Tips to save money when travelling in Europe
Planning the trip of a lifetime to Europe, but on a budget? Europe Wandering will tell you how to make the most of your money while traveling in and around Europe.
Tip 1: Travel off season
While it might sound ideal to visit Europe in the height of summer. Don’t travel to Europe in the summer. Prices are at their highest, everything is booked up, the cities are uncomfortably crowded, even the attractions are more expensive and all of the locals are on holidays. Travel generally October to April in Europe. You’ll get low rate airfare, find more affordable rooms, spend less time in lines, and meet more Europeans than tourists. In winter, hotels can be discounted by up to 40% so you can get a great deal. Big cities such as London, Paris and Rome are attention-grabbing any time of year.
Tip 2: Book your tickets early
It’s a given that you save a good deal by booking your flight tickets several months in advance. But if you’re planning a trip across several European countries, as most people do, getting from one to the next can add to your general operating expense notably if you don’t do it early. Also, take the time to compare fares before you book, since flight fares can be cheaper than train or bus fares in certain cases. Don’t wait till the last minute to book tickets. Instead, book your tickets online, well in advance. Google Travel found that purchasing flights between 21 and 30 days ahead of your departure dates tends to yield the best value. To find the best deals, check out an aggregator like Skyscanner.com for flights. Book flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. They are substantially cheaper than other days.
If you can plan your Euro trip well in advance, there are some great savings to be made from booking train fares in advance. The train tickets are heavily discounted if buying early anything from one week to three months in advance can see you snap up advance rates. This is particularly true for trains in and around Austria, the UK, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden. Some trains may also charge more for travelling during peak periods. If your departure time is flexible, take benefit of this to save even more costs.
Rail Europe is one of the most efficient and affordable ways to explore, including Eurail and Eurostar trains. One Country passes for 23 countries and Eurail Two Country passes for certain regions. Europe’s high speed rail system continues to grow a benefit for travellers looking for convenience and affordability. To find the best deals, go to Railbookers.com.au or Raileurope.com.au for train tickets.
Consider making longer connections by overnight train. A huge way to save time and money when travelling across Europe is by taking the night train. There are lots of sleeper trains between major cities in Europe and they are relaxed and suitable. Travelling by overnight train will save on accommodation costs.
Not only will this save you the problem of lugging additional bags around, it can also help you save money. On budget airline, there is usually an extra fee for checked in baggage. Each person is only allowed one piece of cabin baggage, so be careful of what you take along. Don’t take an extra baggage along. The fee charged by budget airlines for checked-in baggage can be quite high. Instead, pack light and carry your cabin baggage on board flights for free.
Europe’s budget carrier offer surprisingly low rates in contrast with major U.S. airlines, such as United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. While you can often secure low priced flights in Europe on carriers such as Ryanair and EasyJet, remember to account for extra fees, including checked baggage charges and priority seating fees. Also, many low price carrier fly into minor airports that can require a costly taxi ride (around 100 Euros) to get to the city center.
Tip 3: Consider a bank account with a global presence
The two prime fees you’ll be slammed with when withdrawing money from ATMs are international bank fees and conversion fees. These can sometimes be avoided by withdrawing from that bank’s ATMs. Some banks, including Citibank, don’t charge you at all for withdrawals from any ATM in Europe. Remember that sometimes it’s not the bank but the ATM that charges you a fee. The ATM will inform you of a possible charge fee before you withdrawal if this is the case.
Use atm’s rather than travellers checks
Don’t change money at the airport. Airports are infamous for offering extravagant exchange rates. You’ll get your cash low-priced and faster from the ATM. ATMs give the best possible rates, they do come with transaction fees. Reduce these fees by making fewer and bigger withdrawals. Store the cash carefully in your money belt.
Before you depart, always check the daily exchange rate. Don’t get trapped out with a deceitful exchange rate if you have to change your money to the local currency.
Keep various forms of payment with you
For safety reasons as well as to save on potential fees, it’s a good idea to travel with various forms of payment. This can be a combination of a credit card, debit card and cash.
Travelling with various payment methods can save the worry of having to find an ATM, when making a purchase from somewhere that doesn’t accept cash. Conversely, it can also save you from minimum transaction amount fees that some merchants may charge.
Tip 4: Visit tourist information desk
The best way to save money in Europe is by harnessing local knowledge. When first arriving in a new city make sure to visit the Tourist Information desks for discounts, free maps and cost-free events they’ll advise you on free attractions, cheap transport, and discount cards and accommodation.
Tip 5: Consider a package tour
It’s one of the open secrets of the travel business: Hotels and airlines are ready to offer the lowest rates in order to fill their account, but the best way for you to take advantage of those super low rates is to participate in a package tour. The budget travelers have appreciated the European tour experiences offered by Monograms, Contiki, Friendly Planet, G Adventures, and other tour companies. Few tour company’s offer excellent guest services, plenty of independent exploring time, some great group meals and celebrations, informative guided tour options, vibrant people to people cultural experiences, and much more. And if you briefly chew the numbers to judge against the overall price of a European package tour with a vacation that you book yourself, you’ll almost always find that you’ve saved big.
Tip 6: Purchase discount cards
Many European cities offer city passes to the main attractions for a reasonable price. You can save big in many places in Europe by purchasing a “city card”, which offers discounts on transport and attractions. Museum passes are especially useful as they help you skip the line to buy tickets. The passes are obtainable at most airports, bus stops and train stations, as well as tourist information desk. In Rome, the Roma Pass secures free public transport and entry into two museums, while the Paris Combo Pass has similar discounts in the French capital. Some of the others worth looking out for include the Oslo Welcome Card, the Berlin Welcome Card, and the Amsterdam Card. For travelling longer distances in Europe, Eurail and Eurostar train trips are more picturesque, and generally cheaper to obtain tickets for than planes. By following these steps, backpacking through Europe for cheap becomes quite feasible to accomplish on a small budget.
Tip 7: Finding budget transport in Europe
A lot of the joy of discovering a new city lies in exploring its lanes and squares with a map in hand, but this can also help you save. Cabs can be expensive, as can the Pedicabs and rickshaws. By and large, European cities have excellent public transport network that’ll take you to most tourist attractions. Ask your hotel caretaker for directions to the nearest metro, bus or tram station, grab a map and get going.
Know your rail pass options. Railpasses can offer big savings, if you are travelling a lot. For short trips, point to point tickets are cheaper.
Don’t take a taxi. As an alternative, buy a public transport pass, which is applicable for an entire day, and can be used for bus, tram and metro. For an even cheaper journey, however, you could always walk. Walking (instead of public transport) is also the best way to see a new city hopefully reducing your travel costs even further.
Europe is overflowing with bicycle-friendly city that operate tourist bike borrowing systems for cheap. Popular cycle cities include Amsterdam, Copenhagen and London. In London, you can rent a Santander Cycles Bike (formally a Boris Bike) for just £2 a day or for free for 30 minutes. It’s a cheap alternative way to see the continent.
Buses are often the cheapest option for travel between countries in Europe. You may also want to checkout Bus about, as an alternative to Inter rail. They offer bus pass across Europe which offers a lot of flexibility and also it’s a great travel network to connect with fellow solo travellers. Between cities use budget buses as RegioJet, Flixbus, Polski Bus, etc.
Hop on a bike
Renting a cycles bikes to travel around a city is a great decision for so many reasons. It saves money where you might otherwise be spending money on public transport and taxis. Exploring a city on two wheels also lets you see a city from a unique, more local viewpoint and will help you discover different parts of a city that you might have missed if you were travelling on the metro.
How much it costs to rent a bike in a European city will depend on where you hire a bike from. Donkey Republic app is a cheap and convenient bike rental service that you can find in many cities across Europe. And their rental hours are 24/7.
Renting a bike from Donkey Republic for one day will set you back an average of £11 which isn’t too bad considering you have unlimited use of them over a 24 hour period!
Tip 8: Entertainment
Look for free entry days
Here’s a big deal: enter any museum in Paris on the first Sunday of the month and it will be free. There are also other cities and attractions that offer similar deals, too. In Berlin, museums offer varying free-entry days. In Venice some museums and galleries are free to enter in the evening on the last Tuesday of every month. London, for example, has an amazing selection of museums and attractions to visit, completely free of charge at all times. The Louvre in Paris offers free admission to visitors under the age of 18 at all times and to all visitors on the first Sunday of each month from October to March. Tourist passes are your answer to monuments and museums tickets. For example, the Roma Pass gives you access to most places of interest in Rome without paying anything extra each time. Similar passes are available across many European cities. Students should also make sure they carry student ID to benefit from free entry or lower charges. Some museums offer free or discounted entry on certain days of the week or month. Take some time to find out about these at the Tourism Information Centre as soon as you land.
Go to free attractions
All the fun things to do in Europe don’t necessarily come at a price. There are many delights, monuments, museums, parks, festivals and art galleries that are absolutely free for visitors. Make a comprehensive list of the ones that coincide with your itinerary. Keep your eye out for free concerts; most museums in London and plenty in Berlin are free; there’s the Free Fringe Festival in Edinburgh; many cities offer free walking tours; and most European cities have some amazing buskers performing in the streets. Find the cultural centres in the city and ask what exhibitions, projects and gigs are going on.
Tip 9: Finding cheap food in Europe
To find reliable and affordable food court, skip the restaurants with the tourist friendly English language menus out front and look for places where you see plenty of locals. (The Google Translate App can help you make sense of the menu.) Don’t hesitate to ask your hotel caretaker or front desk to suggest affordable restaurants in the area. Save money by shopping for food at price cut supermarkets like Profi, Lidl, Aldi, and Penny Market.
Eat the local food and adapt to European tastes
Good trying to eat sushi in Serbia. Sample the local delicacies for a delicious budget experience. Cultural chameleons drink tea in England, beer in Prague, red wine in France, and white wine on the Rhine. Eating fish in Portugal and reindeer in Norway. Going with the local specialties gets you the best quality and service for the best price.
Eat street food and eat from local bakeries and delis
Look out for the daily menu in restaurants and cafes. There is a variation in every language, in every country. It will be local, authentic, probably delicious and cheap.
Shop at the markets for local produce that is likely to be cheaper than the food in supermarkets. If your hostel or hotel has a kitchen, cook. If not, picnic and people watch. Picnics save money. 10$ buy a fine picnic lunch for two anywhere in Europe. Store your hotel room with drinks and snacks. You can go ahead of train rides enjoyably over a picnic meal. Many grocery stores have neat deli sections. Know the metric system for buying products. In Italy 100 grams (about a quarter pound) is a unit called an Etto.
Eat according to the season
Germans go crazy for the white asparagus. Italians lap up the porcini mushrooms. And Spaniards gobble their snails (caracoles). Eating what’s in season will ensure what you munch is fresh and friendly for your wallet. You’ll get more taste for less money throughout Europe by ordering what’s in season.
Americans are used to give tips 18 – 20% in restaurants, but in most European nations, 10% is the norm unless the service was truly extraordinary. Check first to see whether a service charge has already been added to your bill; if so, you usually don’t need to leave anything additional.
Stay away from restaurants with a view
It’s generally assumed that the better the view, the more expensive the menu. Steer clear of restaurants in the town centre, with bird’s eye views of the city or that sit on the waterfront as these tend to be overpriced. Stick to side streets with small frontages for more affordable feeds.
Tip 10: Finding budget accommodation in Europe
Accommodation options are as varied as the continent and come in every shape and size to suit every comfort level or budget. Because every traveller has different preferences and price points we’ve tried to include a tip for everyone.
Choosing a hotel close to tourist attractions or the central part of a city can be significantly more expensive. Get on a travel website like Trivago to get the cheapest price on your desired room and compare prices and accessibility before you book. Almost in every main European cities you can get considerably cheaper prices if you are willing to stay away from the city centre.
Book a private room in a hostel if you still want your space
Hostels are a low-cost accommodation solution typically favorite by backpackers and young travelers. They offer dormitory beds and multi bed rooms but can also offer private rooms with your own ensuite for less than a hotel, making it an option if you want your own space. Facilities such as toilets and showers are often shared and extras such as room service aren’t included.
Snag weekend rates at business hotels
If you’ve never considered staying at a business-brand hotel, think again. Because corporate travellers make up the best part of their clients, these properties often trim down rates on weekends to attract leisure travellers. Along with the well established chains in America, most European cities have equivalents with similar offerings.
Newer properties are also a good since they have low opening rates.
Stay at a budget hotel chain
Stay at one of the budget hotel like a Travelodge or an Ibis on your next trip to Europe. If you are just looking for a cheap, comfortable stay these hotels are a great option.
Book last-minute or book a secret hotel
Since hotels pay online travel agencies as a commission, you can often find a cheaper price for booking directly with a hotel. You can often shelter last-minute bargain with online booking sites. Remember when you book hotel room through Booking.com and need to change your plans, you can often apply the rate to a later booking without a penalty.
Consider a vacation rental or home stay to trim costs
In Europe, vacation rental sites like Airbnb, VRBO, Homeaway, Wimdu, Flipkey offer competitive pricing shaking up the market by offering affordable homestays and have become increasingly popular in recent years. Particularly if you are travelling in groups, booking an apartment or a private room is a great way to save money and live like a local. Another option if you’re seeking a home-away-from-home is Homestay.com. The company guarantees that guests receive authentic experiences by staying at a local’s home. A family of four can stay as guests of a local host family; travelling teens can find college students who will take them in.
Rent an apartment
Consider couchsurfing or housesitting
Couchsurfing.com and Mindmyhouse.com are a great way if you want to stay completely free and to meet new friends & to explore a country. This form of accommodation is so cheap, it’s free. Couchsurfing or Housesitting can be an authentic and fun way to meet people and have a real-life tour guide help you navigate your way around. They’re also a good point of contact to reach out to for advice or help during your stay. Just remember to treat your host like a friend, not a hotel. To keep this system safe for you avoid anyone that doesn’t sound right. Always have a backup plan in case things don’t go the way you planned.
Tip 11: Make use of free WI-Fi
There is plenty of free Wi-Fi in Europe, especially in restaurants/cafes, Coffee shops, hotels, libraries, museums, famous landmarks and your accommodation. You can use free Wi-Fi for WhatsApp Calling, Skype, Viber, checking your emails and messages.
Tip 12: Be selective in your sightseeing
Europe is a never ending journey featuring endless variety of destinations with picturesque beauty, cultural sights, splendid architecture, and century’s old history. Europe Tourism boasts a larger than life magical experience to some of the most frequent holiday destinations including France, Germany, Italy, Russia, U.K, Switzerland, Turkey, Austria, and Spain. A wonderful destination for adventure enthusiasts, couples, honeymooners, solo travellers, and nature lovers, Europe serves the most variegated travel interests’ of vacationers.
From the beautiful city of Paris, to original coffee shops of Amsterdam, and the perfect beaches of Greece, there is so much on this continent than one could ever imagine. With Europe Travel Guide you will always find something wonderful to that amaze you.
A good plan to help cut costs if you’re going to multiple places is to program your time in the more popular touristy places for the weekdays and then move on to a less popular destination for the weekend.
Plan to enjoy as many free activities as possible. Much of the fun in Europe is just enjoying the experience of wandering the streets and that’s absolutely free.
Do your research ahead of time to determine whether there are museums and attractions that may have free admission on certain days, admit children and students for free or have family discounts. In London, many of the city’s best museums have free pass at all times and the Louvre in Paris offers free permit to visitors under the age of 18 and above 65 years at all times and to all visitors on the first Sunday of each month from October to March.
Whenever possible order tickets to any attractions that you plan to visit online in advance as there is often a discounted price for doing so plus you will be able to bypass the queue of ticket buyers and save time spent waiting in line. Many European cities offer sightseeing passes that often offer huge savings if you are planning to visit many of the major attractions. These can also be purchased online ahead of time. If you are a student or have been, flash your card at every available opportunity and you’ll save a ton of money when it comes to transport, attraction entry and even food.
Visit capital cities between Monday – Thursday and you’re bound to score yourself a better deal. Avoid European capital cities during weekend Friday-Sunday. This is when many people will take city breaks and, as you’d expect, prices for accommodation and flights are highest at this time of the week.
Travel Cards will give you discounted journeys on public transport and mean you’ll save a mass in the long run when backpacking Europe cheaply.
The Oyster Card in London is the best example of a travel card, giving you discounted travel across most buses, trains, underground services and even riverboats in the capital.
City Passes are cards which, after paying a set fee, normally give you blanket admission to a huge range of different attractions in a city – the total entrance fees for which would be far greater if you paid for them all separately.
This can help the cultures vultures among you save a heap when backpacking Europe cheaply. Some city cards even offer free transport as well.
The Zagreb City Card is a winner offering unlimited free travel on public transport, 50% discounts at virtually all of the city’s museums and Zagreb Zoo and 20% reduced prices for opera, concerts and summer festivals.
The Berlin Welcome Card is another great example, giving you free transport on the city’s buses and trains, a handy map and guide and discounts of up to 50% at almost 200 different partners such as Madame Tussauds Berlin, the German History Museum and the Botanical Gardens.
From Slovakia to Sweden, Bulgaria to Belgium, bike-sharing systems are going from strength to strength across Europe and using this great money-saving scheme has never been easier.
Bike-sharing systems are ones in which bicycles are available for people to use for short periods of time and often offer 30–45 minutes of free or very cheap initial use.
Rules and price rates vary from city to city, but they are worth taking the time to research when travelling Europe cheaply because they provide an extremely affordable, flexible and fun way to discover a new city.