Impossible! Just 800 SGD? For 19 Days in Europe?
Well, obviously not Central Europe, but the part of Europe known as "The Balkans."
In our previous post (18 Days Africa & Europe Under 2.2k SGD Nett!) we included the cost of the air ticket. This time round, we shall post like how most other bloggers do it and exclude the cost of the SIN-Europe MultiCity Ticket. Sounds a lot cooler this way! The lesser the cooler right? Singaporean style!
But jokes aside, we didn't get a reasonable price this time round as we booked the tickets just two weeks before our trip. (you could do it for far less if you plan ahead)
"We", this time refers to "The Girl", who decided to join me at the last minute. My trip was more or less free as I was on an incentive trip with my company to Poland. The budget for this trip was based on "The Girl " rather than "The Bald Guy" as it would not be fair to gauge my expenses based on a semi paid trip.
Total Airfare ($2.1k) [doesnt have to be this expensive for you if you book early enough]
Air Serbia, Belgrade-Prague One Way,$250
I'm pretty sure that we could have gotten a more reasonable pricing had we booked the main return tickets around 10-12 weeks in advance. (A Multi City Lufthansa Air ticket should cost around $1,100 usually) Also, as we had already been to Hungary in our previous trip, we paid more for the Air Serbia ticket in order to bypass it.
19 Days Accomodation: ($95)
Yes. Your're reading it correctly. It's 95 SGD for our ENTIRE trips accomodation. No couchsurfing or sleeping at train stations too. Well, it's not exactly fair considering that we had 5 free nights living it up in a 5 Star hotel in Poland. (company trip for "The Bald Guy" remember?) If you're doing this route without free accomodation from your company, just add in an extra 9 Euros a night to be safe. (thats the average cost of a hostel in Poland)
(Above) Loft hostel dorm, Sofia
We also spent another 4 nights on either a night bus or a night train, saving us quite a bit on acomodation.
(Above) Sleeping in a Couchette on the night train from Skojpe to Belgrade.
(Below) Waiting by our train at the Romanian/Bulgarain border crossing.
The cost of hostel accomodation in this part of Europe is anywhere from 4 Euros to 10 Euros for reasonable comfort. If a little more privacy is important to you, a private room would probably set you back 25 Euros (for two people, making it 11 Euros each).
(Above) Making a couple of Russian friends while staying in Hostel Jasmin; Serbia
I actually find the hostels in the Balkans/Eastern Europe of a higher standard than those in even Australia (and they have great hostels). There are a few kinds of Singaporeans who would have a problem staying in one of these. The "Picky/Privacy crazy/Anti-Social" Singaporeans, and the "spoilt" ones of course.
If you don't fall into any of these categories; Congratulations. You can look forward to alot more European holidays than your spendtrift friends.
Food/ Drink & "Happy Spending" ($300)
10 Euros a day each. That's the amount We usually set aside for lunch and dinner in the more "affordable" European countries.(We allocate an extra 5 Euros a day for "Happy Spending") This budget turned out to be comfortable enough in Romania.
I remember having a traditional Romanian dinner in a popular local restaurant; a fully meat dish. It cost 11 Euros for the BOTH of us inclusive of drinks!
(Above) An example of "Happy Spending"; The Girl having Romanian style donuts with chocolate at a food fair in Brasov. (like our Pasar Malam)
Our next stop was Bulgaria; and boy, were we in for a surprise. The 10 Euros a day we set aside was way too much for one person. We dined in local restaurants for dinner and ordered sides, drinks, a main and a desert. Just to give you an idea; A 700g Stewed Pork Knuckle cost us 3.5 Euros! When we felt we could eat no more, the waiter presented us with the bill. 9.6 Euros for the both of us. Perfect.
A lot of travellers remarked that the cost of living in Macedonia was even cheaper than that of Bulgaria's. We didn't find that to be entirely true; or maybe we just didn't discover the right places. You know,we're Singaporeans; and we Singaporeans get complacent when everything seems so cheap. We didn't even bother looking for local restaurants anymore and just willingly walked into tourist traps because it was too cheap for us to bother.
The result? A seafood dinner of freshwater fish right on Lake Ohrid itself for just 8 Euros each! With drinks and tips added? 10 Euros each! Perhaps if we had gone to a local restaurant it might have been cheaper.
(Below) Cevapcici for lunch in Macedonia. Not as authentic as those in Bosnia or Serbia though!
We were happy to be in Belgrade; for the food at least. I love Cevapcici(some kind of sausage), a national dish of Bosnia and Serbia.I remember having it for almost every meal last year when we were in Bosnia.
(Above) Typical meat shop in Belgrade where you choose the meat and the chef prepares it for you.
(Below) The meat of our choice sizzling on the grill. Yummy!
We were pleasantly surprised to find that traditional Czech food was different from what we had been having so far. At this point, we were both a little sick of meat. Fortunately we made a couple of Czech friends who treated us to authentic Czech food.(With the locals seal of approval on both the taste and the price)
(Below) Traditional Czech Dumplings with Beef Goulash and Jam
Oh, did I forget to mention? The Czech Repulic has the cheapest beers ever. (Yes, even cheaper than those in Macedonia and Bulgaria, and brewed in a way unique to the Czech Republic.) The beer is the main thing thats cheap though. As for the food, even where the locals eat, prices creep up to between 3-5 Euros for a dish. Still cheap, but no longer on a "Macedonian level" thanks to the tourists.
(Above) Our Czech home brew beers for 0.40c Euros each!
In Poland, The Girl had to settle her own meals. She spent around 6-8 Euros for a main dish, exceeding our usual 10 Euro a day budget.
(Above) Poland's version of our "Pasar Malam" The Girl's source of meals
Still, decent pricing considering that she ate on the main square of Krakow for most days. The Bald Guy was having his dinner in Michelin Star restaurants, boats and at most tourist traps. Thus ,only "The Girl's" food pricing is relevant.
(Above) Yummy Polish style Mushrooms as "Happy Spending"
Transport, Local Tours & Attractions ($370)
In Romania, Transylvania is supposed to be THE region to visit. In Bucharest, it probably has one of Europes most boring capitals, BUT it does have a beautiful old town in Brasov that truely looks like the vampire villages you see at the movies.
(Below)The Girl in the town of Brasov
We did find the whole vampire thing overhyped though. If we didn't go there expecting so much, we probably would have enjoyed it a little more.
(Below) Having fun in the village of Bran with a friend we made in the hostel.
I think we paid 10 Euros for the entrance to the "Worlds Most Boring Castle" aka Bran Castle, or Draculas's Castle; which has nothing to do with Dracula anyway. Peles Castle just 1.5 hours a way from Bran is much more impressive and costs less too.
(Above) The overhyped Bran Castle
We managed to save quite a bit on attractions in Bulgaria as entrances to cathedrals,monasterys, etc were free. These cathedrals are in no way inferior to those in "Singaporean's Europe" (yeah I would know, i've been to both) and cost nothing for admission.
(Above) Admiring the church frescos at Rila Monastery
Unfortunately, the "places of interest" in Bulgaria are relatively far from each other so more money has to be spent on transport rather than the attractions. The nearest beach to Sofia in Varna is at least 6 hours away.
We visited Bulgaria's 2nd largest city Plovdiv (Above) for its old town and ancient Roman ruins, it's capital Sofia, and took a day tour to the Rila Mountain to visit Bulgaria's answer to Paris's Effel Tower or Rome's Colosseum; The Rila Monastery.(Below)
For me (The Bald Guy), Macedonia was probably the country I enjoyed most on this trip. It's as interesting as it is beautiful. Skopje, the Capital of Macedonia, looks like Europe during the era of Alexander The Great. The weird thing is, everything is new (built like in 2013?) and built just for tourists to take nice photos.
The Macdonian government seems to be trying to turn Macedonia into the next tourist hotspot. I'm glad we paid Macedonia a visit before it beomes a Singaporean hotspot like what Egypt and Turkey have become.
We had a 20 minute sail in the famous Lake Ohrid for a total of 5 Euros! How much did you pay for your Gondola ride in Venice?
(Above) Selfie time with Lake Ohrid in the background
Admission to the castle at Ohrid was 0.5c Euro. If I were to compare the prices with the rest of the Balkans, this is way cheaper! We paid 3 Euros in Montenegro to walk the fortifications, and 15 Euros to walk the city walls of Dubrovnik. Macedonia is a perfect example of a country untainted by too many tourists; yet.......
(Below)The Church of Saint Sava, Belgrade. Among the largest orthodox churchs in the world)
I won't say much because we only spent two days in Belgrade. I wish we had spent time in Novi Sad instead. Two days in Belgrade was two days too many. One day is more than enough in this boring city. At night though, the city comes alive. Strip bars, clubs, and parties all night. Cost wise, it's slighty above Macedonia and Bulgaria. But on 10 Euros a day? You still won't have a problem.
(Above) The Girl in the old town of Prague posing with the famous astronomical clock. See all the tourists behind?
Walking around Prague is like manuvering your way about the IT Fair at Suntac City. Prague is also arguably the most touristy city in Eastern Europe. (Absolutely beautiful though) We spent an entire day here before catching the night train to Krakow; it was not enough. One day is NOT ENOUGH for Prague. Two days would be ideal in my opinion. Luckily, we had our Czech friends to show us around; this made sight seeing alot more efficient.
(Above) The view from Prague Castle
Prague castle costs easily 15-20 Euros if you wish to view the inside. It would be helpful to pay for a full days transportation pass so you don't tire yourself out with walking. Most attractions are walkable and within the old town. You have to cross the famous Charles Bridge to get to the other side. By mid day though, you would be glad you paid for a pass as there are a few attractions like the castle and cable car that might be best enjoyed going by bus rather than on foot.
(Below) The Charles Bridge with hordes of tourists
We spent most of our time in Krakow, the cultural capital of Poland. They have a beautiful old town, (not on Prague's level but without the massive crowds except on weekends)and it was a fantastic experience getting picked up by the horse drawn carriages to ferry us to the main square for coffee.
If your a history buff, you will love Krakow. With Schindler's Factory (ever watch the movie Schindler's List?) and the Auschwitz Conventration Camp, this city is overflowing with history. We got out of Krakow to nearby Zakopane (Reminded me of a mini Switzerland with its green hills and snowy mountains) and the Wieliczka Salt mines.
In our opinion, Krakow deserves 3-4 days, nothing more. It's beautiful and most atractions are within a couple of hours from the city centre. Still it might get boring if you spent 6 days there like we did.
(Above) The Girl with her new found travel buddy while The Bald Guy was away for his conference.
(Below) The Bald Guy attempting a jump shot with his colleages at Zakopane
This was enough for The Girl to buy her usual magnets. One for each of the six countries AND chocolates for her colleagues.When we were in Austria, the cheapest magnet we saw cost at least 7 SGD!
Now, as I mentioned in my previous post, travelling is not a contest. If it was, we'd have lost a long way back beacause many others have gone to a lot more countries far more exotic than we have.
However, what this DOES show, is ANY Singaporean (by any I am assuming you don't have a family/mental/physical issue and you're a fellow who's able to own an iphone,LV wallet and have a meal at Sushi Tei) can afford to have a decent European holiday without having to survive a diet of bread and water and sleeping at train stations.
And for those of you who think we don't spend enough time in each country; saying something along lines of "better to spend all your days in one country and really see it than rush through a few at one time"?
My question to you is this. "Have you been to America?" Because most people I know have been to L.A, S.F, L.V, and NY. (And so have I) America has fifty states though; most with iconic enough attractions. How many states have you been to? 5? 8? How about 30? "What? you didn't visit the other 20 states!? You should spend more time there, traveling the way you do is not real traveling."
Comparing, competing; they never end. My take is this; just make a note of 3-5 things/ activities you really wish to see or experience in each country, know how long you have, and work your way around the countries in that region. Quit your job to travel? Great for you. Still employed? Don't be disheartened, we're employed too. If you're reading this on a computer, an iphone/android or tablet; Congratulations, an exotic European holiday awaits you! OR for 800 SGD, you could go to Taiwan and eat street food till you drop. Your holiday, you decide.
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