The world on $100 a day (part 3)

This item appears on page 40 of the October 2018 issue.

 My room at the hotel in Finisterre — compara-tive luxury for a pilgrim. Photo by Don Horel
Pat Ove of Aurora, Colorado, wrote, "There must be many budget travelers who are having exciting adventures discovering the world on $100 a day [not including overseas airfare]. I would love to read about their journeys."

Regarding traveling outside of the US on $100 a day (excluding international air), 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.

This is the third part of a 4-part series.


 

My husband and I visited Dubai, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, one of the most expensive cities in the world, in May 2015 and spent under $100 a day per person. Our daily budget included admission prices to museums and other attractions. (We use our memberships with AARP and AAA, or just the fact that we are senior citizens, to get discounts everywhere.)

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Dubai Airport Hotel (Oppo Dubai Int'l Airport Terminal 3; www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/hotels/us/en/dubai/dxbga/hoteldetail) for $55* per night, breakfast included.

It was about a 10-minute walk from the Emirates Metro Station, where we purchased day passes for $5 each. The hotel was clean and safe but definitely no-frills. (I always pack small bottles of shampoo and lotion.)

In SINGAPORE in September 2010, another budget hotel we enjoyed was the YWCA Fort Canning Lodge (6 Fort Canning Lodge Rd.; phone +65 6338 4222, booking.ywcafclodge.org.sg).

It's a bargain for Singapore, currently listing rooms for as low as $83 a night, and is within easy walking distance of the metro, shopping and well-priced restaurants. (If traveling in pairs, even if the hotel is running close to $90 a day, that's only $45 per person.)

We enjoyed several midday meals at the Tiong Bahru Food Centre (30 Tiong Bahru Rd., Singapore). A hearty lunch for two cost under $15.

We have never had any major problems or safety issues when staying in lesser-known hotels. We've had a few inconveniences, such as burned-out lightbulbs or slow-draining sinks, but nothing that will keep us away from the many opportunities afforded by budget travel.

We actually prefer to stay in budget hotels, not only for the cost savings but for the adventure. We have met so many different people from many countries and cultures.

We start our online research for a destination by looking for hotels that are near public transportation and/or the sites we will be visiting. When we are planning travel and looking for the best hotel rates, we usually go in the off-season (reasonable weather permitting). We also check for events and holidays in the region that might raise rates, avoiding those time periods.

We look for breakfast-inclusive hotels or those with a microwave and refrigerator in each room. I take teabags and instant coffee in zip-lock bags in the likely event they are not provided.

We have our main meal at midday, which is cheaper than paying evening dinner prices. We never eat at American-style restaurants while overseas. We check out where the locals go and enjoy very good food at very low prices.

To save money, we purchase small cases of water at local groceries rather than buy high-priced individual bottles at tourist sites.

We also usually purchase wine at local stores or in the airport upon arrival. (The cost of one glass of wine in a restaurant can be equivalent to the price of an entire bottle.) We enjoy our wine after our midday meal as well as in the evening along with small snacks.

Travel is quite possible at this price. It does require adjusting to the environment in a hotel and more adventurous eating, but that's what makes travel so much fun.

Carolyn von Kutzleben
Naples, FL

* In June 2018, the Holiday Inn Express Dubai Airport Hotel's website listed room prices starting at $84 a night.




I do my traveling on the cheap. I am retired military and fly internationally aboard US Air Force planes for free, frequently staying in hostels. A cheap way to travel that I have found is to volunteer in ESL (English as a Second Language) programs, where visitors who speak English go on outings with local students wishing to learn English. Only English is spoken.

There are two volunteer ESL companies in Madrid: Vaughan Systems (volunteers.grupovaughan.com) and Diverbo (www.diverbo.com); the latter does ESL volunteering in Germany as well. A third company, Angloville (angloville.com), has volunteer opportunities throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

How does it work? On Angloville's website, for example, the dates and locations of upcoming programs are listed. You sign up for one, and if you're sent an email in return confirming your spot, you meet the other volunteer visitors on a Saturday for a city tour and lunch (or in a bar in the evening). On Sunday morning, the volunteers and the group of students all ride a bus to a resort in the countryside, conversing in English throughout the activities. It's about a 14- or 16-hour day. On Friday afternoon, you ride the bus back to the city.

During the time you are volunteering, the room and food are free. (Angloville now takes a $69 deposit when signing up, but it is returned to you when you arrive.) It's the students who pay the ESL companies. Students told me that Vaughan Systems costs them more than Angloville. With Vaughan, I had a private room; with Angloville, you likely will share a room.

I have participated with all three companies, in Spain, Poland, Romania, Germany and Hungary. On a trip in 2016, I did a 1-week ESL volunteer program in Budapest before flying to Tel Aviv for two weeks on my own, then flying to Barcelona, where I spent a few days. (The cost of both flights totaled $218.) From Barcelona, I took a bus to Madrid for another week's ESL program.

From there, I took a train and bus to Rota, about 50 miles northwest of Gibraltar, arriving at the US naval air station just after noon, and just after dark the same day I was aboard a flight to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.

Gary Ramsey
Kerrville, TX




Don Horel standing on Ponte Áspera, a Roman bridge on the Camino de Santiago, just outside Sarria, Spain.
I made a special trip to SPAIN, April 18-May 22, 2015, when I was 65, taking an 11-night cruise from Miami to Barcelona, walking 13 days in northern Spain and staying in a couple more cities before flying home. The total cost, including transportation, averaged well below $100 per day.

I boarded the Epic of Norwegian Cruise Line (866/234-7350, www.ncl.com) for my first transatlantic cruise, a repositioning cruise moving the ship to Barcelona for the summer. I had booked a balcony room, with zero single supplement, at a cost of $1,230, including tips and other expenses on board.

After stopping at Funchal, Madeira (a taxi from the pier to town and back cost me 12), and transiting the Straits of Gibraltar, the ship arrived in Barcelona.

I was in the city for only two days and one night but made the most of it. For 85 (roughly $100), I stayed in the Gran Hotel Havana (Gran Via Corts Catalanes 647, Barcelona; phone +34 933 417 000, www.granhotelhavana.com/en), just five short blocks from the Plaça de Catalunya. I used a 2-day Metro pass (14) to visit as many of the sights as I could and to get to the train station on the second day.

I left Barcelona on the night train for Sarria. Having reserved a first-class cabin two months in advance, I was rewarded with a fare of $105 for the 13-hour journey. My cabin included a bed and a private toilet, sink and shower but no meals. There was a small café on board.

The reason I went to Spain was to walk the last 116 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. From France, the Camino crosses northern Spain west to Santiago de Compostela in the Galicia region.

Typical sleeping accommodations in an albergue on the Camino de Santiago. Photo by Don Horel

After arriving in Sarria, I had my suitcase (carrying all my cruise ship clothes) forwarded the 72 miles to Santiago by a company called XACOTRANS (phone +34 982 639 300, www.xacotrans.com/?lang=en).

For 12, my double-suiter roller bag was safely delivered within two days to Casa Ivar, a parcel-and-luggage storage business near the Cathedral of Santiago de Composte la. (Casa Ivar's owner operates an informative pilgrimage-route forum at www.caminodesantiago.me.)

On the Camino, I carried only a backpack with my walking gear. (XACOTRANS also will transport bags from hotel to hotel on the Camino for only 3 per stage.)

While walking, I never spent more than 40 a day (and it was less than 30 on many a day). My expenses included restaurant and café meals, drinks, snacks, a clean bed (and a shared bathroom) each night and, with occasional visits to a pharmacy, creams and footpads.

Every café had a 3-course Pilgrim's Meal (9-10), including soup or salad, meat, fish or pasta and dessert. Every meal came with a bottle of local wine, one bottle for each diner. (Outside of Santiago, they were full bottles that probably had been refilled in the kitchen. In Santiago, I was served half-bottles of wine. It was always drinkable and at times outstanding.)

While I stayed mostly in al bergues (hostel-type accommodations reserved only for pilgrims and costing 6-12), there were a lot of small hotels with private rooms and en suite bath that charged less than $50 for two per night.

Walking from Sarria to Santiago, I moved slowly up and down the hills on dedicated trails and back roads through some of the most beautiful country I have seen. Galicia was verdant and reminded me of Sonoma and Mendocino counties in northern California.

It was a real adventure meeting not only friendly local Spaniards but pilgrims from all over the world and stopping for meals in bars and an occasional grocery store. I arrived in Santiago on Ascension Day, with a large festival, music and cannon fire.

I stayed at Seminario Menor (Avda. Quiroga Palacios s/n 15703; phone +34 881 031 768, www.alberguesdelcamino.com/en/santiago/albergue-seminario-menor), a hundreds-of-years-old former seminary near the Cathedral, for only 13 a night for a private room with the bath down the hall.

The meals in Santiago (11-16 for a 3-course seafood dinner with wine), while more expensive than those in the countryside, were of a higher quality.

Don Horel's arrival at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, the end of the pilgrimage.

After a few days in Santiago, I traveled by bus (25 round trip) a little over 90 minutes to the village of Finisterre on the Atlantic coast. I stayed at Hotel Fin da Terra e do Camiño (C/ Alfredo Saralqui, 15, Finisterre), a small and extremely clean and quiet hotel a half-block from the beach (10 for a private room). It had a complete kitchen on each floor for guests.

I did not book that hotel in advance. When I arrived, I walked around the village looking for a place to stay and asked a young lady if she knew of an albergue or pension. She pulled a brochure for the hotel out of her purse. She was a friend of the elderly owner and was heading to meet the bus from Santiago, hoping to get someone to stay at the hotel.

After returning to Santiago the next day, I traveled by train to Madrid (50 one way, first class). At 149 mph, the train was FAST.

I stayed three nights in a one-bedroom Airbnb apartment (87 a night) not far from the Atocha train station. The apartment had a complete kitchen, laundry, terrace, cable TV and Wi-Fi. Its central location made it easy to get around the city by Metro (12 tickets for 12.20).

I ate at small cafés and bars, with the usual cost of about 15 per meal. I made breakfast in the apartment for a couple euros. On my last morning, a taxi (30) whisked me to the airport for my flights home.

Altogether, over 35 days, I experienced a relaxing ocean crossing, walked part of a 1,200-year-old pilgrimage route through beautiful countryside and visited Barcelona, Madrid, Santiago de Compostela and a small coastal village, all for a total of $3,153, or about $90 per day (or $77 per day over 25 days if excluding the cruise and international airfare). I experienced a great vacation in one of the most beautiful corners of the world, without breaking the bank!

If you have any questions, you can write me at donhorel1@gmail.com.

Don Horel
Thousand Palms, CA


The Botafumerio (censer) in the Cathedral in Santiago, Spain. Photo by Don Horel

Don Horel beside a Camino marker just outside Aruza, 40 kilometers from Santiago, Spain. Photo by Australian pilgrim Garry