Travel Cost Breakdown From Our Time in Europe

“I really want to travel around Europe, but it’s so expensive!”

We have heard this comment many times since we have been traveling the world. Yes, Europe is expensive but we are here to help you learn what kind of hit your wallet should actually expect.

Dan and I wrote down every penny we spent (converted from Euros to pennies using this app), put together a kick-butt spreadsheet, and are here to break it all down for you.

Molly examining trip expenses in our travel notebook

Calculating trip expenses in our travel notebook

We spent a total of 72 days in continental Europe. Our average cost per day was $140.58. That’s $70.29 per person. A totally reasonable amount, if I do say so myself. Here is how it all breaks down:

Europe Expenses Graph

Europe Expenses Pie Chart

In Europe, our biggest expense was lodging. (Just like it was in the UK and Ireland!) Housing came out to an average of $49.68 per night. We almost exclusively used AirBnB in Europe and had a private room every night. For a couple, AirBnB is a very effective cost saving strategy since the price is usually per room and not per person like it is at hostels. Also since most AirBnB listings are in someone’s actual home, you get the added bonus of access to a kitchen.

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

We usually went out to eat for lunch, but cooked most of our own dinners. This is a fabulous way to save money as groceries are definitely cheaper than meals at restaurants. By eating out for lunch we still got a chance to try all of the fabulous vegan restaurants around Europe at lunchtime prices. This is how we got our food expenses down to $39.35 per day (total for both of us) while eating out about once a day.

The next biggest expense we had in Europe was transportation between locations. One thing we did to bring down the cost of travel around Europe was to buy a Eurail Pass here in the US before traveling to Europe. It’s important to think long and hard about what kind of pass you will need before making a purchase, though, as unused trips are just wasted money. We went with a Benelux-Germeny pass of 10 trips over a two month period. We did spend over a month in the rail pass area, but it turned out that we mostly used the pass in Germany. Germany is probably one of the most expensive countries to travel by train in Europe, so the pass worked out well for us. We loved seeing Germany by train, but you could probably get around Germany for even cheaper by taking buses or using car-sharing websites.

If you are interested in traveling Europe by rail and are headed to Italy, be aware that trains are pretty darn cheap in Italy. Don’t waste your money on a rail pass in Italy! Just buy the tickets as you go. In Italy, the prices for all non-highspeed trains remain the same even as the travel date approaches.

We did not fly once while we were in Europe. We avoided flying by taking a city-to-city approach to Europe. We started in Paris and we knew that we were flying out of Europe from Rome so we planned between those two dates. If you are planning to hop around Europe, though, there are many cheap airlines available. Our favorite site for comparing flights in Europe and around the world was SkyScanner, but we cross-checked all prices with Kayak to make sure we were getting the best price.

Our “entertainment” section covered mostly museums while we were in Europe. Again, we kept the cost of museums down by checking if a museum has a free or pay-what-you-wish day online before heading anywhere, and by using our student ID cards. We also took free walking tours all over Europe and enjoyed every single one of them. Be sure to tip your guide! They are all so fantastic and live off of the tips they earn.

The miscellaneous section is always our smallest, as we had no room for souvenirs in our bags, but every so often we would mail a postcard or gift, or buy some painkillers. (Ibuprofen is SO cheap in the UK compared to Europe or anywhere else we have been. Just a tip!) As a result, this makes up the last 4% of our Europe expenses pie chart.

I hope this has been informative and helps you plan your trip to Europe. Please let us know if we left out any information you would find useful in the comments section below!

Also, check out the post Dan wrote about our cost breakdown from our time in the UK and Ireland! If you are having trouble deciding what to pack for your trip, check out my post on packing light for long term travel!

The Roman Forum and the Colosseum: A Visitor’s Guide

You may have heard: Rome is filled with old things.

Pretty much every street has at least one old thing on it, and it can be hard to appreciate the old things after a while since they are everywhere! But Rome’s golden age really shines at the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. If you want to understand what Rome used to be like, those are the two places to go. And clearly I’m not the only one who thinks so. A ticket to one of these sights includes the other (12 Euro combined ticket as of November 2013). They are linked. But I’m here to tell you how to spend the least amount of money and time and get the most out of your experience. This is going to be a fun game of “learn from Molly and Dan’s mistakes!” in the order that they happened.

Things you should do:

Go to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill (they are one big excavation site, usually just called the Roman Forum) first. Once you have your ticket you can use it later that day or even the next day for the Colosseum and skip the line there. The line to get into the Colosseum is always long, so that is a big win.

Also, take the metro line B to the Circo Massimo stop, not Colosseo, then walk up Via di San Gregorio (past the Circus Maximus, which will be on your left) and enter the Roman Forum at the entrance on your left which will likely have no line. Most people enter near the Colosseum, so going this way will save you valuable time.

Things you should NOT do:

Get the audio guide at the Roman Forum. I repeat: DO NOT get the audio guide at the Roman Forum. What a waste of 5.00 Euros that was. And I hate waste. It was so bad and made me so angry that I actually filed an official complaint (and asked for my money back, which they obviously do not do).

This dramatic picture captures our dramatic morning in the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

This dramatic picture captures our dramatic morning in the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

You are supposed to follow the little numbers they give you on the paper map to different locations, and then punch in the number into the audio guide which then tells you to look right and left, but gives you no frame of reference! I spent the entire time, when I should have been listening to what the audio was saying, trying to figure out if I was looking at the right ruined thing! What a waste. Dan and I returned it after struggling with it for almost 3 hours and then walked around and just read the posted signs and looked at our surroundings and we felt that we got a heck of a lot more out of that.

Molly with audio guide in the Roman Forum. Look how happy I am!

Molly with audio guide in the Roman Forum. Look how happy I am!

Things you should do:

Bring a set of headphones if you are there with someone. Though the audio guide royally stunk, we did manage to share (and thus only pay for) one. The audio guide has a headphone jack. Dan smartly brought his headphones. Now you don’t both have to huddle close to the audio guide and try to hear over that tour group walking by!

Read the posted signs at the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill! They are included in your ticket price and more informative than the audio guide (can you tell I didn’t like it??).

Sans-audio guide, in the Roman Forum overlooking the Colosseum.

Sans-audio guide, in the Roman Forum overlooking the Colosseum.

After you are done with the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill (or the next day), head over to the Colosseum. Now I’m going to really shock you. Go get an audio guide! The audio guide at the Colosseum is 5.50 Euros, but this time it doesn’t suck! They have posted audio guide numbers within the Colosseum and a clear route for you to take. The guide is informative without being excessive. You can feel like you got everything out of the Colosseum and audio guide and be in and out of there in an hour or so. (An hour and a half if you are there with someone like Dan, who takes a million pictures!)

Much happier Molly with the Colosseum audio guide. Learn from our mistakes!

Much happier Molly with the Colosseum audio guide. Learn from our mistakes!

So there you have it. My insider’s guide to the Roman Forum and Colosseum! Here is the abridged version: Enter at the southern-most entrance to the Palatine Hill, near the Circo Massimo metro stop. DO NOT get the audio guide at the Roman Forum, but DO get it at the Colosseum. Wander the Roman Forum first, so you can use your ticket to skip the line at the Colosseum later or the next day. Have fun!