No, we didn't couch-surf or hitchhike. In fact, we rented a car.
Neither did we live on a diet of bread and water. Restaurants for us, thank you very much. We're on holiday, not bootcamp.
We still spent less than 2,800 SGD though.
All we did, was Choose The Right Countries.
(If you've been following us, you'll know A Girl & A Bald Traveller is a blog on Realistic YET Affordable travel; mostly to Exotic destinations. (FAQ) Want to read about Paris or Milan? Just google "Singapore Travel Blog". There are THOUSANDS of blogs on those kinds of destinations. Go read those instead)
5. Bosnia & Herzegovina
As I was already in Europe on a company trip, the itinerary and costs for this trip are based on "The Girl's" who flew over on her own to join me after my trip.
(You may also want to read "Impossible! 800 SGD? For 19 Days In Europe?")
Total Airfare ($1,140)
Lufthansa, Multi-City, SIN-Athens/Zagreb-SIN, $1,019
Aegean Airlines, Athens-Tirana One Way, $121
"The Girl" managed to get her airtickets at decent (but non promo) prices. Today, with oil prices at a10 year low, there's a huge likelyhood you'll pick up tickets at prices way cheaper than she did. Why, just 6 months ago on a Lufthansa promo, multi-city tickets to Europe were going from 730 SGD!
As I type this, (Jan 31) there's a promotion by Oman Air. Return airtickets from 730 SGD to Zurich!
Food/Drink & "Happy Spending" ($600)
Enjoying a cold beer in Bratislava, Slovakia
Now, while I do think Singaporeans (or anyone who isn't rich) who spend excessively on meals are wasting "useful travel funds", I am definately NOT for the idea of a sandwich/cup noodle diet. After all, part of travelling is trying the local specialties and not starving yourself.
In Bratislava, (above) we had our meals outside of the "touristy old town" and beers back inside so we could save costs yet STILL enjoy a "tourist" experience. (Beer is cheap, food is not)
We tried Bryndzové halušky, a Slovak national dish of potato and sheeps cheese. It was too rich for our taste buds. Think Cabonara, but amplify it by 10 times. You get the idea.
After days of Greek cuisine (which didn't agree with me) I was delighted to find Montenegrins love their meats. In Kotor Bay (a touristy part of Montenegro), we managed to get meat at really cheap prices thanks to our hostel's recommendations. By cheap, I mean we paid 6 Euros (in total) for a meat meal.
The "restaurant" our hostel recommended.
Choose your meat and the "chef" will cook it in front of you!
Having a Montenegin style steak in a "real restaurant". Cost? 12 Euros in total. Beers included.
As always, besides "real meals", our food budget also includes "happy spending" (below) for deserts, street food; basically eating for fun. Holiday's aren't just about 3 meals a day."
Have you read "12 Days In Finland & The Baltics Under 2.5k SGD Nett!!"
The Girl" having ice-cream at one of the alleyways in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Yuck, I don't enjoy "shell creatures" but "The Girl" does. Lucky that massive plate (Below) cost us just 6 Euros
When it comes to food, Bosnia & Herzegovina is a tough one to beat. Pljeskavica and Cevapi rank among the most amazing dishes we'd tasted in Europe. (see picture below) To describe it in Singaporean terms, just imagine a steak combination of pork, beef and lamb grilled together, eaten with Indian Naan; absolutely delicious.
And the even more amazing thing? The price.
The food in the picture above costs between 2.5-3.5 Euros. 20 Euros on a spagetti in Rome? You go ahead, i'll stick to Cevapi, thank you very much.
Waiting for breakfast in a cafe despite our hostel having "free breakfast". Who says we are budget travellers?
Breakfast is finally here! 1.8 Euros!
Pizza and coke set. 2 Euros each!
I won't be blogging about all the different types of food we had in this post (You'll have to check out our individual country posts for those) else this post isn't going to load due to picture overload.
The point I'm making here is if you'd like to eat like a king despite being on a budget, you can; Simply Choose the right European countries to travel to.
Transport, Local Tours & Attraction ($660)
(Please read our individual country posts for more details as this post is mainly a summary of our trip and we couldn't possibly blog in detail about exactly what we did and the order it was done)
Some travellers like to hitchhike. Others like to sneak their way out of paying for transport. Us? We rather drive; for a week at least, just to have a "European Road Trip Experience". Renting a car cost us185 Euros or 92.5 Euros each ($143) but that settled our transport for a week.
To further save on transport, we'd ask around the hostels we stayed at if anyone would like to car-pool. On the Budapest to Maribor leg of our trip, we managed to get a couple of guys (An Australian & a New Yorker) to chip in 20 Euros each. From Zagreb to Budapest? Another Australian. This time? Another 30 Euros saved.
I'd like to say majority of our transport revolved around crusing around in a convertible with the roof down, but the truth is, besides that one week of car rental? Well, it was back to public transport.
It isn't bad though, and really affordable. We made our way across most countries by coach. International luxury coaches take you from one country to the next COMFORTABLY and cost around 15 Euros. (some even have wifi) Don't mind paying a little more for convenience? (Singaporeans usually don't) GEA Tours will take you around the Balkans for roughly 25 Euros.
The "Bald Guy" at Acropolis, Greece
Many Singaporeans "think" they are savy when it comes to financial sense; and holidays. The truth is, Singaporeans are usually the nationality of people who tend to be taken for a ride more often than most. The problem with us? Kiasu. (scared to lose. In the case of travel? Fear of the unknown)
Have you read "18 Days In Africa & Europe Under 2.2k SGD Nett!"
"The Girl" after her swim at Széchenyi Thermal Bath; Budapest Hungary
NEVER, and I mean never book anything online. Not tickets, not accommodation, not anything. (well, other than a Eurail pass or unless there's an obvious discount) When you book tours online, you EXPECT to be ripped off, so don't complain it's expensive. Just arrange the tours you want at ANY hostel reception (even if you're staying in a hotel) and it will be way cheaper.
The only problem is there usually is a minimum "to go" number before the tour can offically be confirmed. (for example 4 to go) Usually though, there's always somebody who will join you on the tour. If not from your hostel, it'll be from another hostel. (They try to pool their resources together to make the tours happen)
Can you tell i'm really tired? Halfway up the Fortifications at Kotor Bay, Montenegro
Yes, this also applies to concert tickets, museum tickets, theme park tickets, just basically tickets. Leave it to the friendly hostel reception. Their job is to make it as easy/cheap as possible for you to have a nice holiday. Your job is to pay and enjoy yourself.
Entrance fee costs are generally really low in the Balkans/Eastern Europe. They can cost as low as 0.5 Euros (see Macedonia) to 15 Euros (expensive for the Balkans but cheap compared to "Tourist Europe") for walking the "City Walls" in Dubrovnik, Croatia; a.k.a King's Landing in "Game of Thrones".
Dubrovnik, Croatia, a.k.a Kings Landing from "The Game of Thrones"
Dubrovnik is also the part of Croatia where you're most likely to see the most Singaporeans (if any at all). Package tours tout Dubrovnik as one of the main highlights. Have a friend whose been to Croatia? Well, I don't know your friend, but if he/she has been to Croatia, they went to Dubrovnik. Heck, If a Singaporean happened to know anything about Croatia, it'd probably be Dubrovnik.
In neighbouring Montenegro, we paid 3 Euros to walk the "city walls" of Kotor Bay. Here, we paid 15! Granted, the "Walls of Dubrovnik" are more impressive than those in Kotor, (sorry Montenegrins) but the disparity in ticket prices is ridiculous.
Don't worry though, Dubrovnik aside, the rest of Croatia (and the Balkans) is still pretty cheap. Just make sure "Game of Thrones" didn't have a film scene there.
Walking the city walls of Dubrovnik for 15 Euros
Generally though, you should be paying 2-5 Euros for most museums or attractions if they aren't already free. If you're a church/cathedral kind of guy, you'll be pleased to know that most of them don't charge you an entrance fee unlike those ripoffs in "Touristy Europe" like Barcelona's La Sagrada. How much did you pay in entrance fees the last time you were in "Touristy Europe"?
Again, just incase you missed it. Choose the right countries.
Hydra Island, Greece. I happened to be on a one day cruise around the islands near Athens
Among the Balkan countries, Greece is the one that really drains your cash. Not that it's expensive, (it isn't) but because a major attraction of Greece is island hopping, which can cost you hundreds to a thousand Euros should you wish to drop by the touristy islands like Santorini and Crete. (Singaporeans only know Santorini though) You can't go to Greece just to visit the city of Athens surely!
If you're short of time (we Singaporeans usually are), you'll be pleased to know many tour operators in Athens offer a 1 day "all inclusive" cruise to the nearby Greek islands which are just as beautiful as the way more touristy ones. Prices can start as low as 70 Euros.
(Tip: Pay for a 1 day cruise, spend the night at one of the islands, and catch the next days cruise back. It makes your trip way more fulfilling!)
The crystal clear waters of the Greek Islands
Strolling in the pretty alleyways of Plaka, Athens after lunch
Thanks to movies like Taken (starring Liam Neeson) scaring most of Albania's tourists away, "The Girl" and I were looked upon pretty much as animals in an Albanian zoo. Everywhere we walked, locals would nudge their friends and point at us (yes blatently), even following us around.
You may want to read "A Girl's Solo Trip. 10 Days in Kyoto, Osaka & Tokyo @$1.2k Nett! (Including AirTickets)
We have arrived in Albania!
On hindsight, they were probably just curious as to why two Asians were strolling about their city. (Either that or they though I was Jackie Chan and were drawing lots to see who would come ask for my autograph)
Albania is probably the last of Europe's untouched gems. Pristine white sand beaches line up the coast of the Albanian Riviera, (Singaporeans go to the expensive French Riviera's instead) run down castles and old towns for the history buffs, and a truely enriching experience for the seasoned traveler with a true sense of "wanderlust".
Image Credit: http://www.tiranatimes.com/. The Albanian Riviera. Looks like a piece of heaven doesn't it?
In the same way the influx of tourists has "destroyed" Dubrovnik, the opposite is true for Albania. The tourist count in Albania is so low, prices just haven't caught up with the rest of it's neighbours. In Tirana (capital of Albania) we had a steak dinner in a restaurant (a real restaurant by typical Singaporean standards) and a beer to wash it down for a total of 6 Euros!
Of course, the lack of tourists proved to be troublesome when it came to buying a travel magnet for "The Girl's" magnet collection; there wasn't a single souvenir shop in sight! (trust me, we walked for hours looking for that one shop that didnt exist)
At Bled Castle watch the sun set for 8 Euros. Ouch! Bled Castle was a must go though.
I know. I said to read our individual posts for more information as we couldn't possibly cover everything in this "summary blogpost" but I just couldn't not talk at least a little about Slovenia though. It's arguably the most beautiful (and most expensive) country in the Balkan Peninsula. Oh and it's around a 3 hour drive away from Venice, (think driving along the N/S highway from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur) a Singaporean's favourite travel destination.
Taking a "traditional" boat ride to the church at the centre of Lake Bled
I won't lie to you. Slovenia IS expensive. We paid 8 Euros for the entrance fee to Bled Castle. It also costs 13 Euros to get a local to row you to the church at the centre of the lake. (Lake Bled is the key attraction. There is a 2nd one, Lake Bohinj, which is equally beautiful) I'm not sure about you wealthy Singaporeans with deep pockets though. By our standards, the prices were insane!
(Tip: By the lakeside there are a couple of boat shacks where you can rent your own row boat for 10 Euros for an hour. (that's more than enough) Row your way to the church and you'll save yourself quite a few Euros which can be transferred to your "dinner fund")
Our Hotel for the night in Shkoder, Albania. Eh, my room got tv and private toilet ok?
Yes, you've heard it from me before. I absolutely swear by european hostels. Not only are most of them CLEAN, they are REALLY CHEAP alternatives to hotels or air bnb. In the countries we visited on this particular trip, we found that hostels that cost as low 4 Euros!
For the sake of pampered Singaporeans, let's talk about hotels instead. In Shkoder, Albania, we decided we wanted some privacy for a change so we booked a private room for ourselves; in a HOTEL. (that's what's stated on the signboard at least) Cost? 16 Euros, for the BOTH of us.
Well, i'm not so sure Singaporeans consider this (above picture) a hotel going by their "elite standards."
Anyway, here's an example of a Good Quality hostel in Slovenia, Hostel Pekarna.
Our 4 person mixed dorm
The dining area. We decided to cook that day.
A huge spacious kitchen for us to cook our meals.
The common area where we met other travellers to exchange travel stories and tips
Not too bad eh? 5 Stars in my opinion. (for a hostel) Of course it cost a lot more than our usual at almost 20 Euros a night. (back in 2014) We could only afford to stay for one night, but Singaporeans should have no issues with this standard and price; I suppose?
Old Town Hostel, Kotor is an example of the a decent hostel we stayed at in Montenegro. It cost 10 Euros a night.
Picture from Tripadvisor. We had beers and "get to know one another" sessions in this common room. Organized by the hostel so travellers wouldn't feel bored.
At this hostel, the pantry was in our own dorm room
"The Girl" in our 10 man dorm.
Now that i've said the positives about hostels, lets talk about the negatives. (no, nothing about the cleanliness. Hostel ARE clean)
In this instance, I happened to be the "bad guy". I snored so loudly that someone in the other bunk spent the night tossing and turning in his bed while cursing in Spanish. The next day, he approached me to complain about the noise I caused. At least 4 people moved out of our room that night. I'm not too sure if it was because of the snoring.
Did I feel guilty? Well, maybe a little. But you know what? I shouldn't have. After all, when someone chooses to spend the night in a hostel, snoring is part of the package. If you can't stand snoring, either get a pair of ear plugs, or cough up the cash and sleep in a hotel.
Have you read "11 Days Luxury Travel In Africa @2k SGD Nett!" (Including Airtickets)
Im starting to sound like a broken record now; but i'll say it for the last time.
The reason why we were able to enjoy a European holiday WITHOUT breaking the bank and WITHOUT getting by like a couple of beggars was due to our OPENESS to experiencing "different countries". (F.A.Q)
Singaporeans need to ditch the Kiasi (scared to die) mentality.
Only when Singaporeans are finally able to step out of their comfortzone will they then be able to enjoy a European holiday anytime they want.
"So & So country got things to do meh?"
- Seriously? Ever heard of google?
"Later kenna (get) kidnap/bomb/rob or something"
- What are you afraid of? Bombs? Terrorists? In light of recent events, I'd say Paris poses a higher level of danger than Albania. Afraid of being robbed? It's more likely you'll get your stuff stolen at the Italian Colosseum than anywhere else.
"But my friends all go to France/Italy/Japan/wherever ma, I also want to go".
- Sure, have your holidays once every two years then. Or join them on the no savings/credit card debt train. Spend the next stage of your life in debt.
"I've no money"
- You can afford to have Sushi Tei, carry the latest iphone and splure on luxury goods but you can't afford 2.8k? Great money management you have.
This list of excuses can go on and on. The bottom line? Choose the right countries. (Where we've been)
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