During the month of October we moved around quit a bit as we made our way across Eastern Europe to Istanbul, where the East meets West. During the month we finished our stay in Brasov, spent a week in Bucharest, Romania, and then made our way to Bulgaria. In Bulgaria we spent one night in Varna, a very quiet week in Sunny Beach, and 4 days in the beautiful city of Plovdiv. After that we made our way to the gigantic city of Istanbul, Turkey where we stepped onto the Asian Continent for the first time.
October was a month of celebration, discovery, and of making new friends. During the month of October, we celebrated Jason’s 42nd, oops I meant “24th” birthday, met up with some other traveling families, and made some friends along the way. During our travels this month we also uncovered some gems, like Plovdiv, and some not so gems like Sunny Beach. I must say Plovdiv has now become one of my favorite cities we have visited thus far along with Krakow, Amsterdam, and Arles. We found that Bucharest is not a particularly beautiful city with most the buildings being the big block Communist area type buildings. We discovered that no one goes to Sunny Beach in October! I have never seen a town so totally shut down in the off-season before. We also discovered how big Istanbul truly is and were a bit sticker shocked by the prices of Istanbul.
So how did we do with our budget and moving around so much? I am excited to say we came out under budget for the second month in a row. Yay! Our total expenditures for the month of October were $2,549.96 or $82.26 per day or $27.42 per person per day! Not to shabby if I say so myself.
During the month of October, 1 USD equaled approximately 3.25 Lei, 1.44 Lev, and 1.97 Turkish Lira.
Our biggest expenditure for the month of October was lodging for a total of $967.49. Our apartment in Bucharest cost $270 for a week. We then spent one night in a hotel in Varna in transition between Bucharest and Sunny Beach for $34.72. Our apartment in Sunny Beach cost $227 for a week. We then spent 3 nights in a hotel in Plovdiv for a total cost of $127.27 and our apartment in Istanbul cost $305.00. Under lodging, we also had the miscellaneous expense of laundry for $3.50. Our lodging expenses this month are about average for us since starting our around the world adventure.
Our next biggest expenditure for the month of October was for food for a total cost of $900.67. We spent $537.51 on groceries, $349.53 for dinning out,and $13.63 under miscellaneous cost for a birthday cake for Jason. Sheepish grin here…I know, we spent way too much money on dining out. Part of the increased cost for eating out was due to staying in hotels for 4 nights during the month and not having access to a kitchen. But admittedly, we also enjoyed some good food with our new friends.
For the month of October our total expenditures for transportation was $381.15. We took a train from Brasov to Bucharest, which cost $39.42. We then took a train from Bucharest to Varna, which cost $83.69. We took the bus from Varna to Sunny Beach for a total cost of $20.83 and then a bus from Sunny Beach to Plovdiv, which cost $46.15. We then took a bus from Plovdiv to Turkey, which cost us $75.52.
I continue to be amazed by how nice the buses are in Europe. I know I have said this before, but the buses are like what the airlines used to be with stewards, free drinks, movies, and frequent stops. The best thing though…there is no weight restriction! I am now a convert of the bus, at least in Europe that is.
Our total expenses for local transportation was $96.86, of which $21.83 was for a taxi. The taxi took us from Taksim Square to our apartment a 10 minute drive away. We were a little bit sticker shocked with the cost of a taxi in Istanbul, and for that matter the cost of most things in Istanbul. I think we got spoiled in Brasov by cheap taxis and mistakenly assumed that a taxi in Istanbul wouldn’t cost that much. We later found out that fuel in Turkey is very expensive.
Under transportation cost, we also had the cost for fuel for $18.68 as we still had the rental car for the first couple days in October in Romania.
Our total expenditures for entrance fees was $136. Entrance fees included seeing the Village Museum and Natural History Museum in Bucharest, the Roman Amphitheater, Ethnology, and Archeology museum in Plovdiv, Aya Sophia, the Cistern, and Tokpaki Palace in Istanbul.
Our favorite site this month was the Cistern in Istanbul. Descending underground into the Cistern reveals a forest of pillars reflected by the pool of water. It was very mysterious feeling, almost like we were in the Dan Brown Novel “Inferno.”
The one site I really wish we had not paid money to see was the Tokpaki Palace. Although it is listed as must see site in Istanbul, we felt like it was just another palace. It was very expensive to get in costing us $47.74 and there was very little information provided, not even a map unless we paid additional money for the audio guide or guidebook. I felt like for the amount of money we paid they could have at least provided a map. Perhaps we have also reached castle burn out and just don’t marvel at palaces and castles anymore.
We spent $60 for our Turkey Visas. Turkey was the first time we had to apply for a visa since leaving on our around the world adventure. There are two options to obtain a visa for Turkey; either wait until you arrive and get it at the port of entry or get it online. We used the online system to obtain our visa and it worked beautifully. I am really glad that we did it before arriving, as when we arrived at the border it was not clear where we would have needed to go to obtain the visa.
Our total expenditures under miscellaneous category were $54.85. Miscellaneous expenditures included meds, luggage storage at the Varna bus station, play area for Sydney, map of Istanbul, a shoeshine for Jason and I, and fees to use the toilets.Yes, outside the USA you pay a fee to pee!
Our total expenditures for entertainment was $29.86. This included seeing the movie Percy Jackson, and the walking tours in Bucharest and Plovdiv.
Our total expenditures for communication were $19.94. Communication included post cards and stamps.
- Be prepared to pay more in Istanbul. Istanbul is not a cheap city. After spending time in cheaper countries we were a little sticker shocked by the prices in Istanbul. We found the prices to be on par with many other large European cities.
- Do a little more research about what a place is like on the off-season. We were caught off guard by how shut up Sunny Beach was during the off-season. If we had realized how shut up Sunny Beach is during the off-season, we would have probably stayed in Varna or another city in Bulgaria.
October was marked with celebrating Jason’s birthday, the pleasure of making new friends, good food, and exploring more of Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. I continue to be surprised by how much Romania and Bulgaria have to offer and am glad that we decided to go overland from Poland. We especially loved our time in Plovdiv. We found Plovdiv to be a vibrant city that is very family friendly, artsy, with tons of green spaces, and interesting history. I wish we could have stayed longer.