If you are planning to travel to any European countries at a budget, this is the right place to start. I say so because I have personally been on this trip a short while back and it was a very learning experience.
I will give the small little hints that are the most important yet never revealed anywhere else; because most of the sites you come across are there just for the monetary gains by way of earning through hotels and other deals package deals.
This is also if you have a similar mindset like mine. You got to have the streak to do something different and away from the beaten track. What is the fun if you give away a chunk of your hard earned money to someone who puts you in a bus or plane or train with 50 others in that package and you are taken from place A to place B as per the itinerary that you have no control on, eating food that someone else orders and staying where someone else decides! You can easily do much more and stay almost three times more number of days in less than that package trip!
Also, limited budget does not imply any lack of quality of the trip and the fun part in it. To the contrary, there’s much more fun when we do it ourselves. Where is the fun of discovering things first hand when you know everything about what is coming next? Remember that the best way to do this is also planning it yourself. This fact itself cut down almost 30% of the total price if you want to go to someone else because you t pain a lot of middle men at every level.
Therefore, I hope what I am going to give now is going to be of help to someone who is trying to plan Europe at a budget.
Things to keep in mind-
Doing your homework
- Do your homework properly. Plan your visit well and all the transit flights of train Journeys well in advance so that you can minimize the cost of travel for this entire visit.
- Stick to your plan so that there are no changes and move further increase in costs.
- Try to go as a couple because the cost of stay would be almost the same whether one person stays or two.
Baggage Policy – All airlines ask for extra money when you book any luggage other than your handbag. Besides this, extra baggage also ties you down where movement is concerned.
Therefore, it is best to travel with as less a baggage as possible. Stick to nothing more than one backpack. You will be amazed at the flexibility and the level of comfort that this would give, besides adding to the amount of the savings that you would make.
Don’t fall for “deals” – Budget generally means adopting means like walking, travelling by public transport and generally avoiding all those places best there is a very high entrance fees. You must decide not to succumb to glib talk or so called “deals”. Remember for every “deal” there is someone trying to sell something which is otherwise unsalable. E.g. there are 20 museums in Paris. So there’s a “museum pass”. Do you have to see them all? It’s not only impractical but also time consuming. It makes more sense to see the one or two in detail, others are just the same! You can of course see all from the outside. Also, there are days when museums in Paris are free! You will not find this anywhere. Here is the list of FREE entry to all museums.
Now, which tour operator will tell you this? He would rather you buy a pass thru him.
Guides and Language issues – Since you would be traveling in many countries it is but natural that you would not know the language of that country. Best way to get around this is to download a very good off line maps application on your mobile. I did the entire trip just planning of the maps and the referring to the various websites when it came to knowing about a certain place. Sometimes even the locals are not aware of the significance of certain places and therefore you would find it very handy to discover new places while you go about walking.
Local sightseeing – Never book any package tour of the local places in advance. You are bound to get some last minute discounts which you can negotiate even further. You will find reference to this as we read further.
Preparation for the journey – Remember the sequence in which these should be done.
Passport – First of all get the paperwork done. It is important to know that sometimes small things like expiry date of your passport can also get you in a last minute problem while getting visa. Therefore ensure that your passport is renewed and has sufficient time before it expires.
Visa – Get a Shenzhen Visa – this would see you through most of the European countries except for UK, Scotland and Ireland. In case you want to go there too, you need more lead time so best to start of all these procedures at least three months before your date of departure.
Remember certain countries have easy procedures where granting of visa is concerned. Make your first stop. Also, on paper, it should also be the place where you would be spending the most time. Since France is one of the friendliest where Visa is concerned, it’s a good idea to start from there.
Local Journeys within Europe – I decided to cover Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Rome and Athens therefore I gave myself 4 days (three nights) at all these places. It eased out my Visa issue immensely and also enabled the cheapest air tickets from Mumbai to Paris and Athens back to Mumbai. For travelling from one country to another within Europe, I tried train from Amsterdam to Germany and local low cost airlines (EasyJet and Vueling) for the other places.
Booking all these tickets was the first step after the visa was granted, and since it was done 3 months in advance the costs were fairly (and surprisingly) low.
Booking of hotels and places to stay – this is perhaps the most important step of all because where you stay is going to determine how much you are going to spend for sightseeing and local travel. You should try to minimize this. If you are going to be out seeing places most of the day, it makes no sense spending too much to book up a hotel full of luxuries. Had you wanted to stay in that atmosphere why go any places at all!
It is therefore very important to book a place which is in the centre of things. Unfortunately all the budget hotels are away from the city and hence I would strongly recommend you to use other alternatives.
On advice of my son, I looked up AIRBNB which give me some amazing advantages in terms of location as well as budget prices. As we go along I will also release reveal the places where I stayed in case you wish to drive similar advantages from this information.
Things to carry –
Clothing – Check out the weather during the time when you are traveling and prepared your baggage accordingly. Since you are going to be on a low budget travel, you must carry with you only one set of warm clothing. But what you must definitely carry with you is an extra pair of shoes and a small umbrella because Europe is known for its sudden downpours and frequent changes into the weather.
You must most definitely carry with you sachets of coffee and tea in case you are used to it; since this cost a lot when whenever you are staying. You can also carry a few snacks biscuits and chocolates with you.
(For my visit my bag had just these items – shaving kit, soaps, undergarments- 5 pieces, Shirts -2 T shirts – 3, Trouser/jeans – 2 (including the ones I was wearing), warm jacket- 1, woolen cardigan – 1, woolen cap -1, small umbrella, slip on sandals, paper rolls, one reusable water bottle and a few medicines)
Medicines – take 5 days dosage of antibiotics, peracetamol, asprin, anti diahorrea and vomiting, bandaid and full supply of any medicines being used on regular basis.
Small immersion rod – at most places you will get an electric kettle but there are always exceptions to the rule. There will be one place in five where this would not be there and you would be stuck for a cup of coffee! Always better to carry a pen sized immersion rod which would be just the cost of a cup of coffee in most places!
Get a good quality cell phone or a tablet along a backup charger. This is going to be your most trusted companion to the entire visit and you are going to depend on this during the entire trip. Also, unlike what people advice, do not get your phone bills inflated by subscribing to the overseas data or roaming services. Trust me, these days you can get Wi-Fi almost everywhere and by using it intelligently, you would be able to manage everything.
Collection of Information –
Download an off line map app on your phone. I had used “Ulmon maps”, once again on the recommendation of my son and it turned out to be the best maps app I have ever come across. I have used many since then, but nothing comes close to this because it not only shows you all the places but also gives a clear description of everything and footnotes within the same app needless to say it is also free.
At Prague, while getting back at night, we came across two young Japanese girls who were trying to seek directions to some place where they had to go to stay for the night; and were visibly scared as well as disturbed as no one seemed to understand English nor knew of the place they were asking. I checked out on the Ulmon map app and viola, it gave out the exact location which happened to be quite near too, much to the relief of these girls. So that’s how effective it would be if you had information before hand.
You should download the maps of all the cities that you are going to visit. It might take up a lot of space in the hard drive but it would be worth it. Alternatively, download only the first two places where you are going and you can keep downloading the next place later on as you move ahead. I used to delete the previous place and download the next place using the Wi-Fi at the airport while at the departure lounge. Remember, you do not need data – you will find Wi-Fi everywhere if you plan well. More on this as we go along.
So now we are all set for our first stop – PARIS (Click to read)