It was just another day in my usual and monotonous life. I was starting to think about where my life was going. I wanted to see places but here I was, sitting and cracking on with my keyboard, trying to deliver something which I was not keen to. It was lunch. It was my exploration time. If you had a peek at my search history, it would be titled, "skydiving in India” (which took me to the accidents,Oops! bad idea), skydiving in Dubai (too costly for one dive), skydiving abroad etc. etc. You get the point. It was during one of those searches that I came across, the skydiving tour in the south of France (in tripoto). I tried contacting tripoto but didn't get a response. Finally, I was able to contact the people who were organizing the trip (gobeepbeep). Most of the places that I had researched so far were offering, a single tandem skydive and it was just too expensive, even though this would be my first jump ever. The gobeepbeep guys were offering a solo skydiving course, at the end of which you get a license. It was for a period of a week and the cost quoted for this was 1.35L. This would include one day accommodation in Paris and a week's accommodation in the skydiving base. This would also cover the cost to and fro Paris to the skydiving bases (Pau or Arcachon) and the cost of the jump and the equipments. This definitely made sense (well, not the part where my first ever jump would be solo. Not the wisest of choice, but what the hell! Life is short anyway. If something were to happen, this would be how it does. I had accepted it). I decided to pair this trip with a trip to the other parts of France like the Alps etc where a friend would be joining me as well. And so, began the plan to finally go for it.
• Booking payment: In order to book a spot in the skydiving trip, I had to pay ₹10,000 (included in the cost).
• Visa application: Applying a tourist visa to France and other European countries is very easy and is mostly online. The link can be found here. All you have to do is login to your account or create one if you don’t have an account. Follow the steps mentioned and choose an appointment date at the end of the application. After which, you have to turn up at your local VFS office and submit the documents and you are done (PS: sometimes there can be a long wait too). Since I applied from Bangalore, the location for the Bangalore office can be found here. I got my visa the next day, so it is very quick. The Visa application fees is ₹6500.
• Booking flight and accommodation: Whenever I am travelling, I make it a point that I stay in hostels. The hostel scene abroad is quite chilled. Some of the reasons to go for a hostel and not a hotel are: a) It is less expensive b) You can meet some awesome people. I had booked an early morning flight to Paris on the 10th of August, that would land me in Paris on the 10th early morning in Paris. The trip officially started from the 13th of August and I had to report to the hostel that they had booked on the 11th morning. We were leaving to the sky diving base on the 12th morning, so I had a good two days to explore the city. Also, I had a plan to train Jujitsu in one of the Gracie Barra training centres. So, two days made sense before I go on the adventure. For booking an accommodation, always use booking.com as the go to site, because you don’t need to pay online and you have the option to go there and make the payment. Also, for booking the flights, there is an EMI option these days which makes sense to use, if you are embarking on a trip abroad.
• Booking travel and tourist attractions: There were certain tourist attractions that I wanted to cover in the period of two days. I didn’t get a chance to go to the museums. However, I visited the Eiffel tower and took a boat cruise along the river Seine. You can book the ferry here (Cost is ₹1241). There is a get your guide app that you can install for your convenience. If you are interested and have more time at hand, then you can also choose to explore all the other tourist attractions. You can find all the details in the link above. After I finish the skydiving course, the plan was to head to Lyon, where I would meet my friend and then head to the Alps via a car. I booked a bus from the skydiving base (Pau) to Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport using the Flixbus service. It cost me ₹3900. You can use the app for our convenience. For the price, the buses aren’t comfortable, but dropped me off at the right time. The reason I chose the airport as the drop off destination was because there is a car hire service right next to the airport. The rest of the travel and stay was already booked by my friend. The details of which you can find in the next part of the story.
• Forex travel cards and currency: In bookmyforex, they do all the process online and you get the card delivered to your doorstep, which is quite convenient. However, they currently issue only Axis Bank travel cards which are not reliable. Some of the ATMs did not accept the Axis bank travel card in France, only a few of them did. Other than that, it works fine. You can also choose to get the currency of the respective country that you are travelling to your doorstep as well.
You can find a list of all the FAQs on their website. However, I have listed some of the first questions that can come to our mind while travelling:
1. Are there any charges for door delivery?
Door delivery charges may vary per city to a certain extent. In most cities, door delivery charges are as follows:
If order total is under Rs. 5000 - Not eligible for door delivery
If order total is between Rs. 5000 - Rs. 15,000, Rs. 150 door delivery charge is applied
If order total is between Rs. 15000 - Rs. 50,000, Rs. 100 door delivery charge is applied
If order total is over Rs. 50,000 - No door delivery charge will be applied
2. How long does it take you to provide doorstep delivery?
Orders received prior to 1 pm are delivered on the same business day. Any order received after 1 pm may still be delivered on the same business day but in the worst case we guarantee delivery on the next business day.
3. What documents do I need for personal / leisure travel?
Original and valid passport
Valid visa for the country of travel (except where VISA on arrival applies)
Confirmed ticket-showing travel within 60 days of taking foreign exchange
PAN (Form 60/61 in case PAN missing)
4. For how long are prepaid cards valid?
Prepaid Cards have a validity of 5 years from the date of purchase
5. What should I do if my forex card is lost or stolen abroad?
If your card is lost or stolen, you should immediately contact the Bank's Customer support helpline. The number to the same is available at the back of your card, in your forex card manual and on the banks websites. You can also send an email to the bank to report a card as lost or stolen.
Customer service executives of the Bank will immediately block your card and prevent it to be used further. You can also request the Bank's support team to arrange Emergency Cash or a Replacement card, if required. It is important to note that a lost card report will be taken only after verification of your mother's maiden name, date of birth, passport no etc.
• SIM and Internet Connection: There are a lot of options to choose from namely Orange, Lycamobile, SFR, LeFrenchmobile etc. You can read more about it here. You don’t need to arrange for this before you leave. It can be picked up directly from the airport or any of the train stations. I personally chose to go for the Orange as it has a wide coverage all throughout the country.
This is basically it! Once sorted, I was all set to head out on this amazing journey solo.