This blog collates a whole heap of information to help anyone plan a long trip to Europe and get an idea of how far your budget can go. The best way I can break down how I travelled on this budget is to break down the following:
1) My route around Europe
2) A recommended route around Europe
3) My top tips for travelling cheaply in Europe
4) My top places to see
I hope this helps plan your next trip!
So why did I plan an extended trip around Europe?
I have lived in England my whole life and by the age of 27 I had only visited in Europe were Spain, France, Italy and Germany.
So when I travelled Asia and I met Australians and Kiwi’s who had seen more of my continent than I had, I was a little bit embarrased. With Easy Jet and Rynair, in the UK we are in a position where flights are as little as £20. However I certainly did not take advantage of being so close to so many countries and I didn’t really know much about them – particularly the South-East which is supposed to be incredible but less travelled in comparison to places like Paris and Rome.
So in May 2016, I returned home from Japan, and within a few weeks and booked a £30 one way flight to Germany with no route planned just a budget of £2,200 (for everything – flights, food, activities) and I was interested to see how far this would take me. I needed to be back in time for a hen party so I had a time limit to squeeze as much as I could. My aim for Europe was very simply to embrace every moment as it was my last opportnity before going back to work.
This is how I did it and I did it in 2 months:
My Route ended up being: UK > Nuremberg > Munich > Salzberg > Lake Bled > Ljubljana > Zagreb > Split > Mostar > Dubrovnik > Kotor > Sarajevo > Belgrade > Vienna > Nuremberg > Cologne > Amsterdam > Berlin > Krakow > Prague > Bratislava > Budapest > Fulpmes > Budapest > UK.
How did I choose this route?
First of all, I had a travel friend in Germany for me to start my trip. The rest of my trip was based on recommendations and Google map reading, and plotting out key places to stay – I booked everything as I went along. Secondly my friend Alex from Australia was to be in Amsterdam a month into my trip, so I headed north again to see her. In my opinion, seeing friends is worth the money/re-routing but if I was going to recommend a cheaper route based on the places I went it would be:
The Ideal Route: UK > Belgium > Amsterdam > Berlin > Krakow > Prague > Bratislava > Budapest > Zagreb > Split > Dubrovnik > Kotor > Mostar > Sarajavo > Belgrade > Venice > Fulpmes > Salzberg > Munich > Nuremberg > UK
My top tips for travelling Europe cheaply:
This is my number 1 because throughout Europe it became a bit of an addition/life saver for saving money. But it was also very exciting. If you’ve not heard of this, it’s basically a service where if you, yes YOU a norman everyday person is driving from A to B with an empty car, then why not split the journey with another 1, 2, or 3 passengers going to the same place? You advertise this on blablacar.com with a price, arrange a pick up, then you usually get dropped off at your next destination. No more awkward bus stops, but door to door service for a third of the price. It does sound scary, going in a car with a stranger. But no scarier than being a driver, picking up a stranger. You’re both in the same boat and it’s a good way to meet another local. Afterwards you rate each other so you can review your drivers rating by others. I highly recommend this!!
This is the next stage up from blablacar.com – this is serious “traveller cool points”. But safety is essential. In Sarajevo I met 4 beautiul Dutch 18 year olds – all tall, tanned and intellegent ladies on a study break and hitchhiking around Europe. There I was, 27 years old and I’d never dared anything like this and so I decided that the next day I would do it. At this point I had gained a lovely Australian friend called Ross who I insisted on taking with me – he was not up for it at the time but I think this experience changed both our outlooks. The next day, armed with a sign I’d made myself out of a box and a biro, we had 2 signs in order to get to from Sarajevo to Belgradge (Bosnia to Serbia) – one of the boarder, the other to the capital city.
It took 7 hours and 4 car journies and is one of the best days of my life. First, we were picked up by a 22 year old female single student for the first ride just 20 minutes up the road, she was local and driving home to see her parents. The next were a 50+ couple who drove us around 2 hours – both Bosnian and both lovely and keen to get to know us. The third were 2 friendly men – we were a bit worried by them at first but they were very happy go lucky! They drove us to the boarder of a little down where randomly a security guard greeted us and let us use some fancy toilets. All 3 of these journies were so easy and we were picked up within 5 minutes. At this point we were at the boarder and 4 hours from Belgrade. It look an hour to get picked up here but whilst waiting so many people waved at us and encouraged what we were doing – many were not going in the direction we were going or did not have space in their car. Eventually a man stopped, he did not speak english but took us all the way to Belgrade. Whilst on the journey he rang his friend to translate to us where he would be able to drop us off.
I would always recommend being as safe as possible when hitchhiking, and if a female, not going alone and in a pair. But it’s so worth the effort. We got to speak to local people and the cost, FREE.
3) The hostel kitchen: It pains me to say this, but that free box of goodies in the kitchen of a hostel is a goldmine. It’s a box where if you’ve bought too much food and you’re leaving the hostel, you leave food behind for other travellers. I’d always seen but ignored this box. However, as I started to leave food in this box I felt l should take back. For example buying seasoning or oil in every town is pointless and a waste of money. So when arriving in any hostel, I always check out the kitchen ‘free food’ box before I do a dinner shop at the local supermarket. I sound like a homeless person, but I have no shame. You just need to embrace the traveller lifestyle in order to travel longer.
4) 6 Degrees of separation: We all have friends, family and connections. I learnt the power of this when I was 22 looking for a job in advertising. I posted a Facebook status desperately saying ‘Can anyone help me find a job in advertising’ and that summer I had 5 internships via friends of friends and 0 based on the countless job applications I had sent. So when I travelled Europe I also used my connections where possible. In Munich, my second city, I was off to Salzberg after this and I was on hostelworld attempting to find a bed – all sold out. However within a few hours, a friend in Germany connected me with her friend in Salzberg who gave me a free room for 2 nights. Also on the way into Salzberg, another friend (who’d I’d met in Tokyo, Japan via another traveller I’d met in Kyoto) offered to drive me on the Autobahn from Munich to Salzberg just to catch up share apart of my journey. Never underestimate the kindness of others and of course, I hope to do the same one day if a fellow friend needs any assistance in London.
5) The free walking tours: Every city seemed to have one of these, or it was organised by the hostel. It was the easiest thing to do if you didn’t know what to do. If I had a friend who was travelling Europe and was nervous I’d simple say just go to each of these points and do their walking tours. You see the main spots, you get recommended the places to eat and also places to go after by talking to other travellers. Cost: FREE with a 5-10euro tip.
6) Don’t buy souveniers for friends and family – This is often contraversal. It sounds very heartless and unthoughtful but when you are visiting so many countries with limited time and money, buying your mum a fridge magnet in an overpriced tourist shop when you could be out trekking instead just does not add up. Your travels are for you, but I agree sending a nice postcard is very thoughtful so instead, if you want to buy her a gift take a photo a day and email it to her with a sweet message about your day. Cost: £0
My Top 6 Must-See places from my Eurotrip:
1) Slovenia (The hidden gem)
In my opinion Slovenia is the hidden gem of Europe. It’s simple stunning. Lake Bled and Ljubjana are a must!!! Jazz Hostel is a must in Lake Bled, just wait until you meet the owner and you will know why. The nicest man you will ever be lucky enough to meet.
2) Austria, Fulpmes:
In Slovenia I met Nate, an annoying know-it-all Aussie. 😉 Who is a very dear friend to me now. We met in Lake Bled in the kitchen whilst he was being cooked dinner by some other travellers and he and I were on the same bus to Ljubjana. He spoke of Fulpmes, a place where he worked and how incredible it was. He worked at Dougs Mountain Getaway which is surprisingly the number 1 rated hostel in Austria, and I told myself that I would see it one day if I got the chance. When at the end, I was hoping to see Romania but it didn’t work out. So I went to Austria instead and I have no regrets…
3) Mostar: Nina’s Hostel, the War Tour and this view…
Mostar is a small town in Bosnia, but wow, it needs to be seen for this view and it’s history. I stayed at Nina’s Hostel and I did Nina’s husbands one day war tour. I knew nothing of the war that took place from 1992 to 1996 and as we learnt about their war we also saw some incredible places.
Stay in the centre of Kotor Old Town, explore the small streets and climb the steps to this view…
My hostel did a one day tour of the highlights of the whole country. A must do!!!!
Chosing my number 5 desination was a choice of Budapest, Prague and Krakow – to me they were all similar in their architecture and are also places I would not hesitate to return to. Prague won purely for the town itself and the views from above.
I visited three cities in Croatia – Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik has that wow factor which is ideal for a traveller or a romantic weekend away. The Old Town is now famous for Game of Thrones but you could spent weeks there just getting lost within the little lanes. You can also walk the wall and I highly recommend this at Sunset.