Nine essential tips for travelling Europe on a budgetTravel News from Stuff - 15-05-2023 stuff.co.nz
It's true: Europe is not the cheapest destination in the world. You're not going to spend time in London and save money. You're not going to walk away from Amsterdam with a whole lot of extra cash in your pocket.
That said, it is possible to travel Europe on a strict budget and still get so much out of this diverse, historic and exciting continent. With a few tips and tricks, and a cutting of corners where possible, you can experience Europe without breaking the bank.
The good news for travel through Europe is that you will mostly be using the one currency – euros – so you can get out a large wad of cash and use it wherever you go (avoiding excess bank fees). The thing is, however, that much like NZ, many countries in Europe work on a largely cash-free basis now, with tap-and-go card payments very much the norm.
To utilise these methods of payment without being hit with a heap of fees, ensure you have a debit or credit card that doesn't attract foreign transaction or conversion fees.
One of the biggest expenses travellers will be hit with for a European holiday is the airfare. Prices are skyrocketing at the moment, and the best way to get around that is to book well in advance. We're talking at least six months, and do your research with aggregator websites to find the cheapest routes and the best times to travel.get quote or book now in New Zealand
You can book some attractions in advance too – say, entry to La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, or the Coliseum in Rome – and save a few euros.
This may seem counter-intuitive; however, doing a budget tour in Europe can actually save you plenty of money, particularly if you want to move around a lot, and see numerous destinations and attractions in a short space of time. A tour can also make budgeting a lot easier.
Back in the day – we're talking the 1980s and 90s – everyone used to camp in Europe. It was the accepted way to travel on a budget.
That's not so much the case any more, but the campsites remain, and they represent a very cheap option for accommodation. Even if you aren't actually pitching a tent, cabin accommodation at campsites in the likes of Rome, Florence, Nice, Munich and more is very affordable, if a little out of the way.
If you don't fancy camping, there are always hostels, which these days tend to be clean and modern, offering a great social atmosphere, plus facilities to cook your own food.
Remember: Europe isn't just France, Italy and Spain. Europe is also Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Hungary and more. And these eastern states tend to be far cheaper – while still offering all of the cultural and scenic wonders you could hope for – than their western counterparts.
If you want to travel Europe, but not spend the money you would associate with a European odyssey, head east.
Perhaps you're really set on the idea of visiting the big-hitters, France and Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, and so on. It's still possible to save money in these places.
The key is to avoid the big, tourist-heavy cities – Paris, Venice, Florence, Munich, Amsterdam – and instead visit nearby centres that offer similar experiences for a fraction of the price.
These “secondary destinations” include the likes of Lyon, Marseilles, Bologna, Verona, Cologne, Utrecht and many more.
Yes, Oktoberfest is an amazing festival, but it's also very popular and very expensive to attend. Instead, try a different German beer festival: say, the Cannstatter Wasen, a huge celebration in Stuttgart, or Freimarkt, a great event in Bremen.
There are similar alternatives to La Tomatina and the San Fermin festival in Spain – this is a country with an almost endless number of cultural celebrations – as well as music festivals to rival Glastonbury and Exit Festival.
Try to avoid summer in Europe if you can – that's when prices are highest for everything. Winter can be a great time in southern Europe, though admittedly prohibitively cold and dark in the north, while the shoulder seasons, autumn and spring, and pretty much perfect wherever you go. Prices are lower and crowds are smaller. Perfection.
There's a conundrum for budget travellers in Europe: obviously you want to eat local food, because that's such a huge part of the experience, but at the same time you can't afford to be dining out three times a day.
The answer is to do your food shopping at local markets, and cook at your hostel or other accommodation. That way you're sampling local produce, supporting the local economy while also avoiding expensive restaurant meals.
If you're hoping to drink on the cheap buy local beers and wine from a supermarket – in Europe they're extremely affordable.
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