The best of world on a budget of €15 a day…
The 30 day, €15 a day, 10 country trip was all InterRail‘s idea (I might say fault in a few weeks) and part of the project is that I’m going to blog my learnings from the road in the form of a daily money saving tip. When the trip starts, you’ll be able to read them here. Tips are not destination specific, just general tips to keep the coins in your purse/fanny pack. You can find summaries below, but can click on the text to get the full story:
Day One’s Tip: Surf the web to surf a couch…
It sounds obvious, but there are few countries in the world (let alone Europe) where €15 adapt would cover your food + fun AND accommodation. And so the best option (unless your Captain Popular and have friends in many places) is CouchSurfing. This is a fantastic website, hooking travellers up who need couches to sleep on, with people who have couches available. Yes, staying with complete strangers, with the only transaction being an exchange of knowledge that you’ll return the favour if they wind up in your neck of the woods. Check in out here. Read my full story here.
Day Two’s Tip: Snacks before the tracks
Rail travel is a great way to get around Europe and using an InterRail pass has proved so far so good – but a sure fire way to waste away coins that are better spent elsewhere i by boarding hungry and thirsty. Almost all major rail stations have decent wee supermarkets where you can stock up on water and snacks – which will save you paying almost double the price on board and give you a better selection so you don’t fork out €3.50 for a stale sandwich and €2 for a water. Read the full story here.
Day Three’s Tip: Water, water everywhere.
You’ve heard it a million times before but with travelling it’s more important than ever – drink water. When you’re on the road, you’ll need even more than normal because you’re always out and about, and you’re hopefully be managing to squeeze a bit of booze out the fifteenaday budget, too (good work Team, good work). When you’re thirsty you’re more likely to get tired whilst wandering around the city and give up and head to the pub or cafe for a pick me up – nothing wrong with that, but it gets expensive. Another thing that gets expensive is always buying the water on the road. Many cities in Europe have fountains where you can fill up everywhere and supermarkets often sell full litres of water for about 0.50 cents, so there’s no reason to be buying a new bottle on every corner. You’ll be amazed at how quick it adds up. Save your fifteenaday (and the planet) and bit a bit more sensible – you’ll often be in the tourist spots where water is hiked up to €2 for a half litre at a minimum.Read the full story here.
Day Four’s Tip: Goodbye Mozart, Hello Tourist Office!
It’s not rocket science – and all savvy travellers probably already know that if a Mozart approaches you in Vienna, he’s going to sell you a marked up ticket. I’m fairly sure your fifteenaday won’t cover anything he has to offer. In contrast, many European countries the tourist offices are excellent. They are often located near the train station, which is excellent news for InterRailers. If you make a quick visit to one of them your first port of call in new city, you’ll find that you’ll waste less time googling and researching – and they often know what’s free, or almost free. It’s common sense, but choose wisely about that you chose to visit -although they have excellent information, they also have some pretty average attractions that are not designed with fifteenadayers in mind.
For example: from a short visit to the tourist office in Vienna, you can seriously stretch your fifteenaday budget by arming yourself with the following information: how to get €3 standing ticket at the opera house (this is a must do), which state museums waive their entry fee on the first Sunday of every month and what dates free performances of the famous Vienna Boys Choir take place. That’s a whole lot of culture right there. Read the full story here.
Day Five’s tip: Value comes to those who wait.
Time is money, money is time. It’s an age old saying. But it’s not just related to the boardrooms you thought you left behind when you picked up your backpack. Good value experiences come to those who wait and have the time to inform themselves, or in some cases wait on stand by for cheap deals. The best example is the €3 standing tickets at the Vienna Opera House to perch on a step behind someone who paid at least €30. You can’t beat that! Read the full story here.
Day Six’s Tip: Use the trains to listen and read up
On a day that was spent mostly on the train, earlier day’s tips of snacking wisely and stocking up on water before you’re a captive for inflated prices could not be more relevant. However, another valuable tip for trains is to use the time to get informed. The people you are on the train with have either been travelling on a similar route to you, or bette yet, they live in the area. Sometimes you get lucky and end up sitting next to people who know a lot of stuff about the places you’re going, so (when appropriate and hopefully we’re all big and ugly enough to know that waking someone up to chat about the Slovenian mountains isn’t kosher) get talking to others and get some good tips. Read the full story here.
Day Seven’s Tip: It’s not just safety that comes in numbers
It’s no secret that fifteenaday believe these best form of eating on the road is to buy local yummy treats for the Supermarket and make it a mission to turn your meal into an activity by finding an amazing picnic spot. (logic being that on fifteenaday, you won’t have a budget for many paid entry activities, so you’re better off making lunch an activity in itself!). You can pick up some pretty good treats in European supermarkets for not too much moolah if you’re careful and wise, but at the end of the day a loaf of bread casts €1 whether it’s split between 1 or 5 of you. The same goes for cheese, pesto, salami and all the other local goodies you might try out. This also goes for bottles of wine, but I guess that’s a different situation…. You can read more here.
Day Eight’s Tip: Get all oiled up
The subject of this time might make one believe that I’m suggesting one should oil themselves up, with the benefit being looking all hot and sexy, thus increasing the likelihood of getting bought free drinks. I’m not.
I’m simply suggesting you buy some oil and some balsamic vinegar before you start the trip. They’re two simple ingredients that make food (even bread) taste good. You can read more here.
Day Nine’s Tip: Wwoof, Wwoof!
Knowing I had an expensive few days with a Venetian day trip and a rendezvous with the infamous cash-hoover that is Oktoberfest coming up, I figured the only option was to increase the budget by having a few extremely cheap days, or perhaps even working so I can bank up a few days budget. Finding temp work in cities takes up too much time if you’re only there for a few days, but I’m now a convert to the concept of Wwoofing. For those not in the know, Wwoofing actually stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms and you can find more information here. This is the German site (The Deutsch love this concept) but each country has it’s own Wwoofing portal, so work out where you’d like to Wwoof and go from there. The concept varies slightly depending on how organic the farm you end up working on is – but essentially involves travelling to a farm for a certain period of time (many specify a minimum of a week) and helping out in exchange for board and learning the processes. Read about my experience here.
Day Ten’s Tip: I’m on a BOAT!!!
The fastest way to burn though money unnecessarily is to subscribe to gimmicky transport methods. It’s right up there with buying tickets to concerts from people in period dress. Don’t do it. Buying a horse and cart ride in Vienna, or a gondola in Venice are other examples that come to my mind. These quirky and kooky transport methods may well give you a good photo to show friends back home, but other than that, they’re not good for much at all.
While other fools fork out more than €50 for a gondola ride (and most looked mighty depressed punting round too I might add), crafty fifteenadayers will soon find out that taking a vaparetto (the name for the water busses that scoot around the canals) is a good option for those unwilling to part with more than three days budget for 30 mins of unromantic trawling, complete with boats and engines flying around beside you. Read more here.
Day Eleven’s Tip: Get Lost!
Walking is free. Getting lost is free. I recommend combining these two free activities in Venice. And in a city where the public transport system is pretty expensive, and where it costs €3 to buy a map (day four’s tip about helpful tourist offices isn’t really value here), you don’t really have much choice. And luckily there is not a better place to do it than Venice. Click here to see how the perfect fifteenaday experience in Venice looks.
Day Twelve’s Tip: Don’t go to Oktoberfest (BUT TOTALLY GO….)
Ahhhh Munich, I love you. You’re full of wonderful things to do on a budget and you’re clean, safe, easy to get around and full of friendly, giant Germans. Those keen to fifteenaday in Bavaria’s capital will be delighted that you can enter a lot of the city’s finest museums for a €1 on Sundays, that cycling around the endless Englischer Garten is free and a brilliant way to pass an afternoon and that the Donnerkebabs are cheap and taste better here than they do in Turkey.
However, fifteenadayers with a keen interest in the infamous festivity that is Oktoberfest be warned. If you decide to head along to the Wiesn you must a) unfortunately need to commit and accept that you’re going break the budget. Or b) have absolutely iron willpower. I must confess I went for option a. Read the full story here.
Day Thirteen’s Tip: Pick your patch wisely
The best advice about how to make your fifteenaday last is to pick places where it will last. Sounds so logical, but at times the lure of beaut mountains and luscious lakes gets too much, and you can accidentally ended up in Switzerland. Your fifteenaday doesn’t really stretch so well here, with the amazing €3 street sausage in Munich being replaced by a miniscule bagel that is more like €6. Ouch! Read more here.
Day Fourteen’s Tip: it IS possible
As per yesterday’s tip, Switzerland isn’t budget friendly. That said, it’s amazing and if you’re a hiker or biker, it’s probably still worth it: Just be prepared to eat less (both in terms of quantity and variety). If you already have an InterRail Pass and a bike or your walking boots, you can make your fifteenaday allowance work really hard for you. Click here for info on how to make a day trip from Zurich to Lucerne today into a totally rewarding experience.
Day Fifteen’s Tip: Street Food is your friend
Street food is your friend when you’re fifteenadaying. So: thank your lucky stars that it’s often delicious and comes with excellent additional benefits, like satisfaction from the fact that you’re trying something local while having some EXCELLENT people watching. They’re also handily located in main tourist squares, so you can easily pick something up and eating your feast in front of some pretty impressive landmarks. SO grab your currywuerst with PRIDE – you’re making the most of your budget after all. Read more here.
Day Sixteen’s Tip: Seek good ROI
Your fifteenaday allowance only spreads so far, and after you’ve eaten and enjoyed a beverage you only have budget for one “activity”. Hire that bike, visit that museum or pay that entry fee: but make sure you’re getting the BEST Return on Investment so you don’t regret passing over your Euro. To read more about one of the best ROI’s I bagged on this trip, click here.
Day Seventeen’s Trip: Poor, but Sexy
Taste the local people if you’re that way inclined (You should be that way inclined in Berlin, it’s like all the hot people gathered in one city and procreated. Some dyed their hair, got rich and went to Stockholm or Denmark but the rest seem to still be hanging out in the endless cafes and bars here in Berlin) but with that comment I’m actually referring to food and drinks. Read more about what I really mean, here.
Day Twenty’s Tip: Local Food
This MIGHT be the last post about German sausages, but I’m not promising anything. Read more here.
Day Twenty-One’s Tip: Get A Brompton
There has only been one city I’ve visited so far where getting around on bike would not be my method of choice: And that’s Venice… Enough Said. Every city that I have been to, I have got out of the train, popped my pack on and cycled to my host. Yes, it’s a slightly ridiculous sight that causes people to take a double check (for all the wrong reasons, especially in the rain) but the amount of time it saves me is absolutely phenomenal – and I’m sight-seeing en-route! Click here to read more about why wheels where the best thing I packed on this trip.
Day Twenty-Two’s Tip: FREE tours!!!!!
Sandeman’s New Europe Tours are a GREAT company that offer free tours in many of Europe’s backpacker-friendly cities. The company’s admirable philosophy is that everyone should have the right to know more about the city they are visiting, regardless of their budget – so they offer these fantastic 3 hour tours for free.
Well…they’re almost free. The guides are all freelance so basically, their income comes from people on the tour tipping them. Note that there is ZERO pressure to tip. It’s a quick sentence at the beginning of the tour and a quick sentence at the end where the guide thanks you and reminds you of the business model, but certainly no pouty faces and pleading open palms to be seen anywhere. So, if you don’t WANT to tip, you don’t HAVE TO.
That said, nine times out of ten you get a guide who you’d like to take home to meet your mother (the one time out of ten might also have been a hangover related issue on my part)so I can almost guarantee you’ll happily hand over your tip at the end of the tour. Click here to read more.
Fifteenadaying involves eating bananas for lunch and drinking wine from bottles in parks.
Sadly, these are things that you sometimes feel a little embarrassed asking hosts who have “real jobs” (hang on, wasn’t I in this category a few weeks ago?) to do. But not when you’re travelling with students!!!! Hanging out wither budget conscious segments of society (students, fellow budget travellers, homeless people) is a great way to save money – because your spending habits tend to mirror those that you spend with. Read more about my awesome day when it didn’t matter that I had no money here. In Copenhagen, of all places.
Day Twenty-Six’s Tip: Back to Barter
Some destinations are not fifteenaday friendly and Copenhagen is one of them. So a few days in advance I decided to put myself to work. Knowing that the days of easily securing cash work are more or less over, I went for the barter option.
I’m not good for manual labour, what being a bit of a princess and all, but you can’t take the wannabe pint-puller out of my system, so a few days ago I sent out some emails to some Irish pubs in Copenhagen, pitching that I come work for a few hours in exchange for some hearty meals and some beers. Keeps me off the spending to make up for Friday night, and feeds me for the day. Read more about how I took an Irish pub in Copenhagen by storm here.
Day Twenty-Seven’s Tip: In the Summertime….
A common budget tip is to travel in the shoulder season as accommodation prices tend to be hiked up in Summer’s peak season. Fifteenadaying is a little different: with such a miser budget to spend you won’t be sleeping in hostels or hotels anyway so the advice becomes less relevant.
Instead, consider that it’s easier to keep your daily costs down in summer; you’ll be happy wandering around in the sun, you tend to need less food and you don’t need to keep hopping into to cafes for “warm-up” coffees. Consider that most attractions that are inside to have an entry fee so it’s another cost right there. I have noticed that on cold or rainy days it has been significantly harder to stick to budget! That’s more or less the tip, but read more here.
Day Twenty-Eight’s Tip: I get by with a little help from my friends
Dust of that little black book and stay with friends. Fifteenadaying is NOT about letting someone else (i.e. said friend) fund your lifestyle. However, every now and again, you do say yes to the kindness of strangers and friends. And of course, were things in the other direction, I would do the same. And that’s why I can recommend staying with good friends where possible. With good friends, you don’t mind tucking into their breakfast supplies and helping yourself to tea and biscuits because you know (or at least hope) that they’ll be knocking on your door in a few years to have the favour returned. Read more here.
Day Twenty-Nine’s Tip: Let people surf your couch NOW
I have already given rules about couch surfing in a previous tip, but I’d like to expand on that and really recommend that you get stuck in NOW and start hosting people if you can. This way, you’ll be comfortable about knowing how it works, you’ll have more references on the site (thus making people more likely to host you) and you’ll probably end up hosting people from Europe so that they can return the favour when you’re on the road. Check out the CouchSurfing website here and get HOSTING!
Day Thirty’s Tip: Get an InterRail pass
I’ll take the chance to remind readers that this journey has been sponsored by InterRail as they were genuinely interested to see if you CAN make it around Europe without starving or being bored out of your mind on fifteenaday. And I’m proud to say that apart from a few hiccups (literally, when you think about Oktoberfest) I have managed it. I have had a great time and met some fantastic people.
But my last budget tip of the day is actually about InterRail and how much money a rail pass can save you on a trip like this.
To prove it, I have tallied up the cost of my trains as I have gone around and have realized that I have saved almost 400 euros, with the pass coming in at about €650 (converted from £529) and my trains tallying in at about €1058.
That saving is almost enough to start the trip all over again?!?
Let me think about it…….