City tripping in Europe – what to bring?

In my years in Europe (and beyond) I’ve been on quite a lot of city trips. And I must say by now I am quite efficient in my packing – taking only what’s necessary and leaving the rest behind. In the past, I’ve already shared here a bit of my fathomless wisdom concerning backpacking essentials. Some of the stuff certainly overlaps. For example, a pair of Crocs can be as useful on a city trip as when crossing an Icelandic river. And earplugs save your sleep on a glacier when the wind is wailing around your tent, but also on a night train when you’re next to a noisy ventilator. Well, enough of this prelude – to business!

  • Black All Stars, image by Hadley1978 (Wikipedia)

    Black All Stars, image by Hadley1978 (Wikipedia)

    All Stars. No, I don’t get a kickback from Nike. I just like wearing them, and I am fortunate enough to be able to walk on All Stars all day long without problems. They’re light, wide enough to accommodate warm socks in the winter and cool enough to wear in the summer, representative enough to attend a conference (the ones I attend at least) yet casual enough for an underground concert.

  • New Year's Eve in Berlin. Europe's "mild winters" can mean -8 C and a bone chilling wind.

    New Year’s Eve in Berlin. Europe’s “mild winters” can mean -8 C and a bone chilling wind.

    A rain coat. Of course a wind- and waterproof jacket is absolutely essential in the bitterly cold European winter. But at any season anywhere in Europe – bring a rain coat. Not joking – it may be utterly useless, but you may seriously regret relying on European weather. It might rain cats and dogs your entire trip, and an umbrella is just not good enough when the rain is horizontal.

  • A Senz Umbrella. Yes, I am serious – both a rain jacket AND an Umbrella. Yes, Umbrella with a capital letter. Because everything you called an umbrella so far was just a cheap replica. You know what happens to an umbrella in the wind? It folds backwards, doesn’t it? Well, not anymore it doesn’t. Because now there’s Senz – Umbrella’s tested in wind tunnels, that don’t bend over backwards at the slightest gust. Even the small ones that fit into a hand bag are stormproof up to 60 km/h (and the newest model up to 80 km/h)! So why would you need an Umbrella AND a rain jacket? Because European weather is treacherous, and it might be as hot and humid as in Singapore, and you don’t always feel like lumbering around town in your bag-shaped jacket.

Any favourites you bring along for a city trip? Do share!

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This August tastes like October (and pumpkin soup)

In one of my old posts I called autumn my favourite season, and October my favourite autumn month. But I don’t recall asking for August to become October, and this August has been very much October-like in my corner of Europe. I’m sure this has its bright sides somewhere, but they are damned hard to see behind the clouds. One slightly less dark side I could find is that pumpkin soup goes really well with this weather.

Red kuri squash (image by Schwäbin http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Schw%C3%A4bin)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Red kuri squash pumpkin (this variety you can eat with skin and all)
  • 2 small potatoes (or sweet potatoes if you want everything orange)
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp vegetable bouillon

Cut the pumpkin in half and spoon out the seeds. Make sure you take all of them out, because I’ve missed a couple of seeds once and had to spit them out piece by piece afterwards (there’s a blender involved later in the recipe). Chop the onion and the carrots and fry them in some oil in a large soup pan. Chop the pumpkin and add it to the pan. Pour 1 litre of boiling water (or more, at least enough to cover the vegetables). Add the skinned and cubed potatoes, the vegetable bouillon and the thyme. Cook until the pumpkin in soft. Add the orange juice and using a hand blender, mix the soup into a smooth mass. Be very careful here – the soup has a very high heat content and flying drops can be dangerous (my wife still has marks on her arm from a soup accident years ago). If you want to make the soup look fancy, decorate the bowls with a spoon of crème fraîche or yoghurt, and a parsley leaf.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Go easy on the potatoes, otherwise you’ll end up eating very orange potato puree, like I did the last time.

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So how much does it REALLY cost to travel around the world?

Planning a big trip? Probably you’ve noticed that there’s A LOT of planning to do. Choosing your destinations, scheduling the travel time table, getting vaccinations, buying some gear, saving money for travel… Wait, how much money do you actually need?

When me and my significant other were planning our 10-months trip around the world, that was one of the big unknowns – how much are we going to spend? The ultimate answer depends, as you may guess, on your travel style, the activities you undertake and – not to forget – your destinations. Because, and it will probably not be a shock to you, while some countries are cheap, others are expensive.

Singapore can be a budget destination, too ;-)

Singapore can be a budget destination, too ;-)

Being a total nerd and a statistics geek, I’ve meticulously kept a note of our spending. It wasn’t too difficult in this day and age – all I had to do was use the bank card to draw cash everywhere we went. Back home I could look up the numbers by logging in to my bank account and now I can report them here. Beware that these are just a rough reference and I can not be held accountable for any budget mishaps you may have using my notes as a guideline.

Rather than specifying the costs per country, I’ve split it into regions – this way the duration of travel per destination (region) is longer and more statistically valid, and rounded the numbers. All the numbers are for a couple travelling together – which means that if you’re on your own you may end up spending more or less, depending on whether you will pay for a separate room (which we did) or find the cheapest bunk bed (which we didn’t). The numbers include all the visa costs, internal and connecting flights, food, lodging, transport, and everything else you may think of. All the costs are given in Euro’s and although we’ve travelled some 5 years ago the numbers are probably largely valid as inflation was mild in these years due to the financial crisis.

  1. Pre-travel
    Costs – 9000 Euro
    Including Round The World tickets (about three-quarters of the sum) gear, vaccinations, insurance etc.
  2. Europe and the Middle East
    Countries – England, Ukraine, Israel, Jordan
    Duration – 3 weeks
    Costs – 60 Euro per day
    Notes – staying with family in Israel saves quite a bit
  3. Indian subcontinent
    Countries – India and Nepal
    Duration – 3 months
    Costs – 60 Euro per day
    Notes – some splashing in Nepal on an upbeat lodge in Chitwan and gift shopping in Kathmandu. Also includes more than 300 Euro in visa costs, and a flight from Kathmandu to Delhi to avoid a couple of days of bus/train travel.
  4. South-East Asia
    Countries – Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore
    Duration – 3 months
    Costs – 70 Euro per day
    Notes – includes two weeks of non-stop diving on Kho Phi Phi and flights from Hanoi to Luang Prabang and from Phuket to Singapore.
  5. Oceania
    Countries – New Zealand, French Polynesia, Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
    Duration – 3 months
    Costs – 90 Euro per day
    Notes – includes two months of car rental in New Zeland and three weeks on a remote atoll spending nothing (although the flight there cost 600 Euro).
  6. Peru (only stop in South America)
    Duration –  2 weeks
    Costs – 120 Euro per day
    Notes – includes a flight from Santiago to Lima, a lot of expensive activities like a flight over the Nazca Lines, and a lot of shopping for gifts and souvenirs as this was our final destination.
  7. Total budget
    Duration – 10 months
    Costs – 100 Euro per day
    Notes – includes EVERYTHING

As I reviewed the numbers I was quite surprised. How did we end up spending more per day in SE Asia than we’ve spent in Europe? And Peru was supposed to be a cheap country, wasn’t it? But there is a simple explanation – always look at the big picture. For example, India has cost us only about 30 Euro per day to stay in. But the visas were a 100 Euro per person, adding about 20% to the overall price tag of a month in India. Couchsurfing in Singapore made it one of the cheapest countries to stay in. We’ve had 3-course meals in Peru for 1 Euro, but bagging several (pricey) top attractions in a couple of weeks eats a big chunk of your budget, and we were quite travel-weary so weren’t minding spending a few extra coins to support the local economy by staying in better lodgings and buying an alpaca skin rug. All in all we’ve had a smashing 10 months trip for just 100 Euro per day for the two of us.

Can you do it cheaper? Sure! Buy a less extensive RTW ticket, for starters. Ours included some weird detours and a lot of stops, so we had a lot of mileage and airport taxes to pay. The cheapest round-the-world tickets cost only 1500 Euro! If you do buy an RTW ticket, don’t plan any land segments. We initially intended to travel from Thailand to Singapore and from Santiago to Lima over land and ended up buying plane tickets because we’ve seen enough dusty roads. Staying longer in a country (or even a region) helps bring down the costs, as the visa fees and cross-border travel costs are already included. But most importantly – think Zen! Its not the destination that matters, its what you will do there that will make the difference.

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Filed under Europe, Round-the-world trip