7 months on the road
In summer 2013 I decided to quit my job and go around Europe and Middle East. It was something I’ve looked forward since the day I started saving, and I can’t believe it’s now 2014! So my journey has finally come to an end, with no thanks to Chinese New Year. I’ve spent 7 months away from home, a lot less money than I expected, seen things I’ll never forget for life, experienced different cultures, met heaps of amazing people, learnt a new skill or two, and definitely changed a lot as an individual.
I spent 4 months in Europe; 3 months the Schengen Zone and 1 month in the Balkans. It’s a real shame I couldn’t stay longer since I’d been quite keen on Wwoofing at some point. But 90 days out of 180 days was the rule within the Schengen area so that’s that. Still, I think I pretty much made it worthwhile, skipped some cities which I now look back and regret but hey, there’s always next time!
Our itinerary for Europe was fairly simple. We flew from Singapore to London (Heathrow) for S$420 one way. They almost didn’t let us on the plane because they needed proof of an onward ticket, but thankfully we had an onward flight to Barcelona after. These were the only two flights we took in Europe, everywhere else we traveled overland by bus or trains. There have been painful journeys, the longest being 16 hours on a bus with butt-aches and cramped legs but these bus/train rides go easy on the wallet so beggars can’t be choosers. The plan was to head towards Istanbul at some point, but somehow we ended up staying in the Balkans for a month because it was just amazing and people were always friendly!
Summer is also a perfect time to head to Europe since there are practically festivals everywhere. I really wanted to go for Glastonbury 2013 but unfortunately I couldn’t get any tickets. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I used that same money to attend 3 other smaller festivals and l I had SUCH a blast!We went to a beach music festival (Arenal Sound) in Spain, where we had to camp for 6 days in a lime plantation, showering with ice cold water outside with all these hot Spanish people. Then we went to an amazing techno festival (Dekmantel) in Amsterdam which was located in the forest and we had to cycle about an hour from the city and into the woods. And the last festival we attended was Berlin Festival in Germany, which was held in the old Tempelhof Airport. Once Summer ended and the festival blues kicked in, we figured it was time to stop drinking to our death and do more cultural & historical things around Europe.
Moving on from East Europe into Asia wasn’t easy on the pockets since traveling between countries wasn’t as easy as hopping on buses or trains in Europe, but it was a good change of environment, culture and food. By the end of Europe I’ve completely grown sick of bread and pasta. All I could think about was rice, rice, glorious rice. The Middle East was absolutely beautiful and far exceeded my expectations. If only I had the time and budget to see more :/ Also, applying for Visa can be quite a bitch in that region so I would recommend planning ahead. It has burned quite a hole in our pockets due to the lack of early planning in the Middle East.
Booking flights early may be the trick to getting cheap tickets, but it also helps if you buy it over the counter in the airport. A ticket from Istanbul to Tehran only cost 45euros over the Pegasus counter at the airport, but unfortunately we took too long to consider and by the time we went back the tickets were all sold out. Oh well, tough luck! We ended up getting last minute tickets that cost 180euros to Isfahan instead. Probably the worst and stupidest blunder we made on the trip, but a good lesson learnt. There are many airlines that are not listed on Skyscanner, especially around Middle East, and it helps to find out from the airport ticket counters which the affordable options are. We took many flights after Europe, mainly setting Istanbul as our base because there was no way to cross over to Israel by land without first going through Syria (which is really unsafe to visit at the moment). On top of that getting visa for Iran was quite a pain so the easiest option was to fly in to obtain visa on arrival. I wouldn’t say our route in the Middle East was the best way to get around, but I guess this is what you get when you go day by day and decide where to go next!
View route here: https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zSTEzu3dB9aA.kDr-lfu9yM7Y
Singapore –> UK –> Spain –> France –> Netherlands –> Germany –> Poland –> Czech Republic –> Austria –> Switzerland –> Italy –> Slovenia –> Serbia –> Bosnia –> Croatia –> Montenegro –> Kosovo –> Macedonia –> Bulgaria –> Greece –> Turkey –> Israel –> Jordan –> Turkey (central) –> Iran –> Dubai –> Sri Lanka –> Singapore
Singapore –> London –> Burriana –> Barcelona –> Marseille –> Paris –> Amsterdam –> Hamburg –> Berlin –> Krakow –> Prague –> Vienna –> Lucerne –> Interlaken –> Grindelwald –> Lauterbrunnen –> Verona –> Venice –> Ljubljana –> Belgrade –> Sarajevo –> Mostar –> Split –> Brac –> Hvar –> Dubrovnik –> Kotor –> Perast –> Pristina –> Prizren –> Brod —> Skopje —> Sofia –> Plovdiv –> Veliko Tarnovo –> Thessaloniki –> Istanbul –> Tel Aviv –> Jerusalem –> Be’er Sheva –> Petra –> Wadi Rum –> Aqaba –> Cappadocia –> Saffronbolu –> Isfahan –> Yazd –> Shiraz –> Bandar Abbass –> Queshm –> Dubai –> Colombo –> Kandy –> Nuwara Eliya –> Ella –> Arugam Bay –> Matara –> Mirissa –> Unawatuna –> Negombo –> Singapore
TIME SPENT & TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION IN EACH COUNTRY:
London (4 days)
Spain (12 days) + (Arenal Sound Festival‚ €60)
Accomodation: Airbnb & Camping
France (7 days)
Accomodation: Airbnb & Friend’s apartment
Holland (8 days) + (Dekmantel Festival €40)
Accomodation: Friend’s Apartment
Germany (12 days) + (Berlin Festival €98)
Accomodation: Hostel & Airbnb
Poland (4 days)
Czech Republic (4 days)
Accomodation : Hostel
Vienna (2 days)
Switzerland (8 days)
Accomodation: Hostels + Camping
Italy (6 days)
Accomodation: B&B + Camping
Slovenia (3 days)
Serbia (3 days)
Bosnia (6 days)
Croatia (10 days)
Accomodation: Hostels + Homestay
Montenegro (5 days)
Kosovo (6 days)
Accomodation: Hostels + Homestay
Macedonia (2 days)
Bulgaria (7 days)
Turkey (16 days)
Israel + Jordan (14 days)
Accomodation: Desert camping + Hostels + Hotel + Couchsurfing
Iran (14 days) + €60 Visa
Accomodation: Hostels + Homestay + Guesthouses
Dubai (2 days)
Sri Lanka (22 days)
Accomodation: Hostels + Guesthouses + Inns
$$$ THE DAMAGE $$$
I spent an estimate of S$11,000 / US$8990 /€6570 in 7 months and visited 26 countries.
Singapore to London : $420 (Saudia Air)
London to Barcelona : $200 (Ryan Air)
Istanbul to Tel Aviv (return ticket): $200 (Pegasus)
Istanbul to Isfahan: $380 (Turkish Air)
Queshm to Dubai: $100 (Kish Air)
Dubai to Sri Lanka : $180 (Mihin Lanka)
Sri Lanka to Singapore : $227 (Emirates)
Total cost of flights:
Total breakdown of expenses:
Additional (bus/train tickets booked online, hostel deposits and other misc expenses I might have missed out):
Total cost: Approx S$11,000
This was a really comfortable budget that allowed me to enjoy to the fullest yet being thrifty at the same time. Of course there were things that were out of the budget range so I had to pass it up, either that or I found another way to get around it. For example, hiking up mountains in Switzerland instead of taking the gondolas was a good way to save money and enjoy the breathtaking views on the way up at the same time. With this budget I got to try local food and eat out somewhere nice once in a while, but at the same time still save costs on daily food expenses. We’ll also cook in hostels or pack lunch to bring out and have a picnic somewhere nice. I’ve been living comfortably in hostels and guesthouses, getting to experience local culture by staying with locals via Airbnb & homestays. This budget also includes paying for attractions like galleries, museums, events, and party expenses when we go out at night with other backpackers on pubcrawls etc. If you’re below 26 and possess a student ID, you get free entries to museums, or discounted tickets for transport and attractions. But of course it doesn’t mean that being on a “comfortable” budget allows room for splurging. When eating out, I make sure that most meals should only cost max 3 euros, with the exception of celebrations/occasions where we’ll just pay for a nice restaurant. There’s also no need to pay for water, especially in Europe where you can just drink from the taps. Even in places where tap water is not safe to drink, look out for water coolers in hostels or shops. If all else fails, buy a 5 litre bottle and fill up your 1.5lits. If you Couchsurf more, or eat out less I’m sure you’ll be able to spend less than my allocated budget.
I hope this post will be useful to those who are planning a backpacking trip to Europe or the Middle East, and if anyone needs recommendations on where to go or what to see in certain cities, I’ll be glad to help! This trip has been more than amazing and I’m already looking forward to the next one, wherever it takes me…