Travel Tips II


I hope the previous blog post on travel tips has been useful or motivated you to travel! This blog post will be a sequel, addressing the things you’ll encounter AFTER booking for your trip!

1. Which airline?

Personally, it all comes down to cost. If an airline is offering half the price of another, it’s a no brainer as to which I’ll choose. However, having said that, I have had my fair share of plane troubles and will undoubtedly be biased against/for certain airlines.

I believe everyone has their own experience with different airlines and it won’t be fair for me to sway your opinions but what I’ll say is – research on the airline before committing to a flight. A simple google search “XXX airline review” should be a good indication.

The most important thing is to exercise your common sense and remember that you are flying on a budget airline, therefore nonsensical reviews regarding the complaints that you should not expect a budget airline (eg. on-flight entertainment, free meals etc.) to have should be taken with a large pinch of salt!

Another tip from me is to inform yourself on what you are allowed to bring on board. The two biggest players – EasyJet and Ryanair both have different regulations. EasyJet allows only one cabin bag without any addition small bag and they’re very strict about this! Ryanair on the other hand allow both a cabin bag, that they will check in for free when you are boarding the aircraft, and a small bag that you can store underneath your seats. Therefore, do your research and don’t assume – it’s worth the few minutes and could potentially save you a lot of money!

I tend to fly light which means I don’t have any check-in baggage and fly only with a cabin bag. Please ensure your cabin bag fits the dimension of the airline regulation (most are quite similar with a 5cm width/breadth difference). Not doing so will cause you to spend more money when you’re about to board the aircraft with the airline staff’s dreaded request to fit into their baggage sizer and a failure to do so will cost you 60-100 euros check-in fee!

2. Saving on accommodation

Aside from staying in fabulous hostels, another habit that I tend to do from time to time is to book sleeper trains when I’m travelling long distance (9-12 hours journey). By taking an overnight sleeper train, you will save time, the hassle of flying and save on a night’s accommodation!

You can book single sex cabins/couchettes ranging from 6 in a small room to a private cabin. A word of caution is that the rooms are TINY but sufficient if you’re not fussy and are willing to rough it out for one night.

I took sleeper trains from Budapest to Prague and Paris to Milan because the flight timings were unfavourable/unavailable and after counting the number of hours that I would spend travelling to the airport + checking in 2 hours prior + time in the air + travelling from the airport, it wouldn’t really save me any time. Train stations are almost always in the middle of the city centre so in terms of convenience, it’s definitely a win!

I admit it is not for everyone, especially if you are unable to sleep in slightly uncomfortable situations (train movement/noise/tight spaces) and you wouldn’t want to arrive in the new city exhausted and disoriented. However, try or you’ll never know!

3. Unforeseen circumstances

Trying to justify the importance of travelling? I have, on numerous occasions, used examples from my travels during my job interviews. I believe that travelling allows you to develop some of the essential skills employers are looking for:

Problem solving, critical thinking & thinking on your feet skills.

Travel delays are common all around the world, but it’s especially dreadful when you have a connecting flight/train/bus train to catch. Or even worse, if a strike suddenly happens and there is no transport out of the country. What do you do? Panic? Resign to your fate?

This happened to me one month ago when I was in Paris. I was flying from Paris to Milan to meet a friend who is flying from Singapore. It was my friend’s first time flying alone and to Europe, so I had promised her that I would be there to pick her up from the airport. The day prior to my flight, I received an email from the airline that my flight has been cancelled due to a big strike in France. Uh oh. The strike affected air travel because traffic controllers were involved and no planes could enter or exit France’s airspace. The national train services were severely impacted with only less than 50% of the services running at full capacity or at a very high cost. The next flight out is not until the following day afternoon and it was uncertain if it will be affected by the strike too.

I had to think out of the box, explore all the options and consider many alternatives. What I ended up doing after exhausting all options was to go with a car sharing platform called Blabla car where drivers add trips that they are making (for example in this case, Paris to Milan) and the number of passengers they are able to accommodate in their car, then the passengers pay a fee to travel with the “host/driver”. By another strike of bad luck, the driver turned out to be unreliable and unresponsive. Pressed for time, I considered routes from/to neighbouring countries that would be attended by non-french staff and I found my solution! A private (unaffected by government-associated strikes) French-Italian train company which costed me a large hole in the pocket but I got out of the country safety and kept my promise to my friend.

That’s just one example, I’ve met with so many unexpected challenges along the way that have honed my adaptability and time management skills! It’s all yours to make the best out of the opportunities!

4. Observe interesting customs of countries

In Budapest, DO NOT thank the waiter for collecting your bills before they return you the change. Doing so implies “keep the change” which, as a broke student, is not within my capabilities yet. Pay the bill, receive the change, smile and then say thank you at the very end!

In Italy, they’ll ask if you want café/cappuccino/espresso after dinner. A hilarious video hits the nail on the head with “it’s 9pm in the evening, why would I want a coffee at the end of my meal??!”

Also they have a cover charge of 2-4 euros for each person that sits in the restaurant (even if they’re not eating). It is supposedly a service charge to change the table cloth, bread basket and tips. These few euros do add up, so think twice and consider eating in an equally great market hall or have a picnic by a scenic view point! You can use the money to buy a bottle of wine to share! How romantic!

In Switzerland, restaurant meals are so incredibly expensive that even locals buy their meals from supermarkets and eat it along the river! In other countries they might see it as an act of “being thrifty at best and stingy at worst” but even the local Swiss do it!

These are the things I love finding out about each country. Now that Europe is borders free, it’s sometimes easy to forget that you’re moving from one country to another but it’s the small customs such as the above that sets one apart from the other.

I really enjoy writing these blog posts, so if you find it useful – drop me an email and make my day! Also, if you have any questions regarding student life in Leeds, I’ll be more than happy to help!