Asia is the ultimate budget traveller destination, right?
Cheap food. ‘Genuine fake’ clothes that can be bartered for a fraction of the price of an original. Long distance transport is ridiculously cheap compared to western countries. Hostel room for just a few dollars.
When we left Australia we set ourselves a budget of $42 total per day (Total, for both of us). Easy right?
There are many reasons for this, but what’s even more surprising is that since leaving Asia over 3 months ago, we have managed to come in under budget for June, July and August.
“No way! How?” I hear you say
Let us reveal to you 6 reasons we’ve spent less money in Europe than in Asia
1. Little to No Accommodation Costs
Now stop scoffing – I can hear you from here! I swear it’s true!
How have we done this?
Friends and family go a long way
Not everyone will have this option of course. But it has been very handy for us having friends open up their homes and allowing us to stay. It had been 4 years since Tommo had been back in England. Hence we had a LOT of people to catch up with – many who wanted reminisce over a bottle of wine or more (usually more). So we had places to crash for a few nights for free – Score!
We have spoken many times on the benefits of Couchsurfing. It’s a great way to stay with locals, and even have someone to show you around their fair city.
These days, sadly, it seems it is starting to get harder to find people that are still willing to host. But they are out there – be persistent. By persistent we don’t mean hound people – just keep sending out friendly requests until someone responds.
The story we keep hearing is that since the company sold to a ‘big business’ in 2011, the site has been flooded with douche bags just looking for a free room. They have no interest in interacting with their hosts and seem to be abusing the idea of Couchsurfing.
What you want is to get together a great profile and send out better requests. If you want more information on how to create the ultimate request check out our entire article on the subject.
This is a way of travel that we are reasonably new to. Rather than scoring a weekend at the beach because a mate needs you to feed his dog, you can score accommodation all over the world.
So What is Housesitting?
Housesitting is a network of homeowners who are looking for reliable people to take care of their home and pets while they are away. Housesits can vary in length from a few days to a year+. In return for your services you get free accommodation. Easy right?
Well maybe not…
As with Couchsurfing your profile and request is everything. Even though you are offering a service (i.e taking care of their pets for free) these people still need to know that there homes and beloved pets are going to be well taken care of. Be thorough, polite and once again let the homeowners know what you can do for them – not the other way round.
Want to know how to go from zero to hero in the housesitting world? – let us show you how.
2. Free Attractions
There’s not a single city in Europe that doesn’t have free attractions of some sort.
Museums, art galleries, castles, gardens – we could go on for ages here, but I’m sure you get the point.
Another great thing that many cities in Europe offer is free entry on the 1st Sunday of the month. Or national holidays – it varies. I managed to get into the Colosseum in Rome for free because I turned up on a national holiday. Score!
Did you know that the Louvre in Paris is free on Bastille day and the first Sunday of every month? Or that many places in France have free or discounted entry for people who are teachers or those under 26 years old?
Not having to pay for many attractions saves you a tonne of dosh!
In Asia – we found you pay for everything.
Want to go to an attraction in Asia?
- There’s an entrance fee
- a fee for your camera
- a fee for your video camera
- sometimes bags or tripods aren’t allowed so you’ll have to pay for a locker.
- In some places, if you want to visit a temple. It’s best to pay someone to look after your shoes so nobody steals them – extra money.
Although, mostly, it is only a few dollar here and there – those dollars add up.
In China, if anything had the term UNESCO attached to it you could expect to pay anything upwards of $15 each to get in. That’s our daily budget mostly done on one attraction. But we did find a way around that… more on that in our FREE E-book: 101 Travel tips that will save you money.
Having access to free attractions in Europe makes it easier on the bank balance. Which makes it better when you do need to fork out money for the big attractions.
Heading to Europe for the first time? Here are 100 things you should know before you go!
3. We Can Drink The Water
It’s pretty well known universally that drinking the water in Asia is a big no no. Unless you’re just dying to find out what a nice case of gastro feels like….pretty sure most people are happy to pass on that one.
The best way in Asia to avoid getting sick is to purchase mineral water in bottles. The price of water does vary from place to place and it’s usually not too outrageous. But, it’s still an expense.
$1.50 per day for water, 14 months in Asia = about $630. The equivalent of 2 week’s budget for something we get free in Europe. Now we just have a reusable water bottle and fill it up before you head out for the day.
4. We Make Our Own Nom Noms Now
As fun and exciting as it is, eating out 3 times a day while travelling can get expensive. Now that we are involved in housesitting we have access to a home kitchen. So we can prepare our own meals.
You would be surprised how much of a difference it is between eating out everyday in Asia, and making our own food in Europe. If we were having to eat out here in Europe I’m sure we would be bankrupt by now – having access to a kitchen is a massive money saver.
Example: We can make a Veg & Lentil Curry with rice for about 50 cents a serve (Using spices provided whilst housesitting). About the same price we were paying in India for a street food curry. Not as authentic, but certainly a tasty budget meal.
We do eat out still, just less often than in Asia and we search out the best meal deals for local food. French Baguette with Camembert in front of the Eiffel tower for one Euro per person? Yes Please.
If you weren’t aware, there are also some great discount supermarkets in Europe. You get good products, at a fraction of the price. Lidl and Aldi are a fantastic options for keeping your shopping costs down. And the products are just as good, if not better than their pricier counterparts. They just don’t offer all of the bells and whistles some other supermarkets have. No fancy packaging, no modern flashy stores – you get what you get. And it’s good.
5. Local Public Transport – same same, but easier
In most places in Asia (expect for the big players HKG, Sth Korea, Japan, China) public transport is unreliable. There’s often a chicken bus that you can get around on, but finding out when and where they go is always a challenge and often impossible out of hours. That regularly left us with Tuk Tuks, Taxi’s and Rickshaws.
The experience of riding in a tuk tuk is one that must be had by all in Asia – its lots of fun. But if you have ever had to barter for one you would know how much of a rip off and a pain in the ass the drivers can be. Also prices vary greatly. You can get one driver that takes you somewhere for less than a dollar and the guy taking you back wants 5 dollars. This is typical. And the scams! Oh, don’t get me started.
In Europe there are trams, buses and metros to take you all over town – with ease. Transport runs on time (usually). It’s affordable and much more comfortable than any tuk tuk. That is unless you get stuck trying to ram yourself onto a Paris metro train after the Bastille Day fireworks display – that’s not such a comfy ride. But if you are in need of a bit of affection you’re sure to be surrounded by people. All in a big sweaty “group hug” of sorts.
Anyways my point is local public transport in Europe is affordable. Everyone pays the same, there’s no haggling for the price and they are pretty clean, efficient and reliable.
6. We are Travelling Slower
I don’t know what it is about Asia, but you feel like you need to keep up a frantic pace. If you don’t keep charging around, there’s no possible way you’ll be able to see everything.
NEWSFLASH: You can’t possibly see everything.
It took us 14 months and near exhaustion to realise this. Even though we had said many times before that we needed to travel slower and experience a place for longer. We seemed to continue to jump from city to city in an effort to “fit it all in”.
It wasn’t great on our nerves and wasn’t great on our bank balance. Moving to a new place meant purchasing train, bus, plane tickets. Frequently finding new, sometimes pricier accommodation. Paying for visas for every new country. Our wallets were permanently open.
Now being the older and wiser travellers that we are, we have kicked ourselves in the butts, and made ourselves slow it down.
A major way we have done this is by housesitting.
The good thing about housesits is that you can score a housesit for a couple of weeks, or a couple of months – whatever suits you. We just spent a month housesitting in Grenoble, France (In the Alps). With all the points that I’ve just mentioned above, our daily outgoings for August were $27 per day – that’s it!
Travelling slower has also massively reduced our long distance travel expenses (because we make less journeys) – one of the most expensive parts of Europe travel. We’ve also found ways to reduce the cost of those trips when we do have to make them… More on that coming over the next couple of months.
So there you have it – we are living it up in Europe, and coming in below budget almost every single day!
Now it’s your turn
If you take in a few of our tips, Europe really can be affordable.
Maybe you don’t have the time to take it slow. Maybe you think you have to do it all and then quit travel forever. Let’s just say, now in our thirties, there is always time to travel, if you make time.
So, try getting involved in housesitting, choose a place you REALLY want to see. Paris, Rome, Barcelona. Get a housesit there for a few weeks and experience local life, don’t just see the sights on an expensive, whirlwind tour.
If you liked our article or think it could benefit someone else – please share.
As always please feel free to leave a comment so we feel loved 🙂