Traveling Europe on the Cheap

Hi there! If  you clicked on this post then I assume you’re interested in traveling Europe…

and doing it for the least amount of money! I did a post a few months back about how I save money for travel, but I decided that it needs a follow up post. I mean you can save money all you want, but how do you make your money stretch as far as it can when you’re actually on the road? In this post I’ll talk about transportation, lodging, food and attractions and how to get the best deals on each!

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Transportation

Transportation will be your biggest money hog. Obviously plane tickets cost a ton (see the Capitol One Venture Card to help you with that), but what’s the best way to travel around within countries, or if you are country hopping?

Megabus: Megabus is a lifesaver in Europe. Although it takes longer to get from point A to point B, the benefits outweigh the cons in my opinion. For starters, it takes a lot less planning and hassle than flying does. If you’re taking a bus then just show up at the station 10 minutes before departure and find a seat. Second, you can often double your bus ride as a night in a hotel. Two for one price! I know buses aren’t comfortable AT ALL to sleep on, but it will save you money! For example when I went to Belgium we took an overnight bus from Paris to Brussels, spent the day in Brussels and then took another overnight bus back the very next night.

Flying: Europe is bomb when it comes to cheap airlines. Ryanair, and Easyjet are my two most-used ones just because I find they have the cheapest fares. For example I searched for a roundtrip flight from Paris to Barcelona and it was only $80!! With these budget airlines you have to be careful about hidden fees and you are extremely limited on what baggage you can bring, but if you are going on a weekend getaway and can travel light then it’s worth it.

Carpooling: If you are traveling with a small group then consider BlaBla Car. On BlaBla Car you type in your point A and point B and the site will connect you with people who are driving that same route. If the driver has room in their car, then you can hitch a ride with them and split the gas!

Trains: My dream trip is an all-train tour around Europe. Eurail and RailEurope offer so many train passes that it’s hard to choose. I’ve always wanted to get the RailEurope global pass which gives you unlimited travel to any participating country. This is good for travelers who want to see as much as possible in the least amount of time.

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Accommodation

Accommodation is probably your second biggest money hog. Luckily it’s the category that can also save you the most amount of money.

Couchsurfing: I had to put Couchsurfing at the top of the list because it’s FREE. Basically local people who want to meet travelers and have a free couch, bed or even floor will offer up their house. Couch surfing is a great way to meet locals and save money. I did a couch surf in Pisa, Italy and our host was so nice. He was a university student just like us and he took us around to all the attractions and took us to the bar with his friends that night. Obviously there is some risk involved with this because literally anybody can open their home to strangers. Be smart about the hosts you stay with by reading reviews on their profile to make sure they’ve hosted people before.

Hostels: Hostel World is the obvious choice here. Hostels are basically really cheap hotels that offer the bare minimum services. The cheapest option is to stay in a dorm room with other people (bring a padlock to lock your stuff up). Most hostels also offer private rooms for a little more money but still cheaper than a hotel.

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Food

This one is a little less straight forward because there is no “cheap food” website you can go to. The first thing I always suggest is to cook your own food. Grocery shopping in a foreign country can be a cultural experience in itself and if you are staying in a hostel, there will most likely be a kitchen you can use. While in Iceland we cooked most of our own meals and it probably saved us a couple hundred dollars.

If you aren’t into cooking, then it’s all about knowing where (or where not) to eat. I always love to get street food because it’s authentic and super cheap. It also comes in smaller portions so you aren’t paying for a huge meal that you would only eat half of anyways. If you are eating at a restaurant, GET AWAY FROM THE TOURIST AREA. Seriously. If you walk a couple miles away from the city center or into a neighborhood, you will find way cheaper food and it will probably taste better anyways! One important thing to mention about food, and I will talk about this more in the next section too, is to always ask for student discounts. Even if you aren’t a student anymore, keep your students ID and ask for discounts everywhere you go.

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Attractions

There are a few ways to get discounts on attractions. The first is to find out if the attraction offers a free or discounted day. For example the Louvre Museum in Paris is free on the first Sunday of every month. Of course it’s going to be super busy that day, but hey it’s free.

Again, I also suggest asking for student discounts on everything. If you are studying abroad and have a visa then that also gets you discounts! If they say no when you ask, then that’s fine. But it doesn’t take that much effort to ask and it saves a lot of money.

 

This post details all the things I frequently do/use while traveling to save money, but it is by no means exhaustive. I always suggest doing more research and looking into the specific countries you want to visit. And as always, I’m totally up for trying new tricks so if you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments!

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