How to travel Europe on a budget: 17 epic ways we saved over $4,000 in four months

Travelling Europe on a budget? Is it possible? Or is it a myth?

Europe and budget don’t tend to go hand in hand! Traveling around Europe can be very expensive and is often the “big” trip travelers take for the year.

There are so many gorgeous places to see, different type of food to try and countless buildings boasting they have the best view of the city. Sadly, all of these things come at a price and sometimes a hefty price (15€ for a glass of champagne at top of the Eiffel Tower?)

These things don’t take into account foreign transaction fees, accommodation, transport and your daily meals.

However, you can still have an absolute ball and save money while traveling in Europe.

On our most recent trip to Europe we visited 23 countries and countless cities and villages in four months and managed to save over $4,000 without missing out on “once in a life time” experience such as climbing the Eiffel Tower, staying in an Arctic Treehouse and catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights to name a few.

We implemented a few easy tricks to make sure we could your money stretch a little further during our trip.

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So, how exactly can you travel Europe on a budget

Eurail Pass

A eurail pass sitting on a map surrounded by a book, watch and sunglasses

I was super hesitant about purchasing the Eurail Pass. I had only ever traveled on train in Europe by reserving my ticket weeks in advance. Travelling with flexibility while travelling Europe on a budget seemed too good too be true and, I had read many reviews saying that the Eurail pass was not worth the money.

During our trip we traveled on over 80 trains. For each trip we took I took note of how much the ticket would have cost without the Eurail pass and how much we were paying (most trains we did not need to pay extra).

We traveled on trains for just over two months of our trip, the pass cost us $2,500AUD for an unlimited three month pass. The total cost for all the train trips without a pass would have cost us $5,476.

Not only did we have most of our trains taken care of but we also received discounts (or free) on public transport within some of the cities and discounts on activities within the city (we didn’t include these into our saving).

If you are looking for an honest review on the Eurail plus all the tips and tricks for using the Eurail guide you can find more information here.

Total Savings: $2,976

Cash back apps and services

Why not get a cash back on something you are going to need to book anyway?

Anytime I booked anything, I booked through a cash back app or website. The main app/website that I use is Rakuten and also Shop Back, for most of my bookings I received between 1 and 10% cashback.

These are apps are free to use and take an extra 30 seconds than what it would normally take to make your booking. Once you have made your booking your cashback will be pending until after your stay, in some cases our cash backs didn’t finalize until we got home but it was nice to get a little bit of money back when we returned home.

Total Savings: $340.89

No foreign transaction ATM card

This is one that I have been caught out on more than once.

You’ve arrived in your destination and you don’t have any cash so you take $100 out of the ATM and end up being charged an extra $10-20 as a fee.

Or maybe you swipe your card at the local restaurant and end up paying 4% extra on foreign transaction fees.

All of these costs add up but once again, they don’t have to. If you do a little bit of research when choosing a bank, make sure you choose a bank that provides you with a card that does not have foreign transaction fees.

I have banked with my bank (ING) for years and have never been charged an international transaction fee. Every time I use an ATM or swipe/tap my card when traveling my bank reimburses the fee.

Total Savings: $630

Pay in the local currency

If you choose to use your credit/debit card (hopefully one that does not charge your fees) when you are overseas the eftpos machine will give you the option to pay in your home currency or in the local currency.

ALWAYS CHOOSE THE LOCAL CURRENCY.

The conversion rates provided by your bank are better than the rates provided by the bank associated with the machine.

So, if you prefer to use your card rather than taking out cash, make sure you are opting for the local currency. If you are not sure, ask.

Total Savings: $201.46

Hotel booking Loyalty programs

Loyalty can still pay sometimes. If you choose to book through a booking website I recommend that you stick with the same websites where possible.

I always book through either Hotels.com or Booking.com and for both of those I receive discounts and bonuses because I am a member with them.

When traveling around Europe I mostly used Hotels.com as I received one free night for every ten nights I booked.

I also became a gold member through hotels.com because of the number of nights I booked with them during my trip, this gave me some perks on some hotels such as free room upgrades or free breakfasts.

Total Saving: $700

Voucher Websites

In most cases you find a voucher online that will provide a discount for the restaurant, accommodation or activity you are booking. One example that is great in the United Kingdom is Voucher Cloud. This enables you discounts on many restaurants, cafes, theaters, movies etc.

Total Savings: Not calculated

Total savings while traveling Europe

During our four months around we saved $4,848.35. This amount of money equates to our flights to from Melbourne to Munich, with money left over.

It also equates to 48 nights of accommodation (we were allocating $100 a night on average to accommodation).

Other tips for travelling Europe on a budget

Of course there are plenty of ways to travel Europe on a budget. However, the tips below were not as easy to determine how much money was saved.

Visit Central and Eastern Europe

For most of us places like London, Paris, Rome, Brugge and Copenhagen are on our European bucket lists. However, they are quite expensive, in fact, most countries, cities, towns and villages in Western Europe are expensive.

The further east you travel in Europe the cheaper places become. For example, the Czech Republic, Romania Hungary are beautiful places to visit and they are much cheaper for everything including accommodation, transport and activities.

Travel in the shoulder and off seasons

The peak season in most countries in Europe is later June, July and August and also December and January for the Christmas markets, New Years Eve and the Northern Lights.

The peak season (or the high season) is always going to be more expensive and busier. The best time to travel is usually the month before or the month after the peak season.

If you are looking to travel for the warm weather try to travel in late May and early June or wait until the end of August into September.

Similarly with the Christmas period, if you are hoping for Christmas markets, many Christmas markets around Europe are open in November and close early January. So you don’t need to travel in December, unless you want to spend the Christmas Day in Europe.

Travel slowly

A big cost when travelling is the actual travel. Constantly being on the move is very expensive because you are paying for transport between places more often, whether this be train trips or flights. If you slow down and spend more time in each place you don’t need to pay for those big costs as often.

Accommodation can also become cheaper the longer you stay in one place. If you are staying for longer than a week you can often ask the hotel owner or apartment host if they often discounts for longer stays.

Take public transport

With the invention of smart phones and apps, taking public transport has never been easier. Often, travelling from the airport into a city can cost you an arm and a leg for a taxi or an Uber ride. However, there are usually buses or trains that might take longer but are much cheaper.

Same can be said for travelling around a city. Taxis and Ubers can be much quicker but you will pay a lot for the convenience.

Why not look into the local bus or train system and use these to get around the city. In London, The Tube is an amazing way to travel around the city. It can be a little confusing to begin with but once you get the hang of it, it is a fun and cheaper way to travel around.

In Paris, the metro is also a great way to travel and you can by daily passes, weekly passes or multi passes, the more days you travel the cheaper it is! Obviously, work out what you need and only pay for what you are going to use. There is no need to buy a 10 day pass if you are only going to use the metro for one day.

Look for the budget airlines

Flying in between cities and countries in Europe can be quite cheap.

Check out the smaller towns and villages

Big cities are the most popular places for travellers and in general, things are much more expensive in cities (for both locals and tourists). I recommend visiting the big cities to see your bucket list items but then venture out to some of the smaller towns and villages.

In places like France, the small towns and villages are much more beautiful than the bigger towns and give you a chance to see how the locals live. Your experiences in smaller places can be more authentic than in bigger cities.

Choose an apartment

Apartments are a great way to save money on accommodation, especially if you are travelling in a group. Hotels can be very expensive especially if they are centrally located, you may end up having to pay a tax on top of your nightly rate.

Not only are apartments generally a lot cheaper but you can you get a discount if you stay longer but you will also save money on things like laundry and eating. Most apartments have fully equipped kitchens and laundry’s. When booking apartments I love using booking.com and Airbnb.

Don’t eat out for every meal

When you are travelling the temptation can be to eat out for every meal, but this will cost you a fortune. If breakfast is included in your hotel then take advantage of that and eat all the food. If it is not included, you can buy basic breakfast supplies from the local supermarket such as fruit and cereal.

However, if breakfast if your favourite meal, splurge on breakfast and buy some bits and pieces from the super market to make your lunch. There have been many days where we have been on a train or a park bench, putting together a sandwich from things we have bought from the supermarket or local markets.

Picnics can also be a great way to eat the local food but save some money. When in France head to the supermarket and load up local cheese, meats, dips and wine and sit in a park and eat the most beautiful picnic for a reasonable price.

Make lunch your main meal

Eat where the locals eat

Look for the free stuff

Carry snacks with you

If you have any advice for how to save money while traveling in Europe or you want to share how much you have saved while traveling let me know in the comments below

Fiona xoxo

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My BEST Travel Resources

Here are my favourite travel resources for planning travel like a pro

Flights: To find the best flights I always search on Google Flights or Skyscanner. For even cheaper flights, fly mid week and pack in a carry on!

Accommodation: I always use booking.com (I love their price match and flexible cancellation policies) or Airbnb (if I want a little more space) to book trip. If you prefer hostels, I suggest Hostelworld.

If you are new to Airbnb you can get an awesome discount using this link

Travel Insurance: After a few hairy moments on my travels, I ALWAYS purchase travel insurance. It may seem like a big cost now, but if the worst happens, it will save you a lot of money and heartache. I personally use World Nomads (and love them!), but I recommend that you do some research to find the insurance company that suits your needs.

Tours: While I prefer to travel independently, I do love doing some tours once I’m in a destination. It is a great way to find out history, hidden gems, taste local food and get a local insight into your destination. I always use Viator to book my tours.

Train Travel: If you are planning on taking the train in Europe, I cannot recommend the Eurail enough! Check out The Ultimate Guide to the Eurail Pass to find out why

Car Hire: Planning an epic road trip across the US or through Europe, or anywhere! Check out Europcar, they are my go to for car hire all over the world!

Luggage Storage: Some times when we are travelling our check in and check out times don’t match with our departure times so we have to put our luggage into storage. Stasher Luggage Storage is the biggest Luggage Storage Network across the UK, France and Germany

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Comments

    • Travelling is so much better when you can find cheaper ways to do it! It means we can traveller long or more often!! I agree though, I love doing anything on a budget!!

  1. We live in Europe, so some of these don’t apply (we can’t normally get Eurail passes, but have other arrangements instead). I will be using your booking.com suggestion – I didn’t know they gave out free nights! I will have to use that tip when we are planning our trip to the States (if and when we can travel again…) I would also suggest never using euronet cash machines to withdraw cash – they charge significantly more than any bank and do not always use the right exchange rates either (to their benefit, of course).

    • Yes, I love the tip about euronet – I will add this into the post if you don’t mind! I got caught out with fees with them so often, because it was easier as they seemed to be every where!!

    • Thank you! I love sharing tips especially about saving money because, who doesn’t love to save some money?!

  2. Thanks for the tips. I live in Germany so definitely have some advantage because of the currency. But still useful tips for our next trip (whenever borders open up! 😀 )

    • I hope the boarders open up soon, but think about all the time we have just now to be saving!!

  3. Great info! My only tip for my multiple trips to Israel on saving money is I used AirBnB – I returned to some of the ones I stayed on my first trip, therefore they gave me a break. I would love to travel Europe. I have looked into buying a pass on Busabout, so we can do the Hop on Hop off. Thanks for the deets!

    • I have never done Busabout, we jumped on the train with the Eurail pass but I have friends who have done busabout and they loved it!! When this is over, if you do a busabout tour I would love to hear how you go!!

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