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When I first googled “save money in Europe”, I got ca. 28.6 million results within 0.45 seconds about tips and tricks on how to save money when travelling in the old continent. Some are less then 30, some are like 75 tips. Seriously? I mean…
However, after years living and travelling in Europe, with my own experiences I have to decode some of them:
- Use Couch Surfing (free accommodation) – Not everybody feels OK using Couch Surfing, especially solo female travellers or those who travel to Europe for the first time. Sleeping on a sofa in the house of a stranger is a risk. Even if it’s small, there’s still risk out there. It also depends on your taste/type of travelling. Think if you travel with your partner/boyfriend/kid(s)/parents…
- Travel off season – What off season? It can be rainy, chilly, or bad weather then. And it’s not comfortable at all for those who are not familiar with cold weather. My best friend (from Vietnam) was somehow paralysed because of the cold weather when she travelled to Austria in October. The owner of her hostel had to drive her to places!
- Go to ABC instead of XYZ – I’m nobody to advise you where to go. You go wherever you want. And I personally think not all tourists/travellers want to go to small towns in stead of heading to Barcelona, Venice, Hamburg, etc. The point is not about going to small places but to save money even when you’re in a famous, popular tourist destination in Europe 😉
These are only 3 examples I want to show you while I was doing my research for this article. I don’t say they are wrong. I just want to tell you that they are not totally true in all cases applied.
Now it’s my turn 🙂 I’m not any kind of professional backpacker or traveller or anything. I just am lucky enough to live in Europe after my Master studies in Sweden, thus have chances to travel around. After each trip, some lessons learned.
And here they are – my 15 tips to help you save money while travelling in Europe!
- Book tickets in advance (duh!) – Beside flight, train and bus tickets, you should also book transport tickets from the airport to city centre. Not all, but some tickets for shuttle bus, airport express train can be cheaper if you book online in stead of buying upon arrival.
- Print all of them – Especially you you fly with low-cost airlines. That lesson I learned through a frustrating situation with WizzAir, back in 2014. A PDF file of my tickets on my smart phone with both QR code and barcode and booking number didn’t mean anything. I had to pay extra for the printing, and it cost wayyyyy much more than the tickets themselves! You can read more about other people’s experiences with Ryan Air HERE.
- Don’t just opt for airport express train – There are usually 2 ways to reach the city centre: shuttle bus and airport express train. However, in some cities like Oslo and Stockholm, there is the 3rd option: local train. It’s not as fast as express, but it costs you less. So if you’re not in a hurry, take a look at all the options you may have. Read more about my experience in Stockholm HERE.
- Take night train/bus – This helps you save money for 1 night at the hotel. I personally like to travel with night train, for the slight shaking makes it easier to sleep, too.
- Buy daily/days ticket – In stead of buying 1-time ticket or money card. Wholesale is always cheaper than retail! Go for 24-hour, 48-hour, 3-day tickets or things like that, depending on how many days you stay in that city.
- Walk if you can – If you have an accommodation in the very centre, and you’re travelling in places like Amsterdam, Bruges or Brussels, just walk. And save money.
- Choose “free admission day” – It requires some homework before your departure. Many museums/attractions in Europe offer “free admission day”, which can be once per week or once a month (eg. Vatican Museum in Rome offers free admission day on the last Sunday of every month). Make sure you can arrange your visit on those days. However, I know it’s not as easy as it sounds. Good luck!
- Eat like the locals – If you have local friends, ask them where to eat what. Don’t just head to fancy places in the own town unless you want to be ripped off! If you have no friends, ask people working in your hotel. If you don’t want to ask anybody, google and take personal travel blogs as a resource. Don’t go for Lonely Planet or things like that. Their advices are very general, in my opinion. And the last advice, observe! When strolling in town, if you see any restaurant just observe if there are more tourists then locals or vice versa. By that way I scored a local restaurant in Český Krumlov (Czech) where I was the only tourist dining there that night among the locals! Their menu was not in English even!
- Buy food in local (super)market – Because you just don’t eat out everyday. It’s OK to grab your food at a supermarket, heat them in the microwave (or maybe you don’t need to) and enjoy. Some supermarkets have good warm food with reasonable price. Perfect for tourists who want to save money 🙂
- Eat fast food – There’s no law against eating fast food while travelling in Europe. Full stop.
- Bring water – Tap water in most parts of Europe is drinkable. Fill your bottle from your hotel, and refill it again on your way. Just don’t drink if you see a sign saying undrinkable water!
- Book tickets online – Time is money, right? Especially in places like Louvre Museum or Eiffel Tower. When in Paris, we had to skip these 2 places because of the endless queuing lines. Moreover, you may find some good deals if you book tickets online.
- Make the most of “free walking tour” – All popular cities in Europe has their “free walking tour”. It’s a very good way to discover a new city with a local guide. Although I had a not-so-nice experience with the one in Prague, I still recommend you to take one, just to have the first impression of the city you’re in. And even if you don’t feel OK to tip (even it’s recommended to give tips), it’s totally legit. Because it’s free!
- Opt for free things in town – There are a lot of free attractions in Europe. In such an expensive capital like Oslo you can still find a bunch of free things to see and do (which I will write an article about later). Let’s see: Notre Dame de Paris (not for the tower), Jardin du Luxembourg, Stockholm’s famous Gamla Stan, Copenhagen’s Nyhavn, etc…
- Use cash in stead – It helps you see you thin your pocket is at the moment 😀 😀 And then you can adjust your spending easily. Other reasons: card payment fee, money exchange fee, risk of losing password, some cards may not be accepted / cannot be used in Europe…
These 15 small tips of mine are definitely not the best ones, nor the most complete ones to save money while travelling in Europe. Yet I’m so sure that it can be applied to all types of tourists, all destinations, and all seasons. So, say goodbye to off season!
If you’re currently living or have been in Europe and know more good tips, please feel free to share them here. If you’re planning to visit this continent, don’t forget to share new tips to everybody!
I wish you a nice trip to Europe. And save as much as you can here! 😉