How To Save Money While Traveling: Case Study—Italy

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

It sucks running what used to be a travel blog when you're not traveling. I told you guys a few months ago the blog would take a slight turn towards some other topics as well, but I bumped into life and unfortunately wasn't able to update it as much as I would. But I was doing some cleaning the other day and found an almost two-year-old post-it with the cost breakdown of my Italy travels. I didn't want to toss it, but to write a blog post that might be useful to someone. Almost two years ago I wrote one of my most popular posts ever—How To Travel On A Budget—but I get it's one thing to offer general advice, but it's totally another to actually show someone how you really did it on a trip. So, here goes!

I kept a thorough track of my spending while on holiday in Italy. I did it mostly for myself, because it was a long trip, lasting for almost three weeks, and honestly, when away, I tend to be rather careless with money. I mean, I'm on holiday, right?! But if your funds are limited, that's not really something you want to do for three weeks. So, without further ado, here's the cost breakdown. I'll explain everything below and also be specific on where I could have spent less.

Three weeks, seven cities
transportation €281
accommodation €70
SIM card and topping up €44
entry tickets €13.5
food & drinks €336
souvenirs & postcards €18.2
medicine & tea €32
miscellaneous €72
TOTAL: €866.7

Transportation: €281—might have been 241 and less

Here I counted in absolutely every single euro that went into transportation: plane, train, bus, metro, taxi, water buses in Venice. It might seem like much at first glance, but bear in mind I flew from Berlin to Naples and then went north and finally flew back to Berlin from Milan. So basically, it covered two plane tickets, train or bus rides from and to airports and train rides around Naples (Pompeii, Sorrento, Positano—OMG, I just remembered the most hideous train ever, La Circumvesuviana, something you're bound to experience if traveling in this part of Italy if you don't drive; what a great reminder I should finally get a driver's licence). It also covered train tickets from Naples to Rome; from Rome to Florence; from Florence to Sienna and back; from Florence to Venice; and finally, from Florence to Milan. Furthermore, I used metro in Rome (four days) and Milan (three days), and finally, as already mentioned, so called water buses in Venice, you cannot really get around without them :) I spent €40 on taxi in Sorrento and it was due to my very unreliable Couchsurfing host, and that annoyed me a lot for months after the trip. But after all, it's just money. It'm happy I had it—otherwise I might have had to carry my 23 kilos suitcase uphill for an hour or so. Not my cup of tea.

I also could have saved by buying my train tickets well in advance. I did buy most of them, but not all. I remember some of them were as little as €9 for first class!! Like, it was cheaper to travel first class than second class, I have no idea why but I jumped at the occasion. If I remember well, I wanted to be spontaneous-ish when it came to me moving around the country, but being spontaneous obviously costs more. At least I now know I want to spend all of my time in Rome and Florence next time, with an obligatory visit to Naples to fill my belly. (Which I also recommend to anyone traveling to Italy, I mean, the Naples part. YOU CANNOT MISS NAPLES.)

Accommodation €70—might have ranged from €0 to, well, €€€ :) 

If €70 sounds suspiciously little for three weeks of traveling, that's because it is. As I advocated in my post on cheap travels, I used Couchsurfing a lot; in Venice, though, me and my classmates were attending a conference so we had a paid stay at a hotel, so I only ended up paying for four nights in hostels: in Florence, in Venice (the day after the conference) and two nights in Milan. Oh, I also spent a night at the Milan Malpensa airport, but that's what happens when you fly with Ryanair that flies at crazy hours. I don't know if anything changed in the last two years, but that was quite an odd experience and I wouldn't really recommend it. Like, people working at the airport KNOW travelers have to fly early in the morning and they cannot get to the airport early enough so they HAVE TO spend the night there; still they wouldn't let us sleep and by this I mean they LITERALLY woke people up.

Anyway, I know a lot of people have concerns about using Couchsurfing and a lot of my friends were surprised that I was doing it as a solo female traveler. But I didn't just ask anyone on the platform for accommodation—although saving money is important to me, security is more important, so I would always read the descriptions and reviews carefully. My host in Rome was a great guy whom I spent every evening chatting on the balcony with, drinking wine or beer. The one in Sorrento ended up being annoying, but that's life. Most hosts are travelers themselves and interesting people in general, so it's easy to make a connection. 

At age 27 (and a slight introvert!), however, I would now definitely prefer a hotel room over a couch at someone's house or even a hostel with 9 other people in the room. But I'm not in a place where I can afford that, and would I rather stay at home because I cannot go to a nice hotel? Hell no.

SIM card and topping up €44—might have been €0

Oh, that was back when I was obsessed with Instagram, so I didn't want to depend on wi-fi. I ended up having tons of really pretty pictures so I didn't mind eventually, but this was indeed too much. The SIM card with supposedly ten euros on it was €24, but somehow I spent it in a day or two and I remember it was something quite unfair. I had to top up twice. OK, I didn't really have to, but as I said, instagramzzz.

Entry tickets €13.5—might have been more

No regrets here. Actually, I DO regret not having bought tickets for the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia Gallery in Florence well in advance, because the last thing you want to do on a beautiful day in Florence, one out of two you're spending there, is waiting in lines for hours and hours. At least I know I'll be going back ;) 

Food & drinks €336

The only thing in Italy I never felt sorry for spending money on. Food in Italy is amazing, divine, extraordinary, wonderful, magnificent, and all the other extraterrestrial adjectives you can think of. My whole life I wondered how come Italians don't get fed up with pasta, and in Italy I finally understood. I ate pasta almost every day. I ate tons of ice-cream (sorry, gelato is just an Italian word for ice-cream so I hate using it in English to denote Italian ice-cream). I almost passed out when I tried Neapolitan sfogliatella, warm sweet pastry with ricotta cheese and cinnamon. I drank wine. I tasted meat that just melted in my mouth. There's no room for a restrictive diet in Italy. Italian food is god. I might be drooling over my keyboard right now, or not... it's up to you to decide.

Souvenirs & postcards €18.2—might have been less, might have been more

I sent out a small number of postcards, but the majority I bought for myself. I also buy fridge magnets in pairs wherever I go—one for me, one for my parents. So this is something that depends entirely on a person's preferences. 

Medicine & tea €32—might have been €0

Sadly, two weeks of traveling had taken their toll on my health and apparently you cannot have a bowl of pasta and call it a day. I had a nasty fever in Florence that continued in Venice and Milan—talk about the worst thing that can happen while traveling—so I had to buy some remedy. Of course, I cannot possibly regret spending the money on medicine, but had I been more careful, I wouldn't have had to. Learn from my mistakes: drink plenty of water, eat fruits and vegetables, and even though you think you can live off pasta, you cannot. Your body will show you.

Miscellaneous €72—might have been €0

This actually contains of three items: a euro I gave to a street comedian in Florence; a euro for a locket in a hostel; and the rest is one of my favorite purchases ever, a leather jacket that was on discount on that particular weekend in Milan, and it was my birthday so I kind of got it as a present. To myself from myself. I think that's a great price for a leather jacket and I plan to wear it for years to come.

TOTAL €866.7—Might Have Been 622.5

Again, at the first sight €600 and more might seem like a large sum nevertheless, but bear in mind how long the trip lasted (three weeks), and that I basically managed to travel throughout the whole country, south to north. I would happily do so again! 

I hope this helped, please let me know if it did! I'd also love to hear your tricks for saving money while traveling, so feel free to leave a comment below! 

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