Saturday, December 28, 2013

How to Survive a Solo Trip to Europe in Winter 2013

I have to give a hand to fellow traveler Mr Helmi for this idea of a blogpost. Hehe. And decided to go with it. There were several considerations when having only three months of up-front preparations before a trip to Europe, a cheap return ticket to Paris, and almost nill of savings!

I struggled hard to gain and save enough money just to make this dream of setting foot on European soil an unforgettable experience. My very first concern was money, money and more money. And then came the planning, routes and accommodations. I thank mr. Google for all the limitless information. :)

1. Earning enough money

I bought the tickets during an online Saudi Airlines airfare promo which costed under USD500 for return tickets to Paris. Traveling time - next three months! I had almost no savings in my account as I just came back from Korea and Australia the previous months and I panicked! Hahaha.

So how did I solve this? I sold everything that had value and slaved away as a driver or companion to elder people that needed my help. Please.. don't ask for details :)

By the end of three months, I gathered about RM3000 for the trip.



2. Figuring out countries and routes for the trip

Tourist friendlyand off beaten roads aside, I decided on cities that has a lot of potential Couchsurfing hosts and easy to get around transport system. I heard a lot of positive reviews on Europe's train system and opted trains all the way!

Here were the sites where I purchased my train tickets before the trip. Since it was off-season peak (almost winter-time), a train ticket could only cost as low as 9 Euros one way!


The buying process is pretty straightforward and I used a Visa Debit card to buy all my tickets. But the prices are not fixed. If you booked earlier, it's way cheaper. Even cheaper if you're under 25 years old (which I'm not).  :)

To enter Italy into Switzerland, I opted for a more luxurious route which is via Bernina Express which passed the Alps before reaching Chur, a town 2 hours away from Zurich. I kinda gambled my way into Switzerland by buying the train tickets once I get to Milan. I had to switch trained three times before reaching Zurich.

Here's my route:

  • Milano-Tirano - 11.05  Euros (fixed price) - ticket bought at the Milan's train station
  • Tirano - Chur (Bernina Express) - Zurich (Swiss Intercity Travia) - 68 Euros (fixed price) - ticket bought at Tirano

This is my route - Paris - Rome - Venice - Milan - Zurich - Paris in 10 days.
3. Figuring out my accommodations

Being an avid Couchsurfer, I surfed in almost all the cities except Venice and Milan where I opted for AirBNB.com. Another reason for not couchsurfing there is because I had a RM100 voucher in my airbnb account. Muahahaha! I paid no heed to some of my friends who warned me that since it was a holiday season, most of the CSers might not be home! Boy were they're wrong!! Paris, Milan and Zurich had plenty of hosts willingly to accept me! I had a much difficult time on choosing which ones to stay with. hehe.

My overall costs as a solo traveler into Europe is depicted below.

I survived! 
4. Wear Layers and layers of cloths!

The weather in the cities I was going to would be below 10 degrees. I didn't have a proper winter wear and didn't have money to buy new ones. So I opted in borrowing them from my friends! Thanks to Lily and my officemate, Kak Meriam for lending their sweaters and winter jackets! It saved me hundreds of ringgit! And thank god it never rained throughout my 10 days stay there! Alhamdulillah! 

Maroon hooded jacket borrowed from Ms Meriam and a very thick pink sweater bought for 10 AUD in Melbourne. Oh, pictured in front on Notre Dame in Paris
I also bought three fleece heatach turtle necks shirts from Uniqlo costing about RM39.90 each as my inner ware (less 30% by having a Uniqlo worker to buy it for me. Hikkkss). Also bought heatch socks to complete my winter attire! 2 pairs for RM39.90!  It really helped my body to fight the cold. Like a LOT!
Also borrowed a down vest from Lily just for extra heat. Thanks Lily! Picture taken at Arc de Triomphe of Paris.
And when it get's freezing cold... like below 0 degrees cold, I opted the very thick winter coat borrowed from Lily. Haha.

The bright orange winter coat was suitably warm for the icy Switzerland as it was freezing cold there.
5. Days are shorter, nights are longer

Sun rises at 8:30 am almost every morning and it goes down around 4:00 pm. I had minimal time to explore the places of interest before nightfall and had to cut short many of my time in each place. But rest assured, the time is more then enough. Hehe. 

Since it was soooo colddd outside... you tend to move quickly and walk faster to keep warm. And so trips become conveniently short following your own pace! Hahaha! You also tend to stay indoors to escape the cold thus spend more time in museums, shopping malls etcetera instead.

But that wasn't the case with me. I spent most of my time outside wandering aimlessly and in a fast pace to keep warm. Hehehe.

6. Wi-Fi everywhere, not!
  • CDG Airport in Paris - first 15 minutes are free! Else needs to pay to continue! Gahhh!
  • Free wi-fi in Starbucks and McDonalds - Yes, if you have a local number to enter during registration, which I don't have. This happened to all the chain stores in Italy.-__-
  • Free visitor wi-fi in Milan - grrr.. still needs a local number! 
  • Switzerland - completely nill
So how did I get online during my trip? I depended wholly on my Couchsurfing and Airbnb hosts. All of them have internet connection at home. God bless them! :)


7. Enjoy and keep an open mind!

Solo traveling is not for everyone. I love it and nobody can tell me otherwise. Hehe. Getting lost is essential and I get to learn some foreign words as well. Most memorable one is Swiss German for thank-you which is pronounced as Don-kay! (reminds me of donkey. lol). I met a lot of awesome people during my trip and I am forever grateful to all of them! 

To travel is to take a journey into yourself - Danny Kaye. Picture taken during my Bernina Express ride into the Alps.
Ok. Hope this post helps for first-timers into Europe. Happy traveling peeps! ^___^

7 comments:

Yazid said... [Reply]

Za...awesome ler you ni.. I nak plan to go to UK this March..first to watch Arsenal game lepas tu nak naik train to Paris and Swisszerland..
I dah check flight detail from Singapore-Dubai-UK ard 1200SGD.
Transit kat Dubai to see if i can meet my fren kat sana :)
any advice tak?

Ayaq said... [Reply]

Memang budget gile trip ko ni..hehe. Eh, wifi kat McD Itali kene guna nombor local? Dulu aku pergi selamba je guna wifi...sana sini ada free wifi..huhu.

Anonymous said... [Reply]

awesome!!!

syieda said... [Reply]

Jard...kita tabik spring kat awak!!

Jard The Great said... [Reply]

@ yazid... hehehe. Seems like u have done ur itinerary already. just enjoy it then :)

@ ayaq.. yesss.. diorg minta nombor telpon utk sign-in ataupun nombor kad kredit. dua2 ku takde! uwaaaaaaa!

Jard The Great said... [Reply]

@ anon... thanks *malu*

@ syieda... ehh.. jgnlah.. malulah camtuh. eh ehhh

Yazid Abu Samah said... [Reply]

Za..that's only overview..now go into details n want to save some cost..