$9660.53, to be exact.
When I went on exchange I knew I did not want to come home with debt. And I really hoped to have extra cash left, since I came home mid-July and would have two weeks before my mother gave me allowance for August.
In those two weeks, I would be busy going out to meet friends and that’s gonna cost money. Even if we’re drinking $40 beer towers or $35 bottles of red wine. Remember to factor this when budgeting.
Here’s the breakdown:
Living Expenses (while in Istanbul): this included my monthly rent of €150 (S$240) for 4.3 months, all meals (including eating out, which we did quite often), groceries, alcohol, clubbing, shopping and taking cabs.
My biggest trick was picking a cheaper country to go for exchange. If you compared my living expenses to my travel expenses, you can tell that Istanbul was a big money-saver for me. We did try to be thrifty, but we were certainly comfortable.
- Cook if you can. If you can’t, learn. Groceries are often cheaper than eating out, and definitely healthier. We ate out less than we cooked, but our groceries cost less than what we spent eating out?
- Live with your friends so that you can split rent and grocery costs.
- Take advantage of student discounts. Our host uni gave us museum cards that either gave us free entries to historical sites. If the museum card was not valid at a certain attraction (e.g. Galata Tower, Dolmabahçe Palace), our student cards entitled us to a 60-80% discount.
- Take the public transport. This is a no-brainer, but I just wanted to express gratitude that we got to pay student prices (half of adult fares) on public transport in Istanbul (polytechnic and university don’t enjoy student fares in Singapore).
Eastern European countries are usually very affordable to live in. It will be expensive when eating out in the rest of Europe, but I found groceries just slightly more expensive than it was in Turkey.
Term travel: We did not travel that much during the semester (because timetable structure was similar to Singapore; regular weekly classes instead of completing courses in a block and having a block of school-free days for travel (e.g. Sweden). I visited Cappadocia and Ephesus/Pamukkale in Turkey, spending S$341.9 and S$254.74 respectively. I still regret not traveling to the eastern parts of Turkey, which we should have allocated another weekend for.
- We travelled to Cappadocia on a tour arranged by our school – meaning bulk discounts and safety in numbers.
- We booked an Ephesus/Pamukkale trip with our school as well, but it didn’t go through because not enough people signed up. So the 6 of us went on our own. Kudos to Fabien – whose family owned a vacation home and a car in that area. We only had to pay for our hotel stay and shuttles in Pamukkale. Thanks Fab for saving our wallets!
Another trip we did was during spring break – London (6 days), Paris (3 days), Amsterdam (1 day). For this I blew S$1.3k. Wew.
This trip humbled me. Put me in my damn place. Not so yaya papaya (Singlish for ‘arrogant’) now, am I?
To be fair, these are three of the most expensive cities in the EU. I did try very hard to cut down on spending, though.
- Crash with a friend. I am so lucky that Eri has a house in Westminster and she loves me enough to house me. Accommodation is expensive in London and locations might not be convenient/safe.
- Walking in London is really easy since it’s mostly flat (unlike Istanbul) and many attractions are within walking distance of each other. Plan your day wisely and you’ll save quite a few pounds not taking the Tube.
- You can also cycle but I didn’t try this. I’m not a very experienced cyclist, and was too scaredy-cat to cycle on the roads.
- London’s Tube is soooo expensive but thankfully Paris has the option of bulk purchasing 10 tickets for a discount. Look for a “carnet” when purchasing from the machine. A single ticket is €1.80 but a carnet of 10 tickets €14.50. This applies to a lot of other European cities (e.g. Barcelona’s carnet is €9.95 while singles are €1.80) as well.
- Y’all already know that I preach the overnight bus gospel. It saves you money on accommodation as well as daylight. It’s very tiring though, but I have some tips on how to make these long journeys more comfortable.
Summer travel: This was the biggest expense of all, but I am not surprised. 6 weeks and 15 cities was draining on my spirit more than my wallet, to be very honest. It put into perspective whether I liked budget traveling, whether I would do it again.
But knowing that I did so many cities for so little was definitely thrilling. Only in retrospect, though. I’ll do a separate post for my summer travel because it’s already too long.
I’m also considering writing about luxury travel next time. I mean, planning for a big budget is still budget-setting, right? (;