Let’s face it, traveling in Europe blows a big hole in your budget. A 6-month sojourn in Europe often takes up triple the amount of money you would have otherwise spent traveling in S.E.Asia or South America. Now that we’re back in Spain, trying to maintain our travel funds is proving to be a real challenge. Staying at home all weekend isn’t gonna solve the problem, so we’re still taking regular trips within the region, but keeping in mind budget-tightening measures. Here are 8 tips for shoestring travelers like us to explore Europe but without the hefty costs.
Photo by kiki99
1. Choose Your Destination Wisely
If you’re tight on money, then try to avoid expensive countries in the north, such as Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Expenses in Scandinavian nations are extremely high, with the cheapest meal – a hotdog – costing around 7euros. Instead, venture out to Eastern Europe – countries in the Balkans such as Bulgaria, Montenegro and Croatia are extremely interesting and yet relatively cheap to visit. Equally attractive in terms of nature, beaches and historical monuments, the Balkans is one part of Europe that is relatively unexplored and definitely worth a visit.
2. Hunt for Cheap Accommodation
Cheap hotels and hostels are definitely the most important way to save money, since majority of travel expenses usually go to accommodation. Besides doing a search on hostel websites, it’s wise to check with friends and fellow travelers who have been to your destination for the best area to stay at and the hostel with best value for money. For big and expensive cities like London and Barcelona, it’s especially important to bear in mind that cheap hotels might be far from the city center.
3. Research for Free Things to do
If you look hard enough, there are tons of free attractions to visit and free activities to engage in. Most museums are free to visit on specific days of the week, parks and gardens sprinkled all over Europe usually have no entrance fee. These sites allow you to learn more about the city and its history. Other free things to do include watching street performers, strolling through antique markets and vibrant food markets.(Check out my previous post on free things to do in London.)
A brilliant concept that brings travelers from around the world together, exchanging culture and experiences, and a free place to stay. The uninhibited can just sign up for free, do a search for locals living in your destination, write them an email and if they say yes, voila! – you have a free night’s stay on their couch! I personally adore couchsurfing, having done it a couple of times and always had an excellent experience.
5. Make friends with Locals
There are thousands of social media sites in today’s world – twitter, facebook etc. Give a shoutout when you’re visiting a particular destination to get the lowdown on what’s good and what’s not. The locals will know the best value places to eat, the fastest and cheapest ways to travel, and at times extend their hospitality by showing you around. At the end of your travel, you get a good understanding of the place you’ve just visited, you’ve shaved a considerable amount off your travel expenses and you’ve just earned yourself a new friend.
6. Find Temporary Work or Volunteer
Although it can be rather tough to find a job that pays, you can usually nab one that gives you accommodation and food in exchange for a few hours of labour each day. Start with the hostel you’re staying at or ask around. Other opportunities such as WWOOFing – volunteering on a farm – is also a great opportunity to experience living in the countryside and saving some pennies.
7. Cook Your Own Meals
Although sampling a country’s gastronomy is a large part of traveling (and often is one of the most important for me), eating out tin Europe can be pricey. Making your own meals doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on sampling local food. Instead, visit the local food market (which can sometimes turn out to be an awesome experience) and try out whipping up some local dishes in your hostel. Or are you tempted to splurge on that gorgeous restaurant poised above the city center? Try to find a quiet spot right next to it, and bring a picnic with you to enjoy the same views for a fraction of the price.
8.Fly Budget Airlines
These days, with strong competition among budget airlines, air travel within Europe is getting cheaper than train travel. A Ryanair flight can cost as low as 5GBP if you’re luck enough to snap it. Make sure to check out every airline and last-minute travel deal when booking your trip, and compare prices between land travel and budget airfares.