How to use the train in Europe: 10 tips to help you.

How to use the train in Europe: 10 tips to help you.
How to use the train in Europe: 10 tips to help you.

So a fortnight (two weeks) ago, I told you about how many countries that I travelled to in 2016. And if you’re just joining us, it was 10!

I also told you how I did it, and the plans that I have for 2017. 

In 2016, I’ll be travelling to thirteen (13) countries.

Most of them will be in Europe, and plenty of them, I’ll be reaching by train!

How to use the train in Europe: 10 tips to help you.
How to use the train in Europe: 10 tips to help you.

But why?

Why the train?

Why not fly?

Why not fly?
Why not fly?

Well, to Russia, I’m thinking strongly of taking some sort of ship or cruise, and to England and Ireland, perhaps flying would be quicker….!

And then again. Perhaps not!

But the fact remains.

I live in Berlin.

In Germany.

Germany - my adopted country!
Germany – my adopted country!

And Germany is right in the center of Europe.

It has airports, train stations, bus stations, bicycle stations, cars and every possible means of transport.

I travel a lot for leisure and pleasure, and many a time, the adventure is in the getting there rather than the destination itself!

Zoooooop! Don't say it! @eatdrinkandrun.com
Zoooooop! Don’t say it!
@eatdrinkandrun.com

And let’s not forget the hassle, long queues and stringent baggage requirements that airlines require these days. Quite frankly, for a 1.5 hour flight you’re looking at arriving the airport (if flying to the UK) at least 2 hours before, if flying inter-continental, at least 3 hours. Not to talk of actually getting to the airport itself!

Luckily for me, Berlin has excellent local public transport that is cheap, efficient, clean, and reliable. I can’t say the same if you’re trying to get to London Heathrow, which is the busiest airport in the world. And equally as complicated, if you don’t know your way around London.

Me!
Me!

Being that I live in Berlin, makes it an extremely easy way to travel.

In fact, travelling by train through the European continent is one of the most comfortable ways to travel with ease, from one country to the other. And by far, one of the cheapest!

Is it any wonder that one of my favourite forms of transport is the train!

WHY TRAVEL BY TRAIN IN EUROPE?

How to use the train in Europe: 10 tips to help you.
How to use the train in Europe: 10 tips to help you.

There are many reasons why travelling by train in Europe is a most excellent idea, here are some below:

  • It’s cheap:
Travelling by train is a cheap as a bunch of locally grown flowers!
Travelling by train is a cheap as a bunch of locally grown flowers!

I bought a twelve-hour (12) direct train ticket from Berlin to Budapest. In first class for €69.00. Second class was just €10.00 cheaper at €59.00! I couldn’t believe it , so I bought it! My child was free of charge!

I bought a seven (7) hour train journey (second class) train ticket via the Hungarian Railways or MAV at a cost of 11,780 Ft or €38.40 to travel from Budapest to Prague. Child included in the cost!

A five (5) hour train journey ticket (second class) to travel from Prague to Berlin in August, was just €29.00! My child cost nothing at all!

Over the Landwasser Viaduct in Switzerland. ©Michaa Ludwiczak / Getty
Over the Landwasser Viaduct in Switzerland.
©Michaa Ludwiczak / Getty

For Switzerland, we took the Sparpreis Europa city night line train, and the eleven (11) hour return ticket journey from Berlin – Lucerne – Berlin, including reserved seating in July. Cost just €98.00. My child was free!

As a matter of fact, our return ticket from Berlin – Copenhagen – Berlin was a mere €58.00! And even though we actually missed our connection on the way home, and had to buy another ticket…it was still a sweet deal!

  • Kids travel for free:
Children under 15 travelling inter-city or inter-country, with their relatives, usually travel on the European train, for free!
Children under 15 travelling inter-city or inter-country, with their relatives, usually travel on the European train, for free!

Throughout last summer, I took an international train every weekend, and the price for our son – The Tall Young Gentleman was nothing at all!

His fare was completely and utterly free.

Yep!

Free of charge.

Nada!

Children under 15 travelling inter-city or inter-country, with their relatives, usually travel on the European train, for free!
Children under 15 travelling inter-city or inter-country, with their relatives, usually travel on the European train, for free!

In Germany, children under 15 travelling inter-city or inter-country, with their parents, grandparents, or relatives, travel on the German Rail, otherwise known as Deutsche Bahn (DB), train for free!

Note that if you book Spar Preis Europa trains with the German Rail on this version, your children will be free of charge too!

Other European countries do the same and either have free transport for children, or special prices for families too.

Our son as a baby - 20 months old!
Our son as a baby – 20 months old!

On our last visit to the UK, we bought an Advance Single train ticket – via the National Rail – from Manchester Oxford Road to a station in Cheshire. Our adult tickets for a 30 minute inter-city train were £3.00 each, and £1.50 for our child. Our Express Train tickets from Manchester Airport to Manchester Oxford Road (in the city) were just £5.00 each per adult, and £2.50 for our child.

  • Delays are minimal and compensated:
The German Rail / Deutsche Bahn train leaving Berlin.
The German Rail / Deutsche Bahn train leaving Berlin.

When travelling by European train, there is very little fuss to it, and far fewer delays than flying

In fact, European Regulation (EC) 1371/2007 on rail passengers’ rights and obligations (2009), state that passengers are entitled to standardised rights in the rail sector in Germany and in Europe.

If there are delays of at least sixty (60) minutes or more, you are entitled to compensation, and if you were to take a taxi, or another mode of transport up to €80.00, you could have that refunded too. Make sure you get the correct documentation at either the train station concerned, from another station, or from the train staff!

  • Luggage:
Get a train ticket and travel through Europe!
Get a train ticket and travel through Europe!

Train travel means that there is plenty of room for your luggage. And if you wished to take the kitchen sink with you (within reason), you probably could. No need to worry about how heavy your luggage would be and how much. There is relatively little or no fuss. In many cases, the railway staff would even help you carry your bags!

No when was the last time that you saw airport staff carry luggage for anyone!

  • Personal space:
You can strech your legs in the corridor of the Polish Train.
You can stretch your legs in the corridor of the Polish Train.

Unlike air or bus travel, there is room to move around, and really stretch your legs. And depending on how long the journey is, they sometimes have some dedicated time for passengers to go outside, buy some refreshments, get some fresh air, take photographs, or get some WiFi!

  • The social factor:
On the Czech-infused train from Berlin to Budapest!
On the Czech-infused train from Berlin to Budapest!

The European train is a little like the Indian train in the sense that you actually get to meet people. And talk to them.

I mean, you’re sitting elbow to elbow, you’re probably going to an international country, the passengers are either locals or tourists themselves, and to be frank, everyone is quite interested in your journey. And if you’ve got a bottle of booze somewhere.

All the better!

So now to the real McCoy!

HOW TO USE THE TRAIN IN EUROPE: 10 TIPS TO HELP YOU

How to use the train in Europe: 10 tips to help you.
How to use the train in Europe: 10 tips to help you.

Depending on where you are coming from, you need to:

1.  Get a train ticket:

Get a train ticket and travel through Europe!
Get a train ticket and travel through Europe!

The cheapest way to ease into buying train tickets through most European countries (not all), is to actually book through the Deutsche Bahn portal on the local German English version not the UK or USA version! Note that for Germany, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Holland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland, if you’re going by train, I don’t recommend that you do so by InterRail or EuroRail passes, if you’re only travelling to one country, as the prices are ridiculously expensive and children have to be paid for!

The snag is to book tickets with the national train companies, directly. On their own websites, or through the German Rail otherwise known as Deutsche Bahn. Most websites have an English version. Some can be admittedly slightly hidden, but persevere, or contact them directly by calling, or via Email!

Get a train ticket and travel through Europe!
Get a train ticket and travel through Europe!

But don’t forget. Not all train companies allow you to pay online, or even to buy local tickets at local prices! Some train companies only allow you to buy a Eurail ticket if you’re buying from abroad, and which you can only pay for with a credit card. For more info on that check here..  And some do, but you either have to buy the ticket on the train, or have to pay online and then collect the train tickets once you’re in the country itself, or change the language of the website!

For train travel all around the world check out the website of The Man in Seat Sixty-One . . . or Deutsche Bahn.

A goat on the train? Ah well, anything can happen. I've seen worse. Swans for example!
A goat on the train? Ah well, anything can happen. I’ve seen worse.
Swans for example!

But remember, if you’re using the Deutsche Bahn website, change the location to Germany and use the English word for Deutschland which is Germany! NOT the UK/Ireland one! And then change the language to English!

2.  Check online for best routes:

A map of the European High - Speed Train Network!
A map of the European High – Speed Train Network!

Many train companies have their own website which you can access for routes so that you can see where you want to go. Or better yet. Where they actually go, and how to get there!

3.  Do your research:

Do you need to get a bus and then the train? Or vice-versa in Barcelona. Spain?
Do you need to get a bus and then the train? Or vice-versa in Barcelona. Spain?

I live in Berlin and the Polish border is just under two hours away as such, there are discount prices from the German Railway Service known as Deutsche Bahn or DB. You can get a one-way single ticket from Berlin to Stettin or Szczecin in Poland, for just €11.00. Reduced tickets for €8.30. If you want to make a day of it, a day ticket would be €22.00 and €16.60 respectively. You could use it for every local transport in Stettin and the ticket is valid until 03:00 the next day!

Or you could get the German Regional tickets also known as the Länder-Tickets. These are fantastic bargains as the Berlin-Brandenburg regional one day ticket is only €29.00 and can be used by up to 5 people! That’s right! 5 people can travel on this ticket and they don’t have to be related! This ticket is valid from 09:00 to 03:00 the following day, and on the trams and buses in Stettin (Szczecin), and can be used to get to the Polish border!

Yeah well, no promises on the Bogus Bus!
Yeah well, no promises on the Bogus Bus!

You sometimes see people hustling for ticket holders in Stettin (Szczecin) ‘cos if you have 5 people travelling together that’s €5.00 each. A bargain if ever I saw one!

You can get this ticket from the VBB Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg website or DB online. For more information check here and here.

4.  In fact, if you are in Germany, why not hop to some of our neighbouring countries too:

"The Tall Young Gentleman" didn't look too happy that for Switzerland, we took the Sparpreis Europa city night line train!
“The Tall Young Gentleman” didn’t look too happy that for Switzerland, we took the Sparpreis Europa city night line train!

It might take you a while, but you can take the train from Berlin to London for as little as €59.00, to Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy, Denmark, Croatia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Poland for as little as €39.00 per single ticket or one way trip!

And if it’s not too far away. And being that this is Europe we’re talking about, so it isn’t! Fares can sometimes go as low as €19.00 for destinations such as to Prague for example!

The Deutsche Bahn building in Berlin!
The Deutsche Bahn building in Berlin!

For more information check here.

5.  Reserve your seat:

Me relaxing at the Berlin Music Video Awards.
Me relaxing at the Berlin Music Video Awards.

Now as a blogger, I’m always online in some form or the other, and it really surprises me how travellers and tourists leave their train bookings until the very last minute!

Believe me. Don’t do that!

It was lovely having a Bristol cab and driver waiting for me!
It was lovely having a Bristol cab and driver waiting for me!

Trains are popular in Europe. And if the destination is on a well-worn track, then the trains will be packed. And if it’s the weekend or a public holiday, you won’t get a seat, and will be forced to stand….!

In the summer, it’s not unknown for teenagers to be sitting on the corridor floor with their mates for a few hours.

But they can cope. Can you?

Try to reserve a seat on the European train!
Try to reserve a seat on the European train!

Now if you really don’t want to pay for a reserved seat, then the trick is to either go to the very front of the train, or the very back of it. And be quick about it!

However, if you’ve got luggage or kids, somebody from your party ought to sprint in and bagsy a couple of non-reserved  seats, or you might as well do the decent relaxing thing, and reserve the seat of your choice, in a compartment that you prefer.

Our tiny Czech train in the middle of no-where!
Our tiny Czech train in the middle of no-where!

Having said that, lots of small rural or regional trains have no possibility to reserve seats at all, so either jump in and turn left, or go upstairs!

6.  Take some refreshments with you:

Take some refreshments with you!
Take some refreshments with you!

If you’re on a regional or rural train, no refreshments will be sold on the train. And don’t even think that you can buy “something” at the next station as countryside train stations are either tiny little things, or simply non-existent!

Generally, super-clean-fast-efficient-modern-high speed trains have restaurants and trolley service throughout the train, but you can’t be sure that you’ll like either what they’re offering, or the prices!

Refreshments on the European first class train usually include a small bottle of wine or beer. But not always!
Refreshments on the European first class train usually include a small bottle of wine or beer. But not always!

‘Best to bring your own stuff if travelling in second class. Refreshments are usually given for first class customers and usually include a small bottle of wine or beer. But not always!

7.  Talk to the locals:

Don't be afraid to talk to locals or your fellow travellers on the European train!
Don’t be afraid to talk to locals or your fellow travellers on the European train!

My fellow travellers were always very helpful and we usually spoke in a mixture of English or German and a splattering of whatever the local language happens to be. With a lot of hand gestures, acting, drawing, and generally making quite a fool of myself, they usually understood what I was asking! The local travellers always helped us get off at the stop that we usually required too.

Many a time just looking anxious, or “other,” tends to open a conversation. And really, you don’t ever have to worry. The locals will help you. Just ask. Promise!

The locals will help you. Just ask. Promise!
The locals will help you. Just ask.
Promise!

In some cases, even the train driver will help you!

8.  Be prepared:

Have the correct documentation with you when travelling on the European train, and be prepared!
Have the correct documentation with you when travelling on the European train, and be prepared!

When travelling through Europe, you’re likely to go through different countries, each with it’s own distinct flavour of technology. In highly advanced countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Holland, and the Nordic countries, technical equipment will be at it’s highest, with power outlets either in between your seats, on the table, or on the side of the wall near the window!

In less advanced nations such as in Eastern Europe and even in Southern Europe, not so much!

There might be wifi and a power outlet. And there might not!
There might be WiFi and a power outlet. And there might not!

There will be WiFi, but it probably won’t work, or will be spotty at best. And there will be no power outlets! On our 15 hour train journey to Hungary, I spent hours searching the train for a plug-hole. And where was it?

In the restaurant, hanging dangerously on the wall of the heavy main train door, or in the toilet!

Er No!

Have the correct documentation with you when travelling on the European train, and be prepared!
Have the correct documentation with you when travelling on the European train, and be prepared!

Oh by the way. Europe isn’t a country. It’s a continent, so if you’re travelling on an international train, you must take your passport with you. Train officials never used to check people in the past due to the European law of Free Movement, but as a result of strengthened alertness due to the increased height of terrorism, and to ensure our safety, they are now. So make sure you have everything in order.

Otherwise, you’ll be escorted off the train and your holiday could end right there!

9.  If you miss your train stop, don’t panic:

How to use the train in Europe: 10 tips to help you - don't panic!
How to use the train in Europe: 10 tips to help you – don’t panic!

Once travelling through Poland, I realized that we had missed our train stop as the countryside scene that was I expecting, did not show up on my horizon!

Hmm!

I couldn’t really look outside the window as the window was blocked with passengers in the corridor.

I couldn’t check the train map that you normally see in the corridors either as I couldn’t get to the corridor, and I didn’t have an iPhone in those days.

We had missed our train stop! Oh no!
We had missed our train stop! Oh no!

A girl in her early 20’s noticed that I kept attempting to leave the compartment. She confirmed that I had missed our stop.

OK. I’ll get off at the next stop!

Oh, I’ve missed that too!

And the train is now going East further into Poland, whereas I was supposed to be going to the sea which was in the West!

We got off the train!
We got off the train!

We got off the train.

Unfortunately, the train officials weren’t really very helpful and pointed at contrasting directions, so I decided to look around the station myself and peek onto other platforms and lo and behold, the connecting train that I wanted was still ON THE PLATFORM!

I checked and double-checked that it was indeed the right train, then we hopped on!

Then we hopped back on the train again!
Then we hopped back on the train again!

I so bugged the train conductor as per how many stops we had left, and what time we were expected to get to a certain seaside village, as there are no announcements and no destination indicators.

It was a case of watching and counting, each and every train stop…. 75 minutes later, we were there!

10.  If it all goes bananas, use your head:

Use your head at foreign train stations!
Use your head at foreign train stations!

There are 101 ways to travel through Europe, and the train is just one of them.

Sometimes it makes sense to choose another form of transport to get to your final destination.

It isn’t the worse thing in the world if you do!

HOW TO USE THE TRAIN IN EUROPE: 10 TIPS TO HELP YOU

How to use the train in Europe: 10 tips to help you.
How to use the train in Europe: 10 tips to help you.

This article is not sponsored, and the excitement of using the train in Europe, is my very own!

For travelling across Europe, or from Germany, please contact: Deutsche Bahn or take a look at my country destination page!

It’s January!

I’ll be making an announcement this month that will either having me jumping up and down like a Jack-in-the-Box, or crying over my hot cocoa! Find out throughout January!

The 10th British Shorts Film Festival is taking place from 12th – 18th January, 2017

Berlin Fashion Week will take place from 17th –  20th January, 2017

The British Council Literature Seminar – #BritLitBerlin – will take place from 26.01.17 – 28.01.17

The 67th Berlin International Film Festival, otherwise known as the Berlinale, will take place from 09.02.17 – 19.02.17

Strictly Stand Up – The English Comedy Night will take place at the Quatsch comedy Club on 15.02.17. Save the Date!

If you’re not in Berlin in January, it’s a darn shame!

January is going to be dramatic!

Watch this space!

Please also note that there is now a Booking.com affiliate link (for the very first time) connected to a few hotels. Please consider using the link, because every time some sort of accommodation is booked via my link I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself! A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

How to use the train in Europe: 10 tips to help you.
How to use the train in Europe: 10 tips to help you.

Have you ever used the train across Europe? What are your stories? Spill the beans!

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post, please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

How I can afford a life of travel. Don’t choose. Have it all! But you have to take action to get it!!

You have to take action to get it!!
You have to take action to get it!!

It’s 2017 and it’s January. At the beginning of every new year, it’s the norm to think about what you did last year and what you’re going to do this year.

Last year, I travelled to 10 counties. 10 countries!

However did I do that?

My husband - The Music Producer and I in Milan - Italy.
My husband – The Music Producer and I in Milan – Italy.

I’m not a multi-millionaire. Neither is my husband!

I didn’t win the lottery.

I didn’t quit my job.

I didn’t change my lifestyle.

I didn’t throw my one and only child into boarding school.

I didn’t re-locate to a warmer (cheaper) climate.

I didn’t sell my stuff!

The Music Producer and “The Tall Young Gentleman” - Fixing bikes. As boys do!
The Music Producer and “The Tall Young Gentleman” – Fixing bikes. As boys do!

So how did I do it?

Well, if you look at my About Me page, you will see that I am married, I have a son, and I have a job as a School Vice – Principal / Social Media Manager in Berlin, as well as this wonderful lifestyle, travel, expat blog!

What I mean to say is that I live a normal life. Just like you.

I’m married, in a relationship with someone, or have been single. Just like you.

I have family responsibilities. Just like you.

I have a full-time job. Just like you.

And by god. I have a daily budget. Absolutely, just like you.

"The Tall Young Gentleman" in Switzerland!
“The Tall Young Gentleman” in Switzerland!

And yet.

And yet…..

There was something that I did differently that might have been slightly the opposite of you.

I wanted to travel to more destinations last year, and I did.

Me at the Grotto in the Algarve - Portugal!
Me at the Grotto in the Algarve – Portugal!

I wanted to get on that plane and go to the Philippines. I wanted to visit a Chinese-speaking country. I wanted to give Spain another chance, so we went to other parts of Spain. In fact, we loved the region so much, that we added a week to Portugal as well! I wanted to take that train to Switzerland, so we did. OMG! “The Tall Young Gentleman” and I were spending money over the summer, as if it were going out of fashion, so we decided to invest in sandwiches, salad and cake whilst travelling to Luxembourg. We sort of missed our transport in Denmark, and had to buy a new ticket in Copenhagen. Again!

We were desperate to travel through the peak season of the summer holidays, so we used all the summer weekends!

We took the long-distance-inter-country-night-train.

From Berlin.

"The Tall Young Gentleman" didn't look too happy that for Switzerland, we took the Sparpreis Europa city night line train!
“The Tall Young Gentleman” didn’t look too happy that for Switzerland, we took the Sparpreis Europa city night line train!

I’m totally mad! But I did it anyway LOL!

The point I’m making is that you don’t have to do anything drastic if you want to afford a life of travel.

You don’t have to choose between having it all and having nothing at all, and you definitely don’t have to quit your lifestyle!

I'm looking gorgeous in the Philippines! ©Scott Herder - BoboandChiChi.com
I’m looking gorgeous in the Philippines!
©Scott Herder – BoboandChiChi.com

I’m living proof of that.

Oh yes, I’ve done my GAP year, and my backpacking era. I’ve slept in a casino, I’ve been in a hostel where not 1 but 2 complete strangers, were sleeping on my €2 /$3 per night bed! I’ve been to Scotland where my B&B (which I had already paid for mind you), had completely disappeared. Completely! I’ve booked hotels in Italy and couldn’t remember the name of our 5-star historical hotel. (thankfully, I remembered where I first saw it. In the New York Times)! I had an awful time in Barcelona, had two flight delays and ended up having to spend the complete night at the airport as my final destination was two (2) hours away, and there was no transport that could take me there!

Heck! I even missed my flight to Qatar and had to go to Korea instead!

I’ve adjusted my travelling style over time according to my circumstances, who I’m travelling with, my budget, and my mood!

And let me tell you. I’m not 20 anymore so those fleapit hostels, motels, cheap-I-don’t-wanna-know-who-slept-here-previously are definitely now gone!

Yes, I’m going to keep an eye on my hard-working money, but no, I’m no longer going to be sharing a room with 20 people, 10 people or even 5 other people!

Our bedroom at the Villa Akacja, Leba in Poland.
Our bedroom at the Villa Akacja, Leba in Poland.

Nope!

Those days were fun, but they’re over.

Absolutely.

I think!!

This is how we felt when we discovered the outrageous hotel / hostel prices in Copenhagen. I really couldn't justify the cost!
This is how we felt when we discovered the outrageous hotel / hostel prices in Copenhagen. I really couldn’t justify the cost!

In short, I’m enormously happy to go to hostels and we went to quite a few last year, but we paid that little bit extra for two (2) private rooms (since our child is a teenager and a great traveller too), privacy, calmness, and security. We also went to fancy hotel resorts and even slept in an antiquated classical castle, on the German seaside!

So, how can you have it all?

If you’re under 25 years old, you don’t need it all, and that’s the darn truth!

Get yourself a backpack for motivation, work hard, then take a gap year!
Get yourself a backpack for motivation, work hard, then take a gap year!

Get yourself a backpack, work for a couple of months in a local shop, pub, or business. Take a gap year before university or after university, in the summer, in the winter, or whatever, and whenever, have about €1,000 / $1,000 or £1,000 at the initial stage. and you’re good to go!

I’m not talking about an around-the-world trip here or flight costs, just the old let’s-see-how-far-this-money-will-take me scenario. Grab an old car, grab a few friends, and off you go. If you’re in Europe, stay on the continent and do a road trip. Ditto the Americas. But my goodness, the USA is good for the greatest roadtrip of your life. If you’re in Asia, you’re gonna have a thrilling great time.

And when it’s over, it’s over!

You come back, buckle down, save up, and then do it again.

Properly!

Grab a few friends, and off you go. You're gonna have a thrilling great time!
Grab a few friends, and off you go. You’re gonna have a thrilling great time!

Now for those of you over 25 years old with jobs, families, responsibilities, and crossroads in front of you, do what I do.

I live life to the full, I work hard at my office and on my blog, and I get creative.

Yes, creative.

"The Tall Young Gentleman" having fun in Bangkok.
“The Tall Young Gentleman” having fun in Bangkok.
  • Our son is 14 years old which means I can’t travel in the low season. Just like you.

What do I do?

I book ahead. Far ahead!

In 2012, we went on a 3 week trip to Tuscany. In August!

I know. I know. I forgot it was going to be boiling. Don’t judge me!

Anyway, I took out a map, planned the places that we wanted to go and started doing research and contacting hostels, hotels, villas and castles. Yes, castles. And the most we paid for our 300-year-old-5-star-hotel-in-Pisa-on-the-river was €52.00 per day. For 2 rooms, en-suite including breakfast! For the 3 of us LOL!

We started planning in 2011.

Ouch! I'm still smiling. I'm still smiling! Even though there's a monkey on my head in Bali! Photo @Frank Böster
Ouch! I’m still smiling. I’m still smiling! Even though there’s a monkey on my head in Bali!
Photo @Frank Böster

In 2014, we went to four (4) destinations outside Europe where we live. We went to Thailand, Indonesia, Qatar, and Korea. We started planning it in 2012.

In 2015, we went to the Baltic regions of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland. Actually, we took a ferry to Helsinki, but still! Anyway, we took a bus-coach. The journey took us 26 hours, and we were knackered and exhausted, but we didn’t die!

We started planning it in 2014.

In 2016, I went back to Asia, but our family trips were firmly based in Europe. Brexit or not! We went to Spain, Portgual, Denmark, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Slovakia, and other parts of Germany.

Again, planning started in 2015, and all were in consideration of the school holidays!

The outcome of Brexit was crazy, but it shouldn't stop you travelling! @Visit England - Rich J Jones
The outcome of Brexit was crazy, but it shouldn’t stop you travelling!
@Visit England – Rich J Jones
  • If you live in Europe, you get a minimum of 24 holidays per year and between 11-15 public holidays on top of that. That makes 35 days. Many get more! If you start your holidays on Friday evening or Saturday morning, you’ve got the weekends too. When I went to India, I went for 4 weeks but on paper, I actually went for 17 working days or 2.5 weeks!

And how did I do this?

Over Easter and May Day weekend. And depending on the year, if the public holiday is in the middle of the week (like Xmas 2015) you can just take the Monday and Tuesday off and you’ve got the weekend on both sides anyway. That makes 9 days off but 2 official holidays.

Boom!!

"The Tall Young Gentleman" skiing at Rokytnice nad Jizerou - the Czech Republic!!
“The Tall Young Gentleman” skiing at Rokytnice nad Jizerou – the Czech Republic!

If you live in Europe, everywhere is so close. Poland is 1.5 hours away from Berlin. Denmark about 4-5 hours. By car.

England is 1.5 hours away by plane. France, Greece, and Italy, are about 2-3 hours. Spain, Turkey, Portugal, Morocco, and Egypt about 3-4 hours.

By train, the sky is the European limit. As for coaches or buses, we travelled all the way from Finland for all of €50, and we didn’t die!

In short, distance isn’t an issue.

You can fly, take the car, train, bus, sail, or even cycle! Europe is great for the bicycle. If cash is short, camping is available all over Europe, as well as bunkhouses, hostels and couchsurfing for absolutely free!

My family & I in Thailand - All smiles and bunny ears at the end of a great day at Baanchang Elephant Park.
My family & I in Thailand – All smiles and bunny ears at the end of a great day at Baanchang Elephant Park.
  • We’re comfortable. We’re middle-class. Just like you.

What do I do?

We save, budget and plan how much we can reasonably spend.

It took us 2 years to save for our Asia trip, and so our budget in Asia was €100 per day. We spent about €850 for a flight from Berlin-Bangkok-Bali-Berlin each. We spent about €150.00 flying around in Asia itself each rather than taking the rickety all night train, and we spent between €18 per person for a lovely wooden chalet in Thailand and €70 per night for a complete house in Bali! We were there for a month.

  • Book ahead.

Far ahead!

And as for Poland, I paid €26 per night for the lovely floor-heated-free-WIFI-on-the Baltic-Sea double room!

If the budget is “reasonable” then use B&B’s, pensions, and small or budget hotels.

"The Tall Young Gentleman" with the Pearly King in London.
“The Tall Young Gentleman” with the Pearly King in London.

If you’ve got the cash. Go for it. Plenty of wonderful places in which you’ll be treated like royalty!

  • We keep our eyes open and go on various mailing lists. Just like you.
20 years of EasyJet flying!
20 years of EasyJet flying!

So go ahead and register with airlines and transport corporations that you like, and as many as you like.

Register with hotel and hostel brands that you like. They always have special deals and discount offers for their members. I once flew to Krakow with EasyJet for free! And why? Because I was on their mailing list and it was a new destination.

If you’re travelling miles apart, book ahead and take a plane.

It’s generally not worth travel hacking within Europe as flights are so cheap, and destinations are short.

If money is an issue, there are plenty of no-frills, low budgets airlines available to you such as EasyJet and the like. If you book ahead, fares can be as little as €4.99, sometimes less!

"The Tall Young Gentleman" taking to the sails in Mardorf.
“The Tall Young Gentleman” taking to the sails in Mardorf.

You can also go by boat and sail away onto the sea which is exactly what we did when we went to Finland!

In many cases, trains are cheaper than planes if you book ahead, and certainly in Germany, children under 15 years old are completely and utterly free! We travelled to Budapest from Berlin which was a thirteen (13) hour train journey and it only cost €69.00 for myself and my boy. First class!

For train travel all around the world check out the website of The Man in Seat Sixty-One . . . or Deutsche Bahn.

Keira Knightley on the passenger train in Poland!
Keira Knightley on the passenger train in Poland!

But remember, if you’re using the Deutsche Bahn website, change the location to Germany and use the English word for Deutschland which is Germany! NOT the UK/Ireland one! And then change the language to English!

  • Be creative with flexibility! We have school and jobs. Just like you.
Just because you have a fixed job, doesn't mean that you can't look for an adventure!
Just because you have a fixed job, doesn’t mean that you can’t look for an adventure!

Just because you have a fixed job, doesn’t mean that you can’t be flexible. If you’re looking for an adventure. Use skycanner and go for “anywhere” within your budget and then go on the airline’s own website.

It pays to be a little flexible if you can. You don’t have to limit yourself. You don’t even have to make up your mind. Use your home-base as a starting point and then go for “anywhere” and just keep trying out different destinations until you’re happy with it, or the location is within your budget.

Go to Eastern Europe instead of Western Europe.

Go to South America instead of North America.

Go to Wales instead of England.

Or not.

Don’t choose. Go where you want to go.

If you're American, and you only feel comfortable visiting other American cities, that's alright too!
If you’re American, and you only feel comfortable visiting other American cities, that’s alright too!

If you live in North America, I know that it’s more complicated. However, if you’ve worked hard, don’t feel guilty. TAKE your holidays and USE them for your own pleasure. Don’t paint the porch. The porch can wait.

Go to that place that you’ve always wanted to go to. Do the road trip. Fly to Argentina.

If you feel more comfortable staying in North America, then stay in North America. North America is an amazing destination and so beautiful. I’m not here to guilt trip you. It’s your holiday.

If you feel more comfortable, going on a package tour. Go for it.

If you feel more comfortable travelling with the whole family. It’s your call.

Stuffed sticky rice wrapped up in a banana leaf in Bangkok. Go on. Try it!
Stuffed sticky rice wrapped up in a banana leaf in Bangkok. Go on. Try it!
  • Don’t forget to ask. We love a bargain. Just like you.

Ask for discounts. Ask for a bigger room. Ask for an included breakfast. Ask for WiFi. Ask for an extra bed. Ask for free parking. Ask about children prices, student prices, “elderly” prices, corporate prices, even regional or local prices. If you’re from “there” let them know. You never know. If you don’t ask, they can’t help you, or reduce the prices.

Ask, and ask again.

Being a British European means being widely travelled.
Being a British European means being widely travelled.

As far as international relations is concerned, last year was a disaster so I’m taking part in bringing the world together as part of a Pledge to Travel campaign.

I’m going to #ExploreMore2017. You should too.

It doesn’t matter if it’s “only” 2 months, 2 weeks, or 2 days. Just know that you can afford to travel. You can have it all.

I'm a very happy British lifestyle, expat, travel blogger. Right here in the beautiful city of Berlin - © Pascale Scerbo Sarro
I’m a very happy British lifestyle, expat, travel blogger. Right here in the beautiful city of Berlin –
© Pascale Scerbo Sarro

And now for what you’ve all been waiting for…..Where am I going in 2017?

Drum roll pleeeeease!

Travel plans this year are:

Romania
Romania
  • Romania
  • The Czech Republic
Croatia
Croatia
  • Croatia
  • France
Lake Bled in Slovenia
Lake Bled in Slovenia
  • Slovenia
  • Holland
Sweden
Sweden
  • Sweden
  • England
Russia
Russia
  • Russia
  • Poland
The next TBEX Europe Conference is in Ireland. Again! Ho! For the the luck of the lovely Irish!
The next TBEX Europe Conference is in Ireland. Again!
Ho! For the luck of the lovely Irish!
  • Ireland for TBEX (the Travel Bloggers Exchange Conference)
  • Austria
Austria
Austria
  • And of course, Germany! Ho! Ho! Ho!
Beer for everyone in Germany 'cos the drinks are on meeeee!
Beer for everyone in Germany ‘cos the drinks are on meeeee!

I travel a lot for leisure and pleasure. I live in Germany which many consider to be an expensive Western nation.

I can afford a life of travel and a comfortable Berlin lifestyle.

I choose to have it all.

HOW I CAN AFFORD A LIFE OF TRAVEL. DON’T CHOOSE. HAVE IT ALL! BUT YOU HAVE TO TAKE ACTION TO GET IT!!

I pledge to travel and to share others how to do so too! #ExploreMore2017
I pledge to travel and to share others how to do so too!
#ExploreMore2017

This article is not sponsored, and the thrilling countries that I’m going to visit in 2017, are my very own!

It’s January. Well, hello there!

I’ll be making an announcement this month that will either having me jumping up and down like a Jack-in-the-Box, or crying over my hot cocoa! Find out throughout January!

The British Shorts Film Festival will take place from 12th – 18th January, 2017

Berlin Fashion Week will take place from 17th –  20th January, 2017.  Save the Date!

At the beginning of  January, I’ll be going to Holland, and at the end of it, I’ll be skiing in my favourite place, Rokytnice nad Jizerou, in the Czech Republic!

If you’re not in Berlin in January, you’re missing out!

January is going to be spectacular!

Watch this space!

Please also note that there is now a Booking.com affiliate link (for the very first time) connected to a few hotels. Please consider using the link, because every time some sort of accommodation is booked via my link I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself! A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

How I can afford a life of travel. Don't choose. Have it all! But you have to take action to get it!!
How I can afford a life of travel. Don’t choose. Have it all! But you have to take action to get it!!

Do you have any travel plans for 2017? Join me and let me know where you’re going to #ExploreMore2017!

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post, please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!
9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

Have you ever been to Slovakia?

You know the one.

Slovakiaaaaaaaaa. Not Sloveeeeenia!

Most people haven’t or if they have, they’ve sort of breezed through.

In Prague reading something and looking all serious, but not completely serious!
In Prague reading something and looking all serious, but not completely serious!

On a day trip from either Budapest or Vienna.

Or worse, as an after-thought from visiting Prague or Krakow, which is no-where near the capital that is Bratislava!

Ah well!

Let’s have a look at Slovakian or Slovak food shall we.

Communist vodka & Jaffa cakes in Warsaw!
Communist vodka & Jaffa cakes in Warsaw!

Traditional Slovak cuisine, like Polish cuisine or Estonian cuisine, as well as Czech cuisine, is rather rustic in nature and tends towards the stodgy side of things!  These include such delights as wheat, potatoes, milk, dairy, pork, cabbage, and onions!

To a lesser degree beef, poultry, lamb and goat, eggs, beans, corn on the cob, lentils, parsley, carrots, wild mushrooms, and other vegetables are often used to create soup, and other dishes. Fruit like apples, plums, apricots, peaches,  and cherries, are also traditionally eaten.

9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!
9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

It wasn’t too long ago that families had to grow and produce food for themselves, or trade or barter with their neighbours, or in local markets.

As a result, wheat was milled into bread, dumplings and noodles. Potatoes were boiled or made into potato dumplings, and milk was made into products such as butter, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, and various types of local rustic cheese.

Pork is the big thing, and typically made into sausages.

Pork is typically made into sausages, but not always! 9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!
Pork is typically made into sausages, but not always! 9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

The Slovakians or Slovaks also have their own traditional blood sausage, smoked bacon, and lard.

Beef and chicken, as well as rabbit and venison is widely used, and sometimes goose.

Black bread or rye bread is as a direct influence from Austria, and many Slovakians or Slovaks eat bread for breakfast or for lunch with soup. Very frequently for dinner too!

Traditional Slovakian or Slovak drinks tend to be milk or beer!
Traditional Slovakian or Slovak drinks tend to be milk or beer!

Traditional drinks tend to be milk or beer!

We went to Bratislava, and this is what we had!

9 TRADITIONAL EAST EUROPEAN THINGS TO EAT IN SLOVAKIA!

9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!
9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

We went to this really neat place called the Slovak Pub.

At the Slovak Pub in Bratislava - 9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!
At the Slovak Pub in Bratislava – 9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

From the outside it looks really touristy but loads of people inside were also Slovak or Czech, so feel free to go there. They also had heavily discounted prices for students and the local population!

  • We had the national dish of Slovakia called Bryndzové Halušky

Bryndzové Halušky is a type of local potato dumplings (similar to gnocchi), mixed with traditional bryndza sheep cheese, and grated smoked sheep cheese, sprinkled on top with bacon pieces.

The national dish of Slovakia is called Bryndzové Halušky.
The national dish of Slovakia is called Bryndzové Halušky.

It’s a bit gooey and looks like porridge. I looove porridge but I didn’t like this dish, although “The Tall Young Gentleman” did.

He even had my portion, so that’s alright!

Cost: €4.50

  • We also had the Vychodniarsky Rezen
The Vychodniarsky Rezen is an Eastern Slovak schnitzel!
The Vychodniarsky Rezen is an Eastern Slovak schnitzel!

The Vychodniarsky Rezen which is an Eastern Slovak schnitzel made from chicken breast, green beans, ham, and cheese served with potato wedges and a few leaves of rucola!

Cost: €5.80

  • A large glass of Frankovka Modra or red wine went down quite well. I had two!
A large glass of Frankovka Modra or red wine, went down quite well!
A large glass of Frankovka Modra or red wine, went down quite well!

Cost: €1.80

  • Son had a large glass of Kofola
A large glass of Kofola - a popular traditional Slovak cola drink! ©Martin Strachoň
A large glass of Kofola – a popular traditional Slovak cola drink!
©Martin Strachoň

Kofola is a traditional Slovak cola drink and is very popular among the local Slovak or Slovakian people.

Cost: €1.30

The next place we tried was in the Old Town.

We went to a restaurant called Venturska Kubovna.

Even though we're tourists, stop cheating us! Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
Even though we’re tourists, stop cheating us!
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

The food was great, the outdoor location was lovely, the prices were fantastic, but the service was rubbish, and I was not impressed in the least!

They seemed to think that because they get a whole barrage of tourists, who don’t know any better, the staff can blatantly cheat them.

I hate people who cheat.

I consider it akin to stealing.

I hate stealing too.

Srop scamming us in Slovakia!
Stop scamming us in Slovakia!

I’ve experienced this numerous times in both Slovakia AND the Czech Republic where prices are so cheap that it’s easy for the staff to change the order around, add “extra” bits that the customer didn’t request, or just simply, serve the most expensive item on the menu, even though the customer ordered something completely different!

In this case, not only did the restaurant get our order wrong, they even had the cheek to charge the complete bill of their local Slovakian mates, from the next table!

My suspicions were raised when the bill started with the butter that I ordered, but never received…..!

I had promised “The Tall Young Gentleman” a feast, so this is what we had:

  • A “Klubovňa” hamburger
A huge “Klubovňa” hamburger in the Old Town in Bratislava, Slovakia
A huge “Klubovňa” hamburger in the Old Town in Bratislava, Slovakia

A huge “Klubovňa” hamburger is a beef burger with homemade BBQ sauce, bacon, cheddar, served with sour pickles, onions, french fries, and a small pot of baked garlic mayonnaise sauce!

Cost: A hefty €10.99

I’m not into burgers. Or beef for that matter!

I prefer lamb.

I know!

Right!

Anyway, I wasn’t very hungry so I had:

  • A Gril. bravcova klobasa
The bravcova klobasa - a Slovakian grilled pork sausage served with mustard, horseradish and a pepper!
The bravcova klobasa – a Slovakian grilled pork sausage served with mustard, horseradish and a pepper!

The Gril. bravcova klobasa is a Slovakian grilled pork sausage served with a small bowl of mustard, a small bowl of spicy horseradish sauce, a small basket of bread, with a spicy hot pepper stuck on top of the sausage!

I was so impressed with the sausage that here is a closer look!

The bravcova klobasa - a most delicious Slovakian spicy grilled pork sausage!
The bravcova klobasa – a most delicious Slovakian spicy grilled pork sausage!

Cost: €5.99

After that, we decided to have dessert.

  • We had a Smotanova torta jahodova
A smotanova torta jahodova sponge biscuit cake filled with cream, vanilla & a strawberry purée topping, covered in kiwi!
A smotanova torta jahodova sponge biscuit cake filled with cream, vanilla & a strawberry purée topping, covered in kiwi!

A smotanova torta jahodova is a sponge biscuit cake filled with cream, vanilla, a strawberry purée topping, vanilla, and served with kiwi fruit and castor sugar!

It was quite delicious!

Cost: €2.99

  • We washed it all down with a huge glass of Zlanty bazant tank beer and Kofola – the traditional Slovak cola drink!
All washed down with a huge glass of Slovak beer and Kofola!
All washed down with a huge glass of Slovak beer and Kofola!

Cost for the beer: €2.78

Cost for the Kofola: €1.69

On our last night we went to a local restaurant just one (1) minute away from our hostel.

The restaurant was called Reštaurácia Štefánka.

Reštaurácia Štefánka in Bratislava, Slovakia
Reštaurácia Štefánka in Bratislava, Slovakia

The only person who spoke English was a teenage boy, but the food and service was so top-notch that if I ever went back to Bratislava, I might actually stay there instead!

I liked what I saw.

It’s a bit old school reminding me of the Hotel Neptun Castle on the Polish Baltic Sea, but the restaurant also has a hotel that was opened in 1904, is authentic, local, historical, and a family business.

So why not?

They also had proper Slovak or Slovakian prices so we had the set menu, as the menu was in Slovak and we didn’t really know what we were going to get lol!

  • Our first course was a dish of Slovak or Slovakian pierogi dumplings and Bryndzové Halušky.
A dish of Slovak or Slovakian pierogi dumplings and Bryndzové Halušky.
A dish of Slovak or Slovakian pierogi dumplings and Bryndzové Halušky.

I love pierogi of course, so that was a no-brainer, but I only nibbled at the Bryndzové Halušky, as I didn’t like it!

I discreetly swopped my half-full dish with my son’s empty one, as the hotel owner was hovering, proud of her food.

  • The second course for “The Tall Young Gentleman” was Viennese veal cutlet or Wiener Schnitzel.
Viennese veal cutlet or Wiener Schnitzel
Viennese veal cutlet or Wiener Schnitzel

Oh yeah!

Yum!

Viennese veal cutlet or Wiener Schnitzel is very thin, breaded and pan-fried cutlet made from veal slices, butterfly cut, lightly pounded flat, and rolled in flour, whipped eggs, and bread crumbs.

Phew!

It’s the national dish of Austria and due to the regional and historical closeness, found it’s way to Slovakia.

It was served with slices of lemon, and a side salad of tomatoes, lettuce, and spring onions.

The schnitzel was so huge that even “The Tall Young Gentleman” couldn’t manage it!

  • My second course was grilled salmon with green beans served with slices of lemon, a side salad, and a small plate of potato wedges! 
Grilled salmon with green beans, lemon slices, and a side salad.
Grilled salmon with green beans, lemon slices, and a side salad.

Here’s another look at the whole picture. Including the wedges!

Grilled salmon with green beans, lemon slices, a side salad. Including the potato wedges!
Grilled salmon with green beans, lemon slices, a side salad. Including the potato wedges!
  • For dessert, we had a lovely scoop of ice-cream, melon chunks, and grapes.
A lovely scoop of ice-cream, melon chunks, and grapes.
A lovely scoop of ice-cream, melon chunks, and grapes.

What a delight!

Cost for all three (3) servings: A marvellous €8.99

Cost for a glass of wine: €1.50

Cost for a glass of Kofola: €1.50

I don’t think you could do any better. And on a Sunday night too!

That’s it for now.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing about art and films in Berlin, travels to the German Baltic Sea, as well as a comprehensive post on how to use the train in Europe!

In October, I’ll be travelling to the TBEX ASIA travel conference in the Philippines, and revealing the extra Chinese-speaking country. It’s a new one!

In November, I’ll be travelling to Austria.

Yippee!

9 TRADITIONAL EAST EUROPEAN THINGS TO EAT IN SLOVAKIA!

9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!
9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

This article is not sponsored, and all opinions and the tasty sausage, cheese and ice-cream that we licked our chops for, are my very own!

I’ll be at the official photocall for THE ONE Grand Show before the World Premiere at the Friedrichstadt-Palast on October 6th. With more than 100 artists on the world’s biggest theatre stage, a budget of over €11 million, and extravagant costumes designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, you know it’s going to be epic!

I’ll be attending a special By Invitation Only Berlin – Alternative Fashion Week (BAFW) press evening on September 28th.

I’ll also be going to the fashion shows at Berlin Alternative Fashion Week from September 28th – October 1st.

Save the Date!

September is going to be Wow!

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & Facebook!

If you’re not in Berlin in September, I can’t image where else you would be!

Watch this space!

9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!
9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!

Have you ever had traditional East European food? Can you think of other Slovak or Slovakian food? Can you guess the Chinese-speaking country that I’ll be going to? Have your say!

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com