Sunday, January 08, 2006

Preparing my Eurotrip

If everything goes well, I will be going to Europe for a backpack holiday cum a visit to my brother in Antwerp this end of Spring. So I'm currently doing my research, considering my budget & strength, to where I can go...

1. Choosing what to visit: overview of various places : sites for women solo travellers, but even if u aren ot going alone, this is a fun site to read. I think I will hit this site many times during my reseach. forum for travellers, membership req. blog by a permanent uk rail-traveller, has useful links inc. railway timetable, sponsored by travel sites. lists all tourist offices.
You can also ask for Europe Tour Travel Brochures from your local agent to give u inspiration/clue what are the more known places. Ask for those organized by European Tour (eg. cosmos, insight), rather than local tour, as the first's objective is more to historical/must see places, while the later is known to incorporate more shopping places (unless that's what u prefer to do).
If u want to go on a budget, lonely planet publish "on a shoestring" edition which lists hostels, tips on the places, transportation method, useful websites etc. In jkt u can find it in Periplus or Aksara, I found Aksara's cheaper. Roughguides also has similar version but I still prefer "on a shoestring"

2. Estimating Air Tickets from Asia to Europe:
This is what will eat up my budget the most. Still, after going to various websites, the best prices I've got is from my local travel agent, due to promo fare they have. However local agents will only have price listing for the current quarter of the year, so u cant really book ticket 6mths or 1 year early from the agent. Since I'm probably going in May/June which is high season, ticket fare will be more expensive than current price. Currenly, KLM promo fare Jkt-Ams costs $900 (inc return), while on Internet USD 800 is only 1 way (non promo). The guy in my local agent estimates in high season it would be around USD 1200. Places to look for prices online: us maintained ticket searcher : if u want to fly from jkt/sg/kl to ams/prs, this is one of the cheapest already. : Lufthansa also has local promo fares. search from indonesia's lufthansa portal.

3. Estimating Transportation Costs within Europe
Choices: Train, Bus, Air
1. AIR: Low-price air carrier: british owned i think this is either british or belge. eg. Brussel-Barcelona in June E40. british owned, linked to cheap hotels Pisa-Berlin June costs E 40. Italian aircarriers, seems to have bounced back from a difficult time.For these cheap flights, must check in which airport they land, cause some cities may have more than
2. TRAIN: NonEuropean are eligible for EURAIL pass. This url is linked to individual country rail DB (Deutsche Bahn AG) - Germany. Check out the nite trains for o/n sleeps.BUS: I havent looked for any on website, cause I prefer one of the above, unless price will be an issue.

4. Where to stay
Luckily, my bro is in Antwerp, but other places, I've got to look for cheap places to stay. Since the theme is backpacking, hostels would be my target, with probably a hotel stay in the middle of the 1-2 weeks voyage, to have proper rest. Hostels dont usually have age limit, except in Germany where they prioritize people below 26 (:( ). Some have curfew (eg. at midnite).Hostels check in time must be checked. sometimes it is only at 5pm. Charges must be checked, linen & towel can be charged.
Holland: - seems to be the most popular google search result
Auberge de Jeunesse, it turns up it is the same as below, but has a direct link:
haha, I'm not sure whether they have nice cheap hostels. but actually they may have... This association seem to be popular in Europe, u pay a membership fee & u are elligible to stay in their member hostels as little additional price but I'm not sure they have it in Berlin.

5. Planning the details
By now, you should already have an estimate the bigger portion of your expense: tickets+transports+hostels. Decent meals in Europe will cost you around E10-15. Lonely Planet says u should be prepared to sepnd E50-70 a day (inc meal & hostel).
Now u can go more detailed & get for example local festive timetable provides links, the most obvious ones are displayed as adv on their main urls, eg pass to Paris museums/historic sites. international agenda- Passes to museums etc- Booking Queue to see historic sites/painting etc. eg. If u want to go to MILAN to see the paining "the last supper", u should book it via Internet first as sometimes people have to queue for 3 weeks online. PISA tower also has a queue registry on the Net.

6. Documenting your travel story There is a cool auto-map function to display the geographic link of your itinerary. an all-time favourite. unlimited photo space.

OK. Hopefully, the above will provide an easy reference for future travellers.
ps: TIPS I read from books but I have not tried yet:
- if u are going to sleep in hostel, they provide lockers, but bring your own padlock for more safety. If your luggage cannot be put inside, think of bringing a padlock chain so u can tie your baggage around a pole or something. Recommended also to do in trains.
- Bring earplugs if u sleep in dorms/hostels
- If u are under 26, europe gives a lot of discounts for hostel stay, railtickets, museum tickets (too late for me already)

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