As an avid traveller, you have probably come across the conundrum “when I have time to travel I don’t have money, and when I do have money I don’t have the time”. Sounds familiar? It does to me! The solution is to become an expert in budget travel. If you go online, you will find hundreds of websites offering tips and advice on how to see the world for less, but in my experience, there are two things essential to being able to travel with little money: do your own research and don’t be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone.
Of course, you need to choose your holiday destination wisely. Poland is one of the European countries that offers best value for your money, so last week I went on a budget trip to Wroclaw, a cool town in western Poland.
The budget guide to getting to Wroclaw from the UK
As a budget traveller, you should be looking at low-cost airlines first and see how their prices compare. I checked Ryanair, which flies to Wroclaw from Bristol, East Midlands, Liverpool, Stansted, and Prestwick. Return flights in early September averaged £100, which in my opinion is borderline “not budget”. Next on the list was WizzAir, which has daily flights from Sheffield and Luton. Not a big difference in terms of price. Unfortunately, I was booking too close to my departure date, but if you book 6 weeks in advance you can easily get return flights for £60. I took the train to Luton Airport, however I could also have driven my car and used the car parking facilities.
Wroclaw airport is 6 miles away from the city centre. Don’t be fooled by the short distance and start saving money from the moment you touch down. Getting in a taxi is a no-no for the true budget traveller, as the 6-mile ride will set you back at least 50 zloty (£10). Jump on bus 406 instead and you’ll only have to pay 60 pence for the trip.
If time is on your side, consider travelling by train. The experts at Seat61 claim that it’s possible to do the whole trip between London and Poland for under £70. Another cheap alternative is carpooling. Check out this site, which offers rides across Europe. Sure, it would be a long shot hoping to find someone driving all the way from the UK to Wroclaw, but you have 2 options: either add a ride to the general board, or split the journey into various segments (say, from the UK to France or Germany and looking for a second ride between those countries and Poland).
A quick reminder: Eurolines has 4 buses a week going from Victoria station to Wroclaw. One-way fares are £65.
Wroclaw on a shoestring: what to see, do, and eat
Wroclaw is a city that was built to be admired. Beautiful and impressive buildings are everywhere in Stare Miasto (the gorgeous old town), and last time I checked, just looking and taking pictures was free! Some of my definite must-see’s were the night views of Wroclaw’s skyline from Tumski bridge, the free light and music show at the Wroclaw Fountain, and the incredibly cool self-guided “Dwarf-Tracking Walk”.
As for accommodation, I had already spent a lot more than I wanted on flights, so I used my Couchsurfing profile to look for a local host in Wroclaw. For those who still don’t know it, Couchsurfing is a travel/hospitality website that allows you to stay with locals in the destination of your choice. No money exchange involved. This was a great opportunity to travel on the cheap, but more importantly, to take part in a cultural exchange and to see Wroclaw from the locals’ perspective.
If Couchsurfing is not your thing, check out sites like Airbnb, where you can rent a room in a shared house in Wroclaw for under £10/night. You won’t find anything cheaper than this! Hostels in Stare Miasto charge this much for a dorm bed, and the cheapest hotels start at £20-£25/night if you book in advance.
Polish food is hearty, filling, and in Wroclaw, it’s cheap too, mainly because the town’s eateries cater to Wroclaw’s large student population. You can’t leave the city without trying the ubiquitous pierogi. A medium-sized portion will set you back £1 and I recommend getting them from Pierogarnia. Another thing I did was head to the university quarter (north of Stare Miasto) and just ask around for the best and cheapest places to eat. I followed my Couchsurfing host’s advice and tried the local placki, delicious fried potato pancakes topped with vegs and sour cream.
After a day of sightseeing, I was tempted to treat myself to a scrumptious dessert, which in Wroclaw is synonymous with sernik: similar to cheesecake, only that much richer. I tried this for the first time at Stalbet Cafe, a cool place where most items are under £1.50.
My intention in writing this blog post is to show you that it’s possible to travel on a budget and to enjoy yourself and your destination without breaking the bank. Why not give it a try?