posted on: Thursday February 25, 2010
Kristen Whalen ’11 / Photo Staff
While anticipating my semester abroad, I hoped to spend a good number of my weekends traveling throughout Europe. Previous abroad students told me that cheap European travel consists of two main elements: Ryanair and hostels. Both of these ideas were foreign to me until a couple of weeks ago. A few friends and I chose to spend our first weekend away from Paris in Madrid. With our Ryanair flight and hostel booked, we thought we were ready to go. This was not the case.We soon discovered that the only benefit of flying with Ryanair is the low price. We each paid 34 euro for a round trip flight to Madrid and I guess we got what we paid for. The airport was a twenty-five minute metro ride and an hour and a half bus ride away from our apartment in Paris. This bus ride was not included in the price of the ticket and cost fourteen euro each way. After the bus ride, we arrived at what I truly believe is the smallest airport known to man, the Beauvais Airport, located in a suburb outside Paris.Not to mention the airport security was not exactly “secure,” to say the least. I was allowed to board the plane with body wash, face wash, face lotion, and body lotion all over the legal liquid amount and not in a plastic bag. (However, these were all taken away from me at the airport in Madrid, despite my numerous attempts to reason with Miguel, the security guard.)Ryanair has strictly enforced carry-on limitations. If you are unable to fit your bag in the carry-on-dimension-checker-thingamabob, you are forced to pay thirty-five euro to check said bag. As a perpetual over-packer, this was a concern for me. Thankfully, after a couple of minutes of sitting on my bag, it finally squeezed far enough into the dimension checker, and the security guard let me pass. When our flight was called for boarding, I wondered why there seemed to be more of a mad rush than usual to line up at the gate.After being one of the last ones to have her ticket checked, I walked outside and onto the plane to discover Ryanair does not assign seats. I was “lucky” enough to get the last possible aisle seat at the back of the plane near a vent blowing cold air. The flight itself was similar to an off-roading Jeep ride, but in the air.In order to ease into the idea of hostels, we booked a private room at a well-reviewed hostel. I was happily surprised with our hostel because I had prepared myself for something much worse. Despite the language barrier with our hostel’s manager, there were no major problems. I would describe staying at that hostel in particular as similar to staying at a decent motel in Seaside Heights at the Jersey Shore; although I actually think the sheets at our hostel may have been cleaner.Would I fly Ryanair again despite my numerous complaints? Yes. The money I saved on the flight to Madrid allowed me to eat and shop to my heart’s desire during my stay. If you refuse to fly Ryanair and/or stay in a hostel, it will cost you. But honestly, if I can do it, anyone can. Most people who know me would not describe me as a “hostel kind of girl,” but I survived. A hostel is no one’s first choice, but it is an inevitable downfall of budget travel. Future study abroad students, you have been warned; but don’t let this warning turn you off to studying abroad. Even the worst hostel couldn’t ruin this once-in-a-lifetime experience. (At least I hope not.)Au revoir!