Everyone wants to go to Europe but it sounds expensive. But is it really? Read on to see how you can do it on a budget.
Plan Your Trip
It seems pretty obvious, but these basic rules will help to ease a lot of wear and tear during your trip.
- Decide on a budget – Factor in the number of countries you want to visit and don’t forget your day-to-day expenses. Most of your funds will probably be spent on travel and lodging, so booking tickets and rooms in advance will ensure you get a good rate.
- Know who you’ll be traveling with – You know all those BFF couples you see tearing into each other on The Amazing Race? They’re not kidding. Make sure you like your journey buddies, because you’ll be seeing them 24/7for a loooong time. It helps if they’ve got similar objectives as you (i.e. same countries you want to visit, same budget breakdowns). And obviously the more travel companions you have, the more people you can split the hotel bill with.
- Pick which countries you want to visit – To save time and money, choose a route with neighbouring countries. For instance, it’s easier and cheaper to take a train to Paris from England than Italy.
- Plan an itinerary – which will help to decide when you should embark. If you’re excited to see the crop circles and pretty green fields by Stonehenge for example, don’t visit in the barren winter. On the other hand, winter is also when tourist activity trails off. So if you’re looking for a quiet getaway, the cold, grey climate is ideal.
- Book in advance – to minimise the number of unexpected surprises. You’ll also get to snag the best deals before they are snapped up.
Hotel prices tend to vary with location, so expect the more popular destinations to hold a higher price tag. However, you may be able to stretch that dollar with the right tips.
- Research is essential to cheap lodging. TripAdvisor provides information about popular hotels and attractions in the region, as well as reviews from fellow travellers. If it’s a short stay, try a hostel or Bed and Breakfast. Hostels.com contains information and reviews about hostels worldwide, or check out airbnb.com for other options.
- Travel at night – so you’l spend one less night at your hotel or hostel. Besides, you can sleep on the plane/train so you’ll be refreshed and raring to go the minute you arrive at the next stop.
- Try something different – like renting a caravan or an apartment. The former, while riskier, will take care of your lodging and transport, as well as add a different twist to your journey. Not only will you get more flexibility on how to get to the next destination, you will also get more chances to interact with campers and locals. Just make sure you have a map or GPS system.
Travelling in Europe
Travelling between European countries is fairly affordable as long as you’ve planned your routes right.
- Get a train pass – A Eurail or Eurorail pass is great if you intend to travel to multiple cities by train. The pass allows you unlimited train travel over a certain region and time period. Passes can be purchased online, and there are many options available to suit your needs. Check out this guide if you don’t know which one to get. Also, those under the age of 26 get to travel at a discounted price.
- Book a budget airline – There are numerous budget airlines in Europe, like Easyjet and Ryanair. Planes travel faster, and the prices may not vary that much from their railway sibling. A train ride from Paris to Venice may take up to 12 hours, but the same journey may only take 2 hours by plane for the same price (approx $200), if not cheaper.
- Get to know the public transport system – Familiarise yourself with the network of trains and buses that run through your city of choice. You can usually just buy tickets at the train or bus stations when you arrive, but many cities offer passes that entitle you to unlimited travel for a certain period of time. For example, an individual ticket (valid for 75 minutes of travel) in Rome’s Metropolitana will cost €1 (S$1.60) but you could get a day pass for only €4 (S$6.40). Similarly, you can get a Paris Visite pass (1-5 days) for unlimited travel on the Metro system, as well discounts to popular attractions. If you’re in London, you can buy an Oyster Card (similar to an EZ Link). You have to pay a deposit of £5 (S$10), which is refundable after you return the card.
If you’re game (or broke) enough, you could always just walk to your destination, which is easy enough with a city map and a good pair of walking shoes. Besides, you can burn off the calories you’ll be piling on in Europe (trust me, it’ll happen).
An (almost) empty wallet doesn’t necessarily mean an empty stomach.
- Have a heavy lunch – so you can eat whatever leftovers you had for dinner.
- Share with a friend – If you’re a light eater and the meal portion is too much to stomach, share the food (and cost) with a friend. A budget of €10 (S$16) or £10 (S$20) will probably get you a decent meal at most restaurants or eateries in Europe. You may need to tip your server at some restaurants though – 10% of your total bill should be enough, unless they’ve already included a service charge.
- Research your attractions – Almost all attractions charge an entry fee, but there are usually student discounts for people under 26 years old. Remember to bring that student card or identification with you. If you’re over 26 years old, fret not. Depending on the date of your visit, free entry is sometimes allowed. Museums in Paris like the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay grant visitors free entry every first Sunday of the month and on Bastille Day (July 14).
- Spend wisely – Suppress that touristy instinct and watch what you spend your budget on. Do you really need to pay that €15 (S$24) entry fee to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa, when you can just take a photo with it instead?
The bottom line is – do your research wisely and be willing to scrimp a little. That once in a lifetime trip to Europe may not be as impossibly expensive as you think.
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