This is pretty much the last of my rants from my current Western European mileage run vacation. During the past week, I wrote about my trip to HEL, how to offset high food costs, thoughts about Monte Carlo Monaco, and why rain ruined my day in Geneva. Next month, look out for a complete full trip report including my hotel reviews, airport lounge reviews, and complete thoughts about each city with a plethora of pictures. I want to briefly share some of the things I learned so far from visiting four different countries in a span of four days.
Last week, I left the United States on Monday, arriving to Helsinki, Finland on Tuesday. Your euros won’t go far in Helsinki. Immediately, you find yourself in a predicament on how to get into town. At the airport, there are no light rail, subway, and train options. The Finnair Bus can take you straight into the city center for 6.30 euros. I opted for that since I did not know how to use the bus system yet. Alternatively, there is Bus 615 that goes into the city-center from the airport for 4.30 euros and I took that the second time around. My advice is to take the bus because you save 2 euros and it takes the same amount of time to get downtown because even the Finnair bus makes stops. Downtown Helsinki is like the size of San Francisco and you can walk pretty much anywhere. If you don’t like walking there are plenty of buses, trams, and even a metro station. Prices can be shocking in Helsinki, but supposedly it’s the least of its Scandinavian neighbors. I was severely jetlagged and couldn’t find restaurants open for dinner at 10pm. Everything closes way too early in Helsinki. While walking around town, I found a Subway restaurant advertising a 6 inch sandwich for 3.90 euros ~ $5.27 USD when you can get a footlong for $5.00 in the states. I did not eat there and opted to have dinner by shopping at the local grocery store.
I arrived to Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday. The Swiss absolutely love their watches. There’s practically a watch shop on every corner. Switzerland can be expensive and yes, I did pay almost $10 USD for a drink at Starbucks. I should never have paid that, but I feel bad leeching free Wi-Fi and not paying for it. Amazingly, a tall free drink survey voucher printed as well which I redeemed at a later time for a 6 euro drink. Restaurants and shops also close very early in Switzerland and I had trouble finding something for dinner (at a reasonable price) at 10pm. I opted to take advantage of my stove at my apartment hotel and cooked dinner.
I arrived to Monte Carlo, Monaco on Thursday. I took an airport express bus to Monaco (big mistake) for 20 euros. There was definitely nothing express about this bus as it made multiple stops along the way before reaching my hotel. I should’ve taken a local bus from the airport for 1.50 euro into Nice and taken the 110 bus to Monaco from Nice for another 1.50 euro. Prices for food and souvenirs rival that of Helsinki and Geneva. An average lunch will cost about 20 euros and dinner would be much more. When I was walking around Monaco, I found a local hole in the wall Italian restaurant located in an off-beaten path with pasta and ravioli dishes for 6.50 euros which was a complete bargain.
I arrived to Nice, France on Friday. Nice really surprised me as I thought it would be just as expensive as Helsinki, Geneva, and Monte Carlo, Monaco. It was actually quite the opposite as there were many bargains to be had. It almost felt like being on Hollywood Blvd with so many souvenir vendors and shops competing with one another. Well, competition drives down the costs of things and I found shot glasses for 2 euros (bargain since they were 6 euros for Geneva, Helsinki, and Monaco). There were plenty of small items for 1 euro as well. Food was pretty inexpensive as there were many local grocery stores in the dense neighborhoods of Nice. I found a bottle of red wine for under 2 euro (their 2 buck chuck). I’m used to the local subway and trains, but they don’t exist in Nice. You can pretty much walk everywhere and there’s an extensive bus and tram system. The one thing I was bummed about was paying 6 euros for an express bus to the airport. It was a regular bus and had a vast array of multiple stops (nothing express about it). It’s just a way of Nice saying F-you tourists. Next time (if there’s a next time), I’m going to take a bus for 1.50 euros that stops next to the airport and just walk to the terminal.