Here’s how you can enjoy one of Europe’s most iconic countries without spending too much
By Judee Bendiola
A lot has happened these past few years. And no words can even describe how the pandemic, the Philippine election, and their respective aftermaths have affected most of our relationships with our Pinoy loved ones. We cannot deny that diverse views, geographical distance, and numerous corona restrictions left a big awkward gap in how we interact with others. Difficult as it may seem, finding ways to bounce back can, in comparison, be the heaviest load moving forward.
As the season turns from winter to spring, everything has its own time to heal, recover, and be renewed once again. More and more cities have already embraced the “new normal” and various international borders have now reopened to welcome travelers and tourists. If you will be given a chance to travel again, and reconnect with your best friends who are now living in various parts of the world, how will you spend your time with them?
I was fortunate enough that my Filipino best friends had the chance to visit me here in Germany. Ian “Celso” Ditalo is a pharmacist based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia while Angela Nepomuceno is an account executive based in Manila, Philippines. How did our friendship start? We all studied and finished high school in Bulacan. From street dance competitions to normal barkada or friends’ gatherings, we were all present! We have been in contact through college up to the time we entered our professional careers and various life stages. Then, life happened, we had to do some “adulting,” and we just found ourselves separated in different parts of the globe. For various reasons, we somehow settled to feel comfortable having our bonding sessions through video calls and chat messages. There was, of course, an effect in terms of synergies and the flow of communication, having in mind various time zones and struggles as we move on with our own lives, miles apart from each other.
I say, the true test of friendship is time. But if trust, commitment, and care for each other are there, no matter how long you are apart, no matter what struggles you encounter or life choices you make, true friends will always be just right there, standing by your side.
“What makes our friendship distinct is that we can all be comfortable in our own skin especially when we meet or talk. And our Euro trip last 2016 can be considered a life-learning experience,” Celso added.
Let me turn back time to a pre-pandemic trip and share some of our “tipid” or economical tips when traveling with your BFFs in Germany. Here are some of the highlights and lessons learned from that two-week visit, which I think is still relevant even post-pandemic.
1. Plan, plan, and plan!
Honestly, since we all come from low to middle-class families, it was not a breeze booking this Asia-Europe trip. A lot of things need to be prepared and settled. So, one way to minimize the cost of our trip was to plan.
Before we met, we had to open a Google document where we could collaborate all together to create an itinerary that suits us all. Not everyone, of course, is the same—one likes to walk, one likes to chill, and one just likes to eat. Angela observed that when we traveled to Europe our personalities were tested to their limits due to the fact that we are all different. “But we learned to respect and give each other space; and we compromised,” she added.
As much as we want to maximize our time and visit as many places as we can, visiting two or three cities a day might be stressful and physically exhausting. It is best to plan one or two days to discover a city. And now that the whole world is still adjusting to the “new normal” way of traveling, especially with a group in mind, it is better to be informed about the current travel rules and regulations.
Once the metropolitan destination has been set, the accommodation has been booked and the itinerary has been agreed on, we discussed the most important part—how to get there.
2. Chill and ride the bus or take the train
All of us agreed that the best way to commute is either through bus or train. Why? Foremost, because it is good for the environment in comparison to renting a private car. Second, there are numerous budget fairs offered by Flixbus or Deutsche Bahn to name a few transport companies who are famous in Germany for their affordable tickets and reliable system.
“My favorite part in Germany is that you can travel thru inter-city, inter-region and international trains. The trip was very smooth, not super expensive, and our eyes were up for a treat with the breath-taking views. On a personal note, the mood was very homey. Our stay was very relaxing and invigorating. Somehow, I got a glimpse of how it is like to be based in Germany,” Celso pointed out as he reminisced our experience.
Angela agreed with Celso. In addition, for her “it is so easy to do a solo trip or backpacking in Germany. The train system is very modern and effective. One can really say kayang-kayang mag solo trip (It is possible to have a solo trip),” she added.
One ticket that can be recommended for barkadas or a group of friends is Deutsche Bahn’s “Quer-Durch-Lands” ticket or “Across the Country” ticket. With this, a group of five people can ride regional trains all throughout Germany in one day. This is a cheaper but slower way to travel. With early booking, affordable tickets can also be booked for intercity express trains which are known for their high speed and comfortable top amenities like toilets, bistro, kids play-zone, working cabin, etc. If possible, most locals opt to travel internationally via Intercity Express trains instead of driving a car or booking a flight.
3. Shop all you can in German supermarkets
If you start converting Philippine peso to euro, many things can be very expensive. Considering a tight budget, it is recommended to have a good balance of going to the supermarket as well as dining in the restaurant. In Germany, supermarkets can be narrowed down to two categories—one which is expensive but with the highest quality, like Edeka and Rewe; and the other one which offers various qualities of products but may offer cheaper prices, the likes of Lidl, Penny, Norma, Netto.
It is always recommended to buy a liter of water, with some cookies, and fruits. Additionally, some supermarkets like Rewe offer fresh salads, sushi, hot meat, and sandwiches. Imagine how much you can save if you buy a €5 supermarket meal compared to a €15 to €20 meal in a restaurant. If traveling with friends, it is best and cheaper to buy in packs! “Pak, ganun!” (Yes, that’s it!)
What other travel tipid tips (travel saving tips) can we share, say for accommodation? How about partying on a budget? Did our friendship survive the 2016 trip or were there conflicts because of “ambagan” or financial contributions? Stay tuned. Wait for the second part of this article.
Contributing writer Judee Bendiola is a Filipino expat in Germany. Get to know Judee on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter at @iamjudeebee. She is also currently working as a Marketing & Communication professional for Non-profits. You can reach out for possible collaboration via LinkedIn or at [email protected] Join her advocacy in supporting the Global Filipino community and share her stories.