|Hungarian Parliament Building|
Me and my friend Molly met up once or twice a week for a couple of hours for months planning everything starting in October (we didn't go until the beginning of July). Initially we started by deciding on the places we wanted to go, but despite taking geography for A Level I suddenly realised how little I knew of Eastern Europe so we got out a map and decided to pick countries that were close to each other. We researched the major cities in a string of countries and eventually decided upon;
- Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
- Berlin (Germany)
- Krakow (Poland)
- Prague (Czech Republic)
- Vienna (Austria)
- Budapest (Hungary)
which were all pretty much in a straight-ish line across the middle of the European continent so we wouldn't have to do too much travelling or doubling back on ourselves. These were cities I had never visited before and knew very little about but just looking at pictures of them I was beginning to get excited! Molly on the other hand had been to Berlin and Prague before and I found that a great comfort in some ways; she already knew a little of the history, geography and what things were good to look at what could be left off the list. Other than that though we were in entirely new territory.
Now deciding to travel is all well and good until, like me, you realise you have about £32.71 in your bank account and despite all the wishing in the world, that just won't cover your costs. So I got a job which was easier said than done as I had no previous experience and no real references. However, through a miracle (nobody else applied for the position) I managed to find myself a job and I quickly started asking for all the extra shifts I could. Quite soon the pay cheques started adding up and I was in a much better position to start booking transport and accommodation. I would say that every two weeks I was able to book transport to and accommodation in one city so in about 3 months I had booked the whole trip.
|View over Prague from the Town Hall Tower|
Through our research and contrary to the often used term, we didn't go "inter railing". we actually found it considerably cheaper and more convenient to travel by bus in between destinations. Some of the shorter journeys were only about 8.99 euros for a 3 hour cross country bus ride, AND, there was greater freedom in choosing when we could go so often we booked to have half a day in our current place and then arrive in the early evening in our next destination to get something to eat and settle down for the evening. For the accommodation we mainly stayed in hostels and usually a private room for the two of us, sometimes with a shared bathroom and sometimes not and we twice stayed in an apartment. This was partly a comfort thing but we also felt that our belongings would be more secure in a private room and on our first trip we didn't want to be taking any chances. The costs for these differing arrangements varied; a 6 bed, mixed dorm with shared shower in Amsterdam was in fact one of the more expensive accommodations but then Amsterdam turned out to be one of the more expensive cities. The apartment in Krakow and Budapest worked out to be quite good value really, especially as we stayed there slightly longer than in some of the other places.
It's difficult to properly evaluate in a way, it all depends on what you're comfortable with and can afford. We wanted to be as private as possible for comfort and also for the security of our belongings but we also wanted to be really central in the cities that we visited and that did come with a premium but we found that by using buses to travel we were able to save some money that we then spent elsewhere. Also in the hostels and apartment we found using local supermarkets and occasionally cooking our own meals saved us quite a penny as well. It's all about being cost savvy and making savings where you can. Some of the accommodations were really lovely whilst some were a little but more budget but when you're travelling with a friend you can take it in your stride and laugh it off-that's what we always did.