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.
I have travelled a lot in Europe, and on shoe string budgets. I even managed to stay under 1000 EUR a month by using these tips for budget travel in Europe. With these tips, you can travel around this wonderful continent even if you don’t have that much to spend.
Book in advance
Contrary to traveling in Southeast 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 money.
I have used apps like Booking.com and Hostelworld in the past. But now I prefer to use those to look for suitable hostels and go to the hostels own website. Booking directly with the hostel is often cheaper and you’re supporting a small business as booking platforms charge commission.
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 tickets for tourist attractions, museums and tours. Some places even have free entry on Sundays and holidays! Doing a bit of research is my number one budget tip for Europe.
Couchsurf or stay in hostels
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 all over Europe 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! Through Couchsurfing I have had experiences that I never would have had if I had stayed in a hotel. Here are some examples of my Couchsurfing adventures:
- Raced down country roads in Italy to a tiny Trattoria that stayed open for us, so that I could have the best risotto in the world.
- Went on an impromptu pub crawl with my host and his friends and ended up a random ska-party in a hotel.
- Flew an airplane over the Niagara falls.
Now, not all hosts are like this. But in the very least all the hosts I’ve had have been lovely people. So, I would recommend Couchsurfing, even if you have money to spare.
I usually switch between Couchsurfing and staying in hostels. Although European hostels can be a bit pricey, they are definitely cheaper than hotels. And a lot more fun! I’ve met so many cool people in hostels, both temporary travel buddies and lifelong friends. European hostels also tend to be quite upscale and modern, compared to some of the cheap backpacker places in Southeast Asia for example.
Volunteer or house sit
Volunteering programmes such as Workaway and WWOOF 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. WWOOF is a platform specifically for organic farms and Workaway can be anything from hostels to babysitting.
Another great way to get free accommodation is by house sitting. Trusted housesitters is a certified mediator for people that need someone to watch their house/pets while they are away.
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 travelers!
Save on transportation
The best way to save money is to not spend it. So walk. It’s free, it’s healthy and you have full freedom in your movement. And it’s an easy swap to travel more sustainably!
I also highly recommend joining a free walking tour, a low-budget, and usually better, alternative to pricey organized tours. Free walking tours run on tips, so the guides are highly motivated to give you the best tour possible. They’ll teach you about the history and culture and give you tips on the best places to go and eat. Kind of like this blog 😉
Unless you have limited mobility, taxis are not worth the money in Europe. Public transport is usually quite good, especially in the cities, and affordable. And if 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.
Once you are on the continent, traveling between countries also doesn’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of budget airlines offering cheap flights, but I recommend considering more eco-friendly options. Traveling by train or long distance bus is a great way to see more of the landscape, without breaking the bank. If you want the romantic European train experience, a Eurail pass can be a good investment and I personally love traveling by Flixbus.
What tricks do you use to travel cheaper? Share them in the comments.
If you like the post and food these tips useful, feel free to share it on social media