European Travel Tips: Budapest, Skiing in Austria, Paris and Poland on a Budget
As I complete most of my travel assignments on a strict budget, it’s imperative for me to find creative ways to save money on transportation, accommodation and all other travel-related expenses. I am currently working on planning two travel assignments for next spring: one in February which will take me to my native country of Austria, where I will be teaching a seminar at a local university, followed by 4 days in Budapest and capped off by 4 days of skiing in the amazing Austrian ski region of Pustertal in East Tyrol. I have not skied in Europe for about 30 years now, and I am really looking forward to experiencing skiing on great snow-covered mountains while spending the evenings in quaint Alpine villages, eating hearty Austrian food and drinking “Glühwein” (mulled wine) or “Jagatee” (tea with lots of rum).
To save money I booked my flight to Austria via Airmiles (www.airmiles.ca) which ended up saving me about 50% of the cost of the ticket. Keep in mind that Toronto’s Pearson International Airport has some of the world’s highest airport fees. So even if you manage to get a flight somewhere for $100, you are still going to spend $400, $500 or even $600 in taxes and surcharges. As an avid Airmiles collector, I have redeemed dozens of flights over the past 15 years and it has saved me a ton of money.
My trip to Budapest will involve a train trip from near Graz, Austria to the Hungarian capital and a return trip was less than 70 Euros. I have already been researching accommodation and found plenty of places for under CAD$ 30.00 a night, so a 3 night stay is going to be less than CAD$ 100.00. I might book my accommodation either through www.hostelbookers.com (one of my favourite hostel and budget hotel booking websites) or www.airbnb.com (renting a room from a local) and I have found many nice places in central locations with really great reviews from other travellers.
I have to admit I am quite excited about travelling to Budapest. Having grown up next door in Austria, I am very familiar with the culture and architecture of the areas that were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to 1918. But I have never had a chance to visit Budapest, and according to all the research I have done so far, Budapest is definitely one of the most stunning capital cities of Europe.
Actually, I am really looking forward to seeing some of the city’s main sights such as Castle Hill, the Fisherman’s Bastion, the Matthias Church, the famous Chain Bridge over the Danube, the magnificent Neo-Gothic Parliament Buildings and the former Jewish Quarter and the Great Synagogue. Budapest is also renowned for its public baths, such as the impressive Art Nouveau Gellert Baths or the Széchenyi Spa which were built in the early part of the 20th century. Let’s hope three and a half days will be enough to get it all in…
After Budapest I will be going skiing with some Austrian friends of mine and we will be staying in an inexpensive “Pension” (family owned B&B) in the mountain village of Sillian. The plan is to go skiing on the Austrian and Italian side of the Pustertal Valley, one of the most beautiful ski regions in the Alps.
Then in April and May I will be embarking on another big adventure to Europe, starting with a 6 day trip to Paris, possibly with a side-trip via high-speed train to Brussels. Again, I used my Airmiles for the transcontinental flight which saved me $500 or more. It’ll be great to explore the City of Lights in the spring…
Then I will fly to Vienna to link up with my brother and sister-in-law and the three of us will travel somewhere together for about a week or so either to Northern Italy or Croatia. I lucked out with a flight for CAD$ 63 (!) with www.airberlin.com from Paris to Vienna. And when I checked again after booking it, the price of the flight had actually dropped to CAD$37!!
Naturally the three of us will share the costs and probably book a holiday apartment where we can do some of our own cooking (it’s great to have a brother who is a professional chef…). Finally, I will take the night train from Vienna to Krakow and start a week long tour of Poland which will start with three days in Krakow (with side trips to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp and the Tatra Mountains), continue with the historic city of Wroclaw and conclude with two days in the Polish capital of Warsaw. Poland is a beautiful country with many interesting historic cities. It’s been on my bucket list for a while now.
Accommodation in Poland will again be very reasonable and I will probably get a one-week Polish railway pass which according to my recent research, should come in at less than CAD $200. So a combination of using Airmiles, AirBerlin, the Austrian and Polish Railways as well as booking websites such as Airbnb and Hostelbookers should provide for very reasonable travel costs for my upcoming travel assignments in Europe.