Last Updated on 3 February 2021
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How to Travel Cheap in Europe
1. Consider visiting Eastern Europe
If you really want to travel cheap in Europe, then you should definitely consider making the eastern side of the continent your destination of choice! There are some really beautiful destinations in the region, like Prague, Budapest, and Wroclaw, and it is super affordable! Of course, there are some truly stunning destinations in the rest of Europe too.
But if you have a shoestring budget then a trip to Eastern Europe is going to be be your cup of tea! There is something to suit everyone, from beaches to mountains to cities, and unique cultures and experiences. What’s more, Eastern Europe has an abundance of budget friendly options for accommodation, eating out (with some truly tasty cuisine), and getting around. It is one of my favourite regions in the world!
2. Book an apartment
Apartments are abundant in Europe, and booking one is a top tip on how to save money on eating out. I know that you’re thinking ‘well I’m on holiday, so of course I’m going to eat out’. And I get that! But why not prepare your own breakfast spread in the apartment at least? This will save on eating out multiple times per day.
If you have a brunch type meal, you’re unlikely to be hungry at lunchtime! And even if you are, you can grab a local snack to quench your hunger until dinner time, when you can really treat yourself! You can often find apartments in Europe for a similar price to what a hotel room would cost. So isn’t it better to book one so you have the option of preparing your own food if you wish (plus you’ll get more room to move around)?
3. Use public transport
Know what public transport is available in your destination before you go, and use it when you are in Europe to help you travel cheap! Download useful apps, timetables or maps in preparation for your trip. This will make it easier to navigate your way around your destination, and will mean you are more likely to use public transport than spontaneously jump in a taxi just because it is the simple solution (a solution which is probably going to be more expensive).
Take some time to research ticket prices for public transport and how to get from A to B, so you can figure out the best option for you during your stay. If there are buses, trains, metros and trams, then use them. Or better still, walk if you can (walking is a great way to explore a new place, its free and getting lost usually just adds to the experience)!
Tip: There are numerous different scams that may occur when getting taxis. So if you plan on using them in Europe (or anywhere), be sure to travel with a respected firm. Prior to your trip, make sure you research known taxi scams for your destination. This will help you to avoid falling prey to these and spending extra cash!
4. Travel off peak
Generally speaking, it is cheaper to go off peak than in the height of the summer peak season, unless you snap up a real bargain! During this time, you can find cheap flights around Europe if you look hard enough. So why not go to Malta in November?
But before getting overexcited and clicking the book flight button in a fluster of wanderlust, take a quick check of the cost of accommodation. Accommodation can increase the price of any trip that might seem cheap at first glance, especially during peak periods!
Tip: March-May and September-October can be good months to consider visiting Europe for cheap travel; either side of the long summer break when the crowds get busy and the prices rapidly rise!
5. Avoid tours (if you can)
Going to Nice and fancy a day trip to Monaco – get the train. Staying in Bratislava and plan on visiting Vienna for the day – get the bus. Fancy visiting Wieliczka Salt Mine whilst you are in Krakow – get the train. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Of course, sometimes tours are unavoidable and just make more sense with time constraints and the ease of getting to places, such as some Balkan day trips from Dubrovnik. But Europe has a fantastic public transport system and a little bit of research beforehand might show you that you can take the trip yourself by utilising this. This could help you to avoid higher fees of pre-booked tours (and you get to follow your own schedule for the day)!
Read more: Step into a real life storybook by visiting the most beautiful small towns in Germany.
6. Use hand luggage only (no matter what season it is)
When using budget airlines around Europe, it is unlikely you will get hold luggage included in your ticket price. Adding this on to your flight will usually hike the price right up! Sometimes, if you’ve snapped up a real bargain, the total fee for the hold luggage can cost more than the flight itself!
So why not make the most of the included hand luggage allowance and use this for the duration of your trip to save money? I used hand luggage only on my 8 day trip to Rome and Prague, and planned on using it for the 3 week trip around Europe that I never took! It’s quite likely that most of the stuff you pack in your hold luggage, you never use anyway!
Tip: Be mindful that you may have to pay extra for hand luggage too depending on the airline. However, it still usually works out cheaper than adding on hold luggage!
7. Do your research!
I’ve touched on this in some of the previous tips, but it is important and deserves to be allocated its own little money saving travel tip paragraph! If you want to travel cheap in Europe then you must do your research before you are sat comfortably in the departure lounge waiting to board your outbound flight! Just a little research before your trip will go a long way in helping you to avoid making spontaneous and uninformed decisions which may cost more than what they should!
Don’t assume that taxi is the only way to get from the airport to the city. Don’t head into the first restaurant you see for dinner (at least ask to see a menu for the prices before you commit to sitting down first). Take some time before your trip to research the area you are visiting. You might find that there is an airport train or bus which is cheaper than a taxi, and that there are some cheap eats right next to your accommodation. Spending an hour or two swatting up on the area you are visiting will likely save you a few Euros, Pounds or Dollars equalling cheaper travel!
Tip: I always use TripAdvisor before and during my trips to find cheap eats with good reviews. Then I have an idea of where I can go when I’m hangry (yes, I’m one of those angry hungry people), without having to worry about the affordability or quality!