Book a Tour
Tours are not necessarily for everyone, some people are happy to travel and explore on their own. Good for them, whoever they are. For most of us however, especially first-time travellers, the prospect of travelling to another country, where you don’t speak the language, have no local knowledge or first-hand experience of, can be somewhat daunting. One of the best parts of doing a tour is that it offers you peace of mind. Having your logistics taken care of is an immense relief as this is often one of the most stressful parts about travelling overseas.
Tour guides are also veritable sponges of local knowledge. They can offer you invaluable advice not just on great local places to eat, drink and visit, but also inform you of the rich history and culture of the places you visit.
Not to mention they can offer you tips and tricks and wonderful little nuggets of wisdom you never would have known otherwise, for instance, did you know there are actually 6 different entrances to the louvre?
The two main tour companies for young people are of course Contiki and Topdeck. No matter where you want to go, what your budget is or how long you want to travel for, I guarantee that out of the plethora of options available through these two companies you will be able to find a tour you are happy with.
Tours are also great if you are travelling solo like I was. It gives you an opportunity to meet people and make friends. I made some awesome friends on my trip and there was lots of other guys and girls travelling solo as well. But even if you are travelling with a friend or a group, you may also enjoy the experience of meeting new people. After all spending 24/7 with the same people can often drive even the most patient of person a little nuts. It’s good to mix it up and mingle with others a bit. Ultimately the hardest part of a tour is fighting your hangover and making it onto the bus on time on your drive days.
2. Book activities in advance
When you can, I would also advice to book some of your activities in advance. I booked my entrance into the Palace of Versailles and my transport arrangements from Paris and back before I left and when I got there I was bloody glad that I did. The line looked like it was stretching into outer space. I definitely believe that you should leave room for some spontaneity in your trip, but if there is something that you are absolutely desperate to see (for me that was Versailles) and you are on a limited time frame, than I definitely think it’s worth it to plan ahead and book in advance. Major attractions like the Vatican and the Sagrada Familia give you the option to pre book. Vivator is a great site where you can book tones of activities and tours and the app has extensive reviews and descriptions.
3. Get used to paying for things you don’t back home
Travelling abroad can be an enlightening experience in many ways, for one it can illuminate the profound privilege we enjoy back home in Oz, one such privilege is the liberty to use a public bathroom without paying for it. That’s right, in Europe and other parts of the world public bathrooms are not free. It’s not exactly expensive, the going rate to use the loo usually comes in under a Euro so it’s definitely essential to have some change on you at all times. Tipping is also big in Europe particularly in restaurants and cafes. Sometimes your bill will come with a tip included, you don’t have to be too daunted by the idea of tipping, typically a couple extra euros per person is considered acceptable. Also there’s no such thing as free table water in Europe.
4. Download city maps 2 go
This little app saved my life! I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you are like me and have absolutely no sense of direction and are inept at reading maps than fear not, all you need is this app and you can get yourself anywhere and I do mean anywhere! In fact I still use this to get myself around Sydney and virtually anywhere I’ve not been before. City maps to go enables you to download maps offline so you can access GPS when you are out and about and not drain you spending budget dry by racking up a colossal phone bill. That’s another thing, remember to switch your roaming off or you could end up with a horrifyingly expensive phone bill.
You are entitled to one free map when you download the app. You can get a subscription for $15 a month and download as many maps as you like, which is of course helpful if you are travelling all over Europe. Or if you are a scab like me you can delete and reinstall the app as you travel to each new city.
Things to bring I wish I had remembered
For some reason I was dead set against brining a travel pillow. Maybe because they always reminded me of that scene in New York Minute, where one of the Olson twins pisses of the guy next to her by inflating her bright pink travel pillow in his face. For whatever reason I didn’t bring one and lived to regret it. The 26 hour flight there and back was a long one and I barely slept a wink. Not to mention I think I was the only one on the bus who didn’t have one. I eventually bought one in a servo station somewhere and it was like resting on a cloud.
Portable phone charger
This was something I honestly didn’t think of until after I left. When you are out and about all day, especially if you are using your app to get around you really do need to be able to recharge your phone.
You may laugh at this but let me tell you there are few things more frustrating in life then buying a bottle of wine and then not being able to drink it! It’s an experience that I do not intend on repeating, from now on I never travel without a corkscrew.
Even if you are going in the middle of summer like I did no place on earth is impervious to rain. So always plan for wet weather.