I’ve been thankful to have done this trip with great friends because remember 15 to 20 days is a lot of time, so much so that you might begin to hate the person you love too. And that’s exactly the amount of time you will need to visit all those famous places in Europe (Unless you want to spend excessive amounts travelling there several times, after all the flight tickets aren’t exactly cheap).
Narrow down the places you want to visit:
Europe is huge and you certainly can’t see all of it in one trip (unless of course you are planning an exhaustive 45 day tour which is pointless and tiresome). So pick the places you want to see.
Tip: Pick places that are close to each other and cut your travel time.
Places I visited:
Rome -> Pisa -> Lido De Jesolo / Venice -> Munich -> Amsterdam-> Paris
(4+1+2+3+4+3 = 17 + 1 day in travelling)
Tip: Always keep some buffer time for travelling because you will screw up and get lost and that’s the fun of it. We made sure we had at least one day to rest (mostly the day we reached the city because no matter how less your travel time is the back and forth is going to be tiring).
Book your flights:
The first thing you got to do is book flight tickets online. The sooner the better so you’ll have the biggest cost out of the way and the earlier you book the cheaper the flights will be. We did ours four months in advance from Skyscanner as it lets you compare flight rates with ease. Have a tentative set of dates and check which ones come in cheaper so you can book accordingly and get the cheapest flights – hopefully direct ones. (We had a connecting flight from Mumbai to Abu Dhabi and then Rome while going and on return we spent 17 hours travelling as we went from Paris to Rome to Abu Dhabi and finally to Mumbai.)
Tip: Always check the ticket prices in incognito mode on your browser and when finally booking choose a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon to book as the prices will show lowest at this time of the week. Sunday night flights to any place are also pretty cheap so it’s a good option to consider. (We left on Sunday evening too).
Once you’ve narrowed down the places think about how you want to travel from one city to another your options are – Hiring a car and setting out on a road trip (for which you need an international license and there are an entirely different set of formalities to get that), taking the extremely well connected and comfortable Euro Rail or booking flights.
You can pick depending on your preferences and resources. The car would be a wonderful experience but is obviously expensive and so is the flight (again expensive). Plus don’t forget to take in account the transfers to and from every airport which is usually way out of city limits.
We took the Euro Rail passes that allowed us to travel to 6 different cities on one ticket package and was a boon. You can book these online easily and I was lucky enough because my friend (Can’t thank him enough!) who booked and studied it in and out so that there were no glitches. There’s also an extremely helpful Euro Rail app that’s always upto date, so worry not. You can download it here.
Tip: Be careful and prompt with all the entries you make in your euro rail ticket booklet as any mistake results in a fine of a whooping 200 Euros (no questions asked).
Google is a blessing:
Maps, translator, dictionary download them all cause trust me it’s all going to come in extremely handy on foreign shores. Mostly you’ll need to translate restaurant menus to understand what you are eating or what you should order.
Book the stay:
Once you’ve decided your itinerary and internal travel the next step is to lock down on stay options. Depending on where you want to stay there are a number of apps you can use. We did mostly hostels but were also open to AirBnBs and cheap hotels. The apps I extensively used to book stay options were Booking.com (that gives you an option to book without any advance payment and is by far the best for hotel bookings), hostelworld, Hostelbookers and AirBnB.
Tip: Make sure you read customer reviews and figure if you really want to stay in a certain place. The reviews are mostly true but also sometimes exaggerated so take a call. If picking hostels choose something that has an in house food facility (which is obviously cheaper than places outside on most occasions).
Avoid: Never pick places that are cheap but extremely far from the centre or touristy places of the city because local travel will kill you both money and physical fitness wise. I made the biggest mistake of booking places really, really far for three locations (Venice, Munich and Paris) which resulted in last minute changes and running around for other stay options. Thankfully it all turned out well. Use google maps to check the locations of hotels/hostels from the city center and preferably pick something closer to the main train station if travelling by train.
Benefits of being in a hostel:
- There are always walk, tours, parties happening that you can join in.
- There’s enough help to guide you in terms of helpful staff, brochures, maps etc.
- Clean linen, personal lockers sometimes cramped but manageable.
- There are food options that are as per your taste and pocket-friendly. In fact some hostels also give you an option for packed lunch if you are going to be out all day sight-seeing.
- Always located in a great area where travelling to other parts of the city is easy.
- If you are in the hostel early, you won’t get bored cause there’s enough entertainment options available – Free Wifi, Computers, board games, projector screens with movies playing, guitars, 24×7 bars with cheap alcohol et al.
You don’t want to go to a new city and miss out on anything. But take into consideration your likes and dislikes. Plan your sight-seeing accordingly cause there’s no point of spending 20 euros for entry into an art museum where you simply don’t understand anything.
We booked Hop on Hop Off buses in most cities as they are the most cost effective sight-seeing option. The buses are available for a one day or two day pass where you can get off at any stop and get on it anytime you want as many times as you wish. The buses are equipped with earphones sometime have free WiFi too and will tell you the history of the places you visit while on the way.
This proved to be a cost-effective option for us that allowed us to explore the city on our own and with some help from the tour bus too. Plus saves all the money you end up spending going from one place to another. You can book these online in advance or when you reach the city itself. You’ll find their booths on railway stations, bus stands and tourist spots.
Tip: We did all these bookings online because we didn’t want to carry so much money with us plus we didn’t want to take a chance to go looking for them in an unknown city and wasting any time. Worked out well.
Cycle tour in Amsterdam:
In Amsterdam alone we skipped the HOHO bus option and took a cycle tour of the city which too we had booked online in advance. We went for the reputed Yellow Bike Company Tour (Again read a lot of reviews) which gives you the bike and takes you around the entire city along with a tour guide that will diligently stop at important spots and explain all relevant things about this colourful city. The ride is done in breaks so it’s not at all tiring. Plus there’s also a break in the garden where you can sit, chill, have coffee and then move on again.
For the rest of the days in Amsterdam we bought the tram / train passes that would allow us to get on and off the trams multiple times a day. Travelling in Amsterdam is easy as compared to the other cities.
In this article, I’ve covered most of the planning part but there’s a whole lot more I haven’t put in, in a bid to not make this too long. So if you’ve got any questions shoot them to me in the comments section and I’ll try and answer soon. I’m going to do a city-wise guide of my trip so that’ll give you insights on food, local travel, best tourist places, forex card etc, so watch out for more.
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