Pages Navigation Menu

the best European travel, holiday, accommodation, relaxation, beauty and health information!

Flying Budget Airlines in Europe

Posted by on Sep 26, 2013 in Travel Advice, Travel Finance | 0 comments

airberlinOnce they arrive, most visitors to Europe don’t consider flying an option. Until recently, rental vehicles and public transportation have been the most cost-effective ways to travel Europe. Things are different now. There are four reasons the cost of airfare has decreased dramatically in recent years:

 

  • Deregulation of European airlines in the 1990’s
  • The Open-Skies Treaty of 1992
  • Competition between airlines
  • Proliferation of small, niche airlines

There are currently 62 budget airlines in Europe. SkyScanner and Kayak are two great places to start looking for flights. Purchasing tickets far in advance will enable you to find the cheapest flights. Look for airlines that use either your starting or ending point as a hub. If you have multiple flights, be prepared for delays and leave yourself with plenty of extra time. Be flexible. Try to fly on weekdays during the spring or autumn. Avoid flying during the holidays. Check for sales and look for flights that depart early in the morning or very late at night. If you can’t find the exact flight you want, check flights to nearby airports. Departure times can change suddenly by up to 10 hours. Double check your itinerary a few days before your trip and check in online to avoid fees.

Does a $100 (or less) plane ticket sound too good to be true? There are many downsides to low-cost airlines. You can’t use travel agents, tickets are available only online and are not refundable, and schedules are tight. Flights that aren’t filled up are sometimes cancelled on short notice. If you’re late, the plane will not wait for you. Almost all budget flights are point-to-point and do not offer connecting flights. There’s always the chance that a small airline will suddenly go out of business. Budget airlines are safe, but provide only basic transport (don’t expect snacks). Since the airlines don’t make much money on ticket sales, they will use every excuse to fine you. Make sure to read the fine print and look up all information about luggage.

RyanairWith 41 hubs, Ryanair is Europe’s largest budget airline. If you book early, you can find flights from London to a variety of European cities for only $20. Ryanair is notorious for “add-on fees.” The only way to avoid paying a credit card fee is to use a prepaid MasterCard credit card. The average one-way ticket from Ryanair is between $55 and $65 (this price includes tax and fees). Ryanair has very strict baggage regulations. It is recommended that you purchase insurance that protects against flight cancellation because Ryanair has a very limited compensation policy in regards to cancelled flights. Make sure you know where your end point is because Ryanair often flies to small, obscure airports far from the city you’re trying to reach.

A little more expensive is easyJet, Europe’s second largest budget airline. When flying with easyJet, you will not be charged a fee for printing your boarding pass in the airport. However, like Ryanair, there is a fee for every piece of checked luggage. But unlike Ryanair, easyJet tends to use principal airports. There are no seat assignments and a one-way ticket ranges from $27-$570.

The third largest budget airline in Europe is airberlin. It has a huge network and offers long flights in addition to within-Europe flights. One-way tickets start at $60. This price includes luggage, fees, and tax. Unlike most of Europe’s budget airlines, airberlin offers free drinks, newspapers, and snacks onboard. They also allow up to 44 pounds of free checked luggage per passenger.

 

Read More

Top 3 Bed and Breakfasts in the Lake Como Area

Posted by on Sep 14, 2013 in Bed & Breakfast, Luxury | 0 comments

Nestled amongst the snow-capped mountains in Lombardy, Italy you will find a Y-shaped body of water called Lake Como. Its quiet waves cover over 90 square miles, making it the third largest lake in Italy. Formed by a long-ago glacier, Lake Como has been an oasis for the wealthy since Roman times. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction famous for its elegant old villas, breathtaking vistas, spas, palaces, historic churches, and wildlife. And don’t forget water-based activities like sailing, windsurfing, or simply taking a ride on the ferry. You’ll want somewhere peaceful to stay in which to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Here is a list of the top three bed and breakfasts in the Lake Como area:

#3 – Le Eriche (“The Heathers”)

Le EricheLocated less than two miles from Lake Como’s tourist center, Menaggio, Le Eriche presents visitors with magnificent views of the surrounding mountains. If you’re looking for a peaceful way to enjoy the outdoors, Le Eriche is for you. Upon your arrival, you will be greeted warmly by the hosts. Guests have two types of rooms to choose from, each with a private garden in which free breakfast is served each morning. The room comes with a fridge, free Wi-Fi, a parking space, and a crib (if requested). The rooms are well furnished and clean. Guests staying at Le Eriche most often comment about the spectacular views, excellent breakfasts, and warm service. At Le Eriche, you are treated like friends.

#2 – Nest on the Lake

A few minutes drive from the famous Bellagio resort in the charming village of Lezzeno lies what was once a simple fisherman’s house. Today the structure is a casual bed and breakfast called Nest on the Lake. All bedrooms look out upon Isola Comacina, Lake Como’s only island. This inn can be hard to find, but once you get there you won’t want to leave. Guests are treated to spacious rooms and a private beach. Make sure to book a room with a balcony to enjoy stunning sunsets over the lake! The inn has a peaceful, antiquated feel that will make you feel like you’re staying at grandma’s house. Start your morning with a delicious outdoor breakfast as you watch for swans and other wildlife. Explore the many restaurants within walking distance, take advantage of the free Wi-Fi, relax on a raft in the lake, and make sure to ask your host about the bus and ferry services.

#1 – Villa Tres Jolie

Villa Tres JolieOur number one pick is Villa Tres Jolie, a luxurious bed and breakfast located above the lake at its top end. Surrounded by mountains, Villa Tres Jolie was designed for relaxation. Inside you will find a generous breakfast room, a library in mountain chalet style, a “salone” (bar), and a room full of information about things to do in the Lake Como area. Outside is a sun terrace with a hot tub. During the summer, breakfast is served outside on the terrace. Organic, homegrown produce is used as much as possible. Villa Tres Jolie offers “special weeks” in which guests can learn about Italian topics such as wine, language, culture, and cooking. Make sure to contact the villa in advance if you are interested in staying during a special week.

 

Read More

Top 3 Tourist Attractions in Paris, France

Posted by on Sep 10, 2013 in Travel Advice | 0 comments

There are certain European cities with a romantic, fairytale-like reputation. Paris, France is one of them. The current capital of France, Paris has been an important European city for over 2,000 years. Today it is a world leader in business, entertainment, and culture. Over time it has earned nicknames like “the city of love.”

It’s easy to become overwhelmed if you’re a first time visitor to Paris. Monuments, museums, and cathedrals are everywhere. Every corner and café in the city is worth exploring, but there are certain places you just can’t miss. Here are the top three tourist attractions in Paris, France:

#3 – Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame CathedralThe world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral is a wonder to behold with its gargoyles, chimeras, dramatic towers, and prominent spire reaching over 400 feet into the air. This Catholic cathedral is a marvelous example of French Gothic architecture. Bishop Maurice de Sully commissioned the cathedral in 1163. Legend goes that the church’s design is based on a sketch Sully drew on the ground as the result of a holy vision. After more than 100 years of labor, the cathedral was completed in 1345. It was one of the first buildings in the world to feature flying buttresses and its stained glass and sculptures were harshly at odds with the Romanesque architectural style prevailing at the time. Today the cathedral is the official chair of the archbishop of Paris. Take a tour of the place to behold wondrous sculptures, Gothic carvings, ancient relics, and breathtaking rose windows. Don’t forget to climb the North Tower, where you can view the city from Quasimodo’s lair.

#2 – The Louvre

They say you could spend a lifetime exploring the Louvre. Indeed, the museum is home to over one million artistic works dating from the medieval period to the present. Located inside the Louvre Palace, which was originally built as a fortress for King Phillip II, the art museum opened in 1793 with a proud exhibit of 537 paintings. The structure itself is a work of art with its signature glass pyramid entrance. Inside you will find world-famous works such as Michelangelo’s Dying Slave, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and the Greek sculpture Venus of Milo. The diverse collection includes exhibits featuring Egyptian artifacts, works by Rembrandt, the Code of Hammurabi, the luxurious apartments of Napoleon III, and much, much more. When in Paris, you won’t want to miss this most coveted of the city’s museums located on the banks on the Seine.

#1 – The Eiffel Tower

Eiffel TowerWhat image comes to mind when someone mentions Paris or France? The Eiffel Tower, of course! This worldwide cultural icon soars over 1,000 feet into the air. Located on the Champ de Mars, this gigantic structure is one of the most photographed attractions in the world. Named for engineer Gustave Eiffel, construction on this iron lattice tower started in January 1887. The tower was finally unveiled in May 1889 as the entrance to that year’s World’s Fair. Although Parisians disliked the structure when they first saw it, the Eiffel Tower is now the most-visited paid monument in the world. Did you know there are actually two restaurants within the tower? Visitors can take the elevator (or stairs!) to see breathtaking views of Paris during the daytime or evening.

 

Read More

Travel and Teach in Europe

Posted by on Aug 29, 2013 in Travel Advice, Travel Finance, Work & Education | 0 comments

TEFLIf you’re interested in becoming a traveling teacher, Europe is one of the best places to go. With so many countries to explore, the opportunities for adventure are endless. Unlike Americans, Europeans aren’t all about work. You’ll find that a teaching job provides you with enough money and free time to fully experience your new home.

Finding a job in a foreign country can be intimidating. The first thing you need to do is decide in which country you’d like to teach. Almost every country wants English teachers, but Spain, the UK, Georgia, and France have the highest need. Based on ease of obtaining a legal job and overall experience, the best countries in which to teach English are Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, France, and Denmark. If you’re not ready to immerse yourself in a foreign language, consider teaching in the UK. Many people move there just to learn English.

Each country has different education requirements. Make sure you meet the qualifications for your new job. Most employers require an undergraduate degree or a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. You can obtain a TEFL certificate online, but it’s best to find a program that includes teaching experience. English, Literature, and Teaching degrees are also valuable. Some institutions will require you to prove your proficiency in English. Others require only a basic teaching license. Interpersonal skills are also very important when it comes time to apply, as well as previous experience.

If you wish to work in a private language school, you will have to complete a basic course of 100 or more hours with 6 hours of observed teaching. Some facilities offer and require more specific courses, such as ILT (Introduction to Language Teaching), PLT (Practice of Language Training), and Literacy.

Many Americans overlook the fact that some European countries prefer a certain gender. Other countries only hire teachers within a certain age range (usually 20-40). If you have obtained a TEFL and you are under the age of 19, you will probably only be able to teach in volunteer situations.

SalaryAs with almost any job, your salary depends on many factors, including experience, seniority, and education. There is sometimes a danger of exploitation when you travel and teach. In recent years, many institutions in Spain have paid teachers under the table in order to maximize their profits. This might not sound bad for the teachers, but when paid illegally, teachers can lose their benefits. Make sure you are paid in accordance with the law.

Some countries ignore labor laws when it comes to foreign employees. They assume the foreigners won’t know or understand local laws regarding things like end-of-contract payments and working hours. If you don’t speak the local language and/or aren’t familiar with the country’s culture, you may find yourself a victim. Individuals who can’t adapt to the culture of their new home usually give up after a few months. With proper preparation, you should be able to avoid this situation.

Speaking of preparation, you’ll also want to make sure you have the proper documents. Requirements are different for each European country. Many teachers follow the “don’t ask, don’t tell” method by working illegally with a tourist visa. This is not a good idea!

There are several websites you can visit to help you get a professional teaching job abroad. Check out TeacherHit.com and TeachAway.com. Keep in mind that September is the highest recruiting month for foreign English teachers.

Read More

Schengen Visa: What, When, and How

Posted by on Aug 5, 2013 in Travel Advice | 0 comments

Schengen VisaIf you will be traveling to Europe either for business or for pleasure, you might need to acquire a Schengen Visa. The Schengen Agreement back in 1995 led to the formation of a 26-country borderless zone called the Schengen Area. This region includes Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Citizens of European countries that are not part of this zone may travel through this region with no limitations (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania, and the UK). With the Schengen Visa, you will be able to travel freely throughout these countries without showing documentation when crossing borders. The goal of the Schengen Agreement was to harmonize visa policies and eliminate traffic jams caused by border checks. For international travelers, the Schengen Area is sort of like one really big state. In fact, this area is home to over 400 million people.

If you’re from the following list of countries, you are able to visit the Schengen Area for up to 90 days within a period of 180 days without the visa: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong (SAR), Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Macao (SAR), Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, and Venezuela.

EuroThe Schengen Visa comes in three types. You’ll need Type A (Airport Transit Visa) to pass through airports within the Schengen Area. However, this visa is not standardized and each country has different regulations to determine which citizens need the visa to pass through Schengen airports.  Type B (Transit Visa) is valid for only five days. This visa is issued to citizens of non-Schengen countries in order to travel through the Schengen Zone to reach their destination. Type C is the most commonly used Schengen Visa. It is valid for up to 90 days within a period of six months and grants entry into the Schengen Area. Tourists use this visa for single, double, or multiple entries into the Schengen Area.

To apply for the Schengen Visa, contact the Embassy of whichever country you will be staying in the longest during your European visit. If you will be in different countries for equal amounts of time, chose the country you will visit first. If you have any questions, feel free to ask the Embassy.

There are many requirements you must meet in order to acquire the Schengen Visa. First of all, your passport must be valid at least three months prior to the date at which you will visit the Schengen Area. In addition, you must prove to the Embassy that you have enough money to fund your trip. You must also prove that you have a valid itinerary, have purchased round-flight tickets, and have reserved room(s) in a hotel. Don’t forget to purchase travel health insurance covering at least the equivalent of $40.56. Your insurance must include hospital treatment and emergency flight. Lastly, you must prove that you are a citizen of your home country and convince the Embassy that you really will leave the Schengen Area within 90 days.

Read More