Traveling through Europe can be expensive, but there are ways to make it more affordable. If you’re flexible, you might be surprised at just how cheap it can be by considering one or more of the following options.
Travel in the off season
Traveling in the off season is an obvious way to save. In Europe, that is generally considered any time between October and April, although you’ll usually find the very best bargains between November and February. You’ll pay less for airfare, find rooms at a discount, spend less time waiting in line, and often meet more locals rather than tourists.
Transportation within Europe
The cheapest way to get around Europe is via the budget airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet and Transavia. You’ll find fares as low as 30 USD, or sometimes even less, for routes like Dublin to Edinburgh or London to Amsterdam. To get these fares, you will need to book at least a month ahead of time. Their best sales tend to be in the off season. Be sure to read the fine print as budget airlines make their money through fees; if you don’t read and follow the rules those additional costs can add up quickly.
Taking the bus is another option, with low fares offered through Eurolines; however, it’s usually cheaper to fly and you won’t waste your time sitting in a cramped bus. If you’re adventurous, you might consider hitchhiking as it’s fairly common with many travelers finding it to be their preferred method of getting around. Car sharing websites will allow you to catch a ride in exchange for pitching on the fuel.
Cheap and even free accommodation
If you just want a place to lie your head down at night, you can save big on accommodations. Hostels offer a great way to travel cheaply, and often rather comfortably. A hostel dorm room typically ranges from about $10 to $35 USD per night depending on room size and the popularity of the destination as well as the hostel. For example, a bed in Berlin may run you just $16, while the same bed in Paris is closer to $30; in Eastern Europe you might find a bargain deal of $10 a night or even less.
Couch Surfing offers the opportunity for a rewarding cultural exchange as well as a free place to sleep at night. By joining CouchSurfing.org, you’ll find millions of friendly people around the world, including across Europe, who offer their couch, or often better, just for the chance to make a new friend.
Volunteer travel is yet another option for more affordable travel as well as the chance to experience more of the local culture. By joining a program like World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF, you can connect with European hosts who offer room and board in exchange for a few hours of work each day on family farms, vineyards, wildlife refuges, Bed and Breakfasts, hostels and other establishments.
Avoiding touristy restaurants should go without saying. Eateries that are filled with locals typically serve better food for less. If you’re staying at a hostel, make use of the kitchen to save on eating out. A stay with a Couch Surfing host often means eating dinner with a family – just ask what you can bring to contribute to the meal. For lunch, stop at a grocery store and pick up items for a picnic rather than spending more money than necessary.
Keep in mind that only Americans tip 15 to 20 percent when dining out; in Europe, it’s often already included or not expected at all. Ask a local, preferably a customer rather than an employee, for the best advice.
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