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Want to know how to plan a budget trip to Europe? Follow these simple tips and go live your dream!
By Japleen Pasricha
Europe, the dream trip! While Europe is one of most desirable destinations for Indians (thanks to YRF), but with the falling rupee and rising euro it is not easy for young Indian women and students to just pack their backpacks and hop on to the next flight. Europe can get quite expensive if you don’t plan and travel smartly. Here are a few tips for travelling on a budget that I have compiled from my personal experience.
Research, research and research. You can get really good deals if you look hard. Plan your trip and book your flight well ahead. Turkish Airways and Qatar Airways offer great prices. Even Russian Airlines are quite reasonable and allow you enough baggage to start living in Europe. I have travelled twice with Turkish Airlines and my experience was fantastic; reliable, great food, friendly hostesses and a spectacular view of the Bosphorus while stopping over in Istanbul.
On your first trip to Europe, have a broad plan for the places you want to cover, but a hotel booking only for the city where you are landing. Book a place only while leaving the previous one, and for that Booking.com is a great tool. Here, you can book cheap, safe and totally refundable accommodation and pay only when you arrive at the hotel. It has no pre-booking charges and is pretty reliable. Another great hotel-cum-hostel for young people, students or solo travellers is the famous German chain Meininger. It is a hotel/hostel facility located in six different European countries and is a great place for socialising with fellow travellers.
That to me is the single most important tip when travelling in a foreign country for the first time. With not much time to do any research before visiting Western Europe this year, my friends and I perfected a little routine. We’d hop off the train, make a beeline for the tourist office, find out which walks/sights would fit in our day, get some maps and brochures and set off on foot. It worked really well for small places, as well as cities like Amsterdam and Brussels. The office staff can give you good tips on what to avoid and where to have a good meal. It often happens that they (and hostels too) have information you wouldn’t usually find in guidebooks. When I was travelling in Belgium, I found these ‘Maps by the locals’ which were absolutely brilliant in their recommendations. Do try them if you ever go to Belgium.
Once you arrive in Europe, you’ll have to travel between cities and countries. Take advantage of the rise of Europe’s budget airlines, including carriers such as easyJet and RyanAir. A good place to start checking for budget airlines within Europe is Euroflights.info, which is organized by country and city. Simply click on an airport to find out how many budget airline options you’ll have in that place. Depending on where you plan to travel within Europe, acquire a Eurail pass. I found that if you are travelling in Eastern Europe it doesn’t save money, because the tickets are so cheap, it’s better to buy them individually. In Western Europe, it can help if you travel long distances, especially in countries like France and Switzerland where they’re so expensive.
The easiest thing to do when you want to travel light and avoid overpacking for a trip is to use a small bag – that way when your bag is full, it still won’t be too big. It is possible to travel with just the outfit you are wearing and three or four others if you pick the right things. Think layers, so that you can mix-and-match and accessorise to make a great outfit. I take leggings and stockings which don’t occupy much space. You can even stuff them into your handbag. Pack for all seasons. The weather is very changeable in Europe. So always take sweaters, leggings and a raincoat/sturdy umbrella.
Eating the local cuisine can give you a peek into the culture of the place. Be sure to try authentic local food, specials and native drinks. Don’t just order a hamburger! There were options for vegetarians too, in all the villages/cities I visited – baked beans, baked/roasted potatoes, breads, soups and salads.
Going to grocery stores in other countries can be an interesting experience. Try and see what you find. You will also save money if you cook.
You know that winter is not the time to visit European beaches, but perhaps you don’t know that there is serious money to be saved by visiting other attractions in the so-called off-season. Venice in March? Paris in January? It might sound unorthodox, but lower airfares and hotel rates await those who are willing to travel to Europe in the off-season. Take a look at some of the advantages and plan for the potential pitfalls.
So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip to Europe. Have fun!
*Photo credit: Greg Emel (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
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