One concern about visiting Copenhagen is the expense. I’m not gonna lie, Copenhagen is not a cheap city, but it also isn’t completely over the top, especially compared to other major cities. Most big cities in Europe and North America are in the top list of expensive cities. In the last EIU report from December 2009 Paris is the most expensive city in the world these days, and most of the top destination cities in the world are near the top. But big cities also have a lot things going for them that can help a traveler save money. I am willing to admit that I may also be a bit biased because I have been living in or around big (expensive) cities and am very used to the cost of living that entails. (I lived in the Washington, DC area in the US and recently spent time living in Dublin, Ireland.) I’ve been traveling all over for the last year and generally Europe, as a whole, is expensive for me since I earn an American salary and the dollar has been pretty weak for a while. Thankfully (for me and other Americans at least) the dollar is doing quite a bit better in Europe and things are much more comfortable for me now than they were six months ago. I’m also living here now, which is a little different, but the fact that I can live here, paying rent, while still paying the mortgage on my house back in the US, means that it can’t be totally insane here. So anyway, the big expenses are transportation, housing and food. I’ll definitely be writing more details about all of these in future posts, but here are my initial thoughts with regard to expense.
- Transportation: Copenhagen is a hub city in Europe, which means you can get some decent fares. Within Europe it is pretty reasonable to fly to Copenhagen, but even for North America, airfares are not bad and pretty much the average for flying to another country. They have fallen quite a bit in the last two months so it is even more attractive now (and if you are coming for Drupalcon, you can totally get a discount through a deal they made with SAS). I use kayak.com but there are a number of flight finder sites out there. Of course you also have the option of trains, or even ferries to get here. Once you are here, Copenhagen is an extremely walkable city, but if you want to grab a bike you will be able to get wherever you want for sure. This is the bikingest city I have ever seen. You can borrow a bycyklen (city bike) in downtown Copenhagen for the price of a small deposit (20 DKK, or about $3.30 or 2.70 Euro). If your legs are tired, the city has a very good, reasonably priced, public transportation system and it all uses the same tickets, whether you are using bus, metro or train. Don’t take taxis unless you have a real need. They are a lot more expensive, especially considering the other options you have.
- Housing: Big cities are used to lots of travelers and provide options for everyone, from backpackers to fancy pants. There is a huge range in accommodation pricing and spending some time to look around can save you money. A quick search on Hotels.com has rooms in Copenhagen starting at $65 a night. For Drupalcon, there is also a list of hotels which are offering a conference discount. There are also going to be a higher number of people involved in programs like CouchSurfing.com. You can also find a nice list of vacation rental apartments, which can save not just on the cost of a room, but it allows you to cook meals in your own kitchen to help cut food costs too. I pretty much always go this route if I am staying somewhere for a week or so, and it gets even cheaper if you are traveling with others who can share. I tend to use craigslist (CPH), airbnb, or just do a Google search.
- Food: This is the one area that I actually do feel the cost of Copenhagen. Eating out just seems expensive. Having a kitchen is obviously handy here, but you can also buy ready-made food at many grocery stores and it seems to me like there are grocery stores and green-grocers everywhere here. I also definitely take advantage of the Pølsevogn (sausage stands) which are awesome for a quick, cheap lunch. You can buy beer in just about any place that sells food (including kiosks) and you can drink in public, unlike in the US. That means instead of going to a bar and paying top price for served beer, you can grab a bunch of beer at a store, plant your butt down at a park or along a canal and enjoy the weather, chatting with friends, while you down your brewskies.
I want to take a moment to specifically talk about Drupalcon with regards to this so if you have no idea what Drupal is, you can stop here. I’ve heard a fair amount of concern over how expensive it is here and I think that a lot of it is just talky talk. What I mean by that is that all of the last Drupalcons, and the future ones planned, are in big, expensive cities. Paris, where it was last year in Europe, is more expensive than Copenhagen. Washington, DC and San Francisco are two of the most expensive cities in the US. Again, big cities have options for travelers in all ranges and you simply need to avail yourself of them. The argument about ‘cons being in big cities is a whole other thing that I won’t digress into, but my point here is that Copenhagen isn’t so different from the last cities we’ve been in (or the ones planned for the future). Really. Even the ‘cons in smaller cities aren’t necessarily “cheap.” I loved the ‘con in Szeged, and while it was definitely more affordable once I was there, the airfare was literally double what I would have paid to fly to Copenhagen or Paris, so in the end I didn’t really save money. (Don’t get me wrong, that was my favorite Drupalcon ever and I loved every second of it, I’m just saying that it wasn’t any cheaper for me than a big city ‘con.)
I guess the point here is that going to a Drupalcon is an investment. You have to travel and that costs money. The benefits of going to a ‘con are amazing and each person needs to weigh that out. If you can combine that with an awesome city that is also fun to visit in and of itself, then so much the better. Obviously each person has to make their own decision and I’m not here to go on about convincing people to spend money to come to a ‘con. I’m just trying to point out that Copenhagen is no more expensive or unmanageable than any other Drupalcon city.