So finally, here I am writing my first blog on my international trip. Its not that I have never been to any other foreign country before it's just that I am too lazy to write. As usual I had been planning this trip only on excel sheet's since last two years and then finally one day I just logged on to www.makemytrip.com and booked my flight tickets. I always wanted to celebrate Christmas & New Year's in Europe and finally my wish came true. Though,many of them suggested its a wrong time to go; there wont be any tourist's its too cold you wont enjoy and blah blah. I am not going to write lengthy essay on my trip, just basic details that will help you plan your trip wisely. And trust me its fun visiting Europe during Christmas. Christkindlmarkt are just mind blowing and worth it.
How to finalize on countries or cities to visit: 1) Googlemaps is your best friend here. You can just sketch out your travel plan here and see the feasible options. 2) Check flight tickets from Mumbai to several places in europe you wish to visit and the city from where flight ticket is cheap make it your starting point. 3) You decide where you want to go. Do not let others decide for you.
Places visited/route map- Vienna-Budapest-Prague-Munich-Amsterdam-Paris . I was very clear that I wanted to celebrate New Year's Eve in Paris hence, city of departure was fixed. And Vienna was finalized as the starting point as tickets from mumbai to vienna were cheap. However, mumbai to budapest is cheaper comparatively.
Flight Tickets: Skyscanner is your best friend here. Set alert notifications for price fare this helps alot. All the travel websites have their quota of low fare tickets of which www.cleartrip.com,www.yatra.com get's sold very fast. I booked my tickets through www.makemytrip.com. Flights from Mumbai - Vienna & Paris - Mumbai INR- 40k Etihad Airways pp.
Budget Trip for me doesn't mean to keep drinking water the whole day (Actually you cant even do that in Europe water is expensive....LOL) or starve your self to death to save money or eat in McDonalds/Burger King.Why you want to increase your calorie intake and spend your saved money in GYM? For me it means plan wisely so that I can SHOP & EAT lavishly. A Penny Saved Was Never A Penny Earned
Travel Insurance: Simple Log onto www.policybazaaar.com and select your travel insurance. I took Tata AIG Insurance. Rs. 969 for 21 days pp.
Visa: Log on www.vfsglobal.com and decide from which country you want to apply for visa. I had chosen Germany our visa came in 3 working days. Approx. cost 6263 Rs. pp. Do it on your own and save travel agent's fee.
1) www.airbnb.com invite your friends book from their id and avail the discount. Check out promo codes on Airbnb. Take help of Googlemaps to figure out the exact location of your stay. Preferably select a place closer to any metro or bus station. Places closer to city centre will always be expensive. Contact your host interact with them only then book the property. Also check cancellation/refund policy for all your hosts.
2)www.booking.com this website helps you with free cancellation policy.It means you don't have to pay at the time of booking. Pay on arrival. Keep checking for latest offers. Jet Privilege members get travel points if you book it through booking.com
3)www.hostelworld.com staying in a hostel is altogether a different experience. Plus point is most of them are centrally located and if booked in advance you can get really cheap deals.Best part is you make new friends from all across the globe. Plus happy hours in the hostel bar :) whoopie
Total cost: Rs. 19840 pp (including destinations like Paris during New Year's)
Rule No. 1- A BIG NO NO to EURORAILS.....no matter what your travel agent says, it takes only some effort but you do all the booking by yourself. Eurorail is only beneficial if you are travelling to adjacent countries;still Individual booking is much more cheaper.
1) www.seat61.com is the most helpful website for your intercity booking. It provides tips on booking intercity tickets.
2) www.eurolines.com (bus service-prague to munich & amsterdam to paris), www.studentagencybus.com (bus service vienna-prague), www.bahn.com (munich-amsterdan night train-german rail, www.oebb.com (austrian rail- vienna to budapest),
Total cost: Rs. 16786 pp ( Night train from munich to amsterdam was approx. 8k pp.) If you book well in advance you'll get it cheap. Read www.seat61.com for this.
Where all you can save?
Go for free walking tours offered by www.neweuropetours.eu also known as Sandeman's New Europe. Three hours of walking and you get to see main attractions of all the cities. Register online it is FOC (free of cost).
Inside city travel:
1) Grab a map from metro or bus station..figure out places you wish to see on google maps and see how far they are from each other and which is the nearest metro station you need to go to.
2) By foot
3) By metro/tram/bus: Metro tickets are valid for tram and bus travel. You can either buy a day pass or three day travel pass depends on your no. of stay.When in Paris buy 10 ticket booklet it's cheaper. Otherwise keep walking at least you'll burn some calories.
4) Drinking water directly from the tap is safe so avoid buying bottled water. Each half litre bottle cost around 3 euros i.e. approx. 225 rs...OH MY GOD that's too expensive isn't it. If you ask they will give you tap water in restaurants and trust me its safe. At least I did not die drinking it.
5) All Metros are free on 31st Dec evening till 1st Jan 12:00 pm so travel as much as you can.
Money- Take some cash with you and use your debit card. On credit cards banks charge you a lot.
Luggage- Carrying backpack or trolley bag is your choice whatever you are comfortable with. If you're gonna shop alot then pls carry a trolley bag. Am not gonna list down things to carry.
Where all you can spend?
1) Food & Drinks - Now if you are going to Europe all the way from India,what's the point if you are still eating at McDonalds or Burger King don't we have plenty of them in India. Rather why not try out some good local food. Trust me its not that bad and neither everything that they serve is non vegetarian. If you are going to a proper restaurant ask them for an english menu or ask the person to explain what is the dish made up of. Trust me they will willing help you. And incase ur still confused what to eat just to go any kebab corner or asian cuisine rest. Nutella Crepes are a must. Do not forget to try out all locals drink's wherever you go. Palinka (budapest), Becherovka & Pivo (prague), Beer (Munich), Jenever (dutch gin - amsterdam), Wine (paris)
2 Shopping - How can I not shop if I am visiting Europe.......but I AM ON SO CALLED BUDGET TRIP so what do I do now???? Do not buy any stuff from the first shop that you come across...wait,watch and observe then buy. Magnets of course I have to buy otherwise what is the proof I went there. Budapest and Prague make you feel richer. Vienna,Munich,Amsterdam& Paris will make you feel poorer. Designs are same across all the stores in Europe be it H&M,Zara,Mango,Forever 21 and others; so buy it from prague and budapest rather than waiting to purchase it from Paris. Am sure if you're on budget trip you wont be interested in going to LV,GAS,CHANEL,GUCCI and more. For cosmetics shopping you can go to Douglas. It is there in almost all cities of Europe. Sephora!!! how can I miss this...saving your money for this store is worth it. Urban Decay, Naked eye shadows are simply mindblowing. Winter sales help you alot..go for the discounted stuff (korting in dutch).
Imp. travel tips: Do not book any tours from India. Go there and decide what you want to see and do & then book it from there.
I hope this blog is helpful enough to plan your trip to Europe trip wisely.
How to Reach: We took flight from Mumbai to Vienna with one stop over at Abu Dhabi (2.30 hrs) and from there we had arranged for a pick up from the airport. Place to Stay: We stayed at Queens Apartment, located in Schönbrunner Straße . They have private furnished apartments with fully equipped kitchen and it is walking distance from the metro station. Safe and very neat & clean area to stay. Places to Visit for Xmas Markets: Christmas Markets are a must see in vienna Rathausplatz,Stephenplatz,Schewenplataz,Danube River Side, Bermuda Triangle, Opera House, Museumplein, Schönbrunn Palace. Both trams number 1 and 2 loop Vienna's Inner Stadt on the city's 'Ringstrasse', a collection of 8 streets and one quay. You can jump on anywhere on the ring in any direction.The round trip takes approximately 45 minutes and passes many of Vienna's most impressive buildings including the Rathaus (city hall), the Burgtheater (National Theater) and Parliament which is the seat of two federal assemblies. Cheap Eats: Must try flavoured Mulled Wine or Gluhwein. It is a traditional drink during winter, especially around Christmas and Halloween. Frankfurter Würstel (vienna sausages) available in chicken, beef or pork. You can also try Bamboo Noodles or Wok Noodles and yes dont forget to drink bier when in Europe. Bermuda Triangle is the street where you will find places with different cuisines to eat and drink. Retail Therapy: Mariahilfer Straße. Almost all major department stores can be found here selling clothes, leather goods, furniture and accessories, books and stationery. The Kärntner Strasse shopping streetand Landstraßer Hauptstraße in Vienna’s 3rd District share the capital’s second largest shopping streets.Located in Vienna’s 10th district, near the Südtiroler Platz, is the Favoritenstraße pedestrian area. Kolhmarkt located at Fifth Avenue here you will find all the luxury brand not be within the boundaries of a budget traveller.
How to reach: You can either go by bus or train to budapest from Vienna. Of course, bus is any time economical however if you book train tickets well in advance you might it get cheaper than the bus. We booked train for vienna (Wien Hauptbahnhof) to budapest (keleti station) through www.oebb.at (austrain rail) and budapest to vienna through www.mavcsoport.hu (hungarian rail) . Once your tickets are booked you will get confirmation id on your email and you need to get your tickets printed from the respective railway station. Places to Visit: Heroes Square,Budapest's Baths,Parliament,St. Stephen's Basilica,Castle Hill/Royal Palace. The Shoes on Danube River Memorial, Freedom Square,Gellert Hill, Fishermen Bastion, and many more. Cheap Eats: Best is to always try local food wherever you go, Goulash Soup, Potato Pasta topped with sour cream or cheese. Sausages in corn dipped in mayonaise or any sause of your choice try them at KOLBice. Retail Therapy: Vaci Street, Mammut shopping Mall, Vorosmarty Square, Westend City Centre , Chinese Markets Tips: We did a day trip to budapest but later realized a min. of 3-4 days are required to see entire budapest. Hungary will make you feel richer and if you waiting to shop from other places like amsterdam or paris or munich then please drop the idea and shop from here.
How to reach: When on budget trip always spend wisely. We booked bus tickets through student agency travel agency. All buses start and drop you on time, so unnecessarily don't spend on train tickets. Place to Stay: We booked a private apartment through airbnb. Places to visit: Prague Castle,Old Town Square,Charles Bridge,St. Nicholas Church,Petrin Hill, Astronomical Clock, The Lesser Town (West of the river), Jewish Synagogue, John Lennon Wall. Cheap Eats: Sausages, Potato wafers, Bramborak (potato pancake) a must try czech savory, hot chocolate, local honey wine, Becherovka (local czech drink). Czech bier (pivo) are one of the best I have had till date. Czech beer brands include Pilsner Urquell, the world's first pilsner, and Budweiser Budvar (in some countries trademarked as Budějovický Budvar or Czechvar). Other well known brands are Velkopopovický Kozel, Gambrinus, Radegast, Staropramen, Krušovice, Starobrno, Bernard and Svijany. Retail Therapy: Wenceslas square, Karlova, Palladium Mall, Tesco. TIps: very serene and the most peaceful city. You can also take a day trip to Cesky Krumlov or Karlovy Vary. If you are fond of more adventure or believe in ghosts then you can also try Prague Ghost Tour. Every hour from morning until night, hundreds gather at the astronomical clock on the Old Town Hall for the 'Procession of the Apostles'. Lasting five minutes, this 'procession' sees the 12 apostles nod as they pass over the clock on the hour as a bell rings somewhat morbidly.
How to reach: We booked Euroline bus from Prague to Munich. Do not miss the countryside view on your bus journey. Place to stay: Wombats City Hostel (centrally located) Places to visit: Marienplatz (famous christmas market), Munich Residence, BMW Museum,Englischer Garden, Beer Halls & Beer gardens, Allianz Arena, Theresienwiese (place where Oktoberfest is held), Olympic Village, Deutsches Museum Cheap Eats: In munich you will find proper Indian cuisine restaurants (incase you are tired of eating cold sandwiches and sausages) or kebab corners. Sausages accompanied with French fries. Must try Augustiner Keller (must try mixed sausages with mash potatos, Hofbräuhaus (the most famous beer hall). Retail Therapy: Kaufingerstrasse (located between Karlsplatz & Marienplatz) is one of Europe's premier shopping streets, Galeria Kaufhof. Tips:Whole of germany is shut from 24th dec 2:00 pm till 26th dec. You'll find hardly any places to shop or eat so before you to go any place please check if it is open or not. Also, many beer gardens are shut during winters as they have outdoor sitting. However, chinese garden the most famour beer garden located at Englischer garden.
How to reach: The only expensive transport cost that we incurred was from munich to amsterdam. We took City Night Line train (CNL) book your train tickets from www.bahn.de or www.bahn.com. Advice pls book your tickets well in advance. Tickets for two was around 200 euros. Place to stay: booked a loft through airbnb and Hans Brinker budget Hotel. Places to see: There are many places to see in amsterdam but it depends on what you are fond of. We are not too fond of Museums on top of it you have to stand in line for hours. Howsoever, you can visit Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Heineken Brewery, Canal Cruise, Chill out in Vondelpark, Dam Square, Madame Tussauds, Red light Area & I AMSTERDAM sign. Cheap Eats: Febo outlets here you can buy a chicken/pork/beef/lamb burger for only 2 euros. Vlaams Frites (famous dutch french fries dipped in mayonnaise). If you are fond of beef you will find several outlets of Argentinian steak houses. Wok to Walk budget Asian food joints. Retail Therapy: Magna Plaza, Leidsestraat, Kalverstraat, Albert Cuypmarkt, Leidseplein/Rembrandtplein Tips: You can rent a bike for a day and roam in the whole city. We discovered amsterdam on foot all by ourselves. Here is one helpful tip - Coffeshop in amsterdam sell hash & weed and more stuff that you need. Brown Cafes will actually serve you coffee. GreyArea is one of famous coffeeshops. Bulldog is one of the oldest coffeshops in the city however, it is now overrated. Lot of other stuff is also available try them at your own risk..truffles,space cake and many more.
How to reach: Overnight bus from Amsterdam to Paris booked to Eurolines. Place to stay: Booked an apartment through airbnb. Place to visit: Musée du Louvre (where Mona Lisa is smiling in peace), Cathédrale de Notre-Dame, Père Lachaise Cemetery (where Icons Rest in peace like Jim Morrison , Oscar Wilde and many more. Arc de Triomphe, Montmarte, Love Wall, Moulin Rouge, Pompidou Centre, Luxembourg gardens, Palais-Royal, Love Lock bridge doesn't exist any more. Champs Elysees, Ferris wheel. River Siene, Do I still need to mention Effiel Tower here??????? Am sure if your in Paris you wont miss this place. Cheap Eats: Nothing is cheap in Paris. However, you can go to Bastille here lanes are full of pubs, restaurants & discos. They do serve food in good quantity so it wont punch you much. And yes do not forget to try french wine. (3.5 euros per glass of wine) Retails Therapy: If your on a so called budget trip....you should only do window shopping at Champs Elysees. Galeries Lafayette, Le Forum des Halles, Tati is apt for so called budget travellers. Tips: Do not waste money in going up the effiel tower. Rather to the top of Arc de triomphe and see effiel tower glitter. View from Arc De Triomphe is priceless ( go in the night) it is open till 10:30 pm but one has to climb 300 stairs. Weather in Paris is very unpredictable so please carry your raincoat or umbrella with you. The first sunday of the month entry to all museums is free so please be ready to spend 1-2 hours standing in the que. And yes don't be disappointed when you see Mona Lisa painting.
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