International travel has become quite popular in India in recent times, and a huge number of Indians travel out of India for business and tourism purposes every year. Statistics show that around 1.2 crore Indians made international trips in 2011 alone. And of these, around 24 lakh trips were to Europe. Traveling to Europe has become a breeze in recent times with integrated visa solutions, cheaper airfare, and the ease of booking holiday accommodation over the internet. There is a ton of culture and history to take in, and a variety of natural and man-made wonders to gape at, that you can never run out of things to do in Europe.
Ironically, despite the large market possibility in India, there is not enough travel information available on the internet or elsewhere readily available for Indians traveling to Europe. All of the information available on the internet targets the average American traveler, and filtering out information relevant to Indians is quite a difficult task. Also, there is a mammoth difference in the style of travel, the kind of facilities expected, and the travel budget between the Indian traveler and his American counterpart. Time is precious, and few travelers would want to spend it filtering out information available on the internet. The fear of being left struggling in a strange foreign land with unknown languages makes a self-tailored Europe trip almost impossible for the Indian traveler.
The average Indian traveler is usually a textbook tourist. He would like to get a glimpse of all what he has seen in Indian movies shot abroad, all the while chatting with his near and dear, and eating familiar Indian food while on a trip. Adventure, experiencing myriad cultures, meeting new people, savouring the delicasies of an alien cuisine – all these are unfamiliar terms in Indian travel circles. A secure coach trip where people are herded from landmark to landmark, and serving Indian food, is what the average Indian traveler needs, and travel agents in India offer exactly the same. The travel agents offer packages which spends a whirlwind day at each of the popular capital cities or cities with famous monuments in Europe, and get you back safe to your hotel in the evening. All you get is a fleeting sight of monuments, and nothing in terms of experiencing the places, or knowing the local culture. These travel agents charge an arm and a leg for these international travel packages, and you get back a bland and uninspiring foreign trip. Everything from what you will see, and what you will eat, and what you will experience is decided by the tour operator. Of course, for the first time traveler going abroad, this means a lot of security and comfort. But for those who would like to see something more than the usual, these travel packages are inadequate, the price of private tours is out of reach, and the information available is sparse.
So, I have planned to do a travel series – a set of writeups on traveling to Europe, especially for Indian travelers, sightseeing, knowing a bit of the culture, meeting people, and getting a bigger bang for your buck, or rather returns for your rupee, through independant travel. I will base these on my experiences of traveling in the UK, and the plans I have made for a bigger Europe trip in the near future. With a little bit of planning and smart budgeting, you can have a leap of a better experience and fun in Europe, than what you would have had in a tour-operator-conducted trip. And, the bonus – you get to plan what you would do and where you would go.
First, I would give a brief introduction to Europe, its history, and where it stands today in terms of tourism. Next comes the practical information needed to do a tour of Europe, the travel, accommodation and visa. Then, I would go into individual countries in detail – England, Scotland, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and Netherlands to boot. So, join me for a ride folks…