Sharmi on the Trot

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Archive for the category “Budget”

5 Ways to Plan Your First Europe Trip on a Budget

The Sleeping Beauty Castle

The Sleeping Beauty Castle in Germany

It’s summer in Europe and before you know it, you’ll be walking along Champs de Elysees, biting into churros dipped in chocolate and loving the ruins at the Roman Forum. But it’s the pre-holiday bit – the planning – which can be daunting. Especially when you’re travelling to Europe for the first time. Many feel it’s impossible to travel to the Continent on a budget on your own. So, they prefer to travel with groups and eat Indian food day in day out. But if you want to explore Europe on your own, eat and travel the way locals do, planning a budget trip is easy. Here’s how:

1) Set a Budget

The first step is very important. If you’re not earning in Euros or Dollars (I earn in Indian Rupees i.e $1 = Rs 63 approx) you must make sure you know how much you approximately want to spend on your trip. If you have an idea of how many days you want the trip to last, setting a budget becomes easier.
Eg: During my last trip to Europe, I decided to travel for about a month and accordingly set my budget. It included my return flights, internal travel, accommodation, food and the attractions I wanted to visit.

Seeing the Mona Lisa was high on my list

Seeing the Mona Lisa was high on my list

Notre dame in Paris

Notre dame in Paris

2) Save Money by Planning Ahead

It sounds preposterous but if you can figure out which part of the continent, which city or country you want to be in when around an approximate time, it becomes easier to save. Instead of shelling out 100 euros for a train ticket at the last moment, you can end up buying tickets for less than 10 euros.
Eg: I got an overnight bus ticket from Amsterdam to Paris for 8 euros since I booked about 12 weeks in advance. (Also Read: Loving Amsterdam on a Budget)

The beautiful canals of Amsterdam

The beautiful canals of Amsterdam

3) Travel Route

Once you figure out the approximate plan, decide your travel route. Start checking travel websites for deals in and out of Europe from your country. If you book 3-4 months in advance you will find cheap deals. It’s always easier to compare the prices on a travel website and then purchase the tickets from the actual airplane website.
Eg: I got a return fare from Munich to Delhi at Rs 42000 approximately.

It was easiest and cheapest to fly into Roma from Barcelona. Isn't the Fountain of Trevi beautiful?

It was easiest and cheapest to fly into Roma from Barcelona via Vueling.
Isn’t the Fountain of Trevi beautiful?

Now decide how you want to travel from city to city, country to country. The best way is a combination of trains, buses and flights. It’s useless to invest in a EuroRail pass. Eg: Instead of buying a pass for Rs 60000 approx, I used a combination for all internal travels at less than half the price. (Also Read: Paris on a Budget)
All tickets go on sale around 3-4 months before, so if you buy then, you save a lot.
Subscribe to Rail Europe, SNCB Europe, DB Bahn, Eurail, Eurolines, EasyJet, Vueling. They keep having offers.

4) Cheap Accommodation in Europe

Stay in key cities like Paris, Rome and Berlin can be expensive. But instead of booking in hotels, try booking in dorms or private rooms in hostels. Check out HostelWorld, HostelBookers and AirBnB.

The sister and I loving Parc Guell. We stayed in an AirBnb in Barcelona

The sister and I loving Parc Guell. We stayed in an AirBnb in Barcelona

Couchsurfing is a wonderful way to meet new people and understand the city from a local’s perspective.
Eg: I’ve surfed and hosted couchsurfers and I can vouch what a great experience it is. I’ve stayed in hostels in Italy, couchsurfed in Austria, France, Germany and booked in rooms via AirBnb in Spain. (Also Read: Why I Love to Couchsurf)

5) What to See, What to Eat

The best way to see a city is on foot. Instead of investing in City Cards, decide on the attractions you want to visit depending on the days you stay in the city and purchase separate tickets. You can never visit all attractions offered in a card in the limited time-span. Buying separate tickets often work out cheaper.

How can you not have churros when in Spain? The deep-fried delight with oodles of sugar is sinful as it's delectable.

How can you not have churros when in Spain? The deep-fried delight with oodles of sugar is sinful as it’s delectable.

Eating out every meal burns a hole in the pocket. Why not make a meal yourself? Buy local ingredients from markets and indulge in fresh baguettes with olives and meat in Paris. It’s cheap to taste the local street food. You can find crepes at less than 3 euros in France, Paella and Churros with Coffee at less than 10 euros in Spain, delicious pizzas at about 6 euros in Italy. So go indulge! (Also Read: Eating my way through Spain)

Over loading on fried prawns, calamari and mussels at La Boqueria

Over loading on fried prawns, calamari and mussels at La Boqueria

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Who can not try Paella in Spain, right?

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Loving Amsterdam… on a budget

I remember leaving Amsterdam early one evening last summer, getting on the bus which would take me to Paris the next day. I left behind two days of walking around the quaint city, masterpieces in the museums, tremendously good food and the promise of learning how to cycle. (Yes, I still keep falling down somehow!).

The flower market

The flower market

An expensive city but not in the league of Paris and Rome, Amsterdam stole my heart and has kept it, asking me to go back every single day. It is possible to enjoy everything the city offers when you’re on a tight budget, and discover hidden gems along the way… I may physically be in Delhi, but my heart still lies in Amsterdam dreaming about the Night Watch. Here’s my top 5 things to do in Amsterdam on a budget.

1. Spend a day at Rijksmuseum
Unlike the Van Gogh museum, tickets for the Dutch national is valid for one year, not a particular date. You do pay 15 euros for a ticket unless you’re lucky to have a student pass but it will be worth every penny. Opened after 10 years of restoration work, its an art lover’s delight. Get lost among the Rembrandts, Vermeers and Steens. Read up on art history in the research library which impresses anyone who walks in. Seriously, do go there. (Do visit the Doelen Hotel if you want see where the Night Watch was painted)

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2. Walk around a lot!
Amsterdam has too many canals! From my hostel near Amsterdam Centraal, if you walked just a few steps, you’d come across one. And another, then another… You cover the whole city in a couple of hours just walking along the canals. Quaint houseboats line the water bodies as tourists fancy a ride in one. Typical Amsterdam houses line either side. You can admire the city differently if you walk in the morning and then at night. The pulse of the city changes completely.

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3. Visit Anne Frank House
a10A few Dutch friends told me that they’ve never visited because its ‘just an old house’. I beg to differ. If you’ve loved reading Anne Frank’s diary growing up, the reality is completely different. Not only does it remind you of the horrors of war, emotions choke you. I hate crying but by the time I left, I could feel my eyes watering. Living in the dark afraid of the sunlight, hoping day after day no one finds out about the hiding place, the lost hopes of ever making it out alive from the concentration camps… the chills don’t leave. Something to learn from the past, of hope and love, all from a young girl who loved to write.

4. Take a free ferry ride
Sometimes a canal cruise may prove expensive. So, why not take the ferry? It’s a free service, leaving every couple of minutes from the dock (behind the station) to Noord (north). Hassle free, get up on one and enjoy the wind caress your face. One can take a short or long ride depending on which ferry you choose to ride. Once you reach the other side, see the city centre from the other side as you sip coffee!

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5. Eating cheap and posing like a pro
From fries to pancakes, herring to cheese, Amsterdam is a foodie’s delight. Local carts easily sell the best stuff. I urge you to try the famous herring. It’s an acquired taste but oh so delish. Then, head to Museumplein to pose in front of the ‘I Amsterdam’ sign. Yes it’s cliched but when in Amsterdam why not!

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I hope to be back very soon darling Amsterdam!

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