Discover Europe On A Budget: Travel Tips For Cheaper Trips
Travelling around Europe is one of the best experiences you can have, but it can also be one of the most expensive ones. Major capitals like London, Berlin and Paris are full of beautiful places you should see, but they are also incredibly expensive.
The good news is, most of these costs can be adjusted to a reasonable price, leaving you to indulge and splurge only on the experiences that are worth a little extra.
Below we made a list of 7 most common travelling tips, which will help you curb your travelling expenses without depriving yourself of any fun.
You probably have a general idea of when and where you want to start (and end) your trip, but it pays off to be a little flexible with your dates and departure locations. Each destination has a low and highs season and the prices will reflect that. The high season is mostly during the summer months, so try to avoid travelling then.
Instead, travel during spring or autumn. Months between October and April may be a little less warm and a little fickler when it comes to weather, but you'll pay less for your flight and accommodations and avoid the usual touristy crowds at your destination.
Find cheap flights
You know where you want to go, and when you want to get there, so now all that’s left for you is to book your flight. If you’re travelling from within Europe, there are some great low-cost carriers, like RyanAir, Vueling, Norwegian, EasyJet, but if you’re travelling from abroad, things can get a little tricky and a lot expensive.
You can mix & match different flights manually to get the best possible route and price, but leave a large enough time window between flights for any delays or airport changes you might encounter. Being stuck at an airport, paying extra for plane tickets or overnight stays in airport hotels is definitely not the way to start or end your journey.
Or you can use low-cost flight services like the Dollar Flight Club that will find your next amazing adventure for you and alert you each time budget-friendly plane tickets become available in your area. DFC collects flight data from various sources to identify deals 60-90% cheaper than the average round-trip prices and shares those flights directly with you via your email, SMS or their platform.
You can save up to $500+ on your next flight and take advantage of their partnerships that give DFC members exclusive discounts on travel services and goods.
Another way to save on your flight cost is to pack light. Most airlines will not charge a fee for carry-on luggage or the fee will only be nominal. Not only will you save money on baggage fees, but you’ll also avoid long lines at the airport. Plus, moving around a new city with only a small bag is much easier than rolling around a big suitcase.
Find budget accommodations
The first rule is: Stay away from the city centre. The closer you are to the city’s attractions, the higher the prices. In all major European cities, it pays off to search for accommodations about 10 minutes outside of the city centre or, if there’s a metro line available, near a metro stop in one of the outer areas.
Budget chain hotels
A great way to save a few euros and almost every European country has one. A stay in one of these might not be an experience in itself, but if you’re just looking for a clean, comfortable room at affordable prices, this is it.
Airbnb & rooms for rent
Another way to avoid pricey accommodations is to rent a room. Airbnb is a great way to find affordable rooms near the area you want to visit, but you can also just do a general google search and go to the source directly. Since these are mostly family run, the prices will be lower and you can even get a few great tips about what to do or where to eat, straight from the locals.
If you’re looking for an experience of a true traveller, check out the local hostels. You can rent a room just for yourself or share one with other fellow travellers at incredibly low rates. The receptionist in these is usually a great source of information and you can get some interesting tips from other travellers at the hostel’s bar over a few drinks.
Tipping in Europe is encouraged, but it is not the norm like in the US. Generally, you tip for good service and a 10% tip will more than cover it. Sometimes, restaurants will include the service charge in the bill already, so check that before tipping your waiter directly.
Withdraw from ATMs at banks
Do not change currency using the local exchange offices, these have the highest surcharges and usually, the exchange rate is adjusted in their favour as well.
The same rule applies to airport exchange places and even some ATM machines. If the ATM machine is not attached to a bank or if it’s located in a shop or store, it will most likely have a high transaction fee.
An ATM in a bank will have the best exchange rate and reasonable surcharges or transaction fees (typically less than 2%).
Check with your bank for specifics and ask them about their international branch locations. Withdrawing from an ATM of your bank will allow you to avoid fees from other banks.
A little insurance goes a long way
Strictly speaking, travel insurance is not necessary. Your existing insurance policy most likely already has some coverage, so it’s a good idea to recheck what you’re actually insured for.
That said, it’s always a good idea to get some extra insurance, both for your health and for your possessions.
Travelling, you will be exposed to new environments, you’ll most likely drive yourself a little further than you usually would, and you will be tasting foreign cuisine. Travel health insurance is a relatively cheap, one-time expense, but if you do need to set foot in a hospital during your vacation, it will definitely be worth it.
Another thing to keep an eye on is your documents and your wallet. There are many different ways to make sure you’re not stranded if you lose something or get mugged, but prevention is king and Chipolo is great at keeping an eye on your things.
Just add a Chipolo to the things you want to track and connect it to the Chipolo app on your phone. You can make your misplaced or missing items ring, check their last known location on a map in the app and even better, you can set up In Range and Out of Range notification. The range notifications will alert you each time your phone loses connection with your belongings, so you can react quickly, and get them back before it’s too late.
And it even works both ways, so the Chipolo attached to your backpack will alert you if you forget your phone somewhere too.
You can attach a Chipolo to your bag and keys, and even insert the Chipolo Card in your wallet or passport pouch to keep an eye on those as well.
Getting free Wi-Fi in larger cities should be relatively easy, almost every location will have it. Airports, hostels, pubs, museums and galleries will all have some basic Wi-Fi available for their visitors, and some cities even have free public Wi-Fi that you can use in a pinch (it’s not the fastest though, so a little patience won’t hurt). Unless you use your phone 24/7, you should be able to get by with a basic plan from your cell phone carrier and supplement it with local Wi-Fi.
Eat well on a budget
You get breakfast included with most accommodations, and it’s usually locally sourced, so take advantage of it. If your room doesn’t have breakfast included, take that as an opportunity to try local cuisine. You’ll have no problem finding a cup of coffee and indulge in a little taste of local pastries, dairy or fruits in a nearby café or even a grocery store.
Make lunch your main meal
Dinners are usually more expensive than lunches, but the dishes are mostly the same. You’ll also find daily lunch menus in many restaurants; these are set menus prepared for that day at a fixed price. Daily menus usually include an appetizer or soup, a selection of two or three main courses and a desert.
Small snacks over drinks
In Spain you’ll find tapas, in Italy they’re called aperitivo, in Slovenia they are prigrizki. Every country has their version of smaller meals, simple plates or dishes, which you can share with other people over drinks. They are a great way to taste some local cuisine without breaking the bank.
Avoid Restaurants in Touristy Areas
Never eat in the main square, or the place right next to the sights. It's usually incredibly overpriced and doesn’t offer good food since it's always busy and the meals are prepared quickly. Instead, get lost in the nearby allies, there’s always at least 2 or 3 places to eat only a couple blocks out.
Is the water safe to drink?
Enquire if the water is safe to drink on the spot. Tap water in Europe is generally ok, but there might be some exceptions, especially during heavy rains, or on islands, where the freshwater sources are supplemented by desalination. If drinking tap water is not recommended, make sure to also avoid ice cubes, mixed drinks and eat only fruit that has been peeled.
Save money on transportation
Transport isn’t just getting there; it’s also getting around once you’re on holiday. In European cities, the best way to get around is by public transport.
Having a multi-day or multi-ride pass is usually cheaper than buying each ticket separately on the spot and it will also save time.
Try the public rent-a-bike system if you’re feeling a little adventurous. It’s usually connected to the public transportation passes, so one card should be enough to give you access to metro, buses, trams or bikes, depending on what the city has to offer.
At least in the old city centres, you can usually walk around at a leisurely pace and still see all the major sights. It will also give you a chance to explore some hidden corners and quaint old taverns or cafes you would otherwise miss.
Moving between cities
Europe has a number of low-cost bus companies and a pretty decent railway system. With many of them, you can also buy tickets online in advance, so you don’t have to worry where to find them on the spot.
Sightseeing and entertainment
Make the most of the information available online and browse your destination before you go. You'll have no problem finding value deals or even free tickets for museums, galleries or events.
Use a guidebook
A time-tested tradition that still holds true today. Guidebooks are a great way to learn a little bit about where you’re going and kill time on the plane too! Every European country has had at least one guidebook written about it and most major European cities have their own editions available.
Find one at your local library or buy a paperback and chances are, it will already have a tour of all the great sights planned for you, complete with a map.
Audio guide app
Tourist attractions, museums and galleries offer group tours or audio guides of their own, and usually, these cost a little extra. But if you browse the Play or App store, you’ll find several apps that offer free audio guides for the same tours. All you need is your phone and a set of earphones.
Tourist Information point
Make sure to visit the city’s tourist information centre. They are full of useful information about free events, like concerts in the park, museum days and local markets. You can also get free maps with sights marked on them, discounted tickets for events and guided tours.
Discounts and free entry to museums and galleries
Museums and some galleries will have days each month when you won't have to pay for entrance. Since you’ll likely visit more than one, each ticket costing about 10€, free entry into at least one is always welcome. You can check the museums' websites for more information beforehand, to help you plan.
Another great way to save on tickets is to get an all-inclusive pass or a tourist public transport pass. You’ll need it to move around the city anyway and the tourist ones usually come with discounts to museums, sights, tours, places to eat…
Free walking tours
Most European cities are not that big, and interesting sights and venues are often clustered in the city centre. Free walking tours are common, and the guides will most likely show you a few interesting places you would have missed otherwise.
Book in advance
You can book and pay entry for most museums, sights and activities in advance through their websites. Not only are these tickets usually discounted, but you’ll also be able to avoid standing in the ticket line when you get there!