Moolah

I have zero experience in budgeting for a trip like this, so I have no idea how foolproof our budgeting is going to be. Hopefully, it all works out and we won’t have to resort to begging on the streets of Germany or selling our bodies to the Russian mafia.

Our budget goal is SGD 4000. It might not seem like a lot: some people’s week-long getaways might already cost more than this, but this is how we make shit interesting. We’ll be forced to couch surf or stay in shady hostels. No Holiday Inns or 1st Class train tickets for us. Only stained bedsheets and coach class sleepers.

As much as I’d like to say this was a conscious decision, it really wasn’t. I’m just really bad at saving money. And I’m not a huge fan of this whole “job” thing. So, as a testament to how important this trip really is, I did both those things. In preparation for the trip, I worked a job in NTU and I rode for Deliveroo. AND I SAVED EVERY CENT (almost). So with 4k in the POSBKids account, here’s how we’re planning to spend it all.

1. Transport

With a trip this long, in terms of distance, it’s not surprising that the number-one wallet killer is gonna be transport. As of now, we’ve spent over SGD 1000 on PRE-PLANNED transport. We’ve yet to factor in ADHOC TRANSPORT: things like train tickets which we can only buy 2 days in advance or similar. So pre-planned transport, mainly our air-tickets and rail passes, make up about a quarter of our expenses. We used Rail Europe to purchase our passes. Buying the passes was quick and easy, and they even deliver the passes to your home!

Our rail passes cost SGD 505/pax, and we got the Eurail Select Pass for Benelux, Germany, Denmark, and France. Quite a deal, considering it covers train rides in these 4 European regions, and it comes with a handy guide to boot. It’s valid for 6 days only though, so we’ll need to carefully plan our journeys to make use of each full day of free travel. The thing about rail passes is that they may not necessarily be cheaper, but they offer you a wider variety of options. Although pre-booking our tickets online would save us more money, it means we’ll need to move like clockwork: no time for delays or extended stays. So, a rail pass gives us more flexibility here. Just get to the station and hop onboard the next available train! Of course, it helps that the youth discount also considerably reduces the price of a Eurail Pass. I learnt a lot about the rail pass thanks to The Man in Seat 61. His site is the essential guide to ALL kinds of rail travel, do check it out!

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Look at that stylish pass booklet. Totally worth half a thousand dollars.

Our air-tickets cost SGD 560/pax and SGD 90/pax, for our London-Singapore and Singapore-Bangkok legs respectively. Thank god for Norwegian, although the idea of a long-haul budget flight does get less enticing as take-off day approaches. I’m sorry my neck, my back, (my pussy, and my crack). But yes, Norwegian was truly a godsend. We need more long-haul budget carriers IMO!

2. Visas

Praise be to the government for the strength of the Singaporean passport. For a journey covering this many countries, it’s amazing how the only country we need a visa for is Russia. And wew, if all visas are as expensive as Russia’s, I’m very glad it’s the only one we’ll need for our trip.

In total, we paid almost SGD 200/pax for our Russian visas and other paperwork. I’ve read from other Singaporeans that they used to be much cheaper. But, thanks to government outsourcing, a company was appointed to process these visa applications and they added on “processing fees” (Thanks, capitalism! Marx, where are you when we need you the most?). In all, we ended up paying around SGD 170/pax for our Russian visas from VFS Global.

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We paid $200 to get a sticker placed inside our passports.

It also doesn’t help that the Russian visa system is pretty unique (and by that I mean archaic). You can’t just get a visa by applying, you’ll first need an official INVITE from a Russian tour agency (a legacy of the USSR). Luckily, there’s an entire industry aimed at providing tourists with customisable invites. We used RealRussia, as they seem to be highly recommended. Just key in your trip details and they’ll email you a PDF of the invite once you’ve paid! We paid around SGD 30/pax for our invite.

And that’s how we spent a quarter of our budget before we’ve even left Singapore. I’ll keep updating this post as our spending plans become clearer, or maybe I’ll document that in another post. We’ll see. One thing’s for sure though, 4k doesn’t exactly grant us much freedom of choice. But that’s the fun part.

– Ryan

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