Budget Europe Itinerary II

The Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

The last itinerary that I wrote for Empty Rucksack Travelers showed you ways to manage trips in Europe from India for less than 1,00,000 INR. This is the second attempt towards building reasonable itineraries including as many cities as possible with a considerable amount of time. The good news is that the INR has gone down to almost 70 against the Euro.

The Pro Tips shared in the last article remain the same and you are expected to follow those by the book! :-P

While you scroll down and read, listen to these brilliant tracks by a band from Kolkata, India — The Supersonics.

Here are a few additional protips related to flight bookings and cost savings:

Protip.1: Always book your tickets from a new incognito window on the browser. Do not give those airlines companies or booking websites a chance to make use of the intelligent cookies and charge you a higher price just because you are a returning customer.

Protip.2: Do not book your tickets too early. The cheapest tickets are always available 45–60 days before your actual departure date. I have tried this formula and experienced this first hand.

Protip.3: Never book your tickets on the weekends unless you have spare money to throw away. It is advisable to book them on Tuesdays (late night) or Wednesdays (early morning) of the departure flight time zone. This recommendation comes with a disclaimer. I try following this rule and get the best results most of the times but there have been a few times when I have gone wrong as well. Use your discretion — try working this out the next few times and let me know about your experiences and research findings!

Protip.4: If you can somehow get hold of a student ID card for yourself, you can cut down on a lot of cost. It could be any course that you are enrolled in, that allows you to get an ISIC. All museums and tourist locations in Europe provide discounted entry prices to students. Go through this link and see if you can get an ISIC before you fly out.

Protip.5: Start trying out non-Indian websites like Momondo, Skiplagged, Hipmunk and Kayak. At times they offer cheaper deals even if you include the foreign currency conversion charges while booking your trip with an Indian credit card. I found these interfaces very user friendly and had fun booking my trips.

Protip.6: Chances are that you already know about Ixigo. If you have not given this travel search aggregator a shot, please do so now. This website uses natural language search and goes beyond just the booking requirements. They also have a cool travel application that you can use on your phone. Please note that I am not advertising them here :-P I love good stuff that works and I want you to try what I like!

Protip.7: Learn how to use Google Maps in the offline mode!

Snapshot of the travel plan: Mumbai- Doha- Frankfurt- Berlin- Warsaw- Budapest- Frankfurt- Doha- Mumbai

Day 1: Mumbai to Doha (Free overnight stay from Qatar Airways). If you book a Qatar Airways flight to Frankfurt from Mumbai via Doha, make sure that you choose the longest stop over to not only make use of an opportunity to visit the capital of Qatar but also bring down the prices of your tickets by a considerable amount. The longer the stopovers with a night halt, the cheaper are the tickets. You should hire a car for an entire day to take you around the city of Doha. This will cost you close to 400 Qatari Riyals for a day. Bargain hard and get this formality done before you leave, through a travel agent. We will now tell you a few places to see and a few things to do in Doha.

The Doha Corniche is beautiful and also a place where you would love to get down from your car and take a stroll along the Doha bay during the hours of sunset. This should be the last thing to do on Day 1. The entire day can be spent driving in the city and the outskirts. If you are lucky, you might be able to see a camel race somewhere. There are packages online which offer you a combination of a desert safari, an Arabic lunch and a performance by a belly dancer. Things to see include the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), the Villaggio Mall and the Aspire Tower. There are many more things to tick off but you most probably will have less than a day to explore what we have already listed. Let us make you feel like you are on a vacation and not on some paid assignment from Tripadvisor!

Doha Corniche

The insides of the Villaggio Mall make you feel like you are in Venice. Help yourself with Google Images. We spent a lot of time at the Museum of Islamic Art and loved it not just because of what it holds and preserves, but its unique location of being almost on the sea. The museum café gives you the feeling of luxury on water. You should check out the music and exhibition section of the MIA website beforehand to know what to expect apart from the permanent collection there. It takes almost two hours to absorb everything that is offered to the visitors. And yes, you can do a Facebook check in with a selfie — thanks to the free wifi!

The Museum of Islamic Art Café

The whole of Doha looks spic clean and glittery at the moment — all thanks to the preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup that is to be hosted by this country.

The following four pictures were clicked near the entrance of the MIA-
The museum houses collections from India as well

When the insides of the MIA got a little overwhelming, we stepped out and headed for the Radio Tower which provided beautiful views of the desert like landscape and the palm trees. Doha is an excellent destination for shopping and Arabic cuisine. Try out the local restaurants — you could choose the sky view bars or any of the steakhouses and stuff yourself in less than 200 Qatari Riyals.

Estimated cost for this part = Mumbai — Frankfurt — Mumbai (38,000 INR) if booked two months in adavance.

Day 1 (Day’s expenditure in Doha) = 5000 INR

Flower-lined pavements along the Doha Bay.
At one point of time, it felt like we were in Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai — just a Skyscrapered version of the same.

Day 2: Frankfurt am Main

One day in Frankfurt am Main is just enough to see everything that is worth seeing. It is the financial capital and houses all major bank headquarters. My recommended things to do include climbing up the Main Tower in Frankfurt for a breath taking view, visiting the Frankfurt Cathedral, the historic city hall square, the Apvel Wine tour, the Frankfurt Zoo (some weird birds there) and taking the Main river cruise while sipping on some champagne / beer. By the way, it is called Frankfurt am Main (Frankfurt by the river Main) and not just Frankfurt. Keep that in mind!

Views from the Main Tower make the trains look like toys as they leave the Hauptbahnof (Main Station). You can dwarf the other skyscrapers once you are on the Main Tower!

Frankfurt Cathedral

Estimated cost for this part = Hostel / Airbnb (15) + Food / Drinks (20) + Tourist attraction tickets (20) = 55 Euros on Day 2 = 4300 INR

The Christmas Market at Frankfurt am Main Old Town Square
Main River Cruise

Day 3: Berlin

Take a bus or a carpool to Berlin from Frankfurt. This city demands at least 2 days.

The most economical way to see Berlin is to get the Berlin Pass which includes local transport for two / three days, discounts for all major attractions along with a museum pass. Let us tell you of the things you can do in these two days — Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall), Brandenburger Tor (Gate), Reichtag Building (Parliament), Pergamon Museum, Potsdamer Platz, Ferhsehturm Berlin (Berlin TV Tower), Berlin Cathedral, New National Gallery, Sachsenhauen Concentration Camp — the list is endless. There is a lot of decision making to do.

Please make sure that you buy your tickets to the Berlin TV Tower beforehand to avoid standing in a long queue. The same goes with the Reichtag where you need to reserve a tour for yourself online preferably a week before your visit.

The Museum Island houses five museums and our pick is the Pergamonmuseum. Your Museum pass will cover all of these though, if you have the time to explore and extend your Berlin stay.

I started with the Brandenburg Gate (this is where you soak up Berlin) in the morning, continued with the tour of the Reichtag, took the river cruise and ended Day 3 with the Museum Island. In the evening, we took a view of Berlin from the TV Tower before heading to the Potsdamer Platz to chill with some local beer.

The Brandenburger Tor at night.

Estimated cost for this part = Hostel / Airbnb (15) + Food/ Drinks (20) + Tourist attraction tickets (20) = 55 Euros on Day 3 = 4300 INR

Day 4: Berlin

On Day 4, I visited the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp which you will best avoid, if you are faint hearted. This is mostly a walking tour (with a small train ride to the camp) where a very knowledgeable and qualified tour guide takes you through the atrocities committed during the Nazi era. Berlin Cathedral is the best place to start fresh in the afternoon and forget the Concentration Camp horrors. A walk by the Berlin Wall (East Side Gallery) will make you remember everything that was taught to you in the history books. You can even buy the fridge magnets with actual fragments from the wall. The Neue Nationale Gallerie (New National Gallery) according to us offered a much better collection and more interesting artefacts than the Alte Nationale Gallerie (Old National Gallery). Berlin is the place for an adventurous nightlife. The clubs are characterized by the typical garage feel and new age electronic music. Assuming that you like to party hard, you would probably check out at least 2 clubs on this night and not get home before 5 in the morning. This translates into the Berlin stay spilling over to Day 5 and also giving you that extra time to see the things which you missed out on Day 3 because you arrived late after a 5 hour drive or a bus journey.

New National Gallery

Estimated cost for this part = Hostel / Airbnb (15) + Food/ Drinks (20) + Tourist attraction tickets (20) = 55 Euros on Day 4 = 4300 INR

Day 5: Berlin

Checkpoint Charlie, Bauhaus Archive and The Jewish Museum hold a lot of historical relevance — I recommend these three attractions if you have any time left on Day 5 before you take a Simple Express bus or the car to Warsaw, Poland.

Estimated cost for this part = Hostel / Airbnb (15) + Food/ Drinks (20) + Tourist attraction tickets / Transport (20) = 55 Euros on Day 4 = 4300 INR

Berliner Dom
The Rathaus (the local administrative building)

The last picture from Berlin below is of the mammoth TV Tower. The area surrounding this tower is the perfect place to chill and watch skateboarders do their tricks, trying to impress random strangers!

Berlin TV Tower

Day 6 in Warsaw is about to start, but before this let us calculate how much we have spent so far. 61,000 INR is the amount and you still have 4 days to go!

Day 6: Warsaw

Warsaw in our opinion deserves a 1 day whirlwind tour. Things to see include the Palace of Culture and Science (actually a skyscraper which you climb up for a beautiful view of Warsaw), Warsaw Uprising Museum, Royal Castle, Polish Army Museum.

The currency used here is Polish Zloty which equals to 1 /4th of a Euro. It is advisable to withdraw cash directly from the ATMs to get the best exchange rate. The city is well connected with public transport bus lines. I stayed at the Tatamka Hostel and would recommend you to do so! Somehow, almost everyone at the reception has been to India which ensures special and enthusiastic treatment of Indian guests :-D

Estimated cost for this part = Hostel / Airbnb (15) + Food / Drinks (20) + Tourist attraction tickets / Transport (20) = 55 Euros on Day 6 = 4300 INR

Day 7: Budapest

Book your flights to Budapest on Wizz Air. If you are as lucky as me, you will fly for as low as 20 Euros to Budapest, Hungary!

Estimated cost for this part = Hostel / Airbnb (15) + Food / Drinks (30) + Tourist attraction tickets / Transport (40) = 55 Euros on Day 6 = 7000 INR

75,000 INR is what you will have spent till the end of Day 7. Budapest is a comparatively cheaper city on this itinerary and you will be mesmerized by what it has to offer. Wizz Air flights normally make you reach in the afternoon which means you will be left with half a day in Budapest to start with.

We stayed at the Budapest Centrum Hostel, which still has bullet holes from the World War. The location is prime and very close to the river and the Parliament. One of the most beautiful cities of Europe, Budapest is actually Buda (on the west) and Pest (on the east) separated by the Danube river. We recommend you to take any of the free walking tours, the details of which can be found in leaflets distributed in the Hostels. Do not forget the try out the Hungarian Palinka. If you remember a Palinka night, the Palinka probably was not a Palinka! The Budapest pub crawls make sure that you get a comprehensive tour of the ruin bars and destroy yourself with Palinka by the end of the night. This was the most impressive city on our Euro Trip and we believe you will not disagree.

The Hungarian Parliament — spot the neo- Gothic architecture?

Money exchange is easy again and will make you feel so rich with a lot of currency notes in the wallet. 1 Euro roughly equals to around 316 Hungarian Florints — you can do the math.

The language is one of the most difficult ever and it takes quite some time to even get hold of the most common words.

Our list of recommended things to do for whatever is left of the Day 7 — go on a Pub Crawl and drink! Leave the sightseeing to Day 8 and 9.

Day 8: Budapest

Start this day with a Walking Tour (we are assuming that you are not down with a horrible hangover from the Palinka last night!). These walking tours are free of cost but more often than not, the guides impress you so bad that you feel like shelling out a few Euros! This city can get very overwhelming even with the choice of the walking tours. We loved the Castle Hill Walking Tour (Royal Palace and Fisherman Bastion are mad places to click photographs!) and the Inner City Walking Tour. The Communism Walk, which starts in the afternoon, is recommended only you have an interest in that kind of history. Make sure that you spend a good one hour at the Fisherman Bastion — they say that you absorb Budapest from that point. The Parliament looks like a beautiful miniature toy from up there. The Cobblestone streets and street musicians near the Royal Palace make you want to stay there forever!

Fisherman’s Bastion
View from the Fisherman’s Bastion
Hosok Tere (Freedom Square)

Save this for the evening for obvious reasons. The lighting is dramatic for this iconic statue. It faces the Museum of Fine Arts on the other side. We spotted a lot of young Indian artists who made it to the museum with their contemporary art collections. If you are a fan of ice skating, you will walk for another 5 minutes before you notice a massive ice skating arena. It is almost like a winter festival and people skating there look like ants doing a Brownian movement on a whiteboard. I strongly recommend you to visit the Haus des Terrors.

Estimated cost for this part = Hostel / Airbnb in Budapest (15) + Food / Drinks (30) + Tourist attraction tickets / Transport (40) = 55 Euros on Day 8 = 7000 INR

82,000 INR is what you will have spent till the end of Day 8.

Day 9: Budapest

Yes, you have already reached the 9th day of your 10 day Euro trip! Buy some souvenirs, some Palinka and take the flight back to Frankfurt am Main. German Wings and Scandinavian Airlines operate cheap flights on this sector. We forgot to mention that we loved the Budapest underground metro. We have never seen such Soviet looking train compartments before!

Estimated cost for this part = Hostel / Airbnb in Frankfurt am Main (15) + Food / Drinks (30) + Tourist attraction tickets / Transport (140) = 55 Euros on Day 8 = 15000 INR

Day 10: Frankfurt am Main

Below is the snapshot of your entire proposed itinerary. I love building (less than 1 lac INR) itineraries for you and this is the second one of the 3 series blog! We hope you like it, have a good time reading it and find my efforts useful!

Photographs: Avigyan Dutta

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