Why a European holiday is a great idea while you are in Dubai
Don’t be fooled. I also have the weirdo poses while there
Before I continue our Austria-Italy trip (you can read the Vienna adventures here, and the Venice on this post), it would be useful if I can give some details on how we prepared for our holiday because ‘sharing is caring’.
I truly believe that traveling to foreign countries is not only for those who have money. Well, yes, you will need cash to buy your tickets, find a place to stay and to eat, but you won’t need a LOT of money to enjoy other countries. The only thing you will need to have is the DESIRE. If you want it, you will definitely have/experience it. NO DOUBT. I know, I’m channeling my Oprah-esque lines here.
Dubai and the UAE in general is very central to a lot of beautiful destinations. Most countries can be reached in less than 5 hours. You can easily experience African safari, swim in the dead sea and even Maldives if you wish. You can enjoy some European cities of your choice.
Name an exotic place and you will find out that it’s not very far away from us. Being near these places means cheaper fare for the traveller. This is aside from the fact that you will find a lot of promotional offers on several websites. I haven’t tried Holiday Factory but I always think they have great offers.
Do you know that Filipinos can get visa on arrival in Maldives? Or Turkey visa can be applied online? You just need your passport details, your mother and father’s name and pay around USD 20 online and that’s it. No need to submit application through consulates or embassies. (Edit: Turkish visa online application for Filipinos are available if you have valid Schengen, USA, UK or Ireland visa)
Now for Schengen visa. Although we first entered in Austria, majority of our time was spent in Italy so we applied at the Italian Consulate (agency who handles the application is CKGS). I think the Italian embassy has the easiest (and most lax) visa process. Not that I applied elsewhere but based on what I heard, some visa applications that were rejected by the either the French or Spanish consulates were approved by the Italian Consulate. Although don’t quote me for that, ok?
You can apply for your visa 3 months before your travel and that’s exactly what we did so that we could book our trains as early as possible. Imagine the nightmare of booking your train tickets only to be denied your visa. Refunding airfares might be easy, but intercity/inter-country trains might not.
I really don’t want to repeat my Italian visa application experience. If you can just read it here. In my opinion, the Schengen visa application in the Italian consulate is very straight forward. You get the appointment online, make sure you have all the requirements, show up on your appointment time and submit the documents. Wait for a few days and before you know it, you will receive an SMS that your visa is ready. You don’t need to have ‘show money’ (as what most Filipinos think) and you just have to prove that you will return to Dubai (at least you have a stable job). Visa cost is less than 500 dhs and you can get your passport back with visa in less than 3 days. Easy peasy.
I think applying for a Schengen visa in the Philippines is more rigorous as I can imagine the consul officers might think we will go there to look for work and not come back. They might also ask for more financial proof that you can really provide for the trip unlike here where I know several people who had applied with only just a few thousand dirhams balance in their bank account (around 2-5k) and yet got their Schengen visa.
If I haven’t convinced you enough, I don’t know what will 🙂
As I said on my previous post, we started planning for our trip last October and bought Qatar Air tickets in November. That is like 5 months before our scheduled travel and because we booked early, we got better fare.
For a family of four (2 adults and 2 kids), we paid AED 9400. My sister and her husband paid less than 5K. That is Dubai-Vienna and Rome-Dubai tickets. You can find better deals if you are flying in and out the same country, and of course if you take low cost airlines like flyDubai or Air Arabia.
We bought the tickets even before we have the visas (so make sure to buy refundable tickets). And one better thing of buying flight ticket in advance (which is the biggest expense of your trip) is you have time to save again for your holiday. By the time you purchased the train tickets, you are done paying off your plane tickets charged on your credit card (if you pay by card).
Unlike last year when my family visited Rome and only Rome, this time around we decided to visit several cities as well. That means more money to spend on fare but more fun in enjoying more cities.
From Vienna, we took a night train to Venice. This did not only save precious vacation days which could have been used for daytime traveling, but it also saved us 1 night hotel stay. We bought all our inter-city trains via Trenitalia website and this was after we had the Schengen visa, around late January. Buying train tickets early means you can avail the Economy/Super Economy fares.
It’s my first time to travel by train so I used my researching skills to figure out how to navigate our way from one city to the next (Ok, I have to give credit to my sister, Jholen who kicked-off the researching). And these are the train stations you will need to go to if you’re planning to use the same itinerary.
From Vienna to Venice
Take the Wien Hauptbahnhof station to Venezia S. Lucia in Venice. We took the slower train because we didn’t want to reach Venice at 2 am. Traveling via Trenitalia’s Freccia trains only take 7 hours but since it was night anyways, we decided to book the 12-hour journey via OBB.
You have different options on taking the night train. The usual seat (the cheapest one) which we didn’t take as I can imagine how inconvenient it would have been seating for 12 hours.
Then there is a sleeper which is like a regular room where you have your own washing area.
And the couchette (the option we went after), which is ideal for a family because of its options for a 4-berth or 6-berth couchettes. Each bed comes with a small pillow, blanket and bedsheet. There are several toilet and washing areas per coach.
This is how a 4-berth couchette looks like
From Venice to Florence
Take the Venezia S.Lucia in Venice to Firenze S.M. Novella Station in Florence. We paid Eur 98 for a family of four (my youngest one is 3 years old and is free of charge). One adult fare is Eur 39. Travel time is around 2 hours.
For a daytrip to Pisa from Florence
Since you are already in Florence, take a day trip to Pisa which is just 1 hour train ride. We bought one-way ticket to Pisa Centrale for Eur 8.40 and another one-way ticket from Pisa S. Rossore back to Florence for the same price. You can purchase the ticket from the several vending machines in S.M. Novella station.
Pisa S. Rossore is a 5-minute walk from Leaning tower of Pisa and ideal if you really just want to see the tower and nothing else. But since you are already there, you might want to see other things. They have a long strip of road where you can have coffee, lunch, snack and whatnots. Just perfect for people watching.
But note that if you want to take the Pisa S. Rossore station, it is ideal to purchase your ticket beforehand in Florence station as they don’t have a personnel there to assist you. I think I saw a ticket vending machine but I am not sure. Better be safe and buy your ticket before taking that station.
Florence to Rome
Take the Firenze S.M. Novella station to Roma Termini. We paid Eur 48 for a family of four (my youngest one is 3 years old and is free of charge). One adult fare is Eur 19. Travel time is around 1 and 1/2 hour.
Booking early applies to hotel bookings as well. The earlier you research, the better accommodation and rates you will find. I won’t share how much we paid for our apartments because I think accommodation is a matter of preference. I might be fine with just a bed space in a shared apartment (think AirBnB) for less than 100 dhs per night but you might prefer a proper hotel room with breakfast and a concierge. But if you are interested to know, you will find our rented apartments on my travel posts. All my bookings were done through booking.com
**An important tip, it is always a good idea to ask your hotel/apartment owner on how to reach your accommodation from the airport or train station especially if you plan on using public transport. The instructions given to us really came in handy.
So how much do you need to spend?
For a couple visiting a European country for around a week, AED 10,000 should be more than enough to cover the cost of your plane tickets, transfers, visa cost, food, and souvenirs. You can spend less than this if you are willing to downgrade your accommodation or find a promo ticket fare.
So what are you waiting for? Go! Explore!!!
Let me know if you have any questions and I will be more than happy to help out!
Really enjoyed your blog
Hi Lyn, thanks for your very inspiring and informative post especially I am planning for a trip to Italy and a night in Zurich,Switzerland. But unlike your itinerary, my plan is to enter in italy first (Rome) and then return to Dubai from Zurich (via Trenitallia train from Milan to Zurich). Maybe you can give me a tip with regards to booking the trains. Did you book your tickets online in advance, like how many months or days before your travel or did you book directly from the train station-Vienna-Venice-Florence-Rome? Thanks in advance for the reply.
Hi Angelica, sound like an exciting trip! We bought the train tickets as soon as have our visas approved. That’s probably 1.5 months before our trip. As we are booking way in advance, we got to purchase super discounted fares (think early bird discounts). But these super cheap fares are not very flexible. So if you think your plans might change then this might not be a good option for you.
We bought all the tickets online but I recall calling Trenitalia customer service once because I double checked that I am booking the correct train.
Thanks for the reply Lyn. 😊