How Much Does it Cost to Travel Europe For 9 Months?

By Sara | October 13, 2016

Nine months. It’s crazy to think that we’ve lived and traveled in Europe for almost a year now, but incredibly exciting to look back on. When we started planning our trip around the world, Europe ranked at the top of our list. Our original itinerary of six months proved to be way too short, and even in nine we hardly explored everything. Europe holds many fond memories for us and has impacted our outlook on a number of life aspects. It’s one of those places you grow up hearing about, and if you’re lucky, travel to once or twice in a lifetime.The truth is, Europe doesn’t have to be as expensive as many may think, and over nine months we spent a grand total of $16,505. Split between two people, that’s $8,252, or $900 per month. That’s less than many people’s rent in the states! So, how did we travel so cheaply? Keep reading!

Everyone’s travel style is different, and you can easily spend thousands in a week by staying in fancy hotels, eating out for every meal, and paying for extravagant attractions. On the same note, you could also travel Europe for far less than we did by staying in hostels, cooking every meal yourself, and traveling in eastern european countries.

We prefer to have a nice place to sleep, cook, and feel at home when we travel, but we don’t need lavish hotels or takeout every night. Our costs reflect this, and go into more detail below.

Accommodation

There are a number of ways to book accommodation in Europe, and our favorite is Airbnb. Airbnb’s give us access to a kitchen, which then allows us to save a ton of money on food. Airbnb’s also are a great way to meet locals, and typically have more flexibility with checkin and checkout times.

Our nightly budget for Airbnb’s in Europe was $35. Every booking we made was under this price per night, with the exception of London, Dublin, Killarney, Bordeaux and Brussels, which are all known to be ‘bloody expensive’ places.

To offset the prices of expensive cities, we walked more, ate out less, and spent less time in the city. Occasionally we’d stay in a hostel to really slash our costs, but avoided them when possible. Many of our bookings in cheaper European countries came in closer to $20 – $25 per night, making the average cost per night balance out in the end.

During our time in Europe, we stayed in some very nice places for very affordable prices. At $35 or less per night, for nine months we lived in places like this:

When looking for an Airbnb, there are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Book in advance.

We found time and time again that we were able to get better places for a lower rate when we planned ahead and booked at least two weeks prior to arriving. The times that we waited longer either resulted in a higher price or a less nice place.

2. Read the Reviews

Reviews are on Airbnb for a reason. There have been times when the listing photos look great, but several reviews mention poor host communication or hidden charges. Look for listings with SuperHost status’s or that have several positive recent reviews.

3. Make a ‘Must Have’ Checklist

Airbnb has filters, and you should use them! Our priorities when booking a place are good wifi, a kitchen with an oven, and a table or desk to work at. If any of these three things are missing, we don’t book. Decide what matters to you in a space, and if you’re not sure that a listing has what you need, message the host first to ask. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

4. Get a Discount

First time Airbnb users should NEVER sign up straight from the Airbnb website. Airbnb has a referral program that give’s first timer’s $35 off their first stay, so find someone who’s already a member and use their referral code. If you haven’t signed up yet, our $35 off coupon is right here!

To get a better idea of how far your money will go, we’ve ranked the cities we visited by accommodation cost. Below you’ll find the 5 cheapest and most expensive cities we stayed in this year.

Top 5 Expensive Cities We VisitedPrice Per Night on a $35 BudgetTop 5 Cheapest Cities We VisitedPrice Per Night on a $35 Budget
Dublin, Ireland$74Varna, Bulgaria$18
Bordeaux, France$61Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria$22
London, England$49Valencia, Spain$28
Brussels, Belgium$48Prague, Czech Republic$29
Killarney, Ireland$42Madrid, Spain$29

Food

Sticking to a reasonable food budget took some time to get used to. For the first two months we ate out frequently, indulging ourselves in European delicacies. While eating your way through Europe sounds incredibly tempting, it is also incredibly expensive.

During our first month of travel, we spent over $1,000 on food. This was not sustainable and stemmed from eating out for every meal. After cringing at our mistake, we cut back substantially. Since then, we averaged $550 per month for two people in every European country except England, where everything just costs more.

We could have continued our lavish food patterns, but would have had to sleep in hostels every night to offset the cost. Instead, we opted to book nicer places to stay, cut back on eating out, and shopped at the grocery store.

In Spain, we ate a lot of patatas bravas (diced potatoes), because that’s what they serve in tapas bars! We bought pastries from grocery stores in France for a fraction of the price of what they cost at a bakery. In Bulgaria, we dined on banitsa (cheese-stuffed bread) and gyros for under a dollar because they are local cuisines.

Do a bit of research before heading to the store, and once there convert the prices to your local currency to see what costs the least. Our favorite currency conversion app is My Currency.

Transportation

Last but not least, traveling! Transportation is a big part of budgeting for Europe, but if done right doesn’t need to be super expensive.

Over the last nine months, we collectively spent $1,037 on metro tickets, taxi’s and busses inside each city, and $2,190 on flights, carpools, and trains to switch cities and countries. Added together, that breaks down to about $12 per day, or $6 per person.

We figured out every travel hack and cost cutting measure we could find and ended up having a reasonably low total cost for European travel. Our best transportation tips are below!

1. Travel Slow

Transportation costs quickly add up the faster you move from place to place. We kept a slow travel pace so that we only paid for city switches twice per month. Spending two weeks in each city also allowed us to learn more about the places we saw and understand them better.

2. Carpool

Carpooling is a transport method that we didn’t start utilizing until we were halfway through our European travels. Had we started sooner, we would have saved a ton of money! For example, we spent €40 to get from Bulgaria to Austria via carpool in 14 hours, when the comparable trains cost $90 and took 36 hours.

In Europe, the biggest rideshare service is BlaBlaCar. People who are driving their car long distances post a route and a cost per seat, and travelers can book to join them on the trip. The service works throughout the continent and is a great way to save money.

3. Walk

In most European cities, metro tickets will cost between $1 and $3 per ride. London and Ireland typically cost closer to $5 per ride. Either way you do the math, buying lots of bus and metro tickets gets expensive fast.

When possible, walk to where you want to go. Most cities in Europe are walkable end to end in an hour, or 15-30 minutes from the city center. It’s a great, easy way to save money while getting fit at the same time!

4. Be Flexible With Your Travel Dates

Flight prices vary based on how far advance you book and which days you want to fly. In Europe, don’t bother trying to fly in July, as prices double, triple, and even quadruple in price.

Generally speaking, Tuesdays are the cheapest day to fly, but it certainly helps to use Skyscanner’s search everywhere tool to find the lowest fares.

Keep your schedule as open as possible so that you can snag the lowest fares.

5. Use Budget Airlines and Pack Light

Budget airlines cost a fraction of what mainstream airlines cost, and do the same thing. In Europe, RyanAir, WizzAir, and Vueling are the cheapest airlines and frequently have fares as low as $5.

Watch out for extra hidden charges, but in general these options are a great way to save.

We didn’t take a traditional route through Europe, and instead jumped around a lot. At times, this hurt financially, and you can travel through Europe much cheaper than we did by going to countries that share borders.

Everything Else

Accommodation, food, and transportation are the biggest costs you’ll have when traveling Europe. If you’re very careful and conservative, they’re also the only costs you’ll have. However, most people (including us) incur additional expenses as well.

Every month we pay $90 to T-Mobile so that we both have data automatically in every country. Our 5×5 storage unit costs $60 per month, and insurance for the car we keep in storage is $40 per month.

That’s an additional $1,500 give or take that we spent during our time in Europe, but is far less than what we were paying for bills and utilities back home.

Lastly, mistakes can and will happen. Losing or breaking equipment costs money. Buying medicines when you get sick costs money. Paying for an old speeding ticket that occurred before the trip costs money!

None of these are things you can plan for, so bring an emergency fund with you on European travels. In total, we’ve incurred around $500 worth of ‘oops’ expenses during our nine months in Europe, in addition to our regular spending.

The Total Cost for Nine Months in Europe

Traveling through Europe has been one of the best experiences we’ve ever had, and cost a fraction the price we thought it would. Here’s one last full breakdown of how much it costs to travel Europe for nine months.

Total For Two PeoplePrice Per PersonCost Per Person Per Day Over Nine Months
Flights from the U.S. to Europe$500$250$1
Accommodation$6,439$3,219$14
Food$4,849$2,424$10
Transportation$3,217$1,608$7
Bills and Misc.$2,000$1,000$4
Grand Total Once in Europe$16,505$8,252$36

As you can see, we’ve been able to travel through Europe for nine months on $36 per day, per person. We visited a mix of western and eastern Europe, which helped to balance out the costs. We freelance while we travel, and since leaving California last December have maintained our net worth.

You read that correctly – we haven’t lost a single dollar during our European travels, even though we lost our prior primary income sources.

Budgeting correctly can save thousands of dollars without sacrificing quality of life. Cutting necessary expenses, finding a little bit of consistent income, and being flexible on where you choose to travel are all factors in being able to travel Europe continuously.

We would have loved to stay in Europe longer, but feel that it’s time to experience life on the other side of the world. Next stop, India!

Iconic Things to Do in Paris

By Sara | May 2, 2016

There are so many things to do in Paris that one would have to move there in order to fully understand and experience the city. For many, that isn’t a realistic option but a short vacation is! Paris is a great place to spend a holiday or visit on a world trip. If you only have time for a whistle-stop tour, here are the top attractions that you can’t miss!

1. Eiffel Tower

It goes without saying that the Eiffel Tower is an iconic structure for the city of Paris. Tourists flock to its base every day and the lucky few dine on the tower platforms and are greeted with panoramic views of Paris.
eiffel tower

2. Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triumph sits at one of Paris’s busiest intersections, and has people literally standing in traffic to get the picture perfect shot. As one of the most famous monuments in Paris, the tower honors those who fought for France in the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleon War.
arc de tiomphe

3. Notre-Dame

The Notre-Dame is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe as well as being one of the most well known. It is one of the largest churches in Europe and is a gorgeous example of the works that came from the French Gothic era.
notre dame

4. Sacre Coeur

Located at the top of Montmarte, the Sacre Coeur is a Roman Catholic church that offers incredible views over Paris. As a political and cultural monument in Paris, locals can be found picnicking on the grass on a nice day.
sacre-coeur

5. Louvre

The Louvre is a historical monument in Paris and one of the largest museums in the world. There is an entrance fee for the exhibits, but even if you’re on a budget visit the outside structure for a photo of the glass pyramid.

louvre

There are many more things to do in Paris, but these five cover the most iconic. What are your favorite things to do to Paris?

Tea Obsession | DAY 124

By Sara | April 24, 2016

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How to Travel Europe for More Than 90 Days

By Sara | March 22, 2016

For many, traveling Europe is a dream. For those who turn that dream into a reality, you’ll soon find that Europe is a broad, amazing place to travel through. We sure did, and began extending our stays in each city. However, we soon encountered a problem: the Schengen Agreement.

The Schengen Area was formed in 1985 in Schengen, Luxembourg. The gist of the agreement was to make several countries in Europe “borderless,” thus treating them as one country in regards to travel. It abolished border checks at common borders of all countries involved, making travel between countries seamless for European residents.

While this works well for residents of the EU, non-residents are limited to 90 days of Schengen Area travel within every 180-day period. Once day 91 occurs, travelers must exit the Schengen area for 90 days before re-entering or risk fines and deportation.

For most vacationers, this is not a problem. For frequent travelers who want to stay longer, there are some work around options.

Option 1: Leave the Schengen Area

This is the simplest choice. There are still countries in Europe that are not part of the agreement. These include the UK, Ireland, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Cyprus, Belarus, Moldova, Turkey, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia and Croatia. See the up to date map of the Schengen Area for updated information.

The easiest option is to leave the Schengen Area and explore parts of Europe that are not in the agreement. With the countries listed above to choose from, three months won’t be enough time!

Option 2: Get a Long-Term Visa

Germany: Germany has an appealing option of a self-employment visa. If you can prove that you make sufficient income from your own business or by freelancing, make an appointment at the consulate office to get a one or two year European visa.

France: France offers a long-term visitor visa for a period of up to one year, a visa “D”. This visa allows you to stay in France for up to 12 months. To get this visa, you must set up an appointment at a French consulate office and show necessary documents.

Italy: Italy offers a one year visa for those who promise not to work whilst in the country. You’ll have to prove proof of sufficient funds to support yourself before this visa is granted.

Sweden: Sweden offers a one year visitor visa as well. Make an appointment at the consulate and bring the necessary forms. If you are approved, you’ll have to pass an interview on why you want to stay for a year before getting your visa.

Obtaining any one of these visas will allow you travel anywhere in Europe for the duration of that visa.

Option 3: Study Abroad

If you take courses at a University in Europe, the school will usually take care of all of this for you. The visa you get that allows you to study in your country abroad will allow you to travel to European countries as well during your stay.

Option 4: Get Married

While not the most practical option, it’s still an option. If you get engaged to a European national, you can then apply for a marriage visa.

Conclusion:

It’s not impossible to stay longer than 90 days in Europe, but it is a process. Be sure to plan well in advance should you wish to use any of these options, or just leave every 90 days for 90 days and then come back. There’s a lot of world to explore, so go see it!

NOTE: This post is mainly aimed at citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand since the visa policies are similar. Be sure to check if you need a Schengen visa before traveling to Europe or whether you can travel with just a passport.

What it’s Like to Wine Taste in France

By Sara | March 16, 2016

Greg and I recently visited Bordeaux, France. When we were living in California, we frequented Napa Valley and enjoyed visiting new vineyards, so of course we wanted to wine taste in France. For those who haven’t been to Napa, I’ll give you a quick rundown.

Typically, visitors come to Napa for a day or a weekend and can taste wine one of two ways. The first is to just show up. Most of the vineyards are in a concentrated area and it’s easy to pop in and out of them to try a variety of wines. Many of the wineries allow walk-ins without a reservation and will greet you with a tasting list.

Once you’ve chosen a tasting selection the wine is brought out one glass at a time for you to try. Typically there are 3-6 wines in a tasting flight, and when you’re finished the staff will ask if you’d like to purchase a bottle. At this point, either choose a quantity or simply head to the next vineyard.

The second way is to make a reservation. Very popular or very small wineries will require a reservation in order to ensure that they can seat you and/or give an extra “something” whether it be a vineyard tour or a history lesson on the wines.

Having had such great experiences in California, we knew that we wanted to wine taste in France. The French are said to have the best wine, so to south of France we went, eager to see what the hype was about. We stopped by the tourist office in Bordeaux to ask for recommendations and could tell right away that we hadn’t done enough research. The lady at the desk told us that she couldn’t recommend places because she didn’t know which owners were available or if they offered tastings of their wine.

We were a bit confused and hopped back in the car to find the places ourselves. Based on internet reviews and a winery booklet we picked up, we drove to several different places only to find that either no one was available or that they only offered tastings if you walked in the door with the intent to buy a specific wine.

We ended up only going to one tasting and walked away with a single bottle of wine and valuable new information. Wine tasting in France is not the same as in America.

Later, we asked a friend from France to explain why it was so different. According to him, the concept of just going to a winery to taste wine is a new concept that is still slowly being adopted.

In France, wine is served at many meals, so the idea is that if you try a wine at lunch that you enjoy, either buy a bottle at the restaurant or write down the name and then call the vineyard to set up a time to go and purchase a few bottles directly from the source.

Though we didn’t have the best experience, we learned a valuable lesson about doing enough prior research and grew to appreciate our home state even more!