for Western Europe. They each cost around $50 but we have had them on two different phones for 4 years now. The app can show traffic (for an annual fee). They also know where speed cameras and gas stations are.
Make a note on your smart phone and carry a printed copy (in case you lose your phone) of all hotel names, addresses and phone numbers. You should also have your itinerary with a list of city names you are going to visit. Europeans are friendly and will help you out as needed. Be friendly and polite. It is customary in Europe to say “Please” and “Thank-You”. You should know how to say these in each language you will encounter. Now just enjoy your trip. Create some memories!
George & Jo Anne