Europe , On a Backpackers Budget


Europe has always been an expensive travel destination. Some areas are more expensive than others, but wherever you go there are some tricks you can use to help you save money.

  Europe is probably the most popular region to travel to in the world. It's popular for its impressive history, beautiful small towns, lively pubs, and easy transportation. There's a great diversity of things to see and do so if you have a limited amount of time or money, you need to pick your destinations wisely. When I traveled through Europe with my daughter it was during her spring break in March. This was a great time to travel although we had to bundle up a bit, the cost was much less for hotels and sightseeing than during the high season. This is the #1 way to keep your costs in check , so consider traveling in the shoulder or low season, generally October through April.  The weather will still be comfortable and most of the outdoor activities will still be open. The crowds will be at a minimum as well, so you can enjoy having the attractions to yourself. Another great tip, get the best rates on hotels and train tickets by making your reservations well in advance. It may take away a little of your flexibility, but in the long run it will save you a lot of money. Keep in mind that the big European cities are generally more expensive than small towns as well. If you're hoping to save even more money, head outside of the big city and look for an interesting, quaint town. You'll also have a very different experience, because in most countries, small town culture is very different than big city culture.


  Fly Open-Jaw tickets-that's into one city and out of another. I flew into London, England and out of Salzburg, Austria. This saved time and money by avoiding a needless costly return to my starting point. After I discovered Europe's highly competitive no-frills airlines such as Ryanair and Virgin Air I realized that often you can get from one city to another faster and cheaper than the train. It was important though that we understood what was and wasn't included in the price of the ticket. Some of the discount airlines fly into inconvenient airports as well, so we had to check the connections and make sure the budget option was also an efficient option. 

  Eating of course is a big part of your trip, well mine for sure anyway. A few good tricks for keeping your food budget in check is to make lunch your largest meal of the day. We discovered the big difference between a Ristorante and a Trattoria while wondering through Rome, and it was basically the cost of the meal! Trattoria: A small, family-run eatery that often serves a few choice regional dishes with many of the recipes past down from generation to generation. Mom or grandma usually cooks. Dad handles the cash register. The kids wait tables. Decor can range from neat and comfortable to a real "hole in the wall." Prices are usually much less than Ristorante: A restaurant. Here you'll find the ambiance a bit formal or at least the decor is thought out and cohesive. Tables are usually dressed in linen; tableware and china all match. Waiters are professional and knowledgeable. The menu is usually extensive and the food is often inventive, expect to pay for all this service.  Share meals as well and then you can, what we like to call, eat your way through these fantastic cities This will allow you to try the local specialties in a nice restaurant, but also keep you from spending too much. Don’t over tip, only Americans tip 15 to 20 percent in Europe. We even tip when it's already included or not expected. Ask locals for advice.Eating fresh food from a market can be a fun experience as well. Avoid touristy restaurants with "We speak English" signs and multilingual menus. Those that are filled with locals serve better food for less money. I look for a short, handwritten menu in the local language only. Go with the daily specials. Ten dollars can buy a fine picnic lunch for two anywhere in Europe. Stock your hotel room with drinks and munchies upon arrival. You can pass train rides enjoyably over a picnic meal. Many grocery stores have elegant deli sections. Know the metric system for buying produce.  Cultural chameleons drink tea in England, beer in Prague, red wine in France, and white wine on the Rhine. They eat fish in Portugal and reindeer in Norway. Going with the local specialties gets you the best quality and service for the best price.


  Europe is rich in history and has some of the best museums in the world. From the British Museum in London to the Louvre in Paris. If you're on a budget, do some research ahead of time. Many museums have a "discount" day once a week or month. Try to schedule your museum visit on that day. If you plan to visit a lot of museums and sights within one city, consider getting that city's "City Pass." Most touristy cities have them and they will often get you discount or free entrance into museums among other things. 
   Use ATM’s rather than traveler’s checks you’ll get your cash cheaper and faster. While ATM's give the best possible rates, they do come with transaction fees. Minimize these fees by making fewer and larger withdrawals. It's always a good idea to know about the money in the countries your visiting. this way when withdrawing your money, you'll know what your asking for. My daughter has a funny story about a trip to Budapest Hungary and an ATM machine, it's always an adventure. Store the cash safely in your money belt. While credit cards get you a good exchange rate, many places offering Europe's best deals like craft shops and bakeries accept only cash and when changing cash, avoid exchange bureaus that don't show both the buying and selling rate.

   Use a Guidebook, they are inexpensive and fun. Guidebooks can be a $20 tool that  pays for itself on your first day in Europe. You should see my collection! I actually read them before, during and after my trip and the words jump off the page at me in each stage so differently.

Being on a budget doesn't mean sacrificing the quality of your trip. In fact, the less you spend, the less insulated you are from the local culture. Staying in a thatched Irish farmhouse, perusing old masters in Rome or snacking your way through Spanish specialties for $2.00 a dish aren't just the tricks of the frugal traveler, they're the stuff dream vacations are made of.

YOLO! (you only live once)