Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Europe Fall 2013 - Costing and planning

Our first Europe trip and it surprises everyone why we chose cities/countries that are not so popular as our first time (e.g. Paris, Rome, Swiss, London)... We chose, Munich (Germany), Salzburg (Austria), Prague (Czech) and Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Some never heard of Salzburg... (-_-);

We spent 2 nights per city.

Below is the costing breakdown:
  • KLM/MAS return tickets (2pax) - RM4227/pax (yeah... we bought it at a rather high price although this price includes KL-Amsterdam return, Amsterdam-Munich, and Prague-Amsterdam)
  • Transportation (Note: the Munich-Salzburg train is an open ticket, meaning you can hop onto any train, any time on the same day)
    • Main 
      • Munich-Salzburg train - €140 (€35/pax/way) - booked via OEBB
      • Munich-Prague bus - €58 (€29/pax/way) - booked via DB
    • Additional - €320 (€20/pax/day) - its more than enough (the cab from Prague hotel to the airport was €28, other ticket prices are available when we go to the specific days)
  • Food - €1260 (€70/pax/day) - its more than enough (we bought mineral water, Evian is the cheapest!)
  • Tours (Note: there are additional fees for rides and some entrance fees)
    • Salzburg - Berchtesgaden/Eagle's Nest - €45/pax - booked via Bob's Special Tours
      • Obersalzberg Bunkers - €3/pax
      • Eagle's Nest - €16.10/pax
    • Salzburg - Hallstatt - €90/pax - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! (Tour guide was Rosemarie) - booked via Bob's Special Tours
    • Amsterdam - Anne Frank Huis - €9.50/pax - booked via their official website
    • Amsterdam - City Tour + Volendam, Marken and the Windmills - €50/pax - booked via Viator
  • Hotels - €800 (€100/night) - there are cheaper alternatives, we chose this price because its our honeymoon :)
The weather was not that great as it rained 75% of the duration we were there! Asked the locals there and they said it was surprisingly wet this early autumn... its supposed to be cool and sunny!

For all the restaurants that we have visited for dinner, we emailed them and made a reservation a month before the trip. Most of the popular ones are packed and they will directly turn you down without prior booking. You wouldn't want to be looking for another restaurant with a noisy stomach :P

Special note for Prague
  1. Be aware of money changers as some charges a very hefty fee/commission (if their rates are too good to be true, they most probably are!)
  2. Most restaurants and tourist shops here accepts Euro, of course the conversion rate will favour them. Just convert some Czech Korunas (maybe around €50-100) for transportation, etc just in case you need to buy something and that stall/shop doesn't accept Euros
On the below comparison, there are a lot of money changers. The left one does not charge commission, try look for this company, ensure that they do not charge any commission before converting with them:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A personal experience: VAT/tax refund at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam

It has been a while since I posted. Just returned from Europe last Sunday. Going to write this mini guide first as I think its pretty informative for non-EU travelers who plan to do some shopping in EU countries.

The entire process consists of just 3 steps:
  1. prepare your passport, boarding pass and fill in your personal details on the receipts
  2. get those receipts stamped at the Customs (they might check your purchases also)
  3. get your tax refunded 

Initial preparation
Things you need:
  • passport
  • boarding pass (e.g. you can do a web check-in in your hotel first and show the PDF boarding pass on your tablet)
  • receipts of goods (you need to request from the merchant that you are purchasing from, they have a longer receipt for you to fill in your personal details [name, passport and address] and an envelope specially used for tax refunds, all of mine are from Global Blue)
  • your goods (they didn't check my goods at all except for the watch where I was told that I can only get the stamp at the Customs after passport control. Since my check-in counter is in Terminal 2, I went to Terminal 2 to check-in my luggage, went through passport control then walk all the way back to Terminal 3 from the inside), they need to see that watch so I kept it in my backpack

Customs location (Receipts need to be stamped by the Customs officer in order to get a refund!)
There are 2 customs located in Terminal 3:
  • Near the Terminal 3 entrance (more counters)
  • a very small one just after passport control (next to it is a Global Blue counter)

There are 3 Global Blue counter on the left side of the Terminal 3 passport control and 1 counter after passport control just next to the Customs counter

Getting back your tax
  • if your merchants are using Global Blue, you can get back cash on the spot or credit card (within a few weeks) at the counters depending on the method of your purchase
  • for the watch that I bought, I paid the export amount (without VAT) and they pre-authorized my credit card for the VAT amount (they will charge if they do not receive the stamped invoice), I needed to get the invoice stamped at the Customs after passport control in Terminal 3 and mail it back to them. They were very nice as they prepared an envelope with their address and a local stamp, after getting that stamp from the Customs, I just sealed it and dropped it at the nearest mailbox in the airport itself

Some more details can also be found on the below links:
How to Claim Your VAT Refund at Schiphol Airport by Helen Page
How to Claim VAT Refunds by Rick Steves
Detailed Schiphol Airport Map

Will be posting more on my trip soon, thanks for viewing :)