Y’all want to know about our finances anyway. I’ll keep it oblique so there’s still a sense of wonder and enchantment.
Az and I budgeted about 50 Euro per day for us as a couple this winter, which works out to about $1000 per person per month, not including airfare. We spend less traveling than we do at home.
Here’re 20 tips for traveling Europe on the cheap:
Tip 1: Travel with a partner. Save on accommodation, split meals & taxis, free massages, share toothbrushes. AWWWwwww….. Stop paying strangers to hold hands while you walk through the park.
Tip 2: Learn the language. You’ll be closer to people’s hearts if you can communicate with them, and for that reason opportunities will knock. You’re also more likely understand when someone’s telling you about other/better options and it’s less daunting to get off the beaten path.
Tips 3-10: Spend as little as possible on accommodation. Unofficially, SEVENTY FIVE per cent of our daily budget went to accommodation when we were paying for it, in fact the price for a hotel room was sometimes so high that we would start the day over budget. Yucky! By spending one night in a free place we can halve the price of a night at a hotel.
And the math doesn’t lie: spend half as much and travel for twice as long.
There are a lot of ways to do it: Wwoof, Couch Surf, Servas, Global Freeloaders, Help Exchange, rent an apartment, stay in a hostel, stay in a pension, ask for a good price for a longer stay, offer to exchange services, visit places where you know people who would welcome you in their homes….
Tip 11: Stay in a place with access to a kitchen. So you can cook instead of eating out.
Tip 12: Get away from the tourist areas. The tourist areas attract money-obsessed locals (as is the case everywhere in the world). They’re good at business which means they’d punch their own mother to make a buck. Break the cycle of violence, try to deal mostly with businesses that don’t cater to tourists.
Tip 13: Rent/buy a scooter/car/bike. The more independent you are, the more options you have. Most of the places we stayed would have been next to impossible to find without our own transportation. It’s also possible to do this and save money on transportation, especially if you can buy & sell for the same price.
Tip 14: Stay in one place for a longer period of time. Develop a routine. You’ll learn what’s cheap, what’s a rip-off, where you can go for free. There will also be less urgency to experience everything before you have to run to your next destination.
Tip 15: Stay in one place for a longer period of time. Moving costs money. When you arrive in a new place you might need to take a taxi, to sit in a cafe to kill time, to stay in a too-expensive hotel because you didn’t plan well, etc. There are a lot of costs associated with changing places besides just wasting your precious time.
Tip 16: Buy your food from local markets. Some have the idea that it’s cheaper to eat crappy fast food, but in fact eating the absolute healthiest is the absolute cheapest: raw veggies, salad, pasta with tomato sauces, water from the tap. Our bodies & wallets love going vegetarian.
It’s hard to get past the pride of wanting to “eat bouillabaisse in Nice” just so you can say you did. But food doesn’t have to be your ego’s crutch every meal. Ordering vegetarian food in Thailand, one says, “Gin mung.” That means, “I eat like a monk.” We should eat more monk-like anyway.
Tip 17: Carry food staples with you. Have you ever been so hungry that you panicked and splurged on, say, two bottles of liquor for lunch? Oops! You’re less likely to repeat that classy performance if you have some snacks with you at all times. Our to-go bag includes jam, cheese and some fruit, olive oil, salt a bottle of water and some cutlery. To complete the meal we buy a fresh loaf of bread, some wine and a jar of Nutella, then picnic somewhere beautiful. See video below (it’s just 7 minutes of us eating in beautiful places. I won’t be offended if you skip it).
Tip 18: Eat at small local places if you do want to eat out. It’s best to ask locals where they go most often, as it’s usually a sign of good food at good prices. In France there’s almost always a plat du jour (daily special) which is the best deal.
Tip 19: Split meals. Our bodies & wallets love eating less.
Tip 20: Don’t buy crap you don’t need.