Author Topic: First class travel in Europe, frugally  (Read 2357 times)

iris lily

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First class travel in Europe, frugally
« on: September 23, 2017, 09:53:58 AM »
While worthy of facepunches no doubt, I will venture forth with my travel ideas. Punch if you like,
I dont care. And this is not a " backpacking across Europe for $35 per day" sort of post. Dont expect it, you wont get it! Haha.


DH and I went to Switzerland (him, for a family reunion) Prague (me, and later him, we met up there)  and both of us to Romania. We are old, retired, and rich for a bit given the Trump Bump in the stock market. As DH said, this month our stock market gains paid for this trip. I dont know if that is entirely true, but it is close enough. Anyway, onto the travel tips:

Central Europe is inexpensive compared to traditional countries people visit like the UK, France, Spain.

 Please consider Romania for your next vacation, it is STUNNING in beauty! I recommend  the car trip we took around Transylvania. Seven days in Transylvania took us to castles, villages, medieval towns and churches.

In this trip we got the beautiful architecture of Europe without the high cost. There really is a variety of architecture, but it tends to be Saxon influenced in Transylvania. There is so MUCH to see that is i teresting! Romania is off the beaten path to Europe, but it should not be!

Also, Romania is still very much rural and their food reflects that where farm-to-table is the common thing, not the trendy construct  it is here. They are masters of food and their local wines are lovely.

Now for the prices in Romania: dinner for two, including two entrees, an appetizer, one glass of wine: about $25 in the bigger cities, less in smaller towns. Hotels, nice ones, $100 in Bucharest (for a large suite in the center of the city) and $75 for smaller towns.

We had our own tour guide who made all arrangements for a 9 day trip that was a "Dracula tour" but really it incorporated much history and culture of Romania. I highly recommend this mode of travel! Our guide was able to pack in several sights per day, and we never would have been able to see so much if we were trying to find our own way around. He was also bery flexible in showing us things of particular interest to us persnally. For example, he deviated from the travel schedule to take us to a botanical garden.

Prague was higher in price than Romania by 30-50%  and  the crowds were pretty awful, but Prague is so beautiful the rest of it can be ignored. I stayed in a wonderful olde Europe style hotel called The Hotel Pariz for around $200/ night. Not cheap, but first class and a good price for that experience.

I came away from this trip with the idea that smaller cities, regional hubs, will give cultural flavor of a country without the higher prices and crowds of big cities. I will plan my next trip around this idea: small cities, not big ones.

Switzerland where dH went: expensive, but he stayed with relatives, they fed him, and transortation was usually paid for. That is the only way to visit
Switzerland frugally. Unless you have relatives tnere, stay away.




« Last Edit: September 23, 2017, 10:25:39 AM by iris lily »

rob in cal

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2017, 04:36:28 PM »
   Iris, I like your overall idea, and Romania looks lovely from photos I've seen.  Budapest has some really nice prices for hotels and food, and many things to see both in the city and day trips. If one wants to see the Alps, Bavaria and Austria offer cheaper alternatives to Switzerland.

HoustonSker

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2017, 07:42:57 PM »
I will second Central and Eastern Europe as great frugal destinations.  The wife and I went to Hungary last summer and found it very affordable and high quality.  We stayed half of our trip in Budapest and half in the Tokaj wine region, a mix of city and country.

I think the former bloc states have done a good job of preserving and celebrating their heritage and traditions.  Itís refreshing to see in Europe.

iris lily

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2017, 07:05:58 AM »
I will second Central and Eastern Europe as great frugal destinations.  The wife and I went to Hungary last summer and found it very affordable and high quality.  We stayed half of our trip in Budapest and half in the Tokaj wine region, a mix of city and country.

I think the former bloc states have done a good job of preserving and celebrating their heritage and traditions.  Itís refreshing to see in Europe.
And they love big American dollars and strive to make it easy for English speakers.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2017, 07:08:20 AM by iris lily »

zinnie

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2017, 07:15:30 AM »
Good ideas! Been thinking of checking out that region.

Went to Switzerland earlier this year and my goodness it is expensive! I knew it was pricey but I wasn't expecting $17 sandwiches. Great he had the family connection there.

pachnik

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2017, 10:43:59 AM »
I went to Timisoara which is a big city in western Romania about 20 years ago.  My ex-husband was from there and we sent to visit his family.   I really enjoyed it there - lots of beautiful Baroque buildings in the town square.   We mostly visited family and my ex-husband's friends while we were there so can't really speak to the tourist-y stuff. 

LifeHappens

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2017, 11:04:03 AM »
I love Central and Eastern Europe. I've been to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic and found similar prices. An absolutely gorgeous old world hotel in the center of Krakow will cost $100-$150 per night. Dinner at a high end restaurant in Budapest, including a bottle of wine and desert, maybe $50 for two people. Airfare can be a little high, so I've found bargain fairs to London or Frankfurt and then an EasyJet flight to my destination can make things more affordable.

Roe

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2017, 01:48:17 PM »
In general, there is more demand from Europeans to go to western Europe than eastern. Paris rather than Bucharest. Since east Europe is cheaper, it's a trade of between cheep flight and expensive stay, or expensive flight and cheap stay.

You can look for cheap flights and accommodation.  Or, make geography work in your favor.

Wien is a big flight hub, if you can get a cheap flight from the us to London or Frankfurt, you will fairly easy find a flight with a decent airline to Wien. Don't stay there tough, get on a train or something, and cross the border to Bratislava, Slovakia.

Cheap flight, cheap stay.

iris lily

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2017, 06:19:32 PM »
Good ideas! Been thinking of checking out that region.

Went to Switzerland earlier this year and my goodness it is expensive! I knew it was pricey but I wasn't expecting $17 sandwiches. Great he had the family connection there.

I confessed to DH that I
had a couple of $30 lunches with wine, linen napkins, European service, all high end stuff. I expected him to be grumpy but he just brushed it off saying "oh yeah? That's how much we paid for grab and go lunches in Switzerland." So yeah, it is expensive.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2017, 06:21:53 PM by iris lily »

zinnie

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2017, 07:53:46 PM »
Good ideas! Been thinking of checking out that region.

Went to Switzerland earlier this year and my goodness it is expensive! I knew it was pricey but I wasn't expecting $17 sandwiches. Great he had the family connection there.

I confessed to DH that I
had a couple of $30 lunches with wine, linen napkins, European service, all high end stuff. I expected him to be grumpy but he just brushed it off saying "oh yeah? That's how much we paid for grab and go lunches in Switzerland." So yeah, it is expensive.

it's true! next time i'll check out Romania. i've also been hearing good things about Croatia and Montenegro.

HoustonSker

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2017, 08:50:36 PM »
I will second Central and Eastern Europe as great frugal destinations.  The wife and I went to Hungary last summer and found it very affordable and high quality.  We stayed half of our trip in Budapest and half in the Tokaj wine region, a mix of city and country.

I think the former bloc states have done a good job of preserving and celebrating their heritage and traditions.  Itís refreshing to see in Europe.
And they love big American dollars and strive to make it easy for English speakers.
Youíre damn right they do!  My wife and I were pleasantly surprised by the attentive service and prevelance of English.  We stayed in a tiny town for part of our trip and were checking out local wineries or pinces in Magyar.  We walked into a place, I dropped a little Magyar greeting, impressed the owner, and once he learned that we were from the US, and furthermore Texas, he rolled it all out. It helped that another patron was an au pair in New Jersey back in the 90s. 

Hula Hoop

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2017, 02:15:13 AM »
That's my dream trip.  I have heard great things about Transylvania but also Budapest, Sarajevo and Bosnia in general.  Must do it soon.

Gone_Hiking

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2017, 11:09:32 PM »
I spent first 20 years of my life in Poland.  It was communist then.  Ugly and gray.  Still work in progress in late 1990s.  I returned with my family and MIL in tow three years ago, after a 10-year absence.  The sheer volume of infrastructure investment made my jaw drop.  New railway tracks being laid, new train stations, platform upgrades, smooth roads, even my small home town looking spruced up.

There has been no better country to visit countries formerly in the Communist camp.  Trains are comfortable, the freeways are smooth, hotels are charming, and the food is awesome.  Plus all that architecture... 

NinetyFour

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2017, 03:11:36 AM »
P2F...
My Journal

Countdown to Freedom:  183 days; 21 weeks of classes; 62 days of classes

Michread

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2017, 12:35:55 PM »
I want to go on the Dracula tour! I read Dracula by Stoker a few years back and loved it!  The sites and food described in the book made me want to go.

Did you travel independently or with a tour group?  If independently, how is traveling if English is your only language? 

In 2005, I traveled independently to Spain with my sisters.  We stayed in online apartments (this was before airbnb).  It was tough since none of us spoke Spanish and very few people spoke English. 

I would think Romania would have less English speaking people and make traveling independently hard.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2017, 12:37:35 PM by Michread »

Roe

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2017, 01:13:40 PM »
I want to go on the Dracula tour! I read Dracula by Stoker a few years back and loved it!  The sites and food described in the book made me want to go.

Did you travel independently or with a tour group?  If independently, how is traveling if English is your only language? 

In 2005, I traveled independently to Spain with my sisters.  We stayed in online apartments (this was before airbnb).  It was tough since none of us spoke Spanish and very few people spoke English. 

I would think Romania would have less English speaking people and make traveling independently hard.

You wouldn't have a problem. Lots, specially on the countryside, speak poor or non English. But they are very relaxed about communicating with gestures, phone translate etc.

You can hire a local personal driver fairly cheap, if you want to make sure there wont be a language barrier.

I would advice against a tour group, lots of the experience is being "alone" in the countryside, or enjoying it in your own pace.


markymark

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2017, 03:57:31 PM »
I have not tried Eastern Europe but just visited Central Europe - Prague and Budapest.  Both fabulous and very inexpensive.  Great hotels for about $115 a night, wine for $2-3 a glass, perfect weather in the summertime.  Ahhhh, wish I was still there :-)

iris lily

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2017, 11:05:03 AM »
I want to go on the Dracula tour! I read Dracula by Stoker a few years back and loved it!  The sites and food described in the book made me want to go.

Did you travel independently or with a tour group?  If independently, how is traveling if English is your only language? 

In 2005, I traveled independently to Spain with my sisters.  We stayed in online apartments (this was before airbnb).  It was tough since none of us spoke Spanish and very few people spoke English. 

I would think Romania would have less English speaking people and make traveling independently hard.

https://tourguides.viator.com/tour-guide-bogdan-savulescu-101084.aspx

I highly recommend Bogdan as a tour guide. He will craft a tour for you based on number of days you wish to travel in Romania. He is an exceptionally fine guide, driving his clients around to the best sights and knowing the best spots to view,  always solicitous of their well being.

So, to answer your question, DH and I used a private tour guide (link above) who drove us around for several days. Without him we would have missed several intimate spots such as a legendary burial place of Dracula and a small, amazing UNESCo village. But also, several great towns can be reached by train, so you could do it that way.

Our trip was uncharacteristic for me in that I did only a little research, knew
I wanted To see Bran Castle, Sighisoura, and Sibiu. I left the rest up to our great guide. And actually my favorite sights were ones he showed us, surprises to me.

English is pretty common in Romanian areas that serve tourists. After going there I would have no hesitation again. Remember, they concentrate on their tourist industry and they welcome English speakers.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2017, 11:12:17 AM by iris lily »

sparkytheop

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2017, 01:10:11 PM »
I fell in love with Krakow and want to go back.  I should add Romania to my list (I hope to travel to a new country, for two weeks at least once every year, from the time my son is finished with school until I retire.  After I retire, I want to travel even more.)

iris lily

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2017, 01:55:22 PM »
I fell in love with Krakow and want to go back.  I should add Romania to my list (I hope to travel to a new country, for two weeks at least once every year, from the time my son is finished with school until I retire.  After I retire, I want to travel even more.)

I'm glad to hear positives about Krakow. i want to use a Polish city to leap off into a Baltic states tour. I am thinking this plane sequence:

St. Louis to Rejkavec to Krakow, stay a few days, then on to Lithuania.

We are gtting st. louis directo tIceland next spring. Yay!

Ocinfo

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Re: First class travel in Europe, frugally
« Reply #20 on: October 15, 2017, 02:17:12 PM »
I fell in love with Krakow and want to go back.  I should add Romania to my list (I hope to travel to a new country, for two weeks at least once every year, from the time my son is finished with school until I retire.  After I retire, I want to travel even more.)

I'm glad to hear positives about Krakow. i want to use a Polish city to leap off into a Baltic states tour. I am thinking this plane sequence:

St. Louis to Rejkavec to Krakow, stay a few days, then on to Lithuania.

We are gtting st. louis directo tIceland next spring. Yay!

I too spent a few days in Krakow in late August. It far exceeded my expectations and I’ve recommended it to others who have traveled a decent amount and are looking for slightly off the beaten path places. It’s a great city and an even better value.

We had a new Airbnb (whole apartment) for $50 per night, a liter of beer was $3-4 bucks and whole meals (for 2) at good restaurants were under $20 including drinks. I might use it as a base at some point for some extended travel in Eastern/Central Europe.


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