Pinay's Travel Guide to Schengen Regions, Europe

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Walk with Cham in Europe.




It was three magical weeks in Europe, my dream destination. And even if 3 months had already passed, just the thought of my entire experience still makes me kiligI've only been to Europe once so I'm not really an expert on this but I will share with you what I learned about the Schengen countries I had visited based on our 3-week vacation in Austria, Italy, Netherlands and France. 

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO THE SCHENGEN COUNTRIES

1. Europe is located at the westernmost part of Eurasia. Most but not all European countries are part of the Schengen region
Schengen started when a group of European countries signed a treaty to end internal border checkpoints and control. At present, there are 26 Schengen countries. Austria, Italy, Netherlands and France are the four Schengen countries we visited. Other Schengen regions are:

Belgium
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Iceland
Latvia
Lithuania
Liechtenstein
Luxembourg
Malta
Norway
Poland
Portugal
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland

World Map 


2. Visa is required for Philippine Passport Holders
If you are a Filipino carrying a Philippine Passport you will need to apply for a Schengen Visa. You can get a visa at any of the Schengen regions depending on your main destination or your point of entry - we got ours at the French Embassy.


Mr & Mrs Magsaysay off to Europe!
Read: How to Apply for a Schengen Visa at the French Embassy for Philippine Passport

3. There is no direct flight from Manila to any Schengen Regions and is approximately 16 hours travel time
We traveled via Eva Air with two stops (Taipei and Bangkok) going to Vienna and one stop (Taipei) going back to Manila. There are a number of airlines that service flights with at least one stop going to and from Europe like Emirates, Qatar Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Thai Airways to name a few. We chose Eva Air because of the affordable rate during a travel expo. Overall, our experience with Eva Air was very comfortable and hassle free. (I will write a post about Eva Air on the blog soon)


Vienna Airport
4. Philippines is 6 hours ahead of France, Italy, Austria and Netherlands
Not all European countries have the same timezone but the four countries we visited have the same timezone which is 6 hours delayed from Philippine time. 

If you are not used to the sudden change in timezone you will definitely get jet lag, especially when you get back to Manila. Mike and I were awake in the wee hours of the night and sleepy in the morning for a week!

5. Most of the Schengen Regions experience four seasons
Because most of the Schengen countries are in the northern hemisphere, they experience four seasons. We went there early April till Mid April so we experienced spring, my favorite season where we experienced pleasant weather and the blooming flowers. Spring is experienced from March - June. Summer occurs during June - September, it is the season most visited by tourists. September - December are the months of the Autumn season. Winter lasts from December - March. 
Tulips during spring season in Netherlands
Though you have to take note that the weather of each country differs depending on their geographical location. For instance Netherlands is located on the northern part of Europe so the temperature is higher as compared to other countries on the Southern Europe. Also in France, the weather of the towns at the French Riviera are warmer as compared to Paris as Paris is up north while the French Riviera is down south. 

6. The currency in most of the Schengen Countries is Euros.
Almost all Schengen countries use euro as their currency. Here's the list: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

1 Euro = P 57.8 as of this writing

7. Note down the Philippine Consulate in France, Rome, Austria and Netherlands

Vienna, Austria
Address: Laurenzerberg 2/2/ZWG, 1010 Wien Vienna, Austria
Telephone: (+43/1) 533 24 01

Rome, Italy
Address: Viale Delle Medaglie d'Oro 112-114 00136 Rome, Italy
Telephone: (+39) 06 397- 46621 | (+39) 328 - 690-7613

Email: rome.pe@dfa.gov.ph | romepe2007@gmail.com

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Address: Crown Building South Hullen Bergweg 365a 1101 CP Amsterdam Z.O. Netherlands
Telephone: (+31) 207147100 | (+31) 651781052 

Email: ehhorlongs@assurance.nl

Paris, France
Address: 4 Hameau de Bougainvilliers 45 Rue du Ranelagh 75016 Paris, France
Telephone: +33 (0)144145700 | +33 (0)620592515
Email: paris.pe@dfa.gov.ph

WHAT TO EXPECT IN SCHENGEN COUNTRIES

1. European countries are full of vibrant and historical cities known for museums, restaurants, arts and architecture
Home to some of the most famous and captivating monuments that are listed as UNESCO world heritage sites, every part of Europe is a testimony of its glorious and interesting past.

Museum in Austria

2. They have different languages depending on the country
Even if European countries share a land border, each country has a distinct language. So remember to research your 'hello', 'thank you', 'excuse me' and 'sorry' in all the countries you'll be visiting.

French
Hello - Bonjour
Thank you - Merci
Excuse me - Excusez- moi
Good Bye - Au revoir
Sorry - Pardon
Yes - Oui
No - No

Dutch
Hello - Hallo
Thank you - Dank je
Excuse me - Escuseer mij
Good Bye - Vaarwel
Sorry - Pardon
Yes - Ja
No - Nee

Italian

Hello - Ciao

Thank you - Grazie

Excuse me - Scusami
Good Bye - Arrivederci
Sorry - Scusa
Yes - Si
No - No

Austrian

Hello - Hallo

Thank you - Danke

Excuse me - Entschuldigung Sie Bitte
Good Bye - Auf Wiedersehen

Sorry - Wie bitte
Yes - Ja
No - Nein

3. There are so many distinct cuisines in each country in the Schengen Region
You will be left in awe when you get to experience the various cuisines in each European countries you will be visiting. Here are a few of the cuisines that you should try.

French
Escargot, Foie Gras, Potato Gratin, Beef Tartar, Creme Brûlée, Souffle, Eclair, Macarons, Crepe

Escargot
Italian
Bruschetta, Pizza, Pasta, Risotto, Gelato, Panna Cota, Tiramisu


Pizza and Pasta
Dutch
Dutch Fries, Pancakes, Raw Herring, Stroopwafel


Pancakes

Austrian
Strudel, Kodel, Schnitzel, Spätzle 

Schnitzel

4. Overall, the Schengen countries have great transport system
Coming from a fully develop continent, everyone who had visited the Schengen regions would agree that traveling within and across the Schengen countries is easy breezy! Understanding their railway system is very tourist friendly but you also have to take into consideration that each transport system per country differs. Here are a few pointers I've noticed:

Vienna - of all the four countries we visited, we were confused with Vienna's transport system. Don't get me wrong, they have an excellent, clean and upscale metro but what made it difficult to understand was that there were no ticket barriers at stations and no formal ticket checks on trains, trams and buses. But this doesn't mean that you don't need a ticket to be able to use them. Vienna's transport system runs on an honesty system. If you think you don't need to purchase tickets you are totally wrong, undercover agents would randomly ask everyone to show their tickets and there is a fine when they catch an individual traveling without a ticket.


Vienna transport system. No turnstile or any barrier at the station

There was one instance when we weren't able to buy a ticket because there were no machine and ticket counters around, we were scared as hell but fortunately we were able to go home without getting caught. But I honesty do not recommend doing this. 


For more tips on Vienna's transport system you can visit this website: Vienna's Transport System

Venice - I am aware that Venice is a city full of rivers and small islands connected by bridges but what I was not aware that there are no cars, bikes, scooters or any motorized vehicles besides boats. So don't expect that you can get a cab or an uber around. They do have water taxis, motorized boats and gondolas around. 

Water Bus going to our Airbnb
Paris - The easiest way to go around Paris is via the Metro. There are Normal and Unlimited tickets you can purchase. Amount depends on the zone or the areas you will be visiting, the transport map is from zone 1 to zone 5 so be sure to check which areas you want to go to. Because Paris was the longest city we visited, we decided to book unlimited tickets so that we didn't need to buy at the counter every time we needed to ride the metro but our mistake was buying a ticket from zone 1 to zone 3 whilst we paid more than what we needed as most of the tourist spots we visited were in zone 1.


Paris Metro

I will have a separate posts for the inter country trains, planes and bus we tried:
Read: OBB Sleeper Train from Vienna Austria to Venice Italy
Read: Trenitalia from Venice Italy to Florence Italy to Pisa Italy to Rome Italy
Read: Easy Jet from Rome Italy to Nice France and Nice France to Amsterdam Netherlands
Read: Our Horrible Experience riding a Flixbus from Amsterdam Netherlands to Paris France

5. Tipping is okay but not required
Usually, most of the restaurants don't have service charge, hence, customers are encouraged to give tips. Around 5-8 percent of your entire meal in cash as the tip would suffice or of course higher if you were more than satisfied with the service. 

6. Performers along the streets and inside the metros are normal
Because Europeans have high regard in music and the arts, it is customary seeing performers along the streets. We saw a lot of them in all the cities we went to, an accordionist, a singer, a violinist, a guitarist, even a full band! It was indeed a pleasant experience to witness authentic European music live. It is actually one of the things I miss the most.


Performers in Venice, Florence, Amsterdam, Paris

7. Beware of pickpockets
The scariest thing that you wouldn't want to happen when you're in Europe is for pickpockets to target you. Because of all the horror stories we read on the internet and heard from our friends prior to our visit, we were paranoid since day 1. Luckily we didn't become victims of any pickpockets but we sure encountered a couple of them! Both of those instances were in Pisa, first was in a bus going to the Leaning Tower and the second going back at the station. Their modus is to wait at the bus stop, when a bus starts loading passengers, these group of teenagers join the commuters and try to steal from them, some of the members will try to distract you so be very vigilant. We knew about it because we almost became victims! Good thing the bus driver shouted and alerted us to be aware of pickpockets, we realized it before something bad happened. True enough when the door closed the group automatically went out of the bus. It was creepy and to think those were teenagers! So yes, be very careful and alert at all times. As they say, it's better to be safe than sorry.

8. Based on experience, and contrary to popular belief, Europeans are actually very nice. Except for a few..
Yes, we encountered arrogant people during our honeymoon but I guess that's just normal in any other country. We were told that among all the European countries, we should be more careful in approaching Parisians as they tend to be snobbish to tourists especially to those who cannot speak French. So the whole time we were in Paris we were very cautious in talking to Parisians but surprisingly they were all very helpful and courteous. I guess it helped us a lot when we try to speak little French. My friend who lived in Paris for 2 years gave us some useful tips when talking to Parisians. We should start with a 'Bonjour!' continue with a 'Pardon' then proceed with your English question, then when they answered back you can reply with a 'Merci'. We did this every time and it never failed.

However, we encountered a few very rude Parisians, but the most memorable was the driver of Iflix Bus we rode from Amsterdam on our way to Paris. He was so arrogant and heartless that he left five of his passengers in the middle of a gas station in Belgium because they were not able to finish their toilet break within the five minute-break time limit he implemented! How absurd! Everyone was panicking and some tried to talk to him politely but he didn't listen. It was a traumatic experience. I will have a separate review of that on a different post.

9. Getting a local sim and using the internet data for smart phones is possible but almost impossible for personal pocket wifi.
We bought a sim, specifically for our personal pocket wifi, twice in Italy, one was in Venice and the other one was in Florence but to our dismay, we weren't able to use them no matter how hard we tried. Believe me, it took us hours to configure it but it was almost impossible for us to make it work. Perhaps the SIM cards we encountered were not compatible with our personal pocket wifi or maybe we were just doing something wrong but because of these experiences we didn't bother buying a sim again in the other cities. If you have a smartphone however, the local sims and internet data will work but for some reason, it will not last that long - at least based on our experience. 


Bought a sim in Florence which we never got to use

10. Europe is a shopping haven
You can see so many imported brands in Europe which is fairly cheaper than in any countries in Asia - the reason why many tourists travel to Europe just to shop. Because most of the prestigious designer brands originated in Europe, they are more affordable here as compared to any other countries, designer brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, and the list goes on. Even the always out of stock rubber shoes you've always wanted (Adidas NMDs and Boosts etc) could easily be found in any of the shoe stores. We visited Europe for sightseeing but of course we didn't let the chance passed not buying anything from Europe like an LV bag Mike gifted me and the NMD shoes I gifted Mike, he also bought the same pair for his Papa. 


Bought an LV at the Galeries Lafayette

Mike is in shoe heaven!
Here are some insights I noticed during my 3-week vacation in Europe. Hope you find it helpful!

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