Each time I travel to Europe is just as exciting as the last. There is always somewhere new to visit, a favourite destination to return to and lots and lots of travel tips to learn! I'm always interested to see if things have changed since previous visits, too. There are many long standing traditions and habits that are still practised today but sometimes you notice changing trends. I jotted down some observations from my recent trip which might be useful for you to know when planning your European holiday.
Fellow diners greeted us when we sat at the next table to them at restaurants which was a nice gesture.
At restaurants we often found it hard to get the bill – there never seemed to be any hurry to collect our money.
Most restaurants have a cover charge (Coperto) with the average charge around EUR2 per person.
In Sud Tirol/Alto Adige (which has a strong Austrian heritage), it’s common to see the staff wearing the traditional outfits of dirndls and lederhosen.
Prices for a cappuccino ranged from €1.50 to €5, depending on where we were, with €2.50 or €3 the most common price.
Germany and Austria (and Sud Tirol)
Waitresses carry a money purse and give change at the table, often adding up the bill in their head.
Other dining observations
- ‘House wine’ throughout Europe is generally very cheap and of a good quality. It’s usually served by the glass and in ¼ (sometimes), ½ and 1 litre carafes.
- A glass of beer or wine is often cheaper than a glass of soft drink or juice.
- You’ll always be offered water – still or sparkling – with your meal at a restaurant. It will be served by the bottle (1/2 or 1 litre) and you will be charged for it.
- You’ll hardly visit a café/restaurant in Europe that doesn’t have olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the table, and most provide bread.
- You rarely order a meal at the counter – table service is the norm, even at outdoor cafes.
- Smoking at outdoor tables at cafes/restaurants is still common despite laws that ban it in some countries.
We paid €1.17 per litre for diesel in France and €1.42 per litre in Italy.
Drivers are generally very good and we encountered no horn tooting, fist waving or road rage.
We saw cars parked in some interesting spots – on footpaths, on pedestrian crossings and even in the middle of a T-intersection – we watched while the driver went to the ATM!!
We encountered the most Aussie and American tourists at the Cinque Terre and Lake Como where it seemed that every second voice you heard was an English-speaker. In the other places we visited – Languedoc, Provence, Piedmont, Lake Garda, the Dolomites and the Greek island of Kos – we hardly heard an Australian accent and there appeared to be very few English and American tourists.
Most places in Europe seemed a lot quieter this year and some accommodation owners we spoke to confirmed this.
We were surprised at the popularity of card games on our travels this year. We saw groups of teenagers on the Cinque Terre playing cards whilst sun baking (no phones in sight!) and there were also numerous couples and families playing cards by the pool at our resort on Kos.
In Italy you’ll get a receipt for every single purchase – even a single piece of fruit or bread roll. This is a nuisance but Italian law states that if you are asked (by the finance police) to show a receipt for your purchase and you can’t, you can be fined.
If you plan on visiting popular tourist spots like the Cinque Terre, avoid travelling in late July and August. The crowds in early July were bad enough - I can't imagine how packed the trains would be in the 'busy' months.
After a previous visit to Europe I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article titled "How to be European in 8 easy steps".
Like to know more about my 2015 European travels through France, Italy and Greece? I wrote a blog post (with photos) about each place we visited in Europe.