I just got back from Europe. Hi.
I was in Prague and Vienna for a couple of weeks, and then I went to Bordeaux and Bretagne in France for a two-week French immersion. Oh, and then I went to New York City and up and down the East Coast and bought a Hamilton t-shirt. So my life’s been pretty boring this past month.
Before I went to Europe, I only withdrew about $100 worth of euros/crowns for souvenirs. Other than the cost of, you know, eating, sleeping, and otherwise inhabiting, I lived on $100 for a month and managed to buy gifts for all of my friends and family members (who I remembered. If I didn’t remember you… oops). So here are the things I did to help me save money and live happily in Europe for a month.
Rule 1: Water bottles are great. Peeing is not so great.
In Europe, they charge you for everything. EVERYTHING. Water. Peeing. As an American, I believe it is my constitutional right to point out cruel and unusual punishment when I see it. Drink water. Don’t pee a ton. I am proud to say that I have never paid to pee in my life.
Rule 2: Gelato? A+.
Gelato is probably the best thing ever, and you only get the real deal in Europe. (It’s probably better in Italy. I’d probably melt if I ever tried Italian gelato, though, because I can’t imagine anything better than stracciatella on the streets of Austria/France.) Plus, it’s only one euro usually! AND it alleviates the I’m-hot-and-can’t-drink-water-because-I-need-to-save-money-by-not-paying-to-pee quandry.
Rule 3: Thirsty for water and quality mugs? Starbucks.
“Um.” is what you probably just said. Let me explain. We had 15 minutes to get to Starbucks and back. The Starbucks was a half-mile away. We had heavy backpacks and couldn’t read German or Austrian. We ran across Vienna, shouted at some strangers, and arrived, sweaty and falling over ourselves, at Starbucks. Why? We wanted the Starbucks city mugs. The problem? There was only one mug left and two of us. The cashier spoke English (thankfully) and we found out that there were ten more in stock. I got one. And I think he threw in a free water because he thought we were insane.
Rule 4: Magnets are your best friends. Also, pictures.
I bought so many magnets. Possibly because they are great gifts for anyone, including that weird uncle you forgot about or that second cousin you never knew existed before last Christmas. As for other people you forgot about, the world in Europe is just so picturesque that as long as you own a camera of decent quality (or a phone with HDR), you can pretty much snap any picture of anything, print it, and pretend you bought postcards for people. Voilà, mes amis.
Rule 5: Junk is not your best friend.
Honestly, I think the most important thing to consider when on a $100 budget in Europe is what will I actually use this for? Do I need that mug? Or those shoes that I could buy in the US just as easily? (Magnets excluded.) My favorite thing I bought was probably a 1€ print of La ravaudeuse by André Jolly (pictured above). There is a lot of high quality cheap stuff in this world (Donald Trump not included).
I was in France for the worst thirty days, including the terror attacks in Nice and the coup d’etat in Turkey (I was really far away from anything dangerous, although I was at a rock concert the night of the terror attacks in Nice which was kind of scary because who knows if they were thinking of coming there instead and barely decided against it?). In all seriousness, though: the security in Europe? Is awful. AWFUL. At the fanzones for the soccer cup, their definition of “tight security” is like, a two-second pat on the back and looking into women’s purses without the official-looking poking-around stick. I really would like to go back to Europe after I graduate high school, but with all of the terror attacks happening, I’m really glad I live in the US right now. I love how tight our security is.