3 useful steps for planning a trip to Europe

Since I received many questions from my followers on Instagram and WordPress about how I made the route of my trip and how I chose the cities & countries I’d visit, and since Europe is becoming a more and more popular destination for Indonesian travelers, I would like to share the details and technicalities of planning my Euro-trip. Hopefully, it will be useful and you can copy or use these steps before planning your own journey. Or, you can just use it as additional information. But whatever you will choose, I am glad to share this with you.

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At Sforza castle, Milan, Italy

As I mentioned in my previous post, for some various reasons I had to postpone my trip a few times and it caused me stress. Applying for the visa itself and choosing the flight ticket also caused some headaches. So I did as much as I could to reduce the stress level while planning, even though it still gave me some burdens. Here are three main methods (and a bonus tip) that came in handy last November and December 2017:

  1. Open Google Maps and click Europe:
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Map of Europe

It may seem simple, but this method is the basis for all my planning. My journey started from Amsterdam as my visa was issued by the Netherlands embassy. With Google Maps, I could see the nearest cities from Amsterdam and compare the possibilities of going from one point to another point.

For example, I wanted to go to Austria after visiting Venice, but after that, I wanted to visit Eastern Europe. I saw that Hallstatt is located in the northwest of Austria, still far from the Eastern-European border, whereas the nearest city to it is Vienna. So I chose to visit Vienna instead of Hallstatt (which I don’t regret because Vienna is so cool) as it’s only 1 hour away from Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia.

2. Use the website/app Go Euro :

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After choosing the cities I would like to visit, the next step was to choose the right schedule of transportation.  I find that the “Go Euro” application and website is an indispensable tool for European trip-planning. I know some people use Skyscanner, rome2rio or even the bus radar app, but when I opened the Go Euro website and found how easy it is to compare transportation options in Europe, I didn’t want to change to any other apps (why would I? it was already comfortable).

So basically, to use the Go Euro app you just need to type in your starting point and destination, choose the date of the journey and number of passengers, and then click ‘search’. The app will give you a selection of schedules based on the various types of transportations offered such as train, flight, and bus. Sometimes I bought train and flight tickets but most of the time I chose the bus. It all depends on how much time I have, the schedule of the bus/train, and how much I am willing to pay. Payment can be done via credit card.

But alas, the Go Euro app is not perfect. It does have some glitches, which I experienced firsthand in Bratislava. The app blinked a few times and then crashed right after I’d paid for the bus ticket to Budapest. I received no notifications, including in the “my bookings” page, so I thought the purchase wasn’t successful; I moved to the Flix-bus app to buy the ticket. Unfortunately, my purchase in Go Euro was, in fact, successful, which meant that I now had 2 tickets to Budapest. To minimize the loss, I contacted Go euro by email and they responded a few hours later, saying that the money would be returned to my credit card. Nice!

3. Flix bus app/ website

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Most of the time when I used the bus in Europe I always rode with Flix bus. I usually bought the tickets on the Go Euro app, aside from a few occasions where I couldn’t use it. At these perilous moments, I used the Flix Bus app itself. One good thing about this app is that they will send SMS notifications a few hours before the departure time, while Go Euro only sends via email. I chose to use the Go Euro app in general only because they have a wider selection of transportation ranging from bus, train, and flight. Even for the bus, with Go Euro, I could choose between Flix Bus or a variety of other bus companies such as Eurolines and Student Agency. As for the price, in my experience, the bus tickets in both apps are the same, but Go Euro sometimes has a more complete schedule than the Flix Bus app.

I have an interesting story while using flix bus to reach Vienna from Venice. I was 5 minutes late to the bus station even though I had arrived at the Vaporetto (water taxi) station 40 minutes before the departure time. It turned out the Vaporetto came 20 minutes later and it moved so slow in the middle of the cold winter night. When I reached the station, the bus had left 5 minutes ago, according to some people who were waiting for another bus.

“What should I do?” I wondered. The bus ticket was worth 30 Euro since it’s a long trip from Venice to Vienna (located in the eastern part of Austria, near the border of Slovakia). I definitely got panicked, angry and frustrated. After calming myself on a nice sofa in the common room of my hostel, I decided to see what people did when they experienced similar situations; maybe they wrote about it in some forums. I found some stories on Tripadvisor and decided to write an email to Flix bus, telling them that I always use their bus and they can check the history of my purchases, and how I missed the bus that night. I hoped they would return my money.

It took 3 times sending emails to Flix bus and after a week I had already given up on my 30 Euros. However, it was at that time that I received an email from them: they had returned my money as a 26 Euro voucher that I could use until 18 December 2018!! It’s really good that they only took 4 Euro, which is the same as the cost to cancel and change the ticket. And since I plan to visit Europe again in 2018 I feel so happy 🙂

I feel that the service from both apps is way better than the Indonesian app that I normally use to buy flight tickets & hotels throughout Asia. Even though that app is now becoming the most popular one in my country, and in Vietnam, it has bad customer service. I had to explain things many times to the customer service until they admitted their mistake, and even the aftersales treatment is much worse. Don’t ever be fooled by the word ‘refundable,’ as it’s not entirely true. You’d be better off buying directly from the airline’s website or using Google Flights rather than buying through this travel service.

WHEN DID I BUY BUS, TRAIN AND FLIGHT TICKETS?

A friend asked if I buy transportation tickets for Europe before departing from Asia, as she does. My answer is always no; I prefer to buy the ticket a few days or even a few hours before moving to another city. The main reason is that I can’t decide how many days I will stay in a city/place before I step my feet there, though I do have a rough schedule that I make before I go. It often happens that I fall in love with a place so I decide to stay longer, or I feel exhausted after taking a long trip and exploring a city so I decide to take a rest for a day or two (this time, it happened to me in Vienna). When I feel ready to move, I just need to open the Go Euro app and buy the ticket and then continue my journey to the next city; it’s as simple as that. But of course, I often check the app to monitor the ticket price. Fortunately, in my experience, the price rarely changes even when I buy just a few hours before leaving.

6 thoughts on “3 useful steps for planning a trip to Europe

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