Mysteries Revealed : Travel Smart With Skyscanner to Everywhere

10:41:00 PM


Since the past six months, I have been obsessed with Skyscanner. It all started while planning for my Switzerland-Italy trip when I came to know about a travel comparison site by this name. At that point of time, I used http://www.skyscanner.co.in to book the cheapest available return trip from Mumbai to Zurich. This article is a return gift to them for acting as my one-stop travel guide, at a moment when I was utterly confused over which online travel site to use to book my flight tickets.


I love Europe. Period. But if I have to choose only one place in Europe as Dream Destination 2014, it would be none other than Prague and here's how I make this happen - Smartly and Budget-friendly -



PLAN IT!

1. When should I travel to Prague?

Prague is at its busiest during the Spring and Summer months, i.e. from May to August. Since I prefer less crowd and don't mind the cold, I would pick up either the Fall months or November to go there. The only down part of traveling during the colder months is that I have to pack extra cold-weather gears.

2. Booking the flight tickets.

Booking the return trip flight ticket is absolutely necessary before applying for the Visa. Here is where Skyscanner comes to the rescue again! Keeping in mind that flight fares are the lowest between Tuesday and Thursday, I would fly out probably on a Tuesday and book the return ticket for the next Wednesday or Thursday. 




My selected dates also include the 2 days Diwali holidays so that I can save up on my leaves. I would go for the first option Skyscanner shows - Swiss Air. It perfectly matches my preference - lesser flight duration with a 2 hours layover time at Zurich airport. I would land at Prague on 21st October at 9:40 CET, thus having the entire day for acclimatization and for getting rid of the jet lag. 

3. Booking the Hotel

This one is as important as booking the flight as the Consulate would ask for proof of the same. But it's totally understandable that you might not want to book the hotel right away. I'll show you an easier way around.

Skyscanner gives you the option of hotel tariff comparison too. 

Step 1: I'm ready to pay maximum Rs. 3000 per night. So after clicking on the Hotels tab, I set my price filter close to 25K for 9 nights. Unbelievable right? Who would give me a room in Europe in that rate - for 9 nights!!!

Step 2: I sort by highest to lowest rating and Voila!!! The topmost option that Skyscanner shows - Mosaic House (which is actually a hostel), In the centre of Prague, 4 Star, 8.6/10 rating based on 774 reviews - All these in just Rs. 9667! European hostels are the best place to stay if you are on a budget. I, however, scrolled down and chose Metropolitan Studios - a single room studio apartment, 3 stars, 8.4 rating - costing me Rs. 23098 for 9 nights - well within my budget. 


Step 3: Here comes the main part now - Out of the websites Skyscanner shows, I would book through Booking.com as the site often allows you to do free bookings (Called as Pay Later) with free cancellation option before 48 to 72 hours of your arrival date. With this option, I do not need to pay for the hotel right away, yet have my proof of accommodation for the Visa requisite. 

4. Getting the travel insurance

I would use a site like PolicyBazaar.com to get a travel insurance for my travel duration. I would buy an insurance policy that gives a minimum medical coverage of US$ 50000 for a premium as low as Rs. 300 to Rs. 400.

5. Getting the VISA


The best part about entering most European countries is the unified and simplified Schengen visa system. Since I'll be travelling to Czech Republic, I would approach the Consulate of Czech Republic, either myself or through a travel agency which provides Visa assistance. If you plan to travel to several countries within the Schengen area, you need to apply visa at the embassy or consulate of the country where you intend to spend the most number of nights. The country of the first port of entry need not be the country to issue the Schengen visa if you are not spending maximum nights there; but only if you are spending equal nights in multiple Schengen countries. So once I have checked all the below requisites, I'm good to submit my Visa application and supporting documents to the Consulate.

Requisites
Conditions
Remark
Czech Republic tourist visa application form
Should be completely filled out and signed.
Check
Cover letter
Addressed to the Embassy of Czech Republic, explaining the purpose of the trip, dates of travel, cities to be visited, place of accommodation, etc.
Check
Indian Passport
Should have atleast 6 months of remaining validity.
Check
2 Passport size photographs
Should adhere to mentioned dimensions (Probably 35-45 mm).
Check
Copy of Round trip tickets
-
Check
Copy of confirmed hotel reservations
-
Check
Travel itinerary for the entire duration of stay.
-
Check
Health Insurance
Minimum medical coverage of US$ 50,000 valid for the entire duration of travel.
Check
Bank statement
Past 6 months.
Check
Salary slip
Past 6 months.
Check
Income Tax returns or Form 16
Last 3 years.
Check
Photocopy of PAN card
 -
Check
Employer N.O.C.
A letter from your employer stating that a leave of absence has been granted and that I will be returning to my current job. 
Check
Address Proof
Only if you are applying visa outside the jurisdiction of your passport issuing office.
Check

The Visa processing may take from 5 to 20 days, so you should apply minimum 6 weeks before your travel... And wait for it...

6. Wanna drive a car in Prague?


Once your passport has arrived with the Schengen stamp on it, go ahead - Daydream! If you want to hire a self drive car in Prague, Skyscanner even gives you that option with its Car Hire tab. Click on it, select the pick up airport, pick up date/time, drop off date/time and your age of course.




The idea of hiring a car is tempting if you hold an international license and so I hired a Chevrolet Spark for 3 days so that I can drive around and know the city, till its time to explore Prague on foot.

7. Currency Exchange : 


Get a World Currency Card and some hard cash converted into Czech Koruna.

Current exchange rate : 1 CZK = 3.10 INR

8.  International SIM card: 


It is always better to buy an international SIM card like HIREaSIM or WorldSim, instead of activating international roaming on your number (which is way more expensive).



DO IT!!

1. It's Time to Fly

* Keep a copy of all the Visa documents.

* Keep a jacket in hand. There will be a minimum temperature drop of 20 degree Celsius from hot sweaty Mumbai to shivering cold Prague.
* Report at least 2-3 hours before the check-in closes. Remember there are still few procedures left, including an interview at the immigration counter.
*Reset the watch according to the destination time zone as soon as your are seated in the flight. This would mentally prepare me for that time zone.
* Say "Bye Bye Mumbai, It's my time to Fly!"

2. Welcome to Prague



I have to go through few more questions at the Passport control office, before I'm allowed to step out. I'll pick up the car and drive through Prague using the Navigator. It's a 30 minute drive to Metropolitan Studios.




I would buy a 4 day adult Prague Card for 45€ that would grant me entry to most of Prague's attractions and many offers/discounts on activities like the Vltava river cruise or at restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe. After dropping off the car by end of 3rd day, I would walk back through the cobble-stoned streets, but not before indulging in dinner at a classic Czech restaurant.


Image Courtesy : Google
I would spend the rest of the days exploring the cobblestoned lanes on foot, soaking in its Bohemian culture, strolling on Charles Bridge, gaping at the fairytale architectures, making friends with locals, may be riding a horse drawn carriage or attending an Opera or just losing myself in the magic of Praha


TELL IT!!!

Once back home, it is always important to tell the story. That's how the World gets to know about all the good things to explore; be it a destination, hotels you stayed in, cuisines you tried or amazing sites like www.skyscanner.co.in, which also gives an option to compare flight fares from your location to 'Everywhere' (and that explains why I have been so obsessed with Skyscanner ever since winking , spending hours checking flight fares from India to 'Everywhere'). 

Dream like a child!! 


"If I could see the world through your eyes... Oh the wonderful endless possibilities"

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