Netherlands train hack: 7 euros day return to anywhere

It’s important when traveling in Western countries to look out for the cheapest way to travel. If you don’t, you’ll be watching your funds dwindle so rapidly, you’ll be in your overdraft before you can spell waffle. Travel in Europe isn’t always that expensive if you know where to look. Ryan air makes it the cheapest continent to fly around and Megabus is a handy way to get around the UK (used to be all of western Europe, shed a tear). The most expensive way to travel in Europe is definitely by train. Here in the Netherlands, however, there is a beaming ray of hope. Group tickets.

There are group tickets in a lot of countries, I’m sure of it, but I wouldn’t know where to find them and how to buy them, but being with a resident of the Netherlands, I’ve been introduced to the secret world of group tickets. This is how you go about getting them.

First of all you need a few things.

Facebook account
Passport
Bank account that can send transfers (one without charges in the Netherlands would be best)
access to a printer
Exact date you want to travel
Location of where you’re going from or going to (the bigger the city, the easier to find tickets)

If you have all of those things and you’re up for spending a bit of a time to save some money, you can try the next step.

Add this group NS group tickets – Rotterdam. There are also groups in Amsterdam, Groningen and all the other big cities. In the groups, you will find posts with dates and locations like this…

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Once you find the date you wish to travel, you join the group where you can exchange bank details and email accounts. How it works is that the main buyer will pay for all the tickets, but only once they have collected enough money to pay for 10 tickets. 10 is the maximum number of tickets and for 10 tickets it will cost them 70 euros, meaning you pay 7 euros per ticket for the return journey. You can get as many tickets as you like, as long as it adds up and if you’re traveling in a group of 10, you can just buy the group ticket yourself. However, this is highly unlikely, so the groups should do you well.

Once the buyer has received enough to buy 10 tickets, they will send you a message to let you know and then you will receive your ticket in an e-mail. Open the ticket and you will have to put in some personal details such as name, location of where you’re going, and date of birth. Then, straight to the printer and voila.

You need your passport or at least some form of photo ID to travel on this ticket and if you want to hack it even further, you can get off the train at a city that is on the way to where you’re going, but make sure the train you get on afterwards came from the same destination that you came from.

Enjoy this little hack and if you want to understand the kind of money you’ll save, a ticket from Rotterdam to Amsterdam is usually about 24 euros.

 

 

The best beer town on earth?

Forget Dublin, move over Amsterdam, and why would anyone pay Ibiza prices. If you’re a real drinker, and you appreciate beer – try Leuven, Belgium aka Mecca for beer lovers.

Here are some things you need to know about Leuven.
1) It is the home of Stella Artois, one of the most popular beers on earth.
2) It is home to Oude Markt aka the world’s biggest bar.
3) It is home to Belgium’s top ranked univeristy and over 50% of its residents are students.
4) It is also stunningly beautiful and holds some of Europe’s finest architecture. But if you’re here to drink, you may not notice.

I’m hardly qualified to write a blog on beer, as for the past 2 or 3 years, I’ve really cut back on drinking. However, there is one place that I have to crack open a beer whenever I visit (which is a lot because my girlfriend lives here) and that place is Leuven.

Beer here is cheap. The weaker beers like Stella, Maes and Jupiler are usually around one euro, but can also be 50 cents in student faculty bars. That’s cheaper than drinking canned fosters in England by the way! Some of the rarer beers could set you back 7 euros or so, but with so much choice, you can literally have any type of beer.

Speaking of choice, one bar in Leuven has the largest choice of beers in the world, and supposedly has dwarves working in the cellar. In fact, whatever bar you wander into will have a selection of beer that you couldn’t drink your way through in a week, so start early… the locals do, it’s common to have a ‘morning beer’ at 11 o clock in the square.

The nights are pretty wild and this is where you’ll see the city transform from the quiet, idyllic, Europe town into a heaving bazaar or beer and debauchery. Yes, no beer town could be free of vomit, which is usually covered in sand promptly enough. A town that has a strategy for dealing with vomit… are you getting the picture yet?

The real difference between Leuven and other places I’ve been is that bars are often seen as a nuisance which attract noisy patrons, broken glass, street-pissing and pointless brawls. Leuven sees its bars as an integral city investment. In fact, when the bars aren’t doing so well, the government organizes events to attract people from the outskirts or even from nearby cities like Brussels, Liege and Ghent. They even bring in international acts like UB40 to play free shows just to bring in those moneys. That’s a long way to go to support your bars, and could only be thought up by the best beer town on earth.

Now, slow down. Don’t get Leuven confused with a place like Ibiza or Magaluf, where people just get mindlessly fucked and roll in vomit under beautiful sunsets. This a town for people who understand beer. Appreciate beer. Love beer. You will not find loose women, hen night parties and cheap brothels in this town. Only beer. So if you are ‘that guy’… don’t change your stag nights plans too quick. But I’ll end on this note.

At any hour of any day there is some way of getting beer of varying quality. It’s quite a sight to see the ‘clean young mess-heads’ from the night before stumbling to their dormitory while the well-to-do pensioners sit down for their morning Stella. Beer runs this town, and that is why it is the best beer town on earth.

Need more evidence?

http://www.leuven.be/en/tourism/beer-and-gastronomy/index.jsp

http://belgium.beertourism.com/cities/leuven

http://www.tripbase.com/blog/top-10-beer-capitals-of-europe/

 

The Ultimate MEGABUS guide part one: Booking

This guide will show you everything that you will need to know including my pro tips as someone who has taking around 50 long distance buses already this year. I will guide you through the online process of buying tickets, choosing the best place to sit and how to find those elusive 1€ tickets ( £1 in the UK). I will literally take your hand and walk you through the whole process and make it as pleasurable as possible.

Booking tickets

First, you need to go to www.megabus.com and choose your language*. It should automatically do this, but sometimes it takes you to the main page and gives you multiple options. Once you have selected your language, it should automatically change the currency too. Now you can start booking. Before you can choose anything, you have to choose the amount of passengers you are booking for. There are three options 1- Number of passengers 2- Number of concessions 3-Number of NUS cardholders. Let me elaborate what that means if you are not familiar.

Number of Passengers: You are a passenger with no discount card or valid NUS student card

Number of concessions: Copied from the official Megabus site. b) Holders of a Scottish National Entitlement Card (Concession Card) can travel for free on most coach services wholly within Scotland (i.e. trip must begin, be wholly contained and end in Scotland.) There are exclusions and these are detailed by the relevant Conditions of Carriage. Use of the card is subject to the terms set out by Transport Scotland. There are no other concession cards.

Number of NUS cardholders: If you are a full-time student in the UK, you are entitled to a discount card (10% off megabus journeys in UK) known as NUS. If you are not a UK student. You will have to select passenger. I still use my NUS to book journeys abroad too just incase I get a discount.

***If you are a concession holder make sure you don’t select passenger and concession holder. You will buy two tickets. ***

Next it says select a country. If you select ‘all’ you can view all the European services. If you select a single country such as ‘Ireland’ it will remove all international coaches and show only coaches in Ireland. People do this a lot and get confused.

Then you select when you are going and a return journey if you need to. If you have a promotion code, put it in, but I don’t know where to get them from and you won’t need them if you book way in advance.

At this point, you have already missed some of my pro tips…

Pro tips for booking
* If you are travelling in the UK, try looking in another language such as French or German or whatever you find easier. The tickets in Euros are usually cheaper than in pounds, but not always!
Book way in advance to get the cheaper tickets.
Book trips together to avoid paying the 50p booking fee every time.
Book overnight buses if you want to save money on accomodation for that night
Book day buses over the channel tunnel (UK to Europe or vice versa) to save time as the ferries and trains are more frequent and waiting time is a lot less.

How to find the €1 euro tickets (£1 in UK)

Despite what you think, they do exist, but to find them you need to be looking at the website a lot, which I do already. They are usually released in bulk at the start of the month, but only apply to buses way in advance. For example, on September 1st 2015 they released one euro tickets for all November services. How many? I don’t know and nobody does. So look out at the last buses that are available to book and if there are no cheap options, wait until the next bulk is released. It can be any day, but as I mentioned, usually around the start of the month. Also look out for new routes that megabus introduces or when megabus opens operations in a new Country. I capitalized when Megabus ventured into Italy and got 16 tickets for 16 euros. Be quick though because they get snapped up super fast. Good luck.

Guide two is coming soon..

Which country is full of bad people?

This is from a ted talk about a Croatian guy who hitchhiked around the world for one year. He traveled through many regions in the world including zones of conflict, and places with high levels of terrorism. Each time he went to a new country, he would ask about the next one, and it went like this.

He is taking a ride from Croatia and arrives in Serbia
Driver – ” Be careful, in Serbia. The people in Croatia are good, the people in Montengegro are friendly, but Serbia.. is full of bad people.”
Traveler – “Really? I guess I’ll have to find out for myself.”

After finding a ride from Serbia to Kosovo he starts to ask a question.
Traveler – “what are the people like in Kosovo?”
Driver – “Well, as you know, in Serbia we have many good people, but Kosovo… is full of bad people.”

The same thing happens again and again. The people in Kosovo warn him of Macedonians, Macedonians warn him of Bulgarians, Bulgarians of Greek, Greek of Turks. And it takes him that long to realize, that people everywhere are good in general. The extremes are even more in some places, Europeans might warn you of the middle east, Americans of Mexico. At the end of the day, we are all people, we have just been handed different cards. You may be born in a Country of affluence, power and influence or you may be born in a Country of poverty, deprivation and struggle, that’s the way the world is right now.

The message is simple, be a good person and remember that there are good people everywhere.

Peace
Lee

How I booked an 10 city tour in Italy for less than 50 euros!

Firstly, for the 50 euros I got a return flight from Brussels to Turin and 8 busses from cities in the North of Italy. This is easy to achieve and it’s important that you exploit deals like this whenever and wherever you can. There are always deals on transport and it’s just a matter of weighing up how much money you want to spend and how much time you want to waste finding them. This is exactly how I booked my Italy trip.

One week ago:

Megabus announces Italian invasion. I check the prices and it’s clear that 90% of tickets are 1 euro per person.

5 days ago:

My girlfriend asks if I want to travel Italy. The seed is planted and I think about it

Yesterday:

10 am
I wake up in a good mood and think to myself, why do I have an epic trip booked in July (baltic) and August is completely empty? I go on to Facebook and tell my girlfriend, we are doing Italy!

11am
I look at flights from Brussels to Italy. There are a few cheap options so I choose Turin because the flights are in the afternoon and I don’t have to worry about transfers in the early morning. The flights are 32 pound (42 euros) and I have given myself 16 days to travel about. I start to plan a route in Italy and write the cities that interest me. There appear to be four routes in Italy and the only places they all visit is Milan. The route has to be carefully selected, so that I don’t have to keep back tracking and going to the same place to change over. I drew a map on a piece of paper and highlighted the routes, which I could name the Venice route, the Naples route, The Tuscany route and the other route.

12 pm
Three routes failed when I tried to incorporate Venice and Pisa. I knew I had to cut one of them out, regrettably it was Pisa, because it looks like a tourist trap and Venice, although being a tourist trap, can be accessed freely and wandered around 🙂 I heard that megabus is the same price in euros as in pounds saving me 33%. While this is not true for all tickets, the 1 pound offers are also 1 euro.

1 pm
I finally find a route that works. I haven’t spent all those hours solely on this obviously, but it has been a pain in the neck. The route goes like this Turin – La Spezia – Siena – Genoa – Milan – Venice – Florence – Bologna – Milan – Turin. Each ticket is one euro and therefore 8 journeys is eight euros which is roughly 6 pound. One bus that I couldn’t book was from Venice to Florence but it seems to be a popular blabla car route.

2 pm
Everything is booked and ready to go.

As you can see. Trips can form out of thin air sometimes. I cannot stress to you how valuable time is! If you have a big block of time and you don’t capitalize, you will regret it. Speak to an older person and ask them what they regret! It’s always something like I didn’t spend much time with this person or I didn’t go to place or take that opportunity. Don’t be the richest person in the graveyard, be the one with the smile from ear to ear!

Lee

Cheap travel in Italy, just got cheaper

Well, Hello Megabus!

After colonizing France, Spain and more recently Germany, Megabus has stormed Italy with numerous stops and the same cheap prices. There are stations at Milan, Pisa, Naples, Rome, Verona, Turino, Siena, Florence, Venice, Padula and Genoa. Ticket prices are 1 euro on most journeys for now, but they will creep up to normal. Book way in advance to get the best deals!

Lee

Why you suck at couch surfing!

If you’ve been traveling a long time, you may have encountered the genius platform known as couch surfing. A website that helps you to connect with travelers that would like to put you up for free or hang out with you. It costs 20 euros to sign up for a year and the hosts don’t ask for money, so all in all, a bargain. It can be a great way to meet new friends and see the world, but here is a short list of what you should definitely not do on CS!

You don’t leave feedback

This is the biggest no no you could ever commit! Hosts want positive references for when they travel and you should want positive references for the same reason. That’s why it’s important to always give references, whether they are good or bad. Bear in mind, if you give a negative reference, you will receive one back, but if there is something that you think other surfers should know (such as safety) leave it in the reference. I think it’s important to be honest and try to really understand your host enough to give a detailed reference.

You flirt with your hosts

Nothing worse than people who exploit CS for sex. If it’s mutual, then it’s no problem, but it usually isn’t.

You expect too much

It’s not hotel surfing, sometimes people will offer you a floor and nothing else. You should be grateful that they let you into their home and don’t expect towels, meals or wifi. On most occasions you will get them anyway, but it is not a guarantee.

You don’t want to hang out with your host

CS is not for freeloaders looking for a hotel. The concept is based on the idea that you want to learn about your host and the area that they live in.

You don’t personalize your couch requests

In large cities like Berlin, Rome and Paris, people get other 20 requests a day. It’s easy to spot the C&P surfers. Make sure that you make your host feel flattered that you are interested in them as a person. Make sure you have checked that you have enough in common, otherwise it could be a miserable trip…

If treated properly, CS can provide you with free accommodation worldwide and a heap of new interesting friends. Look carefully at your hosts and their references and most of all, enjoy it!

Lee