By: Megan Walker
Can you ever be done traveling in Europe? With the infinite storybook villages, cobblestone streets, and architecture soaked in history combined with the delicious cuisines and local liquors; Europe is addictive. It offers some of the best traveling experiences there are, so we’ve compiled our favorite tricks to keep European Travel cheap so that you can keep coming back for more!
Below are tips to shave unnecessary costs from everyday travel expenditures. However, the two most important rules for frugal travel is to Be Flexible and Do the Research.
Stay in Hostels – Don’t be scared off by any preconceived images of coming back to your hostel room tip-toeing over drunken bodies scattered on grimy floors. Although these do exist, today there’s an abundance of hostels that offer unique and trendy accommodations for really great prices. Our favorite resource for finding the perfect hostel is Hostelworld.com which offers a large database of hostels with pictures, reviews, maps, pricing and availability. When you find the one you want, you can book it right on their website! You’ll find some prices significantly cheaper than hotels and most offer fun and inexpensive (if not free) excursions to discover the city.
Rent an Apartment – If you’re on an extended travel this is by far the best avenue to save the $$$. There are plenty of resources to aid in your search of a furnished, move-in ready apartment. If your goal is to understand the culture and learn the language find an apartment with a roommate. It’ll drive down the apartment cost and they can help you learn the language, introduce you to friends, and show you the day in a life of a native. We used EasyPiso.com and Idealista.com to find our Spanish apartment in just two days.
Airbnb – a great tool for travelers! Airbnb.com is an online marketplace for rentals where individuals can list and book spaces worldwide. You can often find very unique and interesting accommodations for cheap. Tip: Message the individual to see if prices are negotiable, which could mean more savings!
Camping – That’s right. Europeans love to camp and do it often. Because of this you can find camping sites spread across all of Europe. You’re looking at spending just 5 euro per person a night plus 5 to 10 euro for your vehicle. If you don’t have a tent, no worries, many campsites have affordable tent rentals. Immerse yourself in a common European travel practice and wake up to the beautiful backdrop of vineyards, rolling hills, and ancient fortresses.
Volunteer Exchange – You can’t get cheaper than FREE! Volunteering is a great way to receive FREE lodging. WWOOF.net (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), WorkAway.info, and HelpExchange.net are all great resources for finding the perfect volunteer experience for you. Have you ever dreamed of working on a vineyard in the Spanish Pyrenees or volunteering at a Yoga Retreat in Tuscany Italy? If you have the time these resources are the first step to an once-in-a-lifetime experience while keeping your wallet full!
Priceline – Hotels are often times the most expensive option….but not always! Like we mentioned before the BEST way to save money is to do your research! We’re advocates for the Name Your Own Price option that can help you save up to 60% on hotel rooms. On numerous occasions we’ve booked 4 star hotels at a lower cost per person than booking a bed or room in a hostel. If you prefer to only stay in hotels make sure to never pay full price for a room! There are too many discount resources available. Try Priceline.com, Hotwire.com, or Kayak.com.
Tourist metro pass / Tourist Card – Some of us try our best to conceal that we’re a tourist when we travel like ducking into corners to hide peeking at our over-sized and brightly colored tourist map. But sometimes being a tourist has its perks! Like a Tourist Metro Pass that allows unlimited usage of all public transportation for a significantly discounted rate. If you purchase a Tourist Card you can get unlimited access to public transportation AND discounted or even FREE entrance into the city’s most popular attractions.
Airline Fees – Knowledge is power. Check your airline’s policies for additional fees. Fees can be tricky since they change with each airline. For example Spirit airlines (not yet in Europe) charges you MORE to carry on a bag than to check it. RyanAir, a leading European discount airline, charges only 15 euro if you pay to check your bag when making your reservation online, but if you pay to check your bag at the airport they charge you a whopping 60 euro. Sometimes simply printing your boarding pass at home can save you $10-$15. All airlines make their fees available to the public so take the time to check it out, it’ll be the easiest money you’ve ever saved. Click Here for RyanAir Fees…
Bicycles – Renting a bicycle is my favorite way to see a town. Finding a bicycle rental store in Europe shouldn’t be hard. You can often rent them from bicycle sharing units now used in many cities. And you can increase your savings if you’re renting the bike for multiple days.
Learn how to drive a manual – Often times one of the cheapest ways to travel is to rent a car if you’re bringing the car back to the same city you picked it up from. You can get a manual transmission car for as little as $14/day, but if you need an automatic transmission, the cost can jump to over $70/day. Depending on the logistics of your trip, especially if you’re traveling in a group, renting a car can be a much more affordable option even with the additional costs of gas and parking. Our favorite resource for checking car rental prices is Kayak.com. Then we use http://www.travelmath.com/cost-of-driving/ to calculate actual gas costs.
Tip: We try to rent cars from airport locations so it’s easier to drop off the car after hours without additional fees.
Repositioning Cruise – Many cruise ships relocate due to seasonal changes. Unlike most cruises the departure city and arrival city of a repositioning cruise aren’t the same. If you have the time to take a repositioning cruise it can be a very economical travel option, not to mention enjoyable. Just like most cruises all the food is included and the ship is fully equipped with the common cruise toys such as pools, spas, classes, and games. Go to RepositioningCruise.com to find some great bargains. We’re taking a repositioning cruise from Barcelona to New Orleans in November to visit home for the holidays. It will take us 2.5 weeks and it ran us $499 per person.
Drink from city fountains – There’s no need to keep purchasing all those water bottles. Re-fill your bottle with the great tasting and cold water of the city fountains. You’ll see locals and tourists alike stopping to refresh themselves by filling their cup or simply sticking their head under the spout.
Use your kitchen – If you’ve gone the airbnb, hostel, or apartment route you probably have a kitchen. This is a great opportunity to learn how to cook the local cuisine and save some money. Grocery shopping in a foreign country can be very enjoyable and even rewarding. Figuring out how to order meat from the butcher is perhaps one of our greatest accomplishments in life.
Drink Beer and Wine! Yes you have permission to drink to your heart’s content. Europeans consider drinking a favorite pastime and local beer and wine is often cheaper (and tastier) than water and soda so drink away my frugal traveler. (You might need to consider the cost of drunk munchies though)
Things To Do
Free Admittance – Unfortunately museums, cathedrals, and other city highlights usually cost money to enter. You’ve traveled a long way and invested a lot to explore the country, so don’t miss out on the best sights because you’re on a budget. Many museums and cathedrals offer free admittance during specified hours, some daily! Research when the best times to go are for a strategic and money-saving way to explore the city’s rich history. Additionally most cities offer tourist cards that offer free or discounted admittance to places around the city.
Walking Tours – Take advantage of Free Walking Tours. Many hostels offer these, but there are also groups consisting of local volunteers that give free walking tours as well.
Others Money Saving Tips
Credit Card and Cash Withdrawal – Perhaps the best way to save money is to avoid all those pesky bank fees when traveling abroad. You may think those fees are relatively small, but they’re not. Banks such as Wells Fargo charge a 3% fee on all foreign transactions and $5 each time you withdraw money from an ATM. Further, you can incur an additional fee from the ATM itself. Accumulated, these fees become a hefty expense. Luckily they can be avoided all together! We use the Capital One Venture Credit Card to avoid foreign transaction fees while earning 2 points for every dollar spent. To dodge outrageous ATM fees when withdrawing cash, sign-up for the Charles Schwab personal checking account. Charles Schwab doesn’t charge an ATM fee and reimburses you monthly for fees incurred from ATMs. We save a huge chunk of cash by using the combination of these two cards.
Currency Fees – If you use your credit card you may be asked if you want to pay in dollars or the local currency. Always opt for the local currency. If you choose the dollar, then your credit card company could charge a conversion fee, and you are at the mercy of the exchange rate chosen by the merchant. The best rule of thumb is to try to use cash for smaller transactions and use cards for larger purchases such as hotels.