Ask any Singaporean on his or her preference of their ideal vacation destination, and chances are, that destination would probably be Europe. And ask them how much they "think" they would need to set aside for that particular European holiday, and you can be sure they'd quote a figure anywhere between $4000 to $8000 SGD (or higher).
But vacationing in Europe doesn't have to be that expensive.
Windmills at Zaanse Schans, The Netherlands
While we have recommended visiting Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and the Caucuses instead for a pretty similar experience at a much lower cost;
- 27 Days In Europe "COMFORTABLY" Under 2.8k SGD or 1.8k Euros! (Including Airtickets)
- Impossible! Just 800 SGD? For 19 Days in Europe?
- Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia; A 10 Day European Vacation Under $1.8k SGD! (Including Airfare!)
- 12 Days Finland & The Baltics @2.5k SGD Nett! (Including Airtickets)
Singaporeans still prefer, and want to be seen visiting the "Real Europe", which is pretty much the Europe all their friends are going/have gone to.
So in this post, we're going to cater to the majority and share 10 tips, for 10 days (because Singaporeans can't usually go on long leave) across the touristy destinations of The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, all from S$1000 (depending on your style of travel).
1. One Good Meal, One Snack, One Cheap Lunch
Hollands' best Waffles, in Volendam, The Netherlands
The Netherlands is an expensive travel destination, no doubt about that. Belgium isn't cheap, and in Luxembourg, prices are just as crazy (if not crazier).
Fortunately (or unfortunately for foodies), Dutch cuisine isn't exactly world famous. They serve great street food, like "Bitterballen" and "Kroket" (deep fried meet balls/rolls), thick fries and pancakes. But in general? Well, with all due respect, let's just say there's nothing too fancy that deserves your hard earned SGD besides the occasional street snack.
"The Girl" trying out street food. 4 Euros each!
Belgium, as we all know, is famous for their Hot Chocolate and Belgian Waffles.
And that's good, because as far as experiencing the local cuisine, that's pretty much all you'll need to spend your money on in Belgium (unless you'd like to try their traditional food).
Luxembourg cuisine? Well, it's pretty much a French, Belgian, and German mix; nothing you haven't tried.
Having a drink by Graslei & Korenlei, the medieval port of Ghent, Belgium
Our point? You don't have to over splurge on food in these 3 countries. 20 Euros a day is enough.
For breakfast, just stick with whatever you get at the hotel, that's free.
Lunch? Just pop into any supermarket and look for what is called a "meal deal". One drink, one side (chips) and a main (sandwich); all for just 4 Euros. Next, plonk yourself down by the canal or in one of the many beautiful parks for a picnic lunch. That's not roughing it out or suffering on holiday, it's called "doing what the locals do".
Being a tourist, you'll want to try the famous Belgian Waffles or some Dutch street food. Set aside another 5 Euros for a mid day snack and a drink.
Now, you're left with 10 Euros for dinner. Fret not, for as low as 5 Euros, you could get a Spaghetti Bolognese, and definitely a pizza or even Chinese food between 7-8 Euros. You'll even have enough left over for a beer! Your other option? A 10 Euro steak at one of the many Argentinean Steakhouses blogs will ask you to avoid because it isn't authentic cuisine. Forget cuisine, a steak is steak, especially for just 10 Euros
Bald Traveller's Recommendation: 20 Euros a day on food (S$36)
High Income Earners: Maybe 45 Euros ($72) for you people.
2. Travel By Coach
Don't buy a rail pass. I repeat, DON'T buy a rail pass.
You'll see many blogs advocating Eu Rail passes when traveling in Europe, or saving money by sleeping in overnight trains. Not in the Benelux Region (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg = Benelux) though. The Benelux rail pass is one of the most worthless rail passes around because the typical places you'll probably visit as a tourist simply don't cover enough miles to justify the cost of the Benelux Pass.
Just stick with Flixbus. They're comfortable, have charging points, and get you across any of these 3 countries hassle free.
Bald Traveller's Recommendation: FlixBus 18 Euros (Amsterdam to Bruges) + 22 Euros (Bruges to Luxemborg)
High Income Earners: The Train
3. Don't Bother Trying To See Everything
Windmills at Zaanse Schans, The Netherlands
Don't beat yourself up over it. It's perfectly normal to want to see everything you can and cram in as many attractions as possible when you're on vacation. Our advice? Take it slow and you'll enjoy your trip more this way.
On a 10 day trip, we'd suggest, 4 days in The Netherlands, 4 days in Belgium, 2 days for Luxembourg (which in our opinion, was pretty boring).
View from the corniche at Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Luxembourg is one of Europe's smallest countries. The city is pretty enough, decked out with fortresses and castles. And being a small country, just 1 hours bus ride will get you to the countryside, which does look like a mini Switzerland.
But if you're already planing to go to Switzerland (which most Singaporeans do), then all that will likely interest you is probably affordable shopping; Luxembourg's main draw. The Rolex's, Chanel's, whatever luxury item you'd like, you'll find it in Luxembourg at arguably one of the cheaper prices around as far "SG's version of Europe" is concerned.
Graslei & Korenlei, the medieval port of Ghent, Belgium
Many people who visit The Netherlands only stop by Belgium as an afterthought. Which is a pity, because Belgium is home to some really magnificent old towns. Bruges, is probably, Belgium's most visited city. "The Girl" and I however, preferred the city of Ghent, which in our opinion was even more beautiful.
The Belfy of Ghent, Belgium
Bruges and Ghent are certainly worth a couple of days each. You'll have to do your own research to see which you prefer. We visited both, but we'd suggest you choose just one as they are pretty similar.
Again, we'd go for Ghent over Bruges, no question about it.
With just 4 days in The Netherlands, we'd suggest allocating it this way.
Day 1 Amsterdam City
Day 2 Amsterdam City + Keukenhof (Tulips)
Day 3 Zaanse Schans (Windmills) + Marken & Volendam (overnight)
Day 4 Volendam + Amsterdam City
There's obviously loads more to see/do in The Netherlands. But, well, we're Singaporeans and we have limited leave. Just don't bother seeing/doing everything.
There are windmills you MUST see..... (Zaanse Schans)
The Red Light District that you MUST go......
You MUST ride a bicycle around like a local for a day......
There are 3 MUST go museums in Amsterdam..... Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and the Anne Frank House.
And of course, you MUST take a canal boat cruise....(and houseboat tour)
There's just too many MUST's!!! How to see them ALL???
Now in Belgium, you might want to allocate your 4 days this way.
Day 1: Amsterdam to Ghent/or Bruges
Day 2: Ghent/or Bruges
Day 3: Brussels + Dinant
Day 4: Dinant
So again. There are too many sights, stick to "your" MUST's, not some guidebooks/blogs "MUST's.
Average Attraction Price: 10 Euros (S$16), Canal Boat Tour, 8 Euros (Belgium), 14 - 25 Euros (Netherlands), Bikes, 10 Euros. Museum and Transport Attraction Prices (to be explained below)
4. Shop At Local Markets, Not Shopping Streets
The header itself is self explanatory.
All over The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg are local markets where you can find almost anything! Travel souvenirs, bags, vintage watches, paintings, and so much more! All at great prices!
Shopping street? Well, maybe, if you're a sucker for luxury brands; no Hermes or Rolex's in markets last we checked.
5. Cheap things not good, good things not cheap.
Open boat canal tour in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
One of the key attractions in Amsterdam for instance, are the Canal Boat Tours. You'll have a good many canal boat operators offering varying prices, from as low as 14 Euros for a 1 hour, 100 sights tour, cheap ain't it?
That, would be a huge mistake. because for 14 Euros, you'll be cramped up on a stuffy boat together with hordes of other tourists who fell for the same scam. Top up a little, say another 8 Euros more, and go on an "open boat" tour instead. You get a drink, heaps of space to walk up and down, better photos because you don't have to rush and fight for the window seat (like the cruise in the picture below), and also because it's 10 to 1 guide in a boat, you actually can get to ask and get you questions answered by the boat guide.
We'd daresay all these are worth 8 Euros more. Saving money is great yes, but