How to travel to Europe on a budget
This is a guest post offering some ideas for travelling around Europe on a budget; these tips are particularly appropriate for younger travellers looking to expand their horizons without breaking their bank balance. Enjoy!
Europe is a fantastic continent for the intrepid traveller; and undeniably suited to the budget backpacker. European cities were practically designed with the student traveller in mind. Not only are the transport links superb but also they are cheap and if you buy groceries from local markets and visit free attractions (which there are many of) you will be keeping within your budget with ease. Don’t let tight funds stop you from exploring the stunning coastlines and striking cities of Europe. This know-how guide will leave you with plenty of cash in your pockets and a handful of top tips for a seamless budget trip.
When travelling from one country to another you have three options, bus, train or plane. Airfares between countries can be inexpensive and quick but you do have to fiddle around with airport security and the stress of check-ins and immigration. (SkyScanner.net is an effortless site to compare prices.) Buses are very cheap but can be painful journeys in boiling, sweaty coaches and take a long time. Therefore trains can often be the best option; they are reasonably quick, easy and cool. Inter-rail is the top travel card to transport you economically through different countries. Order it before you go and always be as flexible as you can with dates.
If you are with a group of four or more, a car could be a lower cost selection. Or if you’re travelling alone the backpacking bus tours can be fantastic. The buses sort out your itinerary, provide you with travelling companions and are competitively priced.
Hostels are practically the only way to travel around Europe on a budget. This type of accommodation is cheap, safe, and comfortable. Log on to tripadvisor or hostelworld before you book and check out the hostels’ ratings and comments, you will quickly realise which places to avoid.
Couch surfing is another alternative for cheap accommodation, which is becoming increasingly popular. Websites are set up dedicated to linking travellers to hosts and you basically stay on a free couch (or bed if you’re lucky) at a local’s house. This obviously comes with risks and isn’t advisable for single travellers but is an option if you have your wits about you.
Don’t let shops convert your currency; some shops, restaurants or cash machines will offer to convert your currency, but you should say no. You will get a terrible exchange rate and lose out with this pointless transaction.
Don’t draw out money on your credit card. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. If you draw out you will be slammed with three separate charges; a hidden foreign currency charge, a cash withdrawal charge and interest from the day you make the transaction. The exception to the rule is Santander’s zero credit card, it has no foreign currency loading and doesn’t charge for cash withdrawals.
Pre paid cards are a godsend. If you want an easy way to carry around multiple currencies then pre paid cards are the best option. These are safer than carrying cash, you can use them in any places that accept credit/debit cards, and there aren’t hefty hidden fees. Another useful tip for young travellers is to set up one of your parents as the second card holder so they can add funds to your account if you have a cash flow crisis or get into a spot of bother.
Of course, to protect your money if you do happen to take cash, then you should always take out a travel insurance policy for Europe, to safeguard against any lost or stolen cash. Sites such as Insure & Away offer a customisable quote online.
The tourist information centre is your best friend. Whatever city you arrive in, head straight for tourist information, they will provide you with knowledge on travel, discounts cards, the nightlife, certain deals and where to visit.
One way to save money before stepping foot on foreign turf is to wise up and take advantage of any deals on offer; every country has discounts on its main attractions. Online you will find allsorts of deals to note down or pick up for budget trips and student travellers.
Don’t dine out every night and instead cook a meal in the hostel kitchen from local ingredients. If you do want to eat out make the most of lunchtime deals, where the food is usually cheaper and plentiful.
There is so much, especially in European cities, to do for free. There is an abundance of cultural activities without any entry fees in Europe, including museums, art galleries, parks, events and historical sights. Simply read a local guide or go on the country’s main web page and you will find a myriad of free things to do.