50 days in Europe for $3,900

Last year, he travelled around Europe in about seven weeks and spent less than $4,000, including the cost of the airfare.

It all started when Mr Dominic Phua, 24, tried to book tickets to Tomorrowland, a Belgian annual music festival usually held in July and attended by over 180,000 people.

He and three friends managed to get tickets, which were sold out within 10 minutes.

Since Mr Phua had just finished his national service, he decided to take his trip to Europe one step further and travel to 12 other countries there.

His trip started with a 12-hour flight on a Lufthansa flight to Germany's Frankfurt from Singapore, costing $1,080 for a round trip.

Said Mr Phua, who had accumulated about $15,000 in savings from taking up part-time jobs and serving National Service: "I'm naturally a thrifty person, so I decided to challenge myself to spend as little money as I can."

The trip took 50 days from June to August last year and he spent about $3,900, which is a little more than the cost of two one-way tickets to London,.

Mr Phua blogged about his trip on Jan 22 and the post soon went viral, garnering 150,000 views and 40,000 shares in just a week.

"I originally wrote it because I had a few people asking for my itinerary and for budget travel tips. I'm honestly quite freaked out it went so viral" he said.

Mr Phua told The New Paper how he managed to spend relatively little on his European trip:

1. TRANSPORT

Mr Phua said that while taking a plane at times is unavoidable, there are usually cheaper alternatives.

"I've travelled on foot, took trains, rented bicycles and even hitchhiked," he said.

Mr Phua revealed that it is common for locals to sneak onto trains and buses without paying. They would also hop over ticket gantries. Though following suit is risky and against the law, he did so a few times to save money.

"I got caught only once by the police in Germany, but I started speaking in Mandarin and they left me alone after that," he said.

2. ACCOMMODATION

As finding a good place to stay can be costly, Mr Phua decided to couch-surf (spending the night in another person's home, usually for free).

"I'm active on couchsurf.org. I had friends in every country I visited who were willing to let me stay over at their place. In fact, I planned my whole trip based on where I know I could stay for free," he said.

But even so, there were still a few nights when Mr Phua had no place to sleep over.

He said: "When that happens, I usually either find cheap hostels in the area or just hole myself up somewhere for the night.

"I slept in train stations in Germany, under random staircases in Scotland and even outside the Colosseum in Rome."

3. FOOD

Many people go to Europe for the food, on which they tend to spend a lot.

Said Mr Phua: "In most of the European countries I visited, I allowed myself one good meal. Every meal after that was either cooked by friends I stayed with or loaves of bread, which can last me three to four days."

4. LEISURE

Attractions were the only part of the trip Mr Phua was willing to spend more on.

"The attractions are usually what you save for, so there is no sense in holding yourself back," he said.

However, there are still ways one can still spend less on attractions.

Said Mr Phua: "I got tickets for a live performance of Les Miserables at half price as there were still empty seats.

"There are theatres where you have to pay to go in and there are screens outside the venue where you can watch the show for free."

While feedback on his blog post is mostly positive, there are some negative comments.

One said: "You just destroyed the meaning of "holiday" .

In response, Mr Phua told TNP: "Well, this is Europe we're talking about. There is no magic trick to spending no money and still travelling luxuriously."

Ultimately, he said the best way to save depends on the reason you are there.

"If you want good food, skimp on everything else. If you are staying in one or two countries, cut travel costs. In the end, it's about enjoying yourself," said Mr Phua.

 


Mr Dominic Phua breaks down his expenses for the trip.

About 50 per cent spent on travel:

Plane tickets from Singapore to Europe and back : $1,080
Flights taken in Europe : $120
Train rides : $400
Bus rides : $120
Other forms of transport : $120

About 10 per cent spent on food.

A good meal in each country : $230
Treating friends who let him couch-surf in their homes : $100
Bread : $80

About 5 per cent spent on accommodation.

Cheap hostels : $200


About 20 per cent spent on attractions.

Hang-gliding in Switzerland : $350
Tours in Ireland and Holland : $200
Harry Potter train ride in London : $100
Musicals and museum visits : $100

About 15 per cent on everything else.

Souvenirs : $100
Partying and clubbing : $100
Miscellaneous expenses : $100Ticket to Tomorrowland : $400


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