Bargaining isn't common in much of Europe, but is known in and around the Mediterranean. In Turkey it's virtually a way of life.
Dangers & Annoyances
Travelling in Europe is usually very safe.
In some parts of Europe travellers of African, Arab or Asian descent might encounter unpleasant attitudes that are unrelated to them personally. In rural areas travellers whose skin colour marks them out as foreigners might experience unwanted attention.
Attitudes vary from country to country. People tend to be more accepting in cities than in the country. Race is also less of an issue in Western Europe than in parts of the former Eastern Bloc. For example, there has been a spate of racially motivated attacks in St Petersburg and other parts of Russia in recent years.
Although rare, some drugging of travellers does occur in Europe. Travellers are especially vulnerable on trains and buses where a new ‘friend’ may offer you food or a drink that will knock you out, giving them time to steal your belongings.
Gassings have also been reported on a handful of overnight international trains. The best protection is to lock the door of your compartment (use your own lock if there isn’t one) and to lock your bags to luggage racks, preferably with a sturdy combination cable.
If you can help it, never sleep alone in a train compartment.
Pickpockets & Thieves
Theft is definitely a problem in parts of Europe and you have to be aware of unscrupulous fellow travellers. The key is to be sensible with your possessions.
- Don’t store valuables in train-station lockers or luggage-storage counters and be careful about people who offer to help you operate a locker. Also be vigilant if someone offers to carry your luggage: they might carry it away altogether.
- Don’t leave valuables in your car, on train seats or in your room. When going out, don’t flaunt cameras, laptops or other expensive electronic goods.
- Carry a small day pack, as shoulder bags are an open invitation for snatch-thieves. Consider using small zipper locks on your packs.
- Pickpockets are most active in dense crowds, especially in busy train stations and on public transport during peak hours. Be careful in these situations.
- Spread valuables, cash and cards around your body or in different bags.
- A money belt with your essentials (passport, cash, credit cards, airline tickets) is usually a good idea. However, so you needn’t delve into it in public, carry a wallet with a day’s worth of cash.
- Having your passport stolen is less of a disaster if you’ve recorded the number and issue date or, even better, photocopied the relevant data pages. You can also scan them and email them to yourself. If you lose your passport, notify the police immediately to get a statement and contact your nearest consulate.
- Carry photocopies of your credit cards, airline tickets and other travel documents.
Most scams involve distracting you – either by kids running up to you, someone asking for directions or spilling something on you – while another person steals your wallet. Be alert in such situations.
In some countries, especially in Eastern Europe, you may encounter people claiming to be from the tourist police, the special police, the supersecret police, whatever. Unless they’re wearing a uniform and have good reason for accosting you, treat their claims with suspicion.
Needless to say, never show your passport or cash to anyone on the street. Simply walk away. If someone flashes a badge, offer to accompany them to the nearest police station.
Unrest & Terrorism
Civil unrest and terrorist bombings are relatively rare in Europe, all things considered, but they do occur. Attacks by extremists in the UK, France, Germany, Belgium and Russia have occurred in recent years. Keep an eye on the news and avoid areas where any flare-up seems likely.
The Camping Card International (CCI; www.campingcardinternational.com) is an ID that can be used instead of a passport when checking into a camping ground. Many camping grounds offer a small discount if you sign in with one and it includes third-party insurance.
If you plan to visit more than a few countries, or one or two countries in-depth, you might save money with a rail pass.
European citizens or residents qualify for a one-month InterRail pass (www.interrail.eu). There are special rates if you're under 26 years old. Children under 12 are free.
Non-European citizens can apply for a Eurail pass (www.eurail.com) valid in 28 countries for up to three months.
The International Student Identity Card (www.isic.org), available for students, teachers and under-26s, offers thousands of worldwide discounts on transport, museum entry, youth hostels and even some restaurants. Apply for the cards online or via issuing offices, which include STA Travel (www.statravel.com).
For under-26s, there’s also the European Youth Card (www.euro26.org). Many countries have raised the age limit for this card to under 30.
Europe generally runs on 220V, 50Hz AC, but there are exceptions. The UK runs on 230/240V AC, and some old buildings in Italy and Spain have 125V (or even 110V in Spain). The continent is moving towards a 230V standard. If your home country has a vastly different voltage you will need a transformer for delicate and important appliances.
The UK and Ireland use three-pin square plugs. Most of Europe uses the ‘europlug’ with two round pins. Greece, Italy and Switzerland use a third round pin in a way that the two-pin plug usually – but not always in Italy and Switzerland – fits. Buy an adapter before leaving home; those on sale in Europe generally go the other way, but ones for visitors to Europe are also available – airports are always a good place to buy them.
Embassies & Consulates
Generally speaking, your embassy won’t be much help in emergencies if the trouble you’re in is remotely your own fault. Remember, you’re bound by the laws of the country you’re in.
In genuine emergencies you might get some assistance, but only if other channels have been exhausted. For example, if you need to get home urgently, a free ticket is exceedingly unlikely – the embassy would expect you to have insurance. If you have all your money and documents stolen, it might assist with getting a new passport, but a loan for onward travel is out of the question.
Emergency & Important Numbers
The generic emergency call number for all European countries is 112.
|France country code||33|
|Germany country code||49|
|Italy country code||39|
|Spain country code||34|
|UK country code||44|
Entry & Exit Formalities
The European Union (EU) has a two-tier customs system: one for goods bought duty-free to import to or export from the EU, and one for goods bought in another EU country where taxes and duties have already been paid.
- Entering or leaving the EU, you are allowed to carry duty-free 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco; 2L of still wine plus 1L of spirits over 22% alcohol or another 4L of wine (sparkling or otherwise); 50g of perfume, 250cc of eau de toilette.
- Travelling from one EU country to another, the duty-paid limits are 800 cigarettes, 200 cigars, 1kg of tobacco, 10L of spirits, 20L of fortified wine, 90L of wine (of which not more than 60L is sparkling) and 110L of beer.
- Non-EU countries often have different regulations and many countries forbid the export of antiquities and cultural treasures.
EU citizens don't need visas for other EU countries. Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and Americans don’t need visas for visits of less than 90 days.
The Schengen Area
Twenty-six European countries are signatories to the Schengen Agreement, which has effectively dismantled internal border controls between them. They are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Hungary, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
The UK and Ireland, as well as Russia and much of Eastern Europe, are not part of the Schengen Agreement. Visitors from non-EU countries will have to apply for visas to these countries separately.
Citizens of the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK only need a valid passport to enter Schengen countries (as well as the UK and Ireland). However, other nationals, including South Africans, can apply for a single visa – a Schengen visa – when travelling throughout this region.
Non-EU visitors (with or without a Schengen visa) should expect to be questioned, however perfunctorily, when first entering the region. However, later travel within the zone is much like a domestic trip, with no border controls.
If you need a Schengen visa, you must apply at the consulate or embassy of the country that’s your main destination, or your point of entry. You may then stay up to a maximum of 90 days in the entire Schengen area within a six-month period. Once your visa has expired, you must leave the zone and may only reenter after three months abroad. Shop around when choosing your point of entry, as visa prices may differ from country to country.
If you’re a citizen of the US, Australia, New Zealand or Canada, you may stay visa-free a total of 90 days, during six months, within the entire Schengen region.
If you’re planning a longer trip, you need to enquire personally as to whether you need a visa or visas. Your country might have bilateral agreements with individual Schengen countries allowing you to stay there longer than 90 days without a visa. However, you will need to talk directly to the relevant embassies or consulates.
While the UK and Ireland are not part of the Schengen area, their citizens can stay indefinitely in other EU countries, only needing paperwork if they want to work long-term or take up residency.
- Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK need only a valid passport to enter nearly all countries in Europe, including the entire EU.
- Belarus and Russia require a prearranged visa before arrival and even an ‘invitation’ from (or booking with) a tour operator or hotel. It's simpler and safer to obtain these visas before leaving home.
- Australians and New Zealanders can obtain a visa on arrival in Ukraine from Boryspil International Airport (Kyiv).
- Transit visas are usually cheaper than tourist or business visas but they allow only a very short stay (one to five days) and can be difficult to extend.
- All visas have a ‘use-by’ date and you’ll be refused entry afterwards. In some cases it’s easier to get visas as you go along, rather than arranging them all beforehand. Carry spare passport photos (you may need from one to four every time you apply for a visa).
- Visas to neighbouring countries are usually issued immediately by consulates in Eastern Europe, although some may levy a hefty surcharge for ‘express service’.
- Consulates are generally open weekday mornings (if there’s both an embassy and a consulate, you want the consulate).
- Because regulations can change, double-check with the relevant embassy or consulate before travelling.
- Bargaining Isn't common in much of Europe, but is known in and around the Mediterranean. In Turkey it's virtually a way of life.
- Dining Europeans take their time over dining (especially in the Mediterranean) enjoying food, family, talk and wine. Fast food, though present, is less popular.
- Dress Dress modestly when visiting churches or other religious buildings. Europeans are more inclined to dress up than North Americans, be it for a business meeting or a night out at the theatre.
- Tipping Less prevalent in Europe than other parts of the world. No need to leave lavish tips in restaurants or to tip the bus driver.
- Greetings Vary greatly from country to country, though, in general, greetings are fairly formal and bound by long-standing etiquette.
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
Across Western Europe you’ll find very liberal attitudes towards homosexuality. London, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Amsterdam, Madrid and Lisbon have thriving gay communities and pride events. The Greek islands of Mykonos and Lesvos are popular gay beach destinations. Gran Canaria and Ibiza in Spain are big centres for both gay clubbing and beach holidays.
Eastern Europe, and in particular Russia, tends to be far less progressive. Outside the big cities, attitudes become more conservative and discretion is advised, particularly in Turkey.
It’s foolhardy to travel without insurance to cover theft, loss and medical problems. There are a wide variety of policies, so check the small print.
Some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’, which can include scuba diving, motorcycling, winter sports, adventure sports or even hiking.
Check that the policy covers ambulances or an emergency flight home.
Worldwide travel insurance is available online at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Internet access varies enormously across Europe. In most places you’ll be able to find wireless (wi-fi, also called WLAN in some countries), although whether it’s free varies greatly.
Where the wi-fi icon appears, it means that the establishment offers free wi-fi that you can access immediately or by asking for the access code from staff.
Access is generally straightforward, although a few tips are in order. If you can’t find the @ symbol on a keyboard, try AltGr + 2, or AltGr + Q. Watch out for German and some Balkans keyboards, which reverse the Z and the Y positions. Using a French keyboard is an art unto itself.
Where necessary in relevant countries, click on the language prompt in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen or hit Ctrl + Shift to switch between the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets.
Useful Web Resources
Blue Flag (www.blueflag.org) Ecolabel for sustainably developed beaches and marinas.
Budget Traveller’s Guide to Sleeping in Airports (www.sleepinginairports.net) Funny and useful resource for backpackers flying standby.
Currency Conversions (www.xe.com) Up-to-the-second exchange rates for hundreds of currencies.
Guide for Europe (www.guideforeurope.com) Has a handy hostel review page posted by visitors.
Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree) On Lonely Planet’s message board you can usually get your travel questions answered by fellow travellers in a matter of hours.
Money Saving Expert (www.moneysavingexpert.com) Excellent tips on the best UK travel insurance, mobile phones and bank cards to use abroad. The flight-checker facility shows the latest cheap flights available.
You can generally purchase alcohol (beer and wine) from between 16 and 18 (usually 18 for spirits), but if in doubt, ask. Although you can drive at 17 or 18, you might not be able to hire a car until you're 25.
Drugs are often quite openly available in Europe, but that doesn’t mean they’re legal. The Netherlands is most famed for its liberal attitudes, with coffeeshops openly selling cannabis even though the drug is not technically legal. However, a blind eye is generally turned to the trade as the possession and purchase of small amounts (5g) of 'soft drugs' (ie marijuana and hashish) is allowed and users won't be prosecuted for smoking or carrying this amount. Don’t take this relaxed attitude as an invitation to buy harder drugs; if you get caught, you’ll be punished. Since 2008 magic mushrooms have been banned in the Netherlands.
Spain also has pretty liberal laws regarding marijuana, although its use is usually reserved for private 'cannabis clubs'.
In Belgium the possession of up to 3g of cannabis is legal, but selling the drug isn’t, so if you get caught at the point of sale, you could be in trouble. Switzerland, Portugal, Ukraine, Malta, Luxembourg, Estonia, Austria and the Czech Republic have also decriminalised possession of marijuana, however, selling remains illegal.
Getting caught with drugs in some parts of Europe can lead to imprisonment. If in any doubt, err on the side of caution, and don’t even think about taking drugs across international borders.
Tourist offices usually provide free but fairly basic maps.
Road atlases are essential if you’re driving or cycling. Leading brands are Freytag & Berndt, Hallwag, Kümmerly + Frey, and Michelin.
Maps published by European automobile associations, such as Britain’s AA (www.theaa.co.uk) and Germany’s ADAC (www.adac.de), are usually excellent and sometimes free if membership of your local association gives you reciprocal rights.
ATMs are common; credit and debit cards are widely accepted.
Across major European towns and cities international ATMs are common, but you should always have a back-up option, as there can be glitches. In some remote areas ATMs might be scarce.
Much of Western Europe now uses a chip-and-pin system for added security. You will have problems if you don’t have a four-digit PIN and might have difficulties if your card doesn’t have a metallic chip. Check with your bank.
Always cover the keypad when entering your PIN and make sure there are no unusual devices attached to the machine, which can copy your card’s details or cause it to stick in the machine. If your card disappears and the screen goes blank before you’ve even entered your PIN, don’t enter it – especially if a ‘helpful’ bystander tells you to do so. If you can’t retrieve your card, call your bank’s emergency number, if you can, before leaving the ATM.
It’s a good idea to bring some local currency in cash, if only to cover yourself until you get to an exchange facility or find an ATM. The equivalent of €150 should usually be enough. Some extra cash in an easily exchanged currency is also a good idea, especially in Eastern Europe.
Visa and MasterCard/Eurocard are more widely accepted in Europe than Amex and Diners Club; Visa (sometimes called Carte Bleue) is particularly strong in France and Spain.
There are, however, regional differences in the general acceptability of credit cards; in Germany for example, it’s rare for restaurants to take credit cards. Cards are not widely accepted off the beaten track.
To reduce the risk of fraud, always keep your card in view when making transactions; for example, in restaurants that do accept cards, pay as you leave, following your card to the till. Keep transaction records and either check your statements when you return home or check your account online while on the road.
Letting your credit-card company know roughly where you’re going lessens the chance of fraud – or of your bank cutting off the card when it sees (your) unusual spending.
The euro, used in 19 EU states as well as four other non-EU states (Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City), is made up of 100 cents. Notes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500, though any notes above €50 are rarely used on a daily basis. Coins come in 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, €1 and €2.
Denmark, the UK and Sweden have held out against adopting the euro for political reasons, while non-EU nations, such as Albania, Belarus, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine also have their own currencies.
It’s always worthwhile having a Maestro-compatible debit card, which differs from a credit card in deducting money straight from your bank account. Check with your bank or MasterCard (Maestro’s parent) for compatibility.
Euros, US dollars and UK pounds are the easiest currencies to exchange. You may have trouble exchanging some lesser-known ones at small banks.
Importing or exporting some currencies is restricted or banned, so try to get rid of any local currency before you leave. Get rid of Scottish pounds before leaving the UK; nobody outside Britain will touch them.
Most airports, central train stations, big hotels and many border posts have banking facilities outside regular business hours, at times on a 24-hour basis. Post offices in Europe often perform banking tasks, tend to open longer hours and outnumber banks in remote places. While they always exchange cash, they might baulk at handling travellers cheques not in the local currency.
The best exchange rates are usually at banks. Bureaux de change usually – but not always – offer worse rates or charge higher commissions. Hotels and airports are almost always the worst places to change money.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
International bank transfers are good for secure one-off movements of large amounts of money, but they might take three to five days and there will be a fee (about £25 in the UK, for example). Be sure to specify the name of the bank, plus the sort code and address of the branch where you’d like to pick up your money.
In an emergency it’s quicker but more costly to have money wired via an Amex office (www.americanexpress.com), Western Union (www.westernunion.com) or MoneyGram (www.moneygram.com).
Taxes & Refunds
When non-EU residents spend more than a certain amount (around €75, but amounts vary from country to country) they can usually reclaim any sales tax when leaving the country.
Making a tax-back claim is straightforward. First make sure the shop offers duty-free sales (often a sign will be displayed reading ‘Tax-Free Shopping’). When making your purchase, ask the shop attendant for a tax-refund voucher, filled in with the correct amount and the date. This can be used to claim a refund directly at international airports, or stamped at ferry ports or border crossings and mailed back for a refund.
- 'Service charges’ are increasingly added to bills. In theory this means you’re not obliged to tip. In practice that money often doesn’t go to the server. Don’t pay twice. If the service charge is optional, remove it and pay a tip. If it's not optional, don’t tip.
- Tipping isn't such a big deal in Europe as it is say in North America. If you tip, 5% to 10% will usually suffice.
It’s become more difficult to find places that cash travellers cheques. In parts of Eastern Europe only a few banks handle them, and the process can be quite bureaucratic and costly.
That said, having a few cheques is a good back-up. If they’re stolen you can claim a refund, provided you have a separate record of cheque numbers.
Amex and Thomas Cook are reliable brands of travellers cheques, while cheques in US dollars, euros or British pounds are the easiest to cash. When changing them ask about fees and commissions, as well as the exchange rate.
Opening times vary significantly between countries. The following is a general overview.
Shops & businesses 9am–6pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm or 5pm Saturday. In smaller towns there may be a one- to two-hour closure for lunch. Some shops close on Sunday. Businesses also close on national holidays and local feast days.
Banks 9am to between 3pm and 5pm Monday to Friday. Occasionally shut for lunch.
Restaurants noon to midnight.
Bars 6pm to midnight or later.
Museums close Monday or (less commonly) Tuesday.
From major European centres, airmail typically takes about five days to North America and about a week to Australasian destinations, although mail from such countries as Albania or Russia is much slower.
Courier services such as DHL are best for essential deliveries.
There are large variations in statutory holidays in Europe. The following are the most common across the board.
New Year's Day 1 January
Good Friday March/April
Easter Sunday March/April
May Day 1 May
Christmas Day 25 December
- Smoking Forbidden in enclosed public places in most European countries although enforcement differs from country to country. Smoking is often allowed in designated areas outside bars and restaurants.
Europe uses the GSM 900 network. If you're coming from outside Europe it's worth buying a prepaid local SIM.
The phone number 112 can be dialled free for emergencies in all EU states. See individual countries for country-specific emergency numbers.
If your mobile phone is European, it’s often perfectly feasible to use it on roaming throughout the continent.
If you’re coming from outside Europe, it’s usually worth buying a prepaid local SIM in one European country. Even if you’re not staying there long, calls across Europe will still be cheaper if they’re not routed via your home country and the prepaid card will enable you to keep a limit on your spending. In several countries you need your passport to buy a SIM card.
In order to use other SIM cards in your phone, you'll need to have your handset unlocked by your home provider. Even if your phone is locked, you can use apps such as Whatsapp to send free text messages internationally wherever you have wi-fi access or Skype to make free international calls whenever you're online.
Europe uses the GSM 900 network, which also covers Australia and New Zealand, but is not compatible with the North American GSM 1900 or the totally different system in Japan and South Korea. If you have a GSM phone, check with your service provider about using it in Europe. You’ll need international roaming, but this is usually free to enable.
You can call abroad from almost any phone box in Europe. Public telephones accepting phonecards (available from post offices, telephone centres, news stands or retail outlets) are virtually the norm now; coin-operated phones are rare, if not impossible, to find.
Without a phonecard, you can ring from a telephone booth inside a post office or telephone centre and settle your bill at the counter. Reverse-charge (collect) calls are often possible. From many countries the Country Direct system lets you phone home by billing the long-distance carrier you use at home. These numbers can often be dialled from public phones without even inserting a phonecard.
Nearly all of Europe, with several exceptions (Russia, Belarus, Iceland), observes daylight saving time on synchronised dates in late March (clocks go forward an hour) and late October (clocks go back an hour).
- Britain, Ireland and Portugal (GMT)
- Central Europe (GMT plus one hour)
- Greece, Turkey and Eastern Europe (GMT plus two hours)
- Russia (GMT plus three hours)
Europe is divided into four time zones. From west to east:
UTC (Britain, Ireland, Portugal) GMT (GMT+1 in summer)
CET (the majority of European countries) GMT+1 (GMT+2 in summer)
EET (Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Kaliningrad, Finland) GMT+2 (GMT+3 in summer)
MSK (Russia) GMT+3 (GMT+4 in summer)
At 9am in Britain it’s 1am (GMT/UTC minus eight hours) on the US west coast, 4am (GMT/UTC minus five hours) on the US east coast, 10am in Paris and Prague, 11am in Athens, midday in Moscow and 7pm (GMT/UTC plus 10 hours) in Sydney.
Many public toilets require a small fee either deposited in a box or given to the attendant. Sit-down toilets are the rule in the vast majority of places. Squat toilets can still be found in rural areas, although they are definitely a dying breed.
Public-toilet provision is changeable from city to city. If you can’t find one, simply drop into a hotel or restaurant and ask to use theirs.
Unless otherwise indicated, tourist offices are common and widespread, although their usefulness varies enormously.
Travel with Children
Hidden in the huge labyrinth that is Europe, there are literally tonnes of things that will appeal to kids, youths and teenagers, especially if you're willing to look beyond the obvious (Disneyland Paris, Costa del Sol) and seek out the obscure (cycling in Normandy or horse riding on the west coast of Ireland).
It is hard to generalise about kid-friendliness in Europe. For more details, check the Lonely Planet website and search the specific countries you will be visiting.
My Little Nomads (www.mylittlenomads.com) Has a comprehensive list of family-friendly hotels plus plenty of other advice.
Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/family-travel) The website has regularly updated family travel information, articles and advice. There are also numerous kid's books including Not For Parents: Europe.
- Europe, in particular Mediterranean Europe, is very family-orientated. Expect waitstaff to ruffle your kid's hair and bank on seeing young children sitting around at family meals in restaurants until late.
- Nappies (diapers) are widely available; baby-changing facilities vary from country to country, but are generally pretty comprehensive.
- Baby formula and baby food are widely available in all European countries. However, brands differ. You might want to bring your own stash as back-up.
- For cheap rooms, check out Europe's hostels, many of which have at least one family room.
- Plan ahead and select a few preplanned big-ticket items aimed specifically at kids before you leave, such as Disneyland Paris or Legoland in Denmark.
- Don't write off the less obvious sights. Many of Europe's art galleries and iconic monuments give out kid's activity books that lay out special interactive itineraries for children.
- Hit a festival. Many European festivals have a strong family bias and have been entertaining children for centuries from Seville's Feria de Abril to France's Bastille Day.
- Most European countries have a pretty relaxed attitude to breastfeeding in public despite the fact that European women are less likely to breastfeed than women elsewhere.
- Cots are usually provided free of charge for young children in hotels on request. Reserve when booking.
- In the EU, some form of protective car seat must be used by all children under 1.35m (4ft 5 in). Check when booking a vehicle for seat availability.
Travellers with Disabilities
Cobbled medieval streets, ‘classic’ hotels, congested inner cities and underground subway systems make Europe a tricky destination for people with mobility impairments. However, the train facilities are good and some destinations boast new tram services or lifts to platforms. Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel. The following websites can help with specific details.
Accessible Europe (www.accessibleurope.com) Specialist European tours with van transport.
DisabledGo.com (www.disabledgo.com) Detailed access information for thousands of venues across the UK and Ireland.
Mobility International Schweiz (www.mis-ch.ch) Good site (only partly in English) listing ‘barrier-free’ destinations in Switzerland and abroad, plus wheelchair-accessible hotels in Switzerland.
Mobility International USA (www.miusa.org) Publishes guides and advises travellers with disabilities on mobility issues.
Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (SATH; www.sath.org) Reams of information for travellers with disabilities.
If you want to spend more time living and working in Europe, a short-term volunteer project might seem a good idea, say, teaching English in Poland or building a school in Turkey. However, most voluntary organisations levy high charges for airfares, food, lodging and recruitment (from about €250 to €800 per week), making such work impractical for most shoestringers. One exception is WWOOF International (www.wwoof.org), which helps link volunteers with organic farms in Germany, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the UK, Austria and Switzerland. A small membership fee is required to join the national chapter but in exchange for your labour you’ll receive free lodging and food.
For more information, Lonely Planet publishes Volunteer: A Traveller's Guide to Making a Difference Around the World.
- Women might attract unwanted attention in Turkey, rural Spain and southern Italy, especially Sicily, where many men view whistling and catcalling as flattery. Conservative dress can help to deter lascivious gazes and wolf whistles; dark sunglasses help avoid unwanted eye contact.
- Marriage is highly respected in southern Europe, and a wedding ring can help avoid unwanted attention, along with talk about ‘my husband’. Hitchhiking alone is not recommended anywhere.
- Female readers have reported assaults at Turkish hotels with shared bathrooms, so women travelling to Turkey might want to consider a more expensive room with private bathroom.
- Journeywoman (www.journeywoman.com) maintains an online newsletter about solo female travels all over the world.
EU citizens are allowed to work in any other EU country, but there can still be tiresome paperwork to complete. Other nationalities require special work permits that can be almost impossible to arrange, especially for temporary work. However, that doesn’t prevent enterprising travellers from topping up their funds by working in the hotel or restaurant trades at beach or ski resorts, or teaching a little English – and they don’t always have to do this illegally.
The UK, for example, issues special ‘Youth Mobility Scheme’ visas to citizens from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan aged between 18 and 30, valid for two years of work (see www.gov.uk/tier-5-youth-mobility/overview). Your national student-exchange organisation might be able to arrange temporary work permits to several countries.
If you have a grandparent or parent who was born in an EU country, you may have certain rights of residency or citizenship. Ask that country’s embassy about dual citizenship and work permits. With citizenship, also ask about any obligations, such as military service and residency. Beware that your home country may not recognise dual citizenship.
- Work Your Way Around the World by Susan Griffith gives practical advice.
- Typical tourist jobs (picking grapes in France, working at a bar in Greece) often come with board and lodging, and the pay is essentially pocket money, but you’ll have a good time partying with other travellers.
- Busking is fairly common in major European cities, but it’s illegal in some parts of Switzerland and Austria. Crackdowns even occur in Belgium and Germany, where it has been tolerated in the past. Some other cities, including London, require permits and security checks. Talk to other buskers first.
EuroJobs (www.eurojobs.com) Links to hundreds of organisations looking to employ both non-Europeans (with the correct work permits) and Europeans.
Natives (www.natives.co.uk) Summer and winter resort jobs, and various tips.
Picking Jobs (www.pickingjobs.com) Includes some tourism jobs.
Season Workers (www.seasonworkers.com) Best for ski-resort work and summer jobs, although it also has some childcare jobs.
Ski-jobs.co.uk (www.ski-jobs.co.uk) Mainly service jobs such as chalet hosts, bar staff and porters. Some linguistic skills required.
Most schools prefer a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate.
It is easier to find TEFL jobs in Eastern Europe than in Western Europe. The British Council (www.britishcouncil.org) can provide advice about training and job searches. Alternatively, try the big schools such as Berlitz (www.berlitz.com) and Wall Street English (www.wallstreetenglish.com).