20 Tips On How To Travel To Europe On A Budget

Follow these easy steps and cut your travel budget in half while adding to your enjoyment.

If you've never traveled to Europe, you'll be pleasantly surprised to discover how cheaply you can eat, sleep, and see the best attractions.

1. RESEARCH YOUR TRIP AT HOME

Borrow travel guides from your public library. Focus on guidebooks for students. The best have titles such as "Lonely Planet," "Rough Guides," and "Let's Go Guides."

Read their advice and their warnings. For example, a cheap place to sleep isn't smart if it's in the wrong part of town.

When you find a guidebook that you like, buy a copy of it secondhand at a used bookstore, or online.

Don't carry the entire book with you as you travel; tear out the pages that describe the places that you intend to visit. As you travel, you will be able to double-check names, addresses, prices and hours of service for the places you want to go.

2. TALK TO PEOPLE

When you travel, talk to other tourists. Almost everyone you meet will recommend favorite places to stay or eat on a budget, or an attraction that is a must-see.

Talk to everyone, not just other tourists. You may become good friends with someone who'll invite you to share a lunch, or split a taxi fare.

Take the same precautions with strangers as you would at home. If someone seems a little "odd," steer clear of him or her.

But, with that in mind, talk with locals and other travelers. You'll often get great advice.

3. TRAVEL BY COACH INSTEAD OF BY TRAIN

In the U.S., people travel by bus when they can't afford anything better. In Europe, bus travel is often called "coach service," and many people prefer a coach rather than the train or rental cars.

In addition, coach travel is often half the price of the same journey by train.

Check the schedules. Trains are often faster, but for short trips a coach may arrive only a few minutes later.

4. TRAVEL BY TRAIN INSTEAD OF RENTING A CAR

Rental cars are usually the most expensive way to travel. Between the rental fee, auto insurance, and the price of gasoline in Europe, train travel will save a lot of money compared with rental cars.

Also, Europeans drive less than Americans do. As a result, you can go almost anywhere in Europe without a car.

5. TRAVEL AT NIGHT

If your journey will take several hours, travel at night. Buses and trains are often designed with comfortable seats that you can sleep in. This saves you the expense of a hotel that night.

6. ASK ABOUT TRAVEL PASSES BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME

Save up to 50% by purchasing passes instead of tickets for train and bus travel, and sometimes ferries, too. Usually, each pass allows you unlimited travel within a certain time period, such as three days or two weeks.

However, many bargain passes must be purchased outside of Europe. Check with a travel agent or look online, and buy your pass at home before you leave. Then, be certain that you know how, when, and where to use your passes.

7. EAT WHERE THE LOCALS DO

Most Americans are eager to experience the local culture. If you eat at least one meal a day where the locals do, you'll not only save money but also learn a lot about the area you're visiting.

Pubs and similar eateries may display TVs with local programming, or offer free entertainment. This is another way to enjoy regional culture.

8. EAT AT FAMILIAR FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS

You may be surprised to see familiar fast food restaurants throughout Europe. MacDonald's, Burger King, KFC, and Pizza Hut are just a few American eateries that are popular in other countries.

Fast food menus are nearly the same in Europe, and the prices are only a little more than what you'd pay for the same meal at home.

However, their ingredients aren't imported from the States. Your pizza in England may be topped with cheese that is richer and more flavorful than you've ever tasted in America.

Eat one meal a day at a familiar fast food restaurant, and it'll trim your expenses nicely.

9. SHOP AT GROCERY STORES

When you travel, shop at a grocery store for some of your meals. Bread, cheese, fruit, and wine can be a delightful and inexpensive meal, especially if you share it with a few friends.

In some countries, delicatessens offer gourmet-quality food at fast food prices. Ask for recommendations as you travel.

10. SLEEP AT B&BS, NOT HOTELS

Bed and breakfast establishments--called "B&BS"--are usually half the price of an average hotel.

However, always ask to see the room before paying for it. In some countries, if someone says that they are running a B&B, they get a tax break. Their "B&B" may be a dusty little room in the attic, and you have to climb down two flights of stairs to use the rest room.

One way that a genuine B&B will save you money is at breakfast. Your room fee includes a breakfast, and it's usually hearty.

While many B&BS offer breakfast cereals, most of them prefer to serve a large hot breakfast that includes eggs, meat, and at least one vegetable or fruit. In the U.K., your eggs and sausage breakfast may be accompanied by a baked tomato, cooked mushrooms, and baked beans.

A good, filling breakfast will last you into the afternoon, and if you eat a hearty early dinner (or a late lunch), you won't need a third meal that day.

11. SLEEP AT HOSTELS WHEN YOU CAN

Hostels--like buses--are very different in Europe compared with their American counterparts.

In the past, hostels were exclusively for students. Today, people of all ages enjoy hostels throughout Europe.

Many hostels offer smaller rooms, sometimes even single rooms, if you're traveling alone.



In most cases, a hostel will cost about half as much as a local B&B.

Generally, hostels can be warm and welcoming, and even more comfortable than an average hotel. Or, the hostel can be "no frills." Like B&BS, it's wise to ask to see the sleeping rooms before deciding to stay there.

In most cases, you'll enjoy hostels because you can meet so many people, ask questions, swap travel stories, and learn what to do (and what to avoid) at your next destinations.

Many hostels include breakfast in their nightly fees, while others allow you to use the kitchen to prepare your own money-saving meals.

A few hostels open late in the afternoon and close immediately after breakfast. This reduces their operating expenses. Ask about "lockout" hours, and what their rules are, if you plan to spend more than just a night at the hostel.

You can also buy an YHA membership at home, and your membership card will provide significant discounts at many hostels as you travel.

12. FIND OUT WHICH TOURIST ATTRACTIONS ARE FREE

In many European cities, some museums are free to visit. Some have free admission on certain days, or during just a few hours. This can save you considerable money.

Likewise, find out which museums allow you to take photos. In Europe, taking pictures in museums is far more popular than in the U.S., and those photos are far less expensive ways to remember the wonderful art that you saw, than buying post cards.

13. BUY SPECIAL TOURIST PASSES

Many tourist attractions offer special passes. You'll pay one fee and can visit several sites for far less than the price of individual admissions.

In some cities, the pass will admit you to a dozen or more different attractions. There may be a time limit on the pass, so that it's good for just one day, or three days.

Some countries offer passes that admit you to all of one kind of attraction, such as historic homes and related museums.

14. ASK ABOUT OFFBEAT EXTRAS

Sometimes, tourist attractions offer special tours or events that are not advertised ahead of time.

For example, if you're going to visit Ireland's famous Newgrange site, you can sign up for a lottery for admission to the eerie tunnels at dawn on the Solstices. That's a once-in-a-lifetime experience available only to a lucky few.

At other sites, you can pay just a little more than a regular admission price, and visit after hours when only a dozen or so people are let in.

15. GO TO CHURCH

If you are an enthusiastic churchgoer at home, be sure to attend church as you travel. You may discover new friends there, who will invite you to share a meal.

Also, ask your priest, rabbi, or minister about hospitality in the European countries you'll visit. Some churches have directories of members who open their homes to guests as a form of fellowship.

16. TAKE UP A NEW HOBBY

Instead of buying expensive trinkets made for tourists, take home different kinds of reminders of your trip.

Some people take photographs, paint, or sketch as they travel. A travel journal may be your most valued reminder of a great vacation.

Or, learn to how to do rubbings before you leave on your vacation.

In the past, people used to create art using rubbings from ancient gravestones. Today, many of those stones are too fragile for rubbings.

However, in some European countries such as England, visitors' centers provide brass plaques and other items that are specifically created rubbings. Some are up to several feet long, and the rubbings can be framed and displayed over your fireplace or a sofa when you return home.

Other on-the-road hobbies can include collecting small, inexpensive items such as labels from beverages, stamped train tickets, matchbooks, and so on.

And, if you plan ahead, you can also enjoy hobbies such as letterboxing and geocaching. Learn about these international activities online before you leave. They may add an entirely new dimension to your travels. Even better, these are generally free hobbies.

17. USE THE INTERNET

If you stop at a cafe, hostel, B&B, or hotel that offers Internet access, you can stay in touch with friends and family at a fraction of the cost of phone calls.

Likewise, you can check the weather at your next destination, and change your travel plans quickly on the Internet. Most hostels have websites, so that you can see what kinds of rooms are available, what their prices are, and even change your reservations online.

Some travel sites offer reviews by visitors. If you've heard that a hostel or restaurant is great (or terrible), you can check online reviews to see if they agree.

18. WALK WHEN YOU CAN

Throughout Europe, people walk. This saves you money because you won't be paying train, bus, or taxi fares. It's also a great way to stay healthy by getting exercise.

You'll meet people when you walk. Greet others on the street or path. Even if you're picking words out of a dictionary because the language is difficult, you'll soon find ways to communicate basic ideas. This can greatly enhance your travel experiences.

And, when you're walking you'll have time to appreciate sights and landscapes that you'd miss if you took a bus or other transportation.

19. TRAVEL LIGHT

When you travel, take as little with you as possible. Find a suitcase that converts to a backpack, and you won't need to tip porters or taxi drivers as you travel.

Pack clothing that you can wash by hand in your hotel or hostel sink, and it will dry overnight. This saves you laundry and dry cleaning bills.

If you need more clothes as you travel, especially sweaters, buy handmade items from local shops. For example, an Irish-knit sweater can be remarkably inexpensive, and it doubles as a wonderful memento of your vacation when you return home.

20. REMEMBER THAT THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE

Laughter and friendships, landscapes and brushes with interesting and different cultures... these are what make travel enriching and worthwhile.

Expensive hotels and fancy tours insulate you from the lands and people you are visiting as you travel. If you choose to stay in B&Bs and hostels, and eat where the locals do, you'll have a far more meaningful vacation.

Plan ahead, learn where the bargains are (and aren't), pack light, and explore every opportunity as you travel. Others who are doing the same will offer advice to make your trip even better.

The best European vacations are usually the cheap ones. Plan to have fun and save money, and you'll return home with great memories and lots of smiles.

© High Speed Ventures 2011