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Budget holiday in Europe

Budget holiday in Europe
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First Published: Fri, Aug 03 2007. 12 16 AM IST
Updated: Fri, Aug 03 2007. 12 16 AM IST
Think twice about hotels
Eurocheapo.com offers no-nonsense reviews of budget hotels in dozens of cities; in Rome, it recommends the Suore di S. Elisabetta, a convent on a hill just south of the Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, for anyone who doesn’t mind an 11pm curfew or a religious environment.
Try Europe’s budget airlines
No-frills carriers fly Europeans cheaply from city to city. For instance, Ryanair ran a large summer sale last month, with fares as low as €10 (Rs554) to Brussels, Pisa and Dublin from London. Pack light to keep costs down; these airlines may charge for checked luggage or bags weighing above specified limits. These airlines often fly out of smaller, somewhat more inconvenient, airports, so you should add in the extra travel time to get to them.
Avoid airport cabs
If you pack light, you’ll find it manageable to get to, and from, the airport on commuter trains and subways. The cheapest way to get to Paris from Charles de Gaulle Airport is via the Paris regional commuter train, which has several stops in central Paris. It also connects with the metro system. Cost: €8.20 against roughly €50 by taxi, depending on traffic.
Ride cheaply in town
Off-peak Day Travelcards that cost £5.10 (about Rs420) can be used after 9.30am for unlimited travel that day on either the Tube or the Dockland Light Railway in central London. A one-day ticket for unlimited travel on Berlin’s public transportation system, the BVG, costs €6.10 for travel in Zones A and B, where most tourist attractions lie.
Save on telephone charges
If you have access to broadband or Wi-Fi and a computer, use Skype or another Internet telephone service, which usually costs about two or three cents a minute for international calls. If you have a cellphone that operates on GSM networks, used by most countries in Europe, use a local SIM card, a removable chip that determines the phone’s network and number. It makes local calls inexpensive, and incoming calls are typically free.
Watch the bank fees
Before you leave, check with your bank and credit card issuers to find out what fees they charge for purchases and ATM withdrawals made abroad. Most credit cards charge from 1-3% of a purchase after conversion to dollars. Bankrate.com posts a list of what some of the major banks and credit cards charge.
Pick the low-hanging fruit
Free cultural summer opportunities in Europe include Wednesday concerts at St Petrikirche in Hamburg, Germany, and free midweek tours and Sunday organ recitals at Notre Dame in Paris. Entry is free to all national museums and galleries in Britain, including the Tate Modern and the British Museum in London. In Berlin, you can enter many state museums free for the last four hours on Thursday evenings.
If you’re making a big purchase
Ask if the shop participates in a tax-refund programme. European value-added taxes can add up to 25% to the price but, if you follow the rules, you can often get much of this money back at the airport.
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First Published: Fri, Aug 03 2007. 12 16 AM IST
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