How I Cracked Travel to Europe (under $1800 for 21 days in 13 cities)

9 11 2009

ab2So I just broke up with my boyfriend who told me the only reason we had to split was because if I didn’t like Italy or the things he did it would always be a problem.  Um, ok…Some Men are really good at making up fictitious and ridiculous scenarios. Nevertheless, I won a $1400 Final Cut Studio Software from one of his film festivals. Lucky, eh? Perfect consolation prize I say for being a supportive girlfriend ;-).  I had no use for it even though he did… So I Sold it soon after! Time to plan a trip.  Cheers!  I was only making $25,000/yr from graduate research at Georgia Tech and living in Atlanta. So how do you travel when you are strapped for cash and avoid debt at all cost. Count your pennies, travel really dirt cheap  and ask advice from an Indian guy 😉

The two keys to my savings:

  1. Fly in to London ($600). Most expensive city so I saved money by never staying there but traveling through it twice to see all the sites.
  2. Book with Eurolines Bus ($300 for 15 nights unlimited travel) I saved all my money by busing overnight except from Amsterdam to Rome(where I spend a day and a night)…It was beautiful to see the landscape and meet unusual people on the bus.  Otherwise, I woke up everyday in a new city, in a new country.  Perfect for me.

Eurolines is only for International Tickets at all times so the rest of the rules apply based on this premise:

  1. List your TOP cities before hand  but don’t worry about the order (you must be flexible but have priorites as tickets are not always convenient or available)
  2. BOOK Next ticket AS SOON AS YOU GET THERE….wait till they open if you must (you can purchase first ticket prior to entire trip)
  3. Go to further destinations first then work your way back just in case 15 days run out and you are not back in London
  4. Move on to next location if ticket isn’t available for days in a place you don’t really want to be….come back or not
  5. I recommend extra days in Rome, Paris, London, Munich, and French Riviera
  6. I took Day trips to Amsterdam, Prague, Brussels, Barcelona
  7. I traveled in early May (other off seasons would be even better) for less packed buses
  8. Traveled to French Riviera via train from Marseille…went to Nice and bused for 1 euro between there and Cannes, and Monaco
  9. If you are really cheap like me…. Make sure whatever you bring is something you can carry around all day.  If you are not sure you’ll need it, you won’t.  I would say the only thing I really needed was my neck pillow to sleep and something to keep me warm…ponchos can be useful if it rains, good shoes are always a must.)
  10. Cool trick: use only neck pillow case and stuff it with your socks and underwear…etc. Saves space, keeps things organized.
  11. I stayed with some friends too (tell people you are going…. you never know who knows someone or who is willing to open their house to you, and there is always couchsurfer.com) Good Luck!

Downside:

  1. Eurolines does not care about you…they will drop you off at 4:30 in the morning and you must wait for Metro and to book tickets…mornings were cold.
  2. No bathrooms (pee on the bus before they drop you off!!!)
  3. Sometimes where they dropped you off was not the same place to purchase tickets (but usually in a reasonable walking distance)
  4. If the bus was full (only once or twice in May) you had to master sleeping up straight (my neck pillow is my friend)

The other $800 was for museums, food, souvenirs, and the few cheap hostels where I stayed.  They ran about $16/night (sometimes with free food).

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