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Thursday, 21 September 2017

Day Trip to Salamanca & Ávila in Spain | TRAVEL


Here are some photos and also a video I made from my recent trip to Salamanca & Ávila with Smart Insiders!


Salamanca, Spain
Salamanca, Spain
Salamanca, Spain
Salamanca, Spain
Ávila, Spain
My next travel video will be from the Portugal- Lison, Sintra and Porto trip! Stay tuned!

Until next time,
Chels x

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Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Costs BEFORE Madrid | STUDY ABROAD


Initially, when I was looking into studying abroad, I struggled to find any accurate information about how much it would cost me prior to the trip. Any information I could found only gave approximates. In the Study Abroad booklet that Murdoch University gave us to help us prepare for our Study Abroad Trip, they recommend about a minimum $10,000 AUD for the entire trip, including everything from flights, student housing, transport etc. 

So I decided that I would keep track of excatly how much everything cost me in the hopes that it could possibly help other students who are considering doing a Study Abroad program in Spain. 

Here is a breakdown of the costs, BEFORE arriving in Madrid, Spain!

FIRSTLY, WHAT I ACTUALLY DID

I flew from Perth, Western Australia to London, England via Adu Dhabi Airport on the 14th August, arriving the 15th August 2017. I stayed in London for a few days before joining the England & Scotland Contiki Trip. This was a 9-day trip and it ended in Glasglow, Scotland. From Glasglow, I flew down to Southhampton, England where I was picked up by friends and spent a few days with them in Poole before taking a bus back to London. I spent a day and a bit in London before flying to Madrid, Spain on the 1st of September 2017 to start my study abroad semester.

OK LET'S DO THIS!


FLIGHTS

The earlier you book, the cheaper you'll be able to get your flights. I used Skyscanner.com to find my flights. This site is absolutely the best and it allows you to search for an entire months worth of flights so you can figure out which is the cheapest time to fly. Helpful af. For all my flights I paid upfront, except for my Madrid-Perth flight which I paid off over a few weeks with the STA Travel lay-by option. This is actually a really great option as it only requires a $99 deposit to book. Be aware, with this option you have to pay off your flight 10 WEEKS prior to your flight departing. Thanks to Bec from Murdoch STA Travel for being so kind and helpful with organising my travel arrangements! Don't forget to purchase an ISIC student card as this will help you get cheap flights and loads of other benefits!


  • PERTH-LONDON (via Adu Dhabi):     $726.11
  • GLASGOW- SOUTHHAMPTON:          $119.80
  • LONDON- MADRID:                          $157
  • MADRID- PERTH (via Adu Dhabi):     $943
  • ISIC Student Card:                          $30


How much I budgeted: $1700
How much it cost me: $1975.91



STUDENT VISA

The original price I was given for a Spanish Student Visa was $91.20 as of January 2016. However, it actually was only $85.20. I was also originally told by the Spanish Embassy in Melbourne that because I lived in Western Australia I was required to fly to Melbourne to lodge my visa. This is incorrect, you don't have to fly to Melbourne and you can post all your documents for your visa to them. Do your VISA as soon as possible as it can take up to a month to be approved. I can't stress this enough to start as early as possible.


  • Student Visa:                                 $85.20
  • Money Order Fee:                          $8.95
  • National Police Check:                   $52.60
  • Passport sized photos:                    $16.95
  • Express Mail + Postage:                   $7.60
After I sent my visa application I never heard a reply from them and spent two weeks trying to get in contact with them by email and phone. Finally, 10 days before I was about to fly out I received a reply via email saying my visa was confirmed and ready for pick up. They gave me no options on how to pick it up (The embassy is in Melbourne and I live in Perth) so I replied asking how. They said I had to pick it up in person or send them a letter with an envelope within it for them to send it back to me in. This was not outlined in the visa application or anywhere else online.


  • Express Letter + Postage                 $7.60
  • Express Platitum Satchel                 $15.95


How much I budgeted: $100
How much it cost me: $194.85



HOSTEL/HOTEL ACCOMMODATION

I always find that the cheapest way to travel solo is to stay in hostels. I book all my accommodation on booking.com as it's a great site, always has good deals and the app is helpful af! For the first couple of nights in London, I knew I wouldn't need any nice. I just needed a bunk as I planned to be out exploring all day. And that's what I got. Very basic, very tight and sharing with a Russian family with small children. For the hostel when I got back from my Contiki trip I knew I would need something a bit more comfortable. Meininger was an incredible hostel and probably the best hostel I've ever stayed in, in my entire life.  Get $30 AUD off your next booking on Booking.com when you click here. 

  • Smart Hyde Park Inn Hotel (3 nights)                       $54.32
  • MEININGER Hotel London Hyde Park (2 nights)         $61.81


How much I budgeted: $100

How much it cost me: $116.13



STUDENT HOUSING

The university I studied at in Madrid didn't have linked housing, like universities in other countries may have. Instead, Madrid had many apartment buildings that had rooms for rent for only university students. So it didn't matter what university you were at, as long as you were a student you could rent there. I found a room to rent in an area called Gaztambide (which was a 15-minute walk from my university) for the semester using the site called Aluni.net. I have to pay a service fee and one month's rent to secure my room. My rent didn't include bills. I will make another blog post about 'What I Paid DURING Study Abroad in Madrid' when I finish my semester to include living expenses.


  • Service Fee:                                   $126.30 (85 euro)
  • One Months Rent Deposit:               $585.70 (353 euro)


How much I budgeted:
 $800

How much it cost me: $711.70



TRAVEL INSURANCE:

My home university, Murdoch, covered us for travel/health insurance while we were there during the semester, except for semester breaks. For my own travel insurance, I always use Travel Insurance Direct (TID).

  • 14th Aug- 1st Sept:                           $98
  • 4th Sept- 23rd Dec:                           $0 (covered by my home university)
  • 23rd Dec- 7th Jan:                            $72
  • 7 Jan- 19th Jan:                                $0 (covered by my home university)
  • 19 Jan- 24th Jan:                              $55.80

How much I budgeted: $250
How much it cost me: $225.80




CHECK UPS:

It's always a good idea to get a few check up before you go on a big trip!


  • Medical Check Up                                $120 but because of my health card it was $0
  • Dental Check Up                                  $260 but after health insurance is was $0

How much I budgeted: $400

How much it cost me: $0




TRIP- ENGLAND & SCOTLAND CONTIKI

Before I started my semester in Madrid, I did a 9-day Contiki around England and Scotland. This started in London and ended in Glasglow. It included 8 nights in twin share hotel rooms, hot breakfast every day, four group dinners, transport and a very good driver, on board wifi, a very informed and friendly tour guide #ContikiTresea and some other epic included activities. 

  • England and Scotland Contiki:          $1888
  • Contiki ME TIME Activities:               $50
  • Spending Money                               $250

How much I budgeted: $2500
How much it cost me: $2188


TOTAL TOTAL= $5412 


Until next time,
Chels x

p.s Please keep it in mind that this list only includes costs PRIOR to my trip and not week to week and month to month living costs in Madrid!

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Thursday, 31 August 2017

72 Hours in Poole, England | TRAVEL



Day 1
27th August 2017

Arriving into Southampton quite late on the 26th, I was greeted by Hannah and Ollie who I hadn't seen since we met in America in 2015. During this time in America, we had met while doing the same Trek America tour (Americana Road Trip- i don't think this trip exists anymore though). We became incredibly good friends on this 26-day camping tour and it was so incredibly kind of them to offer for me to stay with them in their hometown, Poole. 

As I was visiting during the Bank Holiday, we had lots of time together. Our first stop was lunch at Sandbanks Beach. We were so incredibly lucky with the weather and we had sunshine all day. The only regret I had was not packing my bathers! We then took the chain ferry from Poole across to Studland where we visited some of Ollie's family who were over there camping. The views from the drive were stunning, and I still can't get over how green all the landscape is.

We drove all the way back to the Poole where we headed to a Cider Festival and I got to meet more of Hannah and Ollie's family. The cider festival was extremely enjoyable and honestly, there's nothing better than a cider on a hot day! Plus there was an incredibly cute dog. Always a win. Later in the day, we wondered around the Poole Quay where Hannah and Ollie showed me all the must see sights, plus they showed me the LUSH shop which was really cool because Poole is where LUSH started. You learn a new thing every day!






Day 2
28th August 2017

We woke to another extremely warm and sunny day. We took a day trip to Lulworth Cove and I was again, extremely and pleasantly surprised by the fact that England has amazing beaches. I just never pictured England being like this, however with that said I loved every moment of it. I'd offered to do some engagement photos for Hannah and Ollie so we basically just spent the day exploring, taking photos and trying not to die from the heat!





Day 3
29th August 2017

For my last day in Poole, Ollie has organised for us to visit Brownsea Island. Little did I know that I would get to spend the day on one of the most beautiful islands I'd ever been too. Between forests, fields of heather, castles and beaches this island had everything and made for the perfect backdrop to do some more engagement photos. I made everyone Carbonia Pasta for dinner and we settled into a night of drinking cider and watching youtube videos. Couldn't think of a more perfect way to end such a good trip. Thank you so much to Hannah and Ollie for taking me in and keeping me in fits of laughter for the entire time! I can't wait to come back and spend Christmas with you guys!





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Saturday, 26 August 2017

England & Scotland Contiki PART 3/3 | TRAVEL



Day 7
24th August 2017
Scottish Highlands- West Highlands

Leaving our hopes of finding Nessie behind we headed towards Oban, with plenty of stops along the way. The first stop was at Eilean Donan Castle, this is the same castle used in the movie Maid of Honour by the way! We could see it from across the water and looked forward to visiting it again at the end of the day, when some of us would do a tour of it. Our Tour Manager then let us stop at an awesome waterfall in the middle of nowhere where we all enjoyed taking photos and admiring it. Back on the bus, we then drove to Carbost where we continued the tradition of dipping our faces into the stream for 5 seconds for 'instant beauty' and also added our own rocks to the many stack collections. We stopped in Portree for lunch and enjoyed wandering around and exploring the cute fisherman's town. After driving through the Isle of Skye and admiring the incredible landscape we finally came back to the Eilean Castle. After this, it was onwards towards Oban, where we had dinner together before half the group enjoyed a dancing evening and the other half just chilled out.















Day 8
25th August 2017
West Highlands- Glasgow

On the way to Glasgow, we were able to stop and feed the highland cows in Callander. Then we drove to Stirling, where half the group toured the William Wallace Monument and the other half were able to explore the town of Stirling and also the castle. We had lunch in Stirling before jumping back on the bus and heading towards Glasgow. On the way, we were treated to a Scottish Teacake from our Tour Manager and Driver as an end of trip present. Arriving into rainy Glasgow we had a little explore before dinner and drinks... many many drinks at the Campus Bar. Since it was the last night of the trip we made the most of it!







Day 9
26th August 2017
Glasgow

This trip is 5 different trips in one, so during the trip, we lost people and also gained people. The 5 trips are 'England & Scotland', 'Scotland', 'Scotland & Ireland', 'Great Britain & Ireland' and 'Ireland', so this morning since we were on the 'England & Scotland', the rest of the group continued onto Ireland while the remaining of us either departed or had the day to explore Glasgow. Luckily, I was able to have some extra time and enjoyed a few hours of wandering around, exploring the Glasgow Necropolis and other parts of the city. This trip has been incredibly packed to the brim, with early starts and late finishes however it has been fantastic and I'm so happy I was able to experience England and Scotland this way.



Until next time,
Chels x

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England & Scotland Contiki PART 2/3 | TRAVEL




Day 4
21st August 2017
Lake District- Edinburgh 

After a quick pack up and breakfast, we boarded the bus and headed to our first stop of the day, Gretna Green. There we watched two of our fellow travellers be married (As a joke obviously). After the 'wedding' it was back to the bus and back to England to see Hadrian's Wall where we walked up the hill and were able to explore the wall and the grounds. Back on the bus and on our way, we had a quick stop at a service station for lunch before arriving at our hotel in Edinburgh. It was such a nice surprise to have double beds for our stay so we were all very happy. We rested our feet for a little while before getting ready for our me time optional activity, the Scottish Evening. We were treated to a three-course meal where we were able to try haggis (which is actually incredible tbh) and a special performance by an awesome bagpiper. We were truly ready to sleep by the time we arrived back at the hotel!




Day 5
22nd August 2017
Edinburgh 

In the morning we had a tour of the Edinburgh castle before having the rest of the day to explore freely around Edinburgh.We choose to check out the Grey Friars cemetery where we searched for the gravestone of 'Tom Riddle'. After finding that and taking our photos we made our way to the Surgeons Museum where we spent quite awhile wondering around and looking at the extremely large collection of body parts and organs. The last stop for the afternoon was at the Celtic Craft shop, where we were able to track our family names and be shown our 'clam' patterns and colours. We had an included dinner at the hotel that night before some of the group attended the Military Tattoo, and other opting to stay in or see a Fringe Festival show. 




Day 6
23rd August 2017
Edinburgh- Scottish Highlands

Leaving Edinburgh behind early in the morning we headed up to the Scottish Highlands. We stopped at St. Andrews, the town where Prince William and Kate studied and first met and explored the beautiful gardens and viewed it's famous golf courses. We had a quick lunch break in Pitlochry, before arriving in Inverness. We spent an hour on a boat cruise searching for the Loch Ness Monster, before giving and going back to our hotel. Our tour manager, Tresea had challenged us all to a jump into Loch Ness and with many people taking up with the challenge we bused down to Loch Ness and many made the jump. We had another included dinner at the hotel that night where we chatted about our day and enjoyed a drink.. or two.  



Until next time,
Chels x

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