Whether you’re a student on a budget, a family with children, or a travel aficionado, spending a summer abroad in Europe can easily create a large dent in your finances.
However, with a little bit of planning and the use of alternative travel methods, making your way around Europe does not have to necessarily break the bank.
Let’s look at five major ways on how to travel Europe cheaply.
5 Budget Tips for Summer Travel in Europe
Eat Local Food From Non-Tourist Restaurants
If you are in a big city and see a restaurant with a sign that says, “We speak English” you will most likely pay for this convenience, one way or another. Such tourist-friendly restaurants cater to foreigners who don’t really know a fair price for food and most likely chalk up an expensive meal as an “authentic European experience”.
You will find great reward in bypassing these familiar-feeling restaurants for locally owned cafés and hole-in-the-wall places that may speak only broken English. Off the beaten path, these eateries offer fresh, traditional cuisine at a fraction of the cost. The staff is usually made up of lively family members who pride themselves on their homemade food, which is created from produce that was hand-selected at the local market that morning. Plus, if you choose a meal with ingredients that are in season, your plate is likely to be even more inexpensive.
Research Free Activities in the Areas You Are Visiting
Although notoriously an expensive city, Paris, France offers free admission into the Louvre and other museums on the first Sunday of every month. Major cities, such as London, Paris, Barcelona, and many others have free walking tours. Even without the official tour group, walking around is often the best way to explore hidden gems of the city. Depending on the area in Europe, your most exciting adventures could be found at the beach, on hiking trails, or browsing storefronts in the heart of the city.
Take Budget-Friendly Transportation
Consider all of your options: planes, trains, buses, boats, car share rides, bike riding, and yes, hitchhiking (although the latter is only advised in extreme situations). Fortunately, there are several budget airlines available in a wide variety of European cities, and a one-way trip can be as cheap as $20 Euro if you travel with a carry-on bag only. Warning: budget airlines are known for charging extra fees, so be sure to follow all regulations. Some airlines will have a lot of instructions, such as printing your own ticket beforehand, so be prepared to put in a little more work if you want to save a few bucks this way.
Thanks to the infrastructure in Europe, trains are also a cheaper option, especially with a Eurail pass, plus a student or family discount. Eurail is the leading train transportation company that connects people to cities all over the European continent. They provide several different train pass options—from weekly and monthly passes, to passes that work exclusively in chosen countries—in order to give you the best value for your dollar. Also think about taking buses for long-haul rides. Companies like Megabus and Eurolines provide reclining seats, air conditioning, beverages, and other amenities for your enjoyment as you travel across Europe. Take advantage of their low fare which can be as cheap as just a few Euros per ticket.
For more local transportation, don’t forget about taking the metro, riding city buses, using phone apps to initiate car share rides, and biking around town for the more scenic route. Quite honestly, anything will be cheaper than a taxi cab.
Book All of Your Transportation in Advance
This is definitely not advised if you want your trip to Europe to be full of spontaneity. However, it should be noted that more often than not, plane and train rides, when booked at the right time in advance (typically six weeks before departure), can save you hundreds of dollars per ticket.
Knowing how to price shop these tickets helps, too. When looking for the best airline prices, search through Skyscanner.com. This search engine allows you to view the most affordable prices from different airlines available. You can even see if changing the date or airport departure aids in lowering your overall ticket price.
According to Tom Allen of WizEssay, “Planning your trip ahead of time can save you thousands of dollars over the course of a long-haul trip. When you factor in flights and boarding that can be booked months in advance, why wouldn’t you want to make arrangements that lower your budget?”.
Avoid Hotels as Housing
Yes, hotels deliver a luxurious experience with tons of amenities—but they also come at a price. Try staying in Europe with more affordable housing through hostels, AirBnB rooms, couchsurfing, house sitting, HomeExchange, or even WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and Au Pairing. Of course, WWOOFing and Au Pairing are a bit different; they are an exchange of a few hours’ work per day for free housing and meals. This would be great for a single person who wants an authentic, long-term experience. House sitting is usually also free—and sometimes, they pay you.
All in all, traveling across Europe doesn’t have to be full of large expenditures. With these simple tips, the bulk of your budget will now be more on the thrifty side. When it comes down to it, all you have to remember is to live like the locals do.
This way, you will be saving money and you’ll get to have a much more fulfilling experience.