Are you eager to explore the breathtaking wonders of Europe without breaking the bank? Do you hesitate to embark on that dream vacation due to the fear of draining your savings? In this comprehensive guide, I’ll tell you the best tips on how to travel Europe for cheap!
Wanderlust knows no bounds, and the allure of Europe is undeniable. Between the rich history, diverse cultures, breathtaking landscapes, and exquisite cuisine, it’s no wonder that this continent ranks high on many travel bucket lists. But often, the perceived costs can feel daunting.
While it’s true that airfare, transportation, meals, and accommodation expenses can quickly add up, there is good news! Budget-friendly European travel is attainable. Not only is it possible, but it also adds a unique depth to your journey that you may miss out on otherwise.
Budget-friendly European travel comes down to making smart choices, embracing local experiences, and using resources wisely. And all of these open the gateway to a more meaningful exploration of the continent. It’s about savoring that piping hot croissant from a small Parisian bakery at half the cost as the one in the crowded, tourist-filled cafe. It’s about engrossing yourself in the rhythms of local life. Avoid the overpriced tourist traps and stay in charming neighborhoods off the tourist map.
In this guide, I’ve included practical and efficient strategies to unlock a side of Europe that won’t empty your pockets. Each idea is carefully designed to ensure your European adventure is as enriching and memorable as affordable.
Here are all the tips and tricks you need to know for how to travel Europe for cheap in 2023.
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#1 tip for how to travel to Europe for cheap
Looking for cheap flights to Europe? My #1 tip for how to travel Europe for cheap is to start with the airfare. International travel is often expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. To avoid exorbitant fees, sign up for email alerts from popular travel websites. My favorite is Scott’s Cheap Flights/Going.
For the past 3 years, I’ve used Scott’s Cheap Flights (now called Going) to find amazing flight deals. Not only is Going a great way to save money on airfare, but it’s also easy to use. Simply visit the Going website, then type in the name of your departure location and your desired destination. And the best part? It’s 100% FREE! In 2022 alone, I saved thousands of dollars thanks to their email alerts. On average, I save about $300 roundtrip on selected flight routes. So, I couldn’t recommend them any more!
If you’re a frequent traveler, consider their premium membership. You’ll get special access to better deals, special perks, and bonus features for a low annual fee. And it will easily save you hundreds (or thousands) of dollars if you fly just 2-3 times. I recommend signing up for the free trial (which you can cancel anytime) to test it out for yourself. For even more savings, use my coupon code JON20 to save 20% when you sign up!
7 more tips for how to travel Europe for cheap
So, you’ve used Scott’s Cheap Flights to score a great deal on airfare to one of Europe’s many beautiful cities. Now what? Saving money on flights is just the first of many tips for cheap European travel.
As a budget-conscious globetrotter, I’ve picked up a lot of good tips, tricks, and travel hacks over the years. And I’m excited to share them with you. I think Europe is a truly spectacular place to visit, and money shouldn’t get in the way of enjoying once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
One of the most important pieces of advice I can give is to plan ahead. That’s the best way to ensure your vacation to Europe is both fun and frugal. Do your research, build a practical budget, and stick to a plan. Then, by carefully considering your options and being mindful of your spending, you can enjoy a wonderful European vacation without breaking the bank.
1. Plan your itinerary during off-peak times
When it comes to tips on how to travel Europe for cheap, know that timing is everything. While the charm of a summer in Paris or Rome is tempting, it’s important to remember that peak season also means peak prices. Planning your itinerary during off-peak times can secure significant savings and sidestep the maddening crowds.
Traveling during off-peak times – generally spring and fall– can dramatically reduce costs. Airfares and accommodations witness a steep drop after the summer rush. You can expect to save up to 20% to 40% on airfare and up to 50% on accommodations, depending on the destination.
Moreover, consider the sheer joy of unhindered exploration that comes with traveling during these quieter periods. Imagine strolling through Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum without jostling for a spot or sipping your Viennese coffee in a quaint café, undisturbed by the summer crowds. An uncrowded Europe offers an unspoiled experience, allowing you to interact more closely with the locals, delve deeper into the culture, and truly soak in the ambiance.
Plus, visiting Europe during off-peak times does not mean missing out on the weather. Spring and fall are generally pleasant across Europe, with milder temperatures and fewer chances of extreme weather conditions. Europe’s landscapes in spring bloom or fall colors are equally stunning, if not more so, than in the high summer.
Traveling during off-peak times saves money and gives a richer, more authentic European experience. It’s time to rethink your travel plans and unlock the lesser-known treasures of Europe during off-peak times!
Looking to save BIG on airfare? I recommend signing up for the free version of Dollar Flight Club. Thanks to DFC, I’ve saved THOUSANDS of dollars…so I couldn’t recommend it more!
2. Use budget airlines and rail passes
Navigating Europe doesn’t have to be a drain on your resources. With a little forethought and planning, you can make your way across this vast continent efficiently and economically. One of the keys to achieving this is leveraging Europe’s budget airlines and comprehensive rail network.
Europe has many budget airlines that operate extensive routes covering major and minor cities. Airlines such as Ryanair, EasyJet, and Wizz Air can whisk you away to your next European destination for less than the cost of a fancy dinner. The catch? Be prepared to fly at odd hours and travel light to avoid hefty baggage fees. But these minor inconveniences fade away when you land in Barcelona or Berlin for a fraction of the usual cost.
In parallel to air travel, Europe’s rail network is arguably the most efficient and extensive in the world. Enter the Rail Pass, your passport to unlimited travel across this network for a set period. The Eurail Pass, for instance, gives you access to trains in up to 33 countries. Imagine the liberty of hopping on and off trains, meandering through scenic landscapes, and arriving city-center, while keeping your budget intact. It’s cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and a more immersive way to travel.
Whether you choose the sky or the tracks, these options provide flexibility, convenience, and significant savings. Opting for budget airlines or rail passes is not just a cheaper alternative; it’s an adventurous take on traveling that allows you to chart your unique journey. Ditch the conventional, embrace the economical, and watch as Europe unfurls before you in all its glory.
3. Stay in budget accommodation
Accommodation often consumes a significant chunk of your travel budget, but it doesn’t have to. Europe boasts many budget-friendly lodging options that don’t compromise comfort or safety. Opting for these choices often enhances your travel experience by offering unique opportunities to connect with local communities and fellow travelers.
Hostels are a popular choice amongst budget travelers and for good reason. Far from the outdated stereotypes, today’s hostels offer clean, secure, and often stylish lodgings. Many even offer private rooms if dormitory style isn’t your preference. The communal atmosphere in hostels provides a platform to meet like-minded travelers from across the globe, making them a hub of cultural exchange.
Budget hotels and Bed & Breakfasts (B&Bs) are another fantastic option. These accommodations provide a balance of privacy, comfort, and affordability. Often family-run, B&Bs offer a homely atmosphere and a hearty breakfast to start your day.
Vacation rentals, like Airbnb, present another dimension of affordable stays. These often come equipped with a kitchen, allowing you to save further by preparing your meals. Staying in a local’s property also lets you experience the neighborhood from a resident’s perspective, providing a richer cultural experience.
Remember, luxury doesn’t always equate to a better experience. Opting for budget accommodation isn’t just a tip for how to travel Europe for cheap. It’s also an opportunity for immersion into local life, a chance to forge global friendships, and a way to appreciate the essence of travel beyond the superficial.
4. Cook your meals or eat like a local
One of the joys of traveling is experiencing the local cuisine. However, dining out for every meal can quickly become an expensive habit. To mitigate this, consider cooking your own meals or seeking affordable local food spots.
Staying in accommodations with kitchen facilities, such as hostels or vacation rentals, enables you to prepare your meals. Shopping for ingredients at local markets saves money and provides an authentic look into regional produce and culinary customs. Imagine preparing a classic Italian pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil you picked up from a bustling market in Rome. Or, recreate your favorite German dish with ingredients sourced from a cute shop in Hamburg.
On the other hand, if cooking isn’t your forte, you can still dine economically by eating like a local. Steer clear of touristy restaurants with “English menus” in favor of local eateries. Venture into side-street cafés, food stalls, or ‘workers’ taverns’ that serve home-style meals at reasonable prices. Embrace the local tapas tradition in Spain, where small dishes are often free with drinks, or savor a hearty gyro from a roadside vendor in Greece.
Additionally, consider adopting the local eating schedule. For example, in many Southern European countries, the largest meal of the day is lunch, often offered at a reduced price as a ‘menu del día’ or ‘plat du jour.’
In essence, being mindful of your dining choices doesn’t mean you have to miss out on Europe’s culinary delights. It can lead to a more authentic and enriching food experience. Embrace local culinary traditions, explore street food, or bring out your inner chef. Your taste buds, as well as your wallet, will thank you.
5. Look for free attractions and walking tours
Visiting iconic landmarks and engaging in enriching activities don’t always have to come with a hefty price tag. Europe has abundant free attractions and budget-friendly experiences that offer deep insights into this diverse continent’s history, culture, and beauty.
Many of Europe’s most iconic landmarks, such as London’s Hyde Park, Rome’s Pantheon, and Berlin’s East Side Gallery, are free to visit. Cities like Paris, London, and Madrid house some of the world’s top museums, many offering free entry on certain days or times. Researching in advance can help you align your itinerary with these free opportunities.
Europe is also the playground for free walking tours, an invaluable resource for budget travelers. These tours, led by local guides operating on a tip-based system, are a fantastic way to explore a city’s highlights and hidden gems. They provide a deeper understanding of the history and culture and offer insider tips on the best local eateries, upcoming events, or lesser-known attractions.
Opting for free or low-cost activities will help you save money and provide an opportunity for a more intimate understanding of your destination. Immersing yourself in the lively hustle and bustle of a local market or walking through the centuries-old streets guided by a local are experiences that outshine any expensive, tourist-packed attraction.
So, explore the wealth of free attractions, take advantage of the informative walking tours, and dive head-first into the local scene. You’ll be surprised at the depth of experiences Europe offers without putting a strain on your wallet. A budget-friendly journey in Europe is as much about experiencing as it is about exploring, and the best experiences often come for free.
6. Use local transportation or bike rentals
Exploring Europe doesn’t mean relying on expensive taxis or car rentals. Most European cities are equipped with extensive and efficient public transportation systems. In addition to being budget-friendly, they offer an authentic glimpse into the daily life of locals.
Buses, trams, metros, and ferries form the lifeline of European cities, connecting central areas with outlying neighborhoods and surrounding regions. Buying day passes or transportation cards can result in substantial savings if you plan to travel extensively within a city. For instance, a Paris Visite travel card offers unlimited travel on the public transport network in Paris and its surrounding region at a fraction of the cost of individual tickets.
Moreover, consider embracing the eco-friendly and increasingly popular trend of exploring cities on a bike. European cities like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Berlin are renowned for their bike-friendly infrastructure and affordable rental services. Biking around allows you to explore at your own pace, pause whenever you want, and discover hidden gems you might miss in the blur from a bus window. It’s a greener, healthier, and often more convenient way to navigate cities.
For traveling Europe for cheap, cutting transportation costs seems like an obvious move. But in addition to saving money, it will help embed you more into the rhythm of local life. The conversations on a bus, the scenes from a tram window, and the exhilaration of biking down a cobbled street, all contribute to a richer, more immersive travel experience. So step out of the taxi, pick up a transit map, or rent a bike, and embrace the journey as much as the destination.
7. Embrace work exchange and volunteering programs
One more unconventional yet incredibly rewarding way to experience Europe on a budget is through work exchange and volunteering programs. These initiatives allow you to offer your skills or labor in exchange for free accommodation and often meals, drastically reducing travel costs and enhancing your cultural experience.
Organizations like Workaway, WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), and HelpX connect travelers with hosts from Europe looking for assistance in various fields. These could range from teaching English, helping with household chores, working on organic farms, or assisting in hostels. In return, you receive food, accommodation, and an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture.
For instance, a work exchange program in a Tuscan vineyard will save you money and provide so much more. It’s also a chance to learn about winemaking, connect with a local family, and experience the Italian countryside’s rustic charm. Likewise, helping in a hostel in Barcelona could allow you to interact with travelers from around the world while exploring this vibrant city in your free time.
With this tip for how to travel Europe for cheap, you will save money, of course, but it’s an opportunity for limitless possibilities. You may form international friendships, develop new skills, and gain an intimate understanding of the local way of life. It transforms travel from mere spectator activity to an immersive, interactive experience. You’re not just a traveler passing through; you’re a participant in a global community. And that, beyond all doubt, is an enriching experience that no amount of money can buy. Travel isn’t just about seeing new places; it’s about living them, and work exchange and volunteering programs provide an excellent pathway to do just that.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about how to travel to Europe for cheap
Looking to gain a deeper understanding of how to travel Europe for cheap? Here are some common questions and answers you should know about!
What is the best way to travel Europe on a budget?
Traveling Europe on a budget is an attainable goal requiring strategic planning and savvy choices. Here are some key strategies:
Travel during the off-peak season. Europe’s peak travel season typically runs from June to August. Opt for travel during shoulder seasons (April-May and September-October) or off-peak times (November-March), excluding holidays, for cheaper airfares, accommodations, and fewer crowds.
Use budget airlines and rail passes. Budget airlines offer cheap flights within Europe. Alternatively, consider a rail pass for unlimited train travel within a specified time.
Opt for budget accommodations. Stay in hostels, budget hotels, guesthouses, or alternatives like Airbnb.
Cook your meals or eat like a local. Save money by cooking your own meals if you have access to a kitchen. Alternatively, eat where the locals do. Small, family-run eateries often offer cheaper (yet delicious!) food than touristy restaurants.
Enjoy free/cheap attractions. Many European cities offer free walking tours. This is a great way to explore and learn about the city. Also, many museums and attractions offer free entry on certain days or times.
Use cheaper transportation. Local buses, trams, or metros are usually the cheapest way to get around. In bike-friendly cities like Amsterdam or Copenhagen, renting a bike can be cost-effective and enjoyable.
Buy a local SIM card or use free Wi-Fi. Manage communication costs by using a local SIM card or leveraging free Wi-Fi in hotels, cafes, or public areas.
Be smart about money management. Use cash and cards, avoid poor exchange rates and high fees, and always have a backup plan for emergencies.
Remember, traveling on a budget doesn’t mean missing out. It’s about making smart choices that maximize your travel experience while minimizing costs.
Is it possible to travel Europe on a budget?
It is entirely possible to travel Europe on a budget. You just have to know how. While Europe hosts some of the world’s most expensive cities, it also offers many options for the cost-conscious traveler. Savvy planning and strategic choices can enable you to explore this rich and diverse continent without breaking the bank.
The key is in the preparation. Planning your itinerary during off-peak times can save significantly on airfares and accommodations. Utilizing budget airlines or rail passes for transportation within Europe can help you traverse countries without a hefty price tag.
Accommodation can be one of the biggest expenses, but choosing budget-friendly options like hostels, budget hotels, or platforms like Airbnb can slash this cost. Moreover, staying in less touristy areas or smaller towns can provide a cheaper stay and a more authentic experience.
Dining out for every meal can add up. Save by occasionally cooking your own meals, shopping at local markets, or eating at smaller local establishments instead of touristy restaurants.
Remember to make the most of free or low-cost attractions. Many cities offer free walking tours, public museums, or heritage sites. Use local transportation or rent a bike to get around economically.
Managing your communication and money exchange wisely will also help keep your budget in check.
Embrace the concept of slow travel. Spending more time in fewer places can reduce transport costs and allows you to immerse in the local culture.
Traveling Europe on a budget doesn’t mean you need to skimp on the experience. On the contrary, it often leads to a more authentic, enriching travel experience as you step off the beaten path and interact more closely with local culture and communities. Rest assured, a memorable European adventure can be achieved on a budget with a little planning and smart decisions.
Is travel insurance necessary when traveling Europe for cheap?
Travel insurance is not just a necessity, but a crucial safety net for any traveler, particularly when venturing internationally. Regardless of whether you’re a budget traveler or not, unforeseen circumstances can arise anywhere, anytime. These could range from medical emergencies and flight cancellations to lost luggage or even natural disasters.
Europe, with its high standard of healthcare, can be particularly expensive if you require medical attention and don’t have insurance coverage. Many countries may offer excellent public health services to their citizens, but as a foreign traveler, you may not have access to these benefits. In such cases, having travel insurance that covers medical emergencies can be invaluable.
Travel insurance also typically covers other travel-related issues such as trip cancellations or interruptions, baggage loss, and sometimes even travel delays. For instance, your insurance may cover additional accommodation and meal expenses if your flight gets canceled due to bad weather or a mechanical issue.
Additionally, if you’re planning adventurous activities like skiing, hiking, or scuba diving, it’s crucial to ensure your policy covers these. Not all travel insurance policies automatically cover these activities, so you might need to purchase additional coverage.
In essence, while travel insurance is an added expense, it offers protection against a range of potential financial risks that could otherwise disrupt your trip and strain your budget. It’s a small investment that can save you from significant financial burden and provide peace of mind, making it an essential component of responsible and smart travel. Always remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and travel insurance is a key part of that safety strategy.
What are some good resources for finding cheap flights to Europe?
Scoring cheap flights can make a significant difference to your travel budget. Thankfully, there are numerous resources that you can utilize to find affordable air travel.
My favorite way to score cheap flights to Europe and beyond is Scott’s Cheap Flights (now called Going). When you sign up for email alerts, they’ll send great deals on flights from your home airport. Dollar Flight Club is another great way to save money on airfare!
Online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia, Orbitz, or Kayak aggregate flight data from various airlines, so you can compare prices and routes to find the most cost-effective option. They often also offer package deals combining flights, accommodation, and car rentals that could result in substantial savings.
Flight search engines such as Skyscanner and Google Flights are other powerful tools. They scour the internet for the best deals, and you can set up price alerts to notify you when fares drop for your chosen route. Google Flights also has a flexible dates and destination feature that lets you explore different itineraries based on your budget.
Don’t overlook budget airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, and Wizz Air, which often have incredibly low fares for intra-European flights. However, remember to factor in additional costs like baggage fees and check the departure and arrival airports, as budget airlines often use smaller airports further from city centers.
For regular travelers, joining airline loyalty programs can result in significant savings over time. Points earned from flights, credit card purchases, or partner companies can be redeemed for free or discounted flights.
In essence, finding cheap flights requires some research and flexibility, but the potential savings make it a worthwhile investment of your time. Happy hunting!
How can you manage communication costs when traveling?
In our hyper-connected world, staying in touch while traveling is vital. However, international roaming charges can add a significant burden to your travel expenses. Fortunately, there are several strategies to manage your communication costs effectively while exploring Europe.
One of the most cost-effective options is to purchase a local SIM card upon arrival at your destination. This provides you with a local phone number and typically includes call minutes, texts, and data at much lower rates than international roaming. Since roaming charges within the EU were abolished in 2017, a single European SIM card will generally cover your needs across all EU countries.
OneSimCard, KnowRoaming, or TEP Wireless offer products that provide coverage in multiple countries and allow you to control your costs better.
However, remember that Wi-Fi is widely available in many parts of Europe. Hotels, cafes, restaurants, and even public spaces often offer free Wi-Fi, enabling you to communicate via internet-based services like WhatsApp, Skype, or Facetime. Offline navigation apps like Google Maps or MAPS.ME can further reduce your data usage.
Lastly, consider using communication apps that work well on low data speeds or offer offline features, such as WhatsApp for messaging or Google Translate for language translation.
By leveraging these strategies, you can stay connected with friends, family, or work without racking up huge phone bills. Efficient communication while traveling is about planning, using the right tools, and taking advantage of available resources.
How much does the average trip to Europe cost?
The average cost of a trip to Europe varies depending on travel style, countries visited, trip duration, and individual preferences. However, as a rough guideline, here are some estimates:
Airfare. A round-trip flight to Europe can range from $500 to $1,500+, depending on the time of year, the departure location, and how far in advance you book. You can find cheap flights to Europe using websites like Going.
Accommodations. On average, budget accommodations like hostels or budget hotels can cost between $20-$50 per night. Mid-range hotels may range from $60-$150 per night, while luxury hotels can cost $200+ per night.
Food. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant can range from $10-$20, while a three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant might cost between $30-$50. If you cook your own meals, expect to spend around $50-$70 weekly on groceries.
Transportation. Within Europe, budget airlines can offer flights between countries as low as $20-$50 one-way if booked in advance. Train travel varies widely but expect to pay between $30-$100 for longer cross-country trips. Local public transportation typically costs a few dollars per ride.
Activities. Entrance fees for museums, attractions, and tours can range from $10-$20 for most sites to $30-$50 for major attractions like the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum.
The verdict: As a rough estimate, a daily budget of $50-$70 could be sufficient for a budget traveler in less expensive European countries. However, you may need $100-$150 daily in more expensive countries. For a more comfortable travel experience, a daily budget of $200-$300 might be more realistic.
These are rough estimates, and the actual cost can vary greatly. It’s always a good idea to research and budget in advance based on your personal travel preferences.
Can you do Europe on $100 a day?
Absolutely! Traveling through Europe on $100 a day is feasible, though it requires careful planning, flexibility, and a willingness to prioritize certain experiences over others. Here’s how you can achieve it:
- Accommodation: Stay in budget accommodations like hostels, guesthouses, or utilize platforms like Couchsurfing. In many Eastern European countries, you can find private rooms in guesthouses or budget hotels for less than $40 a night.
- Food: Enjoy local street food, shop at local markets, or cook your meals if you have kitchen access. Avoid eating at touristy spots. In many places, you can get a substantial meal for $5-$10.
- Transportation: Use regional trains, buses, or budget airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet for longer distances. For short distances within cities, walking or using city bikes is both economical and a great way to explore.
- Sightseeing: Prioritize free or low-cost attractions. Many European cities have days when museums and attractions offer free or discounted entry. Also, consider purchasing city passes that offer entrance to multiple sites at a reduced rate.
- Entertainment: Attend free local events, concerts, or festivals. A lot of cities in Europe offer free walking tours (just remember to tip the guide if you found value in the tour).
- Currency Conversion: Withdraw larger amounts to save on ATM fees and always choose to be charged in the local currency.
- Region Choice: Eastern Europe tends to be cheaper than Western Europe. Countries like Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria offer rich experiences at a fraction of the cost of countries like France, Italy, or the UK.
- Travel Insurance: Don’t skip on this. It’s an essential safeguard, especially when traveling on a budget. Consider it an investment rather than an expense.
What is the cheapest month to visit Europe?
When it comes to cost-effectiveness, timing can play a significant role in the overall expense of your European getaway. Generally, the cheapest months to visit Europe are during the off-peak season, which typically runs from late autumn through early spring, excluding the holiday season.
January and February often offer the lowest airfares and accommodations rates. After the holiday rush, demand for travel drops, leading airlines and hotels to lower their prices. These months, however, are also the coldest and may not be ideal if you’re interested in outdoor activities or sightseeing.
March, April, and November can also offer great value. These are considered shoulder seasons – the period between the peak and off-peak seasons. During these months, you can still enjoy decent weather with fewer crowds and lower prices than the peak summer months.
However, it’s important to note that the “cheapest” time can vary depending on your destination within Europe. For instance, southern European destinations like Spain, Italy, or Greece may still have pleasant weather in November or March, making these ideal months for cost-effective travel. On the other hand, northern and central Europe can be quite cold during these months.
Remember, cheaper isn’t always better. Consider other factors like weather, holidays, local festivals or events, and your own travel preferences in addition to cost. Ultimately, the best time to visit Europe depends on what you want to experience during your trip. It’s about finding the right balance between cost, comfort, and your desired travel experience.