You’re heading to the European Union, and you’re probably eager to start walking the historic streets, snapping photos of iconic sites and sampling all of the delicious eats. But whether this is your first visit to Europe or your 20th, there are always a few travel tips that can help make your trip run more smoothly and save you a few extra euros too.
Tips for Traveling within the EU
I’ve now lived in Paris for five years, traveling throughout the EU by plane, train, and a number of other modes of transportation. Along the way, I’ve gathered my own pieces of advice that I often provide to visiting friends, readers, and social media followers.
Airline passenger rights vary depending on which part of the world you’re visiting. For instance, the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation helps you receive a refund if your flight was canceled without notice 14 or more days prior to the scheduled flight time. Because these rights can be difficult to memorize, refer to the Flightright website to understand your rights when traveling throughout the EU and around the world.
Flightright is a site dedicated to helping passengers receive compensation for flight delays and cancellations. They make it easy to file a claim and receive compensation once your flight within the EU has been cancelled. The next step after your flight got a cancellation is to collect your proof of the cancellation and receipts for expenses paid, and submit a claim for a ticket refund or replacement flight. Flights canceled less than 14 days prior to departure should be compensated with between €250 and €600. Passenger rights are important in the EU, and it pays to know them before you travel.
Another benefit of traveling by air throughout the EU is that once you’re within the EU, you do not need to pass through customs and immigration until you leave the European Union. Air travel within these countries tends to be much more affordable and convenient than traveling throughout the U.S. However, I always try to save a few extra euros by taking public transportation to and from the airport, as taxis and rideshare companies can be costly.
Traveling by train always feels more romantic than traveling via airplane, bus or car, and that’s part of why I often travel by train whenever possible. Although, there are more benefits to train travel throughout the EU than its romanticism. While there can be passport checks on trains, train passengers don’t have to show passports when crossing borders within the EU. The train companies also offer useful apps that make accessing your ticket and travel information easier.
Train travel can be an affordable way to travel in style, as first-class tickets within the EU are often just a few euros more than standard ones. And I always stock up on snacks and drinks before boarding the train to save even more on my travel expenses.
Many travelers don’t know that they can claim refundable sales taxes when leaving the EU, and that results in millions of euros being unclaimed each year. Of course, claiming your refund may be too much of a headache for a small amount, but if you’re shopping for clothing, merchandise and other curiosities extensively while in the EU, you could receive some extra travel cash on your way out.
It’s important to understand that you only claim your refund when departing the EU, which means if you’ve shopped in Germany, France, and Italy, you’ll submit your tax paperwork in the EU departure location. If you make retail purchases of €175.01 or more during your travels, you’re eligible for a VAT refund. These purchases must be made in the same store on the same day but can include several items.
In short, it pays to find one place where you’re going to do most of your shopping. Be sure to ask the shop whether or not they offer VAT refunds before making your purchase and always receive the necessary refund document from the retailer before leaving the store. You’ll have to show your passport when making the you’re eligible for a VAT refund so don’t leave it in your hotel room on your big shopping day. When it’s time to depart the EU, arrive at your departure airport early with your VAT paperwork and purchases in an easy-to-access place.
Living in Paris, the EU is my favorite place in the world to travel (and shop), and I’m sure you’ll feel the same. Keep the above tips in mind to help make your next visit a bit more affordable and a lot more stress-free.