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Tips on Europe travel for frugal spenders

 BVLGARI Store
A BVLGARI Store at London’s Heathrow Airport. Many visitors to Europe prefer guided tours. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Travel broadens our minds. It opens our imagination to opportunities and possibilities. Travel increases our creative and innovative capacities. Last week’s Business Talk article on finding cheaper and affordable ways to travel to Europe to make business and learning connections elicited a large reader response. Inasmuch, this week’s column responds to reader inquiries.

First, the Schengen area of Europe requires emergency medical insurance for every traveller requiring a visa. This ensures that the member countries do not have to spend their public funds on emergency medical care for visitors.

Many Kenyan travellers rely on travel agencies to purchase the required coverage. However, when buying directly from our European Union approved Kenyan insurance companies one can save up to 300 per cent. Travellers are often surprised at the very affordable travel insurance rates often ranging from Sh3,000 to Sh5,000 for a two-week trip to Europe.

Kenyan insurers approved by the European Union include Jubilee, Resolution, APA, Takaful, ICEA Lion, UAP, Sanlam, among others.

Second, many Kenyans prefer guided tours with an actual tour guide to escort them around Europe. Some of the most famous and respected travel companies with tour guides for European destinations include GlobusJourneys.com and Trafalgar.com or budget tours Cosmos.com.

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Third, among the direct airline flight purchase sites mentioned last week that usually provide drastically cheaper than going through travel agencies, some readers inquired whether the fares are refundable. Be careful. When a fare indicates “non-refundable”, then expect to not get back your full purchase price if you cancel or change your plans. These two options also allow most travellers to cancel their flight purchases within 24 hours for a full refund.

Fourth, food costs during European travel can shock visitors. Even relatively cheap restaurants, such as McDonald’s and Burger King, can cost over Sh1,000 per meal per person. In order to save money, savvy Kenyan travellers like to go to grocery stores to buy food and eat in their hotel rooms or rented vacation apartments. Look for grocery store chains and locations online in each city you visit to save money. Major European grocery store chains include Lidl, Metro, Aldi, and Edeka among many others.

Fifth, we all like to save money. A little-known secret allows Kenyans to save 10 per cent on shopping done within the Schengen area. Whether in Amsterdam or Barcelona or Brunswick, a cheap discount clothes and accessories department store chain called Primark lures thousands of Kenyans per year. But on top of the already cheap clothes prices, one can also receive 10 per cent of the cost of the shopping back in cash at the airport on the day you leave Europe. Bring your receipt to the customs desk in the respective airport and show the official your receipt and the items you purchased.

So do the customs queue before you check in your baggage. But be prepared to wait up to an hour in a line. Then, take your customs stamped receipt to the Global Blue or other cash station at the airport to receive your 10 nper cent back in cash or placed back on your credit card.

Sixth, embassies of Schengen states also require enough money in your bank account to cover your travel, lodging, and food needs during your time in Europe. Several graduate students in previous years applied for visas but were denied. Puzzled and upon further investigation, their bank statements showed a lack of funds. Some regions of the world require a history of workplace salary deposits into an applicant’s bank account. Assuming the same for Europe, the students assumed their sizable salary history would prove an adequate financial history and that their month-end salary for the month would hit the account before the trip departs.

However, at the time of application, their accounts had little to no funds in their accounts. Check the respective embassy website for guidelines. Amounts per day of the trip vary per embassy. If you do not match or exceed the minimum amount exactly, then do not assume your shortfall will be overlooked. Do not bother applying and wasting your time. European nations and their consular officials typically follow rules rather than gut feelings. So, make sure you meet the requirements. If not, postpone your business or learning trip until you meet the requirements.

Seventh, which embassy in the Schengen area should you apply to if you intend to do a multi-country trip? Officially, foreign ministries state that a traveller should apply to the country’s embassy where you intend your main activity. If the main purpose of your trip is to visit the European Parliament in Brussels but also visiting Italy and Greece, then you apply to the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium. But what if you have multiple official events? Perhaps you want to go to the Airbus headquarters in France, Heineken’s main processing plant in the Netherlands, and Mercedes-Benz in Germany. Then the rule of thumb, so to speak, is you either apply to the European country where your trip starts or the nation where you will spend the most days.

In summary, use travel to enhance your career and knowledge. Know the travel secrets to saving money and time before you travel.

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