How Can You Travel Europe For £10 A Day? Become A House Sitter
I have just returned home after a 53 day trip to Portugal. My total spend for the entire time amounted to £560.01 and when I say total I do mean everything, right from the moment I left my home to the moment I stepped back through the door. So, I am going to explain how I do it and how you too could travel in Europe for £10 a day.
The key factor is that I am a house sitter. If you have never heard of this before then have a read of some of my previous posts. Start with Why House Sitting and then House Sitting – Getting Started. These two posts will give you a really good starting point if you wish to consider it as a way to travel long term. Of course, not everyone who is a house sitter travels long term, many people just do it now and again, or only close to home, but for the purposes of this post I’m talking about longer term travel. If you use the search box you can search for house sitting and you will find more posts that I have written about some of my experiences.
Disclaimer: In the name of full transparency, please be aware that this blog post contains affiliate and referral links which may reward me in the event of a subscription or sale (at no extra cost for you).
Day one involved leaving my home just after lunchtime and getting a lift, with my neighbour, to my daughter’s house where I always like to spend some time before I leave. I also get my dinner there and then my son-in-law gives me a lift to the nearest town where I get a bus to the airport. Because I am now 65 years old I have an all Ireland travel pass which allows me to get free bus and train travel so I travel to the airport for free.
Then, because my flights are always first thing in the morning I sleep in the airport. This is not the most enjoyable, or comfortable, way to spend the night but it’s free and doable and means I can get through security as soon as it opens at 3.30am and avoid queuing.
I have written about sleeping in airports, if you are interested, check out Sleeping In The Airport and Tips For Sleeping In Airports. If you are going to be spending a lot of time in an airport there is a temptation to spend a lot of money but a bit of forethought can prevent that, for instance taking food with you. I talk about this in the Tips for Sleeping in Airports post.
Where And How I Spend My Time
On this trip I flew to Lisbon and then travelled by bus to Porto where I looked after an apartment and a cat in Lavadores (near Porto) for 26 days. Then, because I had a few days between sits I travelled north to Braga where I stayed in a hostel for 3 nights before travelling back to Lisbon to another sit, looking after another cat, for 23 days.
Avoid The ‘Danger Spots’
In regard to keeping your costs low there are some specific ‘danger spots’ to be aware of.
Firstly, when you arrive at your destination airport, especially if you slept the night before in the airport, there is a temptation to grab some food and then a taxi. DO NOT DO EITHER OF THESE, you could easily blow 2 or 3 days budget in doing so. You are seriously not going to die of hunger and if you are thirsty you can normally find a water fountain or hydration station (as they tend to be called now). If you have planned appropriately you will have something in your bag that you can eat.
I love Lisbon airport for the ease of onward travel, the Metro station is just outside the entrance and it only take about 20 minutes to get to the city centre and costs well below €2.00. One thing I do, because I travel there a lot, is to make sure before I leave that I have a Metro ticket topped up with enough money so that I can avoid queing at the ticket machines when I return.
On this occasion I was travelling on to Porto by bus and it’s quite a long journey, over 3 hours, so by that stage I really did have to buy something for the journey. There are some kiosk type places around the bus station though that do fairly inexpensive sandwiches and filled rolls and I bought something to eat on the bus.
On arrival in Porto I had to take the Metro to an appointed place where one of the homeowners met me and we completed the journey to the first house sit. So, at this point I had managed over 24 hours and only bought a filled roll for the bus, it really pays to avoid those ‘danger spots’. And of course, the same applies going home, although I am glad to say I don’t have to sleep in the airport for my journey home because it is easy to get to early in the morning.
What Is Provided At The House Sit?
I am registered with Trusted House Sitters and this is operated on a free exchange system whereby the house sitter provides care for the home, garden and pets in exchange for free accomodation. I also do quite a few privately booked sits, that I obtain by advertising in Facebook groups.
There is no payment involved and strictly speaking the homeowners do not have to provide anything other than the food for the pets, and of course, heat and light and cleaning products. However there is a pretty much unspoken understanding that there will be toilet tissue (who wants to get to a home with no toilet tissue) and that any perishables in the fridge can be eaten by the house sitter. It is also normal that the dry goods in the larder can be used, things such as rice, pasta, salt and pepper, herbs and spices, stock cubes etc. For people travelling from one sit to another with only a carry on bag this makes life much easier.
Many homeowners provide a car, in fact some sitters refuse to take a sit without a car, but I prefer not to have one, I don’t have one at home and I don’t really go any great distance when I am doing a house sit.
I have heard some horrific tales of homeowners refusing to share even the cooking oil, and treating the house sitter like a servant, but thankfully that is not common and no one would ever be doing a repeat sit for those people! A house sitter provides a very valuable service and should be shown appreciation. Personally I have been treated extremely well by my homeowners and have had some lovely welcome packs of food and wine given to me and some people even ask for a shopping list to do my grocery shopping for me before I arrive.
I have often been taken out for dinner by the hosts on the night of my arrival or the night that they return and this is always very much appreciated.
My Spending While I Am Doing a House Sit
When I am doing a house sit I don’t go out much, in fact, because I like rural places, sometimes there is nowhere to go unless I walk 4 or 5 km so that can be a great money saving exercise. If there is a dog I am out with it, maybe several times a day, and I work online so I have plenty to occupy myself. If I have a garden to care for I can spend hours working on that and I do like to do some extra bits of cleaning if I can find anything that needs a bit of attention. I prefer to live like a local and enjoy my immediate surroundings. I have, on occasion, done a 2 or 3 week house sit and not spent anything once I get there.
However, most people will want to get out and about and see something of the area and on this last trip I was either close to, or in a city, and only had cats to care for so I did go out more often. When I go out I either walk or use public transport and I avoid the real tourist traps and places that I have to queue for or pay to get in. If you look through my previous blog posts there are lots of posts about what to do either for free or for very little.
In Portugal it is easy to find places where you can get a really good value lunch, sometimes a 3 course menu of the day for €6.00 or €7.00 although on the main tourist thoroughfares it may be more like €12 – €15, if not more. The advantage of being somewhere for lengthy periods is that you get time to find the cheap places and I love being among the locals and not the tourists.
On this most recent trip I was out quite a bit for lunch because both sets of homeowners were generous in their provision for me which meant I didn’t have to spend quite so much on my groceries. When I was in Lisbon I met up with a friends a couple of times and some great days out. I also find that now I am writing this blog I go out more to do research but I specifically look for free things to do.
What About Between Sits?
Now that I have been doing this for a while, about 17 months, it has become much easier to plan lengthier trips away and procur sits back to back, or with only a few days between them. I find with repeat sits that the homeowners will try as best they can to be flexible with their dates in order to suit me. However, I do enjoy a night or two between sits so that I can go and stay in a hostel, explore a different destination, and have a bit of social interaction with other travellers, solo house sitting can be a bit lonely at times.
Between the two sits on this trip I had 3 nights free and so I went to Braga and stayed in the Dans L’Atelier Hostel for only £19.52 total for the 3 nights! I always book with Booking.com and get a Genius discount on many properties so this was particularly cheap. I have had my eye on this hostel for a couple of years so I was thrilled to get the chance to go there. Even though I was really ill, with a heavy cold and cough, I had a great time. I was very lucky to fall in with some great people in the hostel and thoroughly enjoyed the few days. I wrote a post about it, I have been trying to do posts about all the hostels I have stayed in but as I had been travelling on and off for 3 years before I started this blog, I have a lot of catching up to do! If you want to read my hostel posts use the search box and enter HOSTELS.
A Breakdown Of My Costs
This is the breakdown of my costs for this particular trip. Naturally enough travel costs may be much higher depending where you are travelling from and where your destination is. I live in Ireland and fly, with Ryanair, from Dublin so airfares for me are particularly cheap. Also, the longer the trip the less the travel costs relative to the total spend. Even if you do move around from one country to the next it can still be incredibly cheap. I have used night buses a few times and if booked far enough ahead they can be great value.
- Flights – Dublin to Lisbon return £84.54
- Buses – Lisbon to Porto, Porto to Braga, Braga to Lisbon £44.72
- Hostel – 3 nights £19.52
- General spending – groceries, metro tickets, lunches out etc £410.57
- Bank charges – 66p
This worked out at £73.96 per week or £10.57 a day. I was aiming for £10 a day so I overspent a little but I am sure if I had more willpower I could easily get it down further. I have calculated it in British pounds because everything that goes through my bank account is converted (I am in Northern Ireland so we do not have euro) and the exchange rate varies from day to day. One big difference recently is that my bank has stopped taking currency transaction fees, the 66p bank charge was on a credit card I used.
Also, you need to be aware that within Europe the cost of living varies quite a bit, Sweden and France, for instance can be expensive. Portugal is one of the least expensive countries but if you are moving around one place will hopefully balance the other out. I am keeping detailed accounts of all my spending now so that I can compare countries. I have a 3 month sit coming up in Bulgaria later this year and I have been told it will be very economical.
I think that’s about all I can tell you for now but please do ask if you have any questions, I will always try my best to answer.
Find out more about Trusted House Sitters
You can look at the Trusted House Sitters website without being a member. You will be asked to create a free account and will need to give your email address but don’t worry, you are not signing up for anything that will cost you money, it’s free to look!https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/
And you can read my Trusted House Sitters profile too!https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/house-and-pet-sitters/united-kingdom/northern-ireland/londonderry-county-borough/l/872903/
25% off Trusted House Sitters
If you are interested in registering with Trusted House Sitters either as a house sitter or a homeowner. You can use this link or simply use the code RAF232761 at check out. I also benefit by getting 2 months free registration.https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/refer/RAF232761/