Science - February 8, 2007

Travelling on a shoestring in Europe

Many students from outside Europe use their time in Wageningen to travel around the continent. Top destinations are the main European cities, and most can be reached with cheap flights.

Isabel Guevara.
Meng, a second-year Chinese MSc student, took a cheap flight to Madrid three weeks ago. ‘I went with two friends. It was great to enjoy some sunshine, as there’s not much of that around in Wageningen. I’m also planning to go to Italy in March. We booked the flights already in November and got a good deal: only 150 euros for three return tickets.’ It is definitely worth trying to plan in advance, as budget airlines offer very cheap prices for early bookings.

A person with a real travel bug is Isabel Guevara, from Ecuador and also in her second year of her master’s. ‘I plan where I want to go, and then check out who has the cheapest tickets. The Netherlands is centrally located in Europe, so that makes it easy to get anywhere.’ Isabel has already visited eight countries since she arrived in the Netherlands eighteen months ago. ‘I’ve been lucky that I have friends in a number of countries. That saves money for food and accommodation and makes it more fun. It’s also a good excuse for taking some time off and having a change from Wageningen. So far she has made city trips to Prague, Budapest, Paris and Madrid. She has travelled around Belgium, Holland, Russia and Switzerland too. She also went to Germany last year to support her country in the World Cup. ‘It’s not often that we qualify, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.’

Money is the main issue for Qayyum Ali Shah, a student from Pakistan. ‘I would like to visit more countries, but my wife and daughter are back home, so I cannot spend too much on expensive trips. I also want to do my internship outside the Netherlands, so I have to save money for this.’ Qayyum’s solution is to be flexible and he keeps his eyes open for special offers. That’s how he went to Paris. ‘It was very cheap. I paid about 180 euros for the round trip by bus, and two nights in a hotel.’ He adds that he found it very interesting to see how different the French are from the Dutch. ‘Many people speak no English, so communication was a bit difficult,’ says Qayyum, who speaks five languages but no French.

All three agree that travelling is a great way to learn about other cultures and to meet other people. Qayyum tells that many Pakistanis expect all Europeans to be like the English. ‘But this is absolutely not so; you can already see the differences in Wageningen.’ Isabel confirms this: ‘It’s amazing how many facets there are to Europe, there are so many different kinds of people.’ Meng was struck by the friendliness in Spain: ‘We asked a woman for the way, and she went with us to show us the direction, very helpful.’

‘Of course the people in Wageningen are also kind,’ Meng adds quickly. One thing he has learned is that a credit card is handy, as you need one to book flights online. / Henrik Schmale

Budget airlines:
www.transavia.com
www.easyjet.com
www.skyeurope.com
www.airberlin.com
www.ryanair.com

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