How to Travel in Belgium/France Thriftily?

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Xenops
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Re: How to Travel in Belgium/France Thriftily?

Postby Xenops » Thu Apr 05, 2018 2:02 am

Thank you all for your advice and thoughts: I appreciate it. When I will make certain plans to visit European countries, I will be well stocked with knowledge and how-tos. :D

It was also because many of you said that spending such a short time there might not be worthwhile that I decided to stay put in the meantime. I confess we Americans do have the mentality of speeding through an area: though to be fair, on the West Coast, any city worth seeing will be a several hour drive from one to another. :lol: As a recent migrant to the East Coast, I'm finding that this is not the case.

For other news, I have a phone interview tomorrow, so staying State-side would prove most useful. ;)
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Re: How to Travel in Belgium/France Thriftily?

Postby Cavesa » Thu Apr 05, 2018 11:52 am

Xenops wrote:Thank you all for your advice and thoughts: I appreciate it. When I will make certain plans to visit European countries, I will be well stocked with knowledge and how-tos. :D

It was also because many of you said that spending such a short time there might not be worthwhile that I decided to stay put in the meantime. I confess we Americans do have the mentality of speeding through an area: though to be fair, on the West Coast, any city worth seeing will be a several hour drive from one to another. :lol: As a recent migrant to the East Coast, I'm finding that this is not the case.

For other news, I have a phone interview tomorrow, so staying State-side would prove most useful. ;)


Yes, it is understandable. The US are huge and the density of towns is much lower (in most European countries, it is almost hard to find a bit of space without any village on it :-D ). And the "interestingness" of a place grows with history and even small towns in Europe have simply got a lot of a head start.

So, I understand why a usual american tourist may not realize that there is some stuff in between Paris, Rome, London, Berlin, and Barcelona. And that they don't expect places with fewer than a million inhabitants to have anything to offer. What I find weird is the fact they don't discover it during their research and planning.

A good compromise between detailed exploration and speeding through might be something like one quarter of France in two or three weeks, I would say. What do others think?

And even if you are staying in the US now, who knows whether you won't need to make the plans again in a few months!

Good luck with the interview!
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Re: How to Travel in Belgium/France Thriftily?

Postby Elenia » Thu Apr 05, 2018 11:53 am

Xenops wrote:Thank you all for your advice and thoughts: I appreciate it. When I will make certain plans to visit European countries, I will be well stocked with knowledge and how-tos. :D

It was also because many of you said that spending such a short time there might not be worthwhile that I decided to stay put in the meantime. I confess we Americans do have the mentality of speeding through an area: though to be fair, on the West Coast, any city worth seeing will be a several hour drive from one to another. :lol: As a recent migrant to the East Coast, I'm finding that this is not the case.

For other news, I have a phone interview tomorrow, so staying State-side would prove most useful. ;)


Good luck with the interview!

In case you get time in the future, I can recommend Tours as a lovely place to visit in the summer. The town has its name for a reason! It's a good base to visit different châteaux in the surrounding region, as well as a few of the other towns in the region. They also pride themselves on speaking 'pure' French there :roll: :lol: but I wouldn't stay there more than a week, personally. From there it's pretty easy to get a train to Paris or Bordeaux. And Ryan Air run cheap very flights to London, Morocco, Dublin and Marseilles from Tours Airport, if you're interested in taking your travels further afield. (All of the flights but London are seasonal, if I remember correctly).
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Re: How to Travel in Belgium/France Thriftily?

Postby joels341 » Sat May 19, 2018 10:50 am

Living in a country and visiting are two very different things. Depending on your needs, a hostel might not cut it. Especially as you get older. This best thing to cut is the food!

I don't mean don't eat local food. I mean, be smart about where you eat. In Brussels, there are many restaurants that cater specifically to tourists. And the prices is elevated to match! But that doesn't mean the quality is better or that the food is more authentic.

Find out where the locals eat! In Brussels, you can get nice Greek gyros for 5 euros not far from the Grand Place. All the locals know the "Greek street". Also, if you are looking for good local food, stay away from the streets that are jam-packed with restaurants. They are for tourists. Find the lonely restaurant where the locals are and pay local prices. I'd rather eat a good 15 euro steak at a local restaurant than eat a rubbery steak at a tourist trap for 25 euros.
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Re: How to Travel in Belgium/France Thriftily?

Postby Cavesa » Sat May 19, 2018 12:04 pm

I wholeheartedly agree. And that is one of the many reasons why knowing the language makes travelling cheaper. Finding out where the locals eat is not that obvious without that. And it is not not just the restaurants.

However, one of the sad realities of today is, that locals may actually not be eating the local food much. There is some global fashion in eating, so the % of the national restaurants in the competition with pizza/burger/kebab/sushi/pho changes over time. So, it can happen that in a certain place people just make the national foods at home and go out for something exotic. And that means that either you go to a tourist trap, or you'll just have a gyros wherever you are.

So, searching the internet in the local language is a must.
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Re: How to Travel in Belgium/France Thriftily?

Postby heartlandexpat » Sat May 19, 2018 3:18 pm

I'd suggest getting a multi-ticket (can't remember the real name, but you get a number of rides on one sheet and you just fill out one line for each trip) while you're in Belgium for the train! The train is pretty cheap (at least certainly compared to the UK!), and most of the main spots are around an hour away from Brussels by train! I lived literally 5 seconds outside of Gare du Midi and many times me and my housemates would all be having our morning coffee on the weekends and randomly decide to hop on the train for a quick day trip. We would buy these multi-tickets and just share it, and normally that'd cover all of us for there and back and we saved so much money rather than each buying our own tickets individually.

If you want to see as much as possible, you can do most of the destination cities in Belgium in a day. Of course, they certainly could (and should) take longer than that, but mostly they're good for just wandering anyways so I think it should be a fine first trip, and then if you wind up moving there you can follow up more thorough visits! Brugges is certainly just a day, Ghent is just a day (though I will say it's so lovely you'll never want to leave!), Leuven is really just a day. Antwerp is maybe two (I visited twice and don't feel like I saw everything, but to be fair once was Pride so we wandered through town and ate free ice cream but didn't truly explore besides bars and then we were already very drunk, and the second time it snowed and we were not having it so we left way early), Brussels is huge so you'll just have to make your priorities. I know they offer a tourists discount if you want to see a bunch of sites, but it's not worth it. I didn't make it to Liege or any of the others I haven't listed, as we sort of fell into the trap of loving Ghent too much and returning rather than going new places! You can also take the train within Brussels and they almost never control within the city (and if you go with the multi-pass and you see them coming you can just jot it down real quick anyways). Otherwise, all public transport is on the same system which is nice (ie the same pass works for buses, trams, metros), but it's moderate/high priced not cheap so I'd just hop the train and walk.

I second finding local eateries, food can be expensive if you go to the wrong places. I can suggest a great african place in Saint-Gilles if you're interested, or if you want to go the grocery route I 100% suggest the Saint-Gilles market sunday mornings- I fed myself for less than €10 every week doing that, including incense but excluding coffee ;) I know other neighbourhoods have cheap markets too, but watch out because some like Ixelles (in fact avoid Ixelles altogether it's sooo pricey! except knees to chin which is good for lunch, and the mangoes at their market are cheap too) are way more expensive than a grocery store would be. From what I could tell the main grocery stores have comparable prices, but make sure you're going to the real store and not the quickie version. Proxy Delhaize isn't too bad, but the Carrefour Express will gouge you. Lidls suck in Bxl, but of course they'll be cheaper so it's your choice.

There's a number of free things to see in Brussels as well if you want, and I think it's the first Wednesday of the month museums are free or cheap or something (I'd google it to be sure). I can't speak for normal museum prices, because I always paid the "art" student discount. Outside of that I think I have a list from when my friends came to visit me that I could pass on with some free things to do if you wanted. Bars aren't super cheap, I'd suggest buying beers from the grocery store and going somewhere public (Flagey/Palais du Justice/the canalside in Ghent) if saving money is #1 top priority, but I do suggest going to a bar while in Brussels as it is a big part of culture. Our go-to was Maison de Peuple. To be fair, I don't think they're quite so expensive if you're not me, since I hate beer so I exclusively drink kriek (cherry beer) :lol: - which, btw, I suggest trying while you're there. Prices do vary widely at bars though, so watch out.

All my trips to France were long ago and expensive, so I'm no help there, sorry! I'm jealous if you wind up going, I miss BE more than anything!

EDIT: I just re-read you original post. Be careful about downloading maps, I've never gotten it (it being Google Maps) to really work. I think the problem is that it only downloads driving directions, which isn't super helpful.
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Re: How to Travel in Belgium/France Thriftily?

Postby tarvos » Sun May 20, 2018 9:34 am

Yeah you can get a Go Pass but it has an age limit if I recall correctly. That said I've used those many times back in the day when I spent a lot of time in Brussels.
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Re: How to Travel in Belgium/France Thriftily?

Postby SmartRat » Wed May 30, 2018 12:16 pm

As I can see here is already a lot of useful information, I would just recommend you not to buy any excursions or rely on Lonely planet or tripadvisor only, but to use an application, the idea is that there are young people (usually students) who wish to practice English and don't mind to show you around for free, you might invite them for dinner or lunch after (as we deed and this was really lovely). It is much better than anything else in expensive capital like Paris for example. For the accomodation depends on your budget, we stayed both in hostels and apartments like air bnb, for example in the south of france we stayed here https://tranio.com/france/adt/1673699/ amazing building with sea acces, it was new and we were the first guests, we had it with 50% discount last summer. Sometimes they do something like that in France. The price for accomodation depends a lot on area (in Paris it's very expensive, we stayed in a hostel, it wasn't that nice by the way) :(
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Re: How to Travel in Belgium/France Thriftily?

Postby reineke » Fri Jun 01, 2018 12:23 am

≤0.5g/l
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