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Geographical Europe

Europe encompasses an area of 10,400,000 km² (4,000,000 square miles), stretching from Asia to the Atlantic, and from Africa to the Arctic. Europe's longest river is the Volga, which meanders 3,530 km (2,193 miles) through Russia, and flows into the Caspian Sea. Eastern Europe's highest point is Russia's Mt. Elbrus, which rises to 5,642 m (18,510 feet) above sea level. Western Europe's highest point is Mont Blanc in the French-Italian Alps, which rises to 4,810 m (15,771 feet) above sea level.

Europe's climate ranges from subtropical near the Mediterranean Sea in the south, to subarctic near the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean in the northern latitudes. 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:

European Regions: Western Europe, Central Europe, Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Mediterranean Europe

See also: European Union, 27 European states in various stages of economic and political union.


Country Symbol Currency EU-member Schengen
Time zone³ Inter Rail zone Eurail
Albania AL, .al LEK/EUR 2015? n CET n n
Andorra AND, .ad EUR n n5 CET n n
Armenia ARM, .am AMD n n +5 n n
Austria A, .at EUR 1995 y CET C y
Belarus BY, .by BYR n n EET n n
Belgium B, .be EUR 1958 y CET E y
Bosnia and Herzegovina BIH, .ba BAM 2015? y CET D y
Bulgaria BG, .bg BGN 2007 n EET H n
Croatia HR, .hr HRK 2009?¹ n CET D n
Cyprus CY, .cy EUR 2004 y CET n n
Czech Republic CZ, .cz CZK 2004 y CET D n
Denmark DK, .dk DKK 1973 y CET C y
Estonia EST, .ee EEK 2004 y EET n n
Finland FIN, .fi EUR 1995 y EET B y
France F, .fr EUR 1958 y CET E y
Germany D, .de EUR 1958 y CET C y
Greece GR, .gr EUR 1981 y EET G y
Hungary H, .hu HUF 2004 y CET D y
Iceland IS, .is ISK n y WET n n
Ireland IRL, .ie EUR 1973 n WET A n
Italy I, .it EUR 1958 y CET G y
Latvia LV, .lv LVL 2004 y EET n n
Liechtenstein FL, .li CHF n n CET n n
Lithuania LT, .lt LTL 2004 y EET n n
Luxembourg L, .lu EUR 1958 y CET E y
Macedonia MK, .mk MKD n¹ n CET H n
Malta M, .mt EUR 2004 y CET n n
Moldova MD, .md MDL n n EET n n
Monaco MC, .mc EUR n n5 CET n n
Montenegro MNE, .me (.yu) EUR 2015? n CET H n
Netherlands NL, .nl EUR 1958 y CET E y
Norway N, .no NOK n y CET B y
Poland PL, .pl PLN 2004 y CET D n
Portugal P, .pt EUR 1986 y WET F y
Romania RO, .ro RON 2007 y EET H y
Russia RU, .ru (.su) RUB n n MSK4 n n
San Marino RSM, .sm EUR n n5 CET n n
Serbia SRB, .rs (.yu) RSD 2015? n CET H n
Slovakia SK, .sk SKK 2004 y CET D n
Slovenia SLO, .si EUR 2004 y CET G n
Spain E, .es EUR 1986 y CET F y
Sweden S, .se SEK 1995 y CET B y
Switzerland CH, .ch CHF n n CET C y
Turkey TR, .tr TRY 2015?¹ n EET G n
Ukraine UA, .ua UAH n n EET n n
United Kingdom GB, .uk GBP 1973 n WET n n
Vatican City V, .va EUR n n5 CET n n

¹ Official EU applicant countries.

² 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 on Chukotka and Kamchatka.

5 Officially not a Schengen member, but Schengen visa holders are generally allowed entry.

Other territories

Note: Parts of Russia, Turkey and the Caucasus are sometimes considered to be a part of Asia.


Political History

Europe, prior to the conclusion of the Second World War, was a region ravaged by large-scale "total war". 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 inception was the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The founding group of nations were 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 formalized further with a the creation of a single European Commission, as well as a council of ministers and a EU parliament.

Post-1967 the EU continued to rapidly 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. To date, Norway and Switzerland have resisted membership for historical and economic reasons. The EU pressed on with economic integration and launched the Euro(€) across several nations on 1 January 2002. Currently 18 nations, plus the UN administered Serbian province of Kosovo use the Euro as their official currency. In addition to Kosovo, San Marino, The Vatican, Monaco, Andorra and Montenegro which are not EU memebers, have been granted official permission to use the Euro.

In 2004, a further 10 countries joined the EU. These were: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

In 2007 a further 2 countries joined the EU. These were: Bulgaria and Romania.

As of 2007, Macedonia, Croatia, and Turkey are official applicants.

Get in

By plane

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.

By train

The Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing and Vladivostok to Moscow is a classic rail journey.

By ship

It is possible to get in to Europe by passenger or freight (cargo) ship. The Man in Seat 61 is a good starting point. See also Ferries in the Mediterranean.

Get around

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. Be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen treaty countries are members of the European Union.

As of January 2008, these countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. Switzerland, Lichtenstein and possibly Cyprus are set to join by the end of the 2008, and Romania and Bulgaria are expected to join in 2011 or so, but the UK and Ireland remain outside Schengen for the foreseeable future.

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.

By train

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, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey.

The most notable omissions compared to Inter Rail are Republic of Macedonia, Morocco, and the United Kingdom.

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.

By plane

Discount airlines

Main article: Discount airlines in Europe

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, Slovenia 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! Only in very few cases prices are higher 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)..

Passengers Rights

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.

Denied Boarding


  • you have a valid ticket
  • you have a confirmed reservation
  • you have checked in by the deadline given to you by the airline

Then you are entitled to a compensation, which is:

  • €250 if the flight is shorter than 1500 km
  • but only €125 if it is delayed less than 2 hours
  • €400 if the flight is between 1500 km and 3500 km
  • but only €200 if it is delayed less than 3 hours
  • €600 if the flight is longer than 3500 km
  • but only €300 if it is delayed less than 4 hours
  • and a refund of your ticket (with a free flight back to your initial point of departure, when relevant)
  • or alternative transport to your final destination.

The airline also have to cover the following expenses:

  • two telephone calls or emails, telexes or faxes
  • meals and refreshments in reasonable relation to the waiting time.
  • hotel accommodation if you are delayed overnight.

Usually they will give you a prepaid phone card, and vouchers for a restaurant and a hotel.

Refund for delayed flight

If your flight is delayed 5 hours or longer you can get a refund of your ticket (with a free flight back to your initial point of departure, when relevant).

By bus

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.

Touring (German variant of Eurolines), Sindbad (Polish), Lasta (from Serbia), Linebus (Spanish) and National Express (from the UK) are other options.

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 short notice, have heavy luggage, or are keen on reducing your travel-related CO2 emissions.

By ship

The Baltic sea has several lines running between the major cities (for example Gdansk, Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga etc). Most ships are very large, paralleling Caribbean cruise liners in size and in service. This is also true of the Mediterranean Sea where a large number of ferry's and cruise ships operate of the coast of: Spain, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Southern France to Corsica, and across the English channel.

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.

Boating excursions within Europe, particularly along the scenic rivers and between many of the islands in the Mediterranean , are an excellent way to combine travel between locations with an adventure along the way. Accommodations range from very basic to extremely luxurious depending upon the company and class of travel selected.

Travel between the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Scotland is possible through Smyril Line whose fairs can be cheaper than flying.

By thumb

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.

"Especially former Soviet countries", in these countries you often will have language problems, don't hitchhik in ex-Yugoslavia for Example from Croatia to Serbia (you could get big problems with nationalists). From Croatia to Slovenia it's no problem. It's better to take train or bus in Moldova and the Ukraine. In western Europe specially in the Netherlands and Germany it's easy and fast to hitchhike (trains and buses are very expensive).




Stay safe

The biggest risks to your safety in Europe like in any major tourist area are pick-pockets and muggings. Using common sense and being aware of your surroundings can help to greatly reduce the risk of these occurrences.

Most European countries have very low levels of violence. The few "trouble areas" that should be avoided eg. certain areas in the UK and France do have much higher violent crime rates, but they are of no interest to the average tourist. Northern, Western and Central Europe are generally a little safer than Southern and Eastern Europe.

For more information see Common scams which contains many Europe specific scams.

Stay healthy

There are no specific precautions required for staying healthy in Europe as most restaurants maintain high standards of hygiene and in the majority of countries tap water is safe to drink. However, for more precise details on these matters as well as for general information on emergency care, pharmaceutical regulations and dentistry standards etc, please consult the 'Stay safe' section on specific country articles.

This is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!