I was the master of surviving on a budget.
In June 2017, when I embarked on my giant post-college-graduation-bucket-list trip, I had barely $700 to my name. At one point, I kid you not, I ran out of money – I had 5€ on hand, $7.30 in my bank account (the ATM withdrawal minimum is 20€), and all of the restaurants in the village I was staying at did not accept any credit cards (no surprise, as I passed horse-drawn carriages every morning on my way to the bus station). I had to use my spare cash to buy a watermelon for dinner/breakfast the next morning, when my next paycheck would kick in.
Even though my days/nights spent barista’ing in my college book store’s coffee shop hadn’t amounted to much savings, all of the places I wanted to go seemed to be incredibly expensive and completely out of my budget, and that included the Amalfi Coast, a notoriously expensive travel destination typically frequented by the rich.
But after much planning, I made it work! And so can you. It may not be the luxurious, carefree, lazy vacation you were hoping for, but you’ll get to see and do all of the things you could want in the Amalfi Coast – it just requires a little bit more planning, walking, and waking up earlier. But it’s not a real adventure without some hurdles to bypass, am I right?
1. Timing Your Vacation
Obviously, the best time to go is during the summer, but that’s when flight and hotel prices are the highest; if you’re not that big of a beach person, you can consider going during the off-season, or at the edge of the high-season when it’s still warm (usually around April-early May, or September).
2. Flying into a Different Airport
In general, flying into Naples is pretty cheap. But if for some reason it’s more expensive than surrounding airports, you can consider flying into Rome and taking the train (ItaliaRail) to Naples, where you can catch the ferry to Sorrento, the largest town (and in general, “starting point” of the Amalfi Coast).
3. Staying in an Airbnb Farther Away from the Main Town
Even the hostels in the main towns can be pretty pricy, ranging from $80-$100/night in Positano. I ended up staying in an Airbnb in Torca, a small town (almost village) outside of Sorrento and Positano. The price was incredibly low (around $34/night) for a fairly large home all to myself, and about a 25 minute walk to the nearest bus station. I’m fairly ok with walking/traveling long distances, but there are plenty of options so you can find something within your comfort zone.
You can also find cheaper hostels and Airbnbs in some of the less popular towns along the coast, such as Minori and Maori.
4. Study the Bus Map/Timetable
In general, people get a rental car for a vacation on the Amalfi Coast – the 5 towns are pretty spaced apart, and it can take a good 20-30 minutes to get from one town to the next. If you can’t afford the steep rental car prices, the only other option is to take the public bus.
Unfortunately, the bus is not very on time, and can be delayed and crowded (especially during the summer months) due to traffic, so be flexible with the timing of your activities. Most tours start from either Positano or Sorrento, so give yourself plenty of time to make your way over there.
5. I Love Using Viator for Tours!
One of my go-tos for booking tours/activities when I travel is Viator. It’s easy to use (always with precise instructions on where to meet, the schedule of events, etc.), the prices are generally pretty reasonable, and my favorite – it’s all done online with set prices, so no last minute tourist rip-offs.
During my time there, I booked a Vesuvius/Pompeii tour and an Amalfi Coast Day tour, totaling $96.53 – that’s 2 days full of activities, with food included! Solid way to fill up a day.
6. Eat Outside of the Main Towns
The food inside of the main towns are generally grossly overpriced, and usually not that good anyways. I generally ate breakfast/dinner at some small pasta and pizza shops near the Airbnb I was staying at.
Actually fun fact, after my day of eating watermelon, I got my paycheck and went to the nearest pizza place I could find. I ordered what I thought would be 1 slice of pizza, but it ended up being an entire medium-sized pizza. I thought, what the hell, and ate the entire thing, asking for a lemon ice granita at the end. The next day, I came back, and the entire wait staff got really excited because “pizza girl” was back. I was so mortified I went to a different restaurant.
Anyways, I hope these tips help and you get to plan a fulfilling vacation!