Even with more and more budget backpackers making it to Europe, discovering their own quirky ways to travel on a cheap, Europe is still considered as a fairly expensive destination (especially among those who are dealing with a big currency difference, as I did, of 1Euro (EUR)= 70 Indian Rupees). During my recent 2 months in Europe, and especially while travelling across countries like Germany, Austria and Italy, I often get sick to my stomach at how much everything — from transportation to food to accommodation — cost.
However, I found that a few things have gone my way… the traveler’s way: weaker European currencies, the rise of sharing economy, new bus options, and lots of budget airlines are a few to speak of. All this has combined to make getting around Europe more affordable than ever.
To speak in clear words, here are my personal learning to criss-cross the continent without breaking the budget:
Take Buses more often. And Avoid Trains
There’s no denying the fact that in Europe buses are a lot cheaper than trains. And most budget backpackers rely on buses to keep their travel costs low. Speaking of my personal experience, during the recent backpacking trip across 8 countries in Europe, I did as many as 18 bus rides, and only two train rides, over a period of 2 months. By doing so (and roughly speaking) I saved around 200 EUR in total. Where a train ride would have cost 50 EUR, the bus took 35, sometimes even lesser. Though of course buses take comparatively extra travel time, for me time was never a problem, and speaking of comfort, I personally found buses just as comfortable as trains.
Megabus is a cheap way to get around the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales), as tickets can cost as little as 1 GBP. To travel inside Paris, go for Ouibus. For most other destinations in Central Europe try Flixbus, Eurolines and RegioJet. If you are travelling long distances and are doing at least 5 journeys, throughout your trip, I’d strongly recommend investing in Interflix bus pass for 99 EUR. Something similar with EUrail (a 5 day EUrail pass) can cost you as much as 374 EUR… now calculate the difference!
Fly Budget Airlines Between Long Distance Popular Destinations
Budget airlines across Europe are so prolific that competition helps keep fares low. For most of the prominent destinations like Rome-Paris or Paris-Barcelona or Barcelona-Amsterdam, you can find tickets where the fare is just the taxes. For example, in May (before returning to India) I was planning a few days in Paris. Where a train and a bus would have cost approx 80 EUR and 60 EUR, respectively, Rynnair was offering an unbelievably cheaper 25 EUR flight ticket.
Companies like Transavia, EasyJet, and Ryanair offer mind-blowingly cheap flights, so keep an eye on them for travelling between big and popular towns. Moreover, book at least a month early to scoop up great deals. There are also regular sales, particularly during the off-season to take advantage of.
PS: I used goeuro.com to compare between different travel options in Europe.
Stay In Hostels, Cook In, And Eat Cheap
Unless you’re planning on buying whole racks of ribs and have a barbecue in the hostel, you will probably find no problem in buying well-rounded cheap meals at the grocery stores and cooking them for yourself. It is by cooking for myself, I saved me heaps of money while traveling since there’s a big difference between cook-at-home pasta and hand-made pasta that’s been stuffed with four different kinds of cheese at the classy Italian joint around the corner. I mean of course you give up on the quality a bit and much more on the experience, but still… you save a lot of money in return!
So where hostels dormitories are always cheaper and allow solo backpackers, like me, to make friends, the best thing about them is – almost always (at least in Europe) that they come with a sharing kitchen, allowing guests to cook their own food.
Use Work-Exchange Platforms
Workaway, Wwoof and other work-exchange platforms are also a great way to travel, not only Europe, but the world, for almost no money. And they moreover, almost always, give you great travel experiences. During my 2 months in Europe, I workaway-ed twice — once in a horse farm in German countryside; and once in Rome, learning about local Roman lifestyle.
Not only did they save me money, and let me travel for almost a month spending no money at all, I think the reason why I ended up workaway-ing twice was because of the kind of cultural exposure I get. And if you look at the money part isn’t that the inspiration to try such a thing already?
There are people across the globe who are using work-exchange programs and hospitality networks like Couchsurfing, and travelling the world spending almost no money.
[Further Reading: My Workaway Experience In Rome | Will soon also write about My Workaway Experience In Germany]
A few More Quick Tips…
- Use reusable water bottles.
- Invest in a city-card, if you’re planning to visit many museums/tourist attractions and use public transport in a city.
- When first arriving in a new city make sure to stop by the Tourism Information Center for discounts, free maps and cost-free events.
- Take free walking tours. Though you’ll be expected to tip the guide, it will still be a very cheap deal.
- Swing by open markets and food courts near closing time and get heavily discounted products.
Have you travelled Europe as a budget backpacker? what tips would you like to share?
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