Tag Archives: Budget travel

CAMINO DE SANTIAGO – of food and drink and beds

Casa Magica, Villatuerta. It’s not five star; the magic is in the charm and the warm welcome.

La Casa Magica in Villatuerta is old. Camino de Santiago pilgrims have been pulling off their boots and hobbling across its rough stone floor for over 500 years.

Now the old albergue is on Facebook and has a website and guest wi-fi.

A bed costs ten euros and breakfast an additional four.

‘I’m sorry if we’re a little more expensive than some albergues,’ says our hostess Simone. Expensive? 14 euros for B&B?? We’ve paid that much for coffee and a croissant in other countries, and bad coffee at that.

Most people spending a month or so walking to Santiago will be doing it on a budget but this is ridiculous. We’ve never found any travel in Europe as cheap as this. Continue reading

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AIRBNB.COM – budget beds in New York, and everywhere else

A three bedroom Brooklyn apartment for this price sounds a very good deal!

I may have mentioned, several times, that my play ‘The Book of Everything’ is going to New York in April.

It’s all very exciting, but the playwright, having already done his job, is now considered surplus to requirements and thus has to pay for himself and partner to travel to and stay in the Big Apple. We’re hoping for a couple of complimentary tickets to see the show.

Meanwhile Mevrouw T and I have been looking for acceptable accommodation at a freelance-writer-affordable price. I think we’ve found it. Continue reading

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MELBOURNE FOR MISERS – where to go for the free stuff

A free science lecture on the big screen at Federation Square. It was about the likelihood of Earth being destroyed by an asteroid, but nobody seemed unduly concerned.


I’m a notorious skinflint traveller. If there’s a bus, I don’t take cabs; if there’s a 2-star hotel, I’ll look to see what the one star one offers; if there’s something going cheap, I’ll look for something that’s free. I know that there are more important things to spend money on – like coffee, food and alcohol.

And of all cities, my home town Melbourne is in my mind supposed to be free. In the good old days I could eat at Mum’s and she’d do my washing for nothing.

I hadn’t spent a day or a cent there for years, and there were a lot of new developments to catch up on. The Melbourne Museum, new facilities at the mighty MCG, the Ian Potter Centre and Docklands have all been installed since last I was in town. My mission was to see them for nothing, or next to nothing. Continue reading

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Filed under Budget travel, Travel-Australia

BUDGET AMSTERDAM – best card deal?

Amsterdam hotels and restaurants are notoriously expensive compared to what is available in other parts of Europe.

So you may well be looking for some euro-saving options in the entertainment/transport/museum areas. Continue reading

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Filed under Budget travel, Holland

LITTLE INDIA, SINGAPORE – cheap as chapatis

Colourful, spicy, aromatic...and cheap - Singapore's Little India


If I can’t find someone to pay for my five star accommodation, and I seldom can, going down-market has its charms too.

I don't know what these are but look at the price! Give me a set of four, please.


“What hotel are you staying at?” our Indian/Singaporean taxi driver wanted to know.

I told him, slightly reluctantly, because I know where discussions with taxi drivers sometimes lead.

“You like it?”

“It’s okay.” It wasn’t a place to boast about; not up-market enough to sound like we were important or rich, not funky and cheap enough to sound like we were savvy travellers. It was a convenient, central, generic hotel, four stars at a three star price on the internet booking service.

“How is the breakfast? Is it good?”

“It’s fine.” Meaning it was the same as any chain hotel breakfast anywhere in the world. Bacon too crisp and curly, scrambled eggs dry and cool on the bottom of the bain marie. Sweet fruit yoghurt in little tubs, tinned peach slices, packets of cornflakes and cocopops, scoops of sugary toasted muesli, stewed filter coffee…

“Next time you are coming here, you should be staying in Little India. Hotel 81. Very, very clean, and you can get breakfast at restaurant around the corner. Very, very good price.”

I’ve visited Singapore many times since then, and often taken his advice, because surprise, surprise, it was very, very good. Continue reading

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Filed under Budget travel, Singapore, Travel

INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA – Cheap hiking deals in the summer

The view from the top of an Olympic Ski jump. How does anyone do it for the first time?

When the snow melts in a valley dependent on winter sport tourism, hotel managers naturally abhor vacuuming those empty rooms, so brilliant deals are available at a fraction of the cost of a skiing holiday. The Tyrolean Alps are no less beautiful in spring and summer, with their greenery, wildflowers and warmer weather, and they’re considerably less crowded.

In Innsbruck, Austria, home of the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976, between June and September, as little as EUR179 buys three nights’ bed, breakfast and dinner, with entrance to all attractions, unlimited use of cable cars and buses, plus guided mountain walks. An Innsbruck Card offers all the above, excluding accommodation and meals, for EUR25(24hrs) EUR30(48hrs) and EUR35(72hours).

Innsbruck could hardly have a more spectacular location. The milky green river Inn (“Innsbruck”, the bridge on the Inn) cuts through a wide glacial valley, with snow-capped mountain ranges rising on both sides.

Regular buses shuttle out to Innsbruck’s holiday villages, notable for their old farmhouses, all exposed wood and geranium boxes, with peculiarly Tyrolean decoration – elaborately painted window and door surrounds. Churches all seem to have been supplied in kit form from the same warehouse; identical size, cream and salmon colours, with a choice of two steeples – pointy spire or onion dome. They look incredibly cute against those brilliant mountains.

Innsbruck itself is relatively small, but the university gives the place a lively student buzz. Brightly coloured houses line the river bank and the old town has been tastefully preserved. And thanks to the money lavished on Innsbruck over the past five hundred years, since outdoor enthusiast Emperor Maximilian I moved his court here from Vienna, there’s no shortage of historic buildings and museums.

That suited me perfectly, because on the day I arrived winds were lashing the mountain peaks at 100km per hour. It was no weather for playing outside, but fine for scuttling between the town’s attractions. I particularly enjoyed Castle Ambras, former home of the megarich Hapsburgs and, for a view of how the poorer half lived, the Folk Museum, displaying among other things wood carvings Tyrolean farmers made when they couldn’t play outside either.

By mid-afternoon the weather had cleared enough for me to take the funicular railway, then two cable cars, up onto the 3000metre high Nordketten range. It’s wild and rugged limestone country. Those who enjoy life-threatening experiences could join the mountainbikers tackling the downhill runs, or try the high climbing course of chains and ladders along the ridges. An extremely good head for heights was needed, I was warned, so I settled for just admiring the scenery.

Igls village, just above Innsbruck

The next day was made for walking; cool, still and with sun breaking through on Patscherkofel mountain, towering over Innsbruck. Local expert Evelyn, who runs a ski hire business in the winter, and in summer works for the tourist office, guiding walks for visitors, suggested we take the cable car to save ourselves a 1500metre slog up from the village. That was fine by me. The view from the top was breathtaking enough and we had time and energy to take it in.

Walking above Innsbruck

Once over 2000metres we could make it as easy or as hard for ourselves as we liked, walking a few hours on the signposted trails leading along the ridges and over the peaks. Then at a mountain hut we drank beer and tucked into a huge lunch of sauerkraut and heavy dumplings – potato balls studded with ham and herbs. Perfect walking food, in a perfect walking spot.

Staying a night in the area makes you an automatic Innsbruck Club member, entitled to free daily guided hikes in the mountains. At the tourist offices each morning, guides assign people to groups appropriate to their levels of fitness and masochism, then take them up the hill for three to five hours. On Tuesday evenings ‘lantern wanderings’ lead visitors up to a mountain inn for some jolly Tyrolean music.

BONUS: For those needing one final thrill, the Olympic ski-jump ramp is open to the public – to look at, not to fly off. I teetered at the top and realised legendary Olympian Eddie the Eagle had the right approach to ski-jumping: slide down the slope as slowly as possible, cling to the sides by your fingernails if you can, and when you reach the bottom, try not to sail too far out into space. It’s an awfully long way down, and directly beyond the landing area is a cemetery.

DETAILS: Easyjet flies from London Gatwick to Innsbruck from around GBP125 return. See easyjet.com.

For accommodation and other activities, see innsbruck.info

The writer was a guest of Innsbruck Tourism.

First published by Sun-Herald, Sydney

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Filed under Austria, Budget travel, Hiking, Travel, Travel- Europe