How to Travel Europe on a Budget
During our semester abroad, Exeter University, gives students the month of December off to prepare for finals. James and I decided we would spend that time traveling and we were able to visit 9 countries for $600 ea. Flights, accommodation, food, transportation, and attractions included. How in the world did I manage to arrange this you might ask?! A lot and a lot of research, check out this post for how to travel Europe on a budget.
James and I were visiting all these countries in a 2 week span because we wanted go home for Christmas. Since we had such little time, we decided to fly everywhere – however, if you have the time, buses and trains can be cheaper.
I should point out, being based in the U.K. was an advantage, had we been departing from the States it would have been a lot more money.
- Budget airlines – I booked all of our flights months in advance, using budget airlines like Ryanair and WizzAir. Now they may not be ‘comfortable’ and luxurious but we figured out how to survive on these flights. It is extremely important to be aware that while a budget flight sounds great, sometimes they fly into airports that are 2 hours outside of the city. Definitely do your research about where exactly you’re flying into.
- Private Mode – ALWAYS search in private mode/incognito window. Due to cookies, sites can track when you have looked at a flight route previously and will sometimes increase the price.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner was a massive friend to me while I browsed. You can search for a flight leaving from a specific airport going to ‘everywhere’ for a specific day or month. The results will consist of all flights from that airport, on your given time period. If you don’t know what airport you want to depart from you can just choose a country as your place of origin.
- Google Flights – I used Google Flights similarly to Skyscanner, but focused on their map feature. Essentially you can input your departing airport/city and pick a specific date you’d like to travel on. Then if you click on the map, it shows you every flight route available. You can narrow the options down by number of stops and price range. I essentially combined a ton of one way trips using this process to get from London throughout Europe and back. I ended up changing my itinerary and countries multiple times until I settled on a group of countries I was happy with and a cost I was happy with.
Our Flight Itinerary
- Poland 12/10/16
- London, UK -> Warsaw, Poland
- (STN 12:05 – WMI 15:20) RYANAIR
- Budapest 12/11/16
- Warsaw, Poland -> Budapest, Hungary
- (WAW 10:35 – BUD 11:45) WIZZAIR
- Athens 12/12/16
- Budapest, Hungary -> Athens, Greece
- (BUD 19:55 – ATH 22:55) RYANAIR
- Rome 12/14/16
- Athens, Greece -> Rome, Italy
- (ATH 7:10 – CIA 8:05) RYANAIR
- Barcelona 12/16/16
- Rome, Italy -> Barcelona, Spain
- (FCO 9:05 – BCN 11:05) RYANAIR
- Munich 12/17/16
- Barcelona, Spain -> Munich, Germany
- (BCN 7:00 – MUC 9:10) VUELING
- Paris 12/18/16
- Munich, Germany -> Paris, France
- (MUC 15:35 – ORY 17:10) TRANSAVIA
- Amsterdam 12/20/16
- Paris, France -> Amsterdam, Netherlands
- (CDG 12:40 – AMS 13:55) AIR FRANCE
- London 12/22/16
- Amsterdam, The Netherlands -> London, UK
- (AMS 7:00 – LTN 7:05) VUELING
Going into this trip James and I knew we would not be staying in five-star hotels. We ended up staying in 4 hostels, 1 air BNB, 2 couchsurfs, and 1 airport overnight.
- Hostels – Hostels are the holy grail of budget accommodations. Typically younger travelers utilize them, but with more and more people traveling the demographic has been changing where older travelers and even families frequent hostels. If you want the cheapest rooms possible they’re usually the rooms with 18 bunk beds crammed in and mixed genders. If you want a little more privacy and breathing room you can have that but at a higher rate per night. There are single rooms, same sex rooms, or rooms with fewer bunks per room. Obviously, James and I took the cheapest option – max bunk beds per room. While saving money can be important – so is sleep. If I were to do this again I definitely would consider paying a little more each night for fewer people in a room. I did make sure the hostels we stayed in had decent reviews as far as wifi connections/amenities/safety/hygiene/location to city center.
- Air BNB – Air BNB is a site that lists homes and apartments for rent. You can rent an entire home/apartment or you can rent a room in someone’s home. We managed to score an apartment for four for about £48 in Athens. If you’re planning to use AirBNB here’s $40 off your next reservation.
- Couchsurfing – Couchsurfing is similar to Air BNB except its free. The idea is that you pay the hospitality forward and meet some locals in the process. Obviously, always err on the side of caution. I felt quite comfortable doing this because I had two guys traveling with me.
- Sleeping in an Airport – While this a great way to save some money, be aware some airports have STRICT rules on passengers sleeping in the terminal. I usually do some research beforehand on which airports are open 24-7, and where to sleep in an airport. I really will only do this if I’m backpacking, and I have an early morning flight in an expensive city.
Taxi fares will be notoriously high, however many European cities have great public transportation. From trains, buses or trams that depart right from the airport to the city center – however, there are also private shuttles available at a higher cost. In order to minimize costs James and I only used public transportation.
There are tons of things that you can do in a city for free. I went to London and managed to find 100 FREE things to do. This is not an anomaly. The easiest way to find out what’s free or not is to get on google or tripadvisor prior to your trip and research. Also as a student, always ask for discounts. For example if you visit Athens, the entire Acropolis is free for EU students.
There are so many ways to eat authentic and cheap while traveling. As a rule of thumb – NEVER eat anywhere near a tourist site. They will charge you more because they can and often the food isn’t that authentic.
- Budget Restaurants – There are tons of budget friendly restaurants available. Spend 30 minutes on TripAdvisor searching for best cheap eats or budget restaurants and you’ll get hundreds of options. Another tip for those looking to eat on the cheap is to eat during lunch! Tons of restaurants do fantastic lunch specials geared towards tourists.
- Street Eats – What’s more authentic than eating from a street cart like a local? While they’re often fast service food they’re still cheap, authentic and delicious!
- Grocery Shopping – The most obvious and the most glossed over option of eating cheap while traveling. You don’t need to eat out for every single meal. While you may not have a kitchen to cook in, you can still purchase from a grocery store to help save money. James and I often munched on store bought granola bars or a bag of fruit during the days and then treated ourselves to a restaurant meal. Sometimes we bought deli meat, rolls, and cheese and made ourselves sandwiches on the fly as our lunch to save a few bucks here and there.
With all of these tips, I managed to score James and I a trip to 9 countries over 12 . days for just $600 each. Do you have any useful how to tips for traveling Europe on a budget? If so comment below!
Total Cost: $601 per person = $1202 total
- Flights: $301 per person = $602 total
- Accommodation: €50 per person =€50 total *$100
- Transport/Attractions: €100 per person = €200 total *$200
- Food: €150 per person =€300 total *$300
*At time of purchase the Dollar and Euro were almost 1:1
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