For those in the green-age group today, Europe is the most popular place for travelling. First of all, in terms of languages, it is easier to communicate. Secondly during our youthful days, we came across a lot of books and movies based on European history and backgrounds. This kind of familiarity reduces the discomfort which comes naturally with the visiting of a new place. A lot of retired persons have developed the habit of checking on the internet from time to time for air ticket and hotel packages with the best value and form among themselves small groups of friends for a holiday in Europe for a few weeks.
No matter we are visiting a country which we are more familiar with, such as England, France or Italy, or countries in the Northern or Eastern Europe which are becoming quite popular, it is always good to consider building in some flexibility which we don’t usually find in organized tours offered by travel agencies. For example, we can have varying starting time in the day, a more appropriate mode of transportation, selective sightseeing sites and menus. This kind of flexibility varies according to the number of persons participating in the group and their level of mobility. Sometimes these factors determine the distance of our destinations as the weather and duration of the stay dictate the things we need to pack. The number of times needed to pack and unpack and to move our luggage up and down is something those in the green-age group ought to consider.
In Europe, apart from having “point-to-point” travelling, i.e. travelling from one city to another, we may also consider taking cruises. Whether it is a cruise on the Mediterranean Sea or on River Rhine, there is the opportunity to visit different historical sites and re-walk the trail paths of ancient heroes or heroines. However one must bear in mind that the time allowed to stay in each of these places is limited and passengers are often required to return to the vessel before dusk.
There is a new option of using a “spa hotel”, instead of a cruise ship, as a base for exploring interesting places in the surrounding area during daytime. This option is becoming quite popular recently as all three meals are often included in the hotel packages which are generally quite reasonable. These spa hotels are also supported by public transport to allow their guests to visit neighbouring towns and villages. Visitors can have much more flexibility in determining their own travel plans.
If one does not like to stay in a hotel, there is also the option of renting apartments or houses in big cities on a short-term lease (usually minimum 3 days) through agencies. These residences often provide varied number of bedrooms with fully equipped kitchen, bathrooms, etc., which are most suitable for families.
Similar residences remodeled from farm houses are also available. This type of residences is much cheaper but they may be located in more remote areas, so there may be a need to drive. It offers the largest flexibility so is quite a good option.
Some travel agencies organize packaged tours for elderly persons. A lot of such tours are put on the market in autumn usually around the Chung Yeung period. These tours are tailor-made for persons over the age of 50 and are therefore more relaxed in terms of itinerary and some are accompanied by qualified medical practitioners.
This page, apart from giving Tips on Touring in Europe
, also provides information on Self-Arranged Tours
Tips on Touring in Europe
1. The best season to tour in Europe: May to July; September to November
The weather is not too hot or too cold during these periods no matter in the southern or northern parts of Europe. June to July is usually the sales period in most shops, while August is the month when most people in Europe go on holiday. The looming of visitors pushes up the hotel charges and air fares and makes it difficult to make any booking, so do avoid August.
2. Never forget to bring a jacket when travelling in Europe
There is always glorious sunshine during a summer day in Europe, but the weather can drop drastically after dark especially when there is rain. For Hong Kongers who are accustomed to hot summers, having a woolen or warm jacket in hand is almost a must. Layers are the best way to dress in Europe.
- Must be watchful of any strangers coming near you. They could be thieves who could approach you in groups with skilful tactics. When you walk, also be alert of things happening around you as you may be robbed.
- Keep your passport and valuable items inside a small bag tied or hung close to your body. Keep the bag in the front and take it with you wherever you go. Do not ask others to keep an eye on your bag as it is not fair to other people.
- For those bags which do not contain valuable items, they should also be well guarded. Otherwise it would only invite unnecessary attention.
- In Italy there are thieves who pretend to be policemen and they may ask you to open your wallet for checking if you carry any fake notes or drugs. They may take your money while checking.
- When taking a taxi, check beforehand how the charges will be computed. In Rome, there are “pirate taxis” which charge their passengers at a much higher rate.
- In Italy single women should guard themselves against harassment. They can simply ignore any approaches and move away quickly.
4. Airport and customs
- Do bring along some snacks when travelling on planes or buses as meal time could be delayed.
- Stay close to your luggage as it is an established practice in European airports to blow open any unattended baggage.
- Check the customs law in Europe as excessive quantity of certain items are required to be reported to Customs. Report honestly if there is a need to do so.
- Travellers entering or leaving EU countries and carrying €10,000 or more in cash (or the equivalent in other currencies) are required to declare.
- In accordance with international law many countries strictly ban the importation of any goods or souvenirs made of or with ivory.
- Travellers must have proof that they have enough money to cover the costs for the duration of their stay (not less than €34 a day).
- It is courtesy to greet the shop keeper when walking into a shop whether you are going to buy anything or not.
- Not all shops accept credit cards, so it is better to have some cash in hand, preferably in smaller dominations, and also keep some coins of 1 to 2 Euro for tipping, getting the trolley, using the toilet, etc.
- In Eastern Europe, get a proper receipt for every art items you purchase for presentation at the Customs as export of valuable art items is under strict control.
6. Transportation within city
- Passengers to open the car doors of underground trains
Most of the underground trains, or even buses or trams require the passengers to open the doors of the cars by themselves. This is different from the practice in Hong Kong so passengers must make sure that they open the car doors in a timely manner to avoid missing the right stops.
- Pedestrians have right of way on the streets but must follow the traffic lights
Pedestrians in Europe have right of way. If you are driving in Europe and you see from a distance that someone is walking towards the zebra crossing, you must slow down and allow the pedestrian to cross the road completely. If you are the pedestrian, you must check the traffic carefully and cross the road when any approaching car has completely stopped. It is courtesy to nod to the driver of the stopped car who will be happy to wait until you have crossed the road. We must also bear in mind that only the cars in the UK and Ireland are driven on the left side of the road. All others drive on the right side.
7. Portable WIFI
Mobile phones have become an essential item in our everyday life. It is useful to have a portable WIFI with you so that access to WhatsApp, Skype is possible without having to wait until you step into a hotel or restaurant. In recent years, it has been popular to rent wifi eggs
, which are convenient to carry and affordable.However it is necessary to check the capacity of the WIFI service and how it would be charged for usage exceeding the permitted limit.
8. Respect no-photography restrictions
Some palaces, churches and galleries do not allow photos to be taken or flash light to be used. Please respect these restrictions.
1. Train tickets
Travelling on trains is very easy in Europe and pre-booking of train tickets is available online. Passport information is required for advance booking of tickets. Seats are designated for passengers. Even if you are not sitting next to your companion, you should not use other passenger’s seat unless with his/her permission. When travelling across different countries, please check beforehand the visa requirements in these countries to ensure that you have the necessary entry visas before travelling. You may book the tickets through Eurorail
, Rail Europe
or the major train companies in each country.
For booking of ordinary hotel rooms, you may browse through major hotel booking websites such as Tripadvisor
, etc. It is necessary to check the location of the hotel, provision of WIFI (charged or free), double bed or twin beds, etc. Charges for the same room could vary according to cancelation policy. If interested in short-term leased residences, may try onefinestay
, or gites-de-france
for farm houses. Those who prefer youth hostels may try Hostelworld
but should note that most youth hostels do not provide safety boxes. You also should check if you need to bring along your own pillows and bed sheets, and also the number of beds in each room and whether men and women are in separate rooms, etc.
3. Self-help travel packages
Quite a number of travel agencies in Hong Kong offer self-help travel packages. Do check it out among the agencies you are familiar with.