Plenty of Aussies head to Europe for a holiday every year, many for the first time. But there are several myths about travelling on the continent that you need to know about before you arrive. Here are eight of the biggest myths about travelling in Europe, busted.
Trains are always a better bet than buses
Train travel is one of Europe's major joys, with rail tracks stretching across the continent and fast, regular services as standard. But that doesn't mean it's always better. There are often cases where cities are poorly connected to each other by train, meaning you have to go the long way round via another city.
Segovia to Salamanca in Spain is a good example here – the quickest rail route between them involves doubling back and going through Madrid. But a coach service with a quick change in Avila takes far less time.
Other areas have either crushingly slow trains – such as Sicily – or none at all – such as the Albanian, Montenegrin and Croatian coast. It's always worth searching to see whether the bus might be a better bet.
British trains are always expensive
British trains justifiably have a horrendous reputation for being expensive. In most countries, the difference between the online advance purchase price and the rock-up price is fairly minimal. Similarly, off-peak trains don't cost all that much less than peak time trains.
In the UK, it is different, ruthlessly driven by supply and demand. And somewhat savage. For example, a walk-up fare from London to Edinburgh train before 9.30am costs £140.50. Buying online the day before costs a minimum of £81.50, and buying four weeks in advance costs £66.50. But advance-booked tickets for trains leaving after 9.30am can cost a far more reasonable £41. Planning ahead is pretty essential…
Train tickets are hard to buy
Many travellers end up buying arguably overpriced rail passes for simplicity's sake, assuming that buying individual tickets can be too tricky. This is partly due to not knowing the right websites – each country's railway network tends to have its own site. This includes Deutsche Bahn (bahn.de) in Germany, Trenitalia (Trenitalia.com) in Italy and Renfe (renfe.com). But a basic search for the name of the country with "trains" or "rail" should bring up the right site.
More importantly, almost all of these sites have an English language option, with the tickets either printable or available to pick up at the station for no extra cost. There's no need to get them posted out.
Budget airlines are always cheaper than traditional carriers
The likes of Easyjet, Ryanair and Wizzair can often offer great deals, sure – but it's a mistake to think they'll always be the value bet. Full service airlines have had to drop their prices (and arguably their service standards) to compete. For example, picking a random date in December, British Airways flights from London to Athens cost a few euros less than Ryanair and Easyjet's options.
The same theory can be applied to the likes of KLM, TAP Portugal, Iberia and Lufthansa – it's worth looking at a price comparison site such as Skyscanner (skyscanner.net) before plumping for the low cost carrier flight.
Everywhere uses the euro
The idea of only having to change your Aussie dollars once goes to pot once you step out of the Eurozone. 25 European countries use the euro as their currency, but there are some notable holdouts. The UK is the most well-known of these, but you'll also have to use zlotys in Poland, francs in Switzerland, crowns in the Czech Republic, krona in Sweden and forints in Hungary.
Restaurants are smoke-free
Anti-smoking legislation has spread through Europe, and smoke-free bars and restaurants are the norm. But not in all countries. Austria's cafés and restaurants can be terribly smoky, although stricter laws are due to be introduced in 2018. In Greece, there are no smoking laws in restaurants, but they're widely ignored. And in much of Eastern Europe (particularly the Balkans), you may as well be a Marlboro test chimp.
All you need is English
English, plus some vigorous pointing and shouting, can get you remarkably far in Europe. And in many major cities, chances are you can get away without using a single word of the local language.
But a few stock phrases – yes, no, please, thank you, do you speak English, one-to-ten – will grease the wheels somewhat.
Outside the major cities though, don't expect it to be quite so easy. You'll probably just about manage to muddle through in rural areas, but don't bank on it. Also, German tends to be the most useful catch-all second language, especially in Central Europe. French is rarely any use outside France and Switzerland, and ditto Spanish outside Spain.
See also: How to be a better traveller
It's really expensive
Let's not beat around the bush – Europe can be really expensive. Switzerland and Scandinavia are notoriously so, and with good reason. Italy's major tourist cities are hard on the wallet, too, and supposedly cheap places that are hugely popular with visitors (hello Dubrovnik!) can see prices go uncomfortably high in the summer months.
But most of Europe is a relative bargain by Australian standards on hotels and drinks, and often food too. This is certainly the case once in the country rather than the city, and while the east is usually considerably cheaper than the west, the likes of Portugal and Spain can be great value – especially inland from the main resorts.
Some cities are outliers in affordability too – notably Berlin, Budapest and Lisbon, which are inexplicably good value on the ground considering how many visitors they attract.
See also: The world's most expensive streets
What were your pre-conceptions about travelling in Europe that turned out to be untrue? Share your tips and comments below.