The world on $100 a day (Part 1)

This item appears on page 28 of the August 2018 issue.

Casa Betania, our hotel in Cortona, was formerly a monastery.
Pat Ove of Aurora, California, wrote, “Reading Stanley Mui’s article about his 10-day trip to Guadalajara, Mexico, for less than $1,000 (June ’17, pg. 44) brought back many happy memories of the $100-a-day trips my husband and I took for 20 years.

There must be many budget travelers reading ITN who are having exciting adventures discovering the world on $100 a day. I would love to read about their journeys. (For purposes of this information request, and considering inflation, perhaps the total of $100 per day should not include overseas airfare.)” 

Regarding traveling outside of the US on $100 a day (excluding international airfare), ITN subscribers were asked to tell us how they did it and where and when they traveled, specifying modes of transport, types of accommodations used and how those were found plus any other budget-travel tricks. The tips rolled in, and we’re presenting the responses over a few months.


 

My sister and I left our husbands home to take care of our pets and gardens and went to explore ITALY on our own for two weeks in July 2014. The idea was to stay close to local life, use public transportation and try to speak the local language.

I had been to Europe many times on bus tours and river and sea cruises and always wanted to do it my way. It turned out that my way was much cheaper. We saved on housing, books, transportation and food. I can prove it, since I kept journals with our spending included.

I booked our hotels a month in advance on Booking.com, and we had a 2- or 3-night stay in each place. As an example, our cheapest hotel was in Cortona, the Casa Betania (Via G. Severini 50, Cortona, Tuscany; phone +39 0575 630 423, www.casaperferiebetania.com/en), located in a former monastery. (I just cannot miss the opportunity to taste the life of a nun!)

At 44 per night for a double room* and 3 a day in city taxes plus 8 for two per day for breakfast, the total was 110, which converted to only $131 for a 2-night stay.

Trattoria Dardano, the best place to eat in Cortona, Italy. Photo by Irina Stroup

As for food, breakfast was usually included in the hotel rate. For lunch and dinner, we enjoyed dishes in restaurants popular among locals but also visited farmers’ markets to buy fruit, tomatoes, bread and outstanding ham and cheese to consume in our room along with local beer or wine. We ate what we wanted and when we wanted.

Altogether, our two nights in Cortona, including bus tickets to get there from Arezzo, lunches, gelato, two wonderful dinners at Trattoria Dardano (www.trattoriadardano.com/en/home) and tickets to museums, cost us $275, which equaled $69 per person per day.

It helped our budget that my sister and I can walk for hours without being tired. We didn’t have to use taxis or buses inside any town in Tuscany.

However, to move from town to town, we had to purchase train or bus tickets or both and deal with travel information, schedule changes, etc., on our own. Searching ahead, online, for more convenient transportation was very helpful, saving us lots of time. Besides, making plans and getting ready for a trip is an enjoyable part by itself, using the Internet’s valuable flow of information combined with travel books.

In the past, on tours, it always bothered me when I had to rush after the guide, trying to capture every word and terrified about possibly getting lost. When you’re on your own and have books, you can stop, relax and enjoy and read about the place as many times as you want.

On our Italy trip, we didn’t pay for excursions, using maps and books instead. We spent six hours in the Uffizi Gallery (having purchased tickets online). When I went to the gallery a few years earlier on a city tour, we were allowed no more than 90 minutes to wander and see the art. I was not satisfied then.

Irina Stroup
Redding, CA



*In 2018, a double room at Casa Betania costs 44 (near $59) per night without bath or 48 ($64) with bath plus 1.50 per person per night in tax.

Traveling outside Europe may be less expensive, but my destinations are almost exclusively within Europe. Here are my methods for keeping costs in line.

In regard to lodgings, in Italy I stay in convents; information on convents in many Italian cities can be found on stpatricksamericanrome.org/index.php/resources/convent-accomodations. In England, I stay at B&Bs. In other cities, I search guidebooks (Rick Steves, Lonely Planet and Rough Guide) and on TripAdvisor.com.

I usually travel alone, but sharing a room would lower the daily price.

When it comes to food, I try to stay someplace that includes breakfast. If the breakfast is extensive, it could be my only meal of the day, supplemented by snacks from home. If not, I eat one other meal in the early afternoon.

Walking is my favorite pastime, and the price is right. Churches are filled with fabulous art and are mostly free. Most museums in London are free, and I check for free concerts in churches and other venues. However, having made the trip to enjoy the offerings of each destination, I also will pay to visit museums and attend concerts.

In reverse-chronological order, here are a few examples of my trips that cost less than $100 a day. (For each, I have used the exchange rate at the time I took the trip.)

In Rome, ITALY, Feb. 1-6, 2018, I stayed at the centrally located Instituto Il Rosario (via Sant’Agata dei Goti 10; phone +39 06 6792346, www.casailrosarioroma.it).

It cost 40 a night plus a city fee of 3.60 (or, total, about $54 per night). I averaged about 18 ($22) a day for lunch, the bus from/to the airport cost 9 ($11), and I spent 10 ($12.40) for the Galleria d’Arte Moderna and another 10 for donations and gelato.

My October 2017 trip to Toulouse, FRANCE, ended up costing about $100 per day. Hotel ibis Styles Toulouse Centre Gare (13 boulevard Bonrepos: phone +33 5 61 62 44 78, en.hotel-toulouse-france.com) cost 74.32 ($88), the airport shuttle cost 16 ($19), and I spent an average of $4 a day for food and $8 a day for concerts and museums. I happened to be there during their organ festival.

As for how I averaged $4 a day for food in Toulouse, I flew Wednesday and Thursday so did not buy food those days. Each of the next four days, I had a huge breakfast at the hotel, which had all kinds of offerings.

Still, I was planning to eat out some days but went sightseeing all day and never found a place I wanted to stop, so on Friday I had a beer in the hotel bar for $2.80 and snacks in the room. Saturday, another beer plus some cheese I had bought at a market for $1.50 along with toast they had in the bar (which was also the breakfast room).

Sunday and Monday, I had ice cream in the afternoon. I always travel with some nuts and trail mix to nibble on if I’m hungry in the evening.

In July of 2016, I visited Stockholm, SWEDEN, staying at Frey’s Hotel (Bryggargatan 12; phone +46 8 506 213 00, www.freyshotels.com/en), which cost SEK134.29 ($62) a night. Their huge breakfast fed me for the day, except for a gelato. Museums cost me a total of $23, and ferries and the airport bus added $34.

In Tallinn, ESTONIA, in 2015, I  went a bit over budget. Hotel Cru (Viru 8; phone +372 6117600, www.cruhotel.eu/eng) cost 75 ($85) a night, and I spent an average of $20 a day for museums and food.

A few other trips I took could have been done for under $100 a day. The exchange rate makes a difference, and some of my splurges could have been eliminated.

I wish Pat wonderful luck finding affordable adventures!

Helen Harper
Mill Valley, CA



was in Siem Reap, CAMBODIA, for six days in November 2017 and spent less than $100 a day. Here’s how I did it.

I booked the Regency Angkor Hotel (Vithei Charles de Gaulle, Phum Mondul III, Khum Slorkram, Siem Reap; phone +855 63 767 7005, www.regencyangkor.com) for six nights through Agoda.com for a total cost of $305. The hotel is about halfway between downtown and the Angkor Wat temple complex. I had a large single room, and breakfast was included in the price.

A single entry to Angkor Wat cost $37. I hired an off-duty police officer, whom I met at the former ticket office site, and paid him $20 for the day to be my driver. He picked me up at the hotel with a tuk-tuk and drove me to the four areas of the complex that I wanted to see. I had read a lot about Angkor Wat beforehand and knew where I wanted to go.

At the hotel, there were brochures for day tours. One to Nhumbai (www.nhumbai.com), a tourist village outside of Siem Reap, sounded interesting, so I had the hotel desk make arrangements for me. It lasted from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and cost $55. (Normally, the tour would only go if three people signed up, but they took me alone.) I had a guide and a driver.

At Nhumbai, locals are employed in traditional crafts, allowing families to make a sustainable income. I met women weaving and watched people making patches for roofs using reeds and wood. I also was taken to the rice fields, where I met a family who survived Pol Pot’s regime.

In a 2-story building, I helped make a traditional vegetable dish, which I had for lunch. Tasty! They also dressed me in a wedding outfit. Such bright colors!

On the huge TonlĂ© Sap Lake, the “Sunset Special” boat tour with Tara Tours (phone +855 92 957 765, www.taraboat.com), 3:30-7:30 p.m., included a buffet dinner and beverages for $38. We passed a floating village and made our way to the Queen Tara, which was anchored in the lake, where we had dinner and watched the sunset.

For transportation in Cambodia, a car to the airport cost $15, and tuk-tuks between the city and hotel cost $7 for three trips. Additional expenses were $50 for food and $30 cash for a Cambodian visa. The total cost for six days was $557, or $92.83 a day.

Rosemary McDaniel
Trenton, FL



Old-timers will remember Frommer’s 1957 groundbreaking book “Europe on $5 a Day.” Skeptics scoffed, but my wife and I, on our first international trip together, did just that — all over Europe and North Africa for six months in 1963 — with $1.25 a day each left over. That was then, when we were young.

Today, our favored formula for budget travel is shoulder- or off-season travel, self-drive, with top-rated B&Bs, picnic lunches, a nice restaurant dinner each day and senior pricing, all guided by TripAdvisor.com and Lonely Planet.

I hoped our 12-day March 2018 tour of IRELAND would be a good example, but Ireland proved to be quite an expensive place. Our daily cost was $120 each before factoring in international air.

If we had not crossed the Northern Ireland/Irish Republic border ($100 for eight days of special car insurance) and had driven a sensible 1,000 miles instead of the 1,775 miles we actually drove ($126 on gas for the extra miles), we would have cut our total cost from $2,884 for two to $2,658, or $111 per person a day. Closer, but still no cigar.

However, using the same strategy, our similar, 10-day/9-night tour of SICILY in February 2016 cost $76 per person a day, easily registering below the $100 goal.

We had help from a friendlier dollar/euro exchange rate while visiting a much cheaper region. We remember well several great 3-course meals for two with wine for 16 (near $18 at the time).

Our total cost in Sicily was $1,522 for two — $226 for nine days’ auto rental, $112 for 850 miles’ worth of gas (it was a new Toyota Yaris hybrid that delivered 50 mpg), $770 for lodging, $280 on meals, $44 for admissions to sites and $90, miscellaneous. Way to go!

Ron Carlson
Lakeland MN