MSc Medical Parasitology student Brittany is blogging about her experiences in London, and why it’s such a great city to study science:
London is said to be the gateway to the rest of Europe, and I couldn’t agree more. With all the travel options going in and out of the city, it’s so easy to book a trip, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune! As a student, that’s the best news you could ever hear.
The only out-of-country trip I’ve gotten to take so far during my time here was a trip to Sweden in November. Even for planning the trip and getting our tickets a relatively short while beforehand, prices still worked out in our favor. Especially using every student’s favorite airline, RyanAir.
Why do we all love RyanAir? Well tickets tend to be significantly cheaper than most other flights between the European countries, but here’s the catch: They’re super cheap because there are all sorts of other fees that can get tacked on that you may not encounter until you get to the airport.
So here are some tips on avoiding those RyanAir fees and making your flight a bit easier:
1. Check in from your computer before you leave, for your flight there AND back. It’s two separate check-ins, so do both and print your boarding passes for both. It costs about $75, or £50 to check in at the airport, for each way. So this will save you a bit.
2. Pack lightly. Especially if you’re only going for a couple days, which most trips you take as a student will not be very long. To check a suitcase is another added on fee, so try your hardest to pack everything in a carry-on. But be careful here too. Even though our bags did not get weighed, other people have told me that if your carry-on is too heavy, they will charge you for that too.
3. Bring your own snacks on the flight. With the exception of water, there is no free food or drink on the plane. Every single thing is charged.
4. Lastly, remember to get your passport checked at the airport before leaving. Since my friend and I checked-in at home, we were oblivious and unaware that we still needed to go to the desk for a ‘visa check’. When our boarding passes got looked at in line, the woman said that some places won’t even let you board the plane if you don’t have the little stamp from the visa check on your pass, but thankfully she was very nice and was able to do it for us in line. And we definitely remembered to do that in Sweden before coming back into the country.
Now, we were going to Sweden to visit a friend of mine from the States, and he was there student teaching in a town called Jönköping. (Yay free place to stay!) But unfortunately, there was no straight shot getting to where he lived near southern Sweden, which made our travel plans quite interesting. Our cheapest route, that also worked best with our timing, was to….
Walk about 1km to the tube station, take the tube to the train station, take the train to Stansted airport, take a plane from there to Västerås airport, take a shuttle from Västerås to Stockholm, and take a bus from Stockholm to Jönköping. And do that same thing on the way back.
We were stuck between two points of, would we rather take the cheaper route but spend most of the day traveling? Or would we rather pay a more but get there quicker? Obviously we chose the first choice, but honestly we don’t have regrets about it.
It sort of became a fun concept of “How much of Sweden can we see in 24 hours?”
And we actually saw a lot!
Literally, as soon as we stepped off the bus in Jönköping on Friday, we got to go to an awesome school event through the University of Jönköping, and although we were completely traveled out, we weren’t missing out on a minute of getting to experience the country. So it was a blast, and we got to meet so many new people! And after 3 years of not seeing each other, it was great to be reunited with my friend Richard again!
Now when we went, the days were super short. Like sunset at 3:20 short. So businesses seemed to work around that, meaning there wasn’t much open at night or earlier in the morning, so we started our day late morning on Saturday. With another bus ride….
This bus ride was also worth it though, since we ended up in a lovely little town called Gränna, and Gränna is apparently known for making amazing Polkagris. Which they do. And my sweet tooth was very happy.
And don’t worry, there was of course, a boat added onto our travels too. Well a ferry, but I think it’s safe to say we used almost every possible form of transport on our trip.
We used this ferry to cross Lake Vättern, to get over the the little island of Visingsö, where we got to take in some fresh air, see some beautiful buildings and ruins (first picture), and got to have fun and act silly.
All in all, our unintended 24-hour tour of Sweden was a blast, and yeah it may have been a lot of travel, the fact that it was easy to book everything, and the prices were so good made it much easier! For some comparison, this trip total, with all that travel, came to under $300 (or less than £190) for inter-country travel both ways, plus still getting a full day and night of being out and enjoying the country. Last year, it cost me over $420 (£260) just for a round trip flight within the States from Scranton, Pennsylvania to Miami, Florida. Yikes. When you compare it and put the prices into perspective, it makes you realize that even as a student, traveling to and from London is completely manageable. And what better way to enhance your study abroad experience than to take a break and go out and see these parts of the world while you’re so close to it all and it’s so much easier!
Follow Brittany’s Science in London blog at http://scienceinlondon.wordpress.com/