I Attempt To Burst The Most Common Myths Around Traveling To Europe
I think every traveler worth their weight in luggage dreams of backpacking to Europe at least once in their lifetime. The folklore, the pop culture associations and the movies glorifying Europe have only heightened the charm of this beautiful continent. But more often than not, the Indian passport (and associated VISA formalities) and the dismally low rupee vis a vis the Euro ( €1= ₹81) doesn’t hold too well for such lofty travel ambitions for us Indian folk.
Though, for me the dream finally realised as I found an incredible deal on a return fare from India to Italy and wasted no time in booking me a return ticket .Thank you Air India.
So, I took off to Europe, all alone for 3 week trip, and came back a wiser person.
While most things you read about how beautiful and awesome Europe is are true, and have been enumerated and elaborated countless times on multiple blogs, so I’ll save myself and you guys some cliche.
I’ve thought about a few common things or myths people think of when they think of traveling in Europe, or anywhere else abroad for that matter, that deters them from doing it themselves, or makes them extra enthusiastic about doing it. Hopefully my own travel experiences can bust a few of them or at least from where I’m coming from.
1. Europe trips are as impromptu as they show in pop culture
Unless you live in Europe yourself, have a passport that rolls out a red carpet at the airports across the world, or millions is like pocket change for you, yes you need to plan the hell out of this trip.
a. Set aside at least a week for the documents for the Schengen visa, submit your application at least a month before intended travel.
b. To get the cheapest fare, book your flights 3-4 months in advance.
c. Do your research on the places you want to visit. While you can can try and explore the places as you go along, in the interest of time and money, having some idea about where you want to go, will help with planning the itinerary, local commutes and also budgets not to mention, some background about the sight in front of you will help making a lot of sense out of it, than just blankly staring at some pretty monument and going ” Okay interesting but what’s the big deal?”
2. You need a year to travel in Europe
Everyone told me “20 days just ain’t enough for Europe”.
‘You’re doing too much in too little time”
While that may be true if you’re trying to do a lot in Europe, and focus on one city or country properly, my agenda was just to get a taste of this amazing part of the world, one city at a time, in a day or 2.
It’s up to you. If you want to do 1 country properly, that’s alright.
For me Europe was like one giant country, that covers 1/50th of the world. And there’s only so much time, and resources to cover it all. So I chose to do 10 cities in 20 days, spending only a few hours at some, to spending 3 days in some. It was all about how much of an interest and unique a city held for me.
3. Europe is unaffordable
Yes, while travelers from economically-unprivileged countries like India may find the Euro price tags steep, if planned well in advance and budged well, Europe doesn’t have to break the bank.
How’s this for some stats? A decent meal in a small or average sized eatery is about €5. Compare that to a posh-ish meal at an Indian restaurant for ₹500. Since most average restaurants in Europe are as pretty as a posh restaurant in India, it doesn’t hurt to shell out almost the same amount to eat the same food in Europe.
Europe is very well connected through public transport and most rides are about €2-3 each, cheaper if you go for passes. Compare that to a ₹200/300 fare in an auto for the same distance in India, not to mention the potholes, the pollution and the rudeness of the Auto guy you’re also served along with the ride.
In this post, I tell you how to do a budget trip to Europe.
4. Europe is completely safe
While cases of rapes are reported much less than in India, by no means Europe, or many places in Europe are completely safe from robberies and pickpocketing. Places like Paris, Barcelona and Rome are notorious for pickpockets and scams- Why, I got pickpocketed myself in Rome during my trip, stripping me off of my $500 Nexus phone, right on the first day and it all happened within seconds!
Poor immigrants from East Europe, Africa, even Asia feed on tourists’s gullibility. Be careful at times and watch out for your belongings especially your passport, phone and camera.
5. Losing a passport or a phone would ruin your Europe trip
While it’ll be stressful, and may derail a few of your plans, losing a passport is definitely not the end of the world- or your trip.
Just lodge an FIR and take it to your country’s embassy as soon as you can and you should have a new passport within a day or 2- which incidentally is much quicker than the time it takes to get one in India. Not to mention, loss of a passport is usually covered under travel insurance.
As for losing a phone, well, it might just be a blessing in disguise. As all the time you’d wasted in checking email and updating fb status on expensive data or the free cafe wifi, you can use to be amazed at the beautiful sights all around.
6. You need to have a group to do a Euro trip
Movies like Eurotrip, or the Indian version ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” may have messed with our expectations and helped in weaving dreams of a happy bonhomie shared across a group in foreign lands, Europe’s perfectly fine, and I dare say even better to travel around, alone. Why?
1) Europe is a traveler’s favourite so there’re tons of travelers like yourself around. Live in a hostel, get to talk to a few people. Next thing you know, you’re hanging with your new friends, talking about experiences, their culture and not bitching about your friends from college or that pesky colleague at work. To truly experience something new, be free of the ‘familiar’
2) It helps to be noncommittal and flexible with your schedule. You feel like spending 2 more days in paris without an explanation to anyone, do it. You couldn’t stand Brussels like me and want to beat it early? Be your own guest!
7. You’ll have a tough time if you’re a vegetarian
I’m a vegetarian and trust me, I didn’t starve myself in Europe.
While predominantly steak-and-bacon friendly, Europe does cater (heh) to a huge international population; moreover an increasing number of Europeans have been turning to Veganism, ergo, Veg food, while not abundant, is very much available throughout. While not necessarily as non veg street food, you can definitely find at least one vegetarian dish at all the eateries and restaurants. If you can’t, you can always pop in at a supermarket and pick up some fruits, bread, crackers, or readymade salads available commonly.
8. Girls can’t travel solo in Europe
This is coming from someone who’s traveled to 3 huge countries and done this Europe trip, solo.
Europe’s much safer than a lot of places in India, almost follows an equal society (It’s the same for the good bits too. Girls don’t get a lot of special treatment)
While amorous flirting from charming Italian guys (and creepy at times), or some stalkerish talks from fellow Indians in Paris cannot be discounted, it’s almost always harmless. Just exercise the common caution you would, don’t be drunk out of your senses while alone and of course don’t put out more than you can handle, and you should be good. Why, you might even bump into a nice gentleman who buys you a coffee without being creepy, and you never know, you might hit it off with them.