What are weekends for? When you’re in Europe, the best way to spend a weekend is in another country! This past weekend we took a flight to Italy and visited the city of Florence. It was an absolutely incredible experience and worth every minute. For the next four weekends I will be packing my bags and visiting a different country each weekend. With that in mind I thought I’d share some insights and tips I have gained to help anyone who is planning on studying abroad.
Transportation within Europe is pretty affordable and fast for the most part. From the places I’ve been (Madrid, Basque Country, Italy, Toledo) all the transportation we’ve taken has been very punctual and fast. When we were in Madrid we were able to take a high speed train that took us to Toledo in 30 minutes. This is extremely useful when you’re in a situation similar to mine and don’t have much time other than the weekends to travel.
If you’re ever in Europe and are trying to see lots of places … take advantage of their transportation system. Metros will also become your best friend; they’re a little confusing at first but once you figure it out they will be a life saver to both you and your legs.
If you know you want to go to a certain destination make sure to buy your train, bus or any other tickets in advance. I don’t think you can do so for metros but, for the most part, you can purchase other tickets in advance online — often at GoEuro.com. This site offers you all the options of getting from Point A to B with the difference in prices and time.
If you’re planning on a staying in a city and want to get to other further landmarks check out BlaBlaCar. This is similar to our Zimride back home or any other ride sharing service. You plug in your destination and it’ll let you know if any other people are driving there as well. This is a really good option to get some interaction with locals and save a few bucks.
I know you’ve all heard it from friends who are currently studying abroad or have in the past, but traveling from country to country is easy. Airfare is pretty cheap and, thanks to the Schengen Area, it’s fairly easy to get around the European Union. That said, I do have a few tips that I have learned along the way:
because you’ll have options to pick from.
Plan ahead at least a month from when you want to leave, if possible. This will help you find the cheapest airfare.
The more websites the better. I really enjoy the feature on Kayak.com that allows you to watch airfare for the days you want to go and sends you notifications when prices are low or if they are about to rise. Checking individual airline websites also helps: eDreams, Lufthansa, Vueling, Ryanair, etc., these are all good options to look at. Also check out Skyscanner or Flight Pirates — they show you the cheapest, fastest and best options and on which websites you can find them.
I know most study abroad stories involve hostels and, while they are very convenient and cheap sometimes going with Airbnb are the better option. At the end of the day make sure to check the reviews and prices for each and compare your options. Just be sure to make your best judgement and check to see if you’re in a good area.
Packing cubes have been a big help in keeping everything organized and tidy in my duffel bag. When you don’t have much room, you’ll be grateful for any nook or cranny you get.
Luggage itself is a personal preference. I enjoy having my duffel bag just because it’s easy to carry around and access. I have friends who bring big backpacks or roller luggage when we travel so it just depends on what you prefer.
Tiffany Huang is an international business senior. She is studying abroad in Bilbao, Spain for a full semester.
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