Saturday, July 31, 2010

Viareggio trip costs...

Just a quick and very messy run down on what things cost in Viareggio:

18euro a day for an umbrella and 2 deck chairs
10euro a day for a lie down chair
10 euro a day to drop your towel on the beach and lie on it.
There are free beaches on the other side of the canal. You walk between buildings to get to them and there are no lifeguards.
7.50 euro per kg of pizza in a pizzeria on the promenade
Gelato from 1.50 euro in a small cup or 1 scoop in a cone (this is plenty especially for the kids)
Beer from 2euro a bottle (you can walk the streets with it)
Shoes from 4.50 euros to 800euros (designer)
Clothes from 2 euros
Underwear from 1.50euro (like Bras & Things shop)
Bottle soft drink from 2 euro
1 L bottle of water from 1.50euro
Ask to use the toilet in the bars/cafes/restaurants sometimes they are free and sometimes they charge 50c or whatever change you want to give.
Fish and chips from a boat - 1 box of mixed fried fish (calamari, prawns, octopus) 7 euro, chips 1.50 euro. This was the best food, amazingly we loved the deep fried crumbed octopus (tasted just like calamari).
Pasta with tomatoes, salmon, cheese is from 4.50euros. Salad is huge and is from about 6 euros (I recommend getting a salad, a pizza or 2 and some French fries for family of 4 then there is something fresh in the mix).
Bring big beach towels to lie on the sand is too hot to be hanging off the ends.
Close your eyes and pretend to be sleeping when a “gypsy” comes past to sell you something or ask if you want a foot massage (they generally leave you alone then).
Be prepared to do a bit of walking along the promenade to check out what is available.
There is a cruise from Viareggio around the islands and to Cinque Terre from 30euros for adults and 15 euro for kids (I recommend this if you don’t have the time to travel to Cinque Terre any other time).
There is whale watching and dolphin watching cruises from here too.
Things to beware of at Viareggio:
The jellyfish in the water, they are big and you will see them but if you don’t they sting (like a bluebottle in Australia)
Gypsies- just say no and keep on saying no if you don’t want anything from them. If you do buy something from them and you need change from them make sure they give you the change first before you give them the money.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Some interesting facts about travelling on trains in Italy

On Tuesday we took our first train trip in Europe. We found tickets at the tabaccheri and found the platform to leave from.
We then worked out that 2nd class was in the carriages marked with a 2. 2nd class is normal train chairs and overhead storage rack, it is air conditioned too.
While on the train we read theback of our tickets... needed to be validated somewhere, where we didn't know. So we figured we would just wait for the ticket person to come around and we would explain our situation.
Well she did come around and our 22euro for 4 turned into 42euro, we got charged 5euro each for not having the tickets validated. It could have been worse, it could have been 40euros , but she understood that we had no idea where to validate our tickets.
She showed us a picture of one, it is a tiny yellow box hanging on columns in the station, well even if we had seen them we wouldn't have known what they were (literally they look like sharps boxes).
anyway need to get ready for the day out at the beach, will continue this fascinating story soon.
Continuing on...
Our return tickets from Viareggio to Florence ended up being 2euro cheaper and I validated it like a good little girl. :-)
The train was also a lot more comfortable.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

25 July 2010-Blew the budget just a little :-)

We went out looking for an english church to attend this morning and found a lovely cafe in the SS Anunziata Square and couldn't resist having our first macchiato in a cafe(can you believe that we held out?).
So we got 2 small gelati (equals sml in Aust), 2 macchiatos and a custard/choc filled croissant for 6.60 euros (AUD $9.50)
We walked around the expensive part of town near Ponte Vecchio and then headed back to the apartment. When Iain saw this camera shop we have passed many times and decided to go in and see what the camera he wanted cost. I thought "ok it is his birthday this week so we will let him get what he wants" (shock horror).
He went in and asked about the Olympus SP800UZ (blah blah blah) it was only 299euro (AUD $430) total bargain because it was $600 in Australia. We also get the duty tax back when we arrive back in Australia.
We also brought a little Ferrarri something for a cousins new baby (Iain could not resist). 15euros.
Almost back to the apartment and we decide to let the boys have pizza for lunch and a drink to share. The shop we stopped at was really close to the main train station and a slice of pizza ended up being big enough for 2 so for 2 slices all 4 of us had lunch and shared a bottle of red orange juice (succo arancia rosso). We also got to sit at one of the tables (you normally pay for this) All 4 of us had lunch for 10euro (AUD$14).
So today was a bit of a spending day, although apart from the camera we didn't do too bad. :-)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

One week in Florence

Today 22 July 2010 we went into the centre and purchased tickets for the Florence Open Top Tour bus 50euros (the children were free) It is valid for 48hours. This equates to about $73Aud. The tour was fantastic and we can hop on and hop off the bus for 2 days. This is a really good way to get an idea of where things are to see and do, write down the streets and search for them later.
The tickets also gave us 2 large cokes at MacDonalds for 1euro.
Some of the streets we went through however would quite easily blow your budget out of the water if you let them... shops like Salvatore Ferragamo, Prada, Tiffany, Gucci and Dior. I could use my whole 3 months budget on 1 handbag at Hermes... but of course I won't. :-)
So far our total spend this first week : 370euros ($535AUD) Includes everything except accomodation (187euros per week).
So far so good, our first week will be the most expensive I expect.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The first week of Florence so far...15/7 - 21/7

When we landed in Florence we realised we had forgotten to get some euros before leaving London so we searched the airport for an atm. We needed cash for the taxi (25euros) and for one months rent. The atm did not work ...Aaarrgghh. The only option we had was the exchange and this cost us dearly, we withdrew 1000 euros from our cash passport and were charged 179 euros commission...OUCH!!! Well you live and you learn and you try not to do it again.
When we arrived at the apartment we settled the account for rent 650euros for the month because we had sent 100euro deposit. The landlady took Iain around to the meters and they wrote down the amounts for gas, water and electricity (this will be paid at the end of our stay).

So far we have spent-
110euros on groceries (we expected to spend 150euros a week, so not bad so far).
37euros on sight seeing
60euros on miscellaneous (gelati, lunch out, mobile credit recharge)

Yesterday 19/7 when we went to the Giardino di Boboli we saw some foccacia sandwiches for 3 euros each and decided to get some and 4 x 500ml cokes. The cokes cost the same as the sandwiches - 26 euros.
Iain went to the Coop (grocery store) and spent the same amount of euros on a few days worth of food. So from now on we take our own coke and snacks in a cooler bag if we are spending the whole day out.

So far we have used 920 euros for the first week in Florence. $1340 Aud ($950 of this was 1 months rent). So we won't spend this amount in a week again until the rent is due mid August. Unless we do some serious damage in the Sales they have here....OMG!!!

Our budget so far... London

Ok so we had 740 Pounds for London for 3 nights.
196 Pounds came out of that for accomodation.
100 Pounds for the coach from Stansted to Gatwick airport + 8.20 for the shuttle bus to our Hotel (Copthorne Effingham Gatwick Hotel).
We purchased some Oyster cards (like Go cards) for 34 pounds (17 each kids free). We did not end up needing these, so if anyone wants to buy them off us let us know, they have 15 pounds credit on both of them and can be used on the tube, bus and ferry in the city.
We found that the little cafes at the airport and train stations were great for breakfast alot cheaper than getting it at the hotel. Sausage on a roll 1 pound and coffee 1 pound, so brekkie for 2 pounds is pretty good.
You can also get fruit and veg packs from Marks and Spencers for a great price from the stations as well. 2 for 1 fruit salads 5 pounds. 3 quiches 5 pounds.
BRING ADAPTORS!!! I suggest getting a worldwide one and packing a power board so that you can charge your phone, computer and the kids nintendos at the same time with only one adaptor. (Thanks Dad for that suggestion).
When we went into the city the train cost 22pounds for the day for the 4 of us from 930am(off peak) they don't really have afternoon off peak times just ask at the station when you purchase the tickets.
We also decided to purchase the 48 hour hop on hop off tour bus tickets 87 pounds for all 4 of us (these were great) you get an idea of where places are and you see all the tourist places. We used The Big Bus Company, you will see people at bus stops selling these tickets, buy your London Eye tickets through them too (trust me it will save you time).
London eye was 54pounds a family of 4.
A pub meal in the city will cost about 40pounds but I was told by a very nice taxi driver that you can get cheap pub meals at the Wetherspoon pubs (they are everywhere, just google).
So that is London done we ended up spending 720.50Pounds. $1250 AUD (remember we had to buy everything here, no self catering facilities).
Oh and buy Harrods bags from the airport they are around 30pounds for ones that look like nice handbags and 17pounds for the shopping totes.

Travel insurance

Get travel insurance no matter how long you are going for! and make sure everything is covered. If you are going to be renting cars while overseas make sure the excess insurance is covered on the travel insurance (and remember not to pay extra for it when renting the car).
We got insure4less travel insurance, the contact is in Scarborough Queensland and they are covered by Lloyds of London. It cost us $790 for 3 months.
You need to remember to defer your private health cover for the time of your travel (call them and ask them about it).

Air Asia

For anyone planning on flying Air Asia, please try to get some Malaysian dollars even if you are not spending any time in Malaysia. It is much cheaper to use Malaysian dollars on the plane for snacks etc... than to use Australian dollars. $100 will give you about 300Malaysian dollars.
Ok the plane was pretty normal and the food was good, the tvs are hand held and cost about 30 Malaysian dollars and you can watch for around 4 hours (or however long the batteries last). The food and drink is reasonably priced, however I do suggest booking your meals when you book your tickets (it is cheaper).
If you do spend the night in KL before flying off to the next destination I suggest just staying at one of the hotels near the airport like Tunes Hotels. We didn't and ended up having to pay $50 return in the taxi to the house we were staying in. Although it was a nice place to stay.
From KL to London again use Malaysian dollars and keep the left overs for your return trip.
Also when booking your flights only order the comfort kit once per person you can take it with you on the other flights (blanket, pillow and eye mask).
If you have travel insurance do not pay extra for the insurance on the flights.
I would fly with Air Asia again with no worries.

Friday, July 9, 2010

$900 = 500pounds :-(

So we went and exchanged $900 for 500pounds. At least I don't plan on shopping in London Town. Our plan is to see everything that is free ie. all churches that start with St. most of them have towers that you can climb and see views from or so I have been told, Buckingham Palace is free from the outside (however this is something I will be paying for), You can see the Tower of London and London Bridge and Big Ben and we will take a short walk along the Thames.
We will more than likely pay to go on the London Eye = 57pounds for a family of 4.
How much is fish and chips??? Hopefully not too expensive.
I will let you all know.
The bus from Stansted to Gatwick is 87.90pounds for family of 4 and 9 pounds for the shuttle to our hotel from there. It may have been a mistake to stay so far out of the city (we'll see).
Oh can anyone tell me how to use the british pounds sign??

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I guess I should tell you what our budget is...

Well to start off our budget for 3 months in Italy including all airfares, accomodation, passports, travel insurance, luggage, taxis, transport, souvenirs, food, utilities, international drivers licence and everything else needed for travelling overseas is $20,000.
Most couples spend $20,000 on a 2-4 week tour of Europe so we plan on stretching it to 3 months.
First things first you really need to be flexible on when you can go, so that when you find extremely cheap airfares you can book them. By buying Air Asia tickets when they were having a sale we saved thousands all up our tickets from the Gold Coast to London return were $1100 each including all taxes. From there we paid for cheap local flights with Meridiana, Ryanair and Easy Jet. If you do not want to go as cheap as Air Asia most of the time you can get a flight to London Return from Brisbane from about $1800 + taxes.
So our airfares have taken up a quarter of our budget ( I did freak out at this, but have done my sums over and over again and everything should work out alright).
Next post will be on the accomodation and also whether it was a good idea flying Air Asia :-).