Europe encompasses an area of 10,400,000 km² (4,000,000 square miles), stretching from Asia to the Atlantic, Africa to the Arctic. There is much here for the traveller to enjoy, with a bewildering array of diversity and culture, cosmopolitan cities and spectacular scenery.
Europe defies easy categorization, with its compact size and complex history. The following are five (loosely defined) regions in Europe.
See also: European Union, 25 European states in various stages of economic and political union.
The largest air travel hubs in Europe are, in order, London (LON: LCY, LHR, LGW, STN, LTN), Frankfurt (FRA, HHN), Paris (CDG), and Amsterdam (AMS) which in turn have connections to practically everywhere in Europe. However, nearly every European city has direct long-distance flights at least to some destinations elsewhere, and other smaller airports can make sense for specific connections: for example, Vienna (VIE) has a very good network of flights to the Middle East and Eastern Europe, while Helsinki (HEL) is the geographically closest place to transfer if coming in from East Asia.
There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the Schengen Agreement. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen Agreement signatory country is valid in all other countries that signed and implemented the treaty.
These countries are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland (voted in, but not yet formalised, nor implemented). Note that not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty and not all Schengen treaty countries are members of the European Union.
At some airports, airlines will still insist on seeing your id-card or passport. Travel to and from a Schengen Agreement country to any other country will result in the normal border checks.
The Inter Rail (for Europeans) and Eurail (for everybody else) passes offer good value if you plan on traveling extensively around Europe (or even a single region) and want more flexibility than cheap plane tickets can offer.
As of 2006, Eurail covers the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.
The most extensive and most reliable train travel planner for all of Europe is the one belonging to the German railways (DB) and can be found here in English.
Train travel in this continent is explained in full detail on the Rail travel in Europe article.
Dozens of budget airlines allow very cheap travel around Europe, often much cheaper than the train or even bus fares for the same journey. Currently the cheapest flights are offered by low cost airlines such as airBerlin, Centralwings, easyJet, HLX, Ryanair, SkyEurope Airlines and WizzAir, with the lowest fares usually found on routes which go to or from cities in the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. All of these flights should be booked on the internet well in advance, otherwise the price advantage may become non-existent. Always compare prices with major carriers like British Airways, LOT or Lufthansa! One should never pay more than € 80 on any airline when booking a month or more ahead of time (except on very long routes e.g. Dublin - Istanbul). You should also make sure where the airport is located, since some low cost airlines name very small airports by the next major city, even if the distance is up to two hours drive by bus (e.g. Ryan- and Wizzair's Frankfurt-Hahn, which is not Frankfurt/Main International)..
See also: Discount airlines in Europe
European Union (EU) Regulation 261/2004 of 17. February 2005 gives certain rights to passenger on all flights, schedule or charter and flights provided as part of a Package Holiday. It only applies to passengers flying from an EU airport or from an airport outside the EU to an EU airport on an EU carrier.
Then you are entitled to a compensation, which is:
The airline also have to cover the following expenses:
Usually they will give you a prepaid phone card, and vouchers for a restaurant and a hotel.
If your flight is delayed 5 hours or longer you can get a refund of your ticket.
Eurolines connects over 500 destinations, covering the whole of the continent and Morocco. Eurolines allows travelling from Sicily to Helsinki and from Casablanca to Moscow.
For longer distances, travelling by bus often isn't any cheaper than flying with a low cost airline. It's only worth considering if you travel at very short notice, have heavy luggage, or are keen on reducing your travel-related CO2 emmisions.
Besides ferry connections to and from the UK and other countries, there are also various ferries on the larger lakes and for crossing rivers. Furthermore, there are several regularly running cruise-lines on the larger rivers like the Rhine or the Danube.
Ridesharing (Carpooling, Hitchhiking) is a common way of travelling in some parts of Europe, especially former Soviet countries. It is a pleasant way to meet lots of people, and travel without spending too many euros. Don't forget to check out the tips for hitchhiking.
The viamichelin.com route planner can help you planning your itinerary.
The Marco Polo Euro Atlas is great (but not for Eastern Europe), it has detailed information about gas stations on the highway and doesn't contain unnecessary city maps. It can be found in Slovakia and probably other countries...
² The Serbian province of Kosovo (administered by the UN) uses the Euro as its official currency.
³ Winter time. In summer (last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October): WET → WEST (UTC+0 → +1), CET → CEST (+1 → +2), EET → EEST (+2 → +3)
4 Russia uses multiple time zones. EET in Kaliningrad Oblast, MSK (UTC+3) in Moscow, up to UTC+12 near Alaska.
5 New leu (RON) replaced old leu (ROL) on July 1, 2005. Old leu are legal tender until December 31, 2006.
6 Slovenia will adopt the Euro on January 1, 2007.
Note: Russia and the Caucasus are sometimes considered to be a part of Asia.
Europe, prior to the conclusion of the Second World War, was a region ravaged by large-scale wars. National leaders realized after World War II that closer socio-economic and political integration was needed to ensure that such tragedies never happened again. Starting with humble beginnings, the EU's first form was the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The founding group was Belgium, West Germany, Luxembourg, France, Italy and the Netherlands. Impressed with the results of the union the six countries pressed on and in 1956 signed the treaty of Rome, with the ultimate goal of creating a common market — the European Economic Community (EEC). In 1967 the union was formalised further with a the creation of a single Commission, as well as a council of ministers and a EU parliament.
Post-1967 the EU continued to grow; Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined in 1973. Greece joined in 1981, Spain and Portugal in 1986 and Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995. The EU pressed on with economic integration and launched the Euro(€) across several nations on 1 January 2002.