For most Americans, a trip across the Atlantic to the Old Continent conjures images of lounging around drinking coffee in architecturally stunning squares in some of the most glamorous European cities like Milan, Barcelona and Paris, surrounded by a heady mix of culture and exotic languages. Amid their daydreams, however, Americans tend to neglect to consider that traveling in Europe can also be quite pricey. Many a backpacker has had to catch an earlier flight back having blown all their savings in a much shorter time than that had planned for on drinking, eating out and taking in the sights. Unless money is no object for you, getting the most out of your vacation will largely depend on being smart with your spending. Read on for a list of great ideas for cutting down costs when traveling on a budget.
One of the largest outgoings on any holiday is the cost of accommodation. An amazing way of staying for longer in some of the more expensive cities is to use the Couchsurfing website. All you have to do is create a profile and then find other users who are offering places to stay. It is usually comfortable, and you are certain to meet some great people.
2. Monthly Rail Pass
Trains in Europe are not cheap. Luckily, there is a scheme called the Eurail Pass that will save you a ton of money on fares. The pass makes it possible to travel by train to over 40,000 destinations, and you can tailor your ticket to suit your time and budget limitations.
3. Take the Bus
If traveling by rail is out of your price range, never fear – buses offer a much more economical alternative. Intercity bus travel is not as glamorous, but it is much cheaper, and the buses are all pretty comfortable these days.
4. Use Ridesharing Apps
Another great way of saving money when getting from A to B is by ridesharing. Apps like BlaBlaCar are popular in Europe, and it is usually easy to find someone going the same way you are who is willing to give you a lift for a small fee. Security is not much of an issue in most places in Europe, so there is no need to worry about getting into a car with strangers.
5. Book Flights Early
Due to EU agreements, air travel in Europe can be unbelievably cheap. Make sure to plan your itinerary well and book early to catch the best deals on flights. Whereas U.S. citizens currently have to arrange visas for each one of the European countries that they visit, the new ETIAS visa waiver scheme is set to simplify matters. ETIAS is important to consider as it needs to be sorted out before you set off on your European adventure. For more information, view this ETIAS guide.
6. Eat Picnics Instead of Sit-Down Meals
Especially in countries in Northern Europe, eating out regularly can cost you an arm and a leg. Most locals cannot afford to go to restaurants as much as we are used to in the States, but they make do by eating more street food or preparing picnics to eat on the go. Give it a try!
7. Do Not Eat in Touristy Parts of Town
Picnics will save you money, but splashing out once in a while on a restaurant meal while on vacation in a foreign country is advisable to get a taste of the local cuisine. When doing so, it is best to find a restaurant that is off the main drag if you want to avoid paying “tourist prices”.
8. Get City Tourist Cards
As you travel from city to city, you will soon find that the costs of entry to museums and galleries soon mount up. On arrival in a new city, check to see whether there is a tourist card scheme that gives a discount when visiting multiple tourist attractions.
While the cities of Europe are a massive attraction for most tourists, many Europeans will tell you that the real diamonds are found away from the beaten track. If you have plans of visiting the beach or going hiking in the mountains, it is usually much cheaper to camp. Camping in Europe is a deep-rooting tradition, and everywhere you go you will find campsites fully-equipped with cooking and washing facilities.
By following the tips above, you should be able to cut corners and save money for some of the essential sights and activities on your European trip. All that is left now is to finalize your itinerary and pack your bags.