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EuroTrip - What to know when planning your trip

Planning a Eurotrip can be daunting. First, that’s assuming that you have a Schengen visa, especially if you come from an African country. It is usually hard to get this visa, but the good thing is that once obtained, unless in unusual circumstances, a visa to one of the main European countries allows you to visit the rest - of course the UK is an exception.

Another good thing is that it is quite easy to travel across Europe. Again, once you cross into a Western Europe country, travel between the different countries is considered a local trip, meaning you do not need to have your passport stamped to cross from one country to another.

However, your passport may need to be presented for inspection at some crossings, and also on flights.


Milan’s retro and noisy trams await

More important, you need to carry your passport when crossing from one country to another and it is also highly advised to carry your passport when travelling from one city to another, even in the same country.

Within a city, you do not need to carry your passport and a photocopy may suffice, just in case. It is not common to have the police stop you and ask for your passport, unless in very unusual circumstances.

With your passport and visa in pocket, the next step tends to be the difficult one of picking what countries to visit and how to visit them.

Well, the most popular modes of transport in Europe are flights, buses and trains. With lots of low-cost airlines, flying around tends to be quite cheap - just ensure you carefully read the airline’s check-in and luggage requirements as this is where the catch tends to be.

In some countries, buses booked early are cheap and may be an option for journeys that are just a few hours long. Trains are also relatively cheap in other places like Italy and to some extent Germany and Austria. Trains in France are expensive. However, avoid train passes as these tend to offer poor value for money. It is cheaper to pay for each journey in full as a pass may still require you to book and partly pay for each trip.


More than 25 million visitors later, Catalonians are not pleased
Similarly, avoid travel agents such as Rail Europe as they tend to be expensive and also bear ticket delivery costs. If using a train agent, ensure that they are only billing for the ticket price and also check that the price is the lowest you can get. Alternatively, get one with a low and straightforward commission.

Your most trusted companion when it comes to travelling around Europe will be two apps. The first is Skyscanner, which allows you to compare flight options between different cities and also accommodation. It even allows you to filter accommodation based on how much you are willing to pay. Skyscanner is an aggregator app, meaning it picks the flight and hotel information from other websites, including the most popular ones such as booking.com. So, for most of the time, you will find that you are getting the best deals on Skyscanner.

GoEuro (now Omio) is the second best app after Skyscanner and is more useful in finding alternatives to flights - that is bus and train information. At some point, I had booked the wrong train on Rail Europe’s complex website, and as you can guess, there were no refunds. I was able to use GoEuro to find a bus on the same route for less than 10 Euros, which was even cheaper than FlixBus, which by itself tends to be pretty cheap. So you might want to compare times and costs on both Omio and SkyScanner. I prefer buses for short trips under 6 hours, while trains were generally good unless flights were significantly cheaper, such as in France and Spain.


Demo time at the Deutsches Museum
One more recommendation would be to get a local SIM card, or data plan, as this will be useful for navigating with Google Maps, or even searching for information. The good thing is that you only need to buy a mobile plan once within the European Union. Local mobile plans allow you to roam in other countries at the same rate as the country you originally bought the plan at - with some limitations.

I bought myself a Vodafone plan placing into consideration speed and reliability. This came with an app, which though in German, was somehow usable for what I needed - essentially checking how much data I still had left and knowing when to top-up my prepaid plan. It is important to note that plans cost differently in each country and hence you may find plans sold in one country offer more data than others. You will always pay the “home” price, even when roaming which means in some instances it may make sense to buy a plan in another cheaper country, depending on how long your travel is.

Enough about the planning, now onto my trip. I decided to stick to Western Europe due to budget constraints, foregoing the option of Greece. I also felt that the Spanish islands could make up for Greece. I could not find much to do in Eastern Europe and even so, the people I kept bumping into from that part of Europe assured me that being black, I may find the experience there quite racist and therefore not as enjoyable.


What about, breakfast somewhere in Italy?
Click here for another refreshing read on my experience in Munich, or skip the queue and get yourself my book on my entire trip in 9 cities for a limited deal of $1.99 only!


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