For some football fans, a trip to watch their team play away from home in a European competition is the ultimate matchday experience. It offers all the passion and excitement of a live sporting event rolled in with a mini holiday, but there are do’s and don’ts of planning a European football trip or city break you should always abide by.
Competitive European football is a celebration of the team’s success in qualifying for the competition, a chance to pit yourself against different opposition, watch different players in action and experience different fan cultures. And, of course, hanging on the result is the dream of going far in an elite competition, with the eyes of the world watching as your team squares off against the very best, and perhaps at the end of the journey the glory of taking home the trophy.
Even for the more casual football fan, there is a lot to recommend a European football city break. Following your team in the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League throws up reasons to visit places you might never have thought about taking a break in otherwise, and discovering hidden gems.
On the flipside, for some football fans, visiting cities with the biggest teams and proudest footballing pedigrees – Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Munich, Milan and so on – just wouldn’t be the same without taking in a game. A match in an elite European competition, played under lights, in some of the biggest and most famous stadiums in the world is something many people itch to tick off their to-do list.
Planning a trip to watch football in Europe is much the same as organising any other continental city break. But with the added extra of also buying tickets for the match, transport to and from the ground etc, there is a little more to think about. Here are some useful do’s and don’ts of planning a European football trip to make sure the experience is everything you dreamt it would be.
4 Dos and Don’ts of Planning a European Football City Break
DO make your travel arrangements in plenty of time
You won’t be the only fan wanting to follow your team on your European adventure. Matches against the biggest sides can attract thousands of travelling supporters, which means plane tickets can sell out quickly. Make your arrangements as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
DO consider official fans’ travel packages through your club
Alternatively, some of the teams your side play against may be based in places that are a little off the beaten track in terms of tourist destinations. Especially in the and Europa Conference League, you find plenty of smaller teams from all corners of Europe. While this is great for exploring new places, it can make travel arrangements more challenging, especially if a club’s home isn’t particularly close to a major airport.
Yes, it can be fun to take on the challenge of finding a suitable route by air and then working out transport options to get you to the match. But if that sounds like too much hard work, a great alternative is to look at official fans’ travel packages through your club, supporters’ club group trips, or specialist tour operators who cater specifically for football trips overseas, all of which will do all the work for you.
DO buy travel insurance
Even if you are only planning a flying visit to watch the match, perhaps stay the night and then head home again, don’t go without travel insurance. Let’s be honest, football matches can be boisterous occasions and it is far from unknown for visiting football fans to be targeted for trouble and petty crime. If you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, theft of personal belongings or suffering an injury that requires medical attention could be very costly.
Remember, as a foreign national you won’t be entitled to free or cheap medical care. You have to pay, and it can be very expensive indeed.
Most trips to watch football abroad, like most other types of holiday, go off without incident. But it doesn’t hurt to cover you back just in case. And if you have your sights on following your team around several matches, you can save yourself some money by buying multi-trip travel insurance which will give you protection for multiple trips for the next 12 months.
DON’T be tempted to travel without a ticket
Unless you’re content to sit and watch the game from the comfort of a local hostelry, that is. Tickets for big European games do sell out quickly, so you have to be on your toes to get one.
The temptation for many people if they don’t is to travel anyway and hope to buy a ticket from a tout outside the ground. This isn’t advisable for several reasons. One, you will end up paying way more than the original value of the ticket. Two, with modern digital ticketing systems able to track ticket sales online, clubs can often identify when tickets have been bought up by touts and cancel them. You could end up being refused entry even after forking out so much.
Third, it’s important to remember that ticket touting is illegal in many countries (including the UK). Although not strictly enforced in many places, you could find yourself in trouble with the law if caught buying off a tout. And as ticket touting operations are run by criminal gangs, you could be putting yourself in danger trying to do business with them in the first place. This is why it’s our biggest Don’t for planning a European football trip.
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