Updated: Jun 20, 2018
It's that time of the year when a Europe holiday comes to mind. And, that time when an already expensive continent gets even more so. Here are some more useful tips and tricks to stay on top of the steep conversion divide between the east and the west.
The hacks I've listed here summon time, patience, some real hard work, some abandonment of shame and some calculated risk.
They are deadlier than my earlier hacks, indeed. Kick them off early in the planning stage, much before you set foot on the ritzy foreign land.
Some of these tips convert into better value for the money spent. And, some into bigger money saved, that you can pump back into something more meaningful in the trip. Say, shopping. And, shopping.
1. CHEAP ENTRY & EXIT PORTS
Begin with a faint idea of the countries you’d like to visit and search for ticket options at multiple airports in those countries. [And, do it in incognito mode, silly]. The less popular airports tend to be cheaper. It’s a game of multiple choice and if you are relentless with your research, you will be rewarded with cheapest combination.
With Europe’s excellent connectivity and its rather non-linear geography, your itinerary can be steered in any direction. So, choose your ports first. Build your itinerary around it.
I discovered Venice and Prague as my ideal in and out points. The flight out of Prague had a stopover in Amsterdam. Funnily, directly heading out of Amsterdam was not cheaper, but was about Rs.6000 [$90/€75] more expensive.
2. GET A FOREX CARD
Cards always offer better conversion than cash. So, load up more on the card. Carry cash only as backup for where cards are not accepted.
Carry your exchange from India. Conversion in Europe will be more expensive. Don’t over estimate your spends and convert in excess either. Remember that you can load extra even on your journey through a whatsapp message to your agent.
Compare rates with multiple forex agents and bargain. They expect it. If you sound serious about the purchase, the rates get better.
Don’t make this a last minute to-do. Monitor exchange rates, catch a pattern and buy your currency when the rate is better. This way, every time you spend money, you actually save. I agree, it’s a twisted logic.
3. STAY CLOSE TO CITY CENTRE
The amount you spend on commute, sometimes doesn’t justify the less expensive stay far away.
Be where the buzz is. It’s pretty easy to take a break, get a shower, a short nap, drop off shopping and make impromptu plans in the middle of the day.
Most touristy spots are also crazy crowded in the day. There is such joy in seeing the monuments in the stillness of early mornings without a soul lurking. And, in the merriness of the late nights, watching concerts or just gawking at the lit beauty. You won’t defer the plan using distance as an excuse.
4. HOSTEL CARRYOVERS
Hostels have common kitchen. And, therefore, a common pantry. When fellow guests leave, the unused ingredients are open for common access. Fresh bread, vegetables, pasta, butter, jams, cookies, a lucky pastry, are all marked with the dates they are brought in and the date you are allowed to access them. Help yourself. You won’t be judged. Not only are you saving money, you are doing some fantastic resource management. Remember that while you are consuming some ingredients, you are also contributing some other for future guests.
5. GROUP TICKETS Almost all monuments and tourist spots have group booking advantages. A lot of the public transport have group passes that accommodate between 3- 7 people for a hell lot cheaper. Look out for it.
This one is not a solo traveler advantage, I grudge it and hence won’t spend too much time on it.
6. TOUR WITH ENTHUSIASTIC, INTERESTING LOCALS
There are always some fellow couchsurfers and travel forum members who are very keen on showing people around the city in exchange for meeting someone interesting, from a different culture.
Connect early and chat online with them to judge your comfort levels. See a side to the city truly through a local's eyes. Pay with coffee and conversations.
7. BREAK YOUR ENTRY & EXIT PORTS
Yes, you get better rates if you fly in and out of the same destination. Which makes this hack slightly ironical.
But it’s a rookie mistake that I too made in my time in that role. The truth is the further away you travel from the port, the more time and money you waste in getting back to it. And in this case, time is also money.
You spend far lesser in taking a metro train to the airport next door rather than an intercity train or flight back to the first airport. Besides it will cost you an experience in a place you are not going back to any time soon.
A privy to the prequel -