Some facts about Europe and The Middle East
- Europe is a beautiful continent and has always been the most favoured tourist destination in the world.
- Travelling to Europe will provide you with a wide array of diversity, and cosmopolitan cities combined with astonishing scenery. In fact, Europe has world famous tourist spots spread all over in countries like France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Switzerland and UK.
- The largest travel hubs of Europe include Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London and Paris. These travel hubs are well connected to all other major tourist destinations of Europe. There are many budget airlines that offer very cheap flights to Europe.
- If you plan to travel from cities like Beijing, Moscow or Vladivostok, it is advisable to travel by Rail through world renowned Trans-Siberian railway. Use Eurail passes if you plan to travel extensively around Europe. Travel by using Eurail is more beneficial than travel by cheap plane tickets because Eurail is connected to major tourist destinations of Europe in Austria, Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. However, Eurail passes are not honoured in Britain. You may want to know that many cities in Europe are so close together that flying hardly makes sense after we factor in the time spent getting to and from the airports, check-in time, etc.
- Be prepared for sensory overload as Europe is regarded as a historical, cultural and geographical heavyweight that squares up confidently to any other continent on earth. It is rich with extraordinary wealth of sights, sounds, peoples and parties. Europe is the continent that leads the world in fashion, art, music, architecture and design. This is evidenced by seeing those street styles and music scenes of London and Berlin, the ground-breaking design in Antwerp, Copenhagen and Stockholm or the amazing displays of contemporary art or just about most of the places of interest, tourist attractions, places to see and places to visit in Europe if not all that you travel to.
- Travel in Europe is not always about the dazzling sights and world-famous museums, rather the range of different people of all nationalities you’ll meet along the way.
- December is always busy in locations such as Paris, Prague and any Austrian or German city with a quaint Christmas market. Easter is another busy time. In some countries, such as France and Italy, many shops and restaurants are closed in August that cause some cities feel rather dead. In fact, the best months to travel in Europe are in May, June and September.
Travel tips to help you stay on budget:
- Buddy up – Finding a travel partner will help you save in accommodation costs.
- Spend more time East – Where the living is also cheaper.
- Buying a rail pass – If you’re travelling extensively in expensive Western countries, it helps to save money by using InterRail pass if you are a European or Eurail if you are a visitor or a tourist. In general, local fares and deals are cheaper for quick trips and in Eastern Europe.
- Take overnight trains – Sleeping in your seat or couchette on longer trips will help to save on a night’s lodging.
- Hand wash clothes – Do your laundry in hostel or hotel, even hostels or hotels that forbid it don’t usually notice it.
- Invest in a phone card – This will be the cheaper alternative for calling home or within Europe.
- Know which currency to use – Some countries, e.g. Denmark, Great Britain, Greece, Sweden, and Switzerland, although form part of the European Union, but are not part of the monetary union, meaning that they still use their own currency, as such a euro will cost about US$1.50 whereas a British pound cost a little over US$2.
- Eat cheap – To avoid tipping, you should buy food from street stalls or eat at informal, self-service places.
- Look up old mates – In this respect, don’t be shy about being a guest of friends or friends of friends living in the countries you’re visiting. However, do remember to wash the dishes.
- Taxi Fare – Ask taxi driver what the approximate fare will be before getting in to avoid being ripped off as a tourist, especially in Czech Republic and Slovakia. Also asking for a receipt might discourage a taxi driver to charge you an enormous fare, as the receipt could be used for complaining.
- Become a couch surfer – Join www.couchsurfing.com, where residents let travellers stay with them for free.
- Head for the countryside – Where the living is much cheaper.
- Reserve a car before leave home – This will help you get the best car-rental rates.
- Middle East is one of the world’s most fascinating and rewarding travel destinations. It was here where the three great monotheistic religions, i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam were born.
- The Middle East is home to some of the world’s most significant cities, i.e. Jerusalem, Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad and Istanbul.
- The landscapes of The Middle East are equally spellbinding, from the unrivalled seas of sand dunes and palm-fringed lakes in Libya’s Sahara desert to the stunning mountains of the north and the underwater world of the Red Sea.
- The people are welcoming, kind and friendly.
- Most of the Middle East is best visited in autumn and spring (September to November and March to May). December and January can be fairly bleak and overcast everywhere in the region; even in southern Egypt and Libya night-time desert temperatures can be bitterly cold while the summer months of June through to September should definitely be avoided as it’s just too hot to do anything. There are exceptions, for instance, the northeast of Turkey before May or after mid-October can be beset by snow, which can sometimes cause the roads and mountain passes to be closed; on the other hand, parts of Syria and northern Iran suffer from miserable weather between November and March or April.
- When planning a trip to the Middle East, the two main things visitors and tourists need to bear in mind are the weather and the religious holidays. In Israel, Muslim sites are closed to tourists on Friday, the Muslim holy day; whereas Jewish religious sites, and some museums and historical sites are closed on midday Friday and remain closed through Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath). Avoid planning your trip during Ramadan as it will be extremely difficult to find businesses open or even some means of transportation.
- Libya, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Territories aside, travel in the Middle East is considered cheap. The accommodation, meals and transport (apart from flying) are the cheapest items. A student card with you shall reduce the entrance fees to museums as well.
- Markets like Jerusalem’s Old City souk are full of local colour, with exotic spices, fresh-baked delicacies, embroidered dresses, tourist baubles, and more. Try to avoid buying gold, silver, gemstones, and antiquities in bazaars, this is because things are not always what they seem and promised, further prices fluctuate wildly. Always bargain with half of the offer price when do your shopping in the souk.
- Travelling with a mixture of travellers’ cheques, cash and credit cards is the wisest way to stay liquid in the Middle East. However, credit card is of no use in Iran and little use in Libya. As for credit cards, Visa, MasterCard and Amex are the most popular. Also, it is possible to get cash advances on credit cards in several countries in the region including Egypt.
- Tipping, also called ‘baksheesh’ in Middle East is expected in varying degrees in all Middle Eastern countries. Don’t be intimidated into paying baksheesh for simple things such as from opening doors to pointing out the obvious in museums when you don’t think the service warrants it, but remember that more things warrant baksheesh in Middle Eastern countries than anywhere in the West.
- ATMs – Most of the larger banks in the region (with the exception of those in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya) now have ATMs linked up to one of the international networks like MasterCard/Cirrus, Visa/Plus or GlobalAccess systems. In fact, many machines will also take bank-issued cash cards, i.e. the ones that you use at home to withdraw money directly from your bank account. Make sure you remember your PIN (personal identification number), and it’s also a good idea to check out what sort of transaction fees you’re likely to incur from both your own bank and the banks whose machines you’ll be using while you travel.
…with its many tourist attractions, places of interest, interesting places to visit and to see, you’ll find Europe and The Middle East a region worth a visit.