The world on $100 a day

This item appears on page 31 of the September 2018 issue.

Pat Ove of Aurora, California, wrote, "There must be many budget travelers reading ITN who are having exciting adventures discovering the world on $100 a day [not including overseas airfare]. I would love to read about their journeys."

Regarding traveling outside of the US on $100 a day (excluding international air), subscribers were asked to tell us how they did it and where and when they traveled, specifying modes of transport, types of accommodations used and how those were found plus any other budget-travel tricks.

We printed a few responses in last month's issue, more are below, and more are to come.


Travel under $100 a day? It can be done. There are plenty of places I have traveled in the last five years where it cost me less than $100 a day, including Madrid, Córdoba, Porto, Rome and Brussels as well as throughout Poland and in Eastern Europe and a whole lot more.

Since cutting my travel teeth with Arthur Frommer's guidebook "Europe on $5 a Day" in 1973, there have been huge changes in how people can travel on a budget. Also, as I have aged, "budget" holds a different meaning and level. Some of the discomforts I tolerated at 30 are not the same ones I may be willing to experience today. I no longer need to sleep on trains to save money (and, with high-speed trains, this is less of an option).

More than half the fun of travel is the research and preparation. My considerations for budget travel are based upon where I'm going, accommodations, eating and how I choose to spend my time.

Major cities in Western Europe are a challenge at $100 a day (it's typically more expensive traveling to Paris as opposed to Warsaw or Asia), but they should not be ignored.

I'm going to Paris, FRANCE, in September 2018 and have twin accommodations booked for an average of $180 a night. Split two ways, that's $90 each. I could have gone cheaper but chose to stay within walking distance of Notre Dame.

Later that same trip, I'm traveling to Baku, AZERBAIJAN, and am paying $89 for a twin room for two nights. That's only $22 per person a night, so if I'm trying to stay under $100 a day, I can certainly dine better in Baku than in Paris.

What about food? If I can't book a room with breakfast included, I have a light breakfast of coffee. For lunch, it's maybe a sandwich that I buy in a grocery or at a simple bar. I rarely choose to eat in a restaurant but love eating outside at cafés and other simpler dining. For my room, I always go to the grocery for a bottle of wine and snacks.

I know I'll be able to eat for $20-$25 a day in Paris (and that includes beer or wine) if I eat simple meals or picnic, and Baku will be much cheaper.

How will I spend my time? Walking the parks and streets and seeing monuments and architecture is free. Most churches and mosques are free to visit, and there are free activities. There are also free 2- to 3-hour walking tours in every major city in the world. (I do tip the guide, usually $10 if the tour is well done, but $5 is acceptable.)

While Baku's historic center and museums are free or very inexpensive to visit, I know museums in Paris are expensive, and there is a lot I want to do there, but, even then, I know how to save money.

With museums, look online for their free-entry days. Entry to the Louvre costs 15 (near $18), but admission is free for youths after 6 p.m. on Friday, and it's free for everyone the first Sunday of each month from October to March. Planning ahead can save money.

Seek combination tickets that include museums you want to see. And if you can purchase an entry ticket online for less, do so; it often also saves time with quicker admission.

If you are a teacher or in the military, check to see if that can get you in for free or at a reduced rate. Sometimes they say there's a senior rate only for EU citizens, but do your homework or closely check signs, as non-EU seniors also may qualify. You'll have to ask for the reduced price. Make sure everyone carries proper ID.

There is also transportation to consider. Check online for the best and cheapest way to get around. If you must buy tickets, passes that group options together are often the least expensive.

The Paris Visite travel pass covers buses, Métro, trams, Montmartre funicular and the Réseau Express Régional (RER). The cost is about $33 for three days. This might be a bargain if you use the Métro a lot, as each ride normally costs about $2.50.

There is also a Paris Pass, which covers transportation to and from the airport and to zones outside the city. If you're planning to go to Versailles or Fontainebleau (or Disneyland), this pass may save you money.

Walking is always free. I paid more for my hotel in Paris because I know I'll be able to walk everywhere and limit my use of the expensive Métro.

So what will I spend? I suspect this trip to Paris will average $130-$150 a day. However, if I had gone for a $60 room, I would probably keep it under $100. In Baku, I expect to spend about $60 a day.

Patricia Bunyard
Cambria, CA

One way to go to ISRAEL for far less than $100 per day is to sign up for a unique program, now 36 years old, where you can be one of the civilian volunteers performing logistical work and integrating with Israeli youth at actual Israeli army (IDF) bases.

This nonsectarian program accepts volunteers — ages 16 and up — from around the world for one, two or three weeks. To volunteer, Americans can visit the Volunteers for Israel website at Non-Americans can visit

In the program, you are housed in barracks, men with men and women with women (no special quarters for married couples).

The army provides three square meals every day in their kosher mess halls. You get a work uniform and a day job which, though very satisfying, is not particularly taxing. (My assignments have included working in a warehouse and a truck motor pool, fixing jeep radio antennas, installing barbed wire and camouflage nets, filling sandbags, packaging medical supplies, sorting clothing, painting and more.) Transportation to and from work sites, after-hours enrichment and a single visit to a tourist site are also provided. All you have to do is show up, and all of the above costs you nothing!

Here are some details. Upon Sunday arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, you are met by soldiers and bused to your IDF base. (I've been stationed at bases in different parts of the country.)

You live and work on base until Thursday at noon, when you're bused to a major city hub for your off-duty weekend. You are on your own until Sunday morning and may tour, visit relatives, party, etc., for three nights. On Sunday, you're bused back to your IDF base.

The weekend is the only time you spend some personal money, paying for three nights at a hotel (breakfasts included), five meals or so and touring.

If you are doing the 2- or 3-week program, it ends on a Thursday and you are bused to a major city hub. You then are on your own and may fly home, hang around or tour Israel's numerous treasures.

Your total out-of-pocket costs for the 2-week program are your expenses for the weekend nights at a hotel, any meals off the base, a few bus tickets, and taxis and touring expenses during your free time. These could total perhaps $600, which averages out to $50 per day — a bargain.

My wife, Marcia, and I have done this program several times, most recently in April 2018, and it's a blast.

Steve Plotkin
Newtown Square, PA

My adult son and I traveled to Kraków, POLAND, in May of 2017. Kraków is a budget traveler's dream.

I prearranged airport/hotel transfers through at just under $23, each way (10 minutes), for two people.

We stayed at the small but very nice Ingo Aparthotel Kraków (Mikolajska 17, Kraków; For a 7-night stay, our good-size room cost $380 ($27 per person per day), including an excellent continental breakfast.

The Ingo is located a 2-minute walk from the main square and next to Planty Park, which encircles the historic city center, where the medieval city walls used to stand. The park is a beautiful place to go for a stroll or to sit and relax.

The entire square is encircled with restaurants. At first glance, I thought they were going to be out of our price range, but I couldn't believe how inexpensive prices were on the posted menus. For each of us daily, lunch cost $5-$6 and dinner, $10-$13. We tried a different place each night.

One of my favorite meals was a delicious, croissant-wrapped salmon with strawberry and mango salsa. Including a mojito and dessert, that meal cost me $13.

Most restaurants had outdoor seating areas where you could enjoy your meal under large red umbrellas while watching the activity in the square. Not even the rain stopped people from enjoying the outdoor seating; the umbrellas provided shelter, and outdoor heaters and cozy red blankets provided warmth. I actually really enjoyed sitting out in the rain eating. It was a fun experience.

Our hotel also was a 10- to 15-minute walk from a 5-story mall, which we visited several times.

I had looked into prebooking sightseeing tours online before leaving the States. However, I was told by people who had traveled to Kraków that it would be much cheaper if I purchased there. They were right.

There were tour-booking centers around the square that charged a fraction of the online prices. We ended up paying $20-$30 per day. I booked a tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau, including transportation, for about $20 for the following day. We also booked a half-day city walking tour for $10 each.

Normally, I use a lot of public transportation while traveling in Europe, but we really didn't need it in Kraków. It's a very compact area, so we either walked or used the transportation included with our tours. Only once did we use a cab, while returning to our hotel from Oskar Schindler's Factory. (While we had no problem catching a cab from the Schindler museum, the city center was not overrun with cabs.)

For anyone looking for a budget trip, I would highly recommend Kraków. It's a clean, laid-back, easygoing city with tons of stuff to see and do. It's definitely on my Top 10 Best Trips list.

Cynthia Anchondo
Moreno Valley, CA