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Just back from 2 weeks in Italy & WON'T be going to Europe again until the $ strengthens

Just back from 2 weeks in Italy & WON'T be going to Europe again until the $ strengthens

Old Jan 13th, 2008, 07:39 AM
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Just back from 2 weeks in Italy & WON'T be going to Europe again until the $ strengthens

We knew all about the dollar's weakness, and when the exchange rate reached 1E = $1.40 had said we wouldn't be traveling to Europe until things improved. But, then, we found cheap tickets to Rome. And, we found really good deals on apartments in Venice & Rome (average cost $105 a night for 2 people for nice apartments in good locations), so we decided to do it anyway. But, this will probably be the last trip for us until the dollar strengthens.

We've always used all the budget travel tips and have used apartments rather than hotels for quite some time, so are very aware of how to pinch a penny. But, nearly every time we pulled out our wallets the impact of prices really hit us. We are lucky in that we've probably taken 15 European trips in the past 10 years, so we can make comparisons and also know when it is time for us to temporarily stop traveling in Europe.

Having an apartment saved us a TON of money on food costs. We hardly ever ate out because it was so expensive. For example, in Rome we ate in a small, hole-in-the-wall, guidebook & personally recommended tratoria type place. The place and meal were nothing at all special (2 primis of crummy rigatoni, one stewed rabbit dish, one stewed beef with arugula dish, and one plain winter salad) and cost us $50 including a half liter of house wine for E3.50. And, this place was the cheapest of all the cheap recommended places. Another example: our 1st night in Venice it was late and we were jet-lagged and didn't want to stray too far away from our out-of-the-main-tourist area apartment. Rather than grabbing a sandwich we had Chinese. $50 for 2 of us in an out of the way Chinese restaurant. There was the ubiquitous 2E cover charge, we had one appetizer of 2 egg rolls, rice wasn't included and was an additonal E3.50, we had 2 rather standard main dishes & a bottle of the cheap house wine. I live in a large city--Minneapolis--and Chinese here doesn't cost nearly this much. We also have lots of small ethnic places to eat, and I can find a lot better values for $50. Plus, at home we don't eat ery meal out. this is why I bring this up. I had done lots of research on good, inexpensive places to eat in both Rome and Venice, and we walked by a lot of these places and looked at their menus. Everywhere was pricy.

Admission costs also really started to add up. Many museums and other sights are now E10. That is $30 for 2 people for several hours. Want a headset? That will cost you about another $15-$20 for 2 people. Guided tours cost even more. We did a marvelous guided tour of the Forum and Colosseum at a special discounted winter rate. This was about $100 for 3 hours for 2 of us. When you start adding up numerous places to visit, the costs really start escalating.

I am just posting this so that others can calculate the reality of what a trip will really cost. We knew ahead of time what our lodging would cost and our airfare was paid for. We also knew what the price of train tickets Rome to Venice would be. It was the everyday reality of how much all the other things cost that hit us.

We know and use all the thrifty travel tips, and it still boils down to the fact that Europe is now a very expensive place for an American to visit. We were constantly amazed when we saw families traveling together and staying at hotels and thus eating all of their meals out. I can't imagine what the costs might have been for some of them.
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 07:54 AM
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Thanks for the post. Although nothing will keep me from Europe (well, except health) it is interesting to read your observations.

What I find as a Canadian (and this is not a slight towards you! ) is that up until just recently we have had a very weak dollar for years and have always managed our European trips. I guess we had it so bad for so long that it was just how it was and we were used to it! We have gone to the UK when 1 pound = $2.5 which admittedly did hurt.

I definitely do agree with you that Europe can be a gouge-fest at times. It is unbelievable what can be charged while we have it free. Seems like wherever you turn people are asking for money (toilets, parking, etc.).

Other than the financial aspect, what did you think of your trip?
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 08:09 AM
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julies,

I hope you still had a great time. I understand where you are coming from.

travel,

Wow $2.50! You made me feel better. I am going to stop complaining about the 1 pound = $2.00.
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 08:13 AM
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No worries, cafegoddess. I did not bring it up to make anyone feel bad - just a teeny tiny perspective check!
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 08:17 AM
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I eat at the local chinese mongolian place buffet for 6.99€ incl. taxes here in Munich.
Even the small towns in the US are still very expensive. Did you know that admission to the empire state building is $19. (basic rate)...
I paid $30 for a pizza and a beer in New Jersey.

Nowhere in continental Europe it is as expensive as New York, and the smaller places in Europe are far less expensive than the same kind of towns in north America.
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 08:29 AM
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Have you thought about going to Central and Eastern Europe rather than giving up European travel all together.

For example last year a friend and i went to Krakow in Poland and always ate in the centre of town. For a meal for 2, with drinks i believe our most expensive meal was £20. I have found Germany and Czech Republic to be similar.

I think if you go to the main cities. London, Paris, Rome etc. costs are going to be more and its in these places where with a poor exchange rate you are going to notice the difference most.
 
Old Jan 13th, 2008, 08:33 AM
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I haven't been to Venice, but have heard that is a very expensive city, which is usually what you get in places like that (cities that exist mainly for tourists today). Maybe Rome is different, but I was just in Europe last summer when the exchange rate was what you are quoting, and didn't spend what you were on food -- and I wasn't trying to pinch pennies in any way. Although that isn't a big deal to me as I don't eat a lot, anyway, I know, so I don't look for expensive restaurants or name places or recommended places from guidebooks. I don't think $50 for a dinner with wine is that unusual in Europe and probably did spend that a lot (as that is only around 32 euro now), and I will also agree that I eat better than what you describe in the US for $50. But I ate better than what you described in France and Switzerland last summer, also, for that price. I don't think I went to any place that had a 10 euro admission charge, either.

I have no quarrel with your opinions and conclusions that it is too expensive for you and you won't go any more, but sometimes people who haven't been there read some posts like yours and get the wrong idea.

Of course, I guess it's what you expect from a vacation and what you spend on other things. I don't spend money on entertainment and dining out a lot at home, so don't have a problem with spending $50 for dinner on my summer vacation in Europe. You did get real cheap accommodations, though, and that's a major item. Spending only $100 for a room in Venice or Rome is doing pretty darn good and for a vacation, I don't think you can dismiss the fact that yours doesn't seem that expensive. Budget motel rooms in small towns in the US (like at chains like Quality Inn, Super 8, etc) can cost around $75, for example.
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 08:49 AM
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Venice is one of the most expensive cities in Europe, and Rome is hardly one of the cheapest, so judging the whole of Europe by those two places is a bit skewed. Staying in cheaper countries - Portugal, Greece, Austria - or smaller towns will get your costs down. Eastern Europe can be expensive for accommodation but cheaper for food.
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 08:49 AM
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We are going to Italy in March, and are staying in B&Bs this time. The B&B outside of Rome will cost 75 euros a night, while the one in Sorrento is running 65 euros. We have already seen the major sights in Rome, so we will be focusin on free experiences.
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 08:55 AM
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Hope you had a wonderful time in spite of the high costs. Did you fly NWA on the 330. We are looking at traveling to Europe this May out of Minneapolis and wondering how comfortable or uncomfortable the 330 is? Thanks.
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 08:55 AM
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Well, gee whiz! Venice and Rome are more expensive than Minneapolis!
Whoda thunk it?!?
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 09:00 AM
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Personally, I didn't find the restaurant and museum costs you mentioned particularly astonishing. You picked two of the most expensive cities in Europe.

We spend $50 at an Italian restaurant near our house in the U.S. Granted, I think the meal would be better than what you described, but you were in Rome, not the 'burbs. I can't comment on the Chinese meal; it wouldn't enter my mind to eat Chinese while in Italy.

Your average lodging cost was only $105 a night in Venice and Rome? For world-class cities anywhere in the world, that's amazing! It seems to me that rate would allow for a few museum entry fees. As someone else mentioned, rising museum entry fees are not unique to Europe.
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 09:13 AM
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Here are my suggestions for cheaper eating in Venice and Rome:
Venice
Museo Ebraico cafe - it was quite possible to get lunch for 6 Euros three years ago. I think young students who require kosher food also eat here.
Billa and Co-op grocery stores - I think it's Billa that has a pretty good deli, but perhaps Co-op does as well.
Rome
AutoGrill on via del Corso - good food, reasonable price, but not much or any seating

The museum admissions and the audiophones are expensive, but even so, I doubt that the Italian government recoups the cost of maintaining these extremely valuable treasures which are basically the patrimony of all humanity.

Still, I know that it is disappointing to get an expensive, awful meal in Venice, and at certain times that is almost unavoidable (this happened to me after the opera when most places were closed, and I didn't have any information at hand about better late-night places).
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 09:33 AM
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My husband and I are going on an Italy trip in May. I have never been but, based on my research (and the fact my husband loves wine!), I am budgeting $200 total per day for lunch and dinner. Every hotel we are staying in provides breakfast so we don't have to worry about that. I think one thing I will do is just eat fruits and veggies from a local market for lunches and snacks and save the majority of my food budget for dinner and wine. Even with the poor exchange rate I am looking forward to this wonderful trip and skimping on other things now (like we have given up eating out at home for the six months prior to the trip which is saving us at least $400 per month!) to ensure I don't have to skimp while visiting Italy!

Everyone spends money differently and you just have to work out what is best for you. If you are renting such inexpensive lodging maybe you shouldn't give up traveling to Europe but instead cook more meals at your rented apartment? Then you can still travel and see some fabulous places!

ah_
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 09:38 AM
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We find Eastern Europe to be very inexpensive - our cheapest trips. So far we have not paid any more than 60 euros for accommodation. You can find incredibly cheap and lovely pensions, villas or apartments for about 30 euros. Our goal is under 50 euros. Food and transportation can also be cheap.
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 09:46 AM
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Thanks for the reality check, julies. I find that food is a big expense on vacations - anywhere. However, as you point out, there are ways to save money on meals. I'm trying to plan an October trip, and the cost is a consideration for me also - and whether I can even go. On top of higher airfare and the low dollar, yikes!

benitakaren - I also fly out of MSP and the A330 is a great ride. I love the personal video system. I still feel crammed in - it IS coach so that's what I expect. But I enjoy being able to watch the movie I want or play games if I can't rest. Have a fun trip!

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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 09:56 AM
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True the Easter Europe is less expensive and there are some lovely places to see.
Still, I would rather visit Spain ( we found it very reasonable) than
Bulgaria.
One way to save a few bucks could be to avoid taking expensive tours.
It may be a very long time before the exchange rate changes!
BDW, New York hotels are more expensive than in any place in Europe ( well, maybe at par with London for what you get for your money)
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 09:59 AM
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Just for the record - the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in NYC is $20 per person. The NY Guggenheim is $18 while the Bilbao Guggenheim is 10.50E - the one in Venice is 10E. (The Musee d"Art Contemporain de Montreal is only $8 - a real bargain - but I wonder if the collection is as extensive, and of course, the cost for a museum to operate in NYC is far higher than in Montreal).

You will find expensive entries and expensive restaurants everywhere. We rarely eat at the upscale expensive places in NYC, but even our favorite little hole in the wall in the theatre district costs close to $50, and that is without wine and with sharing a salad and not having appetizers. (Of course, they don't charge for the bread and water. ) By the way, I'm sure we would all like to know the name of the place with the "crummy rigatoni".

I hope that despite the unplanned for expense, you enjoyed other parts of your trip - I watched online as you planned it.
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 10:00 AM
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Sorry, but I don't think you can judge all of Europe by Rome, or even Italy.

We vacationed for 3 weeks in Germany and Austria in September and found the trip to be quite reasonable, even when compared to past trips. More expensive, yes, but not outrageously so. It wasn't hard to find good filling meals for under 10E per person and all of our hotels except one was $100 or less per night. Some attractions were kind of pricey, but there were many other things we could have chosen to do that would have cost less or nothing at all. Our rental car for the entire 3 weeks was under $600 thru autoeurope and that included a one class upgrade.

If you wait to travel again in Europe until the dollar strengthens, you may have a long wait.
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 10:05 AM
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If you wait to travel again in Europe until the dollar strengthens, you may have a long wait.

Amen.
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