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Tips on travelling in Europe on a budget

October 19, 2011
Dining with locals

Travelling to Europe doesn’t come cheap, we know that.  Airfare from Manila is already expensive costing at least 30,000 pesos return. It’s no wonder that trips to Europe are often reserved to those with deep pockets.

But travellers don’t despair, there more ways to travel than doing it high roll. You don’t have to be rich to experience Europe. For those adventurous and open-minded enough, here are a few simple tips you can follow:

1. Research before your trip

Planning on where to go in Bruges, Belgium

Doing good research before a trip helps in managing the budget.  Read travel blogs and forums as they offer tips on what to see and how much is needed to see them. Museum websites, for example, can give you dates to getting in free. Paris’ Louvre (first Sundays / Friday evenings for under 26) and Madrid’s Prado museums (from 6-8pm Tues-Sun)  both offer free entrances on certain dates and times. 

2. Do Couchsurfing

Couch in Brussels

Couchsurfing  is a great way to meet local people and get free accommodation as well.  The website offers over thousands of hosts with “couches” to surf into.  It’s also a good way to experience local living. Giving out a simple gift or helping out with household chores often is enough to pay back for their hospitality.

3. Spend a day on parks

Park Cinquantenaire - Brussels, Belgium

Europe has the best parks in the world– and most don’t cost a Euro to visit. They’re beautiful and usually donned with trees, bike paths and old monuments and statues. It’s a good place to relax and still feel the city’s vibe. During summer, parks also play host to free concerts and street performances. My personal favourites – Parc Cinquantenaire in Brussels, Retiro Park in Madrid, and Vondelpark in Amsterdam.

4. Eat local and stack up at groceries when you can

Dining with the locals in UK

When in a new place they say to “do as the Romans do”. This comes with dining too. Avoid tourist dining establishments if you can. Find places where locals go and try some local flavour instead for an authentic travel experience. They serve good perhaps even better food at a lower price.

For those who want to take shoestring travel to the next level, head  to a supermarket and get ready-made salad or sandwich. Stack up on water as well for your day trips. Another cheap alternative is to cook at your hostel or at your host’s place.

5. Join free city tours

Free city tour in Amsterdam

Keep an eye for organisations like the New Europe tours, that offer guided tours around most big cities. It’s a great source of information about the city and a good way to meet other travellers. It’s completely free yet they do accept tips for those who enjoyed the tour (which is often the case).

 6.  Rent a bike

Bicycles in Amsterdam

Public transport is already a good way to travel cheap around but to those seeking a richer travel experience, best is to hop onto a bicycle. It’s a cheap (and healthy way) to jump from various sites. You can go around at your own pace and can control which route or area you want to see. Smaller cities like Amsterdam & Brussels can easily be navigated with a bicycle. In Brussels, check out Villo which rents out bikes starting at 1,50 euro a day.

What are your tips on travelling on the cheap in Europe? Share your tips on the comment section!

This article has originally been published for Discounts Philippines.  I wrote it together with another article on tips about Backpacking in Bohol. Grab a copy of their anniversary issue on most magazine stands and bookstores today. 🙂

Travel Blog

My Seven Links: 25Travels So Far

July 31, 2011
My Seven Links- Brussels

Starting My 7 links post was difficult as I don’t have much material to begin with. It’s been only a few months since I started theblog and with only 13 posts to date, there’s not much material to work on.

I’m not new to blogging and I’ve been writing my thoughts since 2005. But I’ve had moved from one blog platform to another, hoping it will bring the writing sparks back and 25travels was my latest – and my blog solely for travel.  I’ve written a few travel posts in between for my family and friends to read.  But for the purpose of this exercise, I’ll try to keep it within my 25travels posts.

Thanks to Ren of So Not Lost for the nomination.  🙂

My most beautiful post
My 10 Favourite Places in Brussels, Belgium

Grand Place, Brussels

I originally wrote this post for the Matador Network. However, I sent it haphazardly then forgot to proofread and it was eventually rejected (that’s why bloggers, it’s key that you proofread). I’ve since rewritten this piece and decided to upload it here instead.

I lived in Brussels for two years and it goes without saying that I miss the city and my friends there a lot. Writing this post brought back memories  from my time there. Brussels became my second home, and writing about a place where a part of you remains needs some thought and lots of crafting, that’s why I consider this as my most beautiful post.  I’ve put much thought in order to reflect my feelings for the city and the experiences I’ve had there,  hoping that people who haven’t been to Brussels will have the same feeling as I had.

My most popular post
Final Four: finishing my 25travels goal

Sahara desert Morocco, 25travels

My most popular to date is my recent post on countries to visit for  my 25-country goal. I’ve gotten my best amount of page views and social media sharing from this entry. At the same time, comments and suggestions from travel bloggers had made it useful for my upcoming trips. Now, I definitely am excited to boost my travels again!  Their advice will definitely help and I’m excited to pack and get myself back on the road again.

My most controversial post
25-country travel: Why That Travel Goal?

Bullfight in Madrid, Spain

The almost empty comment box on this post might not say anything about being my most controversial, but I do get lots of questions and emails about my travel goal of visiting 25 countries before I turn 25. Mainly, words of encouragement and well-wishes for my future travels. But I do get an occasional response that I shouldn’t ‘rush’ travel and force myself to visit countries for the sake of finishing my goals this year.  I’ve also received a feedback that  I don’t need to ‘count’ the countries and in order to ‘travel’ I should go beyond staying a few days in one city.

I do agree to some extent that travel should go beyond just a city visit and I would love to do so if money and time permit.

We all have our travel styles and unfortunately, long term travel isn’t for me yet. Some people dictate that there’s only way of properly travelling which is to immerse yourself through long-term backpacking. But unfortunately, not everyone has that privilege and capacity to do so. I want to do it DEFINITELY, but I can’t at this stage. And despite only being in Spain or in Austria for a weekend – that experience had inspired me to look into the world with a different perspective.

By starting this blog, setting this goal and working towards starting my travels, I’m hoping to inspire other people so see other ways of travelling. In the end, we are all travellers. Whether you have a full-time job, still in university, or a person short of money and time, nothing is stopping you from travelling and seeing the world beyond the confines of our four-walled homes. In the end, we all enjoy and reap the benefits of travelling – having an open mind and understanding that there is a world beyond our small piece of lot.

My most helpful post
How to: Travel by public transport from Manila to Clark airport

 

Philippine passport

This post comes from a horrible experience of having to go to Clark Airport ( Manila’s budget airport) early in the morning.  A normal route that can be done with a  2-hour drive took me more than 5 hours by public transport (includes waiting time, missing buses and haggling for the ‘better option’). Bus schedules are unreliable so I had to wait for an hour before it left. Shuttles run when they are already full of passengers, which at 5 in the morning is virtually impossible. I’ve extracted this post from my own demise and translated my frustrations into a short and easy to follow guide for those venturing out in the same way.

I’ve shared this post with many friends and travellers who will be doing this impractical journey to the airport from Manila and have gotten great feedback.

A post whose success surprised me
Two sides of the Cu Chi tunnels tour

 

Tank in Cu Chi

I wasn’t expecting that this post will be my one of the most popular but if we based popularity on numbers, then this was it. It got a good number of page views and clicks from external sources. It even got re-tweeted by Melvin from traveldudes.  But I’m not really sure what made it popular in the first place.  It’s a post I can describe as candid, it’s merely a telling of a story about the irony of the Cu Chi daytrip tour starting with a visit to Cao Dai temple and end up with shooting rifles in Cu Chi.  I guess there’s love online for a combination of church and guns.

A post I feel didn’t get the attention it deserved
El Nido: Our 48 hours in paradise

 

Bacuit Bay in El Nido

El Nido is paradise and  is my favourite place in the entire Philippines. El Nido is how I pictured it, pristine and almost secluded white beaches alongside grey limestone cliffs. I have all praises as well for the town’s atmosphere, food and local people and I can’t wait to come back there soon. It’s the perfect place for those seeking an island retreat or vagabond beachbum lifestyle. But I think the post was shabbily written and somewhat didn’t capture my emotions towards the place.  That’s the reason why I think it didn’t get the attention it deserved.  My writing had also become rustic these days and through this blog, I can hopefully bring back my passion and attention to content. But don’t let this mediocre post stop you from visiting it, go and go now. 🙂

The post that I am  most proud of
23 best travel moments at 23 years old

Riding a zipline in Loboc, Bohol

I’m proud of this post simply because of the travel experiences I’ve encountered over the past year. Looking back, it’s a good summary of what a great year filled with new  places I’ve seen and people I’ve met.  The fact that I’ve seen Angkor Wat, rode a zipline and experienced a great World Cup finals (even if the Dutch lost) – is something that I’m proud of. The world is beautiful and I’m happy that I’ve got to experience a lot during the year. Hope to continue this crazy adventure this year and the next!

Here are my five nominations:

Ally from The Further, The Better

Neil from Backpacks and Bunkbeds

Mica from Senyorita

Jade & James from The World is Our Oyster

Tina  from Tightrope traveler

Travel Blog

HOW TO: Travel by Public Transport from Manila to Clark Airport (Updated 2012)

June 19, 2011
Travel by Public Transport from Manila to Clark

After my recent “challenge” going to the Clark Airport (Diosdado Macapagal International Airport) for a 07:40am flight, I thought that it’s worth doing a “how-to”  guide for people who in future will be doing the same. Here’s a short guide on how to get to the airport in the early morning from Manila.

I’ve updated this post as of August 2012. Feel free to post new routes or advice on the comment box below.

Clark Airport (Diosdado Macapagal International Airport)

For starters, there are no direct Philtranco shuttle buses this early to Clark Airport. The earliest bus leaves at 07:00am. But if your flight is not early (10.00am onwards), your best bet is to take the direct shuttle from SM Megamall. This is more convenient and brings you directly in front of the departure gate.  The fee is 350 pesos one-way as of 2012.

UPDATE (as of August 2012): apparently there is a direct bus from Philtranco starting at 2.30am in Megamall / 2.00am in Pasay.  I haven’t confirmed this route so best to call the ticketing office – (+63) 02 851-5812.

But for an alternative route for early morning flights, your best bet is to take a bus from Manila to Dau Bus Terminal in Pampanga then another shuttle/private jeep to Clark Airport.

Here’s my experience and advice for those opting to ply this route:

LEG 1: BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY (01.30AM)

Wake up, have a coffee and a light snack. Make sure your tickets and passports are in your luggage.

LEG 2: YOUR PLACE TO CUBAO BUS STATION (02:30AM-03:00AM)  

Take a cab and ask them to drop you off in Cubao, Quezon City – at the Dagupan bus company, which is along the main road, EDSA. If you’re coming from far south like Pasay, Las Pinas and Muntinlupa, your best bet is to leave at 02:00am just in case of traffic caused by road construction or accidents. You can also check if there are buses from the Pasay bus terminal (+632 851-5420) running this early.

LEG 3: CUBAO BUS STATION TO DAU BUS STATION (03:00AM – 04:30AM)

There are several buses that ply the Cubao-Dau road but on my initial experience, the Dagupan bus company has buses leaving the earliest. Victory Liner also has a bus that goes to Dau but leaves Manila at 04:30am – expect to get into Dau by 06:00am if you take this bus.

Confirm at the ticket office what time the earliest bus to Dau Bus Terminal leaves as its possible that schedules can change. Based on my experience in 2010, the earliest was a non-airconditioned bus leaving at 03:15am.

Tickets for the bus to go to Dau Bus Terminal is at, by the time of publishing, at 98 pesos. Expect to pay a bit more for an airconditioned bus.

Travel time is around 1-1.5 hours.

Dagupan Bus Co. Inc. 232

Ask the bus conductor to drop you at the Dau Bus Terminal. All buses stop here from NLE (North Luzon Expressway) so for sure you won’t miss it. You can grab breakfast at  Jollibee if you’re hungry. 🙂

LEG 4: DAU BUS TERMINAL TO CLARK AIRPORT (05:00am -06:00am)

There are two main options you can take to go to Clark airport from Dau:

A. Itinerary: Shuttle Jeepneys in Dau directly to the airport

There are shuttle jeepneys (coloured green & white) that ply the Dau – Clark Airport route. Fare costs 100 pesos per person and ONLY leaves when there are 5 passengers on board.

Expect to wait for the shuttle to arrive as they are as rare  at this time. Plus if there’s a shuttle available, there are hardly any passengers to fill out the 5 passenger quota. You can pay for the entire shuttle ride for 500 pesos or divide the amount if you are already 2-4 on shuttle. The shuttle goes directly to the airport.

My experience: The shuttle arrived at 05:30am and I was waiting until 06:15am for other passengers to come, and I eventually left as no one came and I’ll miss my check-in time. So I took the other option – Option 2.

B. Itinerary: Dau Bus Terminal -Clark Main Gate – Clark Airport

From the Dau Terminal, walk for 100 meters to the main road where you can take a jeepney going to Clark Main Gate. From Jollibee, turn left passing through the road where the shuttle vans are parked.  Then turn right on the corner until you get into the highway where you’ll need to cross the road. There’s a map to the jeepney stop inside Jolibee or just ask the people around to give you directions to the stop for jeepneys going to Clark Main Gate.

After walking, take a jeepney going to Clark Main Gate. They have signs on the dashboard window either saying Clark Main Gate / SM Clark. Fare should be 8 pesos and you’ll get to Clark Main Gate in 5-10 minutes.

Alternatively, you can get a tricycle from Dau Bus terminal to bring you to Clark Main Gate – and expect to pay 50-80 pesos.

Once you get into Clark main gate, ask the jeepney drivers for jeepneys that goes to the clark airport. In most cases, they’ll offer you to get on a special jeepney ride for 250 pesos and that will bring you directly to the departure area of the airport. Travel time is 15 minutes.

Alternatively, they said that it’s possible to take a jeepney and pay 10 pesos, and then walk for 10 minutes to the airport. I have yet to find any information on this but I will update this blog if that information comes in.

UPDATE (August 2012): Thanks to my readers – apparently, this jeep exist and can be taken from the same terminal. The jeep route is yet to be confirmed. 🙂

As for me, I would advise to go for Option 2 to save roughly 280 pesos on fare, but if you get lucky – the shuttle bus won’t be that bad.

Anyway, I manage to get into the airport after almost 4 hours of travel time. An exhausting challenge and spent more or less around 500 pesos from the journey from Quezon City to Clark.

Useful numbers to call:

Airport

DMIA (Clark Airport authority) – +63 (0) 45 599.2888 loc.119

Airlines

Air Asia – +63 (0) 2 588.9999 (call centre)
Cebu Pacific – +63 (0) 2 702 0888 (call centre)
Sea Air – +63 (0) 2 849.0100 (call centre)
Tiger Airways – +63 (0) 2 884.1524 (call centre)

Bus Services

Philtranco – +63  (0)2 851 – 5420 // 851 – 5812 // 851 – 8077 // 851 – 8079
Victory Liner
Partas

Have you tried flying from Clark Airport? What was your experience? Any tips you want to share?

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