“Typical” Europe VS “Exotic” Europe – Which Is The “Better” Vacation Destination?
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.
(The Cliffs of Mohar, Ireland)
It’s safe. All the bad dudes have gone to “Typical Europe”. The locals left behind are the good and friendly ones.
Jokes aside, we’ve never encountered any danger vibes when travelling across “Exotic Europe”. People are friendly, not in a rush, and bother to chat with you. Just use common-sense and don’t walk about drunk at 2am in the morning at you should be alright.
Bald Traveller Verdict:
(A city of golden domes, in Kiev, Ukraine)
I frankly felt a lot safer in say Ukraine or Belarus as opposed to Italy or even in “Typical Europe”. I never had to make sure my bag was in front of me, never had to constantly check my pockets, or had to fear being mugged on the street.
Some people might disagree and claim “Typical Europe” is safer than “Exotic Europe”. But yes, I will consider your opinions only when you’ve travelled to more parts of Typical & Exotic Europe than I have.
A good night’s sleep.
(Urquhart Castle in the Loch Ness, Inverness, Scotland)
Cost of accommodation can be crazy, especially in peak periods. The cost of a single room in a backpackers hostel cost above S$120 when I was looking for a place to stay in Amsterdam Central. Hotels? Well, let’s just say they were S$200 and up.
Considering I spent most of the day sightseeing and just 7 -8 hours of sleep in my bed, these are crazy prices.
(Soviet Tank in Tiraspol, Transnistria)
A night in a decent hotel family run hotel costs 15 – 20 Euros. A night at proper hotel with a swimming pool and all costs an average of say 50 Euros, and I’m being conservative here. Prices are more like 30 Euros for a room. Split that by 2 people and it costs nothing.
Bald Traveller Verdict:
(The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland)
This is a no brainer. The cost of a hostel in “Typical Europe” is more than the cost of a proper hotel in “Exotic Europe.
You’re flying a long way to Europe. How impressive are the sights?
(The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France)
Undoubtedly, the attractions in Typical Europe are world famous.
Who can ignore the awesomeness of the France’s Eiffel Tower, Italy’s Colosseum, England’s Tower Bridge, Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle, Iceland’s Golden Circle, Scandinavia’s Northern Light’s, and the list goes on.
These sights a world famous for a reason, and yes, they are astounding.
Now, you probably wouldn’t know the sights even if they stood I waved them in your face. But you not knowing these sights doesn’t make them any less impressive.
The former USSR state of Georgia is certainly as beautiful as Switzerland. And with cities like Kiev, Lviv, and attractions like Chernobyl, Ukraine is as beautiful as it is interesting. Moldova offers better wine than anything France or Italy could even hope to offer. Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses is one of the most impressive holy sites I’ve ever seen.
Bald Traveller Verdict:
(The Hill of Crosses at Siauliai, Lithuania)
In terms of “Standalone attractions”, “Typical Europe” edges out “Exotic Europe”. Their attractions are more impressive, more Instagram-able, and many of them we heard about when we were kids. Visiting “Typical Europe” is like fulfilling a dream to many.
Much of the magnificence of “Exotic Europe’s” sights are nature related attractions as opposed to structurally related attractions in “Typical Europe”. All I can say is, “Visually, I was more impressed by the sights I saw in Typical Europe. But I will always remember the sights in Exotic Europe”.
[Bald Traveller’s “Final” Verdict]
Both “Typical” as well as “Exotic” Europe have their hits and misses. What I would recommend is experiencing both.
Don’t be one of those tourists that keep going back to the same “sort of places” for the same “sort of experiences”. Europe is huge, and each “region” will offer a fresh take on your impression of Europe, which isn’t all about churches, bridges, monuments, and shopping streets.
For your virgin European experience, please, go visit France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. On your second trip to Europe, visit the U.K (not just England). But on your third, your fourth and future trips to Europe, start visiting the rest of Europe (not “Nouveau Exotic Europe” but “Exotic Europe”, and experience the continent for what it really is.
And as for my take after visiting 44 European countries?
I liken Europe to a very long buffet table. You should at least try to sample every dish before you can conclude if the buffet was great or it wasn’t. If you’re always visiting “Typical Europe”, it’s like you’re permanently stuck at the appetizers/cold dish portion at the start of the table, never getting to taste the mains and desert.
Now, you wouldn’t do such a silly thing at a buffet table would you?
No? So, don’t do that to Europe. Experience it all.