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How to Travel Europe on a Tight Budget

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Are you dreaming of your next European adventure? Here’s our step-by-step guide to saving money while abroad.

Story by Emily Benson, Photos by Braden Collum, Bernard Hermant, Courtney Runn

Maybe you’ve always thought a European vacation was out of reach. With research and due diligence, your dream vacation can definitely become a reality. Check out these five tips before your European vacation to avoid breaking the bank: 

Research transportation options.

The most expensive part of traveling is transportation. If you’re willing to do some research and preplanning, you can save big in this area.

  • Plan your trip during cheaper travel dates. Airfare pricing changes dramatically day to day, so be prepared to be flexible and adjust the order of the cities or countries you visit based on the cheapest flight dates. Pro tip:  Avoid flying on the weekends when prices rise.
  • Use Google Flights. Google Flights compares all airlines, shows a detailed price history and offers price tracking. This provides an overview of airline pricing and will help you choose the most inexpensive flight.
  • Research multiple modes of transportation. European countries are well-connected, so make sure you look at trains, ferries and buses. Often, trains will be faster, cheaper and less hassle for people traveling to a variety of cities.

Use Airbnb, HomeAway and hostels.

Book your lodging in advance. Airbnb and HomeAway pricing is competitive, and as the number of places to stay decreases, the price per night increases dramatically. If you book last minute, expect to pay an inflated price for lodging. Keep in mind that the larger Airbnb you get, the more cost-efficient it will be, so invite your friends on your European vacation! Central locations are the most convenient, but areas slightly outside the center are the best balance of cost and time spent on public transport.

Hostels are also a popular option for college students and backpackers. Hostel prices vary by city, but overall, the average is about $30 per night. Look for hostels with locations near public transportation and with free breakfasts.

Keep up with exchange rates.

Many European countries rely heavily on cash transactions, so travelers should be conscious of the exchange rate in these countries. Websites such as Travelex can locate the most cost-efficient currency exchange within your area. Many currency-exchange businesses near tourist areas often rip off busy or naive foreigners. Being conscious of a fair exchange rate will help you cut down costs.

There is also the option to use a credit or debit card with no transaction fee. Relying on a credit card that requires transactions fees for every purchase will add up. Banks generally charge customers a fee for using an ATM abroad, so be conscious when withdrawing cash in a foreign country.

Avoid scammers.

Near popular tourist destinations like the Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum, travelers should be wary of scam artists who advertise overpriced souvenirs, alcohol, artwork and other counterfeit goods. Street performers distract tourists while pickpockets take off with valuables. Theft is common on public transportation in Europe, so always keep an eye on your items while you traveling throughout the city. Lastly, avoid interacting with scammers on the street, as they are skilled salespeople. A common trick is creating small talk, giving a “free” gift and then demanding payment.

Eat on a budget.

Cuisine is a crucial part of experiencing culture while abroad. Shopping at the local grocery store is an exciting way to explore the city like a local, discover new foods and practice your cooking skills. If you prefer to experience the food at the hands of professionals, do your research beforehand. Make a list of delicious, authentic restaurants in each city that’s within your price range. This will save you the disappointment of indulging in the overpriced tourist-trap restaurants that are solely popular based on their location. TripAdvisor is a great resource for many cities within Europe.

Proper planning and budgeting can make even the most packed European itinerary affordable. For some destination inspiration, check out our travel guides: atxwoman.com/category/discover/travel.

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