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There are a lot of wonderful ways to experience Europe without burning a hole in your wallet. Europe is not considered the cheapest destination to travel to, especially if you visit major cities like Barcelona, Rome, or Paris.
That being said, there are many ways to travel to Europe while staying on a budget. For most travelers, backpacking through Europe is at the top of their bucket list, and money should not be a reason to put those plans on hold.
With numerous things to do in Europe, it’s a huge milestone for every traveler wanting to experience the magic of Europe.
But to ensure you don’t overspend without scrimping out on the experience, it’s important to know how to visit Europe on a budget, including where you can save money and where you can afford to splurge.
To help you, we created this list of important tips on saving money on a trip to Europe so you can save money and time while exploring beautiful European travel spots.
- Tips For Visiting Europe On A Budget
- How to Find Budget Accommodation in Europe
- Finding Cheap Food in Europe
- Finding Budget Transport in Europe
- European Cities to Travel on a Budget
- Before You Go
- More Money-Saving Guides
Tips For Visiting Europe On A Budget
Below we share our top tips on how to visit Europe on a budget so you can plan your visit without breaking the bank!
1. Avoid Visiting during Peak Season
The easiest way to save money on a trip to Europe is to plan your visit for the off-seasons. This is the time when you see the least amount of tourists (a plus) and you might also find that accommodations and tours will lower their prices.
The peak season is summertime. Everyone dreams of a European summer when the weather is at its hottest and sunniest.
However, you can have a beautiful vacation in mid to late September and October. If you’re dreaming of visiting sunny destinations in Europe on the coast, then you’ll find the weather is still warm enough for you to swim in places like Spain, Italy, France, Sicily etc.
Contrary to what we said above, you might find slightly better rates in these countries in the Spring or Autumn.
Be sure to check the peak seasons for the countries you want to visit before booking any flights, so you can map out your itinerary to avoid these.
2. Visit Eastern Europe for Christmas Markets
While most people think of huge cities like Prague in Czech Republic, Budapest in Hungary, and Amsterdam in The Netherlands for Christmas markets, you will find cheaper accommodation and flight prices to countries in Eastern Europe.
The Wroclaw Christmas Market in Poland is iconic, and Tallinn in Estonia is also an underrated hidden gem in Europe.
Plovdiv in Bulgaria, Riga in Latvia and Bratislava in Slovakia also have great Christmas Markets and are considerably less touristy than the ones in major cities.
3. Travel Carry-On Only
When booking flights, many airlines charge you extra for hold luggage, and it can be anywhere from $50-$100 more!
You can save a lot of time and money by travelling with carry on bags only.
In fact, you’ll find getting around much easier this way, as it can often be a pain dragging a wheelie suitcase down the cobbled streets of some European cities.
How to Find Budget Accommodation in Europe
4. Stay in Hostels in Europe
One of the benefits of traveling alone and the best ways to see Europe on a budget is by staying in hostels. These are some of the cheapest accommodation options in Europe and will save you a huge chunk of your budget.
You might think that hostels are entirely suitable for only young backpackers who want to party, but the truth is that they are made for all types of travelers.
While most hostels will have dorms, there are also many hostels that offer private rooms that are affordable for those who are not comfortable with sharing rooms with other travelers, or for couples who like to socialise but still have the privacy of their own space.
Some of these places even welcome families, so make sure you always check for hostels in Europe when searching for accommodation.
5. Try Couchsurfing
Backpackers will tell you how much they love couchsurfing. If you’re not familiar with the term, you basically sign up to stay with a local in their city.
Contrary to what it says on the tin, couchsurfing does not mean sleeping on couches. You’ll likely have your own room in an apartment, like you would if you were staying in an Airbnb, but at a fraction of the cost.
The hosts might also be kind enough to show you around and give you some tips of their own for how to save money whilst travelling in Europe.
Not only do you get a place to stay, but you can also make new friends, and host them yourself when they travel to your country.
6. Camping in Europe
If you are looking for something even cheaper than a hostel, then camping would be a good choice, especially if you are visiting in the summer.
There is an endless number of campsites in Europe even when you are in major cities. These campsites also offer facilities like bathrooms and cooking areas.
Finding Cheap Food in Europe
7. Cook your own food
If you choose to stay in a hostel or at a camping site, then you’d probably have a cooking facility.
One of the biggest expenses when traveling goes to food, so in order to save, the best thing you could do is to buy fresh or instant food from the groceries and cook them yourself.
It doesn’t have to be like this all the time, but by doing this, you are saving yourself a lot of travel cash.
You should also make sure to check out the local farmer’s markets and get some fresh produce to make picnics. Get yourself some cured meat, salad, and cheese, and make yourself a sandwich. You can always find a park bench to sit and eat on between looking for attractions.
8. Eat like a local
If you head down a backstreet near these places, chances are you’ll stumble across a restaurant with lower prices.
You can always tell a place is good when it’s packed full of locals.
So to travel on a budget in Europe, eat the way a local eats.
9. Look out for Plate of the Day
In some countries, particularly Spain, you will often find a lunch menu called “plate of the day” or “plato del dia”.
This is a discounted lunch menu that is considerably cheaper than the a la carte menu.
When choosing restaurants, look for those with these kinds of discounts for lunch.
If you can only afford to eat out once per day, maybe eat lunch at a restaurant and then cook dinner at your accommodation.
10. Eat street food
Lucky for those who are saving money, it is very common to see food stalls around any European city.
Istanbul in Turkey (yes, it’s in Europe – well, half it is) is a great place for street food. You’ll find muscles, fish sandwiches, baklava, simit, and roasted chestnuts on every corner. It’s the perfect lunchtime snack!
11. Look for food courts
The food isn’t exactly 5*, but it’s usually pretty decent and will fill you up.
Finding Budget Transport in Europe
12. Get the European Rail Pass
Riding a train is one of the best ways to see Europe on a budget, so don’t forget to buy a rail pass.
There are a lot of different passes available; from a single country pass to a complete pass that lets you ride the train anywhere in Europe.
13. Look for Tourist Passes in Cities
There are a lot of European cities that offer special tourist passes for travelers, and they normally offer public transport systems that are free, so make sure to take advantage of them.
For example, The Berlin Pass in Germany gives you free entry to 60+ top Berlin attractions, Hop on and Off sightseeing tours, and an optional travel card for unlimited travel.
14. Try Cycling or Walking Everywhere
If you truly want to immerse yourself in a European country or city you are at, then explore it on two wheels or feet.
It does not only help you save money but also improves your health while on the road!
Chances are you won’t need to use a metro if you have comfy walking shoes, so save money on train tickets and walk about on food.
15. Use Megabus or Flixbus Between Cities
The bus is usually the cheapest way to get from city to city in Europe, though many like to travel Europe by train because interrailing is the iconic thing to do.
Fair warning, Megabus buses tend to be a little older and are known to break down often (or at least that is the case in the UK), so Flixbus is the slightly fancier version.
Whichever bus company you choose, you will arrive at your destination without breaking the bank… eventually.
16. Know The Budget Airlines
Take note of the two reliable budget airlines in Europe: RyanAir and EasyJet. These two budget airlines offer cheap deals to anyone who wants to explore the continent.
If possible, make sure to book your flights in advance, as airfares tend to be cheaper when booked earlier.
Fair warning, these airlines are cheap because they make you pay extra for hold luggage, picking your own seat and for food etc.
You can save considerably if you travel light and only bring carry-on luggage.
European Cities to Travel on a Budget
We know that Europe can be expensive but there are a lot of places in Europe where you can take your money far.
Here are our top 5 choices for European cities to travel to on a budget.
1. LEÓN, SPAIN: for foodies
In the towns close to the cathedral of León, delightful tapas are served which come free with your drinks. This is not rare when you are in Spain, but they do it best in this particular city.
You can enjoy an excellent glass of Rioja which only costs €1.50 and is escorted by a large portion.
You might not even need to order dinner after having a couple of drinks as they will leave you filled up with hearty morcilla stew, piquant sopa de ajo, or delicious jamon or cecina piled on top of crusty bread.
3. KRAKOW, POLAND: For partygoers
It is believed that Krakow has the most bars per square kilometer in the world. So, this is a paradise for those who are looking for a great nightlife but also wants to save money.
Exploring the place will make you feel like you are in a medieval town filled with cellar bars.
This city that never sleeps offers impressive drinking lairs and you’ll see how vodka flows and live music puts life to the place.
3. BERLIN: for culture lovers
If you are looking for something that will make you feel the richest culture, there’s no better place to be than Berlin.
Eccentric, cool and a bit wild, this diverse city is famous for its originality, with cool walkways, independent museums, great music, contemporary arts, and theaters.
It also has a number of historic and cultural attractions like the Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, and Museum Island, and Daniel Libeskind’s extraordinary Jewish Museum.
4. PORTUGAL: for water enthusiasts
The long shoreline of Western Europe’s most affordable country is best known for being one of the best watersport destinations for those travelers who are conscious of their expenses.
You’ll find Portugal offers sun, decent food, warm and welcoming locals and stunning landscapes.
It also boasts warm weather all year round. So enjoy the water while you are in Lisbon or Algarve without breaking a bank.
5. TRANSYLVANIA, ROMANIA: for those looking for an adrenaline rush
Thanks to the perfect geography, Romania is becoming a popular destination for those who are looking for the best ways to see Europe on a budget.
The Transylvanian Alps are one mountain ranges that are known best for hiking, rock-climbing, horseback riding, wild camping, and whitewater rafting together with wonderful caving in the wide network hidden under the hills.
Before You Go
Europe is, generally, a great budget destination, but as more and more tourists flock in particular regions, digging a little deeper to find the best deals is necessary.
There are some countries that are always going to be expensive, such as Norway and Denmark, but if you travel a little off the beaten path, you’ll find not only a hidden gem but somewhere that can save you a fair bit of your budget.
Before you go, remember when booking online to look for hidden fees. Sometimes taxes and surcharges are added without our knowledge, so we always recommend travel sites that we know are reputable and have used ourselves.
For tours, we recommend Get Your Guide, which has several top-class tours in most major cities in Europe.
We hope this guide helped you to plan your trip to Europe on a budget and you’re now ready to pack your backpack for travel and map out your itinerary!
We hope these tips provided you with inside into the best ways to see Europe on a budget!
More Money-Saving Guides
Are you still deciding on where to visit in Europe and need some help mapping out your plans? These other guides may be useful to you.
- 10 of the best backpacks for travel
- 52 ways to save money on travel
- Finding cheap rental cars
- 18 killer tips on finding cheap accommodation