How to travel on a budget to Europe?
But finally, in the following year, I did Europe.
10,0000 Kms traveling in a bus
How did I do that? Well, read on as I have compiled the most detailed version of my Europe travel that will give you the accounting by the penny.
Heads up, Europe is not cheap, nowhere close. You got to be prepared to eat Samosa for Rs. 900. No kidding. So how did we manage to plan a budget trip to Europe for 30 days?
We planned our trip 8 months-in-advance, by pre-planning I mean everything from the tour booking to flights, visa, to places we want to go, to the food budget everything. We had the number in our hand before we went for the trip, we knew the amount that we would be spending exactly, way before we made the trip and we ended up within the budget.
Be sure and learn a lot about the places you wish to travel, we had the primes in our head that we wanted to go to Paris, Venice, Zurich, Barcelona, Nice, Rome, Vienna, Munich & Amsterdam all other cities were more like an add-on for us for the trip.
Once we shortlisted the cities, we were looking for tour operators who do budget travel planning and voila we got Contiki.
Contiki is a tour operator that organizes trips for individuals between 18-35, you can read more about how Contiki works on the blog here.
With Contiki after much deliberation and shortlisting we fixed on their travel plan “Winter Wanderer” It covered all and more for us. Well, surely it was the first big hit to the budget, but they got us covered for major sightseeing, stay, transport and a few meals.
Booking a Tour operator
After reading reviews of Contiki and after understanding how Contiki takes you through the tour, I was hesitant initially after I learned how much walking we had to do in the trips and how hectic it would get with packing-unpacking every 2 days. But what motivated me to go through the process was the fact that it was my single chance to tick off 10 countries all at once in a month-long trip.
And finally, with drum rolls and sounds, I booked the date of my travel with Contiki.
You can check my detailed review about travel with Contiki here
Contiki trip was for 24 days, and I extended my stay by 4 more days by taking the flight from the destination Amsterdam to Zurich. (To my best friend’s house)
Cost of Contiki tour: $3077.11 for 1 so the total for two was $6167. Hence, we paid $6167 x 67.20 (Exchange rate)
Plus Rs. 140 (transaction fees) Plus 2463 (Tax)
Total paid: Rs. 4,15,026.
Schengen Visa and Tickets
Being an Indian, this is the scariest part, Visa for us have not always been smooth, countless instances of my friends wanting to travel to the USA but having their Visa rejected haunted me and I thought what would happen if my Visa doesn’t go through? What about my booking?
Worry not, when you book with Contiki, they have a clause where if we inform them about Visa or trip canceling well in advance, they deduct a small fee probably 100 USD and store the Contiki credit balance with them that can be used any time in next 12 months. Phew! A sigh of relief to hear that.
So, once we had the booking of the Contiki tour, we were also introduced by an agent from Contiki who would help us with flight tickets and Visa application.
In the end, although I was scared it wasn’t the most challenging task after our application was submitted, we just had to take the documents to the Visa office and get the retina and fingerprints scanned and the day after we directly received our Visa by Courier. 😊
Cost of Visa for 2: Rs. 15,000
Cost of Travel Insurance for 2 with 30 lakhs coverage: Rs. 5000
Flight tickets: Rs. 88,608
Mumbai to Paris & Zurich to Mumbai per person: Rs. 38654 so for 2 it was Rs. 77308.
Flight between Amsterdam to Zurich for 2: Rs. 10,300
I wanted to look at my best, because it was Europe, but one most crucial consideration checks out the weather of the places you would be visiting well, in advance. Use website like Accuweather it was 99% accurate in my case by telling me the right temperature of the places so that I pack accordingly.
A little research about the weather will help you pack the right kind of clothes and eliminate the unnecessary ones.
I do not consider myself to be a light packer but trust me light packing helps because you will be more of a traveler exploring places and not much of tourist who sticks to a single destination for long.
– Pack light, you can repeat your clothes, no one cares.
– Choose wheel bag instead of a backpack; it is convenient for the extended tour
– Carry a few right nightgown/dresses for parties or outings that require formal attire.
– When European says, it is sunny they mean its 16-degree C and slightly chilly would be 0 – -1-degree C, as an Indian we are not used to this temperature so do pack your winter wear for the weather.
Contiki trips are generally trips that ensure you a few sightseeing, accommodation, transport, breakfast and a few meals.
You are more likely to be dropped at the center of the city with the map to explore the place around, so it is always better to research about the best things to try in a specific destination.
Also, one significant thing, research about all the Optional activities that Contiki offers in their tour.
Selecting Optional activities by Contiki
Optional activities are the ones that can be selected in your usual day plan on a Contiki trip, here is the list of value for money activities that I would suggest;
- PARIS MOULIN ROUGE DINNER & SHOW (€157.00) – No
- LUCERNE LAKE CRUISE (€25.00) – Yes
- LUCERNE SWISS FONDUE LUNCH (€ 38.00) – No
- LUCERNE SWISS MOUNTAIN (€ 51.00) – Yes
- BARCELONA FLAMENCO SHOW WITH DINNER (€ 61.00) – No
- MONACO DINNER (€36.00) – Yes
- FLORENCE TUSCAN EVENING (€41.00) – Yes
- FLORENCE DISCO (€16.00) – Yes
- FLORENCE SOUVENIR GROUP PHOTO (€11.00) – No
- ROME OF THE EMPERORS & GLADIATORS
- INC COLOSSEUM (€30.00) – Yes
- VATICAN CITY VATICAN TOUR (€35.00) – Yes
- VENICE SECRETS OF VENICE WALKING TOUR (€11.00) – Yes
- VENICE TRIP T-SHIRTS (€32.00) – No
- VENICE GONDOLA RIDE (€23.00) – Yes
- VENICE VENETIAN DINNER (€34.50) – No
- VIENNA OLD VIENNA SCHNAPS MUSEUM (€7.00) – Yes
- VIENNA A CLASSIC NIGHT OUT WITH DINNER (€65.50) – No
- PRAGUE NUCLEAR BUNKER TOUR (€15.00) – Yes
- PRAGUE TRADITIONAL CZECH EVENING (€32.00) – No
- BERLIN HISTORICAL WALKING TOUR (€9.50) – Yes
- BERLIN COLD WAR & COLD DRINKS (€16.50) – Yes
- AMSTERDAM VOLENDAM DINNER (€32.00) – No
- AMSTERDAM CANAL CRUISE (€31.50) – Yes
Expense for Meals
After optional selection of Contiki, the expense for meals is going to be another huge expense for you but worry not; it is still manageable if you budget it right.
We allocated roughly 20 Euros per day per person per meal, but that is on the higher side. On most days, our lunch would be sorted for 25-30 Euros for 2 and if we get lucky and get Dominos around it would get to 15-20 Euros per meal for 2.
We have had our share of expensive dinners as well like we had dinner for 2 in Morocco that cost us Euro 70 for two.
So, an average allocation of Euro 20 per day per person per meal is ideal. There would be places like Rome, Barcelona, Paris where would be comparatively cheaper while there would be places like Nice, Lucerne, Monaco, and Zurich where the meals are the most expensive ones.
I remember getting a salami sandwich for a snack in Lucerne for 12 Euros while the same cost me around 5 Euros in Paris.
Expense for sightseeing
Next in the list of unplanned expense would be an expense for sight-seeing. Places like Church, Cathedrals, Vintage buildings, etc. have entry charges while most are free to visit for tourists.
Here, I cannot suggest that sightseeing that you must select as it is very impromptu, and you are the best person to judge if you wish to go inside a building or not.
The entry fees for such visits would roughly vary between 5-20 Euros.
I never really had much interest in going into cathedrals and paying, but I certainly didn’t miss to go to the places that give the best view from the top, etc.
Tip: If you are an Anne Frank fan, it is best that you reserve the entry in advance 2-3 months because you will surely never be able to get an entry just by being outside. My friends wanted to visit Anne Frank house, but they never got the entry even when they were trying to make the booking at the start of the trip (Day1-2) for the (Day 23)
It is the most sorted and the least of your expense in Europe, Europe has the best transportation system in the world, and you can get a day pass of their trains/buses/tramp in each city.
A day-pass for public transport costs somewhere between 10-25 Euros, and the network of public transport covers the entire city. This is 10X cheaper than an Uber or Taxi.
Overall the expenses incurred by us during the trip was close to 8 lakhs, this includes all the costs right from Tour booking, Flights, Insurance, Visa, Sightseeing, Food, Transport, Tour extension to Switzerland, and Shopping, etc.
To reiterate the cost is for close to 30 days Europe travel, covering some 15 cities. In all honesty, it can be brought down to Rs. 7-7.5 lakhs with the right kind of spending and not much shopping.