I never thought I would be interested in traveling. Thanks to my Czech friends who have introduced me to the concept of “Backpacking”. I did trekking before but camping and trekking for a week in the surreal surroundings of Norway was just amazing.
We were doing a car journey from Trondheim Norway and to Brno, Czech Republic (quite a distance). I learnt lot of things for the first time. Since then I continued my travel journey.
I will not be going into details about what to and what not to visit. This is mainly about planning and finalizing the trip.
Firstly thanks to my company which gives me lots of holidays and allows me to work at my will. The planning involved lots of iterations based on the availability and suggestions from my friends.
The first trip is always memorable. As there are lots of emotions running through the mind. You don’t know how it will be because you have never done it. Truly speaking I was tensed but excited too. I didn’t know what to expect so I was just keeping my fingers crossed. I did some research about places and asked friends for suggestions. Then I worked on my plan every weekend. My final trip itinerary. It went through lots of iterations as it involved stay at friends place.
Its quite common in Europe and other western countries that people backpack quite often. Seeing an Indian backpack most of the foreigners were surprised. They thought Indian’s don’t come out of their Indian cocoon, lol!!! In fact during my two trips I rarely saw Indians. Lots of stories to tell but this post will be too long if I add them here. Some other post for sure. Checkout the map above for more details about the places I visited and my hostel accommodations.
Well this time I was quite pre-occupied with work so I left it to last minute. As I was traveling with another friend so after finalizing the itinerary I just pushed the booking load on him. I was quite relaxed in this trip may be because of the experience. Experience definitely makes you smart and knowledgeable. We were also trying new things like the flight travel in Ryan Air and the accommodation in forest camping. In some places we just did things spontaneously not much of planning at all like attending a Mozart concert, 3hr Opera show in Budapest (5€ its dead cheap), Skydiving in Prague (cheapest in Europe) etc. The most unplanned trip I had ever done. But I loved how it shaped out at the end. The experience is what I cherish most.
Travel tips for Europe:
- First talk to a person who has traveled Europe, ask for suggestions and recommendations.
- There is lots of data on the web regarding places to visit. Make a rough plan about a place. My preference would be Tripadvisor (or) Wikitravel (or) Lonely Planet guides. Well I personally don’t plan in advance, I prefer to go by the local suggestions. Being well informed is always useful.
- Stay at hostels if you wanna save some money and meet some new friends. You can book beds in Hostel World. If you are a gold customer you can save 10% on the booking.
Transport is an important part of the travel, as half the days one would be traveling between cities (or) in the city.
Eurolines is one of the best services across Europe. Some countries like Czech Republic have specific budget services like Student Agency, Orangeways. Book in advance for cheaper and promotional offers. The buses are quite comfortable. If I am doing an overnight journey its definitely my choice.
Trains are good way to travel if you are having a Eurorail pass. There are different varieties of passes Global pass, Select country pass. Global pass is economical if you are traveling for 20 days or a month. One good thing with Global pass is you can choose to travel whenever you want. The travel time is quite flexible. To decide to buy a pass or travel ticket. Its much cheaper that way, otherwise buying a single way ticket is quite expensive. I would prefer a bus If I am not having a pass.
Fastest way to travel is always flights. In some places in Europe it is also the cheapest way to travel. Just imagine the flight cost to be €9. Only thing to remember is the airports are quite far from the city, it takes 1 hr from the city to the airport. The cheaper airlines are usually run from out of the city. They are run between few cities, so check for the connectivity at Ryan air, EasyJet,AirBerlin. For more details. Some places the cost from city to airport is as low as 2€ (Barcelona) to 8€ (Budapest), other places it costs more than the flight charge like in Paris (15€) and Munich (20€). Sometimes it is better to travel in train/bus as compared to flights because of the travel time. The flight time is less but travel to airport and to the city and waiting would come to around 6 hrs of travel time. If you are traveling long distance its the best option. I have traveled from Paris to Santander (North of Spain) in Ryan air, if I traveled in bus/train it would have taken me 2-3 days. Note that hand baggage has some particular dimensions to fit, if it doesn’t fit it is extra 50€.
Usually the local maps give a fair information about the intra city routes. Always carry a map. The hostels/hotels usually provide one if you ask for it.
Most big cities have Metro. Its fast, convenient and affordable. Well most cities have a travel pass (1 day, 2 day or weekend/weekday pass). Get the information from the metro counters (if they speak English). In Rome I got a 2 day pass from a book shop. Quite strange because the info center was not able to provide any info about the pass. Thanks to my friends from Italy for the info. Choose buying a pass carefully, it has a flexibility but if you like to move less then its not worth the price. The passes sometimes cover Bus/tram too.
Most of the cities have good bus/tram details covered in the map. In well organized Europe even small towns are quite self acquainted with respect to Bus/tram timings at the Bus Stop. Things usually run on time, so just be careful if you are used to Indian Standard Time.
You can always hire a bicycle but it is at your own risk. This world isn’t free of thieves.
- If you have money and don't have too much time at a place. Spend wisely on bus/boat tours its quite worth it. Youth (below 25) has some discounts at some places.
- Some cities have free city tours where the guides give knowledge about the city and some funny anecdotes which you would have never read. Don't miss the Amsterdam city tour. The Australian guide Ryan was just awesome. You can get lot of info from these guys. It works on the basis of tips. So if you are impressed always give more :).
- Don't travel in a big group, I wouldn’t prefer more than 3. The main problem with Indians is we like to be in groups and we don’t come out of it. Thats not the purpose of travel. To know different people you always need to mix up. I know its hard but its fun I bet you. I made some wonderful friends on my journey that I will never forget.
- Don't make your plan too rigid. Always keep things flexible because things will not work as you have planned sometimes. Don’t be a timetable, you will not be able to cover everything, enjoy the moment. I sometimes like to keep things flexible because if I like a place I extend my stay for a day or two and vise versa If I don’t like I cut down my stay.
“If plan A doesn't work, the alphabet has 25 more letters – 204 if you're in Japan.” – Claire Cook, Seven Year Switch
- Things will go wrong. Don't worry too much thats where the story starts. Its always a learning experience. During our trip to Munich for the Oktoberfest we booked a tent at the Party Grounds, we took a Google map and followed the directions. Unfortunately we were just walking and walking for 3 hours till we reached our destination with the help of the locals. It was a remote place and Google maps misled us. Secondly we didn’t check the timings of the bus to the airport. And to our surprise there were buses every 1 and half hour and we missed the earlier bus by 10 min. We were making all the plans B, C, D in case we missed the flight. We were quite lucky to get to the airport in time. Quite a big surprise we managed.
- Europe is a mixture of city vs mountains. Always have a mix of the two in the trip. In one of my journeys after my trip to Rome I never visited a museum. Rome & Vatican has so many museums that I got fed up. Then I moved to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland where I spent some lovely time hiking and visiting mountains. This helped me rejuvenate my lost energy.
- If you are a beer lover try different ones. Europe have quite a variety of beers. Alcohol percentage is a bit higher though.
- Language isn’t a big problem in the urban parts as most of them understand English. But if you want to try and test your language skills this is the best place.
- Last but not the least – “When in Rome be a Roman”. Learn the culture and mingle with them. Socialize with people and talk to them thats how you are gonna enjoy more.
- If you are into museums and city tours with an audio guide I would recommend audio tour by Rick Steve and Lonely Planet audio tour. You can download the mp3 and use it during your travel. Otherwise the audio tours at the museums cost around €8.