How much I spent on a 4-month Eurotrip, and how I cut costs along the way
Everyone's a little bit hesitant to talk about money, but let's face it, budget is huge factor when it comes to traveling. Before I left for my trip, I scoured the internet for an idea of how much I should be organising to spend on my trip. This figure ranged from $10,000 AUD for 4 months, to $20,000 AUD for 7 weeks... I really had no idea. So I thought I'd break it down for you a bit here and hopefully give you an idea of what I spent and how I cut costs along the way to keep that figure low!
The overall amount I wanted to spend on the entire trip was about $12,000 AUD / €8,000 Euros. Before I left, I spent about $3,500 AUD / €2,335 Euros altogether on my unlimited Busabout guide ($1799 AUD), return flights to Paris with Thai Airways ($1150 AUD), and comprehensive travel insurance ($500 AUD).
To keep yourself on track and be able to do and see everything you want to for the amount of time you intend on going away for, I recommend:
setting a budget
Setting an overall budget is really important. I'm not the type of person to do a day-by-day budget (for example, only spending $60 AUD per day on food, accommodation and activities), but that works well for some people. I just find that idea really limiting, because I had some really expensive days when I spent $150 and then I had some travel days when I only spent $5. Instead I set an overall budget and kept a really close record of what I was spending to see how I was going. Then at the end of each month, I would see how much I'd spent and multiply it by how much time I had left to make sure I was staying on track.
I was quite fastidious with this, as I thought it was really interesting to look back on how much I'd spent and what I'd spent it on. I did the same thing in Japan, and I find that knowing exactly how much I've spent on a trip makes me a lot more prepared for future trips. I use my Notes app to keep track, but there are several apps that work really well. My only issue with apps is that if you delete or update the app, sometimes you lose all of the content too, which is really frustrating. I just set my spending out like this:
€3 - hot chocolate
€5 - pasta lunch
€10 - entry to museum
= $ (convert the overall total in euros to AUD or your local currency)
= $ running total in your local currency
I found it easiest to convert everything as I went into AUD, so that I was looking at a familiar currency consistently. This might seem a little anal, but I found is SO handy, and because I really stayed on top of my list, I could calculate to the dollar how much I'd spent on my entire trip. I even remember to add things like ATM withdrawal fees, etc, which are easy to forget.
It is so integral to shop around if you want to save money, as every company wants to add their extra bit of commission on top, and that can get really pricey for you. I just used the internet mostly, and I found awesome deals on tours, activities, hostels, transportation, etc. Sometimes I was saving $5, but sometimes I was saving $100, which is a huge difference. I even had one experience where I wanted to extend my stay at a hostel, so I checked the availability in my room on Hostel World first and saw the price of my bed for the night, then I went down to reception and they tried to charge me almost $10 more per night. Once I could quite how much the bed was on Hostel World, she immediately dropped the price. It sounds a bit tedious, but that little bit of extra research allows you to have a lot more fun and stay overseas longer. For hostels, I used Hostel World or Hostel Bookers; for flights I used Best Jet; for activities I used Trip Advisor and just searched on Google.
I know this seems obvious, but transportation can cost you an absolute fortune when traveling. I obviously didn't mind paying for long distance trips, but when exploring a city, I tried to walk as much as possible. Instead of catching a bus, taxi or train, I quite enjoyed seeing a city by foot and getting my bearings that way.
FREE WALKING TOURS
I'm not going to lie, I became a bit obsessed with free walking tours... The concept is that you'll do the tour (usually 1.5 - 2.5 hours) and then you'll leave a tip at the end for the guide, and a positive review on Trip Advisor. The guides only receive half of what everyone tips them, and the groups usually include a maximum of 30 people. I usually tipped $10-$15 each time. It wasn't very much, but I didn't think it was an insulting amount. Some people gave huge tips, which I think was awesome and well deserved by the guides, who are usually really good at their jobs. My favourite companies were Sandemans New Europe tours, which operate all over Europe. In London, I like Strawberry Tours. When I was in Vietnam, I also did a free bike tour around Hoi An, so I think this kind of structure operates in lots of different places. I found these so informative, not only so that you can enjoy the history of the place you're in, but also because the guides are locals that tell you all the tips and tricks so that you don't get ripped off, as well as all the great places and things to see, eat and do. I learnt so many ways to cut lines or get the most out of different tickets, etc, thanks to my walking tour guide.
Don't drink (as much...)
I don't drink at all, so I guess I'm pretty lucky. But if you are a drinker, even having a few nights where you don't go out and drink. Or not having a drink with dinner, etc, will save you a heap of money over a long trip. It's your trip and your choice, but I would rather spend my money on experiences that a drink...
DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK
Some countries are shocking for hidden charges. Bread, cheese platters, service fee, seating fee, music charges, cutlery fees, etc. You name it, they'll charge you for it! Don't be afraid to ask what the charges are in a restaurant before you sit down (this is even more important in Asia, where you agree on the price of EVERYTHING, especially transportation, before sitting down). Trust me, you'll feel even more stupid if you have to pay $15 AUD / €10 Euros to sit down and drink your coffee (which is what happens if you sit down and drink your coffee at a cafe in St Marc's Square in Venice... If you stand up to drink it, it is only €1 for your coffee though - how silly!).
A lot of people don't realise that Couchsurfing is completely free, but don't just use it like that, as that's not what it's about. See my posts below about Couchsurfing for more information on the whole 'cultural exchange' concept and what I recommend. If you're going to Couchsurf though, you generally can't be as fussy about where you sleep, but always be fussy and trust your gut if you feel uncomfortable with your host. Also don't be tight when it comes to bringing something nice for your host or buying them dinner while you're out with them. I think that's fair and it will still cost you far less than if you paid for accommodation.
I haven't personally done used Workaway, but lots of people that I met have used it and it seems great. This is a volunteer concept, basically like Woofing that we have in Australia. Obviously you have to work, usually on a farm or in somebody's garden or cleaning their house, but your food and accommodation is free and you get a very authentic experience in a different place. An Australian girl that I met in Austria had been living in the alp and doing a Workaway at a hostel there and she absolutely loved it. Then I met a guy who was given very poor accommodation and made to do a lot of skilled work for the lady he was volunteering for, so he left quite quickly. I think it's totally dependent on your host, but it is definitely a great way of extending your trip for long periods of time for relatively little cost.
This is one of my top tips. Obviously, a huge part of traveling is tasting the local cuisine, but for your waistline and your pocket, you should definitely try to cook and pack some of your own meals for a few meals each day. This is so handy and saves you a TONNE of money. Keep an eye out, as I'm going to do a post about my favourite things that I cooked and ate while I was traveling, which I found light, mess-free and cheap to travel with.