A European Holiday: How Much Will it Cost?

There are plenty of articles written to help answer the question, “How much does it cost to travel to Europe for a holiday?” (or vacation for my North American friends). Yet, as was the theme with my last travel-related post, I found the information already available didn’t address my questions in a way that I found useful.

Having recently spent four weeks exploring Europe whilst honeymooning with Chris, I decided to sum up our travel expenses and put together a post that I hope will help you when planning your European adventure.

Keep in mind that budgeting for any trip is inherently difficult. Exchange rates are in flux. Different tastes lead to different expenditure. Whether you’re travelling in peak or off peak will also play a major role in determining the prices you pay.

Considering this, before getting to what we spent, I’ll describe the details of our trip so you can understand the basis for our spending.

You can skip straight to the costs if you choose (spoiler: it’s AUD $239 per person, per day), but I strongly recommend skimming the additional information.  Without understanding what we spent our money on, the numbers themselves aren’t going to be all that helpful.

The Trip

This is a summary of what we did, as a couple in our 30s, for the purpose of clarifying what our budget provided.

Itinerary

We spent four weeks in Europe from late August until late September. This placed us in the shoulder season – not quite as expensive as European summer and not as cheap as winter.

The trip was divided, roughly in half, between the UK and Italy with an even amount of time spent within, and outside of, major cities (e.g. London and Rome).

Accommodation

We stayed in mid-range hotels (e.g. Premier Inn and Tango Hotel) for the most part. These were all very clean, comfortable and most included breakfast. We didn’t use Airbnb.

Food

For the most part we had breakfast included at our accommodation. Sometimes this was cornflakes and toast, other times it was a culinary delight.

Lunches mostly consisted of a sandwich and drink at Pret a Manger or similar.

Dinners were at nice restaurants and usually consisted of two courses and a glass of wine. We didn’t eat fast food or take away.

Throughout the day we would generally drink water we’d purchased in bulk from a supermarket, transferred into 500 ml bottles for easy carrying. That said, tap water was probably fine in most of the locations we stayed.

Most days we’d enjoy a snack (e.g. cake and coffee, a cheese board, or similar) or a drink (e.g. a wine or a cocktail) in the afternoon.

All that is to say we didn’t skimp on food and drink, but we could have spent a lot more had we wanted to.

Activities

We visited plenty of tourist attractions, museums, galleries, churches, city tours, etc. We did something most days. Some days we did lots of paid activities, other days we just explored for free.

Activities are probably the most subjective part of the budget, as you could just as easily explore for free as you could spend hundreds every day. To attempt to provide some objectivity, most people we’ve spoken to feel that we managed to fit in plenty and have a lot of fun experiences, neither overdoing it nor foregoing anything really worthwhile.

Transport

We travelled between destinations mostly by train, also hiring a car for a few days, taking one inter-city flight, and taking coaches around the Amalfi Coast.

Within cities we did plenty of walking and otherwise relied on metro trains, trams and buses. We didn’t take taxis or use ride-sharing apps.

The Costs

Now you know what we did, here is what we spent.

The budget is an Australian dollar daily average, per person, whilst travelling as a couple.

  • Accommodation: ~$93
  • Food ~$74
  • Activity ~$36
  • Transport ~$36
  • Total: ~$239

Exclusions

The above excludes the following items which don’t neatly average out to a per day rate:

  • Return flights from Australia.
  • Travel insurance – seriously don’t leave home without this sorted!
  • Luggage, consumables, souvenirs, etc purchased while away.

Currency and Exchange Rates

All figures are in Australian dollars which converted, on average, at the time, as:

  • GBP £1 cost AUD $1.70
  • EUR €1 cost AUD $1.50

You can work out the equivalent amount in your own currency by converting from AUD to your currency for September 2017.

Examples

Here are some example costs. Click on the amount to convert to your own currency.

  • 10 days travelling as a couple: ~ AUD $4,780 together + exclusions.
  • 2 weeks travelling as a single (twin share): ~ AUD $3,345 + exclusions.
  • 4 weeks travelling as a couple: ~ AUD $13,385 together + exclusions.
  • 1 month travelling as friends (twin share): AUD $7,275 each + exclusions.

The above assume that you travel in a shoulder season, when exchange rates are relatively similar to those described above, and that you enjoy an equivalent standard as described in the summary at the top of the post.

I hope this helps you figure out what you’ll need to save for a nice European trip.

Bon voyage!

j j j

A Year in Retrospect: Thoughts From a Sushi Train

It’s 2:00 PM on Saturday, 18th August 2007, 53 weeks after I left Melbourne. I’ve recently turned 23, and I’m sitting in Finchley Road at a Sushi Train realising what an absolutely amazing year I’ve had.

In the past year I’ve set foot on four continents, visited more countries than I can count, met many amazing people, reunited old friendships, and lived some of the most incredible experiences of my life. Be it experiences like riding along the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun sparkles off the Pacific, or floating in a hot air balloon as dawn breaks over Egypt; or be it drinking Kölsch at your friend’s favourite beer-hall in Germany, or realising, for the 100th time, as you stroll along the Thames embankment, that you’re actually living in London. It matters little how big or small the experience, it is each of these which have come together to make the past year as amazing as I had ever hoped for.

It has not, of course, been without hard times. Several things have happened with my family which have been difficult to bare from so far away. But the world doesn’t pause for anyone, and I’ve been lucky to have such supportive family and friends to ease the burden of these times.

Today I had an Andy Day (a term coined by Cynthia; credit where credit is due). To digress for a moment, I’d never really discovered the value of ‘self time’ until a few days before leaving Melbourne. I had met Mum and Dad for breakfast in some suburb; of which I’ve forgotten the name. Though it was the middle of winter the weather was beautiful and I decided to take a drive [back in the days of having a car] into the city and see where it took me. I ended up just wandering Southbank and enjoying simply being in Melbourne. I was amazed at how much more I noticed by just being there, alone, instead of always surrounding myself with people and talk. Prior to this I had always felt sad for those people alone in the movies, or eating dinner in a restaurant without company. Suddenly my attitude changed. This is not to discount how much I love socialising, but there’s a time and place for everything and on this occasion I had a better time in my own company. I realised on that day that some things are better experienced with your full attention; a realisation which helped ease concerns about travelling alone and which enhanced many experiences while I was away.

Back to today: I headed down to London Bridge and wandered to the Tate Modern, having had a Starbuck’s breakfast, where I browsed the Global Cities exhibition. It’s what I love, and hate, so much about London – there is always something new to do, but never enough time to do it all. Having spent a couple of hours wandering the exhibition I headed across the Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s, then jumped on the tube and walked around Covent Garden and Leicester Square before coming to Finchley Road where this story began. It was a simple day but I had a ball and it got me thinking about what an amazing year this has been.

Just over one year ago I said goodbye to friends and family, boarded a Qantas plane and flew to London. I was meant to transit to Brussels but was caught in the 10th August terror threat and lost my connecting flight (for which I will always hate British Airways and refuse to fly them again). Eventually I made it to Belgium and met my friend Minda (with whom I’d travelled briefly in New Zealand) who I spend the next week with exploring quaint Belgian cities, eating great food and sampling some of Belgium’s wide variety of beers.

In mid August I caught the Eurostar back to Waterloo and, the following day, started my 6.5 week tour of Europe. This took me through France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and The Netherlands. I had an amazing time, but probably wouldn’t recommend spending so long on a tour. If you’re not up for fully independent travel, do several smaller tours with breaks in between.

People often ask the highlight of my European experience. While this is an obvious question to ask, and one I’ve been guilty of posing myself, it’s not a question for which I have a simple answer. Europe is so big, so diverse (both geographically and culturally) and the experiences had in each country are so incomparable that it’s hard to say, “I loved x most.” I loved standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower; for me that was the ‘yep, I’m in Europe’ moment’. Later I saw 3000 year old art in an Egyptian tomb. How can these experiences be compared enough to prioritise a favourite?

Following my tour I spent a few weeks in a hostel in London. I didn’t get up to much during this time, as I had myself a cold, but did manage to book a trip across to Germany to see Janina and Vanessa (more friends from my New Zealand trip). It was great to see these two again and I ended up spending three weeks with Janina, relaxing, exploring and enjoying Düsseldorf and its surrounds.

During this time Chris, a mate from Melbourne, came over and we headed to Prague for a few days. This was a beautiful city and provided some great photography as autumn had set in and the leaves were turning golden and falling.

From Prague we went back to Janina’s for a few more days then set off for Italy and Spain. We started in Rome, a fantastic city which I was happy to see again. Chris was an excellent travel buddy with similar interests and a passion for walking and taking as much in as possible by foot. A definite highlight was climbing the dome of St Peter’s and watching the sun set over Rome.

Twenty-four hours later we were watching the sun set over the Mediterranean from the top of a hill in the Cinque Terre, a beautiful, untouched region in northern Italy where time has stood still and preservd the farming traditions of the past. We spent several days here walking between the little villages and roaming the hills. It was a beautiful few days.

Chris and I then took an overnight ferry (trying to use every possible transport this trip) across to Barcelona where we began a couple of weeks exploration on the east coast of Spain. Barcelona was, again, great fun but it was nice to get out of the cities and see some smaller Spanish villages (albeit slightly over-run by British sun seekers).

After Chris and I spent several weeks travelling, walking, talking and solving all the world’s problems over various beverages, I departed for the United States. This part of my trip was, unexpectedly, amazing. I didn’t have the greatest expectations of America due to the culture, as we observe it externally, being somewhat irritating to me. Upon arriving in San Francisco and exploring this city, meeting real Americans and getting back into big city life, I discovered a new found love for the country.

Wandering the streets of San Fran, seeing the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop and fire-escapes lining every building, was thrilling. I had only three days there, one of which I spent in the Yosemite National Park, which wasn’t enough and, as with most places I’ve visited, it’s on my ‘repeat required’ list.

From San Fran I made my way to the surprisingly hot LA where I started my US tour taking me from LA, across the south through Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Dallas, Memphis, Florida, then up the east coast through Washington to New York. On the whole it may have been the best weeks I had away. I think maybe this was because my [negative] expectations were always broken, but also because I was surrounded by a great group of people and I was always learning. I think I obtained a more worldly, historical knowledge there than I did in many years of study.

New York City was amazing. Christmas carols playing where-ever you walked made you feel like you were in a Christmas movie and I felt the festive spirit in the strongest way I have since I was a kid. I had ten days in the city across Christmas and New Years and I had an absolute ball. I was up at 7:00 most mornings, not in bed before 1:00 and pounded the pavement for the hours in between. By all rights I should have been exhausted but the city has an energy of its own which gets in your veins and you feed off it! I instantly fell in love and, within the first days, was already planing my life there (in the semi-distant future, of course).

Sadly, come 3rd January, I had to bid the city farewell and head to London to start a more regulated life. NYC waved me off with a stunning sunrise, the Empire State Building silhouetted in the distance against a glowing pink sky. Eight or so hours later I was checking into my hostel in London, exhausted having not slept the night before I left.

Here began my London experience. I started looking for places for Clare and I to live and investigating the job market. A week later Clare arrived and we started our life together in Willesden Green. Clare started work within days of arrival, and I sat at home job hunting and working on my website management software, Simple Site, for ten weeks. The cash problems started and, while I don’t regret this experience in the slightest, I’m still struggling. On a side note, I would recommend coming to London with a job lined up and plenty of savings behind you; it’s an expensive city to get started in.

Eventually I found a job with the Health Protection Agency, doing a PC rollout for three months, before moving onto St George’s Hospital where I am currently working as a desktop engineer.

During the time in London we’ve made lots of friends, had plenty of nights out, dinners, drinks and fun experiences with great people. We’ve made a bit of a surrogate family with Cynthia and Adrian and have been on a road-trip together to the Lake District.

In April Clare and I went to Turkey for a tour which took us through Gallipoli for ANZAC Day. This was an incredible adventure, I really love Turkey and the dawn service was something that, in my opinion, every Australian should experience. Whether or not you have a direct connection to the campaign, it’s a very moving experience.

As the weeks have gone on we’ve done more London experiences. Whatever your interest London caters for it with galleries, museums, theaters, stadiums, concert halls. The tube is the most incredible transport experience in the world and will get you to anywhere you need to be. It took me a while, but if you open yourself up to London it really delivers, and now I’m attached. While I’m sure I’ll love coming home at the end of the year, I don’t think I’ll quite be finished with this city.

To celebrate my birthday last week, coinciding with my anniversary of being away, I flew to Minda in Belgium for a few days, then to Janina and Vanessa for the end of the week. It was good fun to see them again and have some time away from work and the day-to-day life in London. This is where Europe is so amazing. I left London and within a hour was sitting having drinks in a quaint Belgium town. It’s so easy to get to a completely different world.

I really have been so lucky this past year with what I’ve experienced and hope that anyone else who sets out on an adventure like this can have such incredible times also.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to keep in touch. If you know me well, you’ll know my e-mail address. If not, just post a comment and I’ll get back to you.

j j j

The Cinque Terre

The train trip from Rome was interesting! We left Roma Termini bound for an interchange station 20 minutes away. Upon arrival the doors wouldn’t open and the train threatened to leave with us on board. There was no time for this as our overnight train was only 5 minutes behind leaving no chance to get back in time.

In a panic one of the locals pulled the emergency exit leaver and the doors slid open, alarms ringing. The train went no-where for the next 20 minutes, also delaying our train behind it – oops.

As we were waiting at the station we were approached by an Iraqi guy who seemed very interested in us, as Australians, as he had “met many Australian troops fighting in Iraq.” We became a little suspicious and nervous when we asked him if he was travelling, or on business. He just answered “sort of” at which point I suggested to Chris that we go check the train times again (wink)! We made sure we put as many carriages as possible between us and him.

The train trip itself was slightly nerve-wracking as, when the lady we were sharing a cabin with left, a guy came in and tried to warn us about minding our luggage. Whether this was a general warning, or specifically about the woman we couldn’t work out from the Italglish conversation we were having. I didn’t sleep much. She kept coming in and out of the room, seeming to know everyone on the train, and even changed clothes a couple of times. Prostitute?

We finally arrived in Genova at 6:00 in the morning. Chris slept and I listened to my iPod for a while. I called Dad about some problems he was having with the Internet (ahh, global IT support) then Chris and I (rather grumpily due to lack of sleep and having to carry a heavy pack) headed for the ferry port to book tickets to Barcelona.

A really helpful Italian man saw us looking a little lost leaving the station and did his best to aide us in getting to the port. In fact, he even helped buy our bus tickets for us. This was followed closely by an elderly woman bashing us off the bus with her cane as we’d apparently entered the bus through the uscita, a no-no in Genova. Ahh, what an eclectic bunch to meet in 12 hours!

We finally made it to the port, bought our tickets to Barcelona, then headed back to the station, bought train tickets back to La Spezia and by 12:30 PM we were bound for the Cinque Terre!

The scenery along the train line was stunning. It ran right down the coast and between sleeping (I couldn’t keep my eyes open) I got some amazing views of the Mediterranean. At La Spezia we got our Cinque Terre passes and, having boarded yet another train, we arrived seven minutes later in the village of Riomaggiore.

This fishing village, hidden away into the cliffs of the Mediterranean, seemed untouched by modernisation and content to live the way it always had with self-sustaining fishing and farming the slopes above. It was such a beautiful contrast to arrive there having been so long in large cities. Chris and I wandered up the narrow pebble street to our accommodation which we were expecting to be a hostel (for the very reasonable price) but which turned out to be a fully furnished apartment – score!

By this time, the sun was getting low in the sky so we headed up the hill for some nice sun-set views over the ocean. We sat and waited patiently and were blessed with even more stunning views than the night before in Rome.

Once the sun had set, and we staggered down the hill in the dark, we sought out the makings of dinner; and what more perfect meal for a tiny Italian farming village than spaghetti bolognese with more than a dash of red wine (for the pot and for the cooks). As it turned out, Chris and my apartment had a fully furnished kitchen for our gastronomical pleasure. Following dinner we chatted for ages (always more world problems to be solved) before heading to bed ready for a big hike the next day.

We set out the following morning, along via dell’Amore (Lover’s Lane), towards Monterosso. Looking back at Riomaggiore, seeing the multicoloured buildings perched like lego on the cliffs, solidified in our minds that we had actually made it. To digress, for a moment, Chris and I had planned all this a year ago off vague information, inspiring photos and some help from Google Earth. To actually be there, smelling the ocean and seeing the towns, was an indescribably good feeling and wonderful achievement, and one I think we only truly appreciated in the following months.

We stopped at Vernazza for lunch before continuing to arrive at Monterosso at dusk. We sat by the water, relaxing as the waves lapped at the stone beach, before spending some time wandering the narrow lamp-lit streets seeking somewhere for dinner.

The options were limited (it was the low season) but we ended up at a nice restaurant where I enjoyed mussels, finished off with an espresso. And, of course, before we left we chatted to a couple from Williamstown. I mean, you can’t really expect to travel the world to some of the smallest towns in Italy and not run into someone from home.

Thursday was a very long day.  We packed and left our gear at the reception then went to the bakery and bought some makings for a baguette.  With a sketchy map we made our way around the cliffs to Manorola then took the alternate inland route to Corniglia.

This turned out to be an extremely alternate route, judging by the fact that the path had all but disappeared in most sections.  That said, the views from so high up in the mountains were stunning and the fog and abandoned stone buildings throughout the trees made the Italian hillside romantically eery.

We climbed and wandered through this landscape for a couple of hours, never really sure if we were lost or on the right track.  Eventually we met a cross-roads, which seemed to be marked on the map, and sat down on a log in the clearning for lunch; the fresh baguette was excellent (no Baker’s Delight bread in the Cinque Terre – just pure goodness)!

Eventually we made our way down to Corniglia (I understood, after about 6 hours, why they recommended taking the train over the alternate route) and decided to go back to Monterosso to explore by day.  It turned out to be far more touristy than the other towns and we decided to sit in the sun by the ocean and relax for a while.  On the way back to the train we saw a picture of a tiny bay in Riomaggiore that we hadn’t yet discovered, so we headed for there.

I listened to some Café del Mar and watched the sunset while Chris went down to the water’s edge to take some photos.  Then we rushed back to our hostel, claimed our bags and jumped on the train bound for Genova.

The train ride was, thankfully, less interesting than the one from Rome and we got safely back to Genova, walked to the port with enough time for Maccas dinner, then embarked our ferry bound for Barcelona.

j j j

All Roads Lead (Back) to Rome

Well, my coin in the Trevi Fountain trick worked a treat: I came back to Rome!

On Saturday morning we were up and off to Weeze airport, a good hour and a half from Janina’s. Luckily a bus ran out there so we didn’t require a lift. I think the airport may secretly have been in The Netherlands it was so far away.

The flight with Ryanair was pretty good, although with all the added transport and baggage costs, I don’t think we really saved any money. Before you fly with then I recommend looking at how much it will cost you to get to the airport, and look at the cost of baggage, as it can add up to more than a regular fare with a bigger carrier.

We eventually got into Roma Termini late in the afternoon and, having found some accommodation, we headed out to browse Rome by night and to get some dinner. Our first stop was the Trevi Fountain followed by a wander through the streets, past the Pantheon, to find some dinner; an Italian thin base pizza and glass of red, al fresco!

After dinner we headed back to the hostel where we chatted to some girls from the States who were studying Spanish in Alicante, before heading to bed.

On Sunday morning we grabbed breakfast at the supermarket before heading back into the main town to the Monument Vittorio Emmanuel II. This huge structure, now also serving as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I had not seen before and, while being amazing in itself, afforded some great views across the city and to the Roman Forum.

From the monument we headed to the Colosseum, via the Forum, where we ran into the girls from our room and arranged to meet them for dinner later that night. Chris then did a tour of the Colosseum (something I’d already done) while I sat in the sun and listened to some music. When Chris finished we headed to the river, via the Mouth of Truth, and spent an hour or so wandering along the banks towards the Vatican City.

Opposite the Vatican we headed back towards the main town via the Trevi, where I tossed another coin in (I want to come back afterall).

We met the girls just before 7:00 PM to go for dinner. Everyone was surprised by how small their pasta’s were, forgetting that, in real Italian meals, the pasta isn’t a main course. The dinner was pretty nice though and we had a good chat – these girls were interesting to chat to, lots of interesting opinions on American politics etc!

Chris and I then went on the net to book our trip to the Cinque Terre. We couldn’t work out the trains online, so we just booked accommodation and decided to go to the station the following morning.

We had to check out early on Monday morning then headed back to the station to book tickets to Genova. We then headed back to the Colosseum to meet our tour of the Roman Forum. This was very informative and explained how the Forum served as the governing and market centre for ancient Rome. The tour finished with a walk around the Palentine Hill and the gardens, a great vantage point for a view of the Forum.

From there we walked to the Spanish Steps where we sat for a while and had a rest while taking in the view over the city.  Then it was time to go to St Peters to climb the cupola for sunset.

The walk up the dome was similar to the Duomo in Florence with various different intricate stairways leading to the vantage point at the top.  Here, thanks to Dad’s suggestion, we witnessed the best view in Rome and one of the best sunsets I’ve had on my trip.  The clouds were just right for a long, glowing sunset and my camera got a very good workout!

Having finished photographing the sunset, and having been kicked off the cupola by friendly Vatican guards, we looked inside St Peters for a while before heading back into the main town where we stopped, exhausted, for pizza before going back to the hostel.

On the way back we stopped for a glass of red to kill some time while we waited for our train, then grabbed our bags from the hostel and went to the station for our departure towards the Cinque Terre.

j j j

Pompeii and an Overnight Ferry

Today was another beautiful day, but was unfortunately also the day I had to say goodbye to the other group.

We drove to Pompeii in the morning for a brief look around, although I would like to go back there for a proper look one day as the excavations are much larger than we had time to see. That said, it was incredible how well preserved parts of the city were. We saw some of the baths, with artwork still in tact, two of the outdoor theatres, a brothel and the plaster mould bodies of those caught in the disaster.

After an hour or so wandering around we quickly had lunch, said goodbye to the other group, and headed across Italy to catch our ferry bound for Greece.

I really enjoyed the overnight ferry. We had dinner and watched some fireworks back on the shore as we sailed away. Were they heralding our departure from Italy??? Then we sat out the back of the boat and chatted for a while. I slept pretty well, as the voyage across was very still. Then, early in the morning, we got up to disembark and head to our accommodation on Corfu.

j j j