Eurotrip 101 Part 2

Please have a look at Part 1 where I have covered aspects around booking your air travel and Visa processing.

So you have booked your air tickets and are raring to go on that exciting trip, not before you have booked your accommodation. When it comes to accommodation, you’ve got choices- hostels/dorms, hotels (inns, stand alone boutiques and branded/star hotels) and home-stays/apartments. Like air travel, hotel search begins at a meta-search engine- TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor is the de facto standard to measure hotel ratings. Besides hotel reviews, it scraps prices from different OTAs(Online Travel Agents) and displays them based on your check in, check out dates and the number of guests. There is always a small disparity between the prices quoted on TripAdvisor and the website where the actual booking takes place, this is because the booking engine adds components like convenience fee, taxes etc to the price.

Pro Tip: Always book hotels in incognito mode. You can thank me later!

If you are looking to save (extensively) and maybe make a few friends as well, you can opt to stay in hostels/dorms. There are quite a few websites that list hostels and allow you to book them but hostelworld stands out in terms of the wide range and credibility of the listings. Hostels might seem a bit strange for first time dwellers, you can opt to watch the movie Queen to understand the intricacies around hostels. While most hostels have rooms shared by 3,4,5,6+ people with a shared washroom, some have a private room/family room which is priced at a steep premium.

Finally, my personal favourite and an option that allows you to also experience the city/town than just stay in it- homestays/experiential homes. Something that is synonymous with homestays is Airbnb. We have used Airbnb extensively in the past and opted to go for the same for this vacation as well. Some reasons for this:

  • Airbnb allows you to view the amenities of the listing. Travelling with our little one, kitchen was a MUST
  • While Airbnbs do help you save on your accommodation costs, Airbnb Plus and Airbnbs by Superhosts are priced at same levels as hotels. Of course, a hotel room is 15–20% of an Airbnb home so technically, the price you pay per sq. ft. is substantially lower
  • Airbnb hosts are local champions, especially the superhosts. The hosts know the city/town like the back of their hand- restaurants, places to visit, hacks to save on money while shopping, directions to various places of interest etc. E.g. Ever wondered where you could get the best fish curry rice in Goa? Or the best electronics store at Lamington Road? Hosts often help you with this info

As a thumb rule, always stay in or around the city centre. While most European cities have spectacular public transit systems, airports are ALWAYS outside the main city centre and the only way you can get to the city centre is a cab, just to give you a perspective, an Uber ride from Paris CDG Airport to the city centre came up to EUR 50 (Approx INR 5000). Imagine taking that ride twice a day for your duration in the city. While we could save maybe 20% of that cab ride by first taking a bus to a metro station and then taking a metro to the district/arrondissement, but hopping across different modes of transport becomes a problem with the luggage and of course, one of us had to carry the little one! More on public transit hacks in the future posts.

Hotels/Airbnbs near the airports are priced at a discount of upto EUR 50 over the ones at/near the city centre so would seem very attractive but taking the above into consideration, it makes sense to rather spend on getting a place near the city centre than spend through your nose on taking cabs.

All the Airbnbs we booked were hosted by Superhosts which means the hosts are known for their great service (near 5* service). While we booked most of them atleast 1 month before our travel, we booked one around a week before our travel. This last one was hosted by a non-responsive host and we had to finally cancel the booking at the last minute.

Pro Tip- Always book an Airbnb hosted by a Superhost, read the reviews very carefully and prefer the listing with a recent review (with last review not more than 1 month old)

All our Airbnbs were an Entire Apartment- the entire place was ours. While you do have an option to share a room, opt for a private room in a shared apartment. Airbnb has a couple of offbeat and unique listings like this, we opted for the more conventional ones as we just needed a decent place to begin our breakfast and crash and night (yes, we were travelling around the city for ~16 hours everyday).

Pro Tip: Sign Up to Airbnb using this link and get Rs. 2200 off on your first booking.

A word of caution, most embassies do not accept Airbnb as a valid accommodation service and there are multiple instances of legit Visa applications with Airbnb as the accommodation service being rejected by the embassy. Perhaps, Airbnb wasn’t the actual reason for rejection (Remember, embassies don’t state the reason(s) for rejection?).

With that I have covered my bit on booking the accommodation. I would be happy to help you find a good place on Airbnb (for a beer maybe?). Until the next post, ciao!