Millions of visitors travel to Europe for reasons many Europeans take for granted-the rich diversity of history, architecture, art, and landscape. In Western Europe tourist facilities are generally of a high standard, while in the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe their scope and quality have improved significantly over the past decade. As a result, the whole of Europe is more accessible. This section gives information on practical matters such as passport formalities and how to get around. Many countries are members of the European Union, with certain laws in common, but there are also notable differences.
The continent of Europe stretches as far east as Russia’s Ural Mountains, a total surface area of 10.4 million sq km (4 million sq miles). However, the 20 countries covered in this guide occupy a much smaller area, being concentrated in the northwestern and central parts of the continent and along the Mediterranean coast in the south. These countries are shown on this map in dark green. They include 18 of the nations that make up the European Union, the political association of European states based in Brussels.
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When to go
The best time to visit Europe depends on your itinerary, but most people prefer the summer months, between May and September. Due to the diverse geography of Europe, the weather has wide variations. Summers in northwestern Europe can be cool and rainy, while in the east they can be unbearably hot. The Mediterranean, with its hot, dry summers and relatively …