Even if you’re broke AF, you can still make your dreams of dancing flamenco in Seville, watching the sunset from the Eiffel Tour and partying in Amsterdam’s Red Light District a reality. But first, you need to learn how to travel Europe cheap.
In this post, I’m sharing 25 budget travel tips for saving money while backpacking Europe. Armed with these backpacking Europe budget travel hacks, you’ll have everything you need to have a big adventure on a small budget.
Over the years, I’ve backpacked around Europe multiple times and picked up more budget travel tips than I could ever hope to cram into my Osprey Porter 46.
From choosing cheap travel destinations to how to save money on food in Europe, I’m sharing all my best budget travel hacks for how to save money backpacking in Europe.
How to Travel Europe Cheap
#1: Don’t Do Everything
The best piece of travel advice I’ve ever heard is to plan your trip like you’ll be back someday. If you try to do and see everything, not only will you spend A LOT of money, but you’ll run yourself ragged.
#2: Choose Centrally-Located Accommodation
You might think you’re saving a buck by staying outside the city center, but you’ll probably end up spending whatever money you’ve saved on transportation to get back and forth. Do yourself a favor and “splurge” on centrally-located accommodation. You have a whole list of other ways to save money while traveling in Europe!
Need help finding cheap places to stay in Europe? Don’t miss this post!
#3: Book Hostels with a Bar
Not all hostels are created equal. When I’m perusing Hostelworld for accommodation, I look for a place with a bar. A hostel bar is a great spot to start your night because drinks are generally cheaper and you can meet other travelers.
Wanna know the TRUTH about hostels in Europe? Read this!
#4: Take Free Walking Tours
All major cities in Europe (and some of the smaller ones) offer free walking tours. I recommend taking one the first day you’re in a new place in order to orient yourself. Even though it’s “free,” you should still tip your guide €5-10 for their time.
#5: Stop By The Tourist Office
After checking into your hostel, your first stop in a new city should be the tourist office. You can get a city map, local recommendations and information about upcoming events all for FREE.
#6: Take Day Trips
Transportation costs can quickly deplete your budget. Instead, extend your time in cities and take day trips to see more of the country. This type of local-travel is very cost-effective and a good way to get off the beaten path.
Planning a trip to Madrid, Spain? You need this post!
Europe Budget Travel Tips
#7: Get a Charles Schwab Debit Card
ATM fees might not seem like a big deal at first, but they can really eat into your travel budget. If you’re American, open a Charles Schwab checking account. Charles Schwab reimburses you for all ATM fees. It’s FREE to open and doesn’t require a minimum balance.
#8: Plan Museum Visits on Free-Entry Days
It won’t come as a surprise that the word “free” is a backpacker’s best friend. In Europe, nearly every museum waives their entrance fees on certain days or for specific hours. Check the museum website and plan accordingly.
#9: Use Free Toilets Whenever You See Them
If you even think you might have to go, you should try to go! Free toilets are few and far between in Europe. Instead of paying to use a public restroom, utilize the free ones when you can.
#10: Never Exchange Money at the Airport
Unless you like getting ripped off (who does?!), don’t exchange money at the airport. While you’re at it, avoid all currency exchanges if you can. You’re much more likely to get a good rate and avoid fees by withdrawing money from an ATM just like you do at home.
#11: Invest in Travel Insurance
Sometimes, you’ve got to spend money to save money. Purchasing travel insurance prior to your trip can save you money in the long run in the event that anything bad happens. Believe me, something bad (or, at the very least, unexpected) always happens.
Cheapest Ways to Travel in Europe
#12: Don’t Buy Round Trip Tickets
Rather than buying a round trip ticket, consider buying two one-way tickets instead. While a round trip ticket forces you to spend time and money returning to the city you started in, a one-way ticket on each end means you can fly home from the last city on your backpacking Europe itinerary. Depending on the cities you choose, two one-way tickets often cost the same or less than a round trip ticket.
#13: Travel During the Off-Season
Without a doubt, summer is the most popular time to travel around Europe. The height of tourist seasons means increased prices for everything from transportation and accommodation to food. If you can, plan your trip for the shoulder season or off-season. You’ll get better deals and won’t have to deal with the crowds.
#14: Consider Visiting Countries Not on the Euro
To really get the most bang for your buck, get off the beaten track and include some countries with currency other than the Euro for your backpacking Europe itinerary. Check out Eastern Europe! Cities like Prague and Budapest are cheap Europe travel destinations.
#15: Walk Everywhere
While public transportation can be very affordable, there is one thing cheaper: plain old walking. Make sure you have a comfortable pair of walking shoes and get ready to log some serious miles. Walking is the best way to see a city. If you don’t have your nose buried in your map, you’re sure to discover some hidden gems!
#16: Don’t Overlook Buses
When it comes to transportation, backpackers (Americans especially) often overlook buses. Buses are frequently the most budget-friendly transportation option and impact the environment far less than air travel. Unlike airports, bus stations are usually in the center of a city, so you can hit the ground running.
Have a big adventure without having a big impact on the environment!
#17: Sleep on a Stranger’s Couch
One of my favorite budget travel hacks is finding free accommodation via Couchsurfing. It’s also a great way to meet locals, and with a local guide showing you around a city, you’re sure to save money.
This post has everything you need to know about Couchsurfing!
#18: Take Overnight Transportation
If you’re willing to sacrifice a little comfort, taking an overnight bus or train is a great way to save money on accommodation in Europe. Plus, you won’t waste valueable daylight hours in transit. Be sure to pack a sleeping mask, earplugs and a small travel pillow.
#19: Pack Light to Avoid Luggage Fees
That budget flight won’t be a steal if you have to pay to check a bag at the last minute. If you plan on using budget airlines to travel around Europe cheaply, be sure your backpack fits the carry-on criteria. Beware: budget airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet might have tighter restrictions than the carrier you took to Europe.
How to Save Money on Food in Europe
#20: Picnic in the Park
You can’t call yourself a backpacker until you’ve had a picnic in the park. Buy a bottle with a twist top if you plan on drinking wine, and don’t forget the cups!
#21: Go Grocery Shopping
In addition to buying cold cuts, fruit and cheese for your picnic at the park, you can save money while backpacking Europe by buying groceries and cooking at your hostel. Before going to the shop, check to see what ingredients are available for you to use in the hostel kitchen. Pasta, rice and beans are all easy to prepare and make for filling, budget-friendly meals.
#22: Eat Your Biggest Meal at Lunch
Many restaurants offer a cheaper lunch menu, making it a more budget-friendly option than eating dinner out. In some countries, like Spain and Portugal, restaurants advertise a set menu (which comes with bread, wine, two courses and dessert) for as little as € 10.
#23: Skip the Cocktails
Partying is definitely part of the backpacker experience, but you don’t want to wreck your Europe travel budget drinking. As a general rule, opt for beer. It’s the cheapest alcoholic drink in most (if not all) European countries. Wine is usually the second most affordable option.
#24: Live By the 5-Block Rule
Whenever you’re looking for a place to eat or drink, walk five blocks in any direction in order to cross the invisible “tourist line.” By getting out of the main tourist zone, you’re more likely to find restaurants and bars that cater to locals aka cheaper food and drinks!
#25: Ask Your Server for Recommendations
To save money and have an adventure you’ll remember for the rest of your life, you should be asking locals for their recommendations whenever possible. The places locals eat, drink and hang out themselves are going to be cheaper and more authentic than whatever your guidebook is telling you. Strike up a conversation with your server, and if you two hit it off, offer to buy them a beer at the local watering hole in exchange for showing you around.
How much should I budget for a trip around Europe?
With these budget travel hacks in mind, I would budget approximately €50 for a trip around Europe.
For even more on traveling Europe on a budget, be sure to check out this step-by-step planning guide:
Which of these budget travel tips are most excited to try? Let me know in the comments or shoot me a DM on Instagram (@alexnotemily).
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