Budget travel and Europe are two things that don’t seem to go together. Everyone knows that Europe is crazy expensive. Right?
Sure, travelling in Europe can be expensive. Cities like London and Paris are known for it. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it is entirely possible to explore Europe without breaking the bank. With these tips, you can travel around this wonderful continent even if you don’t have that much to spend.
1. Book in advance
Contrary to travelling in South East Asia, booking ahead in Europe will actually save you money. There are plenty of budget hostels available, but they tend to fill up, especially in high season, and there is no bargaining for a better price. So if you don’t mind planning your trip out, booking accommodation in advance can save you a lot of trouble.
The same goes for activities and transportation. Since online booking, last-minute deals are not as easy to find and prices tend to go up the longer you wait. So do a little research a few months in advance and book train, bus and plane tickets when they are cheapest. Booking online can also save you both money and waiting in line when it comes to entree tickets for tourist attractions, museums and tours. Some places even have free entry on Sundays and holidays!
If your budget doesn’t allow for the prices of European hostels, Couchsurfing provides you with the cheapest possible accommodation: free. And not just that, it is also a fantastic way to meet locals and fellow travellers. I’ve used Couchsurfing in Ireland and Scotland and found it to be a welcome break from staying in crowded hostel dorms, especially when you luck out and have a guest room all to yourself! So, I would recommend Couchsurfing, even if you have money to spare.
Volunteering programmes such as Workaway and WOOFF are a great way to see the world on a budget. In exchange for a few hours of work a day, you get a bed and often meals. And as you are often required to stay for at least a few weeks, you get to stay with locals and experience the local culture, cuisine and life. WOOFF is a platform specifically for organic farms and Workaway can be anything from hostels to babysitting.
4. Cook for yourself
One of the perks of European hostels is that they almost always have a communal kitchen. So instead of eating out for every meal, you can cook your own food. Even if it’s just sandwiches, buying bread and cheese at a grocery store gets you breakfast or lunch for a week at the price of a single sandwich from a deli. I usually also buy a big bag of pasta/rice that I take with me from place to place and buy fresh vegetables at the market whenever I arrive somewhere new. I actually love to cook, so not only is it cheap, it’s also fun and I get to try out all the previously unknown local produce. And imagine the friends you’ll make when you offer to cook dinner for your fellow travellers!
The best way to save money is to not spend it. So instead of taking public transportation everywhere, walk. It’s free, it’s healthy and you have full freedom in your movement. I also highly recommend joining a free walking tour, a low-budget, and usually better, alternative to pricey organised tours. Free walking tours run on tips, so the guides are highly motivated to give you the best tour possible.
And if you do have to take public transport and you are planning to travel a lot, see if you can get a day or multiday ticket for the bus or subway, it can be a lot cheaper than buying single fare tickets.