Coming to the end of my trip, some friends started asking about my itinerary and also budget, as it seemed like I was there for long time and I might be throwing away all of my money. As I think this can be a good start for my series, I decided to make this as my first post to answer all questions. Let’s go! Andiamo!
This was INDEED the most tiring part before my departure, deciding what you would like to do. Now I understand why most older people don’t give a shit about trip planning and just take a tour with travel agencies because it was really time consuming. Starting from January, I started my research on cities to go with its own places of interests, how many days should I spend there, how should I go there, any additional information I should know beforehand, and so on. I wanted to make things settled as soon as possible, so I decided that I would apply for my visa as soon as I was eligible for it.
My plan started with how long did I want to go. Sometimes it is good to have options in life but when it is too much it can kill you, so I was glad that I did not have any options for my date. I finished my internship on 27th May and I had to leave Europe before 28th June, thanks to Singapore Airlines which gave deadline of 30th June for their student fare promotion (and it would be crazy if I missed this chance). Thinking that I had to empty my room and spare some additional days to rest, I decided that I could start after 30th May. Well, it was still going to be a whopping 29-day journey.
The next part was deciding the destinations. It did not take me long to decide some of the most cities that I would want to come: Rome, Turin, Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Athens, Istanbul. Actually most capitals in the Europe. It was already a lot (actually), yet I still added some other alternatives such as Venice, Munich, Vienna, Santorini, Milan, and Florence.
Initially, at the first time I added Milan because when I went browsing through flights on Skyscanner I found the cheapest fare to Europe was the unbelievable S$750 SIN-MCT-MXP return by Oman Air (WY). Despite my avgeek blood, It was still a huge consideration for me because it was extremely cheap (and the second cheapest was Chinese airlines with S$200 difference and far longer layover). My avgeek blood struggled because I knew Muscat airport was congested yet smaller than Jakarta CGK and the plane was the normal A330-300. However, with that in mind and my parents did not know Oman Air (hence they advised me to take Emirates/Qatar/other well-known airlines) I decided to forget that option and I went for the cheapest-and-best option: Qatar Airways (QR).
After intense research on their website, I found out that their fare to Istanbul was quite appealing, around S$ 850 return. I could take budget airline to other city (if Istanbul was my last destination) or to Istanbul (if Istanbul was my last destination). However, I soon realized that the budget airline in Istanbul is Pegasus and they operate at Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen (SAW) which is quite far from city center (and their fare is not that cheap too). There were some alternatives with only around S$100 extra, but I ended up choosing Rome FCO because of 3 things:
- One of the flights in DOH – FCO sector was using B787-8
- That flight would require me to have a long layover in Doha, and Qatar Airways is offering passengers a 3-hour free Doha City Tour for passengers with more than 6 hours of layover at Doha Hamad International Airport. Free extra destination!
- Starting from Rome would make my journey route much nicer than Milan.
I know that non-avgeek may never understand the first point, so forget about it. Eventually, here was my flight itinerary:
- QR945 31 May 02.25 Singapore Changi (SIN) – 31 May 05.00 Doha Hamad (DOH)
- QR109 31 May 14.10 Doha Hamad (DOH) – 31 May 19.20 Rome Fiumicino (FCO)
- QR246 28 June 19.35 Istanbul Ataturk (IST) – 28 June 23.50 Doha Hamad (DOH)
- QR946 29 June 02.25 Doha Hamad (DOH) – 29 June 15.15 Singapore Changi (SIN)
With that settled, I found the rest easier to plan as certainly the sequence of the cities must be made according to the previous city. Long story short, here are my decisions of the so-called cities in waiting list:
- Venice : Skipped. Have a potential to be costly as it is a highly touristic place. I have also seen posts saying that Venice is too overrated.
- Munich : Added. My itinerary later puts Munich in a weekend and my highschool friends who are studying in Germany can visit me there, so confirmed.
- Vienna : Skipped. I have poor sense of arts and music, and I think I will appreciate Vienna more if I am interested in arts. Not to mention it is more expensive than its Central Europe compatriots
- Santorini : Skipped. Despite its breathtaking landscape, I can’t deny myself that it is a highly touristic place and it will certainly be more expensive than Athens or any Greek mainland cities which are already more expensive than other cities in east part of Europe.
- Milan : Skipped. My experienced friend told me to skip Milan if I did not want to go shopping. Enough said.
- Florence : Added. It is the birth of Renaissance and Italian culture. Despite being too touristy as well, I think it was still worth visiting.
And here is my full map! (Made by EzRoadTrips)
Rome – Florence – Turin – Barcelona – Paris – Amsterdam – Berlin – Munich – Prague – Budapest – Athens – Istanbul
I did realize that I had effectively only 28 days to visit all 12 cities – an average of 2.33 days/city – so I had to be in each city as soon as possible. However, with my limited budget I had to avoid using plane every time I can. To solve this problem, I decide to take night buses throughout my journey after Paris. In Italy trains were quite cheap while going from and to Barcelona from Paris and Turin was too long by bus and too expensive by train. It saved me on accommodation as well in case I did not get a Couchsurfing host.
Below was my full itinerary:
|Departure Time||Departure City||Arrival Time||Arrival City||Mode of Transportation||Company|
|31 May 02.25||Singapore||31 May 05.00||Doha||Airplane||Qatar Airways|
|31 May 14.10||Doha||31 May 19.20||Rome||Airplane||Qatar Airways|
|3 June 06.15||Rome||3 June 07.36||Florence||Train||Trenitalia Frecciarossa|
|5 June 08.45||Florence||5 June 11.40||Turin||Train||Trenitalia Frecciarossa|
|7 June 13.30||Turin||7 June 15.00||Barcelona||Airplane||Ryanair|
|10 June 09.10||Barcelona||10 June 10.55||Paris||Airplane||Transavia France|
|12 June 23.15||Paris||13 June 06.55||Amsterdam||Bus||Ouibus|
|14 June 23.00||Amsterdam||15 June 09.00||Berlin||Bus||Flixbus|
|16 June 23.15||Berlin||17 June 08.20||Munich||Bus||Postbus|
|19 June 07.00||Munich||19 June 12.00||Prague||Bus||Flixbus|
|20 June 23.00||Prague||21 June 06.15||Budapest||Bus||Regiojet Student Agency|
|22 June 19.50||Budapest||22 June 22.50||Athens||Airplane||Ryanair|
|24 June 12.00||Athens||24 June 16.00||Volos||Bus||KTEL Magnisia|
|25 June 12.00||Volos||25 June 16.00||Athens||Bus||KTEL Magnisia|
|26 June 08.20||Athens||26 June 09.45||Istanbul||Airplane||Aegean Airlines|
|28 June 19.35||Istanbul||28 June 23.50||Doha||Airplane||Qatar Airways|
|29 June 02.25||Doha||29 June 15.15||Doha||Airplane||Qatar Airways|
This is the most important part of all planning. How much money will I spend? Fortunately I was, am, and will always be a low-cost traveler so I always try to keep my budget low. From the start of the planning, I had decided that I could not spend more than S$4000 for my whole trip. If possible I would try to push it under S$3500. From there, I started making my initial budget:
|Item||*EUR Per Day||in EUR||in SGD|
|Flights from SG||1140||Fixed Costs|
Yup, a bit higher than my target. The first five were already fixed while the rest were just estimation. Things to note about the fixed costs:
Flights from Singapore
As I have mentioned in the planning section, the flight to Istanbul costed roughly around S$850. Changing my first flight to SIN-DOH-FCO would add me around S$130 extra on QR website. However, I needed to apply for visa which did not give me any guarantee that my application would be approved, hence I needed ONLY booking confirmation that could only be provided by a travel agency. I could have taken the brave path by booking it and paid straightaway but I did not have balls for such a huge money.
With my internship schedule, the easiest way was through STA Travel as they have an office in NTU. They charged me S$150 for the booking confirmation, which could be used as deposit for the booking if my visa got approved but the price would follow the price at actual booking date. On the other hand, they were having a “book now pay later” promo while I could lock the price and make a booking while I only had to make a S$50 deposit and the rest could be paid 1 month before my departure. I could have a 1-time free date or destination change, 10 kg extra baggage, and free ISIC (International Student Identity Card) which was worth S$25 hint: it would eventually be useful!. For my flight, they charged me S$1140 with this promo so I thought this was still a decent deal considering my situation.
This described the itinerary part further:
|Departure Time||Departure City||Arrival Time||Arrival City||Mode of Transportation||Company||Fare in EUR|
|3 June 06.15||Rome||3 June 07.36||Florence||Train||Trenitalia Frecciarossa||9|
|5 June 08.45||Florence||5 June 11.40||Turin||Train||Trenitalia Frecciarossa||38|
|7 June 13.30||Turin||7 June 15.00||Barcelona||Airplane||Ryanair||19.6|
|10 June 09.10||Barcelona||10 June 10.55||Paris||Airplane||Transavia France||25|
|12 June 23.15||Paris||13 June 06.55||Amsterdam||Bus||Ouibus||25|
|14 June 23.00||Amsterdam||15 June 09.00||Berlin||Bus||Flixbus||29|
|16 June 23.15||Berlin||17 June 08.20||Munich||Bus||Postbus||13|
|19 June 07.00||Munich||19 June 12.00||Prague||Bus||Flixbus||15|
|20 June 23.00||Prague||21 June 06.15||Budapest||Bus||Regiojet Student Agency||16|
|22 June 19.50||Budapest||22 June 22.50||Athens||Airplane||Ryanair||34|
|24 June 12.00||Athens||24 June 16.00||Volos||Bus||KTEL Magnisia|
|25 June 12.00||Volos||25 June 16.00||Athens||Bus||KTEL Magnisia|
|26 June 08.20||Athens||26 June 09.45||Istanbul||Airplane||Aegean Airlines||70.2|
To be honest, I could have saved more by taking bus from Florence to Turin. However it would have taken around 5-6 hours and no night bus option was there. For that reason, I had to take 2h45m fast train which costed me 39 EUR for Premium Class (promo for 2nd class was sold out). For Athens-Istanbul, the only option I had was to fly and Pegasus Airlines as a budget airline did not help me with cheap airfare. I also did not take into account 52 euro for Athens-Volos return as I was not sure if I would have gone to Volos that time.
One thing for sure, do not take Eurail pass if you want to save money, unless you are an EU student (which you can get cheaper Interail pass) or you value comfort so much. It is highly overrated. Time has changed and intercity transportation is not monopolized by train anymore. Around 700 euro for one-month of traveling across Europe is crazy when you look at my itinerary, which is already quite packed yet I only spent half of it.
I took a student insurance provided by my university, which costed me S$100 for one-month traveling in Europe. Quite a bargain (for Singapore standard) when I compared with AIG insurance offered by STA Travel.
Visa fee is standard across Schengen countries: €60 for short-term visa. However, my first destination was Italy and I was also going to spend the longest stay there and hence I had to apply visa from Italian Embassy. The bad thing was the Italian Embassy in Singapore required everyone to apply Italian visa through VFS Global agency service which charged me around S$43 extra for service charge, while they did not give a shit when I asked them to help me when the embassy initially only gave me 20 days of visa.
I had not had any backpacks yet, so I had to buy one. I also planned to use only carry-on baggage because I would be flying with some budget carriers (while I learnt at the same time to pack light). At the end I bought an Osprey Porter 46 for S$179 and a packing cube for S$13.
In total, my fixed cost was S$ 2123.73. I still had S$1876 for the variable costs in order to keep my expenses under budget. For emergency reason, when I left I exchanged €1450 (around S$ 2236 that time) for all my remaining expenses.
And after done with this trip, I am now left with €650. A bit surprising huh? Yep, I spent much lesser than I would have thought. Table below shows the breakdown of all types of expenses:
|Public Transportation||€ 203.33|
With current rate, €970.20 corresponds to S$1455.94, giving my total final expense of this trip to be just S$3580.4!
Time to be totally transparent, so there are things to note of my expenses…
Mind you, I love eating. Every time I visit new places I always have to try its local delicacies. So how could I only spend €318 for food, with only €11.36/day on average? One thing that I always keep is that I always feel wrong if I spend too much in one lunch or dinner. I am just not used to it. I always set some kind of limit though I know that food in Europe (especially western) is generally more expensive. So what did I do to overcome this?
- Avoid tourist trap! This is always the first rule yet most tourist are so f***** lazy to do some research, although it is actually not that difficult to do. The best option is find local favorites through Foursquare or Yelp. I found a lot of good places in each city, with reasonable price (I will mention in each city later) from these two apps. TripAdvisor sometimes helps, but most of the reviewers are actually tourists so I trust Foursquare more. How are you sure you are going to the right place? Popular local restaurants do not need to have a “salesman” in front of their restaurants and the common rule again: if no locals are inside, you are going to the wrong place.
- Share lah! If you are going with other friend(s) and you want to try a lot of food, just ask everyone to order different dishes and you share later. This may not help you to save money but you can maximize the number of food you try by doing this.
- Do not buy drink. This is something I always do everyday and that makes my spending considerably lower than my friends. Unless there is a popular local drink, normally I will not buy drink. Tap water in mainland Europe is drinkable so bring your water bottle.
I can’t resist for beer though.
- Try street food. Some places’ local food are typically able to be converted as street food and of course they are cheaper. Eating souvlaki on plate costs you €8 while eating it with pita bread (take-away) costs you €2 even though the portion is obviously less than half the plate (but hey, you can buy 2 or 3!). Unless you want the “fancy” feeling of eating in restaurants, try looking for street food. Restaurants in some cities charge you for just sitting in as well.
- Find supermarkets. This is the last resort, but actually thinking about local food, supermarkets are indeed where the local foods are! If you are lazy to cook – like me – you can buy ready-to-eat food and throughout my trip I could find it almost in every supermarket. And cheap price guaranteed!
Throughout my trip, only thrice I ate for more than €9 in one go: €10 for full-meal dinner with my CS host in Rome, €17 for a fine dining in Florence (just trying haha), and €42 a day in Munich where I met 3 high school friends and we had a feast at Hofbrauhaus.
First thing first: €52 and €20 out of €203 was actually for Athens-Volos return bus trip and Amsterdam-Marken 2-day passes, so only €131 was spent in total for public transportation, only €4.67 per day (but please note that I did not spend any money for public transport in Berlin because of somebody’s kindness. Worth €14.4 for me). Lower than day-pass ticket fare in practically all cities that I visited.
The key is one: Most cities have their places to see concentrated in the city center and they are within walking distance. Even if you stay a bit far, buying 2 tickets for going back and forth will still be cheaper than a day pass. If you do have interesting places which are located a bit far from the center, put them all in one day so that you only have to buy one day of public transport pass. List below is my general recommendation:
- Rome : A bit big, but if you stay for 3 days all places are doable by walk. Better buy single ticket for every trip as you will not need that much.
- Florence : This city is really small, so obviously you will not need a day pass. Single tickets are enough for your needs (mostly only to go to Piazzale Michelangelo).
- Turin : City center is doable by walk, even for only one day though bigger than Florence. Going to airport needs separate ticket anyway, so unless you buy Torino Piedmonte sightseeing card (which you only need to top-up €4 for 48-hour public transportation) you’d be better off with single tickets.
- Barcelona : Most places are actually nearby La Rambla, however some places are still a bit far (Montjuic/Camp Nou/Park Guell/Barceloneta/Sagrada Familia) so I think buying pass is worth the money. It can be used to go to the airport, a plus.
- Paris : A really huge city, and unless you are rich you will not book a hotel near city center. However, a day pass is still quite expensive (more than €10) so for me personally you might be better off with €14.4 for combined 10 tickets. But if you are under 26, try to visit Paris on weekends because a day pass for young people is only €3.85!
- Amsterdam : This is a relatively small city so buying a pass is not worth it unless if you want to go to Amsterdam Arena or you are that lazy (single ticket costs €2.9 and day pass costs €7.5). But if you plan to go to Waterland, buy a day pass! A single ticket costs €7.5 while a day pass costs €10.
- Berlin : A huge city and unfortunately places are quite spreaded, so I would recommend getting passes.
- Munich : Most places are within the old town, so I guess you only have to buy a one-day pass to visit both Allianz Arena and Nymphenburg Palace in a day. But if you are travelling in group, buy a group day pass It costs only €12.4 and can be used for up to 5 people.
- Prague : If you are lazy to climb to Prague Castle or you want to go to Vysehrad, you can buy the pass. The rest are within the old town.
- Budapest : This city is slightly bigger than Prague so even though most places are near Danube, you may buy a day ticket to go to Millenium Square or Margaret Island. Oh, the day ticket is valid to the airport.
- Athens : This city is huge, but not that very well connected with public transport so you have to walk anyway with its small streets. You still also have to paid a hefty €10 for one-way ticket to the airport (€5 for under 26)
- Istanbul : Buy an Istanbulkart! It costs 10 TL (with 4 TL value) if you buy from the machine or 20 TL (with 10 TL value) if you buy from kiosk. Going from and to Ataturk Airport will almost pay off the card fee because of the discount compared to normal ticket. It can also be used for ferry services across Bosphorus.
I do not particularly enjoy art or musical museums, so I did not go to most museums throughout my trip. I believe that I will only spend money to something I will enjoy. These are the only museums or places that I paid the entrance ticket (bold is a must):
- Musei Vaticani : €16 normal but I paid €8 with ISIC card (EU student card is okay but I don’t know for Asian student card)
- Colosseo and Foro Romano : €12
- Museo Galileo in Florence : €9
- Torino and Piedmonte Card : €35. I initially thought I could use it for full Juventus Stadium tour but I could only use it for Juve Museum (€15), and I went to Museo Nazionale del Cinema. Would have been worth the money had I come to more museums.
- Juventus Stadium Tour : €7
- Castell de Montjuic : €5 but I paid €3 with ISIC card
- Musee du Louvre : €15 but I paid nothing because my Couchsurfing host had a free pass 🙂
- Acropolis Museum : €5 but I paid €3 with ISIC card
- Acropolis Combined Ticket : €30 but I paid €15 with ISIC card
I never thought that I would have spent almost €200 for shopping, however €60 were actually for Juventus and Barcelona (for my brother) souvenirs, so the rest €120 was for souvenirs like magnets for all 13 cities (and around half would be paid back).
This was my main source of savings. I only paid for accommodation in Berlin (€18 for 1 night), Munich (€60 for 2 nights because I stayed in a hotel with my friends), Prague (€9 for 1 night), Budapest (€8 for 1 night) and Istanbul (€12.8 for 2 nights). The rest was all free. Secret? Couchsurfing! With Couchsurfing I could stay in somebody’s house, feel like a local while I could exchange stories and experiences with them, all for free. So far it’s been awesome! Some of my hosts were even really kind by cooking me breakfast or dinner. For an introvert like me, sometimes this feels better than hostel because it is more personal.
But please, if you want to try Couchsurfing, do not violate the spirit of Couchsurfing by taking this as a free hotel! You would rather stay in Airbnb or hostel in that case. In Couchsurfing you have moral responsibility to spend time with hosts (unless your hosts tell you otherwise)
This is to add some money missing from my possession for unexpected reasons.
- I lost €10 in my first day in Rome. Not sure if it was pickpocketed or I accidentally took it away. The second was more possible because I had €30 in my pocket but I only lost €10.
- I was fined €33 in Paris because my young pass could not be validated and somebody helped me to get in but eventually that made my pass invalidated. It was a long story and I will explain it in Paris part.
- A group of immigrants forced me to wear their “friendship” bracelet at Sacre-Coeur and forced me to pay for it. Luckily I only had coins in my pocket so that was all I gave them, around €3 in total.
- I lost €15 in Berlin. Same thing with Rome, it was probably taken out by accident as I still had some money and a student card in the same pocket.
With all explanations above, actually I could have spent even lesser if not for those “miscellaneous” spending, but well shit does happen. I am totally grateful that some people turned it around by giving me free accommodation or food, and it was all good.
So I think that is all for my first post. I hope it can give you clear point that traveling to Europe can be less expensive if you know how to spend (or save) money. If you have any questions, leave me a comment and I will try to help you. See you in the next post!