Student Travel Guide: Europe
Contents Where to go
2 Transportation 4
Where to go
Top 3 Destinations These destinations offer students culture, great food and unforgetable views.
Where should I go?
The winter is a great time to visit Paris to avoid long lines and high costs. Make sure to plan your trip ahead by making a list of places you want to visit. Buying the Paris pass will save you time and money. The pass offers a metro and museum pass to all the major attractions.
Find the right place for you and your budget
aking a list of the places you want to visit is the best way to start. If you are studying abroad in Europe you are at an advantage because airfare to other major cities is inexpensive. If you are lucky enough to be studying abroad during the winter you will enjoy cheaper fares and shorter lines. Once you have made a list of cities, find out if friends are also interested in joining you. Traveling alone is enriching but going along with a few buddies will make your experience more fun and relaxed. As you travel you will face difficult, hilarious or just plain weird situations, so having a travel buddy will help you deal with it. Next, determine when and how many days you will be able to visit each city. Plan ahead as much as you can so that you can get the most out of your trip. If you are concerned about language barriers as you travel, don’t worry. Investing in a phrase book will be helpful, but people in most major cities will speak English so don’t feel nervous about asking a stranger for directions. Keep a pen and paper with you in case you need it to draw out symbols as you try to communicate. You will quickly notice that people in Europe are more friendly than people in the US. Don’t feel strange or panic if someone in the metro wants to converse. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to steal your camera, they just like talking to foreigners. While you should interact with locals, be weary of pick pocketers. These people will be wherever you will be. They tend to steal in places that are major tourist attractions. Keep your bag in front of you at all times. It will be necessary for you to carry your passport to purchases with your bank card, but keep that in the inside pockets of your
bag. Keep a scanned copy of your passport at your hotel/hostel in case it gets stolen. Best Destinations Now that we have talked about the smaller details, lets get to the best places you should visit. If you want sun and sand Greece is the place to visit. Naxos has beautiful beaches and lots of eateries and shops. If you are looking for breathtaking sights and delicious food, visit Rome. Lodging tends to be expensive, but with determination you can find a good inexpensive place to sleep. In your Let’s Go guide, you will find some of the best affordable restaurants around. A must is Li Rioni pizzeria located 10 minutes away from the Colosseum. Consider buying the Roma Pass, which offers a metro pass and one major attraction pass. Are you looking to have a good time with friends? Then Amsterdam or Frankfurt are the cities for you. You will find a wide range of bars, clubs and activities to keep you busy day and night. Keep in mind that alcohol is the best way to ruin your budget. If you opt to visit places like these set a limit on how much you are willing to spend per night. Many bars offer two drinks for the price of one. Some drinks also come with a tapa or snack food. If you are looking for a rich cultural experience then visit Seville. The city is located in Southern Spain and boasts one of the most beautiful churches in Europe. While you are there, make sure to visit T de Triana, which has flamenco on the weekends and low-priced food and drinks. Whatever your budget is make sure to plan ahead as much as you can. This part of the traveling experience is not very fun but will be worth it. Also, ask friends and family for recommendations of places to visit.
Madrid is full of comtemporary art and great bars. With your ISIC card or university card you can get into museums free of charge. Most museums are closed on Mondays. Buying a 10 trip metro booklet is the best way to get around the city. Visit Parque del Retiro to eat lunch or unwind after a long day.
London is a metropolitan city with rich culture, diverse cuisine and great museums. Getting around the city will be expensive, but try buying a day pass according to the amount of days you will stay. If you want to visit the London Eye make sure to book in advance to avoid higher fees. Do not buy an express ticket. Also, avoid the London Pass.
ransportation will take up the biggest chunk of your budget. Your search for transporation should start with bing.com, kayak.com, easyjet.com, vauling.com, ryanair.com, or studentuniverse.com. Why? Simply put, these search engines will allow you to monitor flights by signing up for email alerts. You should monitor flights for at least a week or two. This is the only way you will be able to determine what ticket is a deal and which one isn’t. You will most likely fly Easy Jet or Ryan Air as you travel within Europe. These airlines offer cheap seats but with a catch. The airports that operate these airlines are not the closest to the city center. You will have to pay for a bus or train ticket to the city center. Before you book, look into how much a roundtrip ticket to and from the city center will cost. Factor this into your decision making. If you think that doing this will be a hassle, it is easier than you think. The airports know that you really want to be in Paris and not Lille, so they have buses leaving the airport every hour. Easy Jet, Ryan Air and other low cost airlines have strict carryon rules. You are only allowed one item with you. In same cases you can’t even have a backpack while holding your coat. To avoid confrontations, put your coat on as you wait to board and make sure your bag fits the carryon checker. If it doesn’t, you will have to pay double the cost of a checked bag. If you know you want to check a bag in, do it online. You will pay more if you do it at the airport. Arrive early and be prepared to be assertive. You will not be assigned a seat, so there are no boarding zones. Boarding is on a first come first serve basis. This means people will become anything but civil, so be ready to deal with anything. Lines will form as early as 2 hours before departure. Airlines say they don’t overbook flights, but better be safe than sorry. You don’t want to miss your flight because you decided
to leave the area for a coffee. This is a case when traveling with more people comes in handy. Ride or Fly? If you will be traveling within the same country try traveling through rail instead. Don’t buy a EuroRail pass. They are expensive and have too many restrictions. Each country will have a preferred booking site. Do a quick google search or ask around for the site name. Even though rail seems like the best option for travel within the same country, do a quick flight search. To keep yourself organized, print out all boarding passes and hotel information and keep it in a safe place. Sometimes, ticket booths will be empty or really busy. It’s better to be ready than wait in line and potentially miss your train. Train rides are a great way to see more of the countryside. Take food with you and entertainment, as most train rides tend to be longer than 2 hours. Sail there? If you are going to be traveling to islands or major beach cities you should look into getting there by boat. This is a great option if you will be traveling within Greece or Croatia. Transportation at Destination Once you have arrived at your destination, make sure to get a metro pass or a 10 trip booklet. Ten trips may not seem like a lot, but it will most likely be enough for the length of your trip. Some cities have bike rentals that cost around 5 euros a day. If you know your way around the city, this is a good option for you. If you don’t then don’t even bother. Taking the metro is faster and easier than taking the bus. On the downside, you will not get to see the city as you would on bus.
Hotel or Hostel?
Where to sleep
rying to find an affordable place to sleep while still being close to the heart of the city can get challenging. Once you have finalized your list of cities to visit, make sure you also finalize the list of who will be accompanying you. If others are coming along, you can share the expenses of lodging. If you are traveling alone, you can still find a good place to stay and if you pay a little more, a little bit of privacy too. You should start your search a month or more in advance of the day you will actually stay. Use major search sites like bing.com, hotels.com, hotwire.com, and hostelworld.com. Websites like hotels.com offer a free night after you have booked 10 nights from different stays. If you will be traveling a lot this can be a great deal in the long run. The minimum age for check-in at most European hotels will be 18, and some go as low at 16. Before you book, make sure to call the booking site and ask what the minimum age for that particular hostel or hotel is. You don’t want to arrive to a paid room with no way of checking because of a simple technicality. A few details to keep in mind are how far away the hostel will be from major attractions and how close the metro is. If you need to make an hour commute everyday from the hostel to the city center, do not book that hostel. You will end up spending more time and money on commuting versus paying a little extra to stay closer to the city center. When you finally decide on lodging and you charge it on your card, remember that the transaction is an international transaction. Some bank providers will charge you a certain percent per international transaction plus conversion fees. The first thing to do after you have settled into your room is check to see if there are restaurants and supermarkets near you. You will be able to buy food and snacks for the days you are there without having to walk too far. Remember to leave valuables in the safe or locker provided.
hances are that you will not be staying in El Palacio Real or anywhere swanky as you travel. You will hear time and again that all you will be able to afford are hostels. Even though this may be true for some cities, never forget to look into hotels. This is a really good option if you are traveling with other people. You will be able to share a room with friends instead of strangers. If you are not fond of sleeping in a room with 20 other people, then hostels are not the place for you. Some hostels offer the option of staying in single or double occupancy rooms. Although these options may suit you better and seem affordable, you should look into hotels instead. You will quickly notice that be it a hostel or hotel, the quality and cleanliness of both will not be very good. Blankets and pillow cases are likely not changed for every guest. Traveling with a small pillow and thin blanket are a good solution. Bathroom towels will likely be clean so you can leave your bulky towel at home. Don’t forget your travel sized toiletries! Even though you will be offered complimentary toiletries, you should not use them if you have sensitive skin. It is better to bring things from home. Also, don’t forget your toothbrush!
Night Trains If you are traveling within the same country, say from Rome to Florence, you may want to consider taking a night train. Book your ticket through railitalia.com. You will save on lodging for a night and will arrive to your destination in the early morning. Even if you arrive well before check-in, you can always leave your bags at your hotel or hostel. I took a night train from Florence to Venice and I met a Venetian man named Fausto. He spoke Italian while I spoke in Spanish. Don’t be afraid to interact with locals, it will be a once in a lifetime experience. If you are ok with sharing a small space then go for the third class ticket. But be prepared to experience something out of a movie (My neighbor had chickens in a cage). If you are not that gutsy go for a first class ticket and get a good night’s sleep in the beds they provide.
What to Eat
Food can get expensive while traveling, but here are a few tricks to keep your stomach and wallet happy.
If you have a sweet tooth, you are in luck. You will find many pastry shops that offer inexpensive tarts, cookies and truffles.
When all else fails you will always have McDonald’s and other fast food chains.
Many European cities have “mercados” or food markets where you will find a variety of fresh fruit. Fruit is a good snack and is small enough to carry around.
Just because you are trying to stay on budget doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in a dessert after dinner. Share with a friend or try the dessert special of the day.
Coffee is inexpensive and helps you stay awake during long sightseeing days.
Bite sized portions of local fare are a good way to enjoy local cuisine at a good price.
Student Traveler’s Food Dilemma
raveling on a budget gets complicated when you also want to enjoy the local fare. Here are a few things you can do to get you through your day. Let’s start with breakfast. Some hotels and restaurants offer complimentary breakfast, which in most cases consists of dry meats, bread and coffee. Make sure to take advantage of this. Having one of three meals taken care of means that you can splurge a little more for dinner. Instead of having lunch in a restaurant, eat snack foods.Try carrying fruit, bread, dry meats, cheese or anything that is portable and easy to take out as you wait in line for a museum. When you are looking for snacks try going into chain supermarkets like DIA or Carrefour. These stores will offer the best prices on foods. While you are there, buy bars of chocolate, soda, water, fresh fruit, nuts and dried fruit. These items are essential and will save you money. Snacking on a bar of chocolate while you are sight seeing is the best way to keep your hunger in control. Soda and water bottles cost a fraction of the price at the store compared to buying from a vendor. Another place to find snack foods are food markets. You will will find
bite sized portions of popular local dishes, fresh fruit and other local items. These food markets are a great place for lunch. Remember to carry small bills and coins to pay. Dinner should be the biggest meal of the day. The search for a restaurant should start with your Let’s Go guide. The book breaks down eateries according to the region they are located in. Most restaurants listed are inexpensive and have great food. A rule of thumb for restaurants is if the place is not somewhat full then don’t stay. That usually means the food is anything but good. You should also awat frin restaurant on the main strip. Beware of “tourist menus” that claim to have specials. Before you decide on the place to eat, make sure to check the menu. If you decide to sit outside you will likely be charged more. Once you’ve decided, sit down and expect slow service. European restaurants don’t have the customer service that US restaurants do. Patience will go a long way. Remember that the bread they just placed on your table is not complimentary. If you don’t want it make sure to point it out when the waiter comes to take your order. Tap water is always complimentary and will save you 3+ euros on your bill. One last thing, tip is included in the meal price so you will not be expected to leave one.