Do you love to travel, but are you already fed up with the usual, routine tours to one city? Have you ever wondered how to diversify your vacation? If you speak English, even at an intermediate level, then you may well try to organize the trip yourself.
Over the past 5 years, the author of this article has traveled to 10 countries and more than 20 cities. Most of these trips were carefully planned and organized without the involvement of travel agencies. In this article, I will detail how I prepare for my incredibly eventful travels.
Where to begin?
After I caught myself thinking that most cities can be seen in 3 days, I decided that I would continue to make a plan for future trips.
My travel planning begins with making a list of the attractions of each individual city:
- I type in a search engine, for example, "what to see in Paris" or "sights of Paris";
- I write out the places I like, usually browsing not one, but several sites;
- then I find and print a city map, mark my sights from the list on it (if it is more convenient for you to use google maps, you can make marks directly on your phone).
So, tip # 1 – making a plan.
When you have a map with all the attractions in your hands, study it carefully. Many of the objects can be grouped by their location. Also, check out and download a map of public transport such as metro (if available).
You can also calculate the approximate time for their inspection: on the first day – the center, on the second, say, two places in the north of the city, and on the third you can go to a park located in the suburbs.
If you have less than 20 attractions on your list, then three days will be enough to get to know the city.
If you have written out more than 40 points, then examining all of them will take a whole week. As a rule, there are so many attractions in big cities such as London, New York or Hong Kong, but still, most cities, even capitals, can be seen in 3 days.
What does the plan give us?
When I got to know Barcelona without a plan, on the third day I saw absolutely all the sights. So, what is next? Where to go? Repeated visits to what had already been studied began, shopping trips, aimless walking around the market. It was possible to go somewhere else, but the tour was ten days and the hotel was paid for for another week. I really wanted to see Madrid, but it was a pity to overpay for another hotel. I still went to the capital, but for one day without an overnight stay. I also examined Rome in 3 days, only this time I visited several small towns near the "eternal city".
When you have a plan, you can see that the main city can be seen in 3-4 days. In addition, you can go to a couple of cities in the neighborhood, or return home. Thus, the plan determines the time and boundaries of the trip.
Tip # 2 – drawing up and adjusting the plan.
Tickets and hotels
The next stage is buying tickets and booking hotels. Several options are possible here:
- for those who travel light or are not burdened with packing and carrying suitcases;
- simpler, for those who do not fit the previous one.
I travel according to the 1st option, visiting 2-3 cities in one trip.
While still at home, I buy plane tickets through ozontreval or on the Aeroflot website. You can buy immediately there and back. And to buy, say, there – a ticket Moscow-Barcelona, and back – Madrid-Moscow, if you have planned to look at these 2 cities in one trip. This way you don't have to return to Barcelona to fly home. Although this option is not the most economical.
In addition, while still at home, you can buy tickets for intercity trains or buses. However, they will most likely have to be printed in terminals at train stations. And in this case, firstly, you will again be limited in time, and secondly, spend an additional half hour at the station to receive tickets.
But, if we are talking about absolutely free travel, you can always buy tickets on the eve of your departure from the city right at the station. In this case, you can spend an extra day in the city if you did not have time to visit something, or, conversely, if it's completely boring, leave earlier.
Tickets are purchased, we go to the hotel.
I use booking.com. This is a tried and true method. There you can choose settings and choose an accommodation option with a convenient location, number of stars or an acceptable price. If you decide to extend your stay, you can easily arrange it on the spot at the hotel.
So, you don't have to buy everything in advance. However, if your knowledge of English leaves much to be desired, then it will be more convenient to arrange everything on a computer and, if necessary, use translation services.
Tip # 3 – to book tickets and hotels at home, as well as, as appropriate, through mobile applications.
The beginning of the journey
So, you are at the place, in the city, where you have long dreamed of getting and have been preparing for this for so long.
Tip # 4 – change money for local currency right at the airport, it's more difficult to find an ATM in the city.
Don't worry that you don't have a transfer. This is usually much more expensive than a taxi ride. Print your booking details from booking.com in advance. There, by the way, you can select the language and show the taxi driver the address in the local language. But you can also show the hotel in the mobile application.
In addition, you can use apps like uber or order a taxi at special counters at the airport. And there is always the option to use public transport.
At the hotel, the administrator, as a rule, asks for whose name the room is booked, and asks for your passport to make a copy (sometimes the passports of all guests may be required if you are not traveling alone).
If there is a mini-bar in the room, it is better not to use it, because in most cases it is paid, and besides, prices are several times higher than in ordinary stores. It is much more profitable, if, of course, you do not have extra money, to purchase similar products in a regular store.
Another small nuance: I carry a folding travel hairdryer with me, as often hair dryers in hotels are uncomfortable. The hair dryer works as long as the button is pressed, and it can take about 20 minutes to dry thick female hair, even of medium length. Personally, my finger "falls off" while I dry my hair.
Most hotels have safes in their rooms. Be sure to put your valuables in there: most of the cash, jewelry, spare credit cards, and passports. You can ask the administrator to make a photocopy of your passports and carry it with you instead of the original. If there is no safe in your room, ask the administrator – sometimes, valuables can be left in the safe of the administration. Even in the most peaceful and civilized countries there are thieves.
Tip # 5 – Don't use the minibar.
Tip # 6 – leave your valuables and documents in the safe.
Tip # 7 – If you have long hair, take a folding hair dryer with you.
If you arrive in the country for more than a week, buy a local sim card. This will allow you to browse the Internet and call local numbers.
Tip # 8 – Local SIM.
Once you've settled in, it's time to start some sightseeing.
Today, in most cities and popular tourist countries, double-decker sightseeing buses run. This is a very economical way to get to know the city. Tickets for a day or two can be purchased at special counters or directly from the bus driver.
Double-decker buses: City Sightseeing or Hop-On Hop-Off can have multiple routes that cover all city and sometimes suburban attractions.
As a rule, such buses have separate stops with a special sign for orientation. You can get off and on such buses as much as you like without losing your ticket.
On the ground floor, you can borrow headphones for free, and in some cities, raincoats are also available. Russian is always present in European countries. You can plug in headphones and set your preferred language.
In some cities, this ticket also includes a boat or boat trip.
Please note: it is necessary to take a sweater or jacket with you even in summer. It gets very cold on the second floor due to the wind. It is better to collect hair or hide it in a hood.
Some buses are partially covered with a roof, some have a completely open second floor, and some have not only a partial canopy, but also a glazed closed part. And in hot southern countries there is even an air conditioner.
However, you can get around by city buses and metro.
Tip # 9 – be sure to take warm clothes for the tour bus.
If you want to visit a museum or major cultural site, purchase your tickets in advance online. Believe me, it will save you more than one hour of waiting in line.
Check if e-tickets, which you show on your phone, are accepted, or if you need to print them on paper.
If only a paper version is required, ask the hotel administrators to print it. This is the easiest thing to do. They usually ask to send documents for printing by e-mail.
Tip # 10 – Advance purchase of electronic tickets.
If you are already familiar with the city, it's time to explore its surroundings or neighboring cities.
In countries where Russian tourism is developed, there are a lot of tourist corners where you can buy one-day group excursions with Russian-speaking guides. However, if you are fluent in English, you can try similar tours in English.
In addition, if you are not limited in funds, you can order an individual excursion. It is quite an expensive pleasure, but it is comfortable, calm and with a Russian-speaking guide.
You can agree on a certain day in advance while still at home (this is more reliable), or you can find everything you need on the Internet right on the trip.
So, it is better to book individual tours from home. If you can master English, you can purchase any excursion (usually a group) right on the spot at the tourist office, as well as get advice on any questions you may have.
From point A to point B
In Europe, it is easy and comfortable to travel between cities by train. This is useful if the distances are short. So, when there is a choice on the plane or by train, I usually choose the last one, since 1 hour of flight actually translates into 4 hours of travel, registration and baggage claim, waiting for the flight, the way to and from the airport. But if the distance is long, of course, you will have to fly by plane in order to gain valuable time.
Train stations in Europe are comfortable, equipped with elevators and escalators. In addition, there are a lot of cafes and shops where you can have fun.
The trains are comfortable – with soft chairs, tables, sockets and Wi-Fi access. It is a pleasure to travel on them.
To summarize, I want to say that independent travel is incredibly wonderful. This is an opportunity to see what is interesting to you, without being tied to travel agencies, to a specific city and time.
And finally, once again all the tips:
- advice number 1 – drawing up a plan;
- advice number 2 – drawing up and adjusting the plan;
- advice number 3 – to book tickets and hotels at home, as well as on the spot through mobile applications;
- advice number 4 – change money at the airport;
- advice number 5 – do not use the minibar;
- advice number 6 – leave your valuables and documents in the safe;
- tip # 7 – if you have long hair, take a folding hair dryer with you;
- advice number 8 – if you arrived in the country for more than a week, buy a local sim-card;
- advice number 9 – be sure to take warm clothes for the tour bus;
- advice number 10 – pre-purchase of electronic tickets.