Try Texture for free
Start Free Trial
Masthead
Upgrade: travel smarter

Traveling To Europe In 2017

Thanks to cheaper airfares and favorable exchange rates, Europe is more accessible than ever. These tips will help you get the most out of your next excursion.


Illustrations by Luci Gutiérrez
5 min

5 Things to Know Now

A CHEAPER BRITAIN
After Britons voted last year to split from the European Union, the pound sterling plummeted. While it could take until 2019 to fully cut ties, travelers will find the U.K. more affordable than it has been in decades. Many hotel properties are offering discounts to lure guests.
HEIGHTENED SECURITY
The U.S. State Department has issued a Worldwide Caution, asking travelers to "exercise vigilance" in the wake of repeated terror attacks. Expect longer lines at airport security screenings and border-control checkpoints. Check travel.state.gov before your trip.
FEWER TOURISTS
Despite favorable exchange rates, terrorism has had an impact on the number of visitors to Belgium and Turkey. Though France saw a dip in visitors after attacks in Paris and Nice, it has bounced back and remains the most popular destination in the world.
CONTINENTAL DRIFT
While tourism growth across much of Western Europe was flat in 2016, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, several countries in the east enjoyed double-digit gains in visitors, including Bulgaria, Serbia, and Slovenia. Leading the way, however, was Slovakia, which saw a jump of 18 percent, thanks in part to Bratislava's fairy-tale buildings, charming squares, and Baroque castle. The city's revitalized Old Town is a buzzing hot spot, with younger travelers drawn to its cafés and old-school beer halls.
MORE ROUTES AND CONNECTIONS
There are 395 new ways to fly to Spain, which last year added the most new airline routes in Europe. Virgin Atlantic now has nonstop flights between Seattle and London, and Condor and British Airways recently began service between New Orleans and London—the former city's first transatlantic flight option in three decades. Check out "The Cheapest Ways to Get to Europe" for details on fares as low as $70 each way.
—Melanie Lieberman

How to See Europe by Rail

Booking train tickets online can be confusing and time-consuming. We'll help put you on the right track.

BY CHRISTOPHER TKACZYK

Though rail travel isn't as flexible as renting a car, it can be far less stressful—and far less of a hassle than flying, especially given the increased security measures at airports. The hardest part is navigating the booking sites, since there's no one-stop shopping. The state-run systems all have different rules for fare classes, changes, and cancellations. Also, some require riders to have a paper ticket, which must be mailed to you, though many now offer e-tickets that can be presented to conductors via your smartphone. "Booking rail travel in Europe can be a complicated beast," says Prashanth Kuchibhotla, director of strategy and business development for rail at Expedia. "It's possible to navigate the websites and figure it out slowly, but it's not very straightforward." Eventually, Expedia aims to become the go-to source for train itineraries, but for now you'll have to hop around to multiple sites. Here are a few tips to make sure your plans don't go off the rails.

Book in Advance

"If you don't book in advance, you're not going to get the time and day you want," warns travel agent Marc Kazlauskas, a member of T+L's Travel Advisory Board. High-speed trains, such as the TGV, Eurostar, and Le Frecce, often sell out weeks ahead of time. Plus, many of the European rail operators use a dynamic pricing system, including early-bird fares.

Where to Buy

U.S.-based Rail Europe (raileurope.com/european-trains) has a site with maps and schedules for more than 50 different train companies organized by type, such as premier high-speed and express trains. But the site charges steep fees to book. Often the cheapest option is to book directly with the rail operator in the country you plan to visit.

Passes

Each country sells its own passes, but the universal ones sold by Eurail (eurail.com) are the easiest to buy online (take note of restrictions and rules). Global Passes for five or more countries start at $339, while Select Passes for travelers visiting two to four neighboring countries start at $145. There are also single-country passes from $67.

Use an Agent

If the thought of studying timetables on multiple websites overwhelms you, consider hiring a Europe-savvy travel specialist to handle the logistics. Kazlauskas says, "There are a ton of third-party websites that will gouge you with extra fees, but an agent will do the digging for you to get the best price." Find agents at travelandleisure.com/a-list.


The Cheapest Ways To Get To Europe

Thanks to fierce competition among a growing number of budget airlines, rock-bottom flights to Europe are now a reality. Here's where to find them.

LEVEL

This carrier launches in June with flights between Barcelona and Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. One-way fares start at $149, with extra fees for seat assignments, checked bags, and food. flylevel.com.

NORWEGIAN AIR

After a $65 launch sale, Norwegian began offering bargain $139 transatlantic flights from Stewart International Airport (located 60 miles north of New York City) and from Providence, R.I., to Ireland and the U.K. norwegian.com.

WOW AIR

The Iceland-based airline recently offered $70 tickets from Boston, San Francisco, and Miami to a handful of European cities, including Berlin and London. Next month it begins flying from Chicago to Reykjavík. wowair.us.


The Best Low-Cost Airlines

Once you've booked your transatlantic flight, these low-cost independent carriers make it easy to jet around Europe on a budget. Here's what you need to know.

BY ERIC ROSEN

10 Great Apps for Travelers to Europe

If you're planning to hit the U.K., Ireland, or the Continent this summer, these handy—and (mostly) free—apps can help.

Onefinestay
This lodging app curates posh apartments and homes in London, Paris, and Rome. It also presents suggestions for local restaurants and attractions as well as essential information such as the nearest ATM or hospital. onefinestay.com.
Pretty Streets
This app serves up detailed walking itineraries through Dublin, London, and Paris's most captivating streets, boulevards, and avenues. Easy-to-follow maps can be customized to adjust the length of your walk. pretty-streets.com.
Fly Europe
Use this app to score the cheapest airfares to and within Europe. In addition to comparing ticket prices for major airlines and smaller carriers, it searches fares from more than a dozen sites, such as Vayama, Expedia, and eDreams. airwaysbooking.com.
GoEuro
This comprehensive travel tool allows you to search and book flights, trains, and buses in 12 different countries across Europe. Travelers can access options from 3,000-plus airports and more than 80,000 rail and bus stations. goeuro.com.
Spotted by Locals
This app is loaded with guides to more than two dozen European cities. Local writers and photographers regularly update their dining and activity suggestions. Each city guide costs $3.99—and it's more than worth it. spottedbylocals.com.
TheFork
TheFork has more than 30,000 restaurants in 10 European countries. Each listing has helpful user reviews, photos, and sample menu items. It also offers a loyalty program and in-app discounts of up to 50 percent at select restaurants. thefork.com.
Michelin Travel
The Michelin Guide is revered as the Holy Bible of hospitality in Europe. The company's app curates the best restaurants, hotels, and attractions—travelers can even make bookings for the listings directly from their phones. travelguide.michelin.com.
Citymapper
This navigation tool displays public-transit info, such as cost and live departure times of buses and trains. It will even tell you the best section of the train to find a seat. Use the Share ETA function to let friends follow your route in real time. citymapper.com.
Monument Tracker
Learn about well-known monuments and hidden historic gems in 60 cities. Although the app has preset itineraries, sticking to them isn't necessary: it uses your GPS to alert you to nearby sights. monument-tracker.com.
TripLingo
Any language app will give you common key phrases in the local tongue, but there's nothing that will make you feel more insider-y than learning slang and informal words. One of our favorite features is the instant voice translator. triplingo.com.

*All apps are free and available for Android and iOS unless otherwise noted.


Tipping 101

Unlike in the U.S., tipping is not always expected in Europe. Take these steps to avoid causing offense—or spending needlessly—during your stay.

BY SHIVANI VORA
RESTAURANTS

Always check your bill: if a service charge has been included, no additional gratuity is necessary. Otherwise, a 10 percent tip is seen as generous in most European countries. Bring cash—some restaurants won't allow a gratuity to be added to a credit card purchase.

HOTELS

If a porter helps with your luggage, it's customary to offer one or two euros (or the local equivalent) per bag. Concierges who attend to special requests should also be recognized with 10 to 20 euros. Additionally, tipping housekeeping staff a few euros at the end of your stay is appreciated but not expected.

TAXIS

Universally, taxi drivers do not anticipate tips, though rounding up to the next euro is standard.

OTHER SERVICES

It is routine to tip tour guides a few euros for a job well done. Hairstylists and spa technicians in the U.K., France, and Germany are used to a gratuity of 5 to 10 percent, whereas those in most Scandinavian countries are not.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Ultimately, use discretion: if you are happy with a service, offer a few euros. And, when in doubt, simply ask a local. Your hotel manager or concierge can also be an indispensable resource.