Ever wanted to travel to Europe on your own or with your friends but don’t know how to plan it? Traveling to Europe can be quite expensive, but if planned correctly, it can be easily done with a small budget.
Here are some overall quick tips that can get you started with your Eurotrip planning.
Europe is Big! Know Where And When You Want To Go
One of the beauties of traveling to Europe is the possibility of traveling to various countries effortlessly. Before going deep into the planning process, you should decide which countries you want to visit and what you wish to see at each one of them.
Maybe it’s just one city, or perhaps you want to visit five countries, but no matter how extensive your trip is, have an idea of your overall interest.
When you have an idea, visualize it and all its destinations on a map. This will be crucial to establishing a route and an itinerary.
Take also into consideration the seasons of the year and “travel seasons.” Certain activities are more enjoyable during the summer, while others are better during winter.
Just like any seasonal destination, different seasons give a different feel of Europe.
Find A Cheap Airfare to Europe
The key to finding good and cheap airfares is to be flexible. Sites like Kayak.com and SkyScanner.com have a “dates flexible” tool that allows you to see on which dates you can fly with the cheapest airfare.
Spend some time testing date combinations that match your desires and needs.
Try different arrival and departure points and try alternate airports. If you’re doing an open-jaw trip – arriving through one airport (or country) and departing through another one, try your route front to back and back to front.
Changing the direction of travel can have an effect on your airfare.
Also, be aware of tourism high seasons, low seasons, and shoulder seasons. They have a great impact on price, but they are also driven by how “desirable” is your destination during that specific time of year.
A quick Google search will show you the high and low seasons of your destination.
Here are some more tips on finding the cheapest airfare!
Additionally, here’s a list of some of the cheapest places to fly into Europe.
Know Your Regional Transportation Options in Europe
Moving on your own between different European cities and countries can look scary at first, but in reality, it is very easy. There are three major options to choose from when moving around Europe. These are trains, buses, and budget airlines.
Europe has one of the best train systems in the entire world. Passes like the Eurail Global Pass allow you to connect between 33 European countries at an affordable price.
One thing to consider is that even though the train tickets are included in the passes, certain reservation fees are not (i.e., sleeper train couchette reservation fee that goes from $5 to $30).
There is also the choice of buying train tickets point-by-point at sites like RailEurope.
There are occasions when buying tickets separately is cheaper than buying a pass. It all depends on how many trains you plan on taking, the routes, seating/sleeper class.
From my experience, I was able to travel between 5 European countries with point-by-point tickets. After comparing the cost of a 5 countries pass ($569) vs. going point-by-point ($270).
Keep in mind this price was obtained by being flexible with the dates and departure times. Also, three of the trains were sleeper trains, which helped reduce my accommodation costs too.
I wrote a comprehensive guide on how to use the Eurail Pass and travel Europe by train as cheaply as possible.
You can also check seat61 for more info on train travel in Europe.
Buses are also a great transportation alternative between cities. They are often cheaper than trains but might take either the same amount of time or more to reach your destination, depending on the route taken.
But, as a rule of thumb, buses are slower than trains.
On the other hand, Europe is also full of budget airlines. On many occasions, they are cheaper and faster than trains and buses. You can travel between countries for fares starting at $10 and even less.
One thing to have in mind is that most budget airlines travel to secondary airports that are often far from the city center. In these cases, also consider the cost of getting to/from the airport and see if it’s viable.
Use Local Transportation in European Cities
Most, if not all, European countries have an efficient public transportation system. They are usually cheap and carry tourist passes for 24, 48, 72 hours, and more.
The best way to plan accordingly your public transportation expenses for each city is to visit wikipedia.org, wikitravel.org, or do a Google search with “[city] metro”, “[city] subway”, or “[city] public transportation”.
Through those searches, you will find the respective websites for each public transportation authority.
This will allow you to see the available passes and their cost. Also, it will help you know how well-connected you are to different places of interest.
Finding Budget Accommodations in Europe
There are many options to choose from when looking for budget accommodations, but the two most common among backpackers and budget travelers are hostels and couchsurfing.
Hostels, in addition to being cheap compared to hotels, are great places to meet other like-minded travelers. An excellent social approach if you’re traveling solo.
Many hostels provide private rooms as well as mixed shared rooms (male and female) or gender-based shared rooms.
Usually, shared rooms are cheaper than privates, and the more beds there are in a shared room, the cheaper it is.
Have in mind that hostels charge per person per night. If you are traveling with friends, sometimes it’s cheaper to pay for a hotel room since the rate is based per room – split between everyone.
Sometimes a really good hotel can have a fantastic deal that fits great within your budget. Booking.com is excellent at showing these deals, especially if you’re a member of their free “Genius” program.
Couchsurfing, on the other hand, is a different approach to budget traveling. It allows you to stay for free on someone’s couch upon previous agreement. Who in their right mind stays on some stranger’s couch?
Well, people who participate in Couchsurfing see this as a community of like-minded travelers that are looking to experience different places with a more “local” perspective.
On many occasions, the host takes his/her time to show you around the city and hangs around with you.
Is it dangerous? Not really. Well, there can be “safety concerns,” of course, but common sense and previous communication will help you “screen” your prospective host.
So far, my experiences have been excellent, and all my hosts have been superb. There’s nothing like having a local approach to a place through the interaction with someone who lives there and welcomes you openly.
I wrote a full post on how to use couchsurfing to travel the world on a budget.
Additionally, here is more information on finding cheap and free accommodation worldwide.
The good thing about Europe is that there are plenty of European vacation rentals to choose from to save some money while on the road.
Choose Your Tours
You might already know what you want to see at your destination and know the tours you want to take, or maybe you don’t know what to do at certain places.
The best way to have an idea of things to do at each destination is to do a Google search of “things to do in [city]” and to check TripAdvisor.com.
TripAdvisor shows you the most popular things to do according to votes and recommendations by other travelers.
After narrowing down your interests, visit each tour website to know which days they run, prices, requirements, what’s included, etc.
Many cities have “sightseeing passes,” and in some cases, they are combined with the public transportation pass. These will either give you a discount on many attractions or have them included in their entirety.
You can also check Viator.com to book the best tours at each destination.
Cheap Food is Still Yummy Food!
I have found it safe to budget $25 per day for food. Maybe $30+ per day will be more comfortable, depending on your eating habits, but if you hunt for cheap meals, you’ll do fine with a lower budget.
Take advantage of “lunch specials” and have your heaviest meal during that time, when the meal is usually cheaper than at dinnertime.
If you are couchsurfing or if your hostel has a kitchen, buy some groceries and make your dinners and prepare your own snacks. This will help you save a lot of money on food since you won’t have to dine out every night.
Also, don’t be afraid of trying out street food. More often than not, these are the yummiest food you’ll have in that country.
Some Extra Little Details to Travel Europe Safely
Even though it’s not required, it is highly recommended to have travel insurance that will cover you in case anything happens during your trip.
Companies like HeyMondo give great quotes according to your length of travel and destination, among other parameters.
When budgeting your trip, you should also consider how expensive is every country you intend to visit. For example, a week in Portugal will be much cheaper than a week in Norway.
I wrote a post about understanding the cost of each destination to budget your trip properly.
Also, very important, before leaving your country of residence, call your bank and let them know you will be traveling and to where. Doing this will reduce the chances of getting your bank account blocked due to “suspicious charges.”
You don’t want to find yourself without money while on the road and to have to call your bank to prove your identity to fix this issue.
All these tips are just the tip of the ice on travel planning, but they are enough to give you an idea of what to do to plan your European budget trip successfully. Be creative, always be flexible, and have fun!
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