Europe was literally by far the most unexpected travels and a dream destination for me. More than that it was my first ever International Trip. I was lucky to be able to explore many European Countries like Germany, France, Austria , etc on a fixed budget and that too without a Paid Travel Guide. I did everything on my own , starting from Getting the Europe Visa, Travel Tickets, International Sim cards , EuroRail passes, Hotels and Dormitory bookings and of course the Insurance. This trip made me realise that in a digitally forward era, why do we need to pay to Travel Agencies. We can get everything online. You too can plan your first europe trip from India by following along the guidelines and processes.
I must tell you I did a lot of research and asked my friends about the Best places to see in Europe and Top things in Europe. So I am putting every little detail here below. I might even share FREE Itinerary for Europe so that you plan your Dream European Trip without paying to any Travel Agencies. Hurray! Let's get started.
Should I get a Travel Ticket first or a Schengen Visa or a Hotel Booked ?
You are planning to visit more than one country in Europe, for that you will need a Schengen Visa. A European visa which covers most countries in Western Europe & a few in Eastern Europe. So while you apply for the Schengen Visa please remember to check multi country and not single. If you select single you won't be allowed to visit other countries.
Getting a Schengen Visa from India is a bit complex, you require to submit Hotel Bookings and Flight bookings information during your Face to Face interview. This sounds crazy because what if you pay for everything and don't end up getting an approved visa? But the reason for this is , they want proofs that you will be able to sustain yourself financially during your trip. In addition, it confirms your travel dates and the length of your trip. Anyways, There are ways by which you don't have to actually book for the Real Hotels and Flights. You heard it right. Indian hacks to get a Schengen Visa :P. Not really. The world does that.
Now, The best way is to Book a completely refundable flight on your credit card on Lufthansa , Quantas or any other low cost airlines like flydubai. Similarly, Book fully refundable hotels on Booking.com. I completely rely on this site when it comes to refunds. And then as Soon as you get your visa, cancel your bookings and start your real research.
Insurance for Schengen Visa for your Europe Trip from India
Indian tourists traveling to multiple countries in Europe which include any of the Schengen countries must have Travel Insurances. I chose Religare. There are multiple other options like Bajaj, HDFCERGO. Criteria is that you must minimum coverage amount of EUR 30,000. It should Cover the period of the traveler's stay or transit in the Schengen area . Above all It must Be valid in all Schengen countries.
Now that you are done with the legal procedures. I will give you a layout about how you can save your money on your Stay as well as Transportation and commute for your First time in Europe trip from anywhere in the world or India
Choose Dormitories over Hotels.
Unless you are travelling with a huge family, Hotels can be expensive. If you want to save a good amount of budget choose hostels and dormitories over Hotels. Hotels can be really expensive unless you book it through booking.com. But I prefer Hostels as they are equally comfortable, clean and cool. Apart from that, Hostels make it easy to meet other travelers. There are generally two types of rooms available in hostels - standard dorm rooms and private rooms. The best two sites to rely for Genuine Hostel Bookings and Review are HostelWorld and HiHostel
Hostel dorm rooms are almost universally equipped with multiple squeaky bunk beds. Many hostels offer private rooms for people who want more privacy but still want the hostel vibe. Most of the time private rooms are meant for one or two people. However, there are a lot of private rooms for groups of 3-4 people. I choose a private room for two,my sister and myself. Also I was not ready to share Restrooms as I have washroom OCD. There are lockers in the rooms, you can keep your valuable stuff. But I am pretty sure you being an Indian wont carry Gold jewellery for a Euro trip. I dont keep anything in the locker except for my unwashed clothes.
What's more in Hostels ?
You can get International Sim cards for yourself or get connected through Internet. Wifis are mostly free and available in Hotels , Hostels, McDonalds, Stations and Malls. Phone cards are also available, but I found it expensive. I preferred Internet. For the first few days, there was coordination issues as this was my first Europe trip and back in India my family would wait for my calls. So i found a solution. And I would select a proper time and do a Video call using IMO, Whatsapp Video or FaceTiming to India. India is few hours ahead of Europe, checking the time was indeed required for me so that people back in India won't worry about me. India and Europe time difference is approximately around 4-6 hours. Plan your day and connect with your family as per that.
Cash or Forex Card for your Europe trip
Well, You will get Pantry and Reading Rooms and Recreational rooms as well. You can check those out too. You will find artists and talents from around the world. A person staying next to my room was an author. It seems he was inside the hostel for few days and he was writing on a new project. I made friends with Talented Tattoo artist and Guitarists. Few European Hostels will serve you Free breakfast while others won't. Be prepared for that.
Also Read How i got to Paris and what made me come back:P
Let's talk about Eurail passes
Eurail Pass is a train ticket that allows you to travel in and through up to 28 European countries on trains and some ferries. I remember I got to know about it from one of the Hostel reception desk. The following countries are included in Eurail passes:Austria, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain (England, Wales, and Scotland), Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey (as well as Liechtenstein and Monaco).
Depending on how much time you intend to spend in Europe & the number of countries in your itinerary, getting a Eurail pass can lead to big savings, and the train is a great way to see the European countryside. If you're traveling as a group of 2-5 adults, you can save 15% on your tickets (via either the Rail Europe or Eurail website.
Sim Cards , Internet and Time difference in Europe
Obviously you will either need to convert your Indian Currency into Euros.Or You can Get cash loaded in Forex Cards or Amex Cards. Alternatively if you have International Credit cards that would perfectly be fine however some European Hostels might not accept all Credit cards. I loaded cash in my Forex card and carried some cash as well
Most Important thing Do not forget to carry Universal Adapter. You of course don't want to end up feeling stupid about not getting a Universal World Wide Travel Charger Adapter Plug. You will require at least one Power Adapter or Plug adapter as Europe has Electric boards different than that we have in India.I also carry one Handy Travel BackPack or a Trendy cute Duffle Bag I try to keep it stylish even with the bags.Food in Europe for me and You
Fellows, initially I was a bit sceptical about European food. I had tasted only Pizzas and Pastas. I wasn't really aware about what food I can get in Europe. To my delight, I found and munched on a number of different European cuisines and cuisines from around the world. I loved Waffles , Croissants and doner kebabs. If you are a vegetarian, If you go up to Mcdonalds and ask for a Veg Burger, you might end up getting a Chicken or Fish Burger. Because Vegetarian for them means NO meat. Chicken and Fish is Veg. Be specific and ask for Potato French fries. Be specific in what should be included in your burger.
Tips : Apart from these, I know there will be days when you will be homesick and want to eat Indian Food. There are couple of Asian Restaurants where you will get Indian food as well. But I advice that you try new food when you are in a new country. I know Indians don't eat Beef and all, so just check on the menu or ask the hotel manager for the main ingredients. There is food for all type of people in Europe.
I am pretty sure I have covered all the major aspects for your first or nth trip to Europe from India or anywhere. And without the need of a travel agent. These are quite simple and full proof ways.