These tips mostly relate to general travel consideration’s, with some pointers to think about that Ive noticed on my trip so far in Europe.
If you want to travel on a budget but aren’t quite ready for hostels, I recommend either small budget hotels or Airbnb. I’ve stayed in places using Airbnb a few times. For my first stop in Nice I wanted a place near the beach, so I could walk easily and spend a few days relaxing, near the mainline busses into town and further afield like Cannes and Monaco.
The apartment was nice, and the host was hospitable, and I had access to the kitchen. I like to buy small meals or make coffee and toast rather than eat out all the time, which can really drain your budget. first think of what’s important to you about a trip?
- Safety – Do you want to stay in a hotel alone, as a group or in a room in someone’s house or apartment. The advantage to staying in a host’s house, like a hotel, is they will be able to help you with getting around or on hand for any slight problems. Also, are you able to lock your case and leave in the room, what does the reviews say about the hotel or venue? The Airbnb I stayed in so far, all had locks on my bedroom door and good security in the building.
- Air con- Is not something I thought about much in the UK until this summer where we were struggling to cool down at night after a day of 25 degrees and more. Not all houses have air con but if the temperature exceeds 24 in the day, you might decide air con is at the top of your list.
- Travel- Generally , flights can be cheap , but check out the baggage restrictions . I flew from Heathrow by BA and that was a good flight and Heathrow is near me so I didn’t need to leave my car. On the way back I flew with Jet2 and again a good flight but Stanstead is over an hour away. Flights only run on certain days so check the flights first and see what days are cheaper to travel on before you look for accommodation as Italy has plenty .
- Travel- How will you get around locally. Are you planning on driving, if not do you want to explore, then research the local busses and trains and how close to where you plan to stay they are? I’ve found already that transport in Nice was really good, but often didn’t run after 7pm. Both Nice and Genoa and the other stops were much cheaper than the UK . I paid only a few euros to use the train via the different beaches and towns I visited.
- Travel in Italy – Genoa , is hilly, Chivari was flat , Sorrento,Amalfi Positano and Ravello were all breath-taking places to visit ,but extremely high up and hilly. The local train ends at Sorrento – and although Sorrento is a good place to get to and from other small coastal towns, it gets extremely busy until the end of September. Anywhere else in that part of the region, you will end up either driving, using a moped (not recommended unless your a very competent driver) or expensive taxis . I met several people staying on the Amalfi and Ravello coast who couldn’t get anywhere unless they used a cab. Local busses run but often full as the town is bursting at the seems with tourists .
- Food – Of course you’re going to want to try the local cuisine, however most areas are divided into districts and each one has its own local specialty. Much of what I’ve seen so far, I’ve never heard of let alone eaten before. It’s also been a challenge but an enjoyable one at that, to shop in the local supermarket. Sorrento of course has some great little restaurants , on the beach or in the town and farly well priced . If you like seafood you may well be in heaven.
- Drink – I’m usually a water or wine drinker but in the heat, I tend to now only want the occasional beer. Before ordering check out what their local beer or wine is, as its often a lot cheaper, otherwise your asking for imports which are often more expensive, and I’ve never had light beer I haven’t enjoyed. Since Ive been in Italy and France ive enjoyed the local beer (lager) and the occasional glass of fragrant wine.
- Water – I’ve been able to drink the tap water in both Nice, Genoa, Sorento easily and felt fine. I took bottled water(that I froze in the freezer first) to the beach. In restaurants some places refuse you tap water and instead insist you must pay for bottled, I’m yet to discover whether this was a cranky waitress I had this day or standard rules. I will update this one.
- Accommodation – I tend to use either Airbnb or Booking.com as its always been easier to use than many of the other sites and I’ve used them for years. I like the simplicity of their websites and I have the apps on my phone and can book and not often pay straight away. This helps give the trip some flexibility so that if you get to a place and want to stay longer it’s easy to change the dates or cancel most bookings on both, however do read the small print. I’ve noticed with Airbnb that each host has different rules. But they are written clearly on the website. Also, I’ve sometimes arrived at a place and had a bad feeling about it, so I’ve not stayed and instead gone for a coffee and looked on the app for either company.
- Trains -I had planned my trip so that I would be moving from Nice to Genoa, then Genoa to Rome and onwards to a few more places in Italy. I booked my tickets with the trainline.com. They show a list of times with the prices and journey time for each. Doing it this way means you can save a lot of money for example I payed about 30e for a ticket from Chiavari, near Genoa to Rome and if I went online today it would be around 60e and your not guaranteed a seat. With booking, once you know your dates you not only save but get a seat too. Once you have booked you can download the app and have your tickets stored once your asked to show your ticket, the train conductor will then scan this.
- Sightseeing – Its best to do a bit of research before you go and get an idea of what’s on offer and the average price. I decided to go for a walking tour of Nice old town to get a sense of the history and meet some more people. I chose a tour where the tour guide kept the group small and it really felt much more intimate and we were able to enjoy a coffee together before setting off. I was glad of the tour bus in Genoa after already walking so much .If you like Museums you can go to one, buy a pass for 10e (sept 2018) and that will also get you entry in to the others (around 10 museums) for 48 hrs, so its a great deal . I think many of the trips you can book online can be overpriced and overrated, you can, with a bit of planning ,design a trip for yourself and friends much more cheaply. Also , look on TripAdvisor and Airbnb as they also have local guides who will take a small group on a tour.
- Bus tours- Most European cities seem to have the hop on hop off busses. In Nice I didn’t find that I needed to do this, but in Genoa, its farley hilly and not for the fainthearted- The busses do give you a nice overview of all the places you might want to see, where they are located and ability to hop on and off. For the price the tour bus (around 12 euros/ 23 in Rome) you get a nice sense of the place.
- Glam – do you want to chill by the beach or get out and about at night? Italy so far has proved to be filled with not just young people looking hip and stylish but people of all ages ,so whether its the beach or the local piazza get you glam rags packed and save the shorts and trainers for a day hiking !
- Nice has some amazing Art Deco hotels with fine food and wine on offer, as well as some lovely little restaurants in the old town. Our tour guide Celine introduced us to the hosts of some of the most popular and oldest restaurants that served very good food. Genoa, like most city’s has eating venues aimed at tourists, so like most things I’d ask a local to recommend a place although google map review can be strikingly honest and correct!
- Packing- This is usually where I go wrong. This time I spent some time on Pinterest and researched capsule wardrobes for a trip to Italy in September. It’s a great app as lots of ideas about what the basics are that you are going to need, and other considerations are bountiful. I still took too much stuff. The temperatures in the UK had gone form an average of 25degrees to around 18, so I was now back in jeans and t-shirts. Since I’ve been in Nice and Genoa it’s been 27 degrees. Uncomfortable for most cloths. If your traveling for a few weeks and have access to washing your cloths then you can easily manage with an outfit for the evening, one pair of jeans ,two pairs of shorts , a few swimsuits, towel, about 5 T-shirts and a few tank tops, 2 dresses (one for the beach and that can be dressed up for an evening) very comfortable shoes for all the extra walking, comfortable sandal’s for day and night unless you have access to transport Unless of course you want to lug a case around. I took a medium size case but it’s still heavy with my equipment inside (camera and laptop)
- Clothing-none of my shoes stopped my feet getting sore as I was walking at least 10000 steps a day, a lot more than I usually use, so have some foot cream and even old trainers or boots so that they are already well broken in.
- Travel insurance -make sure you have it and check the small print covers specific items you have such as laptops cameras, cancelled bookings etc or riskier trips such as diving, skiing etc. I dropped my laptop and was told the max for any gear (camera , DSLR phone and laptop) would be £300 , so if like me you have some expensive equipment , check the finer details of what individual pieces will be covered for.
- Language – I haven’t had to try and speak French since I was at school and I had only decided to add France to my list in the last few months . But I did try and get some basic phrases which have helped so far and people really responded positively to my attempt. I’ve noticed this at train stations , changing money and cafes. That making the effort people warm to you and try and help .
- Money – I got a load card from Caxton. You link it to your own bank account then you can log onto their app on your phone and load your card with money, it comes straight from your bank and onto the card. There wasn’t any chares for spending on it or withdrawing cash plus you don’t now have the extra hassle and cost of a money exchange .
- Travel exchange- I was at Genoa train station and needed some odd bills but couldn’t be bothered to make my way back out again to find a bank as the train was due. I went to a travel money exchange for the first time in years . the process is long and laborious as they scan you passport and ask you to sign for the money. Its the new rules since 2017 that everytime you get money you have to do this. Then it cost me 12 euros so I only got 100 from 112 and will also probably get charged by my bank when I get home .So get a load card or check the credit card you have otherwise you will pay lots of little amounts for each transaction.
- Hostels -This is the first trip ever I had stayed in a hostel . So im not really a specialist on the subject, more of a social scientist who wondered what this experience might be like . The first was in Rome, great as it was only 200 yards from the train station and as I was only staying one night with a bag I was ready to throw overboard , I thought id would do, only it was downtown, and as soon as I started walking towards it I felt this sense of unease , that in the day it was ok but I wouldn’t be doing much touring on my own after sundown. Inside the staff were great ,however the room also had another 5 beds and akin to my sons bedroom, filled with young people. My second experience was in Sorrento , much better to , it was more like a three star hotel ,apart from sharing with others ,although they did also have single rooms. The rooms were very clean, the staff were great and it had an amazing rooftop sun area you could relax in all day ,with a view of the whole coastline. This was ok most of the time, apart from a desire that grew to invent zips you cant hear , as living out of a case means you have to constantly go in and out of it to find or hide stuff. But its also a great way to meet people from all over the world and discover their passion for travel , learn about what they do and hear some great stories. Im glad I gave it a try but I decided I still like my own room lol. If your keen to travel and do it cheaply then go to hostel world online as they will have lots of reviews .