Slow Travel in Europe

petfer

Dryer sheet wannabe
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We were able to obtain EU passports, now it is time to start planning our 2025 trip to Europe. For 6 months we would like to visit different regions/countries, find a base where we can slow travel from, enjoying the sights, local food and everything else, avoiding the tourist season as much as possible. First draft of our itinerary: March = Portugal/Spain. April = Italy. May = Greece. June = Switzerland/Germany. July = Ireland. August = Hungary/Transylvania. I know costs are not the same at various places, but trying to come up with some high level budget. So here it is, not including the roundtrip tickets to Europe and the travel health insurance for both of us, I wonder, if this is even possible for an average monthly budget of $3500. We are planning to take trains and public transportation and minimize car rental while we are there. I am hoping to find long term rentals to reduce our accommodation cost, keeping it below $1500. So is $2000 per month enough for food, travel expenses, tickets to sights, etc.? Do you have any suggestions or ideas for various places we could stay at each region?
 
Airbnb has some long term rental options. The prices tend to be quite a bit less than the nightly or weekly rate.

If you choose cities that have good train access (for day tripping) but not as touristic, you can save a lot. For example Bologna Is less expensive to stay in than Florence.
 
That's $66.66 per day for food at home and restaurants, entertainment, laundry, transportation and personal care. How many people are traveling? If two people, you can definitely do this in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece. It will be more difficult in Switzerland, Germany and Ireland. A few suggestions - Long term rentals definitely come with a big discount so try not to move around too frequently. Make sure your apartment has a kitchen and hopefully a washing machine. Cooking at home will help your budget stretch further. Find free days at museums and other sites. Eating out - lunches are a lot cheaper than dinner, and its the same food and experience. Getting a monthly or weekly transit pass can reduce your transportation expenses.
 
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I have been travelling full time for 4 years now. More than half of the time in Europe. I'm sorry, but I don't think your budget is realistic. The OP said "we", so I assume 2 people. In my experience you need lodging to be near bus lines so you can avoid car rentals. Car rentals are very expensive in Europe ($50/day and up, plus fuel is very expensive, more and more cities have parking fees, toll roads, etc). You will want to have a decent kitchen to avoid eating all meals out. And, a washing machine to do laundry. All this adds to the cost of the housing. $50/day (average for a month) seems to be about half of what it will actually cost. I would think $3000/month for housing would be a better budget number. Our housing cost between $86 and $177/night in Spain/Port/Greece/Switz/Ireland. We do opt for nicer lodging and often have a second bedroom.
We have found public transport in the city is fairly economical, but city to city is expensive -- unless you buy in advance (2 weeks or more). This isn't as easy as it sounds as you will want to take day trips from your home base. Taxi and Uber are costly and we avoid most of the time.
We spent 4 months in Portugal/Spain/Greece over 2023 and 2024 (so far). Yes, cafes and restaurants are cheaper than in the US, but not screaming bargains (exception wine and coffee). Food in the grocery stores was lower cost than the US, but not so much so that we were leaping with joy after every shopping trip.
We spent 3 months in Ireland in 2023. We had a car the entire time and I don't think Ireland has the infrastructure to support a month visit without a car. Unless you care to stay in the major cities - which would be fine, but not my idea of visiting Ireland. And Dublin, Belfast and Cork are as expensive as any other major European city. Eating out was surprisingly inexpensive in Ireland when in the rural areas.
We lived in Switz. for 2 months in 2022. Loved every minute of it, but trains, public transport, and groceries are expensive. Restaurants were so expensive where we were that we ate out a grand total of 2 times in 2 months. When people as where would you like to re-visit, Switzerland is alway number one for both me and DW despite the costs.
No experience with long stay in Hungary/Trans. or Italy to contribute.
Museums and exhibits are getting more and more expensive. And you need to book in advance with a timed entry at many places.
Airfare between some cities will also be something you need to consider.
I would suggest you think about a budget of $100/night for lodging and $100/day food and misc. Even at this level ($6k/month), I believe you will need to be a wise consumer and watch your budget.
Just my experience. Not saying you can't do it at your budget level, only reporting what I have experienced. Sorry if I am being a downer.
 
I have been travelling full time for 4 years now. More than half of the time in Europe. I'm sorry, but I don't think your budget is realistic.
Harvey, thank you! This is exactly what I needed to hear. You brought up many good points worth considering. I think you are right, especially about the lodging budget. I based some of my assumptions on cost of living information for various countries, but these might no longer be realistic or applicable for our travel plan.
 
Airbnb has some long term rental options. The prices tend to be quite a bit less than the nightly or weekly rate.

If you choose cities that have good train access (for day tripping) but not as touristic, you can save a lot. For example Bologna Is less expensive to stay in than Florence.
I also found this website that seems to offer cheaper options than the usual travel sites: Long Term Lettings
There must be other, country specific sites as well, maybe rental brokerages that could help finding the right place for reasonable price.
 
Just make sure you go ! Adjust time / budget as you go.

I just spent 3 weeks in Germany down Balkans to Albania. single nights, trains/buses. Was around $50/night for comfortable studio down south (Albania, Romania, Montenegro) $100/night up north (Germany, Austria).

I did Eurail pass - but not sure bargain - $40/day roughly - but the Balkans is more bus than train. And Eurail doesn't include most city trains. Bus Podgorica Montenegro to Sarajevo Bosnia was $20.

Have very "basic" diet - graze on veggies, fruit, nuts, breads, cheeses - and some street food. Germany restaurants were easy $20+/pp/entree - like US.

I found can only see so many museums. Rented bikes a lot. I like "national park stuff" - but that's hard w/o car - public transit doesn't go there - cabs expensive.

Go for it !
 
We were able to obtain EU passports, now it is time to start planning our 2025 trip to Europe. For 6 months we would like to visit different regions/countries, find a base where we can slow travel from, enjoying the sights, local food and everything else, avoiding the tourist season as much as possible. First draft of our itinerary: March = Portugal/Spain. April = Italy. May = Greece. June = Switzerland/Germany. July = Ireland. August = Hungary/Transylvania. I know costs are not the same at various places, but trying to come up with some high level budget. So here it is, not including the roundtrip tickets to Europe and the travel health insurance for both of us, I wonder, if this is even possible for an average monthly budget of $3500. We are planning to take trains and public transportation and minimize car rental while we are there. I am hoping to find long term rentals to reduce our accommodation cost, keeping it below $1500. So is $2000 per month enough for food, travel expenses, tickets to sights, etc.? Do you have any suggestions or ideas for various places we could stay at each region?
You can get tons of recommendations, but what are your likes and desires?

In Germany we enjoyed Leipzig and Füssen. They were unexpected stops, each for a week. Also have been in Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich.

In Ireland we stayed in Galway, Longford and Dublin.

Barcelona and Valencia just recently.

But these were not long trips as you are describing. We've used trains for travel between major cities, and car when necessary. For example, we flew in to Dublin, and drove to Galway and Longford. Returned to Dublin and ditched the car. Train to Cork, bus tour(s), and so on.

I think 100 euros per day is more reasonable. Some places are very reasonable, others not. So the price of meals can vary, for instance.
 
Spent 3 weeks in Ireland this spring. For short term, nice hotels, we spent $200/day +/-. More in Dublin.
 
Have to agree with others. Your numbers are not realistic. Out by at least half IMHO based on our spending 6-8 weeks in Europe most years.

I recommend a little research. As an example last year we went to Portugal. Our third trip. First two we had rental cars. We decided on rail. As it turned out we are seniors and get 50 percent discounts on already low train fares. Spain I believe is similar, but lower discounts.

You may find at times that air is less expensive than train. But pack light for carry on only. We use international size carry on and keep the weight down to 7-8 KG. Seven days or seven weeks. All the same to us. Ferry hopping costs in Greece can add up. Also suggest that you include Turkey. A beautiful and relatively inexpensive country. Have heard the same about Bulgaria and Albania...we plan to visit both.

Meals are up and down. B'fast is often included where we stay. We tend to skip lunch or just go with a light snack from a fruit store or bakery. Dinner can really vary from a good local restaurant to street food.
 
As mentioned, nightly rates if you found the place as a tourist would, are going to be high. Even with the "monthly discount". So you need to shop like a local for a month to month lease on a furnished place.

I have no experience in Europe, but for the US, sites like Airbnb, VRBO, etc, have prices that are twice as expensive, or more, compared to the many monthly lease options on FurnishedFinder, for instance.

I looked for a travel nursing apartment finder site that covered Europe, but didn't come up with one. But if you have a city picked out, you might see if you can find a travel nursing FB group, and ask about how they found their furnished apartments. Sometimes it will be the unhelpful "the company provided it", but you might get a link to a local classified ad site where you could search for travel nursing rentals. Potentially drop daily housing expense by 50%.
 
As mentioned, nightly rates if you found the place as a tourist would, are going to be high. Even with the "monthly discount". So you need to shop like a local for a month to month lease on a furnished place.
You are absolutely right! Sites like Airbnb, VRBO, Booking are way more expensive for long term rentals than some of the alternative sites used by professionals and students. I started a list, this might be helpful for others as well, looking for reasonably priced place to stay:

Monthly and Long Term Rentals.
HousingAnywhere
Site to rent Apartment-Flats & Rooms short/long term | Spotahome
Rooms, Flats, Apartments and Accommodation for rent at Uniplaces
Furnished Apartments & Rooms - Search, Compare & Rent | Nestpick
Homelike: Furnished Apartments. Monthly Stays. Flexible living.
Spacest.com | Rent Houses, Apartments, and Rooms Online for Medium and Long Term - by Roomless

Next would be to find some country specific rental agencies/brokerages to see if they could help.
 
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Just make sure you go ! Adjust time / budget as you go.... Go for it !
Dave, great advice! Adjusting not just budget but time as we go makes so much sense. Also adding Albania and Montenegro might be the way to balance out more expensive places we have on our list.
 
My son and I met a newly retired Seattle couple in a laundromat in Florence years ago. They were doing two months of train travel, etc, in Europe and were about to by another 30 day rail pass.

It was their first Europe trip. They said they practiced by taking Amtrac from their home in Seattle to LA. And took the amount of luggage that they intended to take on their extended Europe trip.

Bottom line. The realized that it would not work for them. They came home, purchased light weight carry on rollers, and limited their clothing. They were very thankful that they did after two months on the road and another month ahead of them.
 
My wife and I have made several 1-2 month stays in France (Paris/Nice), Austria (Vienna) and Switzerland over the past 3-5 years and we agree that $6,000/month or so may be more realistic. In Nice and Paris and Vienna, decent 1 br apartments go for at least $3-$4,000 per month. (You can find cheaper, but they tend to be dirty and dingy.). After that, it's pretty reasonable. Groceries are comparable or a little less expensive than in the US and restaurants (other than the top tier) are less expensive. Public transportation is quite reasonable....for about $80 you can get a one month pass good on all subways, buses and trains within 50 miles of Paris. In Geneva you can buy a one week train ticket with 3 days unlimited travel and 4 days half price within all of french Switzerland.... And long distance trains are quite reasonable if bought in advance with some flexibility....
 
There are also lots of ways to economize if you're staying in a city long-term and are creative. As noted, $80/month gets you unlimited local transport in Paris (as far as Fountainbleu, Vaux le Comte, Chantilly, Versailles, Malmaison, etc.). Also as noted, the $100 "Vaudoise" pass from Swiss Rail gets you three days on unlimited and 4 days of 1/2 price travel, including the Lake Geneva ferries and the special tourist view trains. While my wife was working, I'd take the train every morning for a day of hiking and sightseeing in Gstaad, Gruyere, Les Diablerets, Vevey (the Chaplin museum), Montreau, Leysin, Portes de Soleil, etc.

Restaurant meals tend to be less expensive in Europe than in the U.S....I'd get a 3 course fixed price lunch including wine, tip and taxes for about $20 nearly everywhere in Paris or Vienna. And you can have dinner in a very nice restaurant in Paris (say a "baby bistro") for $50 to $100 a couple all in. Cooking is very economical and take out (breads, cheeses, roast chicken, cooked meats, Asian) is quite reasonable.

Many museums in Spain and Portugal have senior rates at 1/2 price or less (though that's rarer in France, Switzlerland, or Austria). But memberships may be worthwhile. In Paris, we have a Louvre membership (since DW draws at the Louvre 5 days a week) which was well worth $140 for two, including the ability to skip the entry lines and reciprocity with a number of other museums. Our Barnes Museum membership (Philadephia), which also costs about $140 for 2, gets us into the Jeu de Paume and the Musée D'Orsay in Paris and our Whitney membership (also about $140) gets us into modern art museums all over Europe and the U.S. (including the Phillips in DC, the Art Institute in Chicago, etc.). When we were staying in Vienna we joined the Belevedere for about the same price, though you can buy 365 day entry for even less. And, our membership in the Arts Club of DC (or the equivalent memberships at Clubs in other cities) gets us resciprocal priveleges with private clubs all over the world (including London, Paris, Vienna, etc.)

Some things can be quite expensive in Europe! 3* Michelin restaurants are upwards of $500/meal (though sometimes you can do better), car rentals can be pricey (but not always), etc., etc. But theater, symphony and opera tickets are usually less expensive then here (and in Vienna, include standing room on the main floor of the opera for about $20 each!). As we said, housing is the big cost (and perhaps the most important factor in an enjoyable stay). After that it's fairly easy to economizd!
 
You are absolutely right! Sites like Airbnb, VRBO, Booking are way more expensive for long term rentals than some of the alternative sites used by professionals and students. I started a list, this might be helpful for others as well, looking for reasonably priced place to stay:
....

Here's the text versions, worth repeating:
longtermlettings.com
housinganywhere.com
spotahome.com
uniplaces.com
nestpick.com
thehomelike.com
spacest.com
 
"As we said, housing is the big cost (and perhaps the most important factor in an enjoyable stay). After that it's fairly easy to economizd!"
Jerry, thanks for your practical insights! You are right, finding the right place to stay is one of the most important factors. Housing might be the reason why most travel budgets require double or more, compared to what locals, expats, students are paying. I thought it will be a little easier to find something for long term stays, to minimize our budget. Private room in a Hostel might not be the solution for us, but I am now looking into monastery stays in Italy (Rome and Florence). This might just work out, at least for part of our trip.
 
You could also consider housesitting. We are sitters on TrustedHousesitters and have had many wonderful experiences here in the US. Have not attempted international sits yet but they have plenty, and we plan to do so in the future.
 
OP - Sounds like a great adventure, but I'm wondering, have you travelled to Europe previously ?
About 10 years ago I took my 3 kids on a road trip, England, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany and Hungary. I felt, even though it was a great adventure for all of us, it was too fast from one place to the other, trying to squeeze in all the sights. That's why I am choosing slow travel now for a different experience.
 
I have been travelling full time for 4 years now. More than half of the time in Europe. I'm sorry, but I don't think your budget is realistic.
Curious, do you maintain a home in the US or are you full time homeless? What's your plan when the travel slows?
 
We are full-time homeless. Currently thinking about options for what to do when the travel slows. It may involve a condo in the US and another in Europe.
 
I think I would love to do that but my wife is not on board with it. Plus our kids are young and I'd feel bad leaving them without a home base until they are in their late 20s.

It would save me a fortune though and easily fund a comfortable nomadic lifestyle.
 
Did the OP meant visa or passport?
 
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