There is a common misconception that travelling in Europe is very expensive. Sure, if you’re flying last minute and only spending a week or less on the continent then you’re probably going to spend a lot of money.
On the other hand, if you’re super flexible and able to spend more than just a few days abroad you can really have a good time without blowing through your life savings. Keep reading if you’ve ever wondered how to travel Europe on a Budget.
Europe travel is definitely expensive if you stay at fancy hotels, only eat at restaurants, and strive to enjoy the same Western pleasures you have back home. I’m not against people who travel this way but the argument that it’s expensive to travel really has no basis.
Regardless of where you want to go you can be sure that other travellers have done the same trip on $50, $25, and even $10 per day. Only in the most expensive countries in Europe like Norway, Sweden, and Iceland could it be hard to stick to a tight budget but everywhere else it’s definitely possible to keep costs low and still have a great trip.
If you want to experience all that Europe has to offer and you’re worried about how much it’s going to cost and how you’re going to save money for your trip keep reading and you’ll be sure to learn that it’s possible, and even easy, when it comes to how to travel Europe on a budget.
The biggest costs for most visitors to a foreign country are transportation (flight), accommodation (hotels), and food (restaurants). All of these are necessities for any vacation but there are ways to lower these costs and leave you more money to spend in other areas of your trip.
The majority of travellers spend the most significant part of their budget on flights. If you’re booking last minute or close to your departure dates then it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to cut costs here. On the other hand however, the sooner you can plan your trip and book your flights the more money you could save. The sweet spot for booking cheap flights, especially from the US and Canada to Europe, tends to be about 2 months before you want to leave.
Flights also cost more during the high season (June-September) and are significantly cheaper during the fall and winter months. If possible you’re going to want to travel during the offseason because both flights and accommodation costs can be dramatically lower.
Once you’re in Europe there are quite a few options when it comes to getting from one city to the next. Trains, busses, budget airlines, and private transfers all have their benefits and drawbacks but each form can offer huge discounts depending on how early you book it and where you’re going.
- Book your flights well in advance
- Travel during the off-season
- Compare prices between different forms of transportation
Another area where travellers spend a lot of money is accommodation. In most cities decent hotels can start at nearly $100/night but for most people this cost is simply out of reach. With flights and accommodation you could easily spend $1500 for one person just for a week away which is unattainable for a lot of people.
Fortunately for the budget minded traveler there are tons of cheap accommodation options all across Europe from AirBnb’s and hostels to Couchsurfing. For younger travellers hostels are a great form of accommodation that doesn’t cost very much. In many cities you can find a bed in a shared room for around $10. For older travellers and people looking for more privacy there are private rooms available in hostels typically starting at around $15 and peaking around $60-$70 in the more expensive cities.
AirBnb is also a new and popular option that allows travellers to stay in someones entire home or a room in their home for a very competitive price. AirBnb apartments are superior to hotels in so many ways and are a great idea if you want to stick to a budget and keep costs down. During my past 3 trips I’ve used AirBnb’s exclusively and I highly recommend trying one at least once.
- Look online and read reviews
- Compare prices between hostels, hotels, AirBnb, etc
- Book in advance, never wait last minute
Eating tends to be the 3rd biggest expense for any traveller but there are many ways to spend less and keep costs down while still enjoying yourself. If you want to eat out at a restaurant for every meal then you’re not going to be able to save much money or stick to a budget. You can, however, choose to buy things to eat at grocery stores and local food stalls rather than opting for a fancy dinner at a restaurant.
One of the best things about getting something to eat from the grocery store or a street vendor is that you’ll have a much better selection. Grocery stores in Europe are full of ready to eat food and if you’re willing to cook at your hostel or AirBnb then you’ll be able to save even more. Local food stalls also provide a great bite to eat without having to spend much money.
You’ll be able to dine on popular local and cultural cuisine and you won’t be stuck in a restaurant overpaying for a plate of food. There’s nothing wrong with restaurants but when you’re travelling abroad are you really going to remember every single meal you ate? It’s more likely that the interesting and unique things you got on the street or from local stores will be more memorable.
Eating on your own also means you’ll be able to choose from some of the best locations in the city to eat your meal. I’ve enjoyed olives and a baguette under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a schnitzel sandwich beside the Berlin Wall, and many different pastries and desserts under countless Cathedrals and Churches across the rest of Europe. Even when it’s cold outside you have the opportunity to grab something hearty and warm up by some Christmas Markets or enjoy a meal without anyone around.
- Never eat in the central tourist areas
- Grab snacks from local bakeries, deli’s
- Eat a big lunch and a smaller dinner
Landmarks and Attractions
Many of the best landmarks and attractions in any city you visit are likely to be free. Museums, galleries, and many exhibits will have one day a week where there is no cost or a discounted fee to enter. During the summer you will have to wait in long lines or these places but during the off season you’ll be able to walk right in and in some cases have the entire place to yourself.
There are also plenty of alternatives if you there are things you want to pay to check out. Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower is a huge attraction in Paris but then all you have is a view of the city and you’re missing out on the best part – the tower itself. There are other buildings you can pay to get to the top of that include a view of the Eiffel Tower and this is a a much better experience.
Other attractions like pub crawls or paid walking tours can be a great way to meet other travellers but can really burn a hole in your wallet. If you like to drink you can just grab some beers from the grocery store and head to the bar after you’ve got a nice buzz.
If you really want to go on a tour many cities have free walking tours where you tip a reasonable amount at the end. You’ll definitely have a much better experience walking around the city you’re visiting and diving into local culture rather than paying for everything and having a completely pre-planned trip.
- Check ahead to see if there are any free museum days
- Go on a free walking tour
- Choose one or two of your favorite attractions, not every single one
Final Thoughts on How to Travel Europe on a Budget
These are just some of the many ways you can travel Europe on a budget. If they fit with your style of travel then that’s perfect but if not there’s nothing saying that any one way to experience a new location is the perfect way.
If you like restaurants then you can easily eat out every night while saving money in other areas. Regardless of how you want your trip to be like these are just a few tips that can help you save money and still make sure you have an amazing time.