Travelling across Europe is not cheap and can sap even substantial savings very quickly, but that’s not to say it can’t be done..! You can still see the sights, wander around medieval castles, recline on pristine beaches and hang out in beautiful cities for cheap. You just need to know how to do it…
One popular way to travel around Europe on a budget is to buy an inter rail pass – unlimited travel in Italy, France or the United Kingdom for example is €144 at time of writing. There are also passes for multiple countries starting at €180 for 5 days worth of travel within a 10 day period with the price climbing for more days/time periods.
Western Europe is an expensive travel option though – you’ll expect to spend at least US$50 a day to do it comfortably in the UK, France or Spain. But to travel on a budget in Europe you can follow some simple tips.
Finding a place to sleep will probably be one of the biggest hits on your daily budget. Look for budget hostel deals in advance on sites like hostelworld or hostelbookers. In cities like Barcelona or Paris it is possible to get a cheap beds in a hostel dorm for around $10 a day. London is more like $15 – 20 a day. Amsterdam too has many excellent and cheap hotels around the $10 mark and the city is very compact. One way to keep the costs down on your hostel is normally to stay a little way out from the centre but that will impact on your next money saving tip.
Budget: $10 a day.
Using public transport will also impact on your daily budget heavily, especially in cities like London and Paris where its around $10 a day for a travel card. This does tend to entitle you to unlimited travel in that day though, so maybe buy a travel card for one day and spend the rest of the time walking.
Cities like Barcelona, Amsterdam, Dublin and Lisbon are fairly compact with some sights on the periphery, so maybe a simple return trip on the bus or metro may be all you need.
Cities like Barcelona and Amsterdam offer carnet options, where you buy a card with an amount of trips usable anytime, normally ten, for around $15-20.
Avoid taxis at all costs as they will always be the most expensive option.
Budget: $0 a day – possibly $10 one day.
If using Carnet $15 (ish) divided by the days you are there… $5 a day for 3 days in Barcelona!
Food and drink:
One of the best things about travelling is sampling the local cuisine and of course treating yourself to a meal out is part of the joy of travelling. The best way, and often the cheapest, is to avoid tourist trap areas and try to go where the locals go. In Barcelona, avoid eating on La Rambla and wander the streets of Cuitat Vella or streets near Para Lel – where the locals fill up on cheap tapas and cerveza before their big night out.
In London, areas like Soho and Leicester Square are full of expensive eateries – and cheap ones too – but find a pub or independent cafe off the beaten track and you will surely be content with a filling, decent quality and reasonably priced meal.
Venice’s St Mark’s Square is notorious for its expensive cafes and restaurants – try and wander further afield where you will often find a pizza or pasta deal.
Supermarkets and local shops can be handy for picnic lunches or to have snacks for refueling while you are wandering around. Most European cities have some beautiful parks and beaches where you can sit and partake in an al fresco snack.
Hostels often offer a breakfast included option, so fill up at breakfast, buy lunch and water from a supermarket and treat yourself to an evening meal… Add around $5 for a pint of beer or glass of wine in most cities.
Budget per day: $20 – 30 a day.
Sights and Activities:
What good is a holiday if you can’t take back some pictures to make your friends jealous? In some places the sights are pretty much free to look at – the canals of Venice and Amsterdam, Barcelona’s Park Guell and Barceloneta beach, the Coliseum of Rome (is free to stand outside) and it’s many ruins.
Of course you will want to go in to one of them at some point, if you go to Paris for example you’ll have to go up the Eiffel Tower – but you can take the stairs for €4 or take a lift to the first floor for €4.50 and walk the rest of the way.
London has many free attractions but most of the paid entry ones are over US$20 – although you can go into Tower Bridge for about US$10-12.
Budget per day: $0 – $20.
Total Budget in Europe per day: US$30 minimum. With add-ons $10 – 20 additional per day.
Seeing the sights of London, Barcelona or Madrid, Venice or Amsterdam can be done on a budget if you are cautious and budget sensibly. You will no doubt want a blow out on at least one day so a trip to the pub or nightclub will no doubt rack up an additional cost on one day, but that’s what holidays are for…!
An additional tip is to keep an eye on sites like Groupon or Time Out, who do magazine guides to most of the world’s most popular tourist cities. There are often offers on things like restaurants, theatre and attraction tickets etc which can make your holiday for a fraction of the normal price. For those special bargains, look for non-peak times when everyone else is at work and your out exploring…thats when the restaurants want to get more customers so often have some good deals on!! Ask the locals, look for deals and you will be surprised what you can get for cheap!!
– Photos courtesy of Sixninepixels, Razvan Ionut, Adamr & Angsulee from freedigitalphotos.net