Exactly how many countries are there in Europe?
Some sources say Europe is made up of 44 countries. Other sources put that number at 51.
But whatever the number is, being home to that many countries surely means that every day in Europe is an adventure on its own.
Oh, and so we are clear, this isn’t an Eastern Vs Western Europe sort of post.
What is Eastern Europe anyway? Almost everyone we know refers to any European country they aren't too familiar with as "Eastern Europe", and any typical European destination as “Western Europe”.
The Czech Republic? Oh, that's Eastern Europe. Croatia & Hungary? Also "Eastern Europe". But Vienna sits further East than Prague does, so why is Prague widely considered "Eastern Europe" while Vienna is not? Most of Croatia is also further West than Vienna is. But Croatia is referred to as "Eastern Europe" yet Austria is "Central Europe"?
In any case. Destinations like Croatia, Bosnia, & Slovenia, are NOT Eastern Europe. They are “Southern Europe”, just like Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Some “actual” Eastern European destinations are countries like Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus.
And then you have transcontinental countries that sit in both Asia & Europe; like Russia, Turkey, Georgia, Cyprus, etc. Last I checked, these countries play football in the European Champions League, but are considered by many to be a part of Asia.
Because Europe is so confusing, let’s forget about “Eastern, Western, Southern, Northern or Central.”
We’ve split the continent of “Europe” into 3. Since there are way too many countries to list down, here are some examples;
The most visited destinations by tourists
(U.K, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands etc)
The lesser visited destinations by tourists
(Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Albania, Lithuania, Romania, etc)
[“Nouveau Exotic” Europe]
“Newly Trending” destinations people “think” are exotic but they aren't
(Turkey, Croatia, Slovenia, Iceland, Hungary, Greece, Russia etc)
Understandably, every person has very different considerations when deciding on a travel destination, so it would be virtually impossible to determine “the better” vacation destination. In fact, there is NO “better” destination.
But what this post will do, is serve as a guide to where your next European holiday should be. And after having visited 44 countries in Europe, I daresay we know what we're talking about. So, what is it that you want from your next “European Holiday”? Let’s take a look at some of the differences of what you can enjoy and expect in both “Typical Europe” and “Exotic Europe”.
[Ease of Planning]
How easy is it for the relatively inexperienced occasional traveller to plan and follow an itinerary without too many screw ups?
(The Szechenyi Thermal Baths in Budapest, Hungary)
Planning an itinerary around “tourist Europe” is generally a walk in the park.
Information and free itineraries are easily available on the internet or at tourist information counters, and tours are aplenty, so long as you have the money to pay for them. Many of your friends have already gone before you have, so just ring them up for their itinerary.
(The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria)
Slightly more effort is required at the planning stage, but hey, it’s not Africa. How hard can it be?
You can still find information that will help you plan your trip, but lets just say 30% of your trip you’ll have to make things up as you go; that means you won’t entering with a rock solid itinerary.
Screw ups are expected.
Bald Traveller Verdict:
(Lake Bled in Slovenia)
For people who fear getting out of their comfort zone, stick to Typical Europe. But honestly, when was the last time, you did something for the first time? If you’re sick of routine, or perhaps if you’ve already visited “tourist Europe” a couple of times, perhaps it’s time to see a different side of Europe.
But I’m digressing. Yes, for “Ease of Planning”, Typical Europe’s the winner.
Is it generally easy or difficult to get from one place to another?
(Prague Astronomical Clock in the Czech Republic)
Getting around is simple enough. There are many day tours and directions to the usual attractions or restaurants you and everyone else wants to visit. They’ll know you want to visit before you open your mouth to ask.
Trains and buses run like clockwork, and you’ll have to be a real nincompoop to not get to where you want to go.
(A stormy day in Budva, Montenegro)
You might have some difficulties getting to the attractions you planned for because of language barriers or because the train and bus schedules you got off the internet might not be accurate.
That means a lot more “asking strangers for directions”, longer waiting times in between buses and trains, and having the occasional nagging feeling like “is the really the right way”?
Bald Traveller Verdict:
(Lake Sevan in Armenia)
Without doubt, getting around “Typical Europe” is a lot easier. But that said, “Exotic Europe” isn’t exactly a minefield. There’s nothing wrong with asking for directions, and missing a stop when getting off the buses. If anything, it’s part of the traveling experience. Worst case? Take a taxi, it costs next to nothing.
Will your vacation burn a hole in your pocket and saddle you with credit card debt?
(Enjoying a beer in Ghent, Belgium)
The costs of a proper (non hostel/couch-surfing, bread and water diet) European vacation in Typical Europe are staggering. And I’m not even talking about shopping. Expect to spend around S$5000 on a “proper” 2 week vacation.
In Singapore, we can easily get a proper dinner at a cost of S$3 - S$5. A proper dinner in say France, would easily set you back S$20 - S$50. 45 mins on a train in Singapore would probably cost you say S$3? That same train ride in the U.K would probably cost you 10 times more. And let’s not even talk about the cost of paying for entrance fees at attractions. In Rome, you’ll easily spend over S$100 on entrance fees alone per day.
(The Mud Volcano's off Baku, Azerbaijan)
A proper “meat meal” at a restaurant costs S$4- S$5. Public transport cost in the “cents” to a low dollar amount, and entrance fees are usually free. And no, if you’re thinking of the 15-20 EURO you paid to walk the walls of Dubrovnik? No, Croatia doesn’t qualify as “Exotic Europe”. To put things in perspective, walking the “walls of Kotor” in neighbouring Montenegro (which isn’t exactly exotic), cost me 3 Euros.
It shouldn’t cost you more than S$3,000 for a proper holiday in “Exotic Erope”. If that breaks the bank, I shouldn’t see you in “Typical Europe”
Bald Traveller Verdict:
(Orheiul Vechi Monastery in Moldova)
Frankly, “Typical Europe” could be done at cheaper cost since it would be easy to find travel companions to split costs because of the “herd mentality”. But all in, prices are overall way cheaper in “Exotic Europe”, more than 50% cheaper across most areas, so as far as expenses are concerned, “Exotic Europe’s” the winner.
Scams, ATM machines that have been tempered with, being robbed at knifepoint, pickpockets. Are you likely to encounter them?
(Checking out the windmills in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands)
Yep, all the bad things that could possibly happen to you on vacation will happen in "Typical Europe". The gangs, pickpockets and bad dudes are predominately gypsies. There are documentaries on pickpockets and snatch thefts in “Typical Europe” for a reason. When were in Amsterdam and took out our card to pay, the storekeeper warned us about paying by card because of card scams.