Investing in experiences
THE HANS INDIA |
Oct 29,2017 , 01:37 AM IST
Tour de Europe
Ever since I’ve returned from my Europe Trip, there have been numerous DM’s and messages about the costings and hacks that I used during the vacation. Yes, I did my entire Eurotrip for a little over Rs 1.5 lakhs. 1,56,000 INR to be precise which is roughly $2400.
The list of countries that I covered were all part of the east side of the continent which make up for the costliest cities. If you go further east, countries like Hungary, Croatia, etc, your budget can decrease even more. For people who’re surprised by the amount that I spent on the Europe Travel, you can do it too. There is no great hack to it but just simple research. Let me detail some of them.
First decide on the entry and exit points from Europe and then your Itinerary
Europe is so vast that you might want to cram the maximum in one visit. But remember that it’s a vacation and not a marathon. Soak in the cultures, the art, hear the stories from people and most importantly enjoy. Indulge yourself by sipping on a wine while overlooking the Eiffel Tower, a spritzer in Italy while beers in Belgium and a little bit of green in Amsterdam.
Also since you apply for a Schengen for the country that you’re going to be most days at (or the point of first entry in case it’s equal number of days in each country), this should be thought over thoroughly. I’d first suggest to get the visa and then plan on the itinerary as a whole. Applying for the maximum countries, increases the chances of rejection.
You don’t always have to eat at McDonald’s (Fill up on a good breakfast at the Hotel/Hostel)
Most of the blogs I read before I ventured on my Europe suggested to eat at McDonalds to cut costs. A hamburger in McD will have a starting price of €1 but you’re going to be hungry again after an hour or two.
Rather spend about €6 for a fulfilling breakfast in the Hostel/Hotel, which will have a huge assortment of breads, meat, cornflakes, fruits, muesli and more and be set for almost till the afternoon. A sandwich at a supermarket will cost €4-5 and upwards while most hostels provide breakfast for just €2 more. Would you rather have a whole meal or a lousy supermarket sandwich?
And with every city I’ve indulged in €20 meals for I really do love food and exploring a culture through it. From a beautiful Pork Knuckle in Berlin to a bowl full of Mussels in Brussels tossed over in white wine with onions and celery. Remember you’re on a trip to enjoy and not hold back on your cravings.
Skip the tours and Hop-On Hop-Off Buses. (Take A Day Pass)
The biggest mistake that tourists do is to choose for tours and buy a hop-on-hop-off pass for the city. A hop-on-hop-off bus pass for a day costs minimum €30 and you’re allowed to only use specific buses. Meanwhile a whole day pass in a city costs €7, which gives you access to buses, trams and metros. Every city of Europe is well connected by public transport and the best way to explore a city is by taking the day pass.
Europe is meant for walking and soaking in the energy of the city on foot. There have been days that I’ve walked 15 kms - 20 kms and yet never felt tired. Almost all attractions in each city are maximum 2-3 kms from each other and do not require a transport altogether.
Re-think the Eurail Pass
Most people travelling to Europe usually buy the Eurail pass because it gives them access to all train travels through the countries. But there is a huge catch. The Eurail Global Pass for five countries is Rs 20,000 (€245) while all my travels through seven countries in buses cost 6,200 INR (€80). Isn’t that a huge difference? The buses are super comfortable and make for a pleasant journey.
Compare prices between cities using GoEuro website. Flixbus connects most cities with very attractive prices but I loved the comfort of RegioJet far better. Flixbus only offers 150 MB of free Wi-Fi while RegioJet has unlimited Wi-Fi, free entertainment screens loaded with movies and also complimentary coffee and juices on request. If you’re doing much longer journeys, then the €99 pass of Flixbus too comes in handy.
Choosing the right Multi Currency Travel Card
This is a prime point to tick off before embarking on a Europe Trip. Banks which offer multi-currency cards do so at much higher rates, which will also include service, conversion and withdrawal charges among many more. On the other hand, the online sites like Centrum and Bookmyforex offer travel cards at very competitive rates. In addition, they also have a number of free ATM withdrawals on the travel card.
I bought my currency and Multi-Currency Travel Card through Centrum. I was following the rates on the website and Google carefully for a few days. The rate at which I loaded my card was much lower than the latest conversion rate shown on Google. There is a time-lag during which it takes to update on the websites and this is best utilised to buy currency. It’s paramount to buy currency on weekdays than the weekends when it’s much higher due to last minute plans.
Buy a local SIM Card
Being a blogger, I go through data at a much higher rate than a normal person. With updates on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter the HD photos that I keep uploading suck in a bulk of data. I know it’s a bad thing, but I actually have withdrawal symptoms if I’m not online. Buying a local SIM Card is much cheaper than taking a global one from your country of origin.
To give a better understanding let me jot down the rate difference between different SIM cardsS €40 Matrix SIM card taken from India - 2 GB of data and 400 minutes of callingS €39 Orange SIM Card from the Airport – 10 GB Data and 500 minutes of callingS €15 Lebara SIM Card at a Tabac/Tabacchi – 2 GB of Data, Unlimited Local calls and 500 Mins International Calls. These can be topped up online as per requirement Most definitely I chose the last option.
Peeing is costly but you DON’T necessarily have to pay
I explore a lot on beer and with that comes the after-effects. Yes, you’re charged from around 50 cents to €1 every time you got to go pee in a public toilet. Even in McD you’ll have to pay to use the washroom, which isn’t the case in local pubs or eateries. With an extended Oktoberfest drinking in the town square, it was safe to say that I lost €7 my first night in Berlin.
It wasn’t until someone in my hostel told me that the payment has been put up only for tourists and you can choose not to pay. Sure do pay for the initial first time coz this helps them maintain the cleanliness and makes for a good tip. But with every recurring visit, rather hold back the change for another pint of beer.
Never hold back on Desires and Cravings
You’re in Europe on a vacation and sometimes you don’t know when the next trip to a particular country might pan out. So if you see a delicious looking pastry or gelato, go ahead and buy it. This is one decision you won’t regret.
Tap water is drinkable
The tap water in Europe is filtered and you’d rather utilise the money spent on a mineral water bottle elsewhere. Mineral water and sparkling water cost the same in a restaurant, however, the restaurant is bound to serve you tap water if you ask for it. It’s just that they don’t mention it anywhere.
Before heading outside, I carried my own water bottle filled from my hostel itself. This helps a lot in keeping hydrated.
There is no concept of MRP
Nowhere in Europe is there a concept of Maximum Retail Price that can be charged on a product. This can be quite confusing as the same bottle of water will cost €6 in one shop and €1 in a vending machine. Beers can be priced at €4-5 in shops around tourist areas while cost €1 in Carrefour.
Personally, I preferred Carrefour for buying my basic needs for the trip. But if you need to buy fresh produce like fruits and vegetables, the local markets provide a much better rate than the supermarkets.
This is one things you’ll get used to gradually once you’ve spent a few days. Do not postpone your trip to much later on. A Europe trip is doable and not as costly as it’s advertised to be.
By: Ashis Nayak