If you think that only big money, plush seats, a comfortable hotel can give you an enjoyable experience of travel, then you are wrong.
You are then just visiting a particular place as a tourist and not experiencing it.
Myself being an avid traveler is always careful and stringent on the budget.
Have a look at our five day trip to the Netherlands along with my partner-in-crime Deepa.
A trip which we decided four months back due to several home and work, factors got finalised only a month before the travel; hence we faced slight higher flight tickets.
Nevertheless, we compensated it by booking a lower price, off-the central city Airbnb stay.
We bought Maggie packets, dry snacks and I packed some poori and parantha with achar as well.
Day one – Take off and Tulip garden
Both of us finished our day’s job both at work and home, did all the background preparations and started packing our bags in the evening for an early morning flight.
Earth came shattering down when Deepa could not find her passport. It was only after an hour or so that things were in place and finally we were going!
We boarded our 2 am flight.
Twisted, walked, stretched, tried to sleep, watched back to back movies and finally landed in Paris at 8 am.
We were not keen to waste a day hence thought of taking a quick shower at the airport, but after searching a lot, we could not find any FREE shower facility at the airport other than business lounges. We are very frugal travelers, so we decided that we are fresh enough to carry on with the day(good realisation 🙂 )
We then boarded the flight to Amsterdam and reached Schipol airport at 1 pm.
We changed at the airport, grabbed our day bag and deposited our suitcase in the locker (6 Euro for a cabin size bag).
We then enquired about the best way to commute to Keukenhof (Tulip garden) and got the details right outside the airport.
We took a map, bought the tickets(52 Euro for two) which included day-long site seeing and bus transport to and fro from Schipol airport.
Keukenhof- Tulip Garden
Much before reaching the place the Bollywood lover in me was visualizing Rekha and Amitabh in “Dekha Ek khwab” song from Silsilay.
Ufff, the Goosebumps.
But in reality, it was myself and Deepa admiring the tulips, sipping coffee, clicking pics and collecting souvenirs. This place is beautiful, do not forget to grab a coffee, walk as much as possible and sit for a while to soak the array of colors.
We came back to the airport picked our bags and then took a train to Utrecht, that’s where we were staying.
Our apartment was a kilometer walk from the train station hence we dragged our trolleys and walked to the Air BnB
We faced a different type of traffic jam here with no honking or pollution. The streets filled with cyclists and we had to be careful not to bump into one.
We picked some grocery items for breakfast from a nearby supermart(again a tactics for cost-cutting).
Our apartment was small but clean and had all the essential stuff needed to make ourselves comfortable.
It was a long day; hence we slept off within no time.
Not to miss: sipping coffee by the garden and admire the colors
Can avoid: canal boat ride
Day 2 – I Amsterdam
We were up at 3.30am, being school drop timing in India, but we forced ourselves to sleep more reminding that WE ARE ON A HOLIDAY!
After having our breakfast of boiled eggs, bread with peanut butter and a glass of milk we were all set for the day(our standard breakfast every day)
We took a train to Amsterdam(8.60 Euro one way). We had booked a tour of Van Gogh museum (23 USD for a day-long pass). We spent a good time walking around the museum. The walky-talky came handy(10 Euro) as it gave a better insight into his paintings, work, and life.
We then strolled around the city, through the gardens, by lanes, sitting by the lake, chatting and just being ourselves.
By early evening we headed to Dam square as we had booked a FREE Red light district tour (we researched a lot for Free Tours- saves a lot of money).
The tour was fantastic. We learned a lot about the history of prostitution, the significance of red windows, chapel in the brothel and much more.
Prostitution and drugs are way too hyped in Amsterdam, but when we did the tour, it appeared that it is just a profession. Well, I must write a separate blog on this subject.
We strolled at leisure all over Amsterdam and finally took the last train back to our apartment
A day well spent
Not to miss: Red Light District Tour, Dam square, Bagel with cheese, VanGogh Museum
Can avoid: Anne Frank’s house, Canal ride, expensive tours
Day 3- Zaanse schans windmills , Volendam ,Marken , Edam and Haarlem
We took the train to Amsterdam and then boarded the bus to Zaanse Schans (all the information is readily available on google, and also at the train station, you need to walk around and enquire)
We reached the windmills and walked around. We goofed up a little on the return bus but finally made it to Marken.
Marken is a small laid back town, and I wanted to cycle around. We hired a bike and cycled from Marken to Edam and back. It was at this point when Deepa admitted that cycling was the best way to explore Europe, and I agreed.
We took a ferry ride to the harbor city, Volendam, walked a bit and then came back to our apartment via Amsterdam
A beautiful day by the countryside and also cycling around, my kind of a day!
Not to miss: Cheese shop at Zaanse Schans, cycling around Edam, smooth and quiet walk around Volendam, waffle with cream
Can avoid: street shopping at Marken(we faced racism)
Day 4- Hague and Delft
As per our itinerary, our day four was dedicated to cycle to the countryside but as we did that earlier we were open to anything.
After a lot of research, we decided to do a tour of North Holland which is, Hague, Delft, Rotterdam, Gouda
After reaching the station, we realized that our to and fro cost was too high. With the help of the ticket attendant, we decided for a whole day ticket which allowed multiple entries in the train, tram, and bus (48.8 Euro for two of us).
We exploited the ticket to the maximum and left no mode of transport to use under the offering (use, use, reuse)
As we reached Hague, we were delighted to see the universities around and also excellent shopping. But as we are very, budget travelers hence shopping and that too euro was not on our agenda.
We came to know about a beach close by, and we headed there. The sun was finally our after chilly days; hence we sat there for a long time, soaking ourselves in the sun and sinking in the sand.
Once satiated we were now heading towards Delft famous for its blue and white pottery.
We walked till the centrum, had our coffee and snacks and then took the train back to our apartment.
At night, we had a heartful of Maggie(imported from India), wine and chatted with the owner of our apartment. It great to exchange the culture, upbringing, outlook towards life and the belief system of people of different countries.
It was a beautiful evening.
Not to miss: Walking around Hague(you’ll be surprised at budget supermarkets and branded shops), beach, blue and white pottery in Delft
Can avoid: overindulgence in the pottery(it’s too beautiful, and you’ll end up buying a lot)
Day 5- Adieu
We packed our bags, had breakfast and went for a quick stroll around the city. We finally took the train to the airport. This time we were flying directly from Schiphol to Mumbai.
With all the beautiful memories of tulips, cycle ride, cheese, wine, walking, red light district, windmills, ferry ride, stroll across a deserted town, missing the bus, going on the wrong route, late-night Maggie, we bid adieu to Holland.
Some tips for a budget travel (detailed blog soon)
- Select a destination in advance as per your wish list
- Look out for best ticket rates across all airlines and websites
- Plan your savings as per the target. Like I start putting a particular amount from my earnings for my travel so that last minute expense doesn’t burden me.
- Select a budget and be very strict on it
- Use public transport as much as possible
- Walk as much as possible it serves two purposes: first, you don’t miss your workout keeping the calories in place second, it is the best way to explore any area
- Travel less and light, two jeans, two tees, that’s it – no garment, not even human beings get dirty in Europe.
- Research-research and google as much as possible for best tours, free tours, train tickets. Deepa is an avid traveler, and I learned this habit from her on this trip
Our expenses :
Flight tickets – 50K (you can easily get a 37K return if you book in advance )
Stay – 24K (I always prefer Air BnB, saves a lot of money)
Miscellaneous – 13K(train tickets, tours)
Shopping –(not counting as it is very subjective)
Take away: Be a local when going global.
choose experience over luxury