Hello everybody ! This post is about that dream Euro trip which many have on their bucket-list but haven’t been able to fulfil as yet. Friends, in this post I have a tested recipe to “make it happen”
Before I dive into the details, let me state some facts about me and my husband’s first International trip –
1. We both are Public Sector Insurance Co. employees ( Sarkari )
2. Our trip duration was of around 15 days. We covered Paris, Prague and Vienna.
3. I’d like to divide the trip expenses in 2 categories – PRE-VISA and POST-VISA Expenses.
4. PRE-VISA includes Return Flights, Accommodation, Inter-city or Inter-country Travel and VISA fee
5. POST-VISA includes Exchanged Currency at hand, Food, local travel, amusements and sight seeing and any other splurges you are upto.
6. The total trip cost us about 4-4.5 lacs but it is because we splurged on experiences of a lifetime. PRE-VISA expenses was limited to Rs. 1,30,000/- for both. See.
7. I chose autumn to visit Europe ( 3 cities to be exact ) and started from India on 21st Sept’ 16.
8. We only needed Schengen VISA, so I am going to stick to the details of SCHENGEN VISA only.
DISCLAIMER : I take the liberty to assume that you ( like me ) have a suffocating need to travel to beautiful destinations but the total package of your dream EURO TRIP does not allow you to take that big step. Worry NOT.
Although we have the means but things written on the internet horrify you into believing that one needs to have lacs and lacs of amount in the bank during VISA processing. Here, my experience will give you some invaluable insight. Read On.
Start planning the trip at least 6 months in advance.
With 4 months in hand, book your return flights
Keep a check at your bank balance.
Slowly over the period of 3 months book accommodations, inter-city travels and/or tours.
This way you go easy on your savings and do not burn a BIG HOLE in your pocket.
Apply for VISA at least a month before you travel.
If you have a Credit Card, GOOD.
Some points to note :
• My Europe dream started with as little as Rs. 35,000/- in my bank account
• Me and my husband both work with a Public Sector Insurance Company
• I applied for a Credit Card after booking return flights. Yes having a CC helps.
• Air BnB is a great option. Also do read my special tips regarding Air BnB on how to maximise your staying experience. Mind you, it is pocket friendly and the experience is great for first-timers
• VISA process is a separate horror story, but I can give you some insight.
• I was stubborn about one thing and that was – NOT to depend on any third party viz. Booking Agents, Brokers etc. My mantra was – “ I am the BOSS. I decide. “
• The more you research, the lesser it effects your pocket.
• The biggest expense that you incur is your Flight Tickets ( to and fro ) and this warrants that you do heavy-duty research.
From here I enlist the details of what went into the making of our dream-trip. I will share some anecdotes to highlight some very important points, because like us, I am sure you are equally ( or less ) lazy and pseudo-active :P
WARNING : This is a lengthy piece, but sure as hell very IMPORTANT.
Here we go –
Places to Visit and Flights -
Have a good look at the itineraries of Travel sites like Tripoto, Yatra, Makemytrip. Then go for google maps. Look carefully at the geography. Decide your entry and exit points. (This will be crucial during VISA processing ) Plan your inter-city or inter-country travel in a way so that you end-up getting closer to India ( can work the other way round as well ). We entered Paris and left for New Delhi from Vienna.
It is not always advisable to keep saving money. Try to save maximum on return flights and Accomodation. But do spend on the experiences you are going to get during the trip. I wanted to travel business class on rail so booked the same from Prague to Vienna. I also wanted to sky-dive with pictures and video for memories. The experience of Opera and having lunch/dinner in a Michelin star restaurant. We did all of it and more.
I wanted to do 3 places at a time but its upto you to decide. Beware, one has to walk a lot. We even ended-up getting lost in a metro station in Prague. Our first day and we couldn’t get out of Paris Major Railway station “ Chatelet Les halles “ because everything was in French.
Direct flights v/s flights with stops. Okay, for the “ desh-bhakti “ in me, I wanted to completely travel Air India ( economy of course ! ) There is a concept of “ Open-Jaw “ tickets. Meaning one enters one country and exits from another but with the same airlines. This was the most interesting. Our Direct Air India flight New Delhi – Paris ; Vienna – New Delhi cost us Rs. 36,000/- per person booked 4 months in advance.
I compared booking from Air India directly v/s Yatra, and Yatra costed me Rs. 1500/- less because of e-cash. Skyscanner alerts and google flights did not help me much. But you are free to try.
There were other airlines which were cheaper and with long lay-overs, so its completely upto you.
Sometimes return flights can be cost effective too. Please research carefully.
Air BnB is a good budget-friendly option. You can book hotels. You can go to hostels. There is something called couch-surfing. But the option of staying at some-one’s place and not paying doesn’t work for me.
I will share my Air BnB experience. They are clean. Look out for super-hosts on their sites. Read reviews. Search for properties close to Centre, metro or any public convenience stops.
Look at the photos. Talk to the hosts. Save their phone no.s beforehand.
Ask for nearby departmental stores beforehand, since you will need some groceries for break-fast and tea. Options of eating out, all meals, is not possible.
Once decided, pay and print the receipts.
Inter-city Travel –
Sometimes local airlines are convenient. Railways can be a good option too. We flew from Paris to Prague and took a train from Prague to Vienna. There is a site called Seat61. Browse it. Its very interesting.
You can take buses. We did not because as it is we knew, we were going to get super tired.
ALWAYS carry some snacks in your bag. Because even with a restaurant in the train, veg and non-veg options palatable to Indian taste are very less.
At this time when your tickets are booked and your itinerary sorted with over 4 months in your hand, give yourself a good pat on the back. Congratulations. Your dream trip is going to materialise soon
I was so horrified with all that is written on the internet but I’d like to help you here. First things first, you should have a working salary account to show to the Embassy with lots of transactions. The problem is with the quantum of money.
SCHENGEN VISA requires you to book accommodation and flights in advance to your VISA application and the VFS Global site does not mention the amount of money you need in your bank account. Technically they want to know if you are capable to handle your expenses and return to your work at your own cost.
We saved some money. We showed NPS contributions. We had a FD receipt to show. And the front copy of the CREDIT CARD.
Follow everything on the VFS site to the dot. Do not miss a single thing. Leave letter, employer NOC, details of when you will join your office. My official NOC had a strict line from my employer stating “ Strict action will be taken if you are unable to join office after your sanctioned leave “
They want to know all the reasons that will compel you to come back to India.
If there is something you are confused about in the VISA form, leave it blank. The guys at the VFS centre will help you out.
Wanted or not, make a covering letter and attach a checklist. It helps.
Some Insider TIPS :
Water is expensive if you buy from restaurants. Always.. Always take a water bottle with you. Tap water in Europe is fine. I’d suggest carry ½ ltrs bottles with each of you. Exploring landmarks is best done on foot, so water is essential.
Food is a problem. We, so called non-vegetarians from India are going to have a hard time because not all of us consume pork, ham etc. Anything that is not non-veg will be very bland. Instead of telling the vendor to “make it spicy” tell them to make it “ hot “ ( funnily our pizza was served with two baked green chillies to make it spicier ) :D
Always keep phone no.s of your hosts/hotel handy.
There will be some hiccups, be prepared for it. For, what else will make your trip memorable
I know its long but I also know it will help some of you. Since you have made it this far, I give you my blessings and send lots of good wishes. Europe is waiting for you. Go on. Have fun