Summer in Scandinavia
November 15, 2010 7:26 PM   Subscribe

I want to spend my summer exploring Europe, through some combination of hitchhiking, walking, public transportation, couchsurfing, camping, and hostels. What should I know? How can I finance this trip?

Previously, in a way.
I decided to focus on something a little more modest, and I'd like to spend my summer in the Nordic countries. I'd like to visit both their big cities and their scenic countrysides.

I have no idea where to start, though. I only have around $1000 in savings, and don't know how to finance a three-month trip. Is there a good way to pick up odd jobs? Does busking pay well enough?

Also, what should I pack and carry?

Most importantly: What questions should I be asking that I don't know enough to ask?
posted by LSK to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You should pack more money.

Sorry to snark, but $1000 is not going to get you very far in Scandinavia in the high season.

If you want to stretch your buck and mostly want to be in rural areas, you might look into WWOOFing.

The only way you really have a chance would be to settle on one country, choose a couple or three WWOOF host farms, and dig in. Or maybe try to find an au pair gig in one of the big cities.
posted by Sara C. at 7:38 PM on November 15, 2010

Response by poster: Sara C: I know $1000 won't get me far; you're not shattering any delusions, rest assured. Do you know if there's a way to access the WWOOF directory without paying upfront? It seems fun, but being asked to pay money for volunteer opportunities seems dubious to me.
posted by LSK at 7:52 PM on November 15, 2010

You know $1000 won't even pay for the plane ticket, right?
posted by MadamM at 8:02 PM on November 15, 2010

If you can't the 20 Euro to join WWOOF, you can't afford to spend 3 months in Europe.

WWOOF is a highly respected organization. I have several friends who've done it (in Europe, even!), and all of them have talked in glowing terms about their experiences. It's also an incredibly easy thing to do reasearch on - a very, very popular way to volunteer. It's not some fly by night "nonprofit" in Southeast Asia somewhere which is really a way for some expat to make a buck at the expense of naive do-gooders. And if you're concerned that you'd be getting a raw deal from the farmers, you can always contact them beforehand with any questions.

It's also one of the only volunteer travel situations I've ever heard of where you get room and board in exchange for your work, with no fee aside from the token amount to keep the listing service going.
posted by Sara C. at 8:07 PM on November 15, 2010

you ALSO know that the nordic region of europe is one of the most expensive areas of the world to go to, right? a friend of mine left denmark after a DAY (she was supposed to be there for like 5) because she realized the money she'd brought for her entire month long trip to europe would run out within a few days there.

sorry to have to join the train of negativity but why not go to eastern europe or somewhere more affordable, and closer to being within your means so that people here can give you meaningful advice instead of reality checks?
posted by raw sugar at 10:15 PM on November 15, 2010

If you're not going until next year, start saving now. Get a job or three, live as cheaply as possible, and squeeze every penny until it screams, then squeeze it some more. You are far, far more likely to have a fun trip if you go with a financial cushion that's larger rather than smaller.

Spend time reading travel boards like Lonely Planet, which will give you a feel for inexpensive places to stay and ways to get around, and current costs for those things.
posted by rtha at 10:19 PM on November 15, 2010

Do you know if there's a way to access the WWOOF directory without paying upfront?
Lithuania free membership
Estonia free membership

If you join Sweden you can join Independents (incl. Norway, Finland, and Latvia) for free.

Nordic countries are super expensive. Latvia/Estonia/Lithuania not so much, which is why I included them.
posted by acidic at 11:07 PM on November 15, 2010

Re accessing the directories without paying - I haven't looked into every country, but I've been researching WWOOFing in Ireland or the UK, and you can definitely peruse the listings without becoming a member. There's no contact info, but you get a listing of all the farms in a certain region of the country, a paragraph or so about who they are, what they do, and what they're looking for in a volunteer.
posted by Sara C. at 11:32 PM on November 15, 2010

Other commenters have picked up on most of your queries, but this stands out:

Is there a good way to pick up odd jobs? Does busking pay well enough?

Doing under the table odd jobs is illegal in the EU and EEA. They can be found, but if you do that kind of work on a tourist visa, you are risking deportation. Doesn't stop thousands of people doing it, but be aware.

Busking laws vary by country, but prepare for police attention in some countries and prepare for that attention to become much more focused when they realise you're not an EU citizen.

Also, re: budgeting - the Euro is pretty strong right now, meaning costs are high throughout the Eurozone for Americans. The Nordic countries are more expensive outright. By couchsurfing and hostelling, you'd be able to keep your costs down, but day to day expenses in the Nordics will burn through money at a prodigious rate. According to this page, a 500ml bottle of beer at a restaurant in Oslo is over 7 EUR right now (i.e. ten bucks a beer).

I'd highly recommend investigating Eastern Europe or perhaps Germany. Outside of the big cities, both tend to be cheaper to visit than the rest of Europe.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:55 AM on November 16, 2010

Three months in the Nordic countries can in no way be described as "modest," and based on my experiences there, you're looking at either $100 a day for a very low-key holiday with not that much travel and very little luxury (luxury = two glasses of wine, for instance), or a slightly less expensive time spent working like crazy on someone's farm for 18 hours a day. Three months in Scandinavia having a really consistent good time . . . maybe for $10k, plus airfare. And I'm not that needful of luxury, but that would still be a little uncomfortable for me. It's pretty much the most expensive block of countries you can visit, and you're talking about doing it at the most expensive time!

Mind you, in summertime, you could find a shared place to live for the summer in a groovy central European city like Budapest or Krakow or Cluj-Napoca for maybe $250 - $300 a month, eat cheaply and do a fair bit of travelling for an average of, let's say $45 a day, over all. You'd always have a cheap base in the city, you could do loads of day trips and even longer trips to very cheap places - Moldova, Moldavia, Maramures, eastern Poland and Slovakia, parts of the Balkans. Couchsurfing in these places is a lot easier than in Scandinavia in the summer. Presumably, you'd be taking someone's room while they were home for the summer, so you might have roommates too - instant friends, if you're not a total weirdo.

The only to finance this is to save the money, really. EU citizens now take precedence over anyone else in temporary jobs. Not to mention the job market being terrible most everywhere to begin with.

Best ways to prepare?

1) Nothing saves me more money and allows me fantastic experiences as much as knowing the local language. I get so much goodwill, I can find cheaper places to stay and eat more cheaply and make friends more readily and encounter experiences better by speaking Hungarian in Hungary, Russian in Russia, etc. So learn a new language, or three or four.

2) Sell your World of Magic cards or whatever they're called. After a stellar European adventure, those are going to look stupid to you anyhow.

3) Read, read, read. I read all about the history of Romania. Dozrns of books. I always do this when I go somewhere. I appreciate much more with this knowledge when I'm there than I would otherwise. When I made a friend in a new country and was invited to her parents' for dinner one time, it turned out that her father was an historian. Guess who was immediately "adopted" and told to move into the house for the next month? Preparation makes serendipity increasingly likely, and I could tell a hundred stories of how it's benefited me to be curious about the land I'm visiting even before I visit.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:48 AM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Similar to WWOOF, but free, is HelpExchange.
I had very good experiences with HelpX on farms, B&Bs, and hostels around Europe. I also did a lot of CouchSurfing and never had a bad experience.
posted by mkuhnell at 6:55 AM on November 16, 2010

If busking and $1,000 was all it took for three months in Scandinavia, everyone would be doing it. Unemployed arts grads, high school drop outs flipping burgers. The walls of McDonalds would be covered with photos of their eurotrips. Hell, I would probably quit my "professional" occupation and wait tables for three months to save $1,000, travel for three months, then pick up another menial job and repeat. It'd be grand.

What should you pack? You haven't even looked up the airfare and you're wondering what to pack? Clothes and a toothbrush. This is a basic question you should be able to answer mostly yourself, or from the six million other european backpacking questions on Ask and throughout the internets. We can't plan every last detail of your trip. Backpacking is about independence and thinking on your own, on your feet. You should get used to it now. If you can't even figure out the basics, forget about traveling on your own. Backpacking is DIY travel. If you want your hand held, contact a travel agent and book with a tour group.

Should you insist, I'll recommend the works of Tim Ferriss. His blog and his first book talk about traveling on the dime quite a bit. Most of the destinations are in South America though, not europe.
posted by mnemonic at 8:15 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

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