An Online Primer for Budget Exploration
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IV. A Tale of Four Travelers: Daily Costs
Let's compare the average daily costs, per person, for the big three items (eating, sleeping and getting around). Travels are in the same cities in western Europe, from Scandinavia to Italy, during the summer high season. To be safe, I have trended the prices a wee bit high. Your results will vary.
Note 1: Remember that these are per person daily costs, but they do not represent a daily budget. Incidentals are not included, and rail passes are paid before departure and thus do not represent funds needed each day.
Note 2: Double occupancy is cheaper per person at guesthouses than a single, and often in campgrounds, but usually does not matter at hostels. Also, these are averages through several countries, and are for the most general estimating purposes only.
For Pete, the locker costs him roughly one dollar each time he opens it; in the morning and evening.
The campgrounds average between $12 and $26 per night, for Carla and Calvin together, and they tend to stay in the nicest, most central camping areas. Their transportation cost reflects their occasional use of long-distant trains and local buses. They almost always prepare their own meals.
Hanna's transportation costs includes the city travel passes she usually buys. Her breakfast is provided by the hostel so the total is for two meals. Hostels generally cost between $12 and $22 per night, and she often stays in independent backpacker hostels. Sometimes the backpackers are cheaper, sometimes the youth hostels are full. She has also found the big city hostels can fill quickly, so she either books ahead or stays in the suburbs. To explore hostel prices, she poked around on the website http://www.hostelz.com/, which has information, some prices, reviews and photos.
For Gertie and Gabi, our big spenders, transport includes the regular, one-month Eurail pass (about $32.50/day), buses, and occasional taxis. The guesthouse does not always offer breakfast; they usually try to prepare their own breakfast and lunch to save a few dollars. Depending on the country, guesthouse prices range between $30 and $65 for the pair, but $30 is a reasonable, per-person average. G&G save a bit on occasion when they take a couchette on the night train, but they usually blow it some other way. Obviously, the rail pass whacks their daily budget: they might be better off, depending on where they want to go, by purchasing point-to-point tickets. But they enjoy the convenience of the rail pass and for them, it is worth the expense.
As you can see, transportation is a big part of the budget, and a regular rail pass factored in as a daily cost knocks things way out of kilter. As we mentioned in the second chapter, there are a variety of rail passes available. During your planning phase, get some point-to-point train ticket prices from a travel agency for destinations you wish to visit, and see which will work out best for you. One rather confusing site at which to compare point to point rail tickets is at http://meleterc.com/Page655.html. Again, rail pass charges are paid prior to departure and will not show up in the daily budgeting of Hanna and G&G, whereas the Happy Campers need to figure in long distance costs to their overall daily budgets.
Chances are your costs will be in line with Hanna and the Guesthouse sisters. Most people have a few splurges as well, such as a nice hotel or fancy meal. These distort a daily average and have not been accounted for here. These figures also do not factor in such basics as postage and film, both of which are relatively expensive. If you are prone to splurges, keep them in mind while planning your budget. Remember, take half as much luggage and twice as much money.
Shoot, we are having such a great time, why not stay awhile? The next chapter will discuss how to make it happen.
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