Travelling can be expensive, especially in Europe, but it does not have to be. As a student, I travelled through multiple countries in Europe on a very tight budget. I still got to see everything I wanted to see, I stayed in hotels and I ate at restaurants.
Travelling cheaply does not have to mean that you miss out on comfort, good food or activities. There are many ways to save money on your trip to Europe that are not advisable, such as skipping paying for a hotel room and sleeping on a park bench. But there are also many practical and easy ways to save money that require minimal effort. This list will provide you with twenty suggestions for ways you can save money on your next Europe trip.
These suggestions cover big things such as where to go, when to go, and how to get around; but they also cover the smaller things such as which bathrooms to use. This list is in no way a complete list, so if you have other suggestions for ways to save money, feel free to share!
20 Stay in Eastern Europe - So much to see
Staying in Eastern Europe will save you a lot of money on your travels. Typically, the area of Eastern Europe consists of the countries to the east of Germany, Austria and Italy.
Some of these countries are not using the euro, but a number of Eastern European countries do use the euro, meaning that you can travel between the east and the west of Europe with little difficulty and without needing to exchange currencies.
The countries in the east that use the euro can be cheaper in general than those in the west too, so your money will go further. Eastern Europe is very accessible and full of unique cultures and history.
19 Visit countries That don't use the Euro - much cheaper
Another option to save money in Europe is to stick to the countries that are not using the Euro. There are nine countries in total that do not use the euro: Great Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.
The majority of these countries have currencies that are weaker than the euro and the dollar, so your money will go a lot further here.
For example, the Polish zloty tends to exchange at 1 CAD for 3 zloty. The exception here is Great Britain. If you are looking to save money, the pound will not be your friend, and it might be a good idea to avoid Great Britain on this trip.
18 Go to countries where you do not need a visa - save money instantly
A way to save money before your trip or during your trip is to avoid countries where you may need to purchase a visa to be allowed entry. For people from Canada, you can travel through most of Europe without needing to pay for entry visas.
However, there are still some countries that you will need to have a visa for such as Belarus or Russia. Russia, in particular, will require you to have a visa even if you are just travelling through the country.
It's best to check your government’s website for travel information. There you should be able to find out if you will require a visa for your trip.
17 Go to lesser-known cities - cheaper and less busy
If you are looking to save money and do not have a set itinerary for your trip already, it could be beneficial to avoid the major tourist destinations cities, such as Paris, Rome or London. While these cities offer lots of history and excitement, the prices can be higher due to the number of tourists who visit these cities.
There are lots of other large cities in Europe to visit that will be cheaper, such as Berlin or Athens, which offer plenty of options for relaxation, activities, history, culture and exploring without such a high price tag.
16 Take budget airlines between countries - inexpensive and practical
If you are looking to visit multiple countries while in Europe, use budget airlines between countries.
Trains and buses are also available of course but will take significantly longer. There are multiple budget airlines that operate in Europe, some of the more common and popular choices are Ryanair, EasyJet, and Wizz Air.
Do keep in mind that your ticket with these airlines usually only includes your flight. You will have to pay extra for checked baggage, choosing your seat in advance etcetera. However, for the cheap price of the ticket and the fairly short flights in Europe, the savings are well worth it.
15 Pack light - Why pay for checked bags?
Packing light or only in carry-on size baggage has been growing in popularity due to more airlines charging fees for checked baggage. You can save a good amount of money by not checking your bags, and it will save you from waiting at the baggage carousel in every airport you land at.
If this seems like a daunting task, there are plenty of tutorials, packing lists and other helpful tips available on Pinterest and YouTube. Apart from saving you money at the airport, having less luggage will make moving around cities much easier, and you will have far less to carry up the stairs in those European hotels that do not have an elevator.
14 Use public transportation - An adventure on its own
While public transportation in another country (and language) might seem to be a nerve-racking situation, it is a great way to save money. Most major cities across Europe have some sort of bus system and often times a metro as well. There are often trains or metro lines that run from the airport to the city centre in larger European cities, saving you money on taxis.
Taking public transit is also a great way of “blending in” with the locals, providing you the opportunity to get a better more authentic feel for the city and the local people.
13 Walk whenever possible - It's Free!
Walking everywhere might not sound all that appealing at first, but it is the best way to save money on your travels. Many major European cities can be navigated easily by foot, while others will require you to have a map. However, getting lost can be a great experience by itself. Venice is famous for its confusing streets but walking them can mean that you find a hidden gem or a great restaurant.
Aside from just saving you money, walking everywhere is a great excuse for trying a local dessert (or two) option, guilt-free. If you do decide to walk as much as possible, make sure you pack comfy shoes.
12 Stay in hostels - Possible new friends in every bunk
Staying in hostels is another easy way to save money on your trip. They are also a great place to meet fellow travelers from all over. For those travelling in a smaller group or even solo, Airbnb is another good budget-friendly option in many cities.
If you prefer to stay in hotels, do plenty of research first, as there are cheaper options, you just have to find them. Most of the cheaper hotels will be a bit further from the city centre, so you would have to do more walking or use public transit more often. EasyHotel.com has budget-friendly hotels in many major cities in Western Europe (including London).
11 Avoid the tourist season - Its hot and crowded
Avoiding the peak of tourist season will save you money and time. Tourist season is typically considered to be from around May to September. The lines will be shorter, the museums and attractions will be less crowded, and you can avoid the heat of the summer.
Do keep in mind that if you are travelling in the off-season, some attractions might not be open, or will have reduced hours. As well, some locations have a winter tourist season, particularly Alpine countries. Plus, travelling in the off-season can mean that you spend less money on sunscreen and lotion for sunburns (always a plus!)
10 Avoid major holidays - Its still crowded
Similar to avoiding the peak season, try to avoid major holidays. In Europe, the major holidays are usually Christmas and Easter, but individual countries will have specific national holidays where most sights will be closed too. It is advisable to check the major holidays for the country you are visiting before leaving to avoid holiday closures.
As well, keep in mind that different countries have different traditional celebrations that will last a couple of days or more- such as Christmas Markets and Oktoberfest, which will bring in increased numbers of tourists.
9 Avoid the stereotypical tourist activities - They are expensive
The stereotypical tourist activities, such as gondola rides in Venice, are expensive, since the target audience is the tourists who will pay the prices no matter how high. There are options for alternative activities which will cost you less money.
For example, in Venice, you can take a water taxi through the Grand Canal for far less than the cost of a Gondola ride.
However, if one of these activities is something you cannot go home without trying or seeing, then cut back slightly in the rest of your budget for the day, such as by buying from a grocery store rather than a restaurant for lunch.
8 Find the free museums - Can't go wrong with free
There are many museums across Europe that are always free, are free on specific days of the week, or after a certain time. For example, the British Museum in London and the National Gallery in London are always free. Check in advance the prices of the museums and sights you want to see, they are usually listed on the museum's website.
Even if a museum or sight does not have a free day, they may have a day that is half priced, which will still save you money in the long run. Also, know in advance which museums are always free so you do not get scammed into buying a ticket from a scalper.
7 Use a self-guided tour - personalize your experience
Tour guides are often pricey, and you are stuck following the predetermined route they choose. By not having a tour guide you save money and you get to have a personalized experience. If you feel you need a guide of some sort, audio guides tend to be cheaper than a tour guide and can give you as much or sometimes more information.
There are also options to download museum guides onto your phone from popular travel sites or even the museum itself. For example, Rick Steves offers audio museum guides that you can play on your phone for many of the major museums in Europe.
6 Student discounts - if you can get a discount, use it
Most museums, sites and attractions offer discounts for different groups of people. There are usually discounts for students, seniors, young children and teachers. If you qualify for a discount, use it every chance you get. Also look into the website of the museum or site, there might be half-price or even free days too.
For students, the International Student ID card will get you discounts at a number of places where your normal student ID might not be accepted. The international student ID card can be bought online and does have an initial cost, but you can use it all over Europe and in many other places as well.
5 Shop at the grocery stores - The mystery can be half the fun
Shopping in the local grocery stores is a great way to save money. You get the added fun of trying to find certain foods in another language. It might be what you think it is, or it might be something totally different, you won’t know until you try it! Grocery stores also allow you to find more of the popular local foods and treats that you might not find elsewhere.
Another way to save money is to buy food for multiple meals from the grocery store, such as buying bread and Nutella for breakfasts. This strategy can also save you time if you are in a rush.
4 Do not eat out every meal - use the money for more desserts instead
Similar to the last suggestion, not eating out for every meal will save you money over the duration of your trip. If your hotel or hostel has a breakfast included, eat at there and save the money for a treat later. As well, if your hotel room has a fridge, buy some extra food from the store and save it for late night snacks or quick breakfasts, or bring back leftovers from dinner.
Buying some lunch items from the grocery store and going on a picnic is another great option to save money and you can eat in a local park for a different experience to restaurants.
3 Stay away from restaurants next to major attractions - they are overpriced
The restaurants that are located right beside major museums, sites and attractions will often be more expensive and much busier. Try walking a couple of streets away- you can find some great places where the food is a bit cheaper and it is less crowded with tourists.
This applies to cafes as well, especially if it is a well-known chain or brand. Local options can give you coffee or treats that are just as good or even better than the chain store, and usually for a cheaper price. Instead of getting a quick meal from a fast food chain, try one of the local food stands or stores, they will often be cheaper too.
2 Avoid buying fancy drinks
While this tip might not be for everyone, it is a great way to save money. If you do fancy some adult beverages, buy them from the local grocery or corner stores and buy one of the cheaper options. Or to save even more money, don’t buy any at all.
If you are planning to go out on the town, set a limit on how much to spend for the night, such as only bringing a 20-euro bill with you for drinks. The money you save could be used to buy a dessert or to visit another attraction instead.
1 Use the bathrooms in museums and restaurants - avoid paying for one
It is fairly common to be required to pay to use public bathrooms across Europe. Even though they are fairly cheap, typically less than 2 euros, it can add up over your trip, especially if it was not something you included in your trip budget. Use the free bathrooms whenever possible.
The bathrooms inside museums or attractions are typically free, as are restaurant bathrooms if you are a customer. Some bathrooms will charge you for toilet paper too, so it is a good idea to keep some of your own toilet paper or a packet of Kleenex in your bag for these situations.