12 December 2017

Around the world in R30k – First stop Europe

My Money Matters |

Saint Augustine once said, “The world is a book and those who don’t travel read only one page.” These days, travel is even more of a pleasure and adventure. But, let’s be honest, with the volatile South African rand, it can also get expensive.

Which is why we decided to hunt down the destinations that still give you the best bang for your buck, or even, a little ra-ra for your rand. In this series of articles, we’re travelling the globe to find the most budget-friendly destinations, one continent at a time. So pack your bags, because we’re starting with Europe.

The best, and cheapest, of Europe.

Of course, travelling Europe means having to deal with the euro and, at the time of writing, the euro sat at R16.11. And that’s changing every day. Fortunately, there are ways to make your rand go further. One way, is to plan ahead and buy your currency at times when the rand is strong. For more on this, visit https://blog.absa.co.za/tips-make-international-travel-easier/

Another way is to visit places that offer the best value for money. Which ones are those? Well, read on. We’ve found you a selection of dream destinations that aren’t a budgeting nightmare.

First, a little fine print, R30 000 (€1862) is for one person, travelling with someone, so we will be working out how long you can stay in a country for that amount.

Budapest – A tale of two cities.

Budapest is made up of two historic cities – Buda and Pest, that are located on either side of the Danube River in Hungary, and connected by the iconic Szechenyi Chain Bridge.

Why we love Budapest

Budapest is a city rich in history with architecture dating back to Roman times. At the time, those bath-loving Romans were drawn to its thermal springs which are, still today, one of its biggest attractions. From the old-world charm of the cobbled streets and the breathtaking castles, cathedrals and museums, to the beauty of the Danube river and the charming, authentic restaurants, there is much to keep you occupied when you are on a budget.

How to get the best bang for your buck

Eating out – Any seasoned traveller knows the rule of thumb for any holiday – stay away from the touristy spots as they tend to charge like a wounded bull. In Budapest, that means avoid the Vaci Utca pedestrian street. Instead, duck into the side streets for the places where the locals eat. According to the website www.expatistan.com, on average, a beer will cost €1.6, a glass of wine is just over €1, a cocktail is about €5, a Big Mac combo meal will cost €4.8 and a full course meal out for two with wine will set you back €32.

Site-seeing – Honestly, the whole of Budapest is a tourist treat, so you can spend a very rewarding morning just walking along the Danube. But, if you want to do a few touristy things, there are several free walking tours, that will let you see the history behind the façade. Alternatively, you can visit The Cave Church and St. Stephen’s Cathedral for free, as well as the breathtaking gardens of the Royal Palace, although entrance to the museums at the Palace will cost you.

Thermal Springs – Budget or not, the springs are a must-see. There are 5 baths of which Kiraly is the cheapest, although it is showing its age. In its defense, however, it was started in 1565. Find out more about the baths here.

Getting around – Budapest has efficient and low-cost public transport, including bus, metro, trolleybus, tram, suburban railway lines, and boat services. So, no need for expensive taxis or car hire.

Accommodation – When on a budget, we recommend using services like Airbnb and Bookings.com to find affordable self-catering apartments. Not only are you able to find the perfect room to suit your needs but, if you are travelling with an odd number of people, such as 3, they are most often charged per apartment, not per person, which saves the third person from being penalised. Plus, you can cook your own meals and save a fortune.

Your budget at a glance

This is based on one person’s expenses, travelling as a couple.

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Greece is the word.

Make no mistake, Greece can be expensive. If, for example, you stay in all the finest hotels and dine out for every meal, R30k won’t get you very far. If, however, you do it the right way, you can have an amazing, but affordable, time.

Why we love Greece

You cannot visit Greece without spending time on one of the islands. All the photos you see of white buildings and blue sea…that’s the islands. So this budget is designed to give you a couple of days in Athens, followed by an island paradise.

The islands of Greece are as idyllic as you would imagine. Endless beaches, the bluest sea you’ll see anywhere and charming restaurants make it a perfect place to relax and marvel at how wonderful life can be. Depending on which island you go to, there is also an incredible nightlife.

How to get the best bang for your buck

Eating out – The food in Greece is, predictably, delicious. If you don’t hit the expensive tourist spots, it can also be affordable. A budget lunch will cost between €5 and €10. A sit-down dinner will be between €10 and €15. Local beer is €4.50, imported beer is €5. A bottle of house wine will set you back between €6 and €8. A McMeal will cost you €6.

Site-seeing – Athens is all about the history. The Acropolis is a must and will set you back €14.12. There is also a new Acropolis museum that costs €5.88. But if you’re only going to do one museum while there, it has to be The National Archeological Museum of Athens. It too, is €5.88.

The Islands – There are 6000 islands in Greece, so it is important to do your homework on which island you want to visit.

Beach holiday: Crete, Naxos, Milos, Paros.

Enjoying the beauty: Santorini, Crete.

Romance: Santorini.

University-Aged Partying: Ios.

20 to 30-Something Partying: Mykonos.

Family holiday: Naxos.

Getting around – Once you arrive at Athens airport you can hop on a Metro or bus. To the city centre, this will cost €11.76 and €5.88 respectively. If you hate dragging your luggage around, a taxi will cost upwards of €45. Once in Athens, make use of public transport. A single trip on the Metro is €1.40 and a day pass is €4.

There are three ways to get to the islands – plane, ferry and high speed ferry. A plane will get you there the fastest but it is expensive. Plus, there’s nothing quite like a ferry ride over the azure sea to get you in the island mood. However, depending on which island you go to, a ferry can take a while. Ios, for example is a 13-hour trip. High speed ferry is by far the best way. The cost of ferry from Athens to Santorini: On the Blue Star ferry it costs €38 for economy; On the High speed ferry it’s €60. Flying costs €120 and takes 45 mins. The High speed ferry takes 5 hrs.

Accommodation – If you’re young, carefree and would prefer to spend your money on entertainment rather than accommodation, hostels are always a good option. These can range between €15 and €30, depending on whether you’re in a dorm or a semi-private room. For those who prefer something more private, self-catering apartments through service providers like Airbnb are very budget-friendly. You can get a good place for between R435 (€27) and R572 (€35.5) for two people, per night, in Athens. The islands are pricier. A spot in Santorini will cost between R715 (€44.5) and R854 (€53) for two people, per night.

Your budget at a glance

This is based on one person’s expenses, travelling as a couple.

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Lisbon Portugal – The unsung hero of western Europe

 It is Western Europe’s most affordable capital and masterfully combines the best of modern Europe with old-world charm.

Why we love Lisbon

Think cobblestone streets, beautiful palaces (and a castle or two), incredible architecture, cheerful and trendy restaurants, and an exciting nightlife. But the best thing about Lisbon is the friendly, welcoming locals.

How to get the best bang for your buck

When to travel – As with all popular European cities, it’s best to travel to Lisbon out of season if you want to avoid crowds and inflated prices. A good time is late Spring (April/May) or early Autumn (September/early October).

Eating out – If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll love Lisbon. Lisbon is close to the coast and seafood is not only abundant and fresh, but very affordable. An average bottle of wine or a beer in a restaurant will set you back €10 and €3 and, in a supermarket, will cost €3 and €1. A light meal in a café will cost about €4-5. Dinner, with a glass of wine, will cost about €25 – €30.

Accommodation – Although the real savings of Lisbon, as compared to other Western Europe destinations, happen at the restaurants or when enjoying entertainment, accommodation is still reasonable. Turning to our helpful friends at Airbnb, a budget apartment for two will cost between R451 (€28) and R800 (€50) per night.

Site-seeing – There is a lot to see in Lisbon so, if you are on a budget, make a shortlist of your absolute have-to-see-or-else-you-will-die places. The quaint number 28 tram is an inexpensive way to view the entire city. A single ticket costs €1.45 when purchased from the ticket machines in the metro or €2.90 when bought from the driver. The Museu Berardo is the best free museum in Lisbon, with a selection of 1,000 pieces of contemporary and modern art. An entire trip to Lisbon can be had without paying for any entrance fees as churches are all free and many state buildings are free on Sundays. But if you do want to go to some of the places that do charge, prices range between €2.50 for the Museu Sao Roque and €8.50 for the Castelo de São Jorge.  

Also on your list, should be day trips to Sintra and Cascais. Sintra is a beautiful hillside town. It has castles, palaces, large estates hidden among the trees and more. Getting there takes 40 minutes by train and a round trip costs €4.50. Cascais is a quaint seaside town with trendy boutiques and awesome restaurants. It costs €4.30 return by train.

Getting around: Lisbon is a city that was meant to be explored by foot, with narrow alleys inaccessible to taxis or buses. The only real transport cost is the tram to Belem and train to Sintra and Cascais. If you do want to use public transport, buy a Viva Viagem card you will save on each public transit ticket.

Your budget at a glance

This is based on one person’s expenses, travelling with another.

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Of course, if you really want to be budget friendly, you could just send your money overseas instead of you. Sure, you won’t have the awesome photos but you will have a nice sum to tap into across the ocean. For investing offshore, visit:  https://blog.absa.co.za/offshore-savings-makes-sense/?doing_wp_cron=1512547400.1084599494934082031250

For more reading on affordable holidays, we found the following sites interesting:

http://www.travelstart.co.za
theculturetrip.com

Disclaimer: The advice contained on this blog is for general purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances, objectives or financial needs. Accordingly, readers are advised to seek appropriate advice from licensed professionals prior to making any investment, or taking up a financial product or service.

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