Posted in Europe, Hotel, Travel

Staying in boutique hotels versus chain hotels in Europe

First let me disclose that I am European so I am biased but I will try my very best to stay neutral in this topic as much as I can.

I hear it from American travelers all the time that boutique hotels in Europe don’t have elevators and air conditioning and now I just added a new concern to this list, according to American travel agents boutique hotels cannot accommodate large groups.

First, I would need to know what a large group is but there is more than one boutique hotel in every town; it takes no time to google their locations and drop off groups of tourists in multiple places, a short walking distance away.  I know it takes more work to coordinate it but no big deal (for me at least).

I always say there are two kinds of travelers: the one who travels in style and the one who travels on a budget.  If chain hotels are your only options due to comfort you will never get out of a city and discover a national park, tour a jungle, get close to a volcano, take a safari, track gorillas or polar bears, climb a mountain, stay in a castle and the list goes on.

On air conditioning: you only need air conditioning in the summer months but we are not talking about developing, third world countries here.  In Europe you don’t need AC everywhere, like in Scandinavian countries or high elevation of a mountain.  Also, please note that European houses are made of bricks or stones and since most homes have a concrete foundation their insulation is so much better than the American homes.  That being said European houses can stay cooler in the summer months and warmer in the winter.

Finding air conditioned hotel rooms in Europe is not hard at all, you just need to read the list of amenities the same way you check if there is breakfast or wifi at the property.  Keep in mind that our boutique hotels are not centrally air conditioned; we love the European Ductless System (EDS) where a small unit is placed on the wall in each room, operated by a remote control.  This is very energy efficient, easy and cheap to maintain and the best of all, it is healthier than the American system since you don’t breathe in dust and bacteria, safe for people with different allergies and sensitivities.  I moved to the USA 20+ years ago but I still catch a cold in the summer months just by walking in and out of heavily air conditioned places (house, car, work, offices, stores, etc) so I ended up installing an EDS at my lodge in the Virginian mountains.

I was in Algarve, Portugal where temperatures were around 85F but it did not feel that high due to the sea breeze; we just opened our windows and used ceiling fans. I kind of like it better, still remember how the sheer drapes were dancing in the breeze in our living room; way better than sitting in freezing temperatures looking at the beach.

Another example: I went to the southern region of Turkey and stayed in a cave hotel in Cappadokia. Cave hotels are carved into a mountain or are underground. I guarantee you won’t need AC here either!!  For the record you are not going to find a chain hotel in this region, furthermore, if you don’t book your cave hotel early, it will get sold out in no time since these hotels don’t have many rooms.

About elevators: Yes, most boutique hotels don’t have elevators so please read the property amenities.  Our buildings are small and old but these hotels are not skyscrapers. Europeans don’t mind taking stairs but most hotels have porters who are glad to take your luggage up to the 4th floor for a couple of Euros (you tip porters in chain hotels too, at least I hope you do); anyway, boutique hotels do not get taller than that.

If you are staying in a medieval town you may not be allowed to drive into historic downtown  (these are designated pedestrian zones) so you will need to park your car elsewhere and walk to your hotel while dragging your luggage with you on cobblestone streets.  That is not the end of the world, your luggage suffers a bigger damage just by being thrown around by airline baggage handles.  Walking in Europe is fun and is “part of the package” in case I am telling you something new today.  Walking anywhere is a must; you can’t avoid it.  Here is a true story for you: It took McDonalds over 6 years to be able to purchase a historic building in downtown Eger, Hungary because their large trucks would not fit these tight streets, never mind turning. There was also a risk that the cobblestone streets would get damaged from letting heavy trucks in but eventually they settled a deal preserving the town.

Venice, Italy would be another location where you would have hard time finding chain hotels since the city is built on canals but what is wrong with boutique hotels here?

Chain hotels: While they are widely known standard hotels, they all look alike. It happens a lot even in high end chain hotels that the sheets are not clean, the cups are not washed, the mattress is bed bug infested, the storage room and dumpster has roaches and mice.  There are luxury chain hotels as well but not many can afford that.  Boutique hotels will have problems too but the innkeepers are just taking a better care of their own property and do it with pride and certainly quicker to fix anything; it may happen that the innkeeper is also a handyman or somebody in his immediate family.

When you stay in a small hotel and dine in their establishment you get personalized service and make friends with the innkeeper and other guests.  You support local businesses that way versus staying in a chain hotel feeding the pockets of large corporates who don’t even live in the country you are visiting.

It is important where you stay at night, it adds fun to your trip. Try to make it outstanding by staying in a historic or unique boutique hotel in Europe, or an eco lodge in Bali, an ice hotel in Canada, a glass dome in Scandinavian countries, a cave hotel in Turkey, a tree lodge in Africa or a ski lodge in the Alps.  You can spend a night on a historic train in Russia, a bullet train in Finland, a glass top train in Alaska or the Shinkanzen train in Japan!  Make memories that last!

Clarification: once a chain hotel gets sold the franchise rules with its expected standards no longer apply!

In summary: you need to be comfortable when you travel but you also need to adjust a little bit to the country you are visiting or the activities you signed up for.  The world does not spin around you but you can make it comfortable and enjoyable in many ways.  Do your research before paying for a hotel so there are no surprises or ask a travel agent to help you.

Travel agents make money by earning a commission on sales.  Boutique hotels may not cost as much as chain hotels and definitely don’t pay as much commission as chain hotels do (some are not even affiliated with travel agents at all so those don’t get offered) but if your travel agent talks you out of staying in a boutique hotel contact me, I’m not one of those travel agents who offers you hotels based on commission rates.


Posted in Budget, Cheap Airline, Europe, Travel

RyanAir – An airline that nickels and dimes customers

Dear Travelers:

You like low cost airlines, so do we.  They say you get what you pay for and that is the case with Ryan Air; you only get a seat on an airplane that takes you from A to B.

It is well known that if you choose your seats or request extra leg room, you pay extra. Wanna check a baggage? Not free either but a carry-on luggage is.

Checking-in online at home and printing your own boarding passes are no big deal anymore but what happens when you send senior citizens (my parents) on a trip who have no smart phones with internet connection, additionally we did not have internet at the beach house in Malta and obviously we don’t travel with printers.  Well, apparently not everybody can check-in online and print boarding passes on the way back!! We were on a remote location about an hour from the capital.

My flight from Malta to Washington was early in the morning, my parents had to fly back to Budapest at 7:10 PM with RyanAir.  Before I left I gave them the flight confirmation but obviously I could not check them in online due to the lack of internet and printer.  RyanAir did not accept the flight confirmation (payment for 2 seats), apparently they penalize travelers for not checking-in online and printing their own boarding passes.  The penalty is almost as much as the airfare so they basically re-sell you the same seats! I paid $60 per person for the ticket and the penalty at the airport was 50 Euro (roughly $54) per person. The penalty is per segment, so if you need to transfer somewhere the 50 Euro doubles up per person!

My elderly parents speak no English, they just kept showing the document I gave them, which was the flight confirmation.  I gifted these tickets to my parents to be able to attend a family reunion so they had no record of the purchase; I had the email confirmation.  My mom panicked at the counter thinking they won’t be able to fly back home and of course she had no way to reach me since I was in the air, flying back home. She unwillingly agreed to pay whatever RyanAir demanded with the foreign transaction fees.  I can’t say RyanAir is kind and fair, their conversion rate between the Euro and the Hungarian Forint was the lowest I have ever seen; they gained some money on the purchase transaction too!  Mom usually never travels with her bank card abroad (she never needs money when she is with me) but luckily my sister was cautious and put it in her valet.  Imagine what could have happened if they did not have their bank card with them because they did not have cash on them either.  They might have gotten stranded at the Malta airport!

After I returned to the USA I opened a dispute with RyanAir but basically I wasted my time.  They said I could have checked them in online 60 days in advance if I prepaid for seats but you are on your own if you don’t have seats selected (like I do).  This is their way to enforce travelers to buy seats!  When you don’t have a seat selected you can only check-in 4 days in advance so if you take a week long vacation (like we did), may the Power be with you.  You need to find a library (if there is any near you) or if you stay in a hotel, perhaps you can ask for help from the receptionist or concierge unless they have a business room.  If you rent an apartment or a beach house with no internet and printer (like I did), just prepare yourself to fork out extra cash at the airport.

Their customer service sucks the same way the airline does.  You can only send them a complaint via an online form but you are limited to type 1000 characters.  They will respond within a few days but you can’t reply to their emails anymore.  I chatted with an agent online who suggested me to send a new complaint. Good god!

Before you choose RyanAir, please take a look at the other airlines as well, the other fare might cost more money but check all additional fees and if they throw you any peanuts onboard or not.  If RyanAir could charge you for using their bathroom they would, perhaps Number 2 would cost you more 😉


Posted in Baltic States, Car Rental, Europe, Ferries, Scandinavia, Trains, Travel

Building your own Baltic-Scandinavian road trip and cross country travel

If you have the Baltic states and the Scandinavian countries on your bucket list, like I do, you are looking at one of the most complex and lengthiest road trips on air planes, trains, buses, ferries and rental cars. You are crossing from EU countries into non-EU countries passing immigration check-points; Russia requires a tourist visa and Sweden has travel restrictions due to the refugee crisis.  Taking a cruise would be the easiest and perhaps the safest way to see it all, but you know me, I don’t like it the easy way, a cruise gives me no work when everything is organized.  The cheapest cruise only includes 4 countries in 7 days and starts from $1,000 per person not including airfare, and as we all know, you won’t see much of Europe by taking a cruise.

Time is the most important thing on a vacation so when you are traveling you need to plan it smart while staying on a budget.  Distance is pretty big here so you don’t want to take the same road or ferry twice.

Here are some travel tips for you:

Since hotels are very expensive in Nordic countries I prefer taking the night trains or ferries so we are traveling while sleeping, waking up in the next city.  Just like anybody else, I would like a nice hotel room with comfortable beds and room service but Scandinavia is too expensive for me.  I solved that problem by booking a night train and ferry and killed two birds by one stone, we are traveling while sleeping!  These trains have sleeping compartments, dining compartments and shared showers in each wagon but if you can afford a luxury cabin you will get your own private bathroom and living room with a turn down service!

The Grand Express is the most popular train in Russia, which is a luxury night train. It takes 8 hours to get to St. Petersburg from Moscow but you are traveling at night, sleeping comfortably.  Mostly tourists take it because it is considered to be a “one of a lifetime” experience and I decided to do the same.  Luxury cabins are air-conditioned cabins which consist of a bedroom, a bathroom with hair dryer and a separate living room equipped with flat screen TVs, DVD player and a mini bar.  The cabins are nicely decorated with paintings on the wall. Uniformed cabin attendants bring you towels, bathrobes with slippers, toiletries, newspapers, fruit plates, snacks, supper, chai, water. They serve your meals in the cabin and set you up for free transportation within your arrival city.  All passengers have free wifi and breakfast included.  Standard cabins don’t come with sheets but you can rent them and if you wish to shower you can use one of the shared bathrooms in each wagon for a couple of euros.  There is chai at the end of each wagon.

There are other fast trains in Russia as well, also consider the bullet train from St. Petersburg to Helsinki or Allegro.

Long distance buses are available between countries and I rate them with 5 stars because of comfort and luxury but I can’t shower and sleep on a bus, so for rides over 5 hours I consider other public transportation.  For international buses check out Lux Express and book your seats online, tickets start from 3 Euro per person.  We will be taking this bus from Tallinn to Riga, riding approximately for 4 1/2 hours.


Ferries: This is the easiest and cheapest way to travel around here; ferries are very similar to cruise liners, equipped with casinos and restaurants, pool, spa and duty free shopping arcades.  For overnight ferries book a cabin and take a good night rest, wake up in another country and have a nice breakfast onboard before hitting the city.

The most popular ferry lines are the following: Eckero LineTallink Silja, Viking Line,, St. Peter Line.

You are going to love Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga because these ports are in downtown so if you are only there for a day you may want to rent a luggage locker for a couple of euros before boarding the next ferry or bus that takes you to your next destination.  If you are staying in the city, consider booking a hotel in downtown to walk less with luggages and stay close to everything. PLEASE NOTE THAT IF YOU ARE TAKING A FERRY TO ST. PETERSBURG, YOU CAN NOW TAKE ADVANTAGE OF VISA FREE TRAVEL FOR UP TO 2 DAYS!!! That is a big deal because a Russian tourist visa for American citizens is $160 per person and requires a lot of paperwork from invitation letters to mandatory health insurance with a coverage of over $35K Euros.


Helsinki, Finland
Scenic summer panorama of the Market Square (Kauppatori) at the Old Town pier in Helsinki, Finland

Rental cars: This is going to be the hardest task, I really don’t recommend it; it is doable but takes a lot of hassle and time if you are going to cross from EU to non-EU countries.  I read blogs about crossing from Estonia to Russia can take as many as 24 hours and as “short” as 12 hours if you purchase a rapid pass.  I kid you not!  If you must rent a car in the EU consider dropping it off before entering Russia but you will be fine everywhere else.  You can take your rental car on a ferry but that may get expensive when you are visiting a few countries taking multiple ferries and you still need to return the rental car in the same country.  Some countries accept your American driver’s license, some don’t so if you insist on driving then you need to get an international license for this trip, which will only be good for a year.  Norway and Russia are not in the EU but every country has rules on taking their rental cars out, some allow it, some don’t and if they do allow it, it comes with restrictions and extra costs.   One way rentals are possible for a surcharge but forget about dropping a car off in a different country, even if the countries are close to each other.

EU countries don’t want to you to drive to Russia but Russia allows you to take the rental car to EU countries as long as you buy a comprehensive car insurance and pay an additional fee.  Russia prohibits you to drive through certain formal member states, like Belarus, so if that is the case you can forget about driving from Moscow to Riga because you would need to cross there.  Keep in mind that it is not much to see between St. Petersburg and Moscow and the drive takes over 8 hours (non-stop); basically you are wasting a full day on driving when you could get an air ticket for $40 one way (with taxes included) on Aeroflot. Just my 2 cents.


Moscow, St. Peter’s Basilica

Sweden has similar restrictions; most rental car companies don’t let you take the car out of the country, except Sixt and Hertz, where you need to pay an extra fee; they call it a license, I call it a rip-off; they just want to get more money out of you. In Europe there is no such thing as a “license” but there is a difference between insurance policies and how countries accept foreign insurances.  The are countries with higher car related crime rates but other factors, like theft (in Poland) and vandalism (in Sweden) also factor in the insurance policies.


Keep in mind that you have to pay toll on most roads, tunnels and bridges in Scandinavia.  Roads are toll-free in Denmark with the exception of two toll bridges, the Øresund is 48 Euro one way while the Storebælt is 18 Euro for a minicar, pretty hefty I say.


Metro in Moscow: Well, I won’t say a word, just look at the photos below, you might think you are in a museum…No, that is how the metro stations look like in Moscow 🙂


Images: Smarttravel, Autocarhire, Latvia-Florida, Ulkotours, Ilacnet, Theculturemap, Erlangfactory, Twistedsifter, RealRussia, Russiantrains, Travelukr, Travelfree, Luxexpress, Simplonpc,  Cruisingtalk, nwgw, baltictravelcompany, hiconsumption, architecturaldigest, Grand Express

Posted in Beach, Europe, Travel

Traveling to Europe during refugee crisis

Being a European I have my heart in Europe, still have friends and family living in different countries. I love traveling there despite the refugee crisis and the travel warnings.  As sad as it is, the warning is not just for a country or two but the entire continent. The following message is posted on the webpage of the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs:

“EUROPE:  Credible information indicates terrorist groups such as ISIL and al-Qa’ida and its affiliates continue to plot near-term attacks in Europe.  All European countries remain vulnerable to attacks from transnational terrorist organizations.

European authorities continue to warn of the possibility of attacks conducted by lone individuals inspired by extremist organizations that could occur with little to no warning.  Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theaters, open markets, aviation services, transportation systems, and public venues where people congregate.  Authorities believe there is a high likelihood terror attacks in Europe will continue as European members of ISIL return from Syria and Iraq.  European governments are taking action to guard against terrorist attacks; however, all European countries remain potentially vulnerable.”

In my opinion this crisis started to affect tourism, travelers tend to avoid certain airports and airlines with a higher concentration of Muslim residents or passengers, afraid to take public transportation at night or visit certain cities where rape rate and street disturbance is high.  More and more women are switching to organized tours for safety reasons instead of wondering around alone. I still consider Europe safe as long as you are taking the necessary precautions.

Greece: Yahoo News says that Greece’s island of Lesbos, a popular holiday destination for Europeans and Greeks alike, has found itself at the center of a migration crisis. Tens of thousands of people from the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia have traveled to the country’s eastern Aegean islands this year, using them as a gateway to mainland Greece and from there northward to new lives in more prosperous European Union countries. According to the USA Today vacationing in Greece might not be a completely safe experience but you have a good opportunity to have a great time and not be the victim of a crime. Tourists and vacationers are not usually targeted, but some may find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. In addition, there are terrorism concerns and other crimes that happen regularly.  Greek Landscapes says that the reality is that the Greek people are undergoing considerable hardship in the form of higher taxes and lost benefits, so perhaps a few extra protests and union strikes are expected over the summer of 2016. Solution: Pick any major Greek island further away from Turkey (Santorini, Zakynthos, Corfu, etc) and you won’t see refugees getting out of rafts flooding the beach and streets.


France: I have seen a big drop in hotel room rates in downtown Paris, just booked a deluxe suite in a 4 star hotel in a historic district for only $95 (with taxes) on Christmas day, where standard rooms usually start from $220 (plus taxes) and higher during a holiday season. France, for example, is still the top destination for American tourists, but it had a 10 percent drop in overnight stays through July in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris in November and in Nice last month, The Independent reported.  Street were vandalized and heavily littered with trash and personal belongings of the refugees.


Belgium: According to Telegraph the Belgian Crisis Center said the threat level for Brussels is 4, meaning a “serious and imminent threat”, whereas the rest of the country is at 3. You should consider factoring in extra time for your journey due to increased security measures in place at UK ports, borders and airports.  A “Tent City” was set-up in downtown parks which is an eyesore for any tourist.

tent city

Daytime prayers are common in many European cities, you are not to disturb them.






Sweden and Germany: According to Germany, Sweden and other European countries are facing growing public unrest amid a wave of reports of sexual assaults since the Cologne attacks. New York-based conservative think tank Gatestone Institute has compiled a  shocking list of sexual assaults and rapes by migrants in Germany in just the first two months of the year.  Drawing only from German media reports, the list documents more than 160 instances of rape and sexual assault committed by migrants in train stations, swimming pool and other public places against victims as young as seven.

If you are taking a train don’t be surprised if you come across with police searching for migrants.

Lot of locals are marching against refugees blocking main roads and near government buildings.


Turkey: Turkey Travel Planner reported several terrorist attacks in recent months and the July 15, 2016 attempt by elements of the Turkish armed forces at a coup d’état have rightly frightened potential visitors to Turkey.  On July 21st, the Turkish government declared a State of Emergency in the country, giving the president and other top leaders extraordinary powers. The State of Emergency is apparently to last at least three months.

According to travel experts only a small percentage of travelers cancelled their trips, a bigger percentage rather switched their destinations and paid the modification fee, which is a significant amount for European tickets. Instead of going to Turkey or Greece, tourists tend to pick Italy, Spain and Portugal, which have a similar climate but are considered safer.

Airfare is also lower than normal but keep in mind the commercial airlines are also trying to compete with European low cost carriers.

Images: theparkmanpost,,,,,,,,,, London Media Press Ltd


Posted in Budget, Dental Tourism, Europe, Travel

Dental Tourism

Choosing a good dentist is as important as choosing a good surgeon and if appearance is important to you so is dental hygiene. If you have a dental insurance most likely it does not cover oral surgeries, braces and cosmetic treatments and if it does, it may just be a small percentage of the total cost which is still sky high.  High premiums have small deductibles, small premiums have a high deductible so either way you are paying way too much for dental care, feeding the pockets of your insurance company and dentist.

What if I told you that it does not have to be expensive and you could combine it with a vacation?! You are not going to fly across the ocean for a check-up and cleaning but if you need major work than consider getting it done outside of the United States.  You will save a lot even with the air tickets! If you have family and friends living abroad you may have a free place to stay but if you can arrange your dental appointment during a business trip, you get your airfare and hotel for free! If you don’t know anybody abroad and don’t travel for business, you can still do it, it is so easy!

What is dental tourism? It is a network of dental clinics that specialize on foreign patients arriving to a country for major dental work, staying for a short time and traveling between dental visits.  You are NOT going to be bed-ridden after dental treatments so basically you can do anything from sightseeing to rafting as long as you take care of your teeth and follow doctor orders. There is no consultation because they only need to look at your medical records and X-ray online and by the time you get to the clinic the dental supplies are already delivered and the staff is prepped for surgery.  These high end clinics don’t do check-up and cleanings or take walk-in clients, which means that you never have to wait just because a local walked in with an emergency.  These clinics are considered to be expensive for locals; only cater to foreigners and schedule appointments months in advance. Whatever you need from implants to bone transplants and skin grafts, from braces to crowns and bridges, you can get it done. Yes, even braces, they can put it on for you, just get the monthly adjustments done back home. So, let’s do this step by step.

First, pick a country you would like to visit and google “dental tourism”.  You are going to get a list of dental clinics, read their reviews and select about 4-5 of them.  These clinics have a professional website featuring their dentists with credentials and listing their services and fees but for specific information and availability you need to send them an email first. If you don’t hear back from them within the next few business days, eliminate them. Having a good communication and customer service is essential when you are a foreign patient. European clinics speak multiple languages so if you speak one of the major languages, you will be fine.

Once you made contact with a dental clinic, you will have to email your dental records and X-rays then choose between materials and treatment options in order to estimate a total price.  Keep in mind that you will have to pay with their currency but they accept all major credit cards. Use a credit card that does not have a foreign transaction fee and awards you with either miles/points or a cash rebate.  I do not suggest you taking a large amount of cash with you abroad for safety reasons.

Based on your needs they are going to assign you a dentist, tell you how long you must stay in the country and explain you how the appointments will be spread out during that time.  It is advised to schedule your treatment soon after you arrive because you need to leave time for a follow-up visit or in case something goes wrong.

If all looks good and you agree to the plan, go ahead and purchase your air ticket.  You already know how long you need to stay abroad so choose your travel dates, and if you want to travel a bit leave some extra time for that.  The sooner you want to leave the more expensive it will get so my recommendation is to pick your travel dates within the next 3 months to get a good deal for air travel.  This blog is only about dental tourism but if you need tips on how to get good deals, please read my other blogs on

When you have your tickets, notify your dentist about your arrival date, flight number and the time of arrival because a driver will pick you up at the airport (his fee is incorporated into the total cost).  He will be in charge of transporting you between the airport, the clinic and your hotel or accommodation.  The clinics usually offer a few hotels to stay and normally can get you a lower room rate than a travel agency would simply because they work with the hotels directly and buy in bulk.  If you need a hotel for your stay that is going to be an extra cost but the driver is included for your convenience either way.

We have tried dental tourism in Hungary since we have friends and family there so we saved on hotel.  It worked out perfectly fine, the dental work looks great, can’t be happier.  We got an estimate here in the USA for $25K but by getting the work done in Hungary we saved 75% including airfare (two air travel 6 months apart).  As a matter of fact we got more jobs done for less than whatever was proposed for $25K.  Consider flying to Budapest, enjoy what the city has to offer, visit a thermal bath or take a trip to Prague or Vienna in between the dental treatments, they are just 3-4 hours away.


Posted in Cheap Airline, Europe, Travel

Understanding combination air tickets and luggage allowance on small air crafts

A friend of mine contacted me from Hungary asking me for help on a combination ticket. Her son and husband are flying from Budapest to Barcelona for a soccer tournament taking Wizzair but returning with Ryanair.

In cases like hers, a trip involving multiple airlines within the EU she must check with both airlines to know the exact baggage allowance because airlines have different limitations.  Don’t be surprised if one airline allows smaller cabin bags and lighter checked bags than the rest so when you have a combination ticket you must go with the stricter one (given you travel with the same bag both ways).

Short flight planes are fairly small so the overhead luggage compartments and the space under the seats are very small, which means that they have to limit the size of the carry-on items.  Due to cabin space limitations they may only fit 70-90 cabin bags but any remaining bags will be checked free of charge at the door of the air craft. If you carry fragile items in your cabin bag and there is no room for yours just insist that they check other bags instead of yours otherwise you can say goodbye to your china.

Before you start packing your personal belongings please check your airline’s baggage size and weight allowance (if you are flying with multiple carriers then check  with all of them) because if your bag is off by an inch and it does not fit inside the cabin, you will be asked to check it and there is a fee for that. Keep in mind that checking a bag at the airport costs up to 40% more than checking it online so choose your luggage wisely.  Now, if your bag does not fit because there is no room for it (the overhead compartment is full) than they will check it for you free of charge SO THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE!!!!  Measure your luggage (with wheels and handle) instead of relying on your best guess.  If you have a bag that you used in the past on another flight do not assume that all airlines will accept it (under free allowance), for the record Lufthansa and British Airways tend to accept larger cabin bags.

The same rule goes for checked bags, as they call it in Europe “hold bags”.  Size is important so that your bag can fit through the cargo door and weight matters because you will have to pay for it; some airlines have set fees while others will charge per kilogram over a certain weight, like Ryanair does it over 15 kg or Easyjet over 20 kg; the heavier the bag the higher the cost is. Don’t stop there, Wizzair charges different baggage fees during low season and peak season travel, not to mention an additional airport surcharge if you purchased a ticket within 3 hours of your flight departure.

There is no way to memorize these baggage fees for every airline which keep on increasing every year besides the allowances are different for each carrier, so don’t bother. Pack light and try to fit your personal items in your carry-on and second bags; if you must check a bag just follow the guidelines for the cheapest option. First class and business class passengers have more free allowances so I suggest you to check the baggage allowance for your flight every time you travel.

Image: santoantaovacation



Posted in Cheap Airline, Europe, Travel

Blind Booking for 33 Euros one way by Eurowings

Mystery flights at a fixed price

Naturally, you get to decide when and from where you wish to depart and what sort of trip you’re in the mood for. Just choose your departure airport and your personal interest by clicking on one of the themed offers.

  • Of course, you can specify when and where you want to fly from at Eurowings attractive fixed prices.
  • Undesired destinations can be ruled out for a charge of €5 per passenger and per destination, thus tailoring your booking to suit your personal preferences.
  • As soon as your booking is complete you will find out your destination so you can prepare for your trip.
  • The minimum stay is 18 hours.
  • Blind Booking flights can be booked up to 45 days days before departure

First: Pick a departure city:

Cologne, Dusseldorf, Hanover, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Berlin and Vienna

Second: Choose a category (the airline will chose the city for you from your category)

Culture: Barcelona, Budapest, Dresden, Leipzig/Halle, London, Milan, Prague, Rome, Salzburg, Venice, Vienna, Zagreb

Metropolis: Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Hamburg, Lisbon, London, Milan, Prague, Rome, Vienna, Zagreb, Zurich

Gay friendly: Barcelona, Berlin, Hamburg, Manchester, Milan, Venice, Vienna, Zurich

Shopping: Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna, Budapest, Dresden, London, Manchester, Milan, Rome, Venice, Zurich

Nature, Trekking and Hiking: Berlin, Bologna, Dublin, Edinburgh, Klagenfurt, Rostock, Salzburg, Zurich

Party: Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Dublin, Edinburgh, Hamburg, Leipzig/Halle, London, Manchester, Milan, Prague, Vienna


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Posted in Car Rental, Europe, Travel

Renting a car on Sardinia and Corsica

Both Corsica and Sardinia are fairly remote locations, “hidden” gems of the Mediterranean, a popular vacation spot of the “rich and famous” so if you are a budget traveler do what I did: book your car rental (and hotels) a year in advance.  There are only a few car rental agencies to choose from and they only have a small selection and limited amount of cars.  Car rentals are not only expensive but they tend to get sold out sooner rather than later so once your plans are firm, reserve a car as soon as you can (most rentals can be cancelled or modified), besides you will have to pay for the car when you pick it up so you got nothing to lose by booking early.

Now, both islands have several car rental locations, the most popular ones are at airports and by ferry terminals so you can pick up a car at any airport and return it at any ferry terminal, which most tourist do.  Sardinia is pretty big and roads are scarce between the mountains; the serpentine slows cars and trucks down and nobody likes to get stuck for kilometers (hours).  Driving 10 kilometers can take you an hour and a half depending on where you are going, airports and ferry terminals can easily be 2-3 hours away one way with “traffic” so smart tourists don’t like to waste time and gas (which is expensive in Italy) not to mention burning the brake pads. Here people prefer one way drop-offs which cost around $100 in the summer of 2015.

VERY IMPORTANT: Once you rent a car in Sardinia, you can’t take it over to Corsica and vice versa.  Even though both countries are members of the European Union and the two islands are literally just a 45 minute ride away from each other, the cars are registered in different countries and different car insurance rules apply.  You need to pick up and drop off cars on each island, which is a bit troublesome but at least you save on ferry by only paying for pedestrians.

ANOTHER NOTE: You better have an idea of your road trip prior to your vacation because once you land on Sardinia, you can no longer change your mind and request a different location for a drop off or modify the time of return, especially in case of minivans.  Since they only have a limited amount of cars and are probably fully booked in the summer months, they really need the car back on time and wherever you indicated originally. So, I suggest you don’t go with the flow here.  Stop thinking with your American head 😉 

Remember: When you are in Europe, it is not all about you.  People in the travel and hospitality industry earn a full wage unlike in the US where agents earn commission.  In Europe most agents don’t care if you are happy or disappointed, they will get paid regardless how you feel, whether you return or not, and the more south you go, the slower the service gets 😉 Did I mention siesta? 😉