Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cost: Surprisingly Close to Budget in Spain, Morocco, Italy

We know that everyone spends differently, and a budget can be extremely variable; however, after leaving an area, we want to provide some perspective on the cost associated with staying there for anyone interested in doing a similar trip.  Our budget of $100 - $150/day is for 2 people and does not include the $10,000 round-the-world flights (plus trip insurance) already paid for.  The budget also does not account for the bills we are continuing to pay at home.  Our budget allows for a comfortable, low-to-mid-range lodging in hostels or budget hotels with private bath, meals/drinks, use of public transportation, and cost to do some sightseeing and/or activities.  As foodies, we are not depriving ourselves from eating and drinking whatever and whenever we want to, although we are usually focused on finding budget, local cuisine.  Most of the time, breakfast seems to be included in the cost of lodging, so we are paying for 1-2 meals/day. An article titled, "Set Your Daily Number" by the veteran travel bloggers from Married With Luggage confirms that a daily average is a simple strategy for setting and meeting a budget.  We've got in the habit of taking a few minutes to record our daily expenditure so we can make small adjustments along the way.

To get around these countries, we incurred quite a bit of transportation cost by way of buses, ferries (not as cheap as we hoped), and airfare (fastest, but expensive).  We also expected to pay more in lodging due to high season, and we assumed food would not be as cheap as South America.  So, all-in-all, Western Europe was not budget-friendly.  As we were recording our expenses, we cringed at the budget-blowing figures; however, we were pleasantly surprised to find that we ended up very close to meeting our $150/day budget, all thanks to our friends who let us stay at their condo in Spain and home in Morocco, giving us a 10-day reprieve on lodging expenses.  With the huge savings on lodging, we came out to $155/day instead of ~$200/day!

Overall, we traveled all 3 countries for a total of $2800 over an 18-day period, or $155/day - only $5/day above our budget limit.  Not bad.  

Spain & Italy: Euro (€1 = USD$1.25)
Morocco: Dirham (1 MAD = USD$0.11)

Bus is always the cheapest way to travel. The downside is, it takes forever to get anywhere so if you're in a hurry or traveling long distances, it's not the best choice.  Trains cost more than buses, and it should get you to your destination faster, but not necessarily.  It's usually more comfortable and a direct route.  We were surprised at the expense of ferries.  We were expecting costs similar to say, the Washington State ferry system, but no.  Ferries still beat airfare, and what other option is there for crossing the water anyway?  Exactly.  But ultimately, even we caved a couple of times and went with the more costly air travel, just to shave off a few days of travel.  We took the bus and ferry from Spain to Morocco, but we ended up flying back to Madrid on RyanAir.  We also flew EasyJet from Madrid to Venice, Italy to save us from traveling several days through France.  

We heard through the grapevine that these European budget airlines are notorious for charging extra for everything: having to print boarding passes at the airport, baggage check-in (and they are very strict with the size/weight of the one carry-on...and they mean only one...) food/drinks on board, etc.  The trick is, when booking the flights, they will charge you for everything by default, unless you unclick all the options...tricky.  

The 2 flights were a total of $542 for the 2 of us; the ferry from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco cost $134 for 2 people. All other costs were related to bus or taxi for a total of $960, which was 35% of our total expenses for this part of our trip.  

Total $480 for 8 days of lodging that we paid for ($60/night).  We were able to find a hostel in Madrid for less than $60/night in a great location, but with shared bathrooms/showers and no air-conditioning.  In Venice, the best we could find was $90/night in Mestre, which was about a 10-minute bus ride across the water from Venice.  Staying in Venice would've cost over $200/night.  

Total $900 or $50/day.  This is about average.  We sometimes cooked in at the condo and apartment, and sometimes splurged on a nice 3-course dinner with a bottle of wine.  

DRINKS (bottled water, beer, wine, soda, etc.)
Total $180 or $10/day.  We continue to be surprised at how inexpensive wine is. A glass of house wine is only a couple of dollars. Why is wine-by-the-glass so expensive in the States?!  

We actually spent more on admissions fees and attractions than we had in the past.  They were all worthwhile.  We had $58 for museum entrance fees in Madrid, $34 to get into The Alhambra in Granada, and $45 for camel rides in Tangier for 3 peeps plus a hefty tip!

Only a total of $25 this time, thanks to a washer at the condo and apartment; and   hand washing our clothes the other days. The $25 was for a new shirt.

None!  Hoping to keep it this way.  Although our dog, Ogi, is making up for it by needing a tooth extraction by the doggie oral surgeon.  That will be anyone's budget breaker.

Total $84.  It was much more economical to send postcards from these countries in comparison to South America.  Akiko also bought a few original artwork in Tangier and a Murano glass heart pendant to replace the one she broke in Venice.

Total $31.  So far, none of the ATMs have been charging a ATM usage fee, which is great.  The $31 is the standard 1% foreign withdrawal fee we are getting charged by the bank, but that's it.  

As we head across Central Europe and the Balkan States, we don't really know what to expect with lodging, transportation, etc., but we think we will hover above our daily budget until we get to Thailand...then, everything will be very cheap!  So, moving forward, we're not going to worry too much about our expenses over the next month and just enjoy exploring these parts of the world rarely seen.