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Traveling around Europe can be so expensive!
That’s because plane tickets, accommodations, museum admissions, and a veritable profusion of other costs can really add up.
But don’t let the fear of depleting your bank account scare you off from a grand tour of the Old Word, because if it does, you’ll be missing out big time.
Every person in America, at least once in their brief lives, should embark on a grand European tour.
Besides, it doesn’t have to be so costly.
If you’re savvy about it, taking in the glorious sites of the Old World on a budget is a real possibility.
It can even be cheaper than traveling in the States!
If you know where to look, you can find some deals that will blow your mind.
All it really takes is a modicum of planning and a little strategy.
The rise of the sharing economy, a weaker exchange rate, and the unprecedented explosion of budget airlines across the continent have made going to Europe a WHOLE lot cheaper.
Because of these options, there are now tons of cheap ways to get around.
Because you’re a fellow frugal warrior, I’ll know you’ll find that immensely exciting!
Read my article and take advantage of the dizzying array of cheap options out there.
Why pay extra if you don’t have to?
1. Minimize Travel to Airports
If you’re visiting more than one country, book a one-way flight to your starting point.
Then, book another flight from the city where you’ll end up.
This means you don’t have to loop back to your starting point when your vacation ends, saving you both time and money.
2. Travel During the Off-Season
Don’t travel during the summer because the museum lines are long, the locals won’t be in town so you won’t have an authentic experience, flights will be expensive, and it will be unbearably hot.
Rates are also cheaper if you travel between October and April.
So, pack for colder weather and enjoy shorter lines at all the sites.
Lots of people won’t go during the offseason.
However, the fact of the matter is, Europe is just as charming in the spring and fall.
And in the winter, the Pyrenees and the Alps become a stunning winter wonderland.
3. Choose Cheaper Destinations
London is a great place to start, especially if you’re coming from New York and want to save money on flights.
Another inexpensive place to go is Eastern Europe.
Prepared to be WOWED by the underground metro stations and Orthodox churches of Moscow.
Then, take the high-speed train to St. Petersburg and go back in time to the days of Peter the Great and Russian regality.
The Northern countries (NORWAY, SWEDEN, DENMARK, FINLAND) are the most expensive to visit, so avoid them if possible.
4. Avoid Travel Packages
Avoid travel packages.
These tend to be pricey. because of extra charges for meals and side attractions.
5. Do Free Stuff
There is an incredible variety of free stuff to do in Europe.
Most museums have days on which you don’t have to pay an admission fee.
For example, the Louvre has free admission on the first Sunday of every month.
Take advantage of some of these no-cost opportunities to make your vacation more exciting.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
The Appian Way
The Appian Way was the road where Spartacus and 5,000 other slaves were crucified and left all up and down the road to show others coming into Rome what happens when you try to rebel.
Start at the San Sebastian Gate.
Continue onwards to the Circus of Maxentius, where thrilling chariot races were once held.
You’ll see the incredible architectural marvels known as aqueducts along this ancient path.
You’ll also see the catacombs and the ancient baths and so many other ruins.
It truly is the mother of all roads, and it’s where the phrase “all roads lead to Rome” came from.
Aubes Musicales in Geneva, Switzerland, is a free music festival held at 1930s-style baths.
There’s lots of free music during the summer, such as Latin, jazz, and classical.
And there’s free coffee too!
The CERN Laboratory is also in Geneva.
This was the birthplace of the World Wide Web in 1989.
And in 2008, the Large Hadron Collider was fired up for the first time.
Guided tours are free of charge.
Take an informative stroll through the Microcosm exhibition to learn all there is to know about the Large Hadron Collider.
This is a terrific interactive expo where you’ll find out what it’s like to work at CERN, and how all the experiments they’re doing will impact the future of science.
Barcelona’s Waterfront and Beaches
You don’t need to go to a ridiculously expensive place like Ibiza to take in the glories of Spain.
Barcelona’s waterfront and beaches allow you to enjoy the calming waters of the Mediterranean for absolutely no cost.
The Cemetery of Pleasures
The Cemetery of Pleasures is also in Spain.
This fascinating Lisbon graveyard houses many of the city’s most influential former citizens.
Besides impressive funerary statues and chapels, it offers stunningly beautiful views of the Alcantara Valley.
Berlin Wall Memorial
Even if you’re not a history buff, you’ll appreciate the Berlin Wall Memorial.
This site shows you what life was like during the Cold War.
Germany’s memorial to the victims of the Berlin Wall stretches for 1.4 kilometers along Bernauer Strasse, where the actual wall stood.
Here, you’ll learn how the border fortifications were built up over time, and in the process, devastated families by separating them from each other.
In Amsterdam, flowers are life.
This explains the powerful allure of the Bloemenmarkt.
Since 1860, when merchants would moor their barges after sailing up from the Amstel to hawk their wares directly to buyers, it’s been a popular place to purchase tulips and other flowers.
It’s such a spectacular place to visit, you’ll feel like you should be paying admission.
Although the market is perched on piles and so is no longer floating freely, it’s a fantastic place to buy tulips in season and bulbs year-round.
The Blue Mosque
The stunning Blue Mosque in Turkey, also known as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, is more than four centuries old.
It’s a Turkish cultural icon, a jewel in the crown of the Islamic religion, and one of the most famous mosques in the entire world.
It has more than 20,000 handmade blue tiles in more than fifty different tulip designs.
As you move from one level of the mosque to another, the designs become increasingly intricate.
Although it’s free to visit, you can’t go during prayer times.
The British Museum
The British Museum documents the epic story of humanity from its humble beginnings to the present, with over eight million historically essential works.
This is one of the most impressive collections of historical artifacts on the entire planet.
The Queen Elizabeth II Great Court is the largest covered square in Europe.
While there, you have to see the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court.
When it was built, the Great Court transformed the Museum’s inner courtyard into the largest covered public square in Europe.
It has a spectacular glass room with a world-famous reading room at its center.
6. Use Budget Airlines
There are all kinds of budget airlines in Europe that will get you from Point A to Point B at ridiculously low prices.
Sometimes, airplane tickets are even cheaper than bus fare!
But keep in mind, the money that these airlines lose on ticket prices they make up for in fees.
There are extra charges for every little amenity, from baggage that exceeds the limit to in-flight meals to even having to pay extra to print out your ticket.
They’re unusually strict about baggage limits.
So if you carry more baggage than the average Joe, it might be cheaper to book your flight with a regular airline.
But if you’re a minimalist who straps everything on her back, you’re a person after my own heart.
And, a budget airline is right up your alley!
Budget airlines are mushrooming across Europe, and amazingly, you can get flights for as low as one Euro.
Find the cheapest flights with two stellar apps.
EasyJet and RyanAir are two no-frills airlines with fares starting as low as ten bucks.
7. Stay In A City For Free With A Layover
You might get to stay in a city for free if you have a long layover.
Just make sure the layover puts you in the city during daylight hours so you can take in the sites.
Many airlines offer free hotel stays, transfers, and meals for layovers.
And don’t worry about having to store your baggage, because most airports have luggage storage facilities that don’t cost much.
But before you put this plan into action, find out if the city you’re laying over in requires a visa to move out from the airport to the city.
8. Get Accommodations Close By
Find accommodations in the middle of the city you want to see.
It might be cheaper to stay outside the city boundaries, but you’ll have to spend more time and money traveling back and forth.
If you find a hotel smack dab in the middle of the city you’re doing your sightseeing in, you’ll be able to walk to the sites.
This is also the best way to see the sites.
9. Walk to Save Money
And speaking of walking, it’s cheaper than taking a taxi, and you’ll get better photo-ops too.
Not to mention more exercise.
It’s just a better way to see a city.
10. Take a Bus
If affordability is what you’re after, travel by bus.
While it’s not as comfortable, scenic, or convenient as train travel, it’s a fraction of the cost.
Here are some of the options:
FlixBus is the best bus line because it’s the cheapest and easiest to use.
It has free WIFI, allows you to have three bags for free, and even has electrical outlets.
They travel to thousands of cities in 20 countries, and the seats are amazingly comfortable.
Prices are as low as five Euros.
Plus, their cancellation policy is the most forgiving, because you cancel your ticket up to 15 minutes before departure for only one Euro.
And with one-way fares as low as five Euros, the cost can’t be beaten.
They have a pass called Interflix that lets you travel to five destinations for only 99 Euros.
If punctuality is more important than price, try Eurolines.
They cost a little more but have a better reputation for being on time.
However, they also have a less flexible refund policy.
You won’t get a refund less than 48 hours before departure.
And even if you give more notice than this, you’ll pay a whopping fee of 25 to 50% of the cost of your ticket to get a refund.
Another affordable bus transportation option is Megabus, which was recently acquired by Flixbus.
You can get some fantastic deals.
For example, on some routes, the first people to buy tickets can get them for the incredibly low price of one pound!
Megabus is an incredibly inexpensive way to see the United Kingdom (which, if you didn’t know, is England, Wales, and Scotland).
And, now, they travel to Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels, too!
The National Express
Another option if you’re thinking about UK travel is the National Express.
They’re always super professional and punctual.
To get the best deals, book as early as you can.
Busabout is yet another economical bus option that’s popular with backpackers.
Hop on and off wherever you’d like along one of their set routes.
From May through October, they have 38 different destinations they travel to.
The only problem is, if you want to visit a city, not on their itinerary, you’ll have to pay for that yourself.
The cheapest way to use the service is to buy a pass.
When you buy one, you’ll get a set number of stops for one low price.
Use their convenient network map to plan out your trip.
11. Cheaper Ways to Travel by Train
There are few experiences in life as epic as seeing Europe by train.
This is really traveling in style, and something you must add to your bucket list.
When you travel by train through the continent, you’ll enjoy the splendor of the best, cheapest, and most modern rail system on the planet.
The Eurostar train is one of the crown jewels of the entire system and will whisk you from London to Paris in just under three hours.
When you’re on a train, you get to kick back with a book and watch all the breathtaking scenery whizz by.
It’s comfier than a bus and less anxiety-producing than air travel.
However, it can be expensive.
And although it can wreak havoc with your budget if you’re not careful, cheap European train travel is still a possibility.
Book as early as you can, because European train tickets are sold in batches.
The first batch of tickets is the cheapest.
As these sell out, more tickets are released at increasingly higher prices.
If you know where you’re going and are okay with flexibility, not being an option, then booking early is your best bet.
You should also check out group tickets.
These let you travel with a group on the same ticket for the day at a lower cost than the individual ticket price.
It might cost 26 Euros for the first group member, and then five Euros for each additional member.
Another option to consider is a Eurail pass.
This is perfect if you’re planning to do a lot of train travel.
With a Eurail pass, you’ll be paying a lot less than if you bought individual tickets to each city.
You can get discounts on one if you’re a senior citizen, an individual under the age of 27, or a person traveling in a group.
12. Share a Ride
There are some terrific ride-sharing options in Europe.
One of these is BlaBlaCar.
The service matches up drivers with others who are traveling to the same destination.
You’ll share all the expenses of the trip, including gas.
This is the most popular ride-sharing service in Europe, and it’s the most popular long-distance carpooling platform in the world.
You can get a ride for a little as five Euros.
It’s the best paid way to get around the continent because it’s super cheap and you’ll get off the highways into the countryside.
Maybe you’ll even get to have an enlightening conversation with a local.
13. Hitch a Ride
For hardcore frugal warriors, hitchhiking is the absolute best way to get yourself around the continent.
When you thumb your way across Europe, you’ll meet some interesting people while feeling free and having a blast.
In most areas of the world, drivers will pick you up for free.
But in some areas, you’re expected to pay for your ride.
Make sure you do your hitchhiking on roads where automobiles can stop.
And if you’re traveling a long distance, ask for rides at gas stations.
Your odds of getting a ride are better if you do this.
Germany is one of the most hitchhiker-friendly countries in Europe.
Drivers in this country love to pick up hitchers.
But regardless of the country where you’re doing your thumbing, keep in mind that many people pick you up because they want to have a conversation.
They might be bored or lonely.
So, if you’re not in the mood because you’re tired, try to play along anyway.
You’ll be glad you did because drivers are an excellent resource for travel tips.
They’ll tell you where the good restaurants are, the best sites to see, and all that other stuff only locals know.
To let people know what your destination is, bring a marker and something to write on (I.e., a large piece of cardboard).
Also, bring sunscreen and a raincoat.
Hitchhiking is a lot safer than some people think it is.
However, trust your instincts.
If a situation feels unsafe, get out of there immediately.
14. Mix and Match Modes of Transportation
If you don’t prefer one mode of transportation over another and just want the cheapest ways to go, mix, and your modes by using an app.
Three particularly good ones do this—Rome2rio, Omio, and Go Euro.
They’ll string together an itinerary consisting of planes, trains, automobiles, and a few other types of ways to travel to get you to where you want to go for the lowest cost.
15. Avoid Expensive Souvenirs
Don’t succumb to the temptation to buy expensive souvenirs.
Take lots of photos instead.
For a cheap souvenir for others, send them postcards.
There’s an old-fashioned charm to doing this that will delight your intended recipient.
16. Stay in a Hostel
Staying in a hostel is the time-honored way for European travelers to secure budget accommodations.
If you don’t relish the idea of staying in dormitory-style rooms, most hostels will let you have a private room for a higher price.
However, they’re still cheaper than staying in a hotel.
Many people mistakenly think you must be a student to stay in a hostel.
This isn’t true, and people of any age can stay in one.
17. Couch Surf or Housesit
To find free places to stay, become a member of couchsurfing.org.
It’s a social media platform like Facebook whose mission is to help international travelers find no-cost accommodations.
You’ll have to cough up a little bit of money to verify your bank account (and thus prove you’re legit), but after that, it’s free to use.
18. Spend the Minimum on Food and Drinks
Dining out in European restaurants can be expensive.
So, if you want to be frugal, buy your food at the local markets and not in shops that jack up their prices to prey on unsuspecting tourists.
Ask a local where she buys her food.
Then, buy cheap sandwich fixings at this place and picnic your way across the continent.
This way, you won’t spend that much on food while enjoying outdoorsy culinary experiences.
In many European bars, drinks are cheaper if you stand and drink them rather than sitting at a table.
Keep in mind is that tipping isn’t as customary in Europe as it is in the United States.
A 15 to 20 percent tip will probably be considered overly generous.
19. Save Money on Exchange Fees
Withdraw money from ATMs instead of using traveler checks, because many merchants won’t take them, and an exchange shop will charge an excessive amount to cash them.
As a fellow frugal warrior, I hope I inspired you to give a grand European tour a try.
Like anything else, there’s a frugal way to do it and a way that’s not so frugal.
Go the frugal route, and I guarantee you’ll both have a good time, and be immensely proud you stuck to your frugal guns!