Europe in the winter – 6 tips to travel well

Hi Frugalistas!

In this, the third part in my series of traveling to Europe in the winter, I look at traveling safely and how to get the most out of your trip.

1.  Dress warmly, but in layers

You will be outside a lot sightseeing and traveling from place to place.  If you aren’t used to snow and ice, don’t underestimate how cold it can be and cold you will get.  Also don’t underestimate how over-heated European interiors such as shops and museums can get.  Dress in layers, starting with thermals and work your way outwards.  See my previous post on dressing for Europe in the winter (complete with packing list) for more details.

The view from our hotel window, New Year Day, Berlin

The view from our hotel window, New Year Day, Berlin

2.  Allow extra time for traveling

Regardless of how you are traveling, do allow extra time to get from A to B.  Snow and ice can play havoc with travel times and even the highly efficient German and Swiss public transport systems can fall victim.  We were very fortunate traveling from Berlin to Frankfurt on New Years Day to catch our plane home.  Bad weather in the north of Germany caused all the trains to be running behind schedule and our train was over an hour late leaving Berlin.  Luckily we had allowed extra time and had booked an earlier train, so still arrived in Frankfurt in plenty of time for our flight, and with nerves still intact.  By car, roads can be closed or traffic slowed significantly.

Trabants not going anywhere in the snow

Trabants not going anywhere in the snow

3.  How should you travel around?

If you aren’t used to driving in the snow or on icy roads seriously consider whether you should hire a car or travel around by public transport.  If you come from somewhere where driving on the left is the norm, think really seriously……do you want to learn to drive on the right hand side of the road in bad weather?  Even my car-loving husband, who has driven in Europe before passed on the opportunity to drive on a German autobahn in December.

Plus, if it is snowy the view from the train is so stunning it seems a shame to be concentrating on the road…….

No one misses out on the stunning European scenery if you go by train

No one misses out on the stunning European scenery if you go by train

4.  Christmas Day and Public Holidays

Work out where you are going to spend Christmas Day and where you are going to eat well in advance (sorry if you’re just reading this and haven’t done anything!)   A lot of restaurants will be closed, hotel restaurants may be closed, fully booked or have (expensive) meals that day.

If you have the opportunity staying in an apartment and cooking may be be an option.

Also make sure you work out public holidays around Christmas and New Year for your destination – sights may be closed, so take those days into account when planning your itinerary.  In addition, many shops and restaurants, even in large cities such as Paris will close for a number of days over Christmas as owners take a few days off.

5.  Check up to date opening hours for tourist sights

In winter many tourist sights will operate on reduced hours.  Some will be closed on certain days, and others will be closed altogether.  Check websites or call ahead to confirm opening days and hours.  While reduced opening hours can be a pain, the lack of queues and crowds once you get inside makes visiting even the busiest tourist destinations a joy in winter.

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6.  Make the most of Christmas and winter offerings

That means Christmas markets obviously, but also Christmas lights, the Christmas windows in large department stores, ice skating and all manner of Christmas/winter offerings.  Fireworks on New Years Eve are pretty much everywhere, and make sure you eat your share of the Christmas and winter delicacies on offer.

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Traveling in winter is a bit different, but is also incredibly beautiful and enjoyable.  Plan ahead, think about what you are doing, and enjoy!

 

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7 Comments on “Europe in the winter – 6 tips to travel well”

  1. Frey 09/12/2012 at 10:29 pm #

    great post, thanks for the tips

  2. SaritaAgerman 11/12/2012 at 9:02 am #

    Really helpful. I once had a disastrous experience in Frankfurt as I hadn’t prepared for such cold weather and heavy snow. Thanks for sharing

    saritaagerman.blogspot.it

  3. Pretraveller 26/12/2012 at 11:27 am #

    Jo, thanks for a very useful post. I still remember by first solo trip overseas to Europe in winter, and your tips cover off on many of the things I recall.

    My only additional tip is to also look at dates when you plan to travel on public transport – Christmas Eve and New Years Day can be bedlam as a lot of the locals will have that period off, so try to avoid travelling on these dates.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 26/12/2012 at 3:22 pm #

      Thanks, Anne, yes I agree – any public holiday can be a pain for public transport, regardless of when and where you are travelling.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  4. laurandrewss 02/07/2013 at 2:35 pm #

    Reblogged this on .

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Europe in the winter – 6 tips to travel well – Itarod, here we come – A Day Trip to the Great Wall | Aussie in France - 11/01/2013

    […] You will be outside a lot sightseeing and traveling from place to place.  If you aren’t used to snow and ice, don’t underestimate how cold it can be and cold you will get.  Also don’t underestimate how over-heated European interiors such as shops and museums can get.  Dress in layers, starting with thermals and work your way outwards.  See my previous post on dressing for Europe in the winter (complete with packing list) for more details. Read more […]

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