Many Filipinos think that you need to be a millionaire to travel to Europe. I used to think the same thing.
But the truth is you don’t have to be rich to do so. You just need discipline and tons of research to make the trip possible.
We wanted to spend as little money as possible on this trip. We knew this meant sharing a bathroom with 10 other travelers and eating cold food with a plastic fork, but I really did not mind. I still had the best time of my life during my 24-day stay in Europe.
Planning and budgeting
We found really cheap round-trip flights on Saudi Airlines via www.skyscanner.com for Manila-Paris-Manila last July 2013 and booked them right away, afraid that the fares would get higher by the day. At that time it was only $696 (about P29,000).
We hadn’t applied for the Schengen Visa then, but we figured it was worth the risk. This also gave us ample time to save up for the trip, which we booked for March 2014.
We started researching for places to stay online via www.booking.com. These were mostly hostels where the cheapest option would be a single bed in a 10-bed dorm room.
Since there were four of us traveling, we opted to get our own room and bunk together.
The rooms cost between 8-25 euros per person per night depending on which city, Paris being the most expensive and Barcelona the cheapest. All in all, accommodations cost around P17,500 per person for the whole trip. We did not make any deposits when we booked our rooms, so not having a Schengen Visa yet was not a problem. We could cancel the reservations any time before the trip without any charges.
The Schengen Visa application can be done three months before the trip, so we made sure to book an appointment at the earliest date possible (December 2013) so we could start booking our inter-country flights to avail of the cheaper fares.
After months of saving up and securing all the necessary documents, we went to the French Embassy in Makati to apply for the Schengen Visa. Five days later, our passports with approved visa stamps were ready for pick up.
Once we secured our visas, we were free to make actual plans for the trip. It was overwhelming and frustrating at times, but really exciting as well. We scoured the Internet for the cheapest flights possible and booked inter-country flights on www.easyjet.com. Airfares cost between 30-90 euros, about P2,000-P5,600 one way.
Eight months after we booked our flights, we were finally off to Europe!
Five years ago, I didn’t think it was possible, but I made it happen. We saw the Eiffel Tower in Paris, roamed the gardens of Versailles, ate gelato in Rome and Florence despite the cold weather, touched the remains of the Berlin Wall in Berlin, saw the magnificent artwork of Gaudi in Barcelona, walked the famous Red Light District in Amsterdam, and made snow angels in the Swiss Alps.
In Switzerland, we had a friend who hosted our stay so our expenses there were minimal.
For our meals, we bought a lot of groceries in the supermarkets—cheaper than eating out. We ate out occasionally, but we did not dine in any fancy restaurants.
The amount spent on food was around 40 euros per city, about P2,500 for three days. We also bought souvenirs (chocolates, mostly) in these supermarkets, which was cheaper than buying from a souvenir shop.
For getting around the city, we bought city three-day transport passes, which gave us unlimited rides on trains, buses, and trams. These passes cost between 16-53 euros.
We joined free group walking tours on Sandemans New Europe; tipping was optional. We enjoyed these tours a lot so we actually wanted to give the tour guides money for their efforts. As for the museums, we just took pictures outside most of them because the entrance fees were a bit steep at 10-18 euros each.
We traveled for more than three weeks across Europe, but I still felt like the trip was too short. Europe is a grand, exciting and beautiful continent, and we barely even scratched the surface.
We spent less than P120,000 each for everything. We stayed about three days in each city, which clearly was not enough, but we wanted to see as many cities as possible with the limited time that we had.
Note: This is a modified version of the author’s blog post on thirdworldpassport.wordpress.com.