By: Kenny Parris
So you’ve decided to move to the Czech Republic to start this new life adventure and teach English. But it’s not only about teaching English though, right? No it’s not. You didn’t move all the way over here from wherever you’re from (likely the US) to just stay in Prague the whole time. Part of the reason you chose the Czech Republic was because of its centralized location. It’s the “Heart of Europe” for God’s sake! Also part of the reason you chose here was because of the low cost of living, relative to where you’re from and other (Western) European countries. So you’re thinking, “Okay, it’s right in the middle and cheap to live, so that means I’ll be able to do a lot of traveling while there!” But what you didn’t think about was how much of your salary would it take to travel, and travel often.
Sure you’ve saved a bit of money before you got here, but after those mandatory “first few months” expenses (VISA, trips out the country to apply/pick up the VISA, rent, security deposit (maybe 2 months’ worth), possible realtor fee (if you choose), and the initial money you blow on things like food, clothing and drinks because it all seems like nothing in the beginning)…you realize that initial money goes quickly. Now you’re down to your teaching salary, and you realize that you can get by on 50 bucks a week and 30 – 40 on the weekend. BUT, when it’s time to make the currency exchange to Euro, and pay the prices of things in other countries, oh and plus the plane/train/bus ticket, well it seems that money doesn’t last as long as you’d like it to. So is it possible to do all the traveling that you wanted to? Can you go see the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the London Eye? Aren’t those places super expensive? You don’t have that type of money! Well let me inform you…YES, you can. YES, it’s possible. And YES, you WILL!
As I type this, I’ve been to 9 countries in 10 months. That’s almost an average of 1 country a month. Before this, when in your life could you have said you’ve been to a different country every month for one year straight? That’s not normal for most people, and not Americans. Yeah, we go to different states, but it’s completely different when you go to a different country, even if by scale it’s even closer than traveling to a neighboring US state. When you visit a different country, almost everything is different! Different language, history, signature monuments, food, fashion, demeanor of the people, etc. Doesn’t matter how close they are, they’re just different. Czech Republic and Germany can be a 5 hour bus ride and are much more different than New York and California which can be a 6 hour plane ride. Being in another country is just different. So now let me explain how to afford the travel, so you can live your dreams and check off those places or things on your bucket list which you’ve always wanted to see.
Length of stay – So you’ll likely be working 4 or 5 days a week like a normal job, which leaves you the weekend for travel. Let’s say you leave at earliest Thursday evening and come back Sunday night. That give you 3 full days in the city. I think 3 days is the minimum and average amount of time needed to really see the best parts of a city. Most people can’t do frequent trips that are more than 3 days, so with this amount of time, you just make the best of it. Now that you have the amount of time that you know you’ll travel, the next thing to think about is where you’ll stay.
Accommodation – This is simple and there are two easy answers: Hostels and Couchsurfing. Search for hostels in the city you’re traveling too, sort the prices from low to high and read the reviews. Once you get that middle ground between affordability and credibility, then you’ve found your hostel. Way cheaper than a hotel, and awesome for solo travelers because you meet so many people from all over who are also traveling solo. Plus most youth hostels are catered to people in their 20s, so they do pub crawls every night, and sometimes you’ll find ones with free breakfast and dinner included. To this day, I still had the best Seafood Paella of my life at my 1st hostel experience in Barcelona. Then there’s Couchsurfing. Basically if you don’t know it, it’s where you create a profile, put pics and info about yourself, and request to stay with people when you go to their city. It’s free, and the tradeoff is the cultural exchange. There are people who LOVE hosting travelers, just for the opportunity to meet someone from another culture, and show them around in their city. It’s an awesome way to meet people, get an authentic locals perspective of a city, and make friends in other countries. I actually host people all the time here in Prague, and some of my favorite people I’ve met on this journey have been these strangers I’ve let into my home. You get to read the reviews that other people left for the hosts, and they’ll get to read your reviews (once you get some) before anyone makes a decision. Outside of hostels and Couchsurfing, there are other good things like housesitting, which you can google and see what it’s about. Lastly, after you’ve planned your length of stay and where you’ll stay, now you want to know how you’ll get there.
Travel – This part is actually really affordable considering the names of the places you’ll be going too. Paris for $150? Amsterdam for $120? Rome for $80? London for $68? Berlin for $50? All round trip prices? Yes to all of these. Plane, train and bus tickets can be extremely affordable when traveling throughout Europe, especially from the Czech Republic, and these are all prices I’ve paid. The 3 most popular low-cost carriers here are Ryan Air, Easyjet and Norwegian Air (this one is cheapest to flights to the Scandinavian countries). Then for train and bus, look no further than Student Agency. They go to most of the big places in Europe. Just go to these companies’ sites, and start searching. Lastly, when you’ve got all of these logistics figured out, you’ll want to know just exactly how much to bring with you to spend.
Money – Here’s my simple theory. When traveling, you should be able to get by just about anywhere on $50 a day. That’s after you’ve paid for your hostel, which should only be $10 to $30 maximum (bigger cities) a night. But for money, there are only 4 categories of things to spend on: food, shopping, attractions and transportation. For some people it’s only 3 if shopping is eliminated, and from my experience you can almost eliminate transportation as well, because you can just walk everywhere in these cities. It’s much more valuable to see the city by foot. For the attractions (Museums, cathedrals, Eiffel tower, etc.) it’s wise to buy tickets ahead of time for these because one, you don’t have to stand on a long line to get it while there, and two, you pay ahead, so now when you’re there, your $50/day won’t have to include that. So realistically, you can get by on $150 for the weekend, and $250 if you really want to be comfortable.
I really love food, and it’s the thing I care to spend the most money on, so I budget enough for proper meals throughout the day and I’ve always been able to have joyous trips, full of adventure, while still checking out the nightlife in these cities, all within that budget range. Traveling can be easy and simple. Don’t stress it, don’t stress the money. You can do it, and you will do it. All you have to do is get there…once you’re in the city, no one is charging you to simply walk and sightsee…you’ve already made it.
By: Kenny Parris