What travel costs 4: eight months in Europe

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Duomo from the Uffizi, Florence
Duomo from the Uffizi, Florence

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony 30 July 2015

Trip toEurope, April to December 2014.

Background

Denise and I travelled to Europe on 22 April 2014 and returned on the evening of 6 December. Our trip in Europe lasted just less than 8 months (226 days).

Photo: Denise, tony & Motek walking int the Niedersachsen countryside
Photo: Denise, Tony & Motek walking int the Niedersachsen countryside

One of the reasons for going was to undertake some house-sitting internationally and to build our profile further. We began in rural Lower Saxony, in northwestern Germany in a double family house for two months and in England for three and two weeks, respectively. In the UK our house-sits were both in the Chiltern Hills not far from London, in country residences near Marlow and Great Missenden. One was a large residence on a small acreage and the other a converted barn in a small group of developed modern dwellings on what had been an old farm.

Because we were restricted as Australians to a Schengen visa where one can stay in certain EU countries only for 90 days in any 180 days. We had to leave the Schengen countries immediately after finishing our house sit in Germany.

Immigration control is stricter the further north you go (especially in Scandinavia) but also in Germany and France; and tends to be less strict in Italy and Greece. Nevertheless, we wanted to stay within the law. Although the French immigration officer on our departure had no interest in checking our comings and goings.

Hence on leaving Germany we visited Croatia, then the UK and Ireland, which have not signed up to Schengen, before returning to Italy at the end of one 90-days and the beginning of another. Should I wish to spend 6 months in Europe on another occasion, I would be tempted to land say in France for a couple of days, go to the USA for three months, and then come back for two 90-day periods back to back.

When we didn’t have free accommodation, we stayed mostly through AirBNB and in hotels only occasionally for a night at a time.

What follows is a breakdown of our expenses. Whilst we were in Europe the Australian dollar was relatively strong (exchange rates were ~0.55 GBP, ~0.69 EUR and ~0.90 USD)

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik, Croatia

Overall Breakdown of costs

Summary of Expenses all in Australian dollars (AUD) for two persons spending around 8 months in Europe.

 General expenses

 1 Malaysian Airlines Sydney Paris return                                                 $4797

(including an extra fee for returning two weeks early)

2 Travel Insurance

 Worldcare travel insurance                                                                                          $1490

3 Airfares around Europe                                                                                      $1888

This included 6 flights for two persons: Paris to Hamburg, Hannover to                     Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik to London, London to Dublin, Dublin to Florence.

The average cost per person per flight was: $157

4 Train from Großenkneten to Berlin return                                                $347

(This was mostly a fast train and we left it too late to get a really cheap fare)

5 Car hire in England and Ireland

Hertz UK 

Hertz UK from 16 July to 12 September. Our initial booking was from 16 July to 5 September. We paid a higher rate for the extension to 12 September. We also had a dispute over having to pay a delivery fee from Stansted to Gatwick and may have won some cash back through persistence by Vroom Vroom our booking agent. Nevertheless, we were upgraded to a SEAT manual diesel at Gatwick when we arrived because we had to wait an hour and we think we did reasonably well.

Hertz UK car hire for 58 days                                                                                       $1754

(cost per day $30.24; cost of diesel $389.24)

Europe Car Ireland

We hired a Ford Focus manual diesel from Europe Car in Dublin from 18 September to 5 October and returned it to Dublin. We also had to pay an extra fee $40 to be able to drive into Northern Ireland. We drove much more per day in Ireland than we did in England.

Europe car hire for 17 days                                                                                             $478

(cost per day $28.11; cost of diesel $322.35)

6 Other general expenses

TEFL Course                                                                                                             $524

We attended a weekend TEFL Course (Teaching English as a Foreign language) in Southampton between house-sitting engagements in Marlow. We’d been alerted to a 40% discount by someone we met on our tour in Croatia. The course was an excellent introduction to TEFL teaching and most of the participants were going to use it almost immediately.

Croatian Tour                                                                                                              $1971

Adria Adventure 7-day walking

We organised a 7-day walking tour on the Elaphiti islands with Adria Adventure a very professional kayak touring company. We shared this adventure with three other women and then stayed on in Croatia afterwards. We hadn’t expected it but this was peak summer season in Croatia — Surfer’s Paradise or Florida, Croatian style. It took us a few days to adjust to the style and holiday atmosphere with our English companions, after our laid back bucolic bliss in Germany.

Total General Expenses                                                                                     $13,069

(7188 GBP, 9018 EUR, 11,762 USD)

 

Sissinghurst, Kent
Sissinghurst, Kent

Accommodation

We did house-sitting near Großenkneten, Niedersachsen, Germany and near Marlow and Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire, UK for 55, 21 and 13 nights respectively. We stayed 3 nights in a friend’s apartment in Berlin and were put up one night in a Novotel in London by CityJet because of a missed connection to Florence. All other nights on our trip we stayed in paid accommodation.

The house-sitting involved responsibility for the property whilst the owners were away and pet minding. In Germany for the first month we looked after the property, mowed the grass and did some hedge clipping and other gardening. When the owners came back we took responsibility over the last month for a relatively challenging but lovely large dog, whilst the owners went away over night or on day trips. We also walked him every day through interesting countryside.

In Germany we had access to a car for local trips up to 70-80 km and bicycles. In England we had to provide our own car but looked after two lovely properties. We also looked after three dogs and three miniature ponies, and one dog and one cat, respectively.

Regarding accommodation we booked almost exclusively through AirBNB with the exception of 4 hotels, hostels and B&Bs and one commercial B&B booked through AirBNB. We generally aimed for less than $100 per night and cheaper if possible outside cities. The AirBNB rentals ranged from a small room with a shared bathroom to largish apartments. In some, one mixed with the owner and this became part of the whole experience (always good) and in some there was limited dealing with anyone. The style ranged from basic, to quirky, to tasteful and grand, but because of the AirBNB model we always had a good idea of what to expect. Although one needs to be flexible we were never disappointed. The owners were often very helpful with local information, the cheapest way to get there, tourist information, best local restaurants etc. WIFI on this trip was almost always good (a big improvement from 2007; and even an improvement from 2012).

Our AirBNB Accommodation (not including AirBNB’s service charge) varied in price from $45 to $47 per night in three places (Germany, UK, Ireland), one of which was as good as anywhere we stayed, to over $100 per night ( $103 to $124) in 4 places (Paris, London, Southampton), two of which were amongst the worst places we stayed (though both were comfortable, our first place in Paris was in a terrific location and the place in Southampton was just over-priced, but the only one available).

The commercial establishments we stayed in varied from $70 to $112 and were also comfortable and reasonable in price.

Free nights                                                                                                   93

Paid nights                                                                                                  133

Total time away (nights in Europe)                                                       226

 Total Accommodation Cost                                                                                        $11,168 

(6142 GBP, 7706 EUR, 10,051 USD)

 126 nights, av. cost per night (2 persons)                                                             $88.30

(48.57 GBP, 60.93 EUR, 79.47 USD)

(7nights of accommodation were paid within Adria Adventure’s tour cost.)

Ring of Skelligs. Kerry
Ring of Skelligs. Kerry

Cash Advance and Credit Card purchases 

Other costs on the holiday were covered by cash advances and by credit cards. A float in Euros and Australian dollars of $1014 was taken from Australia and we arrived back with about $200 so say a float of 800 was spent in Europe. The amount of $814 is included in the total expenditure below.

We weren’t clever with cash advances and paid between 3-4% plus the standard unfair exchange rate. Next time I’ll try to get around this somehow.

Also supermarkets and some other stores in Germany wouldn’t take international credit cards. Hence these expenses were paid in cash. Some other major purchases including a major tour in Croatia and car hire are included in General expenses above, but not diesel. We also took two one-day tours in Croatia to Mostar and Montenegro but paid in cash.

Float                                                                                                                                                     $814

Cash advances                                                                                                                              $20,274

Credit card purchases                                                                                                                 $14,413

Total cash & credit card                                                                                                 $35,501

(19,526 GBP, 24,496 EUR, 31,951 USD) 

Credit card breakdown

This is only generic but perhaps quite indicative of our habits. The permanent purchases category is higher than normal and partly reflects returning home at Christmas and other things.

Restaurants, cafes                                                                          $5383                  37.4%

Museums, tourism                                                                         $2428                  16.8%

Transport                                                                                            $735                     5.1%

Supermarkets, etc                                                                            $1841                   12.8%

Permanent purchases                                                                      $3235                  22.4%

Diesel fuel                                                                                              $711                     4.9%

Other                                                                                                        $79                     0.5%

Fish Loggia, Florence
Fish Loggia, Florence

Total cost of trip to Europe in 2014

Total Expenditure                                                                                                          $59,738

(32,856 GBP, 41,219 EUR, 53,764 USD)

Expenditure per person per day (226 nights)                                                           $132

(72.60 GBP, 91.08 EUR, 118.80 USD)

Expenditure per person per day (226 nights) not including                                                    $118

major airfare or travel insurance

Certainly gone are the days of Frommer’s Europe on $100 US per day. However, having been a backpacker and cheap traveller up and until our year in Pakistan, India and Thailand in 1995, it is certainly possible for students and hostellers to travel more cheaply than we did. We only went to a couple of upmarket restaurants and mainly ate middle of the range and lower. The places we stayed in were in general very nice indeed; anywhere we stayed for more than two days was carefully selected; and we certainly didn’t stint our tourist activities because of expense.

Pompidou Centre, Paris
Pompidou Centre, Paris

I doubt we’d ever be able to afford this trip again and would be more inclined to the Germany budget. However, the trip was a good denouement of our extensive travel following Denise’s redundancy. Future extensive travel now that we are no longer ‘homeless’ and have purchased in Canberra will probably need to incorporate housesitting.

The next few What Travel Costs posts will cover expenses for the individual countries we stayed in during this trip in 2014.

Key Words: Europe, Germany, Croatia, England, Ireland, Florence, Paris, travel costs

Further information

Adria Adventure were a very professional kayak touring company. As with most tourism in the Dubrovnik area of Croatia, they were very nice people and well-organised.

The Tour was Adria Adventure 7-day walking on the Elaphiti islands. It was very pleasant and the guides were excellent. However, it was more relaxed walking than strenuous. The kayaking was more their focus.

Michael contacted me, he has also written an excellent 2014 general article on what travel costs in Europe called: Can you travel Europe on $5 a day.

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7 thoughts on “What travel costs 4: eight months in Europe

    1. Hi Michael

      Thanks for the praise. It is both nice and rare. I like your article as well! A good analysis and useful advice. You have an interesting site. I’ll place a link to it at the bottom of my article. It’ll take a few days because I am away and unbelievably have poor internet access. Will keep in touch.

      Tony

      Like

  1. How is staying in France for a couple of days, then going to USA and coming back going to help you stay for back to back 90 days periods? I don’t quite understand the scheme.

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    1. Hi Michael

      It’s a 180 day clock and you can stay ninety days when it starts ticking. If you go to France for 2 days then to the USA for 92 days and fly back to the EU. You have 88 days left on your clock. Then after the 88 days a new 180 day clock starts and you can stay in the EU for 90 days more.

      That’s the theory but you have to be organised, perhaps more than I am. Although we were quite careful in our counting on our 2014 trip. Hence it was almost an insult that the French immigration officer wasn’t interested when we left.

      Regards Tony

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      1. Hi Michael

        Don’t want to get into a fight over this but I did to quite a deal of research into the Schengen visa once I learned about it. The rules are very European and in concept very simple. If you are from a country subject to the Schengen conditions, you are allowed to stay for 90-days in any 180-days. When you arrive the 180-day clock starts and it never stops until 180 days are up; then a new clock starts, if you are currently in the Schengen area.

        For example on the trip on this post:
        Arrived France, 2 nights, Germany 65 nights; used 68 days of 90 days; exited Schengen area to Croatia, UK, Ireland; returned Florence on 8 October and stayed 9 days to 16 October, using 77 days of our 90-days; the new 180-day clock began on 17 October and we left on 5 December, using 50 days of our new 90-days.

        Nothing on the Lonely Planet Forums contradicts this. I don’t know what the situation is for those on a working visa when it expires. Also from having read quite some forums, if you exceed your say for a day or so, they don’t seem to worry even in northern Europe (but they could).

        Two young adult children of friends at different times overstayed their visa by some weeks (both in Germany). They both received a stern lecture on their departure but had nothing adverse stamped on their passports. Perhaps, they were very lucky! I wouldn’t recommend it.

        Regards
        Tony

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