Traveling Europe using Eurail
As said in my previous blog post, it has always been a dream to go to Europe. But I've always been lazy to plan it or I would always think that I should keep saving up for it. I love traveling around Asia and the US but I seriously never thought I'd FINALLY get to go to EUROPE last year... for 2 months.
If you haven't read my first Europe blog post (click HERE!), my parents were the ones who wanted to go to Europe. The plan was to spend Christmas in London, New Years in Paris and explore Rome & other cities in the UK. I thought it was just a plan till we actually started fixing our visas (read about how I applied for my Schengen and UK visas) then we got approved! Finally things felt real when we booked our airline tickets & hotels.
Since my folks just wanted to go to Europe for 2-3 weeks, I had this wild idea to do a 2-month Eurotrip. To be honest, I don't like short travels. I always do a month or two when I go to the US or I spend 1 to 2 weeks in any destination. I'm just not a fan of staying in a place for a short time. I need to live like a local and be able to fully grasp the culture of the city.
I casually told my dad "I'm going to stay in Europe for 2 months". He asked "what will you do there?" I said "explore other countries and visit my friends".
Then I booked my airline ticket. Departure: third week of December. Return: third week of February.
When I finally got my flight itinerary, it hit me. Where will I go? How will I do it? I've always been used to being alone during trips but this is the first time I'd totally be on my own. And in a continent I've never been to.
So I started my research. First I downloaded a map of Europe and pinned countries I wanna visit. Since it's my first time, I asked help from my friends who frequently go there. Fast forward, I finally had a dummy itinerary. This was my original route after my London - Paris - Rome - Newcastle - Liverpool - York - Edinburgh trip with my folks:
Brussels - Cologne - Amsterdam - Copenhagen - Berlin - Prague - Vienna - Salzburg / Slovakia - Budapest - Florence - Barcelona - Madrid - Lisbon then back to London
BUT then this was the itinerary I actually followed:
Brussels - Cologne - Amsterdam - Copenhagen - Berlin - Prague - Vienna - Budapest - Florence - Venice - Paris (again) - then back to London
These are the reasons why I skipped the other countries:
1. I was too lazy to leave Vienna to go to Salzburg or Slovakia
2. I was already too tired to go to Spain and Portugal (plus my German friends told me that it's better to go there during the summer)
3. I wanted to go back and meet my friends in Paris (plus I love that city so much so I didn't mind)
After rigorous planning, I had to choose what mode of transportation I'm going to use. I considered taking buses but locating bus stations are harder so I chose the train option. After an intensive research (thanks google haha), I went for Eurail (read HERE why I chose it).
Enough back story, let me show you guys how I used Eurail and which countries I visited.
Was able to explore the city before my scheduled train ride.
Off to my next destination! Updating my rail pass :)
I got the EURAIL 1 month continuous global 1stclass pass (€699/$823). This allowed me unlimited travel to all the destinations I listed down.
I ordered the pass just days before I left for Europe so shipping to the Philippines wasn’t an option. Luckily I have an uncle in London and they were able to ship it there just 2 days after I purchased it. Tip is to purchase your pass early and try to find discounts! :P
This is what the package looked like. It contains a travel pass, a eurail guide and a map. When you’re about to use it, you have to activate the pass by going to a train booth.
Mine was already set to be activated during the second week of January eventhough I got it during the third week of December.
Important tip is to download the rail planner app because this will help you in scheduling your trips. You can use this without wifi so this is very convenient versus going to the eurail website to plan your routes.
It will show the schedule and time of departure + list of trains you have to ride to get to your destination. It will also tell you if a reservation is compulsory or not. You'll also see the stops, how many train changes, etc.
Ok, let me show you guys where I went. Just short descriptions since I'm planning to write a comprehensive blog post about each city I visited.
Start of my solo trip!:)
Eurostar train from London to Brussels.
I got a 1st class pass so I was in the 1st class cabin with food and unlimited drinks!
Hello Brussels, Belgium!
Overnight only! I wish I stayed longer though. I wanted to go to Bruges!
Quick kwento. I wasn't really supposed to go to Brussels but I decided to go last minute. So I posted an "ad-like" story on instagram asking if I had any Filipino followers who live in Brussels. Arnie replied to me saying she lives there! To cut the story short, I stayed with her! Strangers turned friends. She even cooked sinigang for me because I miss filipino food. Thank you for being so accommodating! :)
Was able to explore the city before my scheduled train ride.
Off to my next destination! Updating my rail pass :)
Most trains allowed me to put my luggage beside me. Some trains were strict, you have to put them by the door. The reason why (as much as possible) I like my luggage beside me is that I don't want to be paranoid that I might lose it (theft alert).
Love seeing different cities during the short stops.
Had to change trains. I chose the option where I didn't have to pay for a reservation. Didn't mind because it's only 3 hours from Brussels to...
HELLO COLOGNE, Germany!
Reason why I went here was to visit my friends Lina and Franka. I met them in Siargao last year and I promised I'd visit them! Was so happy to also meet their other German friends who welcomed me with open arms.:) So much partying and socializing for 3 days. It was the perfect jumpstart for my solo trip. Because technically, I wasn't alone in Brussels and also here. But the next one was where I really started the "solo" eurotrip!
Did a bit of sightseeing in Cologne but like what I said, I spent more time in my friends' flats and partying with their other friends. Haha! I'm sure I'll be back.
Next stop: AMSTERDAM, Netherlands!
Ok this was the first time I was TOTALLY alone. But I stayed in CLINK hostel (I'll blog about it after this!) and met some American friends :)
Perfect weather for only 1 day. there was a storm so the weather was bipolar.
Probably the best museum I've been to, MOCO MUSEUM. They had a Banksy and Lichtenstein exhibition!
Wish I stayed in Amsterdam for 5 days or 1 week! Wanted to go to Rotterdam but didn't have time anymore. I'll be back!
This was probably the most challenging journey. The trip from Amsterdam to Copenhagen. I left Amsterdam at 8pm and arrived at Copenhagen at around 12pm the next day. Okay, I learned so many things from this exhausting journey:
1. Don't get night trips if it's not a sleeper train
2. If you get a night trip, make sure you don't have a super long layover because some train stations / close from like 1am to 5am.
3. 7 train changes to get to a destination = too stressful
To be honest it was kind of my fault. At the second train change, when I asked the train person where's the next train to this certain place, she seemed confused and pointed a train. I should've verified it or I should've looked at the train number but I had limited time so I got in immediately. My mistake was I automatically assumed that was the train (because it was going to the next destination) but I realized when i got in that it was a local train meaning it was slower than the train I was supposed to take (the high speed one). Because of this mistake, my schedule got fucked up and I had to take the other trains hence a much longer route.
I was just so relieved to be in COPENHAGEN, Denmark after that loooooooong and challenging trip.
My friend Tara (who lives in Norway) decided to go and meet me! WAS CRAZY HAPPY I got to explore this city with her for 4 days!:)
Safe to say Copenhagen is the TOP (well, MINE) European city I visited (fine, this and Paris!) but I seriously regret not going to Sweden, Finland and Norway. I CAN'T WAIT TO GO BACK AND DO A SCANDINAVIAN TOUR!
LOL I've said "cant wait to go back" too many times already but yeah... hahahaha
My most interesting train ride was from Copenhagen to Berlin. OUR TRAIN WENT INSIDE A SHIP. YES GUYS, IT WENT INSIDE A SHIP.
An hour inside this ship wasn't enough. I spent so much time checking the duty free!
Plus I went to this area and just stared at the ocean. I felt homesick yet very grateful to be safe, alive and well. Haha
Next city? BERLIN, GERMANY!
At this point I've already been traveling for a month (vacay with my folks included) so I decided to extend my stay in Berlin. 5 full days. 5 glorious chill days where I spent most of my time in my hotel rooms (I stayed in Lux Eleven then Dormero). Will blog where I stayed! :P
Can't resist this free museum. To be honest I felt "all museum-ed out" after Amsterdam. Haha. I love art but I had enough after the gazillion museums I visited with my folks
I don't know if it was the cold weather or the fact that I was traveling for a month already but I started feeling sad. I missed the PH, I missed my family and friends, I missed LU (haha so attached to the beach and surfing lol). Homesickness to the highest level. A bit of sadness always kicked in when I'm inside the train but it only lasts for a few minutes because I'd always be distracted by the pretty views I see.
Because of this odd homesickness and tiny loneliness I was feeling, when I got to Prague, Czech Republic from Berlin, I treated myself to a massage. It was so freakin expensive but I was tired and I just wanted to relax so I went for it. Haha.
Feeling refreshed and recharged! I stayed in a hostel (it was like 350 pesos a night! so cheap right?!) and met Evie!
Got SO inspired to travel more because of this girl! She has been traveling around Europe for almost a year already. Volunteering, teaching English, working in hostels... AHHHHH. I seriously want to try this but I doubt my parents would allow me. Loved hanging out with her. We had the best life talks plus we'd always sing like crazy while walking around cos we both love music so much. Hehe.
Plus she took me to Prague's best spots and took awesome photos! THANK YOU SO MUCH EVIE! Miss you already!!!
Next stop: VIENNA, AUSTRIA.
I was totally alone in this city. First time I didn't meet anyone (because I stayed in a hotel). The hotel I stayed at (Beethoven hotel) was so pretty so I didn't mind. Haha. I enjoyed the down time!
Again, I extended my stay here. I was supposed to go to Salzburg or Slovakia but I got lazy. Spontaneity at it's finest!
I'd go back to the hotel at 6pm with my dinner takeout then watch netflix. I did that for 4 days. Haha.
Next stop: BUDAPEST, HUNGARY.
I only had 3 days here. So technically just 1 full day to explore the city. Actually, I had enough time during day 1 but I decided to chill inside my room at Hotel Parlament. I didn't even go out to eat lunch or dinner. I just ate the fruits the hotel gave me. Haha. But I got to explore during day 2.
Again, I was completely alone in this city. Around this time I totally felt fine being alone. No more loneliness or homesickness.
Next stop: FLORENCE, ITALY
I met Maria (a student from Kenya who's studying in Florence). We just took photos of each other (cos we were both alone) and she ended up touring me around. So many good souls. :)
Second day in Florence was spent exploring the city alone + eating amazing italian food. Felt a little bit sick so I went back to the hotel early cos I had a scheduled trip the next day!
Off to Venice, Italy!
So lucky to have witnessed the carnivale or the "mardi gras" of Venezia!!!!! I just stayed overnight but I made the most out of it. Wore a mask and danced at the plaza :) ALL BY MYSELF. Hahaha!
So many awesome costumes. Seriously considering to go back next year so I can walk around while wearing a costume, too :P Preferably with friends this time hahaha
It's so easy to fall in love with Venice. Wish I went to Burano too. But next time, next time!
Off to my second to the last European city... BACK IN PARIS, FRANCE!!!!!!!! :)
I actually went to Paris last December and celebrated New Years with my folks but I decided to go back because
of my Pampanga friends who were also doing a Eurotrip! Shout out to Andrea, Mio, Tosh, Odri, Rhy and the rest of their crew for letting me crash their barkada Paris trip. Hehe!
ALSO WENT TO DISNEYLAND PARIS!!!!! Just visited 1 park so hopefully I'll be back next year to check out the other park (I'm a disney freak hehe)
Last stop? Back to London, UK!
Favorite place in London? God's Own Junkyard! It's a store full of old and new neon signs! BEST PART? ENTRANCE IS FREE!
Also met up with friends! Hi Mar and her fiance :p Loved this resto so much. Good food and super instagrammable interior design (will write about this resto hehehe) :P
AND I WATCHED HAMILTON! :) More detailed kwento next time :)
So that's it!!!! What a lengthy blog post. Haha. If you thoroughly read everything, thank you :P Hope you learned a thing or two!
Merci EURAIL (transpo for my solo eurotrip) and TEP WIRELESS (wifi) for being my two constant companions this trip :p WHAT WILL I DO WITHOUT YOU GUYS?