What’s the cheapest way to do a long holiday in Europe?

I would like to take a six to nine-month Europe and UK trip in 2023. I will work around the Schengen limitations, but what is the most cost effective way to travel on a tight budget? I am happy to stay in some places, perhaps a village in France or Germany, for up to a month at a time to really immerse myself. K. Quail, Grovedale, Vic

Do you like cats and dogs? Horses as a sideline? People all over the world need pet sitters when they head off on holiday and that gives you a chance to stay in their house or apartment and immerse yourself in the local community, since walking with pets gives you automatic entree with the locals – all for free. TrustedHousesitters (trustedhousesitters.com) is one option, Nomador (nomador.com) is another but there are several more. It’s hugely beneficial if you can establish a profile beforehand that confirms your credibility as a house and pet sitter. Therefore you might want to do a few sits here in Australia, and you have plenty of time in hand.

Wwoof (wwoofinternational.org) is a network of national organisations that puts people who want to live and learn on organic farms in touch with organic farmers. In return for helping with farm work and help in the family home you get food, accommodation and a learning experience from the ground up.

Inevitable that you’re going to have some time between those activities so join Youth Hostels Australia (yha.com.au), it’s a fabulous organisation and you automatically become a member of Hostelling International (hihostels.com) which has properties all over the world. For travelling on a budget and meeting like-minded travellers, it’s a great way to see the world.

The Department of Health states that from April 17, negative pre-departure tests for travellers entering Australia will no longer be required. However the Department of Home Affairs requires us to complete a Digital Passenger Declaration that requires a pre-departure test and passport and vaccination certificate. But the government has that information – why the DPD if we are no longer required to have a pre-departure test? P. O’Neill, Paddington NSW

The requirement for incoming passengers to complete a DPD is projected to remain in force after April 17 since the government will continue to monitor the vaccination status of incoming passengers. As you say, the Department of Home Affairs already has passport and vaccination information for Australian residents but there’s more to it. For example it is necessary to show evidence of a DPD when you check in for your flight to return to Australia. If Australian residents were excused, it would be complicated for the check-in staff to differentiate between passengers who are Australian residents and  those who are not. Therefore we’re all lumped into the same basket, and we all have to complete that DPD.

I’m hiring a car in the USA and I need full collision damage waiver and theft protection but my travel insurance policy provides only limited cover for both. Adding the cost of full insurance cover from the car hire operator is going to cost a bomb. G. Costa, Roseville NSW

Rental Car Protection (rentalcarprotection.com.au) provides the service you’re looking for. Full insurance cover for a two-week car hire in the USA or Canada in April will cost just over $200. You can reduce the premium further by adding a voluntary excess contribution of a few hundred dollars. Given that full insurance purchased at the car-hire desk will add between US$20-30 per day to the cost, you’ve got money in your pocket. In Europe, where the damage liability fee payable by the hirer in the event of loss or damage is lower, the same cover from Rental Car Protection for the same period will cost only about half as much.

We will be in Gothenburg, Sweden, early June 2023. My husband wants to see the Northern Lights. What is the best way to do this please? A. White, Kialla Vic

You might see the Northern Lights from Gothenburg in June, but not in their full glory. To see them at their cinematic best you need absolute darkness, but darkness is scarce in the Nordic countries in June. Throughout the month, Gothenbug will experience only about four hours of civil twilight per night. Civil twilight is when there’s enough light that artificial light is not needed. You can read a book or take a walk without falling over. The Northern Lights still happen, they’re a year-round phenomenon, but it would be like watching fireworks at dusk rather than in pitch black. If you want to see the Northern Lights shimmering and dancing across the night sky, between about October and March in the northern hemisphere is the time and place, and the more northerly the better.