Budget Breakdown – Italy, Part 2

Last week I went into depth about how I booked the flights, apartments, and hotels for our honeymoon in Italy in 2016. Due to the length, I broke this budget analysis into 2 parts. This week, I’m giving a glimpse of what we spent on transportation (in Italy), attractions, and food. If you missed last week’s post, check it out here!

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Overlooking Naples and Mt. Vesuvius

Transportation:

First, I will start with Naples. From the airport, there is a special bus called the Alibus that only runs between the main train station, the port, and the airport. It is only 3 euros in one direction, but it’s difficult figuring out if you don’t look anything up in advance. You have to buy the ticket inside of a tobacco/gift store in the airport near the exit. Then you have to walk out to the left for a bit. There was a sign, however the area was under construction! We quickly learned that apparently, the temporary stop had been moved across the street. We managed to figure it out with the help of other tourists and made the bus. It was a quick, direct ride. We got off at the train station because our hotel was about 1 minute away by walking.

For the rest of Naples, we mainly traveled on foot from site to site. It was A LOT of walking. Naples does have a subway system consisting of a few lines, but we only hopped on once during our 2nd day to get to Castel Sant’Elmo. The one way ticket was 1.50 euros.

We walked up a giant staircase of death, not realizing in advance that this castle was on a mountain. It took about 30 minutes. I don’t really recommend anybody ever do this, so if you want to visit – know that there is a funicular that can take you up! It’s worth the fare.

We only took a public bus once, with a transfer. I can’t really advise people on the bus system there because we had NO IDEA what we were doing. I had looked up routes in advance on Google Maps, but then nothing matched up. I couldn’t find the stop I had looked up back home, so I bought fare at a different stop and they gave me a confusing map. None of the routes even had the same names as what Google told me. So then I was trying to figure out where we were on the map, and what routes seemed to take us to the museum we were going to. Of course, I only have like 30 seconds and a bus pulls up so we decide to hop on and hope for the best. I realize which direction the bus is going and follow the route on the map, trying to figure out when to make the transfer and where that transfer will be in real time. A man noticed that I had been looking at the map intensely, and spoke some English. He started up a conversation with me, asked me about where I was going, and told me he was making the same transfer so I needed to follow him. Then we had small talk, started chatting with a woman next to us who only spoke Italian (so he became our translator), etc. When it was time, we all got off together and realized our bus was already here, except it was around the corner and across the street. They all start running so we just started running with them! We all make the bus, and then we find out he has to get off before us. He keeps counting “1,2,3 OFF!” So that we know how many stops to wait through. However, at one point he starts yelling at the bus driver and lots of people became upset. We thought it was because the bus driver had missed a stop, so we took that into consideration when we counted when to get off. We ended up getting off at the wrong spot, but the Italian lady literally came off the bus to get us and put us back on. Sure enough, one more stop and we are RIGHT in front of the museum.

Literally would not have made it without the nice Italians!

Needless to say, that was our only journey on the bus in Naples. The fare was also 1.50 euros per person.

We did go from Naples to Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius in a day trip, but transportation was included in the package we booked. I will be counting that money towards attractions.

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Pompeii

When we transferred to Sorrento, we took a cheap train that made several stops just like a subway all the way there. This only cost 4.50 euros. This train is called the Circumvesuviana. This train is notorious for pick pocketing (as is the Naples train station, Naples in general, and Italy in general). Be very, very careful with your things. I personally feel like I had a couple of people eyeing me closely and we met a tourist that had her phone stolen. It gets very crowded just like subway trains too.

In Sorrento, we could walk everywhere in the city. We did take one taxi from our hotel back to the train station because we were running late to the train station that morning. Even though the Circumvesuviana runs several times each hour, we had to make it to Naples pretty early in order to make our other train taking us to Rome. This was a very short taxi ride though, and only cost about 20 euros.

When we went to Capri, we went on an excursion that included the boat travel to the island. On the island, since we were short on time and wanted to see Capri and Ana Capri, we took a taxi between the 2 cities. The taxis there are convertibles too! And it’s so beautiful and mountainous; it’s very much worth it at least one way. They do have public buses, but those obviously take longer. We barely had enough time to fit in everything we wanted so take into consideration how much time you have on the island. The taxi fare was exactly 20 euros each way.

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Convertible Taxi in Capri

We toured the Amalfi Coast on an excursion that included minivan travel to the cities of Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. You can also take public transportation, but then it is not realistic to expect to get to all 3 of these cities and back to Sorrento in a day. In each city, we only walked around.

Now Rome…..Since we were in Rome for 6 days, and it’s much larger, we bought an all-inclusive week long public transportation pass. It was 24 euros, and it was WELL WORTH THE MONEY. We used public transportation so much. Rome has 2 subway metro lines, lots of buses, as well as a couple of other trains (we didn’t understand what they were even at the time). We did indulge in one taxi ride after a late night, which was about 20 euros.

Our apartment was about a 30 minute walk away from the closest metro station, which was just north of the Vatican. There was a bus though from that station, but since it ran less often than other buses, it only came by once every 30 minutes. We know, since we tested it several times. There was a Serbian lady who could not believe the wait times and asked the locals about it, and that’s how we found out it was a less-used route. Other buses run more consistently, especially ones tourists normally will be using. To be honest though, we did not use the metro very often. It’s not actually that convenient. We either walked or took buses for the most part. What I love about Rome buses is that all of the stops are easy to see and well labeled with the route listed out, as well as all the buses that stop there. So I could just walk to a bus stop and figure out my route from looking at the sign. We actually got home that way once!

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The Roman Forum

We also took a couple of regional trains, but just through a couple of stops in Rome. There were no ticket scanners so we just hopped on and hoped that the passes were valid on those trains (the train station was closer to us than the metro). Finally, on our last ride, we had a person coming through the train checking tickets. We discovered that our passes were valid on those trains as well!

We also took a train from the Rome suburb Ostiense to get to Ostia Antica. It was the Lido train, and it was still included in the weekly pass as well.

To get from Naples to Rome, and from Rome to Pisa, we took regional trains that I had purchased fares for online. The gamble is, even though you guarantee your seat and prices are better, apparently Italy has train strikes a lot. Sometimes, it is better to be flexible and see what is going on once you get there. I’m such a planner though, I hoped for the best and it worked in our favor. Naples to Rome was about $25 a person, and Rome to Pisa tickets were about $35 a person.

Finally, in Pisa we just walked everywhere. We only got on a bus once to take us to the airport. The ticket was 1 euro.

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Pisa

So to calculate my transportation total, I’m counting the euros the same as US dollars since they were so close to being equal when we were traveling.

Cost of transportation per person: $140

Attractions:

In Naples at the train station the first morning we “set off,” we went to an office in the train station to buy the Campania Art Card. There are different options, but we bought the 7 day pass that gets us into 5 of the included sights free, and the 6th one at ½ off. I had done the math though and was very strategic about where we used it, and where we would just pay a fee separately (use the pass for the more expensive places). We used ours to get into the following: Royal Palace (12 euros normally), the Bourbon Tunnel (10 euros), Castel Sant’Elmo (10 euros combined with Museum), Certosa e Museo di San Martino (10 euros combined with castle), and Teatro di San Carlo (7 euros). The Castle and the Museum were supposed to be combined for one entry, but we somehow screwed it up and got it counted twice unfortunately. The Naples National Archaeological Museum (12 euros) ended up being our ½ off one, but the original plan was to get into this one as well with the card for free, and then getting ½ off of Villa Cimbrone (7 euros) in Ravello a few days later.

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Royal Palace

The card was 34 euros a person. We would have otherwise spent 58 euros a person.

We did splurge on tours for this trip. We did one taking us to Mt. Vesuvius as well as Pompeii. This included round trip transportation, a guide for Pompeii, and lunch. It was $105 a person. You could use the Circumvesuviana train from Naples to get to these locations, and then pay the 11 euro admission at Pompeii, and the 10 euro admission at Vesuvius. It would just take a lot more time and be more difficult to do all in one day.

We did a tour that included our boat transportation to Capri, as well as a sail along the coast, a stop for swimming, beer and limoncello, and transportation to the Blue Grotto. This was $93 a person. If you were to do this one on your own, it is about $55 round trip for the ferry alone. Then getting to the Blue Grotto would have taken additional transportation on the island.

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Our ride to Capri

Finally, we also did an Amalfi tour to help save time. It was mainly just direct transportation to Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. We got dropped off in each city to do what we wanted. Our driver also stopped for many photo ops, was very knowledgeable about the area, and lunch was included in Ravello. Since it was William’s birthday, he even surprised the group with some Prosecco. This tour was $87 a person. Bus tickets are very cheap, but then you would probably need to have an additional night in the area to see everything we saw (which adds up in the end).

In Rome, for all attractions we either bought tickets online in advance or paid at the door. I had looked into the Roma Pass, but it simply was not beneficial for what we were doing. In addition to just admission to places, we did do an underground Scavi tour in the Vatican, as well as the underground and third ring tour at the Colosseum.

In Pisa, everything was free except the main things by the Pisa tower. We were able to buy this in a combo ticket for $23 per person including the tower climb.

So our grand total per person does include some transportation costs and meals since it was combined in tours.

Cost of attractions per person: $477

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Naples

Meals:

I LOVE Italian food. So we cut back so much on airfare and lodging, I will not lie – I did not hold back on the food here.

Breakfast – In Naples, every morning we walked to the train station. I would always just get a couple of pastries from the bakery and William would always get something from McDonalds. In Sorrento, food was included with our hotel stay. Our Airbnb provided food for breakfast in Rome. So we only bought a breakfast meal in Pisa our last morning in addition to Naples.

Breakfast Total per person: $40

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Eating my morning pastry (cannollis count!) in Naples

Lunch and Dinner – When we did sit down in a restaurant, we usually spent about 40 euros on a meal for both of us. However, sometimes we were tired in the evening and just grabbed fast food or groceries to eat in our room. Sometimes, we kind of skipped lunch and just snacked throughout the day. This is the hardest one for me to estimate, but I believe we probably spent around $300 a person on all food other than breakfast and what I’m about to mention below. Could have definitely spent less. But I wanted gelato and pasta everyday!

While in Rome, we also did a food tour which was money WELL SPENT. We had coffee, cannolis, meats, cheeses, jams, truffles, pastas, pizzas, and gelato. I had SO MUCH FOOD I literally got so sick later but it was so worth it. Wow. Our only regret was not doing the tour sooner on the trip. This was $99 a person.

We also signed up for our first Eat With experience at Barbara’s. We went to an Italian’s home in Trastevere, and enjoyed her home cooked meals with wine and company all night long. This was $75 a person, which helps to supply all of the ingredients, wine, and Barbara herself!

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Drinking wine with a local Italian man and a family from Tel Aviv in Barbara’s home

Cost of food per person: $514

Summary:

The grand total is $2,041.50!

AK, THAT’S TERRIBLE. That is not saving money at all!

It was my honeymoon, give me a break. It’s also important to take the following into consideration:

  • I went into this trip knowing that I had honeymoon gifts and money from the wedding to cover things (included in the total above). About $800 of that per person was covered for us – bringing the cost down to almost $1,200 per person total for EVERYTHING.
  • I didn’t have to pay for hotels. I could have booked airbnbs, hostels, or used hotel points (potentially reducing the cost by $835.50 per person).
  • I also got so many miles from the hotel bookings that I have enough for a free one way flight in the states.
  • Time is money. I splurged on tours to mainly save on time that would be lost if I got everywhere myself. You could cut back several hundred just from that. If you do want to do a tour though, you could look into using certain credit card points to cover those as well.
  • I love food. We ate all the food we could ever want and more. If you stick to grocery shopping, just getting a light pastry in the morning, making your big meal of the day lunch as opposed to dinner (more expensive), being okay with standing to eat, etc. you can definitely do it for cheaper than we did. Also, don’t pick places with pictures of the food or where the menu is translated. If you are near a super touristy area, walk a few blocks away before looking for food. We were bad about this because we always waited until we were starving and on our death beds before looking for a place to eat. Therefore, we settled quickly. Some research in advance or looking on yelp could help too. Obviously, skip the food tours too if you are on a tight budget.
  • We did every attraction under the sun in these parts of Italy. A lot of them start to feel repetitive. If you just stick to what you really care about seeing, and what is free, that will also help. You can have an amazing time in Italy just wandering around for free.

I know this post is lengthy, but there is really good advice and ideas you could use on your trip. A lot of these things I had to really dig to find, or didn’t find out until I was there. I know quite a few people have already been to Italy too, so if you have anything to share, PLEASE do.

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At the top of Mt. Vesuvius

Budget Breakdown – UK

Warning: This blog post’s purpose is not to solely provide entertainment, but to present a realistic breakdown of expenses spent on a trip. The goal is to help create ideas on how to cut back, help set expectations, and to see how my money was spent based on airfare, lodging, transportation, attractions and meals.

I went to the UK back at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013. It was the very first international trip that I had ever planned! It is a good trip to breakdown on here since I had so little money (for such a big trip) to travel with at that point. If you really are bound and determined, you CAN make it happen!

Here’s a look at the dates we had our trip for reference.

12/30/12 – Flew out of DFW

12/31/12 – Arrived at LHR (London Heathrow) after a layover in Frankfurt – midday

1/1/13 – 1/3/13 – 3 Full days in London

1/4/13 – Day trip to Oxford from London

1/5/13 – Day trip on to Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath from London

1/6/13 – Train to Cardiff, spent night there

1/7/13 – Day trip to Tongwynlais and Caerphilly from Cardiff, then train back to London

1/8/13 – Bus ride to Inverness, Scotland

1/9/13 – Full day in Inverness and Dores

1/10/13 – Bus to Edinburgh

1/11/13 – Full day in Edinburgh

1/12/13 – Bus back to London

1/13/13 – Fly out of LHR back home

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Conveniently Labeled Underground Station

Plane Tickets:

William and I purchased the majority of our plane tickets with miles. This was before I knew anything about how they worked or how to use them…..I simply knew they existed. Somehow, my dad and I had struck up a conversation concerning them, and he offhandedly mentioned, “Oh, I have about 100,000 miles about to expire with American Airlines.”

WHAT!!!!

After expressing my disbelief and bravely offering my services to put them to good use, my dad told me I could use them as long as I paid for any of the other fees. This conversation had occurred over a year before this London trip, so I used 25,000 miles to fly round trip to New York to visit one of my best friends, Juan, the previous year. We then applied the other 75,000 (probably a bit more) points towards London. We were short by a few thousand miles, and after all of the taxes and fees were factored in, it cost about $600.

Cost of airfare per person: $300.

Lodging:

These were the days before I knew about Airbnb, and William didn’t feel comfortable staying somewhere where we had to share a room. We definitely could have found a better accommodation looking back. In London, we stayed at the Easy Hotel. There are several locations across London, but the 2 we have experience with are the Kensington and Paddington locations. They were essentially EXACTLY the same. You get a bright orange “room” with a mattress surrounded by wall on 3 sides. There is a little patch of floor that allows you to get into your tiny bathroom that may or not may have hot water in the shower. When I first saw the room, I didn’t know whether or not I wanted to laugh or cry. William thought it was hilarious and we never spent time there anyway, so it worked out fine.

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These hotels on average cost about 40 pounds a night, which roughly was about $60. We spent 8 nights in Easy Hotels.

We also stayed in one cheap hotel near the train station in Cardiff for about $40 (can’t remember the name) for one night. Breakfast was included.

In Inverness, we stayed at the cutest Bed and Breakfast called The Quaich. It’s close to the main part of town, the host was very kind, and the breakfast delicious! I also learned at this breakfast the proper way to eat a boiled egg in Scotland with a spoon. It was about $40 a night including breakfast. We stayed here for 2 nights.

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Inverness, where The Quaich was located

Finally, in Edinburgh, we stayed at a terrible guesthouse (can’t remember name). Firstly, there was NO ONE THERE when we arrived at our check-in time. We both didn’t have international calling plans, so we walked down the street and found a local barbershop that let us use their phone to call. It turned out the poor guy had gone to the hospital after having an asthma attack. We had to wait for 30 minutes before he arrived to let us in. I know health comes first, and that’s a very legitimate excuse but it was still inconvenient that only this one person could help us.

The guy did feel bad and upgraded us to a room where we would have our own bathroom (originally supposed to share one). The stay was fine.

The main problem I have with this place though, is that they double charged us for our stay and never fixed it. When I got home, I saw both of the charges on the credit card account. I tried emailing and calling, but could never get in touch with anyone.

I probably could have been more persistent, but I eventually just gave up on getting that money back. We had stayed 2 nights here for about $60 a night after all taxes and fees.

In total, we spent about (or should have without the extra charge) $720 on lodging for 2 people.

Cost of lodging per person: $360

Transportation:

After reviewing the official London transportation website, it looks like things have changed slightly since I was there. However, my advice will be pretty similar. First of all, journeys on buses and the Tube are more expensive if you are buying an individual, single ticket every time. The locals use something called an Oyster card to pay for their fares. This is a card you can load money onto, or buy certain passes and have them connected to your card. At the London Heathrow airport, you can purchase an Oyster card for just 5 pounds and from there, take the Tube straight into the heart of London. You could also turn your card back in at the end of your stay, and get the 5 pounds refunded.

Your fare price will also change depending on what zones you are traveling to and from. You can take a closer look at this map here.

I did all of the math for William and I based on our itinerary using the chart of fares, and it made the most sense for us to buy a week long pass that we activated on 1/1/2013, valid only for zones 1-2 (I feel like ours may have just been zone 1, but this is not an option anymore. More details on passes here).  London Heathrow is actually in zone 6, but it is the only place outside of zone 1 that we needed to get to/from. So we just paid as we went with our new oyster card to our hotel inside zone 1 on the 31st. Keep in mind also, that even though we did several day trips and a night in Wales, we still needed to use the Tube every day to get to and from the special buses, tours or train stations.

A week long pass in just zones 1-2 is currently 33 pounds. With that converted along with the other times we used the Tube, we probably spent about $65 per person on transportation in London.

William and I also used buses in Wales (to Tongwynlais, Caerphilly, and back), Inverness (to Dores and back), and throughout Edinburgh. In total, this probably ended up being about $15 per person.

We also booked most of our longer local travel through Megabus.

  • London to Inverness (about $20 per person, 14 hour route)
  • Inverness to Edinburgh (about $5 per person, 4 hour route)
  • Edinburgh back to London (about $15 per person, 10 hour route)

The other bus we booked was a special bus that literally just went from London to Oxford round trip for a day without any stops in between. I can’t remember the name of the company, but this was about $20 per person.

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On the bus to Oxford

So in total, on buses outside of London, we spent $75 per person.

Finally, we did take a train round trip from London to Cardiff as a splurge. There were buses available, but this was the cheapest route available by train and William really wanted to try one out while we were there! Per person, our train travel round trip was about $60.

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Train Ride to Cardiff

Drum roll please…….In total on ALL transportation, big and small, we spent about $200 per person. For 2 weeks.

Attractions:

William and I did pretty much everything we could possibly fit in, but a lot of the sightseeing was free.

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Most museums in London are free, including the famous British History Museum

For those things that aren’t free in London, they most likely are covered under the London Pass. You can buy a 1,2,3,6, or 10 day pass. We decided to buy the 3 day one because it would save us the most money in the end. It was about $80 per person, but when you consider that certain attractions, such as the Tower of London, are like $30 alone, it adds up quickly.

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Tower of London

You can also add an Oyster transportation option into your London pass, but when we went, it wouldn’t save us as much money.

We paid for other attractions just at the gate (or bought tickets online), as well as booked an undergrounded haunted tour in Edinburgh. We also booked a full day tour that took us to Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath. Admission to Windsor Castle and Stonehenge were included, as well as the transportation and lunch for $90 per person.

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Stonehenge

So for attractions, we spent about $250 per person in total.

Meals:

This is where we REALLY cut back.

Breakfast – For breakfast in London, there was a Sainsbury grocery store down the street a few blocks. This store would always have something called a 3 pound meal deal. For 3 pounds (about $5), we could get a sandwich or some pasta, a bag of chips and a drink. Breakfast was included in Wales and Inverness at our hotel/b&b. Breakfast Total per person: $55.

Lunch and Dinner – We basically ate at KFC and McDonalds for every meal, because everything else was so expensive. Therefore, our meals totaled at about $5 per person per meal. We did branch out every once in a while, so we don’t feel like the trip was “wasted” or ruined. Food isn’t my biggest priority when traveling anyway though.

We ate at a traditional British pub and a Chinatown restaurant in London, as well as a really local neat pub in Dores, Scotland where we tried Haggis.

Total per person for Lunch and Dinner combined: $150.

Total spent on food per person for the whole trip: $205.

Summary:

So the grand total is……. $1,065 per person for EVERYTHING.

Keep in mind this does depend on your priorities. Time is a priority you have to pay for. If you don’t want to take a 14 hour bus ride, it will cost you. Better meals and local fare will cost more. Taking taxis or renting a car will cost more.

But all I really care about in the end is experiencing and seeing the city I’m in. I am pretty much willing to do anything to get there. And William and I had an AMAZING time on this trip!

If that still sounds like too much for a 2 week trip across the UK, keep these tips in mind.

  • I did splurge on some meals
  • I could have bought groceries
  • I could have waited to have all the miles I needed for airfare (reducing the cost per person by $300)
  • I could have earned hotel points and had free lodging (reducing the cost per person by $360)! Or
  • I could have used Airbnb, alltherooms.com , or stayed in a hostel to cut back on lodging costs
  • I could have taken a bus instead of a train to Wales
  • I could have cut out certain attractions

In the end, if you want to get there, you can do it! Do your research, plan in advance, save those points. And I’m always glad to help.