No, I did not get a discounted airticket.
(In fact I overpaid because I booked my flight late)
And No, my nights were not spent shivering in a sleeping bag at the railway station or under a bridge. Oh, and I didnt couchsurf as well.
But Yes, my entire trip was done at a nett cost of 2.5k SGD (Including flights).
Before I get down to sharing how to go about it, here's a map showing the countries and route I took because most Singaporeans have no idea where on earth The Baltics are. Finland, they would know; I hope.
Total Airfare ($1.8k) [doesnt have to be this expensive for you if you book early enough]
Flybe, Helsinki-Kemi One Way,$200
I began my trip from Lithuania and made my way up to Finland by bus, ferry, domestic flights and back to Helsinki by train. As my budget was 2.5k, I was left with 700 SGD to settle my accommodation, transport, meals, sightseeing, and other activities.
The commonroom of a hostel in Lithuania. This cost me 8 Euros a night; Hostelgate (Vilnius)
Fortunately, accommodation is very affordable in the Baltic countries. By affordable, I mean it costs anything from 5 Euros for a bed and locker in most hostels. I decided to treat myself to couple of a good quality hostels. It cost me double the price, 10 Euros. Clean, comfortable, and a central location; I slept like a log.
(Above) My room in Estonia. A night here cost me 9 Euros. Kohver Hostel, Tallin
(Below) A kitchen for those on a budget to do their own cooking. Not for me, I'd rather eat out
Finland marked my first ever AirBnb experience. The cheapest hostels in Helsinki cost around 23 Euros and Kemi, where the Snowcastle is, had none.
A student offered me a night on her sofabed for 11 Euros. That's alright for Helsinki wouldn't you think? (there are lots of deals like this on the AirBnB website) In Kemi, I had no choice but to pay 35 Euros for a night in a Finnish cottage; this time I had a room to myself.
Outside my "accommodation" in Kemi, Finland
To be honest, I prefer hostels to AirBnB anyday. In hostels, I can choose to talk or to sit in peace. For AirBnB (assuming you didn't book the whole house to yourself), though the host was accommodating me, I felt like I had to "accommodate" the host as well. It's harder to escape conversations you don't want and to have your own "me time".
Food Drink & "Happy Spending" ($180)
Considering most hostels provide "free breakfast", my usual 10 Euros a day budget on meals went a long way.
Cepelinai, a traditional Lithuanian dish cost around 2.5 Euros. Water is free, but seeing as prices were so affordable, I could afford a wine to go with my meal.
Now, if you're thinking "can't be go holiday just eat lunch and dinner, how boring", I also set aside 5 Euros a day for "happy spending". This goes to beer, wine, and street food. I can still snack or enjoy whenever I wish. If you don't believe 5 Euros a day is enough, check out the bottom picture. All you have to do, is search for the right places. (Or you could get ripped off like most Singaporeans do)
(Above) 0.15 Euro cents for a donut. 0.20 for a sugar donut.
(Below) Plus a cappuccino, I paid a total of 0.8 Euro cents for a snack in Latvia!
Of course, come Finland, all that would change. I had to combine my "happy spending" with my main food costs to settle my meals for the day. Because of the ridiculous prices (and Finland is the already the cheapest Scandinavian country), I found myself dining at university cafes for a cost of 8 Euros per meal, and eating fastfood to reduce costs. (I still refused to cook)
Lunch in the "World's Closest Macdonald's to the North Pole"
Even a Macdonald's meal in Finland cost 8 Euros! The cheapest non fastfood/university cafe meal is Pizza; and that cost at least 10 Euros!
Food costs in Estonia are the highest of the 3 Baltic countries. The meal you see here consisting of sausages and reindeer soup cost a total of 5 Euros.
At a restaurant right at the main square in Tallinn. Had to eat in candlelight and without cutlery. The owner of the restaurant said this was supposed to replicate the experience of Tallinn in the medival times.
The truth is, The Baltics reduced my food cost because it was so cheap. Had I spent all 12 days in Finland, there is no way I could keep within this budget (Unless I cooked). But then again, who would want to spend 12 days in Finland? You'd be bored to death.
Transport, Activities, and Attractions ($385)
I'm at the Arctic Circle!
Finland isn't a country where you need to spend loads of time. Most of the attractions are further up north from the capital of Helsinki; in Rovaniemi and Kemi.
My first reindeer experience
After travelling so far up north, surely you have to ride a sleigh pulled by a reindeer or huskies. This should cost you anywhere from 19 Euros to 150 Euros depending on how long you'd like the experience. My take? It gets dumb after 15mins. Don't overspend here.
In Rovaniemi, Santa Claus Village, (Above) is the biggest tourist attraction. Entry is free but it costs 9.5 Euros for a return ticket from the Rovaniemi train station, what a rip off!
Oh and if you're never comming back to Rovaniemi again, you have to take a mandatory photograph with Santa (Touristy I know). I should mention this cost 35 Euros.
The Original Santa Claus
The other must go is Kemi. There, you have the Snowcastle, which costs 15 Euros for entry (I bought a ticket from my AirBnB host for 10 Euros), and the Icebreaker; which will set you back at least 300 Euros if you have that kind of money to spend.
Kemi Snowcastle. I saw it in movies, finally i'm here!
And of course, the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). I don't have any photos because the weather wasn't too good while I was there. It's a game of luck. No matter, I will view it on my next Iceland or Norway trip.
Finland's capital has a mix of Russian and European influence. If you're an architecture or cathedral kind of guy, I guess its alright. For me though, Helsinki is a really boring place. Anything more than two days is complete waste of time.
Sibelius Monument in the snow covered park
Boring as it is, one of my favourites in Helsinki is the Regetta Cafe. (Below) This is a must see for everyone in Helsinki. There is nothing better than having a hot coffee in the middle of the frozen lake. Even more amazing, I bumped into my friend from secondary school! I knew he was on honeymoon in Finland, but how coincidental can this be?
The Regetta Cafe, perfect place to chill and curl up with a coffee and book. (not during the winter of course)
My "host" showing me where to get a free bird's eye view of Helsinki. Tornio Tower.
Thanks to my AirBnB host, the trip was made more enjoyable Being a local, she was able to show/ tell me about the more interesting sights in the shortest amount of time! AirBnB 1- Hostel 0 (Just in this instance)
The "fortifications" around Tallinn, adding to its "medival theme"
Of the 3 Baltic countries, Tallinn the capital of Estonia was the most touristy of the lot. You see Chinamen, Japanese, Europeans, pretty much everyone. There are "medival events" where people dress up like King Arthur or knights dancing round the town. I felt it was a little gimicky though. One full day is ample time for Tallinn, after which, you should head further inside to see the real Estonia, or sail across the Gulf of Finland to Helsinki.
Tallinn from one of the "free" view points
Four hours away from Estonia is Riga, the capital of Latvia. I didn't really enjoy myself there as it was raining almost all the time. Since I cut my stay short there, I really shouldn't comment much about it.
I enjoyed walking around the Central Market though. It's a pleasant experience to stumble around and see how the locals go through life. Some of them told me "no picture", which bundled with the rain, didn't improve my mood.
View of Riga from the top. (not my photo)
And if you're willing to pay 7 Euros, you can go to the Science Observatory in Riga to have a bird's eye view of the city. I went to a roof top cafe instead, so I could at least have a coffee to go with the view.
Overlooking the city of Vilnius, Lithuania with a hostel buddy
Lithuania is my favourite among the 3 Baltic countries. It has the least tourists, the cheapest prices, and has this untouched, raw feeling that I didn't get from the other two countries. They speak the least English, but well enough for you not to have a tough time.
There are free walking tours (though the town is small enough for you not to need a tour) and lots of Russian/Catholic architecture (if you're that kind of guy), churches and monuments.
Being a Christian, the Hill of Crosses was my biggest highlight (more applicable for Catholics though). The "Hill" is to Christians/Catholics, what Mecca is to the Muslims. Every year as part of their "pilgrimage", crosses are planted on this hill and a prayer is said.
Close up of the hundreds of thousands of crosses
View from within the hundreds of thousands of crosses
Alright, this "summary of attractions" is starting to look too long for a summary. I'll list more information about the individual countries in seperate posts like what I've done for Macedonia.
On hindsight, could I have done this trip at a lower cost? Probably. But because the Baltics are so cheap, cooking wouldn't have saved me much. In Finland though, I could have cooked to cut costs significantly, but I would have found that troublesome and it would make my trip less enjoyable. Included in my 385 SGD would also be 85 Euros ticket from Roveniemi back to Helsinki. Thus, the total spent on attractions should be 261 SGD.
Nonetheless, I hope this post reinforces the fact that Europe, even expensive Scandinavia can be visited at the cost of say an asian destination like South Korea.
Hope you took away something useful from this post! Till the next one!
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