Although travel to and around Europe is not cheap, there are many things that you can do to help lessen the load on your wallet. Traveling in the off-season, staying in hostels and procuring food from local grocery stores are just a few of the ways that you can tour Europe on a budget.
Travel in the off-season. Travel during the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn often offers excellent opportunities for less-expensive airfares and cheaper hotel stays.
Check out guidebooks from the library, or purchase a copy. There are a number of guidebook series that cater specifically to those on a budget. The Let's Go and Lonely Planet series are two often-recommended options.
Shop around for airfare. Use a consolidated travel search site, such as Kayak.com, to search multiple airfares at once. Consider flying into one city and out from another. Doing so typically does not cost much more and might cost less than flying into and out of the same city. Plus, you won't have to retrace your steps during your travels.
Visit and stay in smaller cities rather than major cities such as London and Paris if at all possible during your travels. Visiting smaller cities and towns will provide the most bang for your buck.
Get an international student identification card if you are a student. This card will provide you with discounts to many sites and museums throughout Europe. If you do not have an ISIC card, show your school identification when paying admission fees. Some tourist sites will accept the ID cards and allow you to pay student admission price.
Stay in hostels to save the most money on lodging. You might want to look into becoming a member of Hostelling International or a similar organization, as doing so will provide you with discounted lodging at many hostels throughout Europe. If the young crowd that hostels cater to isn't your cup of tea, less-expensive hotels are your next best bet. Use your guidebooks (the more recent the publication date, the better) to find a suitable hotel.
Buy a Eurail pass that suits your needs and offers a cheaper way to travel. Those 25 and under can purchase a Youth pass, which provides discounted transportation in second-class cars. Those traveling with one or more companions should look into a Saver pass, which also provides discounted fares. To save money, you might want to take overnight trains to get from one place to another, especially when a long distance is involved.
Shop at grocery stores for your meals rather than eating at restaurants. If you do eat at cafes or restaurants, take your meal to go or eat at the counter. It is typically more expensive to eat at a table, especially at an outdoor cafe.
Tips & Warnings
Remember to enjoy yourself. Be conscious of your budget, but don't let it put a damper on your fun. Plan to set aside some of your money for a special meal, an activity, a tour, or entrance fees to a monument or other site that you'd like to see.
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