Author Topic: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?  (Read 7966 times)

rob in cal

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   So, if and when my wife and I achieve FIRE, we might like to spend some summers in Europe.  Rather than go all over the place I'm intrigued with the idea of staying in one or two places each time we went over there, maybe rent an apartment for one month at a time if thats possible, and just hang out in the area.  I love coasts and lake districts, so I thought the Croatian coast would be a beautiful and cheap place to summer.  I still remember as a kid seeing the Dalmatian northern Croatian coast in the early 1980's.  Also of intrest would be to find an apartment on a German or Austrian alpine lake, probably not Switzerland due to prices.  Anyone have any experiences with inexpensive European coastal or alpine lake visits?

arebelspy

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2014, 09:13:05 AM »
Of course.  Naturally a place in more Eastern Europe (like Croatia, as you mention) will be cheaper than Western Europe, but not categorically so (one of the most Western, Portugal, isn't bad at all).

Sounds like a fun plan to me.
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catccc

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2014, 09:59:32 AM »
Not recently...  I did the backpacking hostel thing through Europe for a month in the summer of 2001, and it was so cheap a college student and a zookeeper (salary was 18K annually) could easily afford it.  I'd imagine it would still be do-able, esp. if you were staying in one place for longer and didn't have rail travel every 3 days.

milkmustache

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2014, 10:36:21 AM »
I’ve travelled to every country in Europe (most multiple times) over the past few years, spending delightfully little money. So, short answer: yes, relatively. It’s more expensive than it used to be, of course, but still can be done for a non-unreasonable expense. And it’s worth it, you'll have a blast.

In terms of alpine lake/coast places to go, check out Bled, Slovenia (alpine lake), the Italian Alps (cheaper than any other country’s alps), the Polish and Estonian coasts (yes, seriously), the Albanian coast (travelling is a bit harder there, but its lovely), the Black Sea (Bulgaria and Ukraine—which is probably a real bargain now!), the Greek Isles, Sardinia, and Cyprus (especially the Northern part). Croatia’s great, and there are tons of rentals there; prices have gone up over the past few years, but still reasonable.

Here are some tips:

-   travel on the fringes of Europe (e.g., the Balkans, Poland, Bulgaria…), which are often a lot cheaper and still wonderful
-   travel in off season if you’re not dead set on the summer (which makes it more enjoyable often, as the crowds are smaller)—e.g., if you went to the Greek Isles in winter it’d be super cheap!
-   Avoid Scandinavia and Switzerland unless you have friends to host you there—one glance at an Oslo menu will bring tears to your eyes.
-   cook for yourself (stay in a hostel/apartment with a kitchen) using local ingredients (e.g., from charcuteries, street markets, etc.), eat from bakeries and street food, take FULL advantage of a free breakfast (which can easily make a free lunch, too!), avoid touristy areas for eating out, make local friends who will feed you. Don’t go out to drink; buy a bottle of wine at a local shop, instead.

rujancified

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2014, 10:43:44 AM »
Couple disclaimers: My euro travel buddies and I typically do 2-3 week trips and are fairly profligate with food & drink budgets. We fly on miles or take crappy connecting flights to save on airfare and bunk together in large groups in hostels/apartments so that we can splurge on "the fun stuff." The group is largely male (I'm usually one of few females) and all of us are in our mid-30s.

In 2011, we did Croatia (Coast & a quick afternoon in Zagreb); Lake Bled, Slovenia; Munich (we did a German extravaganza in 2008); and Prague. Dalamatian Coast was simply stunning. And it was staggeringly cheap vs. EU nations we've visited. The food was excellent and fresh - think seafood and pastas - and the local beer was cheap and drinkable. Slovenia was more expensive than Croatia, but we were in a small Alpine town in the early fall, so it wasn't a bank-breaker.  And it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to.  Munich and Prague are wonderful large cities with millions of things to do and can be expensive or cheap depending on what you do. We stopped in Garmisch in 2008 and WOW is it gorgeous, but I remember meals/activities being $$.

Did a trip to Portugal in 2010, so these numbers are potentially outdated, but have to share. A friend and I ate a tapas dinner in Lisbon with 3 pitchers of sangria and at least 10 plates of food right in the Alfama touristy neighborhood. The bill was under 35 euros - we both thought it was our 1/2 of the bill. Definitely look into Portugal: the coast is like the Mediterranean visually and there's so much history.

Are you American? You could use a smaller, but railway-connected town as a home base and get around to other destinations easily/cheaply with a Railpass. For some reason, I don't think they're available to Europeans (and that may also be true of Canadians or Aussie, etc).

Villanelle

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2014, 11:02:00 AM »
I live in Europe and travel a great deal.

Eastern Europe is definitely a better bet.  Also, August is a huge time for travel in Europe and as such, prices tend to go up.  If you can, go off-season or in shoulder season.  Hostels can be very, very cheap.

Also, you can look for farm stays, or something similar, where you work and get free or cheap room and board in exchange.  There are many different arrangements. 

basd

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2014, 03:29:35 PM »
I second the suggestions of Portugal and Poland. Both are wonderful countries and pretty cheap when it comes to lodging and food.

As an aspiring Italophile I also have to mention Italy. Lodging isn't particularly cheap, especially not if you stay in a fancy agriturismo as we did last time, but eating out is generally very affordable (and I don't think I have to elaborate on the wonderful Italian cuisine).

Cassie

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2014, 03:41:12 PM »
WE have been to Italy twice & Poland once.  Both were beautiful countries with excellent food. Poland was a lot cheaper vacation. People at work were laughing when we went there saying they were not jealous at all. I knew it was beautiful because my DIL is from there.  We definitely want to go back to Poland. 

galliver

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2014, 04:01:22 PM »
I have no personal experience, but my best friend since childhood worked a teaching assistant job in France for a year and then wanted to stay in Europe a bit longer and did a month-long volunteering stint on an Italian farm. Apparently the baby goats were a lot of fun.   I've no idea if that's something you're interested in, but if you're staying in one place, wouldn't mind doing some work, and want to really meet people, I hear there are various kinds of "work for your keep" programs out there... (WWOOF probably the most famous?)

train_writer

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2014, 06:51:11 AM »
I would say, start with the tips of Milkmustache!

After that
- avoid August for France/ Spain
- avoid to live in the centre of London-Barcelona-Paris-Amsterdam
- use buses to travel between cities

and you can have a good and frugal time in every country, even the Nordic countries can be traveled on the cheap!

Recommendable: ask in local couchsurfing groups for tips on renting.

EDIT: And I would have recommended my lovely Ukraine, but maybe next year..
« Last Edit: May 29, 2014, 06:55:45 AM by train_writer »

Albert

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2014, 07:05:06 AM »
Of course, although of course it depend what you consider cheap. Not going to be as cheap as in South East Asia, but still very much affordable for most.

Croatia was mentioned several times in this thread. Sadly prices have gone up a lot lately, particularly on the coast. I don't think it would be all that much cheaper than Italy any more. I personally prefer the latter anyway.

Barcelona is in fact not that horribly expensive. You can rent an apartment quite close to downtown for ca 50 euros a night for 3-4 adults. Of course if you want to stay in a fancy hotel it's another story...



Silvie

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2014, 09:02:09 AM »
Are you American? You could use a smaller, but railway-connected town as a home base and get around to other destinations easily/cheaply with a Railpass. For some reason, I don't think they're available to Europeans (and that may also be true of Canadians or Aussie, etc).

Europeans, check out www.Interrail.eu.

scrubbyfish

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2014, 09:16:17 AM »
+1 to WWOOF, etc.
Also:
SERVAS (some offer longer stays, especially if they have family members who want to improve their English, etc)
university dorm sublet while the student travels
home exchange - they stay in yours while you stay in theirs; there are websites

With all these (except home exchange; I didn't have a home), Europe was my cheapest stint!

train_writer

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #13 on: May 29, 2014, 01:07:47 PM »
Barcelona is in fact not that horribly expensive. You can rent an apartment quite close to downtown for ca 50 euros a night for 3-4 adults.


That is right, but I was thinking renting for one month in Barcelona is considerably more expensive than elsewhere (even than, there must be cheaper options close to Barcelona when you like doing research on those things or wwoof!)

urbanista

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #14 on: May 29, 2014, 05:11:27 PM »

EDIT: And I would have recommended my lovely Ukraine, but maybe next year..

What part of Ukraine would you recommend for a holiday? I have Ukrainian background and thinking to take my family there for a holiday in a few years time, but I am not sure why people find Ukraine nice and cheap? I don't find it at all.

TomTX

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #15 on: May 29, 2014, 08:12:40 PM »

EDIT: And I would have recommended my lovely Ukraine, but maybe next year..

What part of Ukraine would you recommend for a holiday? I have Ukrainian background and thinking to take my family there for a holiday in a few years time, but I am not sure why people find Ukraine nice and cheap? I don't find it at all.

Well, certainly not the Eastern side at the moment... unless you want to be involved in the whole "Russian Separatist" excitement.

amha

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #16 on: May 29, 2014, 09:04:44 PM »
Second everything about Eastern Europe---it's all the pleasures of Western Europe at half the price!

Croatia is nice. In Pula, on the Istrian peninsula, a couple years ago I stayed in what was once the headquarters of the Austro-Hungarian navy (now it's a cheap hotel with Ikea-ripoff furniture). City is a kind of weird mix of downmarket European tourists. The New Yorker did a feature a couple summers ago on young Brits being obnoxious in Croatia: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/04/16/120416fa_fact_collins

Budapest is also really great---like Vienna, but cheaper, and you feel less guilty that you don't speak the language. Also, BELGADE! Serbia is... well, having elementary-school memories of the Yugoslavian wars in the 90s, visiting Belgrade was surreal. But it was really cheap and REALLY cool.

I hear good things about Romania, though I've never been.

Should also give a shoutout to Slovenia in general and Ljubljana and Zagreb in particular.

In summary: you can total have awesome travel adventures in Europe as a Mustachian! In fact, because you're a Mustachian, they'll be BETTER, because you won't be staying at crap overpriced hotels and eating at crap ripoff restaurants in tourist-overrun cities like Paris.

(Try South American next summer! I can't say enough wonderful things about my adventures in Chile and Argentina :) )

train_writer

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #17 on: May 30, 2014, 05:21:49 AM »

EDIT: And I would have recommended my lovely Ukraine, but maybe next year..

What part of Ukraine would you recommend for a holiday? I have Ukrainian background and thinking to take my family there for a holiday in a few years time, but I am not sure why people find Ukraine nice and cheap? I don't find it at all.

Well, certainly not the Eastern side at the moment... unless you want to be involved in the whole "Russian Separatist" excitement.

No, Ukraine isn't nice at the moment, that is why I would not recommend it now. But I have very fond memories of Odessa, Kiev, the mountain rigs in the west -but you have similar landscapes in Romania- and Lviv. I would have recommended living a month in Lviv to the OP if not for the current situation.

That said, there are a 100.000 places in Europe I could easily spend a great month  on the cheap. I think we need a bit more information on what attracts the OP to spend summer in Europe? Cultural festivities; weather; languages; rural; urban?

Silvie

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2014, 07:24:01 AM »
Barcelona is in fact not that horribly expensive. You can rent an apartment quite close to downtown for ca 50 euros a night for 3-4 adults.


That is right, but I was thinking renting for one month in Barcelona is considerably more expensive than elsewhere (even than, there must be cheaper options close to Barcelona when you like doing research on those things or wwoof!)

Rent in the less touristy areas, like Poblenou (where I currently live. 550 euros for a small studio for 1 person, not bad). Also, food is really cheap here, as well as public transport.

rob in cal

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #19 on: June 02, 2014, 09:37:56 AM »
   What I'm hoping for is that in a few years I might be able to have summers off at my work, and then could go to Europe with my wife and spend lots of time.  I'd like to have a mix of experiences, some time just hanging out at a nice beach along a lake, or the Adriatic or Med, some time visiting a nice city, maybe sometime in the Alps doing walks and hikes.

FrugalZony

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Re: Spending the summers cheaply in Europe, can it still be done?
« Reply #20 on: June 02, 2014, 05:07:09 PM »
A lot of great ideas have been mentioned.
I have traveled quite a bit in Europe.
You can also get real good deals (off season) renting fully furnished travel trailers set on campgrounds (cheaper than a vacation rental) if you want to have a bit more privacy.

The charm is in the mix and your flexibility. Hostels, couchsurfing etc. in more expensive countries, nicer more private accommodation in cheaper countries. Use priceline for hotels in cities, when you know your dates in advance etc. and sleep on trains sometimes.

Plus don't forget travel hacking (if you plan your trip well in advance you can get super deals with miles and points and such)

We once did a long weekend in Nice including flight (from another European city), nice hotel and transportation for pennies literally.
It did include shopping at a local supermarket and picknicking on the beach instead of lavish restaurant eating, but it was so much fun