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Why do I travel like I’m still a poor student when I have a full time job? Its simple; the less I spend, the more I can travel. Here are my top money saving tips for travelling around Europe on a budget:
1. Free tours
Look for the free walking tours, these offer a great way to explore a city with a knowledgeable guide. Too good to be true you might say? – the guides work for tips so only give what you can afford.
2. Stay in hostels
As a solo traveller, the best thing about backpacking in Europe is the excellent hostel scene that makes it super easy to meet other travellers. Staying in a shared dorm in a hostel is far cheaper than a hotel and, in my opinion, a better atmosphere anyway!
Hostels in Europe will often also have reasonably priced bars and restaurants if you’re looking for a budget meal or need a few beers after a day exploring.
I’ve put together a guide to getting the best hostel rates to share my own experience.
3. Book tickets in advance
If you know what attractions you want to visit in advance, it’s worth checking if there are any savings for pre-booking. You might also find that some attractions offer free entry on certain days, for example there is free entry to the Colosseum in Rome on the first Sunday of every month.
4. Take a student card
If your student card is also an ICIS card, then take this for access to a lot of discounts across Europe. A lot of universities now offer ICIS student cards but even if your isn’t, it is worth taking it anyway to give it a go. NUS Extra cards also come with 1 year of ICIS.
5. Interrail / Eurail / Britrail pass
If you will be travelling by train and making a lot of trips, consider getting an Interrail pass (if you’re a European citizen) or a Eurail pass (if you’re not a European citizen). It’s not always worth getting one so check the prices first – remember that on some trains you’ll still need to purchase a reservation.
If you’re spending a lot of time in the Britain, consider getting a Britrail pass, these are similar to Interrail/Eurail passes but only for use in England, Scotland and Wales.
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6. Be smart about paying abroad
One thing I’ve learnt is that many of the popular debit cards (Santander, Halifax, Lloyds, etc) charge a fee for using them abroad. If you want to save money when travelling, you should avoid these like the plague. This can often be £1.50 extra on top of any payment which soon mounts up.
Instead try getting either a specialist travel credit card or using a prepay currency card. Both of these will generally offer fee-free transactions and near perfect foreign exchange rates.
7. Audio guide app
Lots of tourist attractions will charge you for a tour guide or an audio guide, sometimes up to €8-10, but there are lots of apps offering free audio guides – just plug in your headphones and your set to go. I can highly recommend Rick Steves audio guide and feature it in a lot of my itineraries.
8. Take a night train
If you’re travelling a long distance, consider using a night train. You won’t waste as much daylight on travelling and you’ll save yourself on forking out for a bed that night.
9. Cook yourself
This tip is often easier said than done. If you look for accommodation with self-catering facilities, you can cook your own meals and travelling will be a lot cheaper when you don’t eat out every day.
10. Choose your destinations carefully
If you want to travel Europe cheap, you won’t want to visit expensive cities such as Amsterdam. Stick to Mid or Eastern Europe for the best prices on accommodation and daily expenses. If you’re keen to visit Western Europe, Lisbon is a known for being value for money.
11. Try Carpooling
Check out carpooling website blablacar for cheaper rates between top destinations. By travelling with someone who is already headed your way, you’re not only saving money but saving the planet!
12. Pay in Local Currency
This is always a dilemma; “should I pay in local currency or home currency?”. If you’re paying on card or withdrawing cash and asked if you want to pay in your local currency or home currency, always pay in the local currency i.e pay in the currency of the country you are in. If you are in Germany, pay in Euros.
If you choose to pay in your home currency, the overseas bank will set the currency rate and these are usually awful.
Bonus Tip: Be Savvy About Booking Flights
There are many ways you can get more for your money when booking flights, try using Skyscanner for great deals and look at cashback websites that earn you money for purchases.
Hopefully these tips for saving money in Europe were helpful, if you have any other top budget travel tips, please share them in the comments.
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Kieren is the avid traveller behind the blog. His adventures have included Interrailing through Europe, road tripping the US and backpacking SE Asia.