Valentine’s Day Tickets to Paris for Only $480! (Yep, round-trip!)

SGMT | Valentine’s Day Tickets to Paris for Only $480!
SGMT France Paris Bridge Street Lamp posts

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How does Paris for Valentine’s Day next year sound? ^_^

EVA Air, one of the top 10 airlines in the world, is currently offering round-trip tickets to Paris for only $480, for flights departing January, February or March 2017. That’s just a little over PHP 23,000 for tickets that usually cost PHP 50,000 or more! Take note these flights to Paris depart from Hong Kong but you can nearly always get cheap tickets to Hong Kong from the Philippines, so that’s not going to be a problem.

Here’s how to book:

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How to Get A Schengen Visa Through the French Embassy (2016)

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SGMT France Paris Hotel de Ville

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The French embassy in the Philippines has just recently entrusted processing of Schengen visa applications to VFS Global. Here’s what you need to know about the NEW procedure for getting a Schengen visa through the French embassy.

See if you are one of the people allowed to apply directly to the French embassy HERE.

Want to know about my personal experience applying for a Schengen visa at the French embassy? Read this article.
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Basic steps
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  1. Prepare your documents.
  2. Schedule an appointment with VFS.
  3. Go to the visa application center on your appointment schedule to submit your documents and have your biometrics taken.
  4. Wait for the result.
one week paris_php50000

http://smalltowngirlsmidnighttrains.com/2015/05/25/7-days-paris-budget/

When should you apply?

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You can only submit your visa application within 90 days from your date of departure. For example, if you are leaving the Philippines on August 1, 2016, you can submit your visa application from May 3, 2016 onwards.

Things to take into account as you decide when to apply:

  • The processing time for a short stay visa is 48 hours from the time the complete application is received at the French Embassy, while the processing time for a long stay visa is 15 working days receipt at the French Embassy. If you are asked to submit additional documents, processing time may take up to 4 to 8 weeks.
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  • In 2015, the French embassy received almost 20,000 visa applications! (That’s actually why they decided to get the help of VFS for visa application processing.) Don’t take it for granted that there will be an appointment slot available anyday.

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Is personal appearance necessary?

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Yes! You will need to have your photo and fingerprints taken.

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Will there be an interview at the French embassy?

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11 Days in Europe: Paris, Venice and Rome Sample Itinerary (and Insider Tips)

Updated January 2017
SGMT_Venice

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You know how it is.

You’ve finally saved enough to go on a 2-week trip to Europe — yay!!!

You don’t want to go on one of those big bus tours where you’re herded around like cattle with 40-60 other tourists.

You could get a travel agency to put together a trip for you but you know it will cost you a pretty penny.

What you really want is to DIY your trip: customize your itinerary to make sure it suits your tastes AND at the same time covers all the must-sees.

But You Just. Don’t. Have. The Time.

Well, you’re in luck. 🙂

In this article, we’re going to teach you the basics of putting together an 11-day European itinerary that will give you the best bang for your buck. We also share tips and other things we learned — sometimes the hard way — on our previous trips to Europe.

And if you want to skip all that and just get a really detailed itinerary — one that you can actually submit to the Embassy when you apply for a Schengen visa — we can give you that too. We’ve put together an 11-day itinerary (14 days in all, including transit) that has flight times, train times, daily schedules, tips, and links to where you can book everything you need to book. If that’s what you want, click HERE.

Let’s start!
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How to Tell If A Tour is Good Value or Not


We break down an $850 11-day tour of France, Switzerland, and Italy — its real costs, pros and cons — and discuss the questions you have to ask before signing up for any tour.

Descent_Venice_02

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Yesterday, a friend asked me to take a look at a tour he was considering going on later this year. I’m hardly a tour expert but, from experience, I think there are basic questions we need to ask before we decide to take a tour or not.

First, a few points:

  • On the road, I’ve met people who proudly say they “never do tours” and I think that’s a shame. There are good tours and bad tours, and even good tours have their pros and cons. The trick is to figure out whether a tour’s pros outweigh its cons far enough to make its price worth it.
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  • I usually go DIY because I have to stick to a certain budget and because when it comes to itineraries, I’m often fiercely independent to a fault. That said, I have loved many of the tours I’ve joined; there is a lot to be gained by listening to a local or an expert. A few favorites come to mind:
    • The tour with an archaeologist at the Colosseum in Rome — fascinating, plus signing up for a tour gets you through the mile-long lines much more quickly
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    • The Louvre tour with an art historian a/k/a how the French feel when people go to their museum only to see an Italian work of art 😀
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    • The tips-basis walking tour we joined in Munich, learning about the Beer Hall Putsch and the Kristallnacht and standing in a square where Hitler had marshalled his army
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    • Our Highlands tour with Andrew MacDonald which brought up a lot of surprising parallels between Scotland and the Philippines and touched on a lot of the things that I personally value very much, like freedom and loyalty and family
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Now back to the topic. 🙂

How to dissect a tour

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Below are the basic questions that will help you decide whether a tour is good value or not:

  1. What does the tour include? What doesn’t it include?
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  2. How much does the tour really cost when you add the “hidden” charges?
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  3. What are the tour’s stops? How much time do you spend in each stop? Is the time per stop consistent with your goals for the trip?
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  4. What are the tour’s advantages and disadvantages?
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  5. Given all of the above, is the tour worth it for you? If you don’t take the tour, do you have the time or resources to come up with an alternative itinerary?

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Paris. Is. Possible.

On the third anniversary of my first ever European trip, I thought I’d go back to the basic, underlying message of this blog: you can do it too. And what better place to feature than Paris, where this love affair with travel (and writing about it) all began.

Paris_Gaya_SGMTIt was exactly three years ago that I first stepped foot in Paris. Before that day, I’d thought European trips were only for rich people so I hadn’t even dared to dream of Paris or Rome or Venice. But one day my sister found a seat sale to Paris and, on a crazy impulse, we decided to go for it. In the months between the day we bought the tickets and the day of our departure, we scrimped and force-saved every extra cent we had. The day after every payday, once the bills were paid, I would literally have no money left for non-essentials. It was difficult to give up the little luxuries that had made ordinary life more enjoyable but in the end it was worth it: I was there, in Paris, on the 6th of October, breathlessly climbing up the steps of Champ de Mars station, and catching my first ever glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.

If there’s one thing I would like to share with anyone who also dreams of going to Paris, it’s this: it’s possible.

And not only is it possible, it’s very doable.

It starts with a dream. You have to tell yourself that you are going to Paris. And you have to set a goal date for it, otherwise it will remain one of those dreams that are always dancing just beyond the horizon of reality.

Next: you have to start. Now. Start saving at least for the airfare, which will probably take up the biggest chunk of your budget. Save for your airfare first because airlines regularly have seat sales and the best way you can snap up cheap tickets is if you already have the means to pay for them — luck favors the prepared. Once you have the tickets, you can slowly pay off or save for other travel expenses: this month, accommodations; next month, food; etc.

And then…you just gotta do it. Once you spot an opportunity, go ahead and grab it. Say YES to the dream and, if necessary, figure out the details of how you’ll do it later.

one week paris_php50000

The budget

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Some people say there’s no point in going to Paris if you’re not going to spend freely and enjoy — as if happiness is measured by the price you pay for it. Other people say that PHP 50,000 will only cover hotels — that it will not include food and certainly will not include airfare. And that’s fine if they think that way. (Ssshhh…the benefit of some people having that mindset is that the rest of us have less competition for the low airfares. But don’t tell them.)

However, if you’re willing to open your mind a bit, and you’re not too particular about the thread count of your bed sheets or the number of Michelin stars in your food, a 1-week Paris vacation is possible for only PHP 50,000.

Here’s the breakdown:

7 days in Paris for php 50000_updated 06Oct2015

The details

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Airfare
. As mentioned above, airfare will be your biggest expense and you will have to keep your eye out for promos and seasonal price drops. What I do is I check Skyscanner every now and then for low fares. Right now, for example, Skyscanner shows flights from Manila to Paris for only PHP 21,169 (via Oman Air). You can’t book flights on Skyscanner but they will give you links to the booking websites — such as Expedia or the airline website itself — that are offering that price. (See this article for other ways to stay updated on seat sales and promo fares.)

Skyscanner prices as of 06 October 2015

Skyscanner prices as of 06 October 2015

Schengen visa fee. This is a standard fee that the French embassy charges for processing your visa application. (See this article for a step-by-step guide in getting a Schengen visa at the French embassy.)

Travel insurance. This is required to get the Schengen visa you will need to enter France. The price of PHP 1,135 for a 7-day trip to France is offered by Blue Cross, which I personally use because it’s so easy to get (see details here). Other travel insurance companies might charge more or less for the same coverage.

Schengen travel insurance_Blue Cross_as of 06 October 2015

Blue Cross prices as of 06 October 2015

International travel tax. This is standard as well. Sometimes the travel tax is even incorporated into the airfare so that’s one less thing you will have to budget for.

Accommodations. It goes without saying that you can’t expect a 5-star hotel for this sort of budget but if you’re not too choosy, you can find fairly decent lodgings at this price. (A friend stayed at the OOPS! Hostel for only 30 euros per night, including breakfast.) What I do is I search for accommodations at Booking.com and filter the results based on my budget. Low-priced options with fairly good reviews include the Generator Paris and the St Christopher’s Inn Paris – Gare du Nord. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, I can personally recommend the Grand Hotel du Loiret, the Hotel Terminus Lyon, and the Hotel Le Notre Dame Saint Michel.




Booking.com


Food. Again, you can’t expect multi-course meals at Michelin-starred restaurants at this budget but you can still eat reasonably well. Of course, you’re in France and it would be a shame if you don’t get to try classic French cuisine at least once. What I usually do is I splurge on 1 or 2 good meals and eat frugally for the rest of the trip. See this article for tips on how to save on food while traveling. (Hint: supermarkets are your best friend.)

Transportation. Ideally, you should stay near the city center so you can walk to most of your destinations for the day. When you must take the Metro, you can save by buying a “carnet” — a book of 10 tickets — for €14.40. (A single ticket costs €1.80 so you save €3.60 when you buy a carnet.)

Miscellaneous expenses. You’ll notice that the PHP 50,000 budget does not specifically include things like admission to the Louvre or the fee for going up the Eiffel Tower. You can use the miscellaneous expenses budget for those costs. Do keep in mind, though, that there are many free things to do in Paris. Even the Louvre is free on certain days. (See: 3 Things That Will Surprise You About Paris.) A simple Google search could save you tons of money.

Entrance to the gorgeous Notre Dame cathedral is free

Entrance to the gorgeous Notre Dame cathedral is free

And that’s it

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…a one-week PHP 50,000 budget for Paris. Of course, it’s a very basic budget so it would be great if you can save more than PHP 50,000 for your trip. But definitely you don’t need to be wealthy to fulfill your Paris dreams. If you want it enough, and you’re willing to make a few sacrifices for it, Paris is definitely possible. Happy travels! 🙂

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Paris is possible: 1 week in Paris for only PHP 50,000 | This is an updated version of an article previously published in this blog. | © Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.  

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small-town girl travel_you can do it too

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