How to Travel Through Europe Without Spending a Fortune
This is a guest post by Hannah Cox of www.betternotstop.com
Let’s face it, Europe is expensive. Right?
For many people, visiting continental Europe is for city-breaks, short holidays, and Interrailing only. The thought of actually travelling in Europe as you might in South East Asia seems like an impossible dream.
But here’s the thing: we’ve just spent the past 100 days doing just that – and it doesn’t have to break the bank!
So we’ve put together a list of ten ways that you too can use to achieve the dream of travelling around and really getting to grips with this amazing and diverse continent.
1. Travel with a partner, or friends
Sometimes, more company cuts costs. Being able to share a room or split the price of an apartment means you’ll be able to stay places that aren’t just youth hostels.
This means you can get off the beaten track and stay places that might otherwise be unaffordable for you.
Beware though, you’ll be in each other’s pockets, so make sure it’s someone you really like. You have been warned!
2. Take the coach instead of the train
When I was a teenager, Interrailing was the only way to comfortably travel around Europe. But things have changed!
Coaches are often way, way cheaper than trains.
Travelling from Amsterdam to Osnabrück the coach and the train both take 3 hours and 5 minutes, but the coach costs a third less than the train!
Coaches often go to places trains don’t reach.
In the Baltic countries this is especially the case – coach travel is pretty much the only convenient way to go. Check-out Lux Express if you’re visiting that part of the world.
Many coach companies now offer wi-fi, a toilet, seat back entertainment (like in a plane), and free coffee!
The other great thing about coach travel is you can shop around. Major routes are often serviced by several companies. Flixbus and Lux Express are favourites of ours. Pretty much wherever you want to go, there’ll be a coach that can take you there comfortably, and often way cheaper than the train.
3. Be flexible with accommodation
There is so much choice nowadays, and easier to access than ever before. We always check at least a few different options wherever we go to make sure we’re getting the right option for us.
But here’s the thing. Getting a good deal means you have to be flexible!
This could mean:
- Staying out of city centres to get a way better apartment for less – Public transport is often great in European cities, and you’re less likely to be disturbed by the salsa club on the street below.
- Opening up the map view over a whole area on Airbnb or Trivago, and being able to change your plans if you see somewhere you like; Sometimes your ideal destination isn’t just the one you’ve heard of.
- Actually paying more for a place that you’ll be happy spending time in, perhaps cooking meals and having evenings in to save cash. If you get a super cheap place without a kitchen, you’ll be paying restaurant prices for all your food.
4. Look into alternative accommodation
Look into WWOOF options in the countries you want to visit. WWOOF-ing involves staying on an organic farm, working for a few hours a day in exchange for board and lodging.
This is an amazing way to really integrate with different cultures; make great friends; learn new skills, AND SAVE MONEY! Of our more than three months crossing Northern Europe, we saved on a month’s accommodation!
Many countries have their own WWOOF organisations, and for most you have to buy membership, but this is usually around £20 for a year. One month of accommodation cost us £36.25 for two WWOOF subscriptions (wwoof.dk and wwoofindependents.org).
We’ve WWOOF-ed in Denmark and Finland, and found the experience so rewarding we want everyone to have a go! You can read about some of our WWOOF-ing adventures here.
Also, check out any housesitting opportunities that might appear in the areas you’re interested in.
A membership to trustedhousesitters.com also carries a cost, but if you’re an animal lover could mean you get to stay in a great apartment for free, and make a new furry friend!
5. Make friends in other countries
A friend can show you cheap places to go that are off the tourist trail. They could invite you round for dinner instead of you having to pay for another meal out.
We’ve even had people drive us round in impromptu city tours and been offered accommodation for free!
Easier said than done, right? Not necessarily.
If you’re on Facebook, put a shout out to see if any of your friends have friends or family in the places you want to visit and see if you can meet them.
You could also check out the local Meetup groups to meet like-minded locals you share an interest with.
Or, just do some WWOOF-ing and see who you meet!
6. Make packed lunches
And cook dinners at your accommodation.
We save tons of money doing this. 100 days is a lot of meals, so aim to prepare a high percentage of your own. This is where finding accommodation with a kitchen can actually save you money, even if it costs a little more to get.
7. Find free things to do
In most European cities museums and galleries will have a few days a month where you can visit exhibitions for free. So you can still get your culture on, and save dollar.
There are also loads free walking tours available in European cities (though you’ll be expected to tip). Just put ‘free walking tours’ into any search engine and you’ll be able to find one.
8. Pay for things
Being on a budget means you save money to spend on the things you really want. So if you want to pay for a ticket to Disneyland or Tivoli, do it!
If riding in a hot air balloon above Cappadocia is on your bucket list, then make sure you’ve saved money elsewhere to make it a reality. Take the opportunities as they come – you never know when you’ll be back there again.
Weigh up the pros and cons of a Citycard if you’re visiting somewhere expensive with lots of ‘culture’. For a price, they usually give you free or discounted entry to loads of attractions.
We’ve not found them right for our current trip; but I used one in New York which saved me at least a couple of hundred pounds on entry fees over the course of a hardcore week of tourism.
9. Get off the beaten track
If you only visit big ticket cities then you’ll keep paying big ticket prices. And you’ll miss some amazing and beautiful places along the way.
This might mean having to pay extra transport costs, or hire a car, but we’ve stayed in some amazing places we’d never heard of before, and still saved money.
The beauty of it is, once you start getting away from where everyone else is, you start to see a more unique, and perhaps more authentic, picture of the countries you visit.
10. Remember that it’s a holiday
Don’t keep piling pressure on yourself to do things a certain way. We’re all different, and have different priorities. Budgeting doesn’t have to mean living on £5 a day if you don’t enjoy that sort of travelling. It also doesn’t mean constantly worrying about the money.
Budgeting well also means making sure you’ve saved up enough to actually have the trip you want to have. We saved for over 18 months for the trip we’re on now.
If you use just a few of these ten pieces of advice to get a little more out of your trip for a little less money, then hopefully your holiday will be a little bit richer than it might otherwise have been!
Hannah Cox and Phil McGough are currently travelling on their Road to Happiness Expedition, a 12,000 mile overland journey that will take them by road, rail, and ferry from the UK to Bhutan; discovering what makes people happy along the way.
You can follow their adventures at www.betternotstop.com