Europe Solo Trip

I promised myself a Europe trip at the start of 2017. After brainstorming for 2-3 months I decided to go ahead with the plan. Europe is very vast thus deciding on which places to cover was always going to be challenging. After much of a research, I decided to cover three places on this trip which I will disclose below. Have some patience. 😀

This will be a brief write-up. I will go further in the details in coming blog posts. This is just an overview to roll the dice. Stay connected to read about my experiences. Hit the Subscription button at the bottom of the page to stay in touch with my latest posts.

Planning

Depending on the number of places & amount that I can spend. I needed to shortlist on the destination. After thinking for two months roughly. I shortlisted three locations which were AMSTERDAM, PARIS & BARCELONA. Once the destinations were shortlisted; it was time for the duration. I planned for 11 days to cover all these places. Europe is costly compared to South East Asian countries. Hence, deciding on how much saving I want to spend became tricky. After factoring in every aspect, I decided to keep my budget for the Europe trip under 1 Lac rupees which shall include everything.

Flight Tickets

I started looking for the cheapest flights from India to Europe. It took me roughly 2 months to set all the possible permutation & combination (The things we do to keep the cost low :P). I used to browse in Skyscanner daily to get the best deal.
The best deal I got was from Mumbai to Amsterdam & Barcelona to Mumbai for 40K INR roughly. I used my credit card to make the payment as it offered me an EMI option, which was a relief. It's always a nervous feeling while booking a ticket, as there is no certainty of a VISA. However, booking flight is the first step to get into the groove of things. My heart started beating fast at the time of booking (There is always something in mind which shouts something will go wrong), killing the urges I booked the tickets. Once tickets are done it was time for the next step. Booking hostels.

Amount Paid For Flights: Approx 40K

Accommodation In Europe

Usually, the hotels & hostels in Europe are costlier than the rest of the world. The best way to keep the price down is by staying at youth hostels or using Couchsurfing which allows one to stay for free if the host agrees. I use booking.com because of it's easy interface. There are many websites similar to booking.com like hostel world & Agoda. The dorm rooms start from 20 or 25 USD. So, there are many options to choose from.

My Experience:

I had a friend in Amsterdam thus my staying at Amsterdam was free (Lucky to have friends at such an expensive place). However, there are few youth hostels in Amsterdam which are an awesome place to be in. One of which is stayokay hostels. In Paris, I booked the cheapest hostel available. I was trying for Couchsurfing. However, nobody replied to my messages. So, I booked a hostel in Paris for 24 Euros for a day which was not worth the price (But, Paris is damn expensive). In Barcelona, I had booked Center Ramblas which was located at the heart of Barcelona & near the beach. Also, it was the cheapest option available to me.

Amount Paid For Staying: Paris : 24 Euros & Barcelona: 84 Euros (2.5 Euros Touristic charge which I paid at the hostel).

How To Get Schengen Visa For Indians

Visa process is a scary one; at least it is for me. Like China Europe also has few prerequisites to comply to. The process is easy however if something is missed it can be a huge roadblock in getting a Visa. I did everything required & applied for the appointment in Mumbai. At the time of appointment, I submitted my documents & gave biometric (mandatory for EU visa) & hoped for the best. The whole process took 2 hours.

Total Amount Paid For Visa: 80 Euros (Including VFS charges & few extra services)
Till the time, I didn't get the visa it was a nervous outing. Somewhere back in the mind constant fear of not getting a visa was running through my mind. I tried to keep my composed. However, the fear keeps creeping back. I heard that first-time solo travelers are called for a personal interview. But, that is on a random basis & I was like I have traveled to other countries before. Why will they deny me?

They said, "You need to come to Delhi for a personal interview."

& I was relieved that at least I am not denied the visa.

Quickly, I booked a train ticket to Delhi. Flight tickets were too costly. I booked Rajdhani due to time constraints. I reached Delhi & went for an interview. The interview was simple they only asked what was asked in the visa application form. I answered all there queries. Once the interview was over I made a long stressful journey back to Mumbai.

Waiting eagerly for my reply I used to check my emails every three or four hours. Then on 4th May, I received an email stating my passport has been dispatched. My heart started beating fast. I tried to listen to songs or indulge in some activity. However, I was not able to control my head. On the next day, I got a courier. I opened the package & pffffff.
Dummy Schengen Visa Europe Solo Trip
Here it was. A Schengen visa on my passport. Finally, I could breathe normally. My mind relaxed & happy thoughts of traveling to three cities came into my mind.

After receiving the visa. It was time to start packing & just explore the place. My travel dates were from 10th June to 21st June. Still, more than 1 month to go.

The Journey

My flight was at 1:30 Am. Checked in (now I find it easier to check-in in airports. Thanks to my previous trips :D). I was flying above Brussels in the morning. The first sight I saw was lush green landscapes & in between the landscapes there were few houses & for an Indian standard, it was seriously few. I had a connecting flight from Brussels to Amsterdam. At least this was what I thought. But, while checking in Mumbai the lady told me, Sir, you have train booking from Brussels to Amsterdam & I was like it is written air ticket. So, at Brussels, I needed to get my luggage & again check-in for Amsterdam flight. I landed at 7:30 am & my so-called second flight was at 9:21 am.

I took my luggage & looked for my flight number which was not showing on the big screen. So decided to check with Brussels Airline counter if the ticket is flight ticket or a train ticket. They checked & after 10 long minutes the answer I got was Sir, it's a train ticket. I rushed toward the train station which is at -1 level at Brussels Airport. I went to the ticket window & showed him the print out of my ticket.

The guy asked me, "Where is your checkin copy?".

I said, "I didn't know that I needed to check in online."

The guy was like, The guy was like, "Ohhh, Maamaa" you need to do this, we are not here for this. From next time tell your operators to check in for you..

He was frustrated, but I had a smirk on my face reason being the accent with which he said "Ohhh Mamma"

Amsterdam

I reached Schiphol Airport (Amsterdam). Amsterdam airport is like a big mall. Different shops hardly any security. I went straight to Iamamsterdam outlet to get my kit (an Iamamsterdam city card). This card very helpful for city sight seeing. As this gives free access to public transports & also free entries to museums.
Amsterdam is very clean there is no dust may be due to moisture in the air. The sky is so close, one gets the feeling of touching it with hands, a picture perfect canvas to paint anything. The canals are beautiful. Most of the canals run in the central part of Amsterdam. There were peoples but not noisy like India. Everyone was quiet & self-focussed. The best way to roam around Amsterdam is through cycles. But, make sure you have calf muscles to support those cycling expedition. I stayed for 5 days in Amsterdam & did most of the things that I could or was interested in doing. After Amsterdam my next stop was Paris. I chose to travel by Bus from Amsterdam to Paris as I wanted to witness the majestic landscapes. There are many buses running daily. The time taken by bus is 6 hours. But, while traveling through beautiful landscapes 6 hours doesn't seem to be that big.
The best way to roam around Amsterdam is by using city cards. They help in keeping the overall cost down & also, saves a lot of time.

Paris

Paris is a vintage city. To see 19th-century architect is a soulful experience. The place is constantly on its feet. Paris is a romantic city & it can only be experienced. There are no amount of words which can justify its originality & aura. There is a history behind this place & also many stories. The most talked about place in Paris is Eiffel Tower & trust me it is nothing like what you see in photos. It is much more grand & beautiful with the naked eye. I stared at the tower for at least 2 hours. It is so beautiful site to watch. People around EU are cold & this is shared by any travelers. I too found that it was so in Paris as well. People, in general, were not warm & welcoming. I spent one day in Paris (I know it's just a stop one day is not enough here for sure).
Eiffel Tower Mark My Adventure
After Paris it was time for Barcelona. I took a bus from Paris to Barcelona with the stop at Lyon (a small town in France). Little did I know that the small town was very beautiful. It is a small place & can be covered by a bicycle. Beautifully built this place was a surprise package for me. This place is a perfect small city. A big garden, canal & perfect infrastructure & pleasant environment was the characteristics of the town.

Barcelona

Barcelona aura has raised in last 20 years. The place is located on a seashore & also don the architect which is hard to match. This Catalunya city is perfect for a young crowd. The city is much more like Bangkok. The young crowd & insane partying practice makes this place a perfect getaway. Usually, there are streets in the city. But, I feel there is a city in the streets in Barcelona. It is an amazing journey to cover city streets. Barcelona is much warmer & welcoming than other EU countries. The climate will suit Indian's a lot as it is mostly hot & warm. The only beach is too crowded with tourists. Parties are very vibrant & not to be missed. It is always best to complete tour with a beach city. I try to choose this way only because nothing is more mesmerizing & amazing than sitting on a beach in the evening with a view unending sea & flash of memories you created during this trip.
Sangrada Familia Barcelona Mark My Adventure
Evenings in Europe are also very late. I witnessed sunsets at 9:30 pm (Dinner time in India). Barcelona is not a big city. However, it is of decent size. If city exploration is the motive then opt for city cards. This is the best way to explore the city. I bought a city card from Barcelona.de.
In this post. I briefly covered the topic in fact very briefly. However, this is just the start; in coming posts, I will cover each & every detail of my journey with the experiences I had.

If you like the way I write. Feel free to comment & subscribe to my blog. It will be a big boost to me. Also,A trip is incomplete without the pics. During the time of this trip, I used an iPhone 6s which clicks awesome pics. So, I would recommend you buying a great camera phone to take some breathtaking pics.

Apart from a phone camera, I use GoPro an adventure camera to shoot video & click photos. The product is pretty handy & captures mind blogging videos. GoPro is easy & handy to use, which makes it a must buy.

Handy Resources:

Below are the few resources you should check before making an itinerary.

Agoda: Best place to book hotels of your liking. Agoda provides the best solution & great offer while booking a hotel.

Skyscanner: Skyscanner compares various sites & sort the flights based on the rates. A great way to check flight cost. Although the only drawback is that rates are flexible. Hence, the cost might change while you are making the payment.

Jetradar: Jetradar is a comparing site which is just like Skyscanner. But, is much more accurate & much more handy in use.

Booking: Best place to book hostel rooms. There are plenty of options available & with so many properties booking becomes much easier.

Couchsurfing: Best place to find free accommodation. It is as easy as filtering people & messaging. If you will get lucky you will find free accommodation in local resident house.

Travel Insurance: There are numerous options available to get one. So, you can choose anything which suits your requirement. Make sure you read the terms & conditions before buying one.

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