Ryanair and Couchsurfing
A subject dear to many: cheapo traveling. Following the flight connections of a cheapo airlines Ryanair and EasyJet, I selected first Edinborgh and then Belgium for layover connections along my desired route to get from Iceland to southern France.
These stops worked well since I’ve always wanted to visit Scotland as well as the old Flemish Belgium cities. For Scotland, EasyJet (flying in) and Ryanair (flying out) were a breeze. They use the main Edinburgh airport, making all connections super easy. Main point: be very careful of the airport that these cheapo airlines use. Make double sure the airport used will serve your needs. These airports are often really far outside of the main city they claim to serve. For how cheap the flights can be, it may well be very worth the hassle to choose these smaller airports. I can’t stress enough, though….be very careful of the specific airport used by these carriers.
When flying to Belgium, Ryanair flies into the smaller airport at Charleroi, south of Brussels. Again, don’t confuse it with the big, main Brussels airport. It cost me only about US$40 on Ryanair to fly to Charleroi from Edinburgh when booked ahead, but it is another $40 round trip on the 50-minute Flibco transfer bus that will takes you to the main Brussels train station (to be fair, weigh that against what it costs to get from the main Brussels airport to the same central train station). Not a big deal, just plan for it when booking that cheapo flight to Charleroi, or other cheapo city airports.
For instance, I’m unlikely to ever fly Ryanair out of London. It uses a small airport in the north of the city while the big carriers you might have flown in on arrive at one of the two big airports to the south of the city. Traveling through London to change airports is time consuming and costly.
Once in Belgium I made my way to the Brussels train station on the Flibco bus, then rode the fast train to the smaller medieval town of Ghent. Prices on the train were reasonable: 9€ or about US$11 for the half hour commute to get to a smaller and “cuter” town that I’d rather visit.
Church in Brugge, Belgium.
Now for some lodging tips, typically one of the biggest costs of traveling. I like Youth Hostels and Couchsurfing, though I know they won’t suit the temperaments of many folks. In Belgium I took another local city bus once I got to Ghent and stayed with a Belgium woman my age and her college-age son, whom I had found through the Couchsurfing website. Lovely people!
I very much enjoy meeting and talking with the locals. Staying in a home can be very special. My host in Ghent helped me with bus and train details, loaned me local maps, and we shared cups of lovely tea and conversation each evening. I had my own room with a comfy bed in her home, though in other Couchsurfing situations I’ve literally had a couch (like in Paris, but with a view of the Eiffel Tower – good trade off!).
I highly recommend Couchsurfing for selective stays along your travels. For the over-50 solo woman traveler such as myself, I restrict the Couchsurfing search returns to women over age 40. I’ve found some really delightful hosts this way. Generally speaking, Couchsurfing people love to engage with the international community and share their local knowledge. Some of the places I’ve stayed with outstanding folks are Ghent in Belgium, Dublin in Ireland, Paris in France, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, and Bacharach in Germany. Wonderful, trustable, memorable experiences!
Staying in a Couchsurfing home often, but not always, means being outside the city center. It may not be as conveniently located to common tourist activities, but it’s also quieter. Obviously I enjoy things a little more mellow. Younger travelers will likely love staying in the active city centers and enjoying the city’s nightlife.
Couchsurfing has an obvious cost advantage. It’s free! Tourist destinations are usually pricy for lodging, even in the humblest places like Youth Hostels. Finding a home to stay in is great, and I always aim to be a good guest. In Melbourne I helped clean the house gutters before a big storm arrived. In Paris I took my stock-broker host to lunch to share some time with him in his busy schedule. In Dublin I brought a favorite children’s book that I used to read to my kids to my host’s 3-year-old daughter (and read it to her repeatedly in my “foreign” accent!). To another host I brought a special food item from the last country I visited to share a unique taste with them from somewhere else. I don’t always find ways to share like this, but I try to give back. Together we can all create a smaller and more loving world family!
Cheapo airlines and Couchsurfing….just a couple of ways to save money while traveling and spend more of your money on experiencing your surroundings! Go for it!