This post will be the last part of my Europe Itinerary blog series. A quick recap on my previous post, if you have noticed the way I planned the time in Paris, it’s different than in Switzerland. It was planned to be more flexible, allowing each planned item to move earlier or later, depending on the actual day itself. In fact, the frequency of metro service is quite high, I do not need to specifically plan the departure/arrival time of each metro service.
Proceeding from my arrival to London St. Pancras, I have arranged with my friend to pick me up from the train station. That should be the end of my Day 6 plan. Next morning (Day 7) I’ve planned to revisit a few usual attractions in Central London. I listed down where I want to go, then I plotted the route to these destinations.
First of all, you need a London Underground Map or a London Tourist Map. Alternately, you can try Google Map online. A sample of my plotted map below.
On Day 8 (last day) early morning, I will be heading to Waterloo Station, crossing over to visit London Eye. I’ve also arranged to meet up with some of my friends in London for lunch. After lunch, I should be heading to London Stansted Airport for check in. Tips: Allow at least 2 hours check in time for international flight. If at London Heathrow Airport, allow at least 3 hours instead!
That’s basically my whole Europe itinerary. However, when there’s vacation plan, there’s budget! Budget is about money. We need to estimate how much money we need to bring along for spending. Of course you can use credit card, but it’s always safer to keep some cash in hand. Below is my Europe Trip budget for 2 persons, excluding return airfares and travel insurance.
I will cover my next blog series of The Europe Excursion pretty soon. Do check back.
I should be reaching Paris on the morning of Day 5. This mean I need to catch the earliest train from Geneva to Paris. The reason I’ve chosen train instead of flight is because my hostel in Geneva is just 10 minutes walk from the Main Train Station. This will save me some time and money travelling to the airport, especially in the morning hours. To book your train ticket, check out the Europe Speed Trains here. The earliest train departs at 0717 from Geneva, arriving at Paris Gare De Lyon (GDL) by 1051. The entire journey took around 3.5 hours.
For the next 48 hours, I will be focusing my visit in Paris. The first thing that popped up my mind was commuting within the city. My plan was to see as much as possible of the city, and also to visit the usual tourist attractions like Eiffel Tower, Lourve Museum, Arc De Triomphe, and Notre Dame. I need a fairly cheap “unlimited” metro travel pass. The reason to go for a travel pass is money-saving and to avoid the hassle of queuing to buy ticket (that’s such a waste of time!).
For backpacker like myself, you would either go for a Mobilis Card or Paris Visite Pass. Mobilis Card is a one-day unlimited travel (based on zones) pass using Metro, RER (Regional Express Networks) and bus. Paris Visite however, offers extra saving/discount on specific attractions in Paris. Both passes is an initiative from RATP, a transit operator responsible for public transportation in Paris. If you plan to visit Paris for more than 4 days, I would recommend you to get a Paris Pass instead. The Paris Pass offer you even more saving in terms of attractions, bus tour, free entry to museums, etc.
Well let’s start planning my own tour! First thing first when I reach Paris, check into my hostel, keep my luggage, wash up and have some rest. Next, I need some foods to keep me up and running! Heading to the Lourve Museum will be next, spending perhaps 3-4 hours, then proceed to the Eiffel Tower for sunset. I’m not planning to go up the tower, hence I will be taking pictures and wondering around until evening. Time for dinner by then, perhaps a quick meal, then I will be heading to Arc De Triomphe and Champs Elysees. By then, it should be just in time for a cabaret show at Lido until midnight. Lastly, returning to my hostel for a good rest.
Next morning, I’ve planned to visit the Paris Bibliotheque Library, then heading to Notre Dame before coming back to check out from my hostel. Then I need to find a way to store my luggage, either at the hostel or train station. Probably a quick lunch then will be heading to Versailles Palace (zone 4) for 2-3 hours (i know it’s not enough). Back to central Paris after that, I will be heading straight to the tallest building in Paris – Montparnese Tower, hopefully to catch sunset in Paris. Last destination perhaps would be Sacré-Cœur (pronounced as “Sack-kray-co-r”), and then heading to Gare Du Nord to catch the last train to London.
Some hidden tips of this planned itinerary:
Buy a Travel Pass when you reach Paris
Visit all attractions in one area, then only visit the next – Avoid wasting time traveling in and out the same area.
Choose an accommodation that is close to airport, train or metro station – I’ve booked Le Regent Montmartre (Very close to Sacré-Cœur, Anvers Metro and fairly close to GDN).
Store/Keep your luggage near your last stop – you can pick them up before you depart (you don’t want to carry your luggage around?).
Make good use of your Travel Pass – I will be getting discount for Lido, Montparnese Tower, Arc De Triomphe and Bateaux Parisiens (River Cruise – if I have enough time).
Book, pay and print out your cross-country train ticket at least 1 month earlier – ensure cheaper price and availability.
Before I knew I will be riding on a railcar on the longest continuous strub-rack railway in the world, I actually planned to visit “The Top of Europe” 5 years ago. Jungfraujoch (pronounced as Yong-Frau-York), at an amazing 3454 metres, is Europe’s highest-altitude railway station.
Continue from Part 2, I am going to plan my Day 3 itinerary. From a glance, it should be a faily simple itinerary, as I have dedicated a full day to Jungfraujoch excursion. Again back to my favourite search engine, look for “Jungfrau Attractions” and start listing them down on a note or draft.
Eigergletscher – Polar Dog Colony
Ice Gateway – Ice Palace
Sphinx Observation Terrace
Jungfrau Plateau – Snow Walk
Husky-drawn Sledge Rides (Summer)
Ski & Snowboard Park (Summer)
What about time and location (To answer the “How to get there; at what time” questions)? Again, search for Switzerland train schedules using this site. List down all the possible routes and alternative. You might also want to check what is the time of sunrise and sunset to determine what time you need to get up and/or get back.
There are 2 rail routes which will take you up to Jungfraujoch, one is via Grindelwald and another via Lauterbrunnen. Both routes splitted at a station called Zweilütschinen (I think it’s pronounced as “Zwhy-Loo-Chi-Nen”) and join back at Kleine Scheidegg (pronounced as “Cli-Ney-Sni-Deck”), before changing to a cogwheel train up to Jungfraujoch.
Back to my plan, currently you might starts wondering about my accommodation. I planned to stays at Interlaken on Day 2. On Day 3 morning, I will starts my journey to Jungfraujoch. I can choose to stay one night at either of the stops between Interlaken and Jungfraujoch, or stay back at Interlaken. My decision is to stay at Interlaken (another night), since I do not want to carry my backpack with me to Jungfraujoch!
I’ve booked my accommodation through this site for the first day, then I booked a Jungfraujoch Excursion package (which comes with 1 night stays at preferred accommodation) through here. What’s next?
Continue from Part 1, we already have the general itinerary in mind, let’s draft a more detail plan. Now we need to focus on (A) timing, as it is very important to our schedule, particularly on our flight and train schedule; (B) attractions, as this will determine how long we will spend in a particular place; (C) budget, as this will determine how much we will be spending.
Start from Day 1 again, Flight D7 2006 arrival time at London is approximately 1650. When we came out from the airport, travel to my friend’s place, unpack, dinner, etc is already late evening. I prefer to rest and prepare for next day. Hence I have no plan for Day 1. On a contrary, if you do not want to stay overnight at London, I suggest you to book the earliest arrival flight to London, then transit to Switzerland (either Geneva or Zurich). Check out my post on Malaysian Travelers to Europe via AirAsia.
Day 2 planned for flight to Zurich, we need to check which airline have flight to Zurich from London, and which London Airports (Heathrow, Stansted, Luton, Gatwick, City)? This will be tedious process if you are new to European Airlines, but I have summarized the below based on my research for your reference.
British Airways, operating from London Heathrow and London City Airport. Not a budget airlines. All price inclusive. Breakfast provided in-flight.
Easyjet, usually operating from London Gatwick, Luton or Stansted Airport. Budget airlines. Extra charge for check-in luggage.
Swiss International, operating from London Heathrow and London City Airport. Not a budget airlines. All price inclusive.
BMI Baby, operating from London Stansted. Budget airlines. Extra charge for check-in luggage.
Based on the above, I have drafted a comparison chart that shows flights departing from London to Zurich on 15th October, 2009:
Once I have a comparison chart, I will base my selection on 2 criterias, time and budget. First I need to get to Zurich as early as possible to avoid wasting too much time. Second, I need a fairly economy flight to minimize expenses. From the above chart, it seems that Easyjet is the obvious choice. However, considering the distance from London to Gatwick/Luton to catch the morning flight, which mean I have to wake up in the middle of the night, catch a cab and travel to the airport, it’s a nightmare!
My second choise is British Airways, although it’s double the price of Easyjet, but I save on my travel time to airport, and I have more choices on flight schedule. Since I stay in East London, the earliest flight to Zurich (ZRH) from London City Airport (LCY) is my best option. Let’s put this down in my itinerary. However, if you plan for a return trip to/from Switzerland, I would recommend Swiss International Airlines for better offer.
I know I will reach Zurich by 1055 travel via BA8763, and my final destination for Day 2 is Interlaken. I need to find out how I would travel from Zurich to Interlaken. 3 choices: car rental and drive myself; take a bus/coach; take a train. Driving in Switzerland is left-handed drive on the right lane, different from Malaysia (I’ve tried that 5 years ago, it’s daunting!). Furthermore, I need an international driving license. Taking a bus or train is less hassle.
After searching from the Internet, I’ve decided to travel via rail. If you are staying at Switzerland for more than 5 days, I recommend you to get one of the Swiss Travel Pass for cost saving. I only planned to stay in Switzerland for 3 days, hence I will go for the single journey tickets. SBB has one of the best online services to search, book and pay for your rail travel in Switzerland. I can also search for rail schedules as well to plan my itinerary. How I did that? Search for train schedule from Zurich to Interlaken (you will either route via Berne or Lucerne (Luzern). I have been to Berne in my previous trip. Luzern is my choice this time. From Luzern to Interlaken, there is a rail service call GoldenPass Line, which offers a magnificient panoramic view from inside the coach. This rail service will brings you to the most scenic route in Switzerland.
Now I have an idea of my travel time, let’s plan some visits. Check out Zurich and Luzern attractions from the Internet, and I estimated a stay in Zurich for 2 hours, Luzern for 1 hour. Go back to the SBB website and search for schedules between Zurich – Luzern and Luzern – Interlaken. List down a few alternatives for decision later. This is very useful if you missed a train, or you decided to spend more times on a place; at least you know when is the next train schedule. Up till now, I have drafted something like the above in my itinerary, including also the travel route from where I stay (Belvedere) to London City Airport. I used this to plan for that.
It was a quick decision made to visit Europe during autumn 2009. The AirAsia promotional airfare (during Oct 08) from KUL – STN was so attractive that I’ve made the booking immediately! That leave me roughly 11 months to plan and prepare for the trip. It was just a 8 days trip, and I have decided to go to 3 specific places (and countries) on backpack! The first thing to plan your itinerary: (1) Lock down your destination(s).
I’ve been studying and working in London for 3 years, hence staying longer in the UK was not my plan. I would just estimate my stay in London for 2 days (6 days left). My next preferred destination was Interlaken, and of course Jungfraujoch (pronounced as Yong-Frau-York) in Switzerland. This was the place I have missed out from my last visit to Switzerland 5 years ago, and I’m definitely heading to the Alps this time! Last but not least, Paris is a romantic destination you cannot miss if you are travelling with your partner.
Once you have picked your destinations, (2) draft your travel route in a map, it’s as easy as joining the dots! Google Map offer a good way to start. Plotting your travel route in a map will let you have a general idea of where you will be going, and it also let your friends and family know your whereabouts during the trip. Below is my travel map.
If you have noticed, Interlaken is not plotted in the map. Sometimes, the place you wanted to go may not have airport for you to reach there. The nearest airport is either Berne, Zurich or Geneva; and perfectly, Interlaken was situated in between these Swiss city! I have decided to fly to Zurich and head south towards Interlaken and Geneva.
Interlaken is the entry point for most visitors to Jungfraujoch – the top of Europe, I did some homework to find out the local attractions and tour packages. Most tour suggested that Jungfraujoch is a full day excursion, that would make my stay for at least 2 nights in Interlaken (3 days left).
My next focused destination is Paris, France. From Interlaken to Paris, I found out we have 2 possible routes: Berne-Paris via train or Geneva-Paris via flight (or train). Travel via rail is obviously cheaper than flight, but it takes longer time, often 1-2 hours more. Besides that, I have to check the timetable for the best possible schedule according to my itinerary.
My initial plan does not include Berne as a travel point. Now I have to find out what I can do in Berne versus Geneva, and then decide where I should depart from Switzerland to France. I have been to Berne in my previous trip, it’s the capital of Switzerland, a beautiful medieval town with cobblestone streets. Geneva on the other hand, has a diverse history dating back to the Protestant Reformation. Situated along the banks of Lake Geneva at the foot of the Alps, Geneva is a paradise for landscape photographers!
While I have no decision yet whether to depart from Berne or Geneva, let’s continue my planning on Paris. I would like to know what attractions we have in Paris, google search result returns with tons of places to visit in Paris. Estimate stay for 2 nights in Paris (0 days left).
Below is my drafted itinerary so far. Continue with Part 2.