How to plan a Eurotrip? My approach
Every once in a while, Imtiaz Ali releases a new movie and every once in a while, you and I feel like exploring Europe. But while Imitiaz does it on a 100 crore budget, you might not be so lucky. In which case, it is imperative that while you may want to keep many bits of the trip spontaneous, you need to plan out the skeleton.
Here’s how I do it:
When it comes to Europe, the weather is best in the quintessential summer months (June – August). But, it’s also the most touristy, and consequently, expensive. So, a good tradeoff would be early autumn (September – October) or late spring (April – May).
2. Flights to destination
After years of comparing flight ticket prices on various websites, I’ve found Skyscanner to be the best. It has consistently returned the cheapest / best flight ticket options available generally. And in cases where you have to plan multi-city travel (which is more often than not), Skyscanner has hands down been the best.
Unpopular opinion: If you’re in the continent for upto 3 weeks, avoid Eurail.
3. Intra-city transport
Every city would have its own transport system, on which the city survives. When you arrive in a new city, and reach the hostel / hotel – the receptionists are generally very welcoming and helpful to the tourists. Inquire the general conveyances around the city. They'll guide you about the most common and well connected means and also provide you a map etc. Spend just about 20 mins with that. You'll be well versed with what means to avail. Eg: Trams in Prague or Metro in Paris or City buses in Berlin etc. Within the cities, the public transport would be interconnected - buses, metro, trams etc. Most would have an app that guides you really well. Eg: RATP App for Paris.
TIP: Always download local Google Maps Offline for the city.
4. Inter-city transport
Unpopular opinion: If you’re in the continent for upto 3 weeks, avoid Eurail. A Eurail pass would be expensive. Trains would generally be heavy on the pocket. I would suggest take buses wherever possible. They are very comfortable (have coffee machines, washrooms etc. also on board). And super cheap as compared to trains. Eg: Check out the Czech Student Run Buses called RegioJet or Flixbus. Very cheap on most routes like Berlin to Prague, Paris to Amsterdam, Vienna to Budapest etc. And super comfortable. Take trains for routes which are generally a tad bit longer – like Amsterdam to Berlin. Again, there will be operators who will help you out. Just keep asking people without worrying. People are really helpful.
Most places do use Euro. There are a few countries which clearly mention that they use their local currency. Like Czech Republic (Koruna) or Hungary (Forint). The money exchange shops in the local market areas will provide the best exchange rates. Ask the hostel receptionist where to get the exchange. They know the best places and rates.
TIP: Always have a HDFC Multicurrency Chip+Pin Forex with you. Best rates and compatible with all ATMs. Even if you don’t have currency, you can always use this.
Most places are cosmopolitan now. Sure, there might be a few regions where you might face some problems, but nothing you can’t handle. Always write / learn extremely basic words like "Please" or "Map" or "Help" etc.
TIP: Offline Google Translate App. Download the local language. BEST THING EVER.
Street-side luring games / magic tricks: Never take out the money from your wallet. Invoke your inner local-train-riding-Mumbaikar.
7. Travel company (especially for solo travelers)
Here’s my strategy to get some intriguing travel companions:
Basic: Hostels! Lots of fabulous hostels everywhere categorized by party, family and accommodational. I will dedicate an entire blog post to hostels very soon. But the gist is hostels is basically a melting pot of a lot of travelers (especially solo). And they treat the entire group of guests as a family. You'll have hostel pub-crawls, dinners, outings, offers, adventure activities etc. together. Exciting much?
Day: During the day, the best place to start is generally the city centre / central plaza. In most cities, you will always see people with Blue or Red umbrellas. They’re from the Red Walking Tour and Blue Walking Tour companies (Sandeman's). They are always free. And absolutely wonderful! It'll be a guided tour where the guide is generally a student and they will take a bunch (30-40) of people around the city, show them the best places, give them suggestions on what to do etc. And most importantly the people that you travel with become your partners-in-crime.
TIP: Always carry your student ID card with you. Most museums, monuments, places etc. are super cheap for students, sometimes offering even upto 70-80% discount.
Night: There are many pub-crawls that are organized either by the city or by your hostel. Choose any and be a part of it. Great way to make friends and have company.
8. Safety (especially for female travelers)
Europe is generally safe at all times. Having said that, ofcourse there are aberrations. But by following certain simple self-imposed rules, people can avoid the boobytraps.
One of the most common, are street-side luring games / magic tricks that ask you to bet your money on events and things. A good rule of thumb: NEVER take out the money from your wallet. That way, you won’t be tempted to bet any money. Because rest assured, once you do, you will lose your money. No question.
Two, in all extremely crowded public places like Eiffel Tower etc., invoke your inner local-train-riding-Mumbaikar. Wallets, phones, valuables yada yada.
As for female travelers, staying in hostels (even if its shared rooms) would be a much better idea than staying in cheaper hotels. They’re generally safer.
9. Electronic adaptors
If you’re an Indian and traveling to Europe, you will most definitely need a travel adaptor at all times. I would suggest buying this Universal Travel Adaptor. Although a tad bit expensive, it has a lot of benefits. In my personal experience, this device never fails, and it completely trustworthy. It also has 2 USB ports so you can charge your phone and laptop (or camera) simultaneously through the night!
Ofcourse, all of the above are just my experiences or that of my close friends who’ve traveled in a similar fashion. Yours can be totally different. But, the idea is to give you the general context and help you get started in planning your dream Eurotrip!