If you’re already on my blog, I can safely assume that you’re not on one of those all-inclusive tour packages peddled by various travel agencies. Well maybe you bought a package but hopefully after reading this particular series you might reconsider purchasing a tour package the next time round!
For those of you who’ve been reading since I started this How-To Series, we’ve finally reached the final chapter : How To Plan Your Europe/Round-The-World Trip On A Budget Guide – Part 4: The Budget Traveller’s Guide To Sightseeing In Europe. Wow that’s a mouthful… I promise to be more economical with my titles in the future!
Back on track, for all you who’ve been reading from the start – I really appreciate it and hope you’ve found this series useful. For those who’ve just joined us, here’s the previous chapters of the series:
- How To Plan Your Europe/Round-The-World Trip On A Budget Guide – Part 1: The Budget Traveller’s Guide to Flying
- How To Plan Your Europe/Round-The-World Trip On A Budget Guide – Part 2: The Budget Traveller’s Guide to Accommodation
- How To Plan Your Europe/Round-The-World Trip On A Budget Guide – Part 3: The Budget Traveller’s Guide to Getting Around Europe
Now that you’ve settled all the mundane aspects of your trip, what do you actually do when you arrive at your destination? This is where personal interests come into play so itineraries may vary from person to person. Despite this, I’ll try to be as general as possible.
There’s so much to see and do in Europe.Time is never enough! Proper planning is vital if you intend to make the most of your trip. Here are some tips to get you started:
1) Go on a Sandemans Free Walking Tour!
I’m well aware that most of you would have an itinerary of places you intend to visit already set in stone. Nevertheless, it’s still a good idea to go on the free tour. It’s free after all!
The tour is indeed free but it’s always nice to tip whatever you feel appropriate to the freelance tour guide – He/she brought you around a foreign city on foot for two hours after all!
The Free Walking Tour often covers most of the key attractions/sites in the city. Since the span of the tour is only 2 hours or so and considering the fact that you’ll be walking, don’t expect a lot of time at a particular site/attraction. The main point of going on a Free Tour is to orientate yourself with the new foreign city you’ve just arrived in.You can always return at your own personal time to the attractions/sites that interest you.
The tour guides are young, hip and knowledgeable so rest assured you’ll have a great time. Besides you might even make new friends within the tour group!
Sandemans runs Free Tours in most major European cities amongst others. They also offer paid tours at very reasonable prices. Students enjoy discounts too! Check out their website for more details!
2) Get a City Pass
If you’re going to spend a considerable amount of time in a particular city, get a city pass. It’ll save you money and time!
A city pass usually includes entry to major attractions, transport and other perks valid for a fixed period of time. The period of validity ranges from 3 days to a week on average.
Not Every Pass Is Worth The Money
Keep in mind that not every City Pass makes economical sense. Some of the passes might seem to provide significant cost-savings on paper but in reality it’s actually more expensive! (I’ll explain shortly)
I learned the hard way when I purchased the Paris Pass. Since it was my first time in Paris and after hearing stories about how the French detest speaking English (which was generally false), I figured that the Paris Pass would offer me convenience.
First and foremost, Parisians have grown accustomed to welcoming people from all over the globe so they do indeed speak and understand English quite well. On top of that, there’s an English translation for almost everything!
The Paris Pass did offer me convenience as promised – I skipped the queues simply by flashing the pass, used it effortlessly on public transport, enjoyed an open bus top tour around Paris, a night river boat cruise down the Seine and even had a wine tasting/lesson thrown in as part of the deal. The price I paid for a 3 day pass: 300 SGD +++*
* They’ve now extended it to a 4 day pass at a similar price
Seems like I got bang for my buck right? Well, not entirely so.The Paris Pass claims to give you access to over 60+ attractions amongst transport and other perks. This is a fact but let’s look at it from a practical standpoint – How many of the 60+ attractions and perks can you visit/enjoy within 3 days?
The answer is as clear as day – You’ll only touch the tip of the iceberg. I barely utilized about 20% of what the pass entitled me to. With the massive list of entitlements, I felt pressured to get my money’s worth so I packed my days with as many attractions and activities that I was entitled to. I had no qualms about a packed itinerary but I can’t say the same for other travellers.
The perks such as the wine tasting lesson. river cruise and the open top bus ride were nice but frankly unnecessary. I wouldn’t have forked out money for them if they weren’t included in the pass.
In short, if you’re on a budget, ignore the temptation of the Paris Pass and plan your own itinerary. You’ll enjoy greater flexibility and freedom at a similar or even cheaper cost.
3) Purchase Advance Tickets Online
You don’t want to spend precious hours of your trip in seemingly endless queues right? Be smart and book your tickets in advance online. Numerous attractions offer the option of purchasing tickets online via their respective websites. All you need is a credit/debit card and a printer. Skip the queues and enter like a VIP while the rest of the dumbwits stare at you in jealously!
4) Free Entry to Museums
Numerous European Museums offer free entry to anyone on selected days/dates. If your travel plans are flexible enough, plan your trip around these dates. Be sure to check the respective websites in advance!
- London Museums are free 365 days of the year (Permanent Exhibits)
- The Louvre offers free admission every first Sunday of the month from October to March. If you’re Under 26, you enter for free every Friday from 6 pm onwards.
- Musee d’Orsay offers free admission every first Sunday of the month
* Do check the respective websites for availability exceptions,requirements as well as updated timings and dates
5) Get an International Student Card (ISIC)
Especially for all the broke student travellers out there! The ISIC boasts 42000 discounts in 125 countries. For just $25, you get a year’s worth of privileges both at home and abroad.
These privileges covers almost everything imaginable from F&B to museums to even tours. You’ll definitely recover the cost of membership!
International Youth Travel Card
No longer a student? Fret not, we’ve got you covered! If you’re under 30, you’re entitled to sign up for the International Youth Travel Card. It costs the same as the ISIC and offers pretty much similar privileges though not as comprehensive.
6) Alternative Tours
If you have some money to splurge, do consider the following options:
Viator links you up with local guides and tour operators. Compare prices and the different type of tours and activities available. Reviews left by previous customers enable you to make an informed decision.
One of the leading bicycle tour operators on the globe. They offer cycling tours across 40 cities. For a different perspective of a city while burning some of the holiday weight you’ve gained at the same time, hop on one of Baja’s many cycling tours!
Once again, thank you for reading this series. As always, I appreciate feedback so if you have any tips, suggestions, corrections or questions please contact me through the various channels listed on my About Page 🙂
Happy New Year!
Sandemans NewEurope Free Tour taken from http://www.neweuropetours.eu/
Barcelona Card taken from http://www.lonelyplanet.com/spain/barcelona/activities/sightseeing-tours/barcelona-card-guidebook
Eiffel Tower Queue taken from http://www.travelgroupie.com/PortalDefaultPage.aspx?portalreferenceid=67D99EC4-2930-4309-B406-266E0672C2CA
Viator Photographs taken from Viator.com
Baja Bikes Bilbao Tour taken from http://www.bajabikes.eu/en/home
All copyright belong to the respective owners and are used purely for illustration purposes
All prices displayed are in Singapore Dollars (SGD) unless otherwise stated