A Beginner’s Guide to Cutting Costs When Visiting Europe
For many people, traveling to Europe is a bucket list item – an opportunity to indulge in some of the world’s most fascinating history, magnificent art and delicious cuisine.
However, traveling abroad isn’t as easy or affordable as domestic travel, and it can take a lot of thoughtful planning, smart research, and other strategies to keep costs down.
Travel and airfare tips
Travel out of season
The most affordable time to travel to Europe, according to travel blog owner Taylor Beal Crossing over with Tayloris the shoulder season – ideally not in late spring or summer.
But, Beal said, “Avoid school holidays like Christmas or spring break. The best way to get a cheap flight is to set an alert on Skyscanner or Google Flights in advance. This way you can wait to see a reasonable rate drop before booking.
According to Hrvoje Milakovic, owner of Travel gossip“Generally, the shoulder season is usually the most affordable time to travel to Europe. It’s usually from November to April, depending on the destination.
However, it should be noted that the weather may not be as pleasant during the off-season, and some tourist attractions or restaurants may have reduced hours or be completely closed.
Choose your destination wisely
Some cities and countries in Europe are more expensive than others, prompting Milakovic to advise, “Consider visiting less touristy or off-season destinations to save money.” Instead of Spain, consider Croatia, for example.
Housing is one of the biggest expense items after plane tickets. But Milakovic said some cities in Europe have more affordable housing than others. These include:
Plus, no matter what city you’re staying in, consider the following options for cheaper accommodations, according to Fred Hoffman, founding editor of The real desert:
Hostels are generally the most affordable accommodation option in Europe and a great way to save money while travelling.
Airbnb is also an affordable option for those looking for a more intimate experience while traveling.
Camping is also an affordable option and a great way to experience nature while visiting Europe.
Budget hotels. Finally, many cities have budget hotels or guesthouses that offer rooms at lower prices than traditional accommodation.
Beal also recommended that you plan activities in advance to get the best rates. “Many places in Europe offer cheaper tickets online,” she said. “Plus, many are first come, first served – and popular attractions will sell out easily in advance. The Anne Frank House, for example, sells out well in advance.
Jonathan Merry, Founder and CEO of Time without bankrecommended to buy a city pass.
“In many European cities,” he said, “you can get passes that get you into the main attractions at a price that isn’t too high.”
These passes can be of different kinds, depending on your interests.
“Museum passes are especially convenient because they allow you to skip the line of people waiting to buy tickets,” Merry said. “Passes can be purchased at most airports, bus stops and train stations, in addition to information kiosks specially set up for tourists.”
Discover the free museum days
Many museums in Europe offer free or reduced admission on certain days of the week or month. For example:
In Paris, many museums offer free admission on the first Sunday of each month.
In Berlin, many museums offer free entry on the first Monday of every month.
In Rome, many museums offer free entry on the first Sunday of each month.
In London, many museums offer free admission every day.
In Barcelona, many museums offer free entry on the first Sunday of every month.
Know the catering rules
Know the basic dining rules in the countries you visit, like the fact that water isn’t always free, said Nausheen Farishta, a Chicago-based traveler and writer at globe-gazers.com. “In many European countries they don’t bring water unless you ask for it. When they do, the default is for it to be bottled water. They can give you a choice of still or sparkling water, and you’ll see it on your check when you pay. Instead, you should explicitly ask for tap water if you don’t expect to pay for your water at a restaurant.
Another money-saving tip for food and drink is that it’s not always free to dine in, Farishta said. “For example, in much of Italy you’ll save money by having your coffee standing at the bar – like the locals – rather than paying a cover charge to sit at a table.”
Eat like a local
Avoid tourist traps and opt for local family restaurants instead, Milakovic suggested. “Street food and local markets are also great options for affordable meals.”
Use public transport
Renting a car abroad can be very expensive. Milakovic recommended public transport as one of the most cost-effective ways to get around European cities.
He added, “Consider buying a public transit pass or using a ride-sharing app to save money on transportation.”
Beware of hidden fees
However, there may be hidden costs in transportation, Farishta said. Not researching and strictly following public transport ticketing rules can get you in trouble.
For example, she said: “Belgium is particularly tough on anyone who does not fill out their train ticket information correctly and will rush to charge you high fees. In Paris, and other cities, you will need to keep your metro ticket until you have exited and gone through the turnstiles on the other side. They will often have guards checking your ticket before allowing you out or – you guessed it – additional charges.
Other ways to save
Use a European SIM card
For people who need to use their phone frequently and don’t want to rack up big roaming or data charges while traveling, travel guru Rick Steves recommends installing a European SIM card in your phone or buy a cheap phone with one already built in. This will give your phone a European mobile number and guarantee better rates than you would get even with your usual operator.
Get a travel rewards card
According to Jenny Ly of go for a walk.
“Depending on what time of year you plan to travel,” Ly said, “you can use your accrued points or miles to pay for one or both of your flights. In addition to offering 2x points on all travel-related transactions, many of the best travel credit cards also allow you to earn points each time you use the card to purchase while traveling Big Welcome Bonuses are just another great benefit of applying for the one of those credit cards.
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