June 2018: Brussels-Milan-Krakow-Warsaw

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I’d be lying if I said ALL my trips were £100 holidays, however, it’s nice to get away for more than a couple of days at a time. Even so, my longer trips are still very economical. I managed 8 days away all for £500 (including spends).

Flights:

Manchester to Brussels – £16.99 (Ryanair)

Brussels to Milan –  €20.44 (approx £18.19 after redeemed travel credit) (Ryanair)

Milan to Krakow –  €21.99 (approx £20.65) (Ryanair)

Krakow to Warsaw PLN 77 (approx £16.02) (PKP)

Warsaw to Liverpool – PLN 72 (approx £15.80) (Ryanair)

Total: £87.65*

Accommodation:

Youth Hostel Van Gogh City Centre – £33.47 (Ryanair Rooms)

Hotel Calypso – €70 (approx £62.33 – £25 ‘friend reward’ after stay = £37.33) (Booking.com)

Amber Hostel: PLN 147.94 (approx £30.79) (Booking.com)

The Warsaw Hostel: PLN 159.98 (approx £33.29) (Booking.com)

Total: £134.88*

*Exchange rates at time of writing

Summary and Highlights

  • Utilise Skyscanner and Ryanair’s ‘Everywhere’ search tool
  • Pay in local currency rather than pounds where possible
  • Look at alternative airports to fly from or return to that are accessible from home

When paying by card, if given the choice to pay in £ or the currency of the country you’re in, it always tends to be best to pay in the local currency. This is because then your home bank decides on the exchange rate, which is usually business rates. If you choose to pay in £, through a process known as ‘dynamic currency conversion’, it’ll be the bank of the company you’re buying from which does the conversion and tends to be more expensive. Even though your bank may charge a conversion fee, it’ll still probably work out cheaper.

For these sorts of trips (or most my trips) I don’t really have a preference on where I go and I like seeing where the dice lands (or price in my case). My go to is always Skyscanner but I’ve recently discovered Ryanair do a similar search feature – the search ‘everywhere’ function. It’s a really great tool that searches all the destinations from your chosen airport in price order on the dates or month you choose. My general rule is up to £50 for return flights but even that’s a bit much for me. Then again, you can usually find me head first inside the bargain bins at supermarkets, because why pay more for the same thing, right? So for multi-stop trips, I’d search one way Manchester to everywhere. In this case Brussels, so then Brussels to everywhere and so on until you come full circle back to the UK. It does take some trial and error with dates and destinations. Eventually, I managed to work out a route such as getting a train from Krakow to Warsaw and flying back to Liverpool instead of Manchester.

Travelling to Brussels is one of the cheapest flights that always comes up for me so I thought I’d give it a shot. Now I ACTUALLY flew to Charleroi which is a middle of nowhere airport in a completely different city 29 miles away from Brussels but I like the way you pronounce Charleroi. I always find that these secondary airports are well serviced with transport options to other cities nearby. I only stayed one night in Brussels as I felt I didn’t need that much time and also it was just the dates and times of my other flights worked out. I always thought of Brussels as just government buildings and home of the EU (naturally the walking tour had some Brexit jokes in) but I was so wrong. In short, there’s lots of gold leaf, they love Tintin and you can’t leave without having frites and waffles.

My second stop was Milan. I’ve fallen in love with Italy and have been making my way around the various cities of the last couple of years. Milan has two airports; Malpensa and Bergamo, which I flew into. As you can guess it’s actually in Bergamo not Milan but still easy to get to and from for only a few Euros. All the main sights are close together and the three-hour walking tour was probably the longest one I’ve done. In the heat of this years’ warm weather over Europe, it was maybe a little too intense but got the majority of sites in one go. For saying Milan is the business capital of Italy, it’s not particularly pricey. There’s a great pizza chain called Spontini that does huge slices in small counter service style restaurants across the city. Even for me who eats practically all the time, I struggled to finish the slice.

The highlight of my trip was going to Lake Como and would recommend to anyone to take a day out to get to the lakes in Italy. I would not recommend going to Como itself as it’s right down the end of the lake and isn’t much around it. I got the train up to Varenna for about €6 from Milan, which is about halfway up the lake and has easy ferry access to the other nearby villages on the shore. There are various tickets types for the ferries but it all depends on how many villages you want to visit. I chose to go to Bellagio and Menaggio which from Varenna is basically a triangle. In total, I spent about €15 on the ferries which were definitely worth it to cross the lake and explore. The only issue I had was there was an incident on the one track line going back to Milan and all the trains were ‘delayed’. Now as we know from our all so smooth running rail system, ‘delayed’ actually means we don’t know or it’s going to be cancelled. In the end, I ended up in a taxi with some other random tourists to a station down the line where we could get back to Milan. Thank you, kind sir, to the man who paid for my portion of the fare as I had no cash left on me.

I had always wanted to go to Poland and was so glad I finally got to. Krakow is very fairytale and a bit like being in an episode of Disenchanted. I did two walking tours about the Old Town and a WWII tour plus visited Schindler’s factory which is a bit of a trek out of the main city centre but still interesting nonetheless. I took a pass on visiting Auschwitz. My favourite thing about Poland is the ‘milk bars’ – aptly named as during the Soviet era, the cafeteria-style cafes sold primarily dairy-based products. Nowadays the interior, the menu and the clientele are much the same. Plus the price hasn’t gone up much either. It’s a great way to have a filling, homemade meal for a fractional price. Plus you know when you’re the only non-Polish speaker in the restaurant that it must be good.

Warsaw is like Krakow’s younger cousin that although has an Old Town, the majority are reconstructions from the last 100 years primarily for tourists. I used Poland’s high-speed rail system to get there in just over 2 hours from Krakow. Large leather seats, free tea and coffee, plug sockets and plenty of leg room – Northern Rail take note. My accommodation here was one of the most obscure places I’ve ever stayed. Located at the back of a conference suite, my room was a 3 metre squared cupboard. I definitely fell over the bed, the lamp and my own bag several times. I went all out and did 3 walking tours; Old Town, WWII and communism tour. What an enthralling life I lead, right? They really are the best way to learn about the history of places as sometimes museums just don’t do it justice when you can see it for yourself.

I couldn’t pass up on a £15 flight back to Liverpool. I could’ve got back to Manchester the day after but it was over double the price and I’d have to had paid for an extra night. I often look at flying out or back from alternative airports since the destinations and most importantly the price can differ greatly. I’d like to see if I could do another £500 week away and see where it would take me next time.

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Brussels highlights – Grand Place, Place Royale, eat Frites and Waffles

 

 

 

 

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Milan highlights –  Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Castello Sforzesco, eat Pizza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lake Como highlights – Varenna, Bellagio, Menaggio

 

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Krakow highlights – Wawel Castle, Schindler’s Factory, Rynek Glówny

 

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Warsaw highlights – Palace of Science and Culture, Old Town, MUST eat at a milk bar
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