How to Visit Europe for cheap from Mauritius?

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Let’s face it. Mauritians love Europe and Europe is great place to travel to, and a place where most Mauritians feel the most comfortable outside their own country. The fact is, right now, and for the foreseeable future, traveling within Europe is cheap. Traveling throughout Europe has never been easier or as inexpensive with airlines as Air Mauritius, Emirates, Corsair and other Companies.

If
you are young, don’t have unlimited funds, or you can put up with the
less glamorous side of no-frills travel(waiting in lines, no assigned
seats, possibly being up to an hour late), but still want to see
Europe, than this article is for you. If you’re like me, like most
Mauritians, you want to see a lot of Europe but you don’t necessarily
have the two months it would take. Let’s say you have two weeks. With
the proper planning, you can see up to five countries in two weeks
and not feel slighted at all.

Ok,
first thing is first. Getting to Europe. We won’t speak too much on
booking flights from Mauritius to Europe. Now if you want to see only
one European city, like say Paris, or Rome, or London, then get a
direct flight to these Cities with Air Mauritius, Emirates, Corsair
or other travel companies. But almost always the cheapest destination
to fly to in Europe is London. Its also the perfect city to begin a
jaunt across Europe.

So
here we are, in London. There are four airports in the London area.
But do not make the mistake and assume that they are close. The four
largest airports associated with it are Stansted, Heathrow, Luton,
and Gatwick.

Now
the probability is that you will fly into Heathrow, the largest
airport. Getting to and from these airports can be done by bus or
taxi. The Bus between Stansted and Heathrow will charge about 50GBP
one way, and the trick is getting a round trip from Heathrow to your
airport, because a round trip only costs an extra 5GBP. From Heathrow
to Gatwick it takes about 70 minutes, but costs only 12GBP each way.
Travel between the airports in London will range from $25-100 US
dollars, so remember to figure bus fare into your overall travel
expenses.

Onto the no-frills airlines. Ryanair flies just about everywhere in Europe. Ryanair has flights in every Western European country excluding Switzerland. Countries they travel to also include Sweden, Norway, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia. Its main airport of departures is London Stansted. A great number of flights also originate from Frankfurt Hahn, Barcelona Girona, Rome Ciampino, and Dublin.

Easyjet
flies to all of Western Europe(including Switzerland), Finland,
Sweden, Norway, Slovenia, Greece, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary
and Poland. Easyjet makes use of London’s Stansted, Gatwick and
Luton, as well as Berlin Schoenefeld as major departure airports. As
with both Ryanair and Easyjet, check their respective websites for
listings of all their destinations.

Both
websites post their fares for six months in advance, so it is
possible to book early. Most of the time however, this is not
necessary. Most travel plans should be made about a month to two
months before the actual trip will take place. 
Ryanair and
Easyjet both use similar, if not the same jets as most domestic US
flights, so have no fear about boarding one of their planes.

The
fares are extremely inexpensive, for example they offer specials
where some flights are FREE, and all you pay is the tax. There are a
few reasons for this. The first is the most important. They fly out
of the smaller, out of the way airports opposed to major airlines,
which fly out of the major airports. For example, instead of flying
out of Heathrow(which you most certainly flew in to), you would fly
out of Luton, Stansted, or Gatwick. Another example can be seen in
Rome, where one would fly out of Ciampino, the military airport,
instead of the main larger airport, Leonardo da Vinci. Same thing in
Paris. An important point to remember is that these smaller airports
are usually farther away from the main city, and require public
transport(buses or taxis) to reach.

The
good news is that both Easyjet and Ryanair provide shuttle service
from the airport to the city center and vice versa. The carriers pay
less to fly out of these lesser used airports, and thus fares are
significantly lower, too.

Another reason is that, like Southwest Airlines in the States, there are no assigned seating, as well as no paper tickets. If you’ve never flown Southwest, then compare boarding the flight to boarding a bus. No assigned seats, but if you arrive early, you can be first in the queue, or line. The higher you are in the queue, the priority you have in choosing your seat. So best not to take children under the ages of eight on these flights. But remember this is Europe, not the States, so people will be more accommodating if you want to sit with your party, traveling with children and so on.

A
note about paper tickets; some people need to hold a physical copy of
the actual ticket in their hand, and that is fine, just don’t expect
it on these flights. Print a copy of your receipt(which should have
the time of departure and arrival, as well as your name and
conformation number) if needed. When you check in they will ask for
your passport, and that’s it.

Another
way they are able to charge such low fares is because they charge for
luggage by the pound. On Easyjet and Ryanair both airlines allow you
one piece of carry on luggage, and another piece of check-in
luggage(up to 15Kg(33lbs) on Ryanair and 20Kg on Easyjet). Every Kg
after that Easyjet charges 6 Euro and Ryanair 7 Euro each, so pack as
light as possible. Check their respective websites for more specific
luggage weight issues.

Also,
no-frills means no frills. No drinks, no peanuts, no blankets,
nothing. A seat is all you paid for, and that’s all you get(but you
paid $20 for it!). The flight attendants will come around offering to
sell soda, sandwiches, all laid out on a nice laminated menu. The
portions are SMALL, and costly. If you can eat or get food at the
airport before you board, do it. The expensive food and beverage
costs are another reason that the flight is so inexpensive.

So
now you know why the tickets are so cheap. Besides saving money,
something else of note is that not every ticket is round trip.
One-way allows you to bounce around cities across Europe. That sounds
great, right? And it is. It’s just not as easy as it appears to be.
Ryanair and Easyjet do not have flights between every city that they
fly to. Meaning, it is possible one would have to fly back to London
in order to travel to another city, because there is no direct route.
But using a combination of Ryanair and Easyjet flights will work for
most travelers. They are also adding more routes daily, so check
there first.

But
we don’t want to spend most of trip in the air, flying back to the
same airport we’ve already been to just to get to another city. There
are other options. Other carriers, such as Virgin Atlantic and
national airlines(for example: Iberia in Spain, Alitalia in Italy,
Lufthansa in Germany, British Airways in England, AerLingus in
Ireland) may be viable options. Also, do not forget about the rail.
It is true, the Eurorail pass is outdated and extremely expensive.
But travel by rail between close cities is relatively easy. Tickets
can be purchased the day of travel, and will be inexpensive. Just
remember to allow enough time for a longer rail trip as opposed to a
flight.

Our two favorite options, if Ryanair and Easyjet can’t get you where you want to go, are Virgin Express and Corsair. 
Virgin Express travels throughout southern Europe, with their main point of origin being Brussels. It is possible to travel all throughout Spain, as well as Athens, Amsterdam, Rome, Milan and Berlin. Flights are not as inexpensive as Easyjet or Ryanair, but are usually cheaper than the national carriers.

All
the above mentioned airlines and such have provided us with a
beginning look at low cost travel in Europe but by no means a
comprehensive view. But they do show us it is possible to do
Europe(at least flight wise) for cheap. I know, I planned a trip in
which my girlfriend and I in two weeks saw Amsterdam, Rome,
Ljubljana, and Zagreb, used London as our hub, and spent less than
$500 in airfare for the BOTH of us.

It
can be done. Use the tools provided and any ones you find(let me
know) and forget paying the travel agent. Here are my final words of
advice.

Know
the exchange rate of the country you are traveling. Most countries in
Europe use the Euro, but not all. Bring some money in Traveler’s
Cheques, but if you have an ATM card, use it. You get the best
exchange rate of the day. Avoid taking out small amounts, its not
worth the fees. Currency Exchanges are rip-offs every place I’ve
been. Check exchange rates before you leave and during your stay at
www.xe.com.

Be
flexible! Not every plane, bus, train is going to be on time exactly.
Give yourself enough time to do everything you want before heading
toward the airport. Arrive at the airport as early as possible.
Remember that getting lost isn’t the end of the world. On that trip I
mentioned earlier, we were lost in Zagreb, it was raining, and it
took us three hours to find our hotel. But it happens. Most places
someone will speak your language, and you’ll get where you need to
go. Remember, most of all, planning your trip is half the fun of
actually going on the trip, so enjoy both. 

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