I just came back home after such a pleasant journey to European Union (EU) with my travelling buddy, Mefa. First I was in France for a conference in OECD HQ, Paris. Mefa took the advance and went to some places by herself while I was attending the conference. Then after that, we continued the trip to its neighbours. Before we tell the summary of our trip and give some beneficial tips, we’d like to begin with our itinerary first.
17-18 Sept: Jakarta-Paris flight
19-21 Sept: Conference. For Mefa, Paris-Belgium-Netherlands
22 Sept: Paris and overnight train to Salzburg, Austria. It took 17 hours and had 7 transits, 1 station in France, 5 stations in Switzerland, and 1 station Austria. Why many? I avoid entering Germany since I don’t have SCHENGEN VISA and it costed 35 euro for reservation if we took faster train (with only 2 transits). I’ll explain it below.
23 Sept: Salzburg, Austria. We stayed for one night.
24 Sept: Hallstatt, Austria and overnight train to Florence, Italy. From Salzburg to Hallstatt, it took 3 hours by train and had one transit and then 10 minutes by boat. From Salzburg to Florence, it took 8 hours by train and had no transit.
25 Sept: Florence, Italy. We stayed in airbnb in Florence for three nights.
26 Sept: Rome, Italy. It took approximately 3 hours from Florence to Rome.
27 Sept: Cinque Terre and Pisa, Italy. It took 2-3 hours from Florence to the first village in Cinque Terre, Rio Maggiore. But to move from one village to another, it took about 10 minutes. From Vernazza, Cinque Terre to Pisa, it took approximately 1 hour and a half.
28 Sept: Lauterbrunnen and Murren, Switzerland. We took a morning train from Florence. The train ride took 6 hours and had 1 transit in Milan, Italy and 3 stations in Switzerland. We stayed in Murren for one night.
29 Sept: Murren and Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland and going back to Paris. Lauterbrunnen-Murren by cable car and train, overall took 30 minutes. The train ride from Lauterbrunnen to Paris Took 8 hours by train and had 3 transits in Switzerland and 1 transit in France (Strasbourg). We stayed in Paris for one night.
30 Sept: Paris-Jakarta flight
Probably Asked Questions
Why didn’t we go to other EU Countries? Why did we choose those four countries for Yesha and six for Mefa?
Yesha: I used service passport so I didn’t apply for Schengen visa. There are some countries that don’t need visa for the service passport holder including the countries I visited: France, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. Besides, we don’t have ability to explore all of the EU countries, exactly due to the limited time and limited amount of money. To not taking so much time to travel from one country to another, we chose countries that are close to France.
Mefa: I made two schedules. One for my solo trip, two for my girl’s trip. First we figured the route out (which country that goes well along the way). Yesha and I already had our favourite destinations on our mind. We both wanted to go to Italy, so Italy it is. Switzerland was her idea that I found interesting and Austria was my idea that also ideal to her. We used a smartphone application called rail planner to help us know about the train timetable so that we could make a fixed schedule. Then we decided when we need to stay and where to stay. We shared our thoughts and somehow it became one good itinerary for all. For my two-days-one-night solo trip, I went to 5 cities in two countries. I always wanted to go to the Netherlands, and it was my dream to eat real waffles and real chocolates in Belgium, so, I decided to take a fast train to Brussels, stayed a night in Rotterdam, and went back to Paris from Amsterdam. Lucky for me, these two countries are safe enough for solo female tourists.
Why did we go back to Jakarta from Paris, not from the nearest airport in the last city we visited?
Answer: Yesha got a travel grant from the conference organizer so we had to buy a round trip ticket (Jakarta-Paris).
What places do we recommend to visit?
Yesha: Lauterbrunnen-Murren is the most amazing place I’ve ever been to. That’s the place I can’t believe I was there. A heaven on earth. Italy is also nice, but for me, Rome is too touristy and crowded just like Paris, I recommend Cinque Terre to be one of your lists. Salzburg is also nice, less crowded than Paris. It’s a developed city but not big and most importantly, safe.
Mefa: It depends on what you expect to get. If you want to see the nature in the most European way, I’m going to suggest you Lauterbrunnen and it’s surrounding villages. They were my absolute favorite! Nothing could beat those magnificent view of Jungfrau, Eiger, and Schilthorn mountains from afar. Everything was perfectly harmonized, never seen anything like that before. Next, if you want to see an old beautiful city with a lot of history behind it. My favorite was Florence. I fell in love with it. The architecture, the culture, the history, the food, the city. Everything is sexy, sexy in the most European way.
EU is well-known by its excellent rail system. Easy access to visit one country to another makes it easy to travel by train. Train ticket is actually cheaper than airplane and the bonus is you can enjoy some spectacular sceneries during your train ride. That’s why we chose train as our main transportation. Also, to spend less, we used Eurail Pass.
Eurail pass is a rail pass for travellers to visit all the countries in European Union, but only to travel from one city to another. It can’t be used for public transportation within one city. There are some kinds of packages, global pass which is used for travelling all the 28 countries in Europe, pass for 2 countries, 3 countries, and 4 countries. The package depends on your itinerary. The price is various. It’s even different for youth (12-27 years old) and adult. If travelling with children aged 11 years and under, it’s free when accompanied by at least one person travelling with adult pass. The more countries you want to explore, the higher price it would be.
There are two kinds of global pass.
- Continuous for travelling continuously. There are package for 15 days, 22 days, 1 month, 2 months, and 3 months.
- Flexi for travelling on a specific number of days that you choose to travel on during the validity of the pass. There are package for 5 days in 1 month, 7 days in 1 month, 10 days in 2 months, and 15 days in 2 months. We decided to buy flexi global pass for 10 days because there was a discount in flexi global pass and that package suited our itinerary. It costed 303 euro (after discount). You can purchase it online or in a travel agent. We bought it in pantravel. Even though it is a global pass, some trains are compulsory to reserve first especially for a fast train. For example, from Florence to Rome it takes 3 hours by normal train, but if you have tight schedule and want to visit many attractions, you can take the fast train which only takes 1 hour and a half. The reservation price is various, starting from 3 euros. You can reserve it by Railplanner, a smartphone application and use credit card to pay it. The point is, the longer the distance from your start to your destination, the longer it takes by train, the more expensive to reserve the fast train.
Languages That Are Used
We only used English for communication and most of the locals can speak perfect English. But, we thought this might help.
- France : French
- Belgium : French
- The Netherland : Dutch
- Austria : German
- Italy : Italian
- Switzerland : German and French
Tips and Tricks
- Make itinerary as detailed as it could be
- Research the places you want to visit as much as you can, such as the transportation you may use, what to do, what to eat, etc
- If you want to use Eurail Pass, try to minimize the reservation cost. It’s better to purchase a package that really suits your itinerary. If you don’t want to use Eurail Pass, book your tickets in advance for the cheapest prices.
- Minimize the hotel expenses. When travelling from one country to another, take the overnight trains or buses so you could save your money and time.
- Bring Indonesian food as many as you can. If you kind of run out of money, you can buy some foods in a supermarket or vending machine. It costs less than 5 euro, for sure. Eat decent food (like in restaurant or cafe) maximum once a day.
- If you don’t have much time, don’t ever try to enter some famous attractions because the price is pretty high (mostly more than 10 euros) and it could take at least five hours to explore it because it’s extensive. Or if you want to do so, pick your best one.
- This is probably the most influential expense. Book round trip flight and airbnb/hotel maximum 3 months prior to your departure so you can get the best price.
- Really consider people’s review about airbnb or hotel you want to book. Also, check the location. Consider the distance from wherever you stay to the places/attractions you want to visit or if you get cheap hotel but it’s far from it, make sure you have easy access to the public transportation.
- Pack light. If you want to move fast and conveniently, you should only bring 1 small/medium-sized luggage and 1 backpack. This will save a lot of your energy if you goes around with public transportation.
- Some people want to explore as many cities in EU as they can, but at the end they don’t really enjoy the fast-paced kind of travel. Therefore, if you have a tight schedule (moving from one city to another) just like us, don’t hope to visit many attractions in one city in limited time. You have to consider the duration of moving one place to another. Otherwise, it’s hard for you to stick with your plan and enjoy the trip.
- Talking about transportation, avoid taking Uber and taxi. It could cost quintuple metro/tram/bus ticket price.
- If in one day, you want to travel within 1 city, it’s better to purchase a one day pass which can be used for all kind of public transportations
- Bring your empty bottle and fill it with tap water. Where can you find tap water? in a kitchen sink, public tap water (not every city has it), and if you happen to eat in a restaurant, just ask for the tap water for free. Also, for your information, you can’t drink tap water from the toilet.
- Check the temperature in the places you want to visit so you can dress properly. The temperature is absolutely different in each season. For a sun lover, summer is the best option for you but be ready for the high price and the crowd since it’s a peak season.
- Be aware of your surroundings, there are so many pickpockets in Paris and Italy. We even met some freak people that we thought they might be a pickpocket, kidnapper, human trafficker, or burglar.
Smartphone Applications You Might Find Useful
- Citymapper, to have access to a city map which include any kind of public transportations you could take. This is only available in big city with excellent public transportation system like Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, and Brussels.
- Rail planner, an offline train timetable and if you have Eurail Pass, you can reserve seats from this app as well but you might need an internet connection for that
- Go Euro, to see your options for choosing the best and cheapest way to get to places. It compares three ways of transportation (trains, buses, and flights).
- Visit a city, to get itineraries to explore famous attractions in some cities. This is not available for small villages like Hallstatt, Cinque Terre, Lauterbrunnen, and Murren
- Google maps / Apple Maps / Waze
- Splitwise, if travelling in group
- Airbnb / booking.com / Agoda / Hostelworld
- Trail Wallet / spending, if you want to keep your expense on track.
That’s all the summary of our trip. Hope it beneficial for you!
If you have more questions about this, you can contact me by e-mail or Mefa’s email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tune for the complete story about some places we visited 😉
Yesha & Mefa