Many travelers consider Europe to be their ideal vacation spot, but it can also be rather pricey. With so many different countries, cultures, and attractions to explore, it can be hard to know how to plan a trip to Europe on a budget. But don’t worry, it is possible to enjoy an amazing European adventure without breaking the bank. In this blog post, we’ll share some tips and tricks on how to save money on flights, transportation, and activities in Europe. Whether you want to visit the iconic landmarks of Paris, the charming canals of Amsterdam, or the stunning scenery of the Swiss Alps, you can do it all on a backpacker’s budget. Here’s how:
Important Tips for Trip
Save Money Before You Go
The first step to planning a trip to Europe on a budget is to save as much money as possible before you leave your country. If you don’t intend to work overseas while you travel, having a healthy savings account will help you feel more at ease.
To save money, you can work some extra shifts, cut down on unnecessary spending, sell some stuff you don’t need, or even start a side hustle. Every dollar you save will help you enjoy your trip more and avoid financial stress.
Pick the Right Travel Time
The next step is to decide when is the best time to go to Europe. There are a few factors that influence this decision, such as weather, cost, and crowds.
If you want to save money on flights and accommodation, you should travel during the off-season or the shoulder season. The off-season is usually the winter months (December to February) when the weather is colder and less appealing to tourists. The shoulder season is usually the spring or autumn months (March to May and September to November), when the weather is mild and pleasant, but not too hot or busy.
The peak season is usually the summer months (June to August), when the weather is warm and sunny, but also crowded and expensive. Unless you have a specific reason to travel during this time, such as attending a festival or event, you should avoid it if you’re on a budget.
Choose Your Destinations Wisely
Europe has so many diverse and beautiful countries to choose from, but some are more affordable than others. If you want to stretch your budget further, you should consider visiting some of the cheaper destinations in Europe, such as Eastern Europe (Poland, Hungary, Romania, etc.), Southern Europe (Portugal, Spain, Greece, etc.), or the Balkans (Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc.).
These regions offer stunning scenery, rich culture, delicious food, and friendly people, but without the high price tag of Western Europe (France, Germany, Italy, etc.) or Northern Europe (UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, etc.).
Of course, you can still visit some of the more expensive countries if they are on your bucket list, but you should limit your time there or look for ways to save money while there.
Find Cheap Flights
One of the biggest expenses of traveling to Europe is the flight ticket. To find cheap flights, you should use online tools like Skyscanner or Google Flights to compare prices and dates. You should also be flexible with your departure and arrival airports and look for alternative routes or stopovers that might be cheaper.
Another way to save money on flights is to use points and miles from your credit cards or loyalty programs. You can transfer your points to partner airlines or use them to book award flights directly. You can also look for deals and promotions that might offer discounted or free flights.
Book Budget Accommodation
Another major expense of traveling in Europe is accommodation. To save money on this aspect, you should look for budget-friendly options like hostels, Airbnb, Couchsurfing, camping, or house-sitting. These alternatives will not only save you money but also give you a chance to meet other travelers or locals and have a more authentic experience.
You can use online platforms like Booking.com, Hostelworld, Airbnb, Couchsurfing, Campspace, or TrustedHousesitters to find and book your accommodation in advance or on the go. You can also use apps like HotelTonight or Hotwire to find last-minute deals on hotels.
Travel by Train or Bus
One of the best ways to travel around Europe is by train or bus. These modes of transportation are not only cheap but also convenient, comfortable, and scenic. You can enjoy the views of the countryside, stop at different cities, and mingle with other travelers or locals along the way.
You can buy individual tickets for each journey or get a pass that allows you unlimited travel within a certain period of time or area. For example, you can get an Interrail pass if you’re a European resident or a Eurail pass if you’re not. These passes let you travel by train across most European countries with different options and prices.
You can also get a bus pass from companies like Flixbus, Eurolines, Busabout, or BlaBlaBus. These passes let you travel by bus across many European destinations with flexible schedules and routes.
Eat Like a Local
Food is another important part of traveling in Europe, but it can also be expensive if you eat out all the time. To save money on food, you should eat like a local. This means buying groceries at supermarkets, markets, or street stalls and cooking your own meals at your accommodation or using public facilities like picnic areas or parks.
You can also eat at local restaurants, cafes, bakeries, or fast-food chains that offer cheap and tasty dishes. You can find these places by asking around, reading reviews online, or following your nose. Avoid touristy places that charge higher prices for lower-quality food.
Another tip is to take advantage of free breakfasts at hostels, happy hours at bars, or complimentary snacks at hotels. You can also bring some snacks with you when you travel, such as nuts, dried fruits, granola bars, or crackers.
Enjoy Free or Cheap Activities
Europe has so many amazing things to see and do, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy them. There are plenty of free or cheap activities that will enrich your trip without breaking your budget.
Some examples are :
- Visiting museums, galleries, monuments, churches, or parks that are free or have reduced fees on certain days or hours.
- Taking free walking tours that are offered by local guides who work for tips.
- Joining free events that are happening in the city, such as festivals, concerts, markets, parades, or shows.
- Hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, skiing, or surfing in nature.
- Renting a bike or using public transport instead of taxis or Uber.
- Getting a city card that gives you discounts or free access to attractions, transport, restaurants, etc.
- Volunteering for a cause that interests you and helps others.
Be Smart With Your Money
When traveling in Europe on a budget, you should be smart with your money. This means keeping track of your spending, avoiding unnecessary fees, using cashback apps or cards, exchanging currency wisely, and protecting yourself from theft.
Some tips are :
- Use an app like Trail Wallet or Mint to record your expenses and set daily budgets.
- Use a debit card like N26 or Revolut that has no foreign transaction fees and offers free ATM withdrawals worldwide.
- Use a credit card like Chase Sapphire Preferred Card that has no foreign transaction fees and offers travel rewards.
- Use cashback apps like Rakuten or Ibotta that give you money back when you shop online or in-store.
- Exchange currency at reputable places like banks or ATMs and avoid airport kiosks or street vendors that charge high commissions.
- Use a money belt or a hidden wallet to store your cash and cards safely under your clothes.
- Use a lock or a cable to secure your luggage at your accommodation or on transport.
Best Time to Visit Europe on a Budget
One of the first things to consider when planning a trip to Europe on a budget is when to go. The time of year you choose to travel can have a big impact on your costs and your experience. Generally speaking, there are three seasons in Europe: peak season, off-season, and shoulder season.
Peak season is the summer months of June, July, and August, when most tourists flock to Europe for the warm weather and long days. This is also the most expensive time to travel, as flights, hotels, and attractions are in high demand and charge higher prices. You’ll also have to deal with crowds and queues at popular destinations.
Off-season is the winter months of December, January, and February when fewer tourists visit Europe due to the cold weather and shorter days. This is the cheapest time to travel, as flights, hotels, and attractions are less busy and offer lower prices. You’ll also have more chances to experience the local culture and traditions without the tourist masses.
The shoulder season is the spring and autumn months of March-May and September-November when the weather is mild and pleasant, but not too hot or cold. This is the best time to travel to Europe on a budget, as you can enjoy both affordable prices and decent weather. You’ll also find fewer crowds and more availability at popular destinations.
Of course, the best time to visit Europe also depends on your personal preferences and interests. Some places may be more appealing or suitable for certain seasons than others. For example, if you want to see the northern lights in Scandinavia or enjoy winter sports in the Alps, you’ll have to travel in winter. If you want to experience festivals like Oktoberfest in Germany or La Tomatina in Spain, you’ll have to travel in autumn. If you want to see the tulip fields in Holland or the cherry blossoms in Japan, you’ll have to travel in spring.
The bottom line is: do some research on your chosen destinations and decide what you want to see and do before booking your trip.
When choosing your accommodation in Europe, consider factors such as location, comfort, safety, and reviews. Try to find a place that is close to public transportation, attractions, and amenities. Read the description and the reviews carefully to avoid any unpleasant surprises. And always book in advance to secure the best deals and availability.
Transportation Tips for Cost-Effective Travel in Europe
One of the best things about traveling in Europe is the variety and convenience of transportation options. You can easily get from one country to another by plane, train, bus, car, or even bike. However, some modes of transportation are more budget-friendly than others. Here are some tips on how to save money on transportation in Europe:
Fly low-cost: Flying is the fastest and sometimes the cheapest way to travel in Europe, especially if you use low-cost airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, or Wizz Air. These airlines offer flights for as low as $10 or $20 between major European cities. However, be aware of the hidden fees and restrictions that these airlines impose, such as baggage limits, seat selection, check-in procedures, and airport locations. Always read the fine print and follow the rules to avoid paying extra charges.
Use train passes: Train travel is one of the most scenic and comfortable ways to travel in Europe. You can enjoy the views of the countryside, relax in your seat, and arrive at the city center without hassle. Train travel can also be affordable if you use train passes like Eurail or Interrail, which allow you to travel on multiple trains across different countries for a fixed price. You can choose from different pass types depending on your itinerary, duration, and budget. However, keep in mind that some trains may require reservations and additional fees.
Take buses: Buses are the cheapest and most widely available way to travel in Europe. You can find buses that connect almost every city and town in Europe for a fraction of the price of a train or a plane ticket. Buses are also convenient as they often offer free Wi-Fi, power outlets, and luggage storage. You can book bus tickets online using websites like Flixbus, Eurolines, or Busbud.
When choosing your transportation in Europe, consider factors such as time, distance, comfort, and convenience. Try to find a balance between saving money and enjoying your journey. And always book in advance to secure the best deals and availability.
Must-Visit Budget-Friendly Destinations in Europe
Europe is home to some of the most famous and expensive destinations in the world, such as Paris, London, Rome, and Venice. But it also has some hidden gems that offer excellent value for money and amazing experiences. If you want to stretch your budget and discover some new places in Europe, here are some of the must-visit budget-friendly destinations:
Bucharest: The largest and capital city of Romania is Bucharest. It is a dynamic and diverse city that combines old and new, traditional and modern, east and west. You can admire the colossal Palace of Parliament, the largest administrative building in the world; stroll through the charming Old Town; enjoy some of the best nightlife in Europe; and experience the local culture and cuisine. Bucharest is also very cheap compared to other European capitals. You can get a coffee for less than $1,
Faro: Faro is the capital of the Algarve region in southern Portugal, and one of the best summer destinations in Europe for budget travelers. Faro has a beautiful historic center, a stunning marina, and lively nightlife. You can also explore the nearby Ria Formosa Natural Park, a protected wetland area with lagoons, islands, and wildlife. Faro is also a great base to visit some of the best beaches in Portugal, such as Praia de Faro, Praia da Ilha Deserta, and Praia da Ilha da Culatra. Faro is very affordable compared to other coastal cities in Europe. You can find a beer for less than $2, a seafood dish for less than $10, and a hostel for less than $15.
Sofia: Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria. It is a city with a long and turbulent history, dating back to ancient times. You can see traces of its past in its diverse architecture, from Roman ruins to Ottoman mosques to Soviet monuments. You can also enjoy its vibrant culture, cuisine, and nightlife. Sofia is one of the cheapest capitals in Europe. You can visit many of its attractions for free or for a nominal fee, such as the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the National Museum of History, and the Boyana Church. You can also find a cup of coffee for less than $1, a pizza for less than $4, and a hotel room for less than $25.
Best Budget-Friendly Activities in Europe
Europe is not only a destination for sightseeing, but also for having fun and memorable experiences. Whether you are into culture, nature, adventure, or entertainment, you can find plenty of activities to suit your interests and budget. Here are some of the top activities in Europe that are inexpensive:
Visit free museums: Many museums in Europe offer free admission or reduced prices on certain days or hours. For example, you can visit the Louvre in Paris for free on the first Sunday of every month, the British Museum in London for free anytime, and the Prado Museum in Madrid for free from 6 pm to 8 pm on weekdays and from 5 pm to 7 pm on weekends. You can also use city passes or museum cards to get discounts or free entry to multiple museums and attractions.
Go hiking: Hiking is a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of Europe and get some exercise. You can find hiking trails for all levels of difficulty and duration, from easy walks to challenging treks. Some of the best hiking destinations in Europe are the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Scottish Highlands, the Dolomites, and the Carpathians. You can also join guided hikes or join hiking clubs for a small fee.
Enjoy street art: Street art is a form of expression and creativity that can be found in many cities and towns in Europe. You can admire the colorful murals, graffiti, sculptures, and installations that decorate the walls, buildings, and public spaces. Some of the best places to see street art in Europe are Berlin, London, Paris, Barcelona, Lisbon, and Athens. You can also join street art tours or workshops for a low price.
Europe is a dream destination for many travelers, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare for your wallet. By following these tips and tricks, you can travel to Europe on a budget and enjoy its amazing diversity, beauty, and culture. Whether you want to explore its cities, islands, mountains, or beaches, you can find ways to do it cheaply and comfortably. So don’t let money stop you from experiencing this wonderful continent. Prepare yourself for the journey of a lifetime by starting your vacation planning right away!
Here are some frequently asked questions about traveling in Europe on a budget :
Q: What is the cost of traveling to Europe?
A: The cost of traveling in Europe depends on many factors such as where you go, when you go, how long you stay, what kind of accommodation you choose, what kind of activities you do, etc. However, as a general rule of thumb, you can expect to spend around $50-$100 per day on average if you follow a budget travel style.
Q: What are the best ways to get around Europe?
A: The best ways to get around Europe are by train or bus. These modes of transportation are not only cheap but also convenient, comfortable, and scenic. You can buy individual tickets for each journey or get a pass that allows you unlimited travel within a certain period of time or area. You can also fly low-cost airlines if you want to save time or cover long distances.
Q: What are the best destinations to visit in Europe on a budget?
A: Some of the best destinations to visit in Europe on a budget are Eastern Europe (Poland, Hungary, Romania, etc.), Southern Europe (Portugal, Spain, Greece, etc.), or the Balkans (Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc.). These regions offer stunning scenery, rich culture, delicious food, and friendly people, but without the high price tag of Western Europe (France, Germany, Italy, etc.) or Northern Europe (UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, etc.).
Q: How can I save money on food in Europe?
A: You can save money on food in Europe by eating like a local. This means buying groceries at supermarkets, markets, or street stalls and cooking your own meals at your accommodation or using public facilities like picnic areas or parks. You can also eat at local restaurants, cafes, bakeries, or fast-food chains that offer cheap and tasty dishes. Avoid touristy places that charge higher prices for lower-quality food.
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