A Schengen visa is the ticket that many of us need in order to access Europe and all its famous sites. If you have gone through the process of applying for a Schengen visa then you know how much is involved. Given that we spend some much time, energy and money on applying for this visa let us talk about how to use your Schengen visa efficiently by looking at some sample itineraries later in the post. First let us get some preliminaries out of the way.
Who Needs a Schengen Visa?
Check this to see the list of countries whose citizens must apply for a Schengen visa to travel in Europe. The different kinds of visas and documents are detailed as well. For the purposes of this post, the focus will be on the tourist visa. Certain parts of Europe are much pricier than other parts. You have to prove that you can afford you vacation. Visiting Europe like many other places require a healthy budget. Many of us dream of visiting Paris, Rome, Venice, Amsterdam and the like – pretty expensive cities. Even backpacking around Europe isn’t cheap. Do your research and plan accordingly.
Bear in mind that in order to apply for this visa you need to have an itinerary of sorts. One of the key rules, is that you need to apply for the Schengen visa, at the embassy of the first country you plan to visit or the one where you will stay for the longest period of time. Think about the time you have to spend and how to maximise well to see a bit of what you want to. The countries in Europe are well connected, but no one wants to spend time rushing from place to place just to mark sites off a list – do you? How do you decide on an itinerary to best balance seeing the most sought after sites for you, your time and your budget?
Three Sample Itineraries to make the most of your Schengen Visa
These itineraries are all for ten days since many people have about 2 weeks of vacation. I am sharing some ideas of how to combine cities to get to a few places and use the visa efficiently. This can be on any budget based on personal circumstances. I travelled on a tourist Schengen visa for 3 weeks one summer and explored 8 cities. I did a combination of eastern and western Europe to manage my budget. Western Europe is more expensive than eastern Europe. I know many people dream of seeing the mega popular sites in western European cities but eastern Europe cities have many awesome sites as well. I enjoyed my travels in the latter more since I did not have any big expectations to be dashed. There were far fewer tourists in these cities in summer as well.
These itineraries are for the first time visitor who wants to get a taste of a few cities in a relatively short space of time. These are to give some ideas of where t start planing your itinerary. Get a map of Europe and plot the points you want to visit and make it happen.
Sample 10 days itinerary (1)
Day 1 – Fly into Paris get to your hotel and get a feel for the area. If you get there early enough go to some where like the Louvre of do a cruise on the Seine. I like to do something not too demanding after flying to a new place. Bear in mind that you if enjoy museums you really need to spend about 4-6 hrs to scratch the surface of the Louvre.
Day 2 – Explore your top sites in Paris. Don your comfortable shoes, get Google Maps cracking and take the subway around the city to see the sites. This will help you to stay within budget if you are doing things cheaply.
Day 3 – Fly to Krakow on one of the low cost carriers. Leave early and spend the day exploring the town centre and visit the lovely castle.
Day 4 – Take a bus or the train to Prague for the views.
Day 5 – Explore Prague’s old town and enjoy eating some great affordable dishes at the lovely restaurants around. There are so many photo-ops to take advantage of in this quaint eastern European town.
Day 6 – Fly to Venice and spend the day there exploring and soaking up the atmosphere.
Days 7 and 8 – Take the train to Firenze/Florence and explore away. If you are very energetic you can do a day trip with Viator to enjoy some other towns. I did one where we even went to a winery and had lunch. It was well worth the time and money. (This is not sponsored, I really enjoyed the tour).
Day 9 – Take the train to Rome and spend the day exploring. Stay in the city centre so you can walk to all the popular sites and see them in a few hours.
Day 10 – This is the day you fly home. Squeeze one more thing in by booking yourself a night flight. Go to the Vatican early and enjoy it for a few hours so you are good and tired when you get on the plane.
Make the best use of your Schengen visa by visiting some eastern European countries with more affordable food,accommodations and awe-inspiring sites.
Sample 10 days itinerary (2)
Day 1 – Fly into Lisbon get to your hotel and get a feel for the area.
Day 2 – Explore your top sites in Lisbon. Don your comfortable shoes and take advantage of a walking tour.
Day 3 – Fly to Barcelona on one of the low cost carriers. Leave early and spend the day exploring the town centre and visit the lovely sites that we all have on our lists.
Day 4 – Enjoy Barcelona for another day and go where time takes you.
Day 5 – Fly to Rome and spend the day exploring the sites that you can walk to around the city. Stay in the city centre to facilitate this.
Day 6 – Go to the Vatican and spend an awesome day exploring all it has to offer.
Day 7 – Take the train to Florence and spend the day exploring the sites around town. Then take a train in the evening and go to Venice.
Day 8 – Spend the day exploring Venice.
Day 9 – Fly to Prague and explore the old town and enjoy eating some great affordable dishes at the lovely restaurants around. There are so many photo-ops to take advantage of in this quaint eastern European town.
Day 10 – This is the day you fly home. Enjoy a leisurely lunch or breakfast and spend some more time walking around, snapping pics and even getting some selfies in. Stock up on affordable souvenirs before you get on the plane too.
Sample 10 days itinerary – for the energizer bunnies out there(3)
Day 1 – Fly into Rome and get to your hotel in the city centre. Spend some time seeing some of the sites.
Day 2 – Explore more of the centre and go to the Vatican. Take a late train to Venice. (I know may people have Venice on their itinerary, am I wrong?)
Day 3 – Explore Venice and fly to Amsterdam in the evening.
Day 4 – Explore Amsterdam in all its glory.
Day 5 – Fly or take the train to Paris and explore as much as you can that day.
Day 6 – Explore more of Paris and maybe even get to the Versailles to see something different to the city.
Day 7 – Fly to Barcelona and explore the sites you have been dreaming of for the day.
Day 8 – Enjoy more of Barcelona and fly to Lisbon in the evening.
Day 9 – Enjoy seeing the sites in and around Lisbon and finishing stocking up on souvenirs.
Day 10 – This is the day you fly home. Enjoy a leisurely lunch or breakfast and spend some more time walking around, snapping pics and even getting some selfies in.
Just writing this whirlwind itinerary gave me a buzz. We have to do what we have to in order to make the most of the Schengen visa. Much goes into applying for this visa so do what you can to get your money’s worth. Many of us dream and save up bits of cash over a long period of time to explore certain places in Europe. Thankfully, there are quite a number of low cost carriers with great fares to make jet setting around easy and affordable for most budgets.
Why the Schengen Visa is the Best Visa for Those of us with Weak Passports
Despite the fact that most first time applicants for a Schengen visa will only get a single entry, it is the best visa. This is especially the case, for those of us who spend so much time, energy and money securing visas to see the world. Let me count the many ways this visa gives us the best value for money:
- It is relatively affordable for those of us who have access to the resources to even think of travelling. It may be argued that since it is valid for a short period of time this isn’t necessarily the case. The second point gives it its weight.
- It allows access to countries in the Schengen area and others listed here. Given its reach, the cost of the visa is reasonable, though if it were valid for a year or so it would even be better. Anyway beggars can’t be choosers.
- You can enjoy a diverse range of landscapes, sites, cultures, food and so much more if you travel for a month in Europe. This kind of experience is priceless.
- The guidelines for the visa are clear and you know exactly what you need to prepare before applying. Do you agree? This is not always the case with many other visas.
- You can cross country lines without too much hassle if you fly. If you use trains or bus there are still some points where your passport and visa may be checked.
Squeeze all you can from Every Schengen Visa you Get
Yes, you read that right. Every Schengen visa you get is an opportunity to explore different areas in Europe and enrich your experiences. There are so many different areas that you can focus on. On my next trip to Europe, I want to visit the Scandinavian countries. I am saving up patiently because they require a hefty budget. I will go for a month and visit those countries and go to to Spain and Portugal which are more affordable to balance things. I plan to spend about 3-5 days in the capital cities of each Scandinavian country to enjoy a bit of what each has to offer.
I also realize the lesser known countries in Europe such as Bulgaria, Albania, Romania, Macedonia, Malta and others are great places to explore. They have rich cultural elements and are also great for even the smallest budget. Many have walkable cities which is always a plus to save on transportation. In addition, you won’t be run over by other tourists because they are not as sought after. Look at these pictures from Bucharest. See what I mean. Expand your interest through research and mix it up when you go on your trips to Europe.
Prepare well when you Apply for the Schengen Visa
Read about the requirements carefully and give yourself sufficient time to prepare. Ensure that you have about 4,000 or more Euros in your account consistently over at least a six month period to show. Also ensure that after you purchase your airline ticket that amount is still there. A big plus is having a job that pays you enough to show how this money was generated.
Do not cut any corners or rush the process. The required documents are what you must show and with time you can get them all in order. I saved for over 3 years for my 3 weeks trip to Europe because I knew that I wanted to stay in nice hotels in some cities and treat myself to certain meals. If you save say a 100 dollars a month for 3-5 years you can easily visit 6-8 cities over a month and not go broke.
I will end on this note. Manage your expectations of European cities well. Many cities are hyped up and if your expectations are through the roof you may be disappointed. Loads of people romanticize paris for example but I was not blown away by it. it is a great city to explore and experience but there are other cities that are awesome though less well known. Who else agrees that Paris is a bit overrated?
Enjoy making indelible memories in Europe on your Schengen visa. The stress of preparing docs and applying for it are surely worth it, after all.