The Cost and Tips
As Canberrans donned their Autumn attire, switching shorts for stockings and shirts for chambray, my sister and I set of, confident and capable, with a mild case of cluelessness, into the depths of Europe’s Summer backpacking scene. To say our trip was atypical for our young age would be accurate; our focus lying on the discovery of true culture and our head thinking all too pretentiously of our own opinion of coffee. Money seemed to fly away of course, but not to the ‘Experience Promising’ tourist agencies or the advertised ‘One Stop Cultural Fixes’. The cash instead landing in the hands of local barristers, patissiers, buskers, pubs, bike hire shopfronts, local restaurants and an occasional well-chosen splurge of and experience. It was 73 nights of bliss and hard work, relationship and wonderment. To recommend the experience at a level worthy of its value, I would have delve deep into new languages, learning meticulously every possible adjective and still I would fall short of summary. I hope the insight below can help you get to new, amazing places so you can, for yourself, discover the deepness each ones holds.” – 19thinkingdoing
$12K Cash Speso
Disclaimer: now here’s where I begin my ‘tips’, please note they are definitely subjective. There are a million ways to travel the route we traveled so please filter each of my points with your own logic.
3 Budget Influencers that are Good to Know
1. Tourism is an industry focused on supplying an EASY, ‘cultural’ experience to foreigners….for a LARGE PRICE. Before the trip I thought this type of tourism was the only way for us to be able to ‘get into’ the places we were visiting. I budgeted accordingly. Turns out the things we ended up enjoying more were those like sitting by the canals of Venizia, in a street distant from St Martin Square, attempting to capture with watercolour the wildly unique architecture of the mind-boggly town, doing so whilst listening to the sound of Italian Gondoliers singing to their high paying customers, a few canals over. And it turns out these things were usually cheap …and sometimes free!
Tip: Think about what type of trip you’re signing up for and be sure you have enough to cover that. Cheap fun is certainly not bad fun, however, note that we enjoyed splurges and tours. If you are a ‘splurges and tours only’ kind of person, you’ll need to understand that what we spent doesn’t account for those extras. The tip here is to realise that they are two very different ways of travelling, which will have to be budgeted for in equally different ways.
2. European countries aren’t equal when it comes to how fast they zap your bank account, even though they are mostly all on Euro currency. We currently get less Euros for every Aussie Dollar – i.e. if you spend EU1, you’re losing $AUD1.48. In Eastern European countries, like Slovenia and Austria, the cost of living is shifted down to the level where purchases equate across currency e.g. if something is $AUD10 in Australia, in Slovenia it is €7, which are pretty much equal out-of-pocket for you. In France and Italy, however, if you’re paying $AUD10 for something in Australia, you should expect to pay €10 for the same thing there. Meaning you’ll pay $1.48 times more. Eastern Europe is, therefore, much cheaper than France and Italy.
3. *Spending money is intentionally not included in my figures because even between Jordan and I we spent COMPLETELY different amounts on clothes and shoes. My advice here is to either (a) decide on a limit and be happy to stick to it , NO matter how many AMAZING Italian shoes you find, or (b) take a little extra for spending, but hold off until the end of your trip. That way you have a pocket of money ready in case of any emergency, it prevents you from getting to the last week of your trip in possession of an EU80 jacket and yet not enough cash for accommodation AND you also get to go big as an end of trip reward.
Details to Put an Over-planner at Ease
A checklist and what you get for the money paid
Emrites Economy – Canberra to Prague there and Paris to Canberra with Singapore stop over home; including 30kg luggage and $150 accommodation voucher each.
CAN>SYD, SYD>BNK>DXB, DXB>PRA || CDG>DXB, DXB>SNG, SNG>MEL, MEL>CAN
- To fly in and out of the same city is cheaper, but not by much.
- I have no tips on when to buy tickets to get discounts. The price was never the same any time I inquired and I sensed no pattern of fluctuation over the time frame I did.
- Emrites is a good airline so there are definitely cheaper options, BUT be sure to consider inclusion within cost comparison. Our flights were comfortable with good service, big luggage allowance and when something went wrong our booking was upgraded without a second thought.
Travel Insurance $485
CoverMore premium insurance; $200 loss of cash, loss or theft protection, massive third party damage and injury insurance, car rental insurance, massive personal injury compensation AND emergency helpline, delayed baggage allowance and compensation, delayed transport allowance and compensation. We claimed loss of wallet and sunnies and got most of it back only losing due to reasonable depreciation.
- There are WAY cheaper companies to go with. This one was great service and terms so ensure you consider this.
- Read and understand all of your policy inclusions before you go.
- Read your claim terms the moment anything is lost or goes wrong to make sure you don’t miss a step that makes you ineligible to claim.
- Losing cash is common, it is worth having cover for it.
Eurail Pass $1320
GLOBAL PASS 2 Months – 2 months of travel on all included train and bus lines and ferries in selected European countries (all the countries we went to were covered). Primarily a train pass. We activated the pass 3 days into our trip at a train station and used it 56 times thereafter. Reservations not included, see Travel below (it cost an extra $380 for reservations).
- This service was definitely the best option for what we did, but it is expensive if you don’t milk it like we did. We met a bunch of groups in cars because it was cheaper for the 4 or 5 of them and others used Buses (I really prefer trains).
- Understand the Eurail system before you go. Find out the support you have there, how to book reservations when travelling and make sure you download the app.
Luggage Pack $300
65L MONT Sphere series backpack – hybrid travel and hiking pack.
- I probably could have gone for a 50L pack and enjoyed less weight. Jordan disagrees. The features of this pack were awesome for the backpacking style of travel that we did.
- Purchased at MONT’s biannual sale at like 50% off!!
- Don’t skimp out on a crap bag. This thing becomes parts of you.
New socks, long sleeve tops etc
- Anything you think you should get before you go can usually be bought overseas too. Wait and see if you need it when you’re there. Then you have a token from the place and, for example, can say you have a raincoat from Switzerland and every time you wear it, be reminded of all that rain in Switzerland… ha
Pre-booked Accommodation $70
We pre-booked our Singapore and first stop Prague accommodation.
- We received a $300 voucher with our flights for this, so look out for that kind of deal! The rest we booked on the go with Hostelworld.com.
- We had to pay for Singapore upfront so consider that you may need cash accessible at that point if you are planning to pre- book.
- Use Hostelworld.com ALONE for hostel bookings. All other web agencies charge you an extra fee, even though it looks like a ‘deposit’.
YHA Card $35
YHA links to Hostelling International. You need a membership to use their hostels anywhere overseas, but not at YHAs in Australia. It’s weird. They give you discounts and stuff so that’s kind of cool.
- This card is a savings point.
International Student Card $25
Regardless of if you’re a student or not, Student Flights will give you a card for $25 that entitles you to student concessions.
- We found they were pretty useless. They don’t have student discounts anywhere except France and there you don’t have to flash your card to get the discount.
- Take you license instead, regardless and because. You’ll regret it otherwise.
We went to Arcade Fire in Rome. T’was sickk
- Don’t be conservative here. It’s totally worth it.
- If you’re keen on music, it’s worth checking for concerts that you’ll intersect before you go. Songkick is a great app for searching by place, date and band. Also, keep an ear out when you arrive in towns since the small gigs are usually quite amazing too. We went to a Jazz Bar in Basel, Switzerland and heard some sweet tunes, whilst drinking vino bianco.
An Aussie standard passport
- No visas were required for EU or Singapore, but check this before you go.
A Commonwealth Travelmoney Card, loaded with EURO only, from a choice of 14 other currencies. Capable of paying and withdrawing any currency with no extra fees. Currency conversion at the time of purchase was used. ATM fee of EU2.20 or AUD3.50 applied.
- The free use of any currency is necessary in Europe since there are SO many currencies! We used 6!
- ATM fees add up, go with one that is free if possible.
- Would have been $15 set up fee if we weren’t students.
- Commbank had impeccable service in the set up process but were near impossible to contact when Mastercard was down for a day, we got locked out of our accounts and then a card was lost. If there is a card that offers online chat support GO WITH THEM! Phone service is not always easy to obtain.
International SIM $0
- I WISH WE GOT THIS! We went for the, ‘get a cheap one over there’ thing, but no SIM bought there can cross boarders effectively enough to be worth it. Estimated cost was $20 for the pre purchased SIMs. We ended up spending $25 for two that didn’t really work. One with Data included does seem worth it to me in hind sight.
- Lyca Mobile was the best option we found over there.
Lonely Planet Guides and Research $0
- The hardest thing I had trouble with whilst travelling, was not being able to easily source basic town information! It drove me crazy to Google search it and have to trudge through the layers of endorsed filth to be able to understand what you should except, where to walk and such. Lonely Planet was the best of the information available that we used. I would recommend the small guides for every place you go to if it wasn’t so expensive! But then again, there were many times I would have paid any money to just be able to arrive in a place with a real, backpackers, down-the-line understanding of what to do whilst there.
We spent between $20 and $60 per night each with the ‘normal’ being $38. This got us hostels with solid rating on Hostelworld.com (over 7), usually with a kitchen, in a 4-12 bed dorm. Across Eastern Europe rooms were on average $30 and twin rooms were sometimes cheaper than dorms when you divided cost between us.
- You can go much cheaper by reducing your standard of cleanliness, facilities or location. These were important to us so we spent the extra. Location especially, meant you ended up saving on transport etc.
- Winter rates are always cheaper. (We went in Summer)
- Book ONLY via Hostelworld.com or at the hostel counters to avoid secret booking fees.
All our food, self-catering every couple of days, with brekkie often included at our hostels. We found eating out to be a major highlight so we did that a lot more than ‘planned’ and we (I) bought stacks of local snack food like pastries and crepes and pretzels and gelato … yummmm…. #NoRegrets. This cost includes some particularly fancy meals too, like Jordan’s 21st meal on the Eiffle Tower.
- You can eat well and pay much less by cooking yourself and shopping at grocery stores.
- In major cities, eat out 3 streets back from the tourist hubs and you’ll spend up to half!
Living Costs $400
This was for things like new toothbrushes and SIM cards and Panadol etc
- Panadol cost like $2 for 24 everywhere you go. Australia is ridiculous!
- All Pharmacies speak English and most are the same company throughout Europe, with the green, flashing cross. They are called Apothekes or Farmacias or Grosse somethings depending on where you are.
- ASMOL requires a prescription in Switzerland so take one if you’ll need it.
Coffee was a massive part of our trip. We had one or two a day!
- Don’t save, good coffee is priceless.
- Eastern Europe is actually better at it than France, Spain or Switzerland, although there’s one café in Lauterbrunner, Switzerland, that was my top coffee spot! Airtime, check it!! Eastern Europe coffees are standard €1 or €2 tops, a bit more for cappuccinos. As with everything it gets more expensive the more north-west you go.
- Coffee culture in Italy is to have it small, strong and at the bar, whilst talking to the barrister. If you can get used to the taste it’s a lot of fun! Don’t order a cappuccino after 2pm, they will not understand.
- You will need a map for the larger cities you go too. Rome, Venice, Paris are unachievable without one. If you have data, Google Maps is great, but if not I recommend downloading an offline map. I used Maps with Me Free for ages and it was great, but it does not have the search option, which is very necessary if you’re stuck in the maze that is Venice with only a street name as a guide. Get an offline map with search options, Maps with ME is the one I recommend.
- You can get instant translator apps, Lonely Planet Guide Apps and so many others. If tech is the way your brain waves then get them all.
White water rafting Bled Gorge, Arcade Fire in Rome, art supplies (instead of a class) in Bologna, Lyon cooking class, Arabian Baths and Flamenco show in Granada, Museum Passes and many, many more!
- JUST DO IT! BUT, be wary of tourist ploys. However, I regret things I didn’t do over the tourist ploys we were frustratingly roped into.
All seat reservations with Eurail, extra $380 on top of $1320 pass. And then metro passes for inner city transportation. And a ferry ride – Dubrovnik to Bari.
- There’s no way to save on Eurail reservations that we discovered.
- We walked kilometres in the first few towns trying to save money. We had seriously tank quads after the first 3 weeks, but realised it wasn’t worth it. Train systems in Europe are well maintained and very practicle and I’d recommend paying to use them.
- Check for tourist passes in major cities. See below.
- Flying Dubrovnik to Rome would have actually been cheaper since our luggage was light.
- Often there are metro passes for a town, but there are also tourist passes. They often include metro and entry to the major attraction. The best part is you regularly are able to skip the lines! Rome’s one is tops and the museum pass (only) in Paris is ABSOLUTELY worth it!
That’s it! More my ramblings for memory’s sake, but I hope you’ve enjoyed and I hope it helps.
Now some pictures, also for the memory. And dreaming.