Our preparations for this trip ofcourse had to begin in June, considering so many factors that are essenial for a backpack into europe. First and foremost, we heard a lot of generic advise about how Sepember is a bad time to travel in Europe. The thing people miss while saying this is Europe has many countries divided in various regions – geography! Since we were not visiting the otherwise short on summer countries like UK, France etc. we were okay.
Itinerary for his trip was devised by my friend who was going to accompany me for this trip. We planned to fly to Prague from Bangalore, and head on some cities in Austria and take a flight back from Budapest in Hungary. It was a good 15 day trip, all well adjusted to long weekends of September adding up to about 9 days of leave from work. However, due to several reasons I cancelled out the last few days for Budapest and flew back from Vienna itself.
My blog posts are to inspire women who think they can’t do it on their own. For someone who has doubts about visiting Europe by themselves or is looking for assured first-hand information. I’m aware for experienced ones, this would sound kiddish 🙂
checklist for newbie backpackers:
- Decide on countries that interest you and are easily connected, so you can alter your plans if need be. Since Europe Schengen countries are well connected by public transport means, avoid spending on flights.
- Look for accommodation and flights atleast 3 months in advance, ofcourse you know that!
- try look for online stay deals that allow you to pay when you get there, and allow you to cancel a few days before in case you change your mind.
- gather every document mentioned on the Schengen visa website, they do ask for all. Follow their checklist exactly, to avoid missing out on a Visa.
- if you are really sure of your itinerary, you can save some more by booking your train tickets in advance. There are discounts on train tickets about 2 months in advance.
- plan your clothing according to the weather conditions. Your shorts and mini skirts may go waste if you don’t carry the right kind of stockings and accompaniments. Always carry those jackets, evenings often get slightly chilly. Indians tend to have slightly different tolerance than rest of tourists there.
- Create a rough list of things-to-do in each city, research on available tours or packages to cover items at a lesser price, this will help you plan your budget likewise. As a guarantee though you may end up not following all of your list, but it is good for reference.
- Decide on a budget roughly – or + Rs. 30,000
- Forex: look at a good time to convert your money to euros so you get good deal. No need to go to agents who often charge higher commission. Buyforexonline.com is a pretty good option, they let you order part cash, and part money into a ATM card. The ATM card provided by them, does not have any extra costs when you withdraw cash while in Europe. On the other hand, HDFC travel plus multi-currency card is a very reliable option, as it can take care of all your online payments and swipe transactions without any extra charges, but ATM withdrawals are chargeable on this one. What I did was – ordered € 300 cash + € 200 in ATM card from buyforexonline.com. And ordered a HDFC multicurrency travel card of € 100, later I transferred another € 100 into this card based on better exchange rates in the market. Both orders were delivered to me next day itself. How these 2 type of options helped me, you can read about it in my other posts for each city(links at bottom of this post).
Once we made sure about the weather, we started looking for flights. We chose to use multi-city options so we can fly-in and fly-off different destinations. As planned, we managed to get our to & fro tickets for about Rs. 48,800/-. Next we started looking at hotels/hostel/apartments to suit our budget. Hostels and apartment accommodations allow you to prepare your own quick meals with some basic supplies, as any backpacker often doesn’t want to spend in european restaurants for each meal. Number of days to spend in each town/city was decided while we looked at attractions and things-to-do in a city. By beginning of July, all our bookings were made on Booking.com or Expedia.in ..most of them without paying anything. Except when some low price deals were applicable only on non-refundable bookings, my credit card for charged for them right away.
Our budget so far looked fine, about Rs. 80,000 (about 1000 Euros as per rates then) including flights. We seemed to have some money left for local commute and food while in Europe.
Next we had to arrange the plethora of documents required for visa application. With a lot of effort and juggling between chores we were able to apply for Visa in July end. It took a good 10 days to arrive. Since Bangalore does not have embassies for Czech Republic or Hungary, we had to apply for Schengen visa to the Austrian embassy located at VFC office in Bangalore. You are supposed to apply to a country where you are spending most part of your trip. Luckily for us we were infact spending 50% of our tour in Austrian cities.