When first gazing at a map of Europe, it can be awe-inspiring looking at the puzzle of nations that create it. Old world cities, seas and mountains jump from the page, inviting you to come and explore this special corner of the world.
There are many ways to travel Europe, and regardless of where you choose to visit or how you travel, you cannot leave without being blown away by the history, architecture, sights, sounds and tastes that surround you from every direction. There is just no way of exploring Europe without being mesmerized.
For everyone at university our wonderful summer holiday is a great time to go travelling – we have the time off university and an entire year’s worth of savings to spend. Something to remember is that our summer is Europe’s winter, so be prepared for lots of amazing snow, and minus degree weather (which in itself is a new adventure).
As someone who has travelled to overseas multiple times while studying, the most frequently asked question I get is, how do I afford it? It is something many students wish to do every year, but never quite make it. Well, contrary to common belief you do not need to have thousands upon thousands to visit, see and experience the glory of Europe. The answer is actually pretty obvious and practical – I create a budget and I set goals to obtain it.
People hear the word budget and shy away from it, but creating a budget is what everyone does whether they know it or not. People create budgets in their heads to make sure they have enough money for rent, bills, food and enjoying life so why not create one for a trip of a lifetime? The feeling of taking flight to a new holiday and adventure is intoxicating and addictive – once the travel bug gets you, it is there to stay. Before finishing my last holiday I was already planning my next.
As long as you plan with plenty of time, book in advance, and budget smartly with the help of some great travel guides such as Lonely Planet’s Europe on a Shoestring, then you can see Europe at its best without breaking the bank.
Some tips to help you out:
Tip 1. Book well in advance.
So many people ask how it is possible to afford flights to Europe. My advice is to do your research well in advance – at least one year – and go and talk to as many travel agents as you can. I always say go in and meet a travel agent face to face build a connection, that way they will work harder to find you the best flights. See multiple agents as they all have different arrangements with airlines, which ensures you will get the best deal. Flying in off season, and mid-week will lower the price too. Try and avoid weekends, public holidays and popular seasons, as the prices of flights go up.
Tip 2. Get away from the tourism hubs
The saying is true: ‘go where the locals go’ – the food will be better, and you will discover more authentic culture, not the over the top show put on for tourists. In Rome, pasta and pizza will cost you almost double around the popular historical monuments, but if you follow the back streets and find the locals in the family run restaurants the food will be a hundred times better and cheaper.
Tip 3. Take your student card with you
You may not be an EU Student but over there so many places do not care or check. You can get discounts on many things from bus passes, entry tickets to museum attractions, shows, accommodation, food and even retail. If you are not a student, but you are under 26, in many locations you count as a student as long as you have I.D. to prove your age.
Tip 4. Don’t live in the ‘if only’ or ‘one day,’ live in the now and I will.
You will never know if you don’t go. Life is short and to put it bluntly why waste your life never living or experiencing what life can bring you. There is nothing better than experiencing this beautiful world we live in, discovering the different cultures and seeing the best scenery in the world first hand and not just on a television. One thing I hold truly close to me is the people and friends I have created all over the world. Start planning!
Must do and see
Europe holds something for everyone, from incredible beaches, wine and food that will mesmerise your taste buds, wonderful people and so much history – you could spend an entire holiday just gazing at the amazing architecture that surrounds you.
Here is a small list of some of my favourite things to do to start you off.
Paris: Paris is the city of lights, love, wine and food, and when you are there it is hard to avoid the magic of what is Paris. It is one of my favourite cities in the world with its amazing history, outstanding examples of architecture throughout the city and the beautiful kind people (yes I said kind, not arrogant). Paris is impossible to see in one visit I have now been twice and still have not seen everything I want to see, there is just too much – it will keep you coming back for more
Amsterdam: The city of bikes. Everyone knows Amsterdam is famous for its many coffee shops (where you can smoke marijuana) and the red light district. However there is so much more to this city, with its cobblestone and brick streets weaving around picturesque canals. Everyone ride bicycles – during the day the town square is covered in them. A must do when visiting Amsterdam is escape to a small fishing town – they are so beautiful and you can try some amazing local food. For those who love art and music, you really cannot go past Amsterdam with its thriving music and art scene.
London: The home of Harry Potter! I am a huge Harry Potter fan, so a must do in my book is the making of Harry Potter at Warner Brother Studios – you can book a tour and get a lift out on the bus. But there is much more to London than Harry Potter, including some of the world’s best museums, castles in abundance, and amazing food. You can see the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace , and if travelling within the next 2 years make sure you take a ride on the London eye and see London from above.
Prague: Prague is probably one of the most picturesque cities I have visited, you can easily lose yourself wandering down the city’s beautiful streets. For students Prague is a great place to visit as it is a cheap destination and when the weekends hit, it is flooded with tourists and locals all out to enjoy the nightlife with cheap beers and delicious food.
Krakow: When exploring the city of Krakow it can easily feel as if one has stepped back into the middle ages with its looming castle above the city, stone buildings and streets at every turn. The centre of education, Krakow offers vibrancy with its markets, local food, and nightlife. Whilst you are there, you must try a local dish of perigio which is a delicious type of dumpling.
Note: Auschwitz concentration camp is only a short bus ride away and a must see, but be prepared for an extremely sobering experience.
Lastly, this travel advice is relevant to any destination – just enjoy life, grab hold of that travel bug and never stop exploring and enjoying the beauty that this amazing world holds.
Images: Kendall Boyd