Splurging $5,000 on a 30-day Europe Trip.

It has been a long procrastination but here I am with my financials for my 30-day semi-budget Europe Trip back in 2012.

I’ve divided my expenditure into 6 different categories as seen below.


The expenditure for each category seems to be quite evenly proportioned and accommodation I took up a larger pie of the entire budget.
$1172 only accounted for 23 nights (average SGD 51/night) as the remaining nights were spent at my friend’s Hostel in Dublin or at the airport waiting for the morning flight (London to Amsterdam and Dublin to Singapore).

How to reduce cost of accommodation in Europe? 

  1. Bunk in with a friend. Try to search or ask around to see if you have a friend/distant relative or even a friend’s friend working or studying there. It wouldn’t hurt to just sleep on the couch or floor or share a bed for a few days 🙂
  2. Couchsurfing.
    I haven’t tried it yet but I guess it’s one of the ways you can get free lodging, if you have no issues with sleeping on the sofa or the floor. I’ve heard of good and bad experiences with couchsurfing but as a precaution, always choose someone with multiple high and positive reviews.
  3. Travel while you sleep.
    Book overnight coach/train for long journeys if you can sleep on a moving vehicle.(e.g. Amsterdam to Paris, Barcelona to Madrid are 7-hour bus rides). Do note that there are times where train rides are more pricey than airplane rides.
  4. Sleep in Hostels (XX-bed per room) with shared toilets.
    If you analyse my table below, I had private room + toilet for a couple of cities as there were three of us. But to save money, especially if you’re traveling alone, and on a shoestring, hostels with bunk beds is the only choice available.
  5. Buy membership(s)
    For the sake of this Europe trip, I purchased Hostel Club Membership which cost 10 euros. It waives off your booking fee and the overall price (after adding the 10 euros for the cost of the card) was still cheaper than the other hostel websites.I also purchased Hostelling International Membership which allows you to save at least 2 euros/pounds per night in every of their hostel.For my other holidays this year, I’ve also started booking via hotels.com and not via agoda or booking.com as they have the 10 nights, free 1 night reward system. 10 nights.. is not hard to achieve as long as you start booking for other people =p I’ve already managed to redeem 1 night and have 1 free night in my account!

Okay so here’s the list of my accommodation, its prices and links:

City Price per pax per night Where I stayed Link
Dublin  – Friend’s Hostel at University Dublin College  
Edinburgh  $ 26.03

ST CHRISTOPHER’S INN, EDINBURGH

(Hostel) 10-bed female dorm 

http://www.st-christophers.co.uk/edinburgh-hostels 

London  $ 49.70

YHA London St Pancras

(Hostel) 4-bed female dorm

https://www.hihostels.com/hostels/yha-london-st-pancras

Amsterdam  $ 59.42 Hostel Amsterdam Vondelpark (Hostel) 6-bed female dorm

http://www.stayokay.com/en/hostel/amsterdam-vondelpark

Paris  $ 45.30 Hotel De La Comete (Hotel) 1 queen + 1 single bed with private toilet

http://www.hostelsclub.com/hostel-en-6506.html

Milan  $ 44.57 Milan Hotel (Hotel) 3 single bed with private toilet 

http://www.hotelclubmilano.com/

Venice  $ 59.42 Alloggi Gerotto Calderan (Hostel) 1 queen + 1 single bed with private toilet

http://www.casagerottocalderan.com/

Florence  $ 56.12

Hostel Archi Rossi=

(Hotel) 3 single bed with private toilet

http://www.hostelarchirossi.com/

Rome  $ 52.82 A Casa di Penelope (Hostel) 1 queen + 1 single bed with private toilet

http://www.acasadipenelope.com/

Barcelona  $ 43.50 Duo by Somnio Hostel (Hostel) 4-bed female dorm

http://www.hostelduo.com/

Madrid  $ 22.28 Hostal La Casa de La Plaza (Hostel) 1 queen + 1 single bed 

http://www.lacasadelaplaza.com/english/index.html

Coming in next for contributing a large portion of my expenditure would be my air tickets (Singapore – Dublin RETURN) and on food.

Now that I’m re-looking into my expenditure for food, it seems like I’ve only spent an average of SGD 31.20/day on food which seems pretty much on the low side. This amount should be slightly higher as I had a couple of home-cooked meals when I was at Dublin.

During the trip, we had a good mix of budget-friendly food like pizza and kebabs, medium budget options like buffets and restaurants. The most expensive meal we had was at the Michelin Guide-featured restaurant, La Giostrain Florence. Right, it was only 20 euros after sharing but (if you have the choice) I wouldn’t encourage sharing food if you were to choose to enter a rather high class restaurant like this. I felt that it kind of reflected quite badly on us. Oh well :X

How to reduce cost of food in Europe?

  1. Eat Fast Food (usually McDonalds)

    Photo: McWrap in Paris
    I think for at least a third of the meals, we were eating fast food, pizzas and kebabs. It will usually cost between 4 to 10 Euros. Sometimes, we eat fast food because we need to use the (usually free) toilet inside. Otherwise, some European countries actually do charge for toilet! If I didn’t remember wrongly, I got “scolded” in Amsterdam because I forgot to drop a coin before I enter the toilet in McDonalds (couldn’t decipher the non-english signs).
  2. Eat Pizza/Kebabs

    Photo: Kebab in Italy
    Eating Pizzas (by the slice or weight) is usually a cheaper option as it is a fuss free meal and the prices shouldn’t go beyond 5 euros. We ate a lot of pizzas (not only in Italy) in our entire trip as Italian food always felt like a cheaper option when compared against the rest. Kebab is another popular alternative and it usually cost between 4 to 6 euros for a tasty roll.
  3. Bring a Bottle
    Always bring a water bottle along with you when you travel as you can save a lot of money by not having to buy bottled water along the way. Most accommodation will provide water dispenser or boilers and you should remember to fill the bottle up before you start your journey every morning!
  4. Book Accommodation with free breakfast

    When choosing accommodation, It is always a plus point if it includes free buffet breakfast. While eating the free breakfast, remind yourself that you will be having an extremely late lunch (if any), and just eat more. FYI, photo above was breakfast @ YHA Vondel Park in Amsterdam.
  5. Buy your Drinks at the Supermarket instead of at the restaurant.
     
    Photo: Duff(y) beer in Rome. & 53 cents Hoegarden at Amsterdam
    (Random) I was combing the entire italy for “duffy beer” after seeing it on a T-shirt. Can’t remember how long I took to realise that it was “Duff” beer and not “Duffy beer”. Bought this $1 euro lager from a convenience shop.
    FYI: If you’re wondering why Duff beer looks familiar, it probably means that you watch simpsons!
  6. Share Food
    You can try this option out but it might be tough. I wouldn’t recommend this as I felt that the serving size in Europe is usually just nice. The only time where I had a too huge portion was for my Fish & Chips in Dublin.
  7. (When in London) visit Marks & Spencer
    and buy all the lovely goodies which cost x3 and x4 of the prices in Singapore. If you visit them in the evening (think after 8pm), there would be huge discounts on the perishables!

Europe is pretty much a shopping paradise if you’re a big fan of European brands. From Longchamp in France to Prada/MiuMiu in Italy to Zara in Spain to Burberry in UK, you want it, you get it at (up to) 40% savings. On top of the savings, you can also qualify for tax refund (unlike USA).

My expenditure of $899.40 includes 2 wallets, 2 cardigan, 1 sandals, 2 dress, 3 tops, 1 shorts, Truffle Cheese from Amsterdam, 1 Longchamp (medium) and a lot of country/attraction pins, stamps, a lot of postcards and my paddington bear keychain =D

How to reduce the cost of shopping in Europe? 

  1. (For expensive purchases) Claim tax refund and follow up with the claims within 3 months.
    For tax refunds, you are only allowed to file for it at the last European country you are flying out from. For my case (dated June 2012), my country of departure was Dublin and we had a terrible and somewhat unsuccessful attempt while trying to file for tax refund.
    Unlike France & UK whereby there was a tax refund counter before departure gates, Dublin airport only had a counter after departure gates. After reaching the counter, they told us to fill up our details and drop the un-stamped receipts and the envelopes into the postbox. I was reluctant to do so as the forms clearly wrote that the tax refund would not be valid without the “custom stamp” which would verify that the items you have bought will be brought out of Europe. The customer officers insisted that they had no chops and that the tax refunds and receipts would be stamped eventually, without the verification of goods. Forums with similar experiences Another one Well, so I waited and waited for the tax refund and one fine day I finally decide to investigate. That’s when I found out that Dublin airport had a lot of issues with failed tax refunds because of the un-stamped forms.So, after two months of waiting in vain, I contacted the facebook page of premier tax (the company processing my refund) and explained my entire story on how I suspected my tax forms were not stamped by the Custom because Dublin airport probably had it screwed up. They addressed the issue 1-2 days later, sending me an email requesting for the details of my purchase. Thankfully I kept the receipt in the wallet box and I was able to refurbish all the details.1 to 2 weeks later, I received an email saying that the refund has been processed and that I can expect the refund in my next credit card. If I don’t remember wrongly, my tax refund was about $30+ SGD, after all that effort…
  2. BRAND (Outlet) Shopping (London/Paris/ Italy)
    (My knowledge of brands are quite limited thus this portion might not be too useful..)
    Well.. if you have set aside $$$ to buy that dream bag of yours, you might want to do some research before heading to the stores.#1 – Research on the exact address and directions to the stores.
    (FYI, we assumed that the famous shopping street Champs Elsyees in Paris would have a Longchamp shop. We combed the entire street in the rain before giving up and realising that there isn’t any Longchamp in that area, back in 2011.)#2 – Research on the price of the item you would like to purchase. You wouldn’t want to get a shock when you’re at the store. 
    UK – Burberry, Mulberry, Vivienne Westwood
    France – Louis Vuitton, YSL, Chanel,
    Italy – Prada, Miu Miu (Factory Outlet in Florence), Fendi, Gucci

    (My outlet shopping experience in Florence – We spent 1 full day, going to the famous Prada outlet – The Space & The Mall. All in, we spent approximately $20 each for transportation to these outlets.. and a whole full day could be “wasted”. Do think twice if you’re going and not planning to make any purchase. Prada wallet was selling at 195 euros at The Space. Tip: if you’re going to The Space in the morning. You need to RUN to get the number and be at the entrance when the door opens in order to grab on to the nicer designs. I am serious.)
  3. Zara/Mango is cheaper in Spain!
    Zara, having originated from Spain, seemed to be at its cheapest in its home country. However, a hindsight of putting your purchases on hold might be a terrible idea as the fast-fashion retail model can be so fast that your items can be out of stock before you reach Spain :/
  4. H&M is really affordable
    In recent years, H&M has been expanding greatly into Asia’s market and to be honest, the price difference between buying in Europe and buying in Asia isn’t very significant. However, the collections in Europe is definitely a lot more.
  5. Primark is an awesome place to shop in London
    The prices are really cheap and some of the designs look fantastic!

How to reduce the cost of Attractions Fee in Europe? 

  1. Buy discounted Broadway tickets, Restricted View is even cheaper!

    Discounts are usually not available for popular shows like Phantom of the Opera. Such discounted tickets can be bought from the official tkts ticket booth or from random shops along the area. Sometimes you can get up to 50% discount but in my case.. I only got a 8.50pounds discount but oh wells, it was restricted view but stalls seats thus I think it’s not too bad!
  2. Look out for student discounts
    Some museums are free for students with a european  student card, some museums are free as long as you can proof you are a student (Prado museum – i showed my NUS card). Wherever you go, just ask for student discount. Sometimes, they might even give it to you without checking (if you look young) =p
  3. Visit Free Museums
    Most museums in London are free! Prado Museum in Madrid – free every evening. Louvre in Paris – Friday evenings for under 26, Oct to March – first Sunday of each month
  4. Book your tickets online
    It is always advisable to book your tickets online if student discounts are not available.
    E.g. Harry Potter Studio Tour: has limited capacity per day and session and they do not accept walk-ins.

    Versailles Palace – We spent 40 minutes queuing to purchase the ticket, then another 30 minutes to enter the palace. If we bought the tickets online, we could have save the queuing time..

How to reduce the cost of Transportation in Europe? 

  1. Book everything early & qualify for early bird promotion.
    Buying the eurorail pass may not always be the cheapest option, but it is definitely the greenest option.
    For me, I used a combination of train, bus and flights for my entire 30-day trip. Most of these transportation were booked more than 3 months prior to the journey. I was able to get the cheapest ticket options for most as I qualified for the “Early Bird discount”. The most epic case was for my renfe train ride from Barcelona to Madrid. We found out that tickets can only be booked 90 days in advance so we actually waited for “midnight” in Spain’s timing in order to secure the early bird prices. Well, our train ride was 2hr 45mins against a 7-8 hours bus ride. Then again, if you don’t mind taking the night bus, you can save on accommodation PLUS transportation cost.
    FYI: Airline tickets only gets expensive by the minute, not the other way around. So.. don’t look back, book now and worry later =p
  2. Risk it if you dare
    I’m sure you’ve heard of countless cases of people cheating on the public transport in Europe. In London, it is almost impossible. In France, we tried on several occasions. In Amsterdam, we bought a 24 hour ticket but used it for 48 hours. In Rome, we only paid for our first ticket :/ and I think someone told me or I heard that he, being a local, did not pay for public transport his whole life and was only caught once. With that being said, let’s take a look at your consequences if you’re caught:
    (after googling, the fines can range from 40 euros to 100 euros) Is this money worth it for that less than 2 euros cost savings? Please think twice..
  3. Choose an accommodation in the heart of all the action
    Well, if you want to save on transportation fees, you got to stay near all the action, usually closer to city centre. But of course, stayng near to the city centre means the price of your accommodation increase.. I guess it’s all a zero sum game but I would usually just pay more and stay in a more centralized area as it can save on the hassle of moving luggages, save on the time spent on traveling to attractions and of course save money from traveling to the tourist attractions by simply walking.
  4. Plan your itinerary carefully so that you won’t have to backtrack. 
    This is the most cost effective way to everything. For example, I planned my Florence itinerary attempting to cover Pisa and Cinque Terre in one day as they were somewhat along the same route. Likewise for making your longchamp purchases in Paris. Always make sure that you don’t forget anyone’s order, otherwise you would have to waste time and money to get back to the shop.
  5. Just Walk
    If you’re staying in the city centre, there should be many places within walking distance. If I didn’t remember wrongly, I walked the most in London as it cost 2 pounds per trip on the subway :/ Amsterdam is pretty decent to walk around (minus the speeding cyclist).

Thanks for reading my lengthy entry. Hope the following information, though dated, helped you in one way another. If you wish to see my awesome excel sheet which helps me keep track on all these information (especially useful when you’re going away for a long time), do leave a comment with your email or send me an email at followmyfootsteps9@gmail.com

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Thanks!

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