Many people are under the impression that Europe is an expensive travel destination. While it’s true at some point; it’s not as pricey as you think. “Oh but it’s Europe! Her beauty is equivalent to huge expenses plus the exchange rate is soaring high”. You don’t have to be intimidated by the luxurious ambiance of Europe; it may overwhelm you with its rich history and culture, but not your wallet – if you are just madiskarte.
Staying in one country is cheaper than jumping from one country to another, but with limited vacation credits, the tendency is to squeeze everything to maximize the time in Europe and visit the places you want to go to. On the other hand, you don’t have to rush and see all the places at once; you also have to take time to enjoy the view and live the moment. I try to balance both sides because at the end of the day, traveling is about learning and appreciating the culture of one’s country. 🙂
If you are savvy and determined, traveling to Europe is doable. Last year, I gave myself a birthday treat and went to Europe for 19 days and spent less than PHP100K. Check Dream Trip: Europe for Less than PHP100K for travel tips. 🙂
This year, I challenged myself and budgeted PHP100,000 for a 3-week travel in Europe. Last spring, I explored 7 countries for 22 days and guess what? I spent less than PHP100,000 again 🙂
How? By planning wisely.
Here are some tips that you can use while traveling the other side of the world:
Last December, I checked ITA Matrix to see if there are any cheap flights to Paris, France (Paris is one of the cheapest cities to enter Europe). My eyes popped when I saw a PHP26,655 roundtrip flight to the city of lights. Without hesitation, I booked it and then planned my itinerary based on a PHP 100,000 budget.
ITA Matrix is a useful tool to see all the prices offered by different airlines. Once you checked which airline offers the cheapest flight, book the ticket at the airline’s website.
How to Use ITA MATRIX
Type your chosen destination, days of travel and tentative month of travel.
A calendar will appear with airfare prices.. prices in yellow are the cheapest.
Click whatever date you prefer and it will show you the fare charged by different airlines.
Schengen Visa is a 90-day (max) tourist visa that allows you to visit 26 countries in Europe. Apply to the embassy of the country where you will stay most.
There are lots of European Embassies that can give you a Schengen Visa. Apply to an Embassy to the country where you will stay the most. For example, you have a total of 10 days and you will cover 3 countries; 3 days each for France and Netherlands and 4 days in Italy. You should apply at the Italian Embassy. It doesn’t matter if your point of entry is France or Netherlands. As long as you’ll enter in a Schengen State, everything will be fine.
If you will travel 3 days per country (9 days), you should apply to the country of your first entry.
Visa costs around €60
For more details, check How to Apply for a Schengen Visa
One of the visa requirements is Travel Insurance. It is important to have one in case of emergency or unforeseen events. The required insurance coverage is €30,000.
After inquiring and checking most of the travel insurance companies accredited by Schengen states, so far, Malayan Insurance offers the cheapest rate.
I bought a roundtrip flight to Paris so I made an itinerary that would perfectly fit my budget and flight ticket.
They say all roads lead to Rome. Indeed, after travelling 883 miles from Paris, I found myself back to the Eternal City, my favourite city in Italy. I don’t mind going back to this Ancient city to see Colosseo and Trevi Fountain again and discover hidden spots like Coppede District and country sides like Frascati and Nemi.
I also made a sidetrip to Naples, the birthplace of pizza. If you love Italian food, this is the best place to be. The word “diet” doesn’t exist in this southern city.
The third country that I explored was Greece. Athens is the capital city where you can see Acropolis, the home of gods and goddesses.
What’s Greece without visiting some of its islands? I went to Santorini because it’s one of the best islands in the world. You might think that Santorini is expensive because it’s a popular destination.. but it’s not! If you avoid restaurants made for tourists or lavish hotels then you can explore this island without breaking a bank.
Going back to Athens was kind of painful in the pocket.. there was a ferry strike for 2 days and I just refunded my €34 ferry ticket and booked a €120 plane ticket back to the capital city of Greece. Ouch!
From Greece, I flew to Budapest, Hungary. The Pearl of Danube has a vast array of historical attractions. The Danube River separates Buda and Pest, both sides of the city are lovely and vibrant from day to night. Most of the landmarks are free to visit and are walking distance from one another so you can skip riding trams and see more of the local neighbourhood.
I booked a 5-hour bus ride from Budapest to Vienna, Austria with a stopover at Bratislava, Slovakia for 45 minutes. Vienna is the capital of Austria and nicknamed The Imperial City, where the Habsburgs lived. It’s also called the City of Music, Opera houses are everywhere, they even have an “Opera Toilet” at Karlsplatz metro station.
From Vienna, it took me 4 hours by bus to go to Prague, Czech Republic, the city of a hundred spires. Everything is beautiful from its pastel-coloured buildings to dark hues of gothic churches. Prague’s unparalleled sense of sophistication will leave you breathless.
My next stop was Brussels, Belgium. My only goal here was to see the dinosaurs at National Sciences Museum. I only had one day since Brussels is only a layover to Paris; but the city is small so I was able to visit other interesting spots like Grand-place and Sablon. Waffles, fries, chocolates, stoofvlees, and beer are not to miss in this small country.
Back in Paris, I visited the places I missed to see last year like Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Musee D’orsay. The capital of France is truly charming with its outstanding architecture. Save money and skip train rides because walking the streets of Paris is enjoyable and full of surprises.
There are lots of budget airlines in Europe but Ryanair is the cheapest. Don’t forget to check-in online and print your boarding pass; or pay €50 if you arrive at the airport without it.
Check other routes. Flying to Paris from Prague was expensive so I checked an alternative route and found out that Prague-Brussels-Paris is cheaper. So I flew to Brussels and took a train to Paris. I saved around €50 for this transfer, plus I saw some architectural wonders in Belgium for one day.
Sometimes, paying additional bucks is okay to give you a little comfort. For example, adding €5 will give you a secured seat in a ferry.
If you plan to go to Eastern countries, travelling by bus is better and cheaper. Regio Jet Bus offer good deals plus they have free hot chocolate or coffee, and wifi too.
Here’s my transfer expenses:
|Paris – Rome||RyanAir||37.33|
|Athens-Santorini||Blue Star Ferry||45|
|Santorini – Athens||RyanAir||120|
|Athens – Budapest||RyanAir||54|
|Budapest- Vienna||Regio Bus||9|
|Vienna – Prague||Regio Bus||15|
|Prague – Brussels||RyanAir||54|
|Brussels- Paris||Thalys Train||29|
PS: Exchange rate last May 2017 was €1 = PHP 54.45
Below are the metro ticket prices in EURO;
|Transfers||1 ticket||24 hrs||48 hrs||72 hrs|
|Prague, Czech Republic||1.20||4.32||–||12.18|
Food is very important in knowing a country’s culture. Cheap food doesn’t mean it’s not good. You just have to find budget friendly restaurants.. where? away from the tourists spots.
There’s a saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Act like a local, go to restaurants or pubs where locals eat and drink. Avoid tourist traps that will suck every cent of your budget.
Below are the price range of food in Europe
|Food Prices||Breakfast||Lunch/ Dinner||Dessert||MUST TRY FOOD|
|Paris, France||€ 4||€ 7||€ 3||Crepe, Croissant, Aligot|
|Rome, Italy||€ 3.50||€ 5||€ 2.50||Pasta, Pizza, Supplì, Gelato|
|Athens, Greece||€ 3||€ 4||€ 2||Gyros, Souvlaki, Saganaki|
|Budapest, Hungary||€ 2||€ 4||€ 1.50||Langos, Goulash|
|Vienna, Austria||€ 4||€ 6||€ 3||Cakes, Apfelstrudel, Schnitzel|
|Prague, Czech Republic||€ 3||€ 4||€ 3||Trdelník, Smažený Sýr|
|Brussels, Belgium||€ 4||€ 7||€ 3||Waffle, Fries, Chocolate, Stoofvlees|
There’s always a budget hostel in every city/town. Check hostelworld.com to see good deals that will suit your budget. Who would’ve thought that there’s a hostel in Santorini, Greece for €18/PHP981 with free breakfast?
If you are more adventurous, you can try couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is an online travel community where you can request for a place to sleep at night for a day or two. It is more than free accommodation though, it’s more like of an immersion or a culture exchange where you get to know a local and learn about their customs or way of living.
I’m blessed to have cool and friendly hosts who showed me their turf and shared historical facts of their respective countries.
I recommend a do-it-yourself (DIY) itinerary than booking a package tour that will limit your time to explore the places you want to see.
So how do you make one? Ask yourself, “Why am I going to Europe in the first place? What do I want to see? What activities should I try?” Make a checklist and get a map or google the places and check attractions/landmarks that are next to each other. Is it walkable? Which station should you alight to?
From there you can assess on how your trip will be. I use Rome2rio.com to plan my itinerary. The site shows the travel time and price of different transportations available.
There are lots of amazing landmarks in Europe that are free to visit like parks, fountains, bridges, etc.
If you’re going to paid attractions like museums or castles, it is important to check the admission days and time so that your effort going there will not be wasted. You can also set your visit when there are free admissions so you can save more.
Wander around the streets to feel the country’s vibe. There are lots of surprises like free music shows or cheap finds. Old houses, modern buildings, art installments or even street graffiti will leave you in awe.
Eastern countries like Hungary, Austria, and Czech Republic have great history and culture; and are way cheaper than going to the popular destinations like France, Italy, and Germany.
Let the exchange rate explain (as of November 2017) :
1 HUNGARIAN FORINT = PHP 0.19
1 CZECH KORUNA = PHP 2.31
Mark Twain said “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”.
So what are you waiting for? Go travel! If not now, when? 🙂