TIPS TO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR SUMMER TRAVEL TO EUROPE
I have pulled together for you my few best travel tips for discovering Europe on a budget.
There are still so many cool new tips and hacks to discover ….so if I missed out anything , I’d welcome your tips and feedback below.
1. Before you arrive in Europe
- Definitely checkout Airbnb when visiting Europe. They have a fantastic range of places to stay and always offer great value.
- Flying soon? Signup to a Frequent Flyer programme and start earning airmiles which you can redeem to get almost free flights
2. When you arrive in Europe
- Visit the Tourist Information point
- Try to find if the city offers an all inclusive pass that gets you access to museums plus also public transportation
If you are planning to pack in a number of visitor attractions, in the end , you save a lot of money when using these kind of passes. For example I saved a lot of money with the Oslo Welcome Cardwhen visiting Oslo. Other great welcome cards is the Berlin Welcome Card which includes free public transportation and lots of discounts to sights, tours, restaurants, museums and more.
- Walk or use local transport
Walk as much as you can, but if you can’t then use public transport over taxis; buy 24-hour, 3-day or even weekly public transport passes, which work out cheaper than single tickets.
- Mobile internet- how to avoid a costly bill at the end of the trip
Roaming charges and accessing internet abroad is still ridiculously expensive so my tip here is to go local and get yourself a local internet data only simcard. If you can unlock your phone, brilliant. If your phone is locked then I suggest buying a mobile wifi (mifi) device which costs around €50 In terms of making free phone calls to friends and family- you’ve got FaceTime (if you both own an Apple phone) or try the Viber app ( free to download) or Skype. Skype offers fantastic rates so I highly recommend them. The other app that I find very useful in terms of free messaging is Whatsappwhich is free to download.
3. How to travel across Europe
- Go slow and cheap
Use bikes or try trains, especially regional and local trains, which can be very cheap in countries like Poland and Hungary.
- Take the night train?
A great way to save time and money when travelling across Europe is by taking the night train.There are lots of sleeper trains between major cities in Europe and they are comfortable and convenient. For example you can take advantage of Deutsche Bahn’s excellent SparNight promo fares where you can go from Amsterdam to Copenhagen for around €29-€49 range.
- Fly with a low-cost airline?
Thanks to the low-cost airline revolution that was inspired by easyJet and Ryanair, travelling across Europe is a lot cheaper. Even with hidden extras like paying for checking in your luggage, their prices are pretty good, especially over longer distances. To get the best fares, book and plan you trip far in advance as possible.
- Consider ride-sharing
Long-distance ride-sharing is becoming popular in Europe, with millions of people now hitching rides with complete strangers on a monthly basis. Companies to check out include BlaBlaCar and Carpooling.com
4. Where to sleep in Europe
- Rent an apartment
Rent an apartment, shop at the local outdoor market and cook your meals to save money on your food bill. I recommend HouseTrip and HomeAway .
- Rome in August?
In August, take advantage of cheaper rates in cities like Rome where the locals have ‘gone to the coast’
- Stay at a budget hotel chain
Stay at one of the budget hotel chains like a Travelodge or an Ibis on your next trip to Europe. If you are just looking for a cheap, comfortable sleep- these hotels are a great option.
- Stay away from the city centre
In almost every major European city you can get significantly cheaper prices if you are willing to stay away from the city centre.
Couchsurfing.org is a great way to meet new friends & to explore a country.
- University rooms?
I was visiting London in the summer last year and struggling to find anything had decent below £100 a night until I discovered University Rooms.
I can’t think of a better deal for central London. For example searching in the 1st week of September, I can find a single room with breakfast in Bankside House, Southbank ( as central as you can get in London) for as little as £45 per person, per night including breakfast. The rooms are no frills but comfortable for the night. They have bed and breakfast or self-catering budget accommodations scattered across 120 cities worldwide so do checkout their site.
5. Where to go in Europe
- Visit Portugal
Portugal remains the best value for money destination in Western Europe. I love the country for its old world European charm, the medieval towns and the most amazing pastries in the world like Pasteis de Nata The seafood here is out of this world and very cheap. Enjoy a plate of grilled limpets with a squeeze of lemon juice for as little as €5 in the beautiful island of Madeira or tuck into charcoal grilled sardines or the excellent sopa de peixe, fish soup (€3 ) with a glass of Vinho verde ( €2) at one of Lisbon’s century old kiosks in Lisbon.
Visit Porto , one of the most underrated cities in Europe. It has a beautiful location by the winding Douro river, stunning architecture, amazing gastronomy and a cracking nightlife.
Berlin. Besides Lisbon, Berlin is probably hands down the best value destination to visit in Western Europe. You have a wide range of excellent value budget accomodation-from apartments to luxury hostels. In terms of free things to do, from visiting the East Side Gallery to free lunchtime concerts at Berlin Philharmonic to visiting the Reichstag or simply strolling down the historic Unter den Linden- there is so much you can do in Berlin without spending a penny. Plus in terms of street food, Berlin is the king. You can sample the best kebabs in the world at Mustafa’s in Kreuzberg(Mehringdamm 32 ) or try currywurst at places like Curry 61 ( currywurst with fries- €3.20) I recommend you have a peek at my 48 Hour Guide to Berlin.
- Visit Malta & Gozo
I recently visited Malta and Gozo and contrary to popular belief, the island is very budget friendly and definitely worth including if you are backpacking away around Europe. For example you can get one-way fares for as little as €40 in April 2015 from Italy to Malta with Ryanair.
6. How to eat on a budget in Europe
- Restrict restaurant meals
If you’re a foodie go to a gourmet restaurant for lunch rather than dinner when many restaurants offer great value set menus and business lunches.
- Cook in
An advantage of holiday rentals and most hostels is that you can cook in a kitchen and cooking can be great fun if you’re travelling with friends, a couple, or family or for bonding with new people who are staying at the hostel.
- Shop locally
Buy your groceries at local markets; look for farmer’s markets and watch what the locals are buying to get the best deals. Ask the hostel/apartment owner or receptionist where they shop, as they’ll know where the bargains are.
- Menu del Dia
In Spain the cheapest way to eat out is by ordering the Menu del Dia-a fixed price menu which is offered to guests at lunchtime. The menu consists of a first course, second course followed by a dessert and coffee.
In northern Italy, the cheapest way to eat out is in the evening when you can go out for an ‘aperitivo.’ The hours are generally between 7 and 9pm. You order an ‘aperitif’ –glass of wine or martini ( around €6- Beer/Wine. €8 cocktails ) and you get access to a buffet or some tasty snacks are delivered to your table. The general rule of thumb is to have one plate of food from the buffet with one drink. I always go in for seconds though…..
- Cheap eats in Spain and Portugal- Empandas
A panadería (bakery) in Spain or Padaria ( Portugal) will often have fresh hot pasties aka empanadas( ESP) / rissois (PT) , making a light lunch for around €3.
- When in Italy…eat at the bakery.
Bakeries in Italy prepare products that are economical, fresh, and support the local economy (unlike most supermarkets).
- Free tapas in Spain?
A tradition that is dying out in many parts of Spain, search hard and you can still find traditional bars serving tapas (small dishes) with every caña (small beer, €1-2 ) Your best cities for enjoying free tapas are Granada ( All along c/Elvira ) Leon (Barrio Humedo area) and Salamanca ( c/ Van Dyck).
- Athens cheap eats ?
At the €2 mark: Savvas & O Thanasis are two of the best gyros & souvlaki joints in town, on Monastiraki Square, right across from the Metro station.
- Go to a free concert in the Vondelpark.
There are all sorts of free concerts from June-August, Thursdays till Sundays.
I love visiting museums when travelling in Europe and discovering the cultural and historical heritage of cities. Here are some cool budget friendly tips for visiting museums in Europe.
Remember that entry to state run museums in the UK is free of charge for people of all ages.
In Italy, families can take their kids under 18 for free to state run museums like the Uffizi.
When visiting museums and other notable sites, always ask if they are special rates are available for students, seniors, or small groups. Some discounts aren’t clearly visible and can be overlooked.
In Paris, plan your trip around the first Sunday of the month when all the main museums are free.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin is free for the last 4 hours on Thursday. ( 4-8pm )
- In Berlin you can also visit these following museums for free:
- Deutscher Dom, The Berlin Wall Memorial
- Information centre of the Holocaust Memorial Berlin, Allied Museum
- Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen, German-Russian Museum Berlin
- Kunstraum Kreuzberg/ Bethanien
- Mies van der Rohe- Haus
- Museum of Oddities
- Free art in Madrid!
Contemporary Art Museum Espacio Conde Duque has 3 art galleries with quality exhibitions, plus special events (these sometimes cost)
8. Other ideas and general money saving tips
- Drink coffee at the bar in Italy
If you’re only planning a quick coffee in Italy, walk to the bar, order it and stand there to drink. Sitting down can treble the price.
- Mother of all free festivals- Free Fringe
There are free festivals and then there is the Free Fringe in Edinburgh, the rebellious, lesser known cousin of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that takes place in August. Last year visitors enjoyed over 4000 performances from 365 different shows. There were 40 *5 star* and 140 *4 star* shows to give you an idea of the quality of the festival.
- Check out a free open air film festival?
In many cities across Europe you can find free open air film festivals. For example in Amsterdam you can attend Pluk de nacht: One of the best free open air festivals, with national & international films and documentaries
Visit Bologna from end of June till end of July for their annual open air film festival, the Sotto le Stelle del Cinema, held in Piazza Maggiore. For more about this festival and what to do in Bologna check out my 48 Hours in Bologna.
- Cheap alternative to Greek Island hopping?
Take Athens metro down to Piraeus then hop on a ferry for a day-trip to one of the Saronic Gilf Islands: Hydra, Poros, Aegina.
- Try a free walking tour
While I am not the biggest fan of guided walking tours I know many travellers swear by and love free walking tours so it is something I recommend you check out for yourself. Sandeman’s New Europe operate free walking tours on a tips only basis across all major cities in Europe. For a 1-2 hour free walking tour you could tip anything from €5 upwards.
- When in London…
Always use an Oystercard for London transport
Source : Budget Traveller