Guest Blog by: Amy Hoff
Amy has managed to live in 20 countries over a period of 10 years on a shoestring budget. She also spent 15 years living on the road in the United States and plans on writing a book about the adventure. Learn more about Amy on her website and connect with her on Konversai!
How many times have you heard people say, “I don’t have enough money to travel,” or “Once I finally get that bonus, I’ll be able to travel”? Many people see travel as a luxury experience that only the rich can afford. However, it’s possible to visit Europe on a shoestring budget. Here are some travel hacks to get you there and let you experience life as a local.
1. Getting There
The best way to get to Europe cheaply is to travel into a hub from your city of origin. Even if the tickets from your city to the city you’d like to visit are expensive, there are multiple options available throughout the region. If you find a cheap ticket into London, for example, you can use a budget carrier to get to the next city from there. Dublin, Paris, London, Oporto, and other major cities are hubs from which many budget carriers go to various other places. The ITA Matrix powered by Google Flights can help you find good prices if you are flexible with your dates and the city you’ll fly into. If you are close enough, you can also take a bus or a train, but flights are often the cheapest and fastest option.
2. On the Ground
Try to avoid taxis as much as possible. They are expensive, and in some locations taxi drivers will overcharge visitors. Fortunately, many cities in Europe have excellent public transportation systems, which are the best way to get around. Some cities also offer a tourist travel card, which give you discounts on travel as well as local sightseeing.
Hostels are still the cheapest option available unless you enjoy couchsurfing. Today, many hostels are very luxurious and offer a cooked breakfast in the mornings. If you don’t mind being in a dorm room with other people, you can often sleep for as little as about $5 per night. Hostels also have private rooms that cost less than hotels with the added benefit of meeting other travelers.
If you’d prefer more privacy and your own kitchen, spend a little more and rent an apartment or house through Airbnb or similar providers. There is now an aggregator for these types of accommodations, called Tripping, if you’d like to see what each of them has on offer. For a little more, you can get cool amenities like a patio or pool with your rental and the ability to cook your own food. This is a great option for friends or families traveling together because they can share the space and dinner in the evenings for much less than an average hotel room.
Grocery stores are always going to be your best bet when you are traveling. This is how you’d eat at home, so it should be no different when you’re on the road. Grocery stores also often have the kinds of regional food you’d like to try, including outstanding European wines that will cost an arm and a leg at a bar or restaurant. Discount stores like Lidl and Aldi are located across Europe, and in the UK Asda is the British version of Wal-Mart. For a fancier grocery store experience, check out Marks & Spencer or Waitrose for delicious pre-made food. In most of Europe, you can also find dedicated stores for cheese, bread, meat, and other delicacies. Some cheese and bread can make a great lunch and you’re still experiencing the food of the region. No matter where you choose to pick up your groceries, you can then take your food and drinks, sit on the steps outdoors, and watch the world go by.
Similar to food, picking up your alcoholic beverages at the grocery or liquor store will give you the most bang for your buck. In wine-producing countries like Italy, France, and Portugal, you can find decent bottles at the store starting from 3 euros. If you are traveling with friends, buying a few bottles and sitting outside in a picturesque location is a great way to experience life in your new location. If you must go out on the town, check prices before you start your evening. The local areas will offer cheaper options than any tourist district because locals don’t often pay that much for a night on the town.
6. Going Out
You’ve saved a lot of money by living like a local, but you’re also on vacation! You’d like to experience a restaurant or bar in the city of your choice. There are a couple of options in this case. The first is to go to a district that is known for its restaurants and walk through it together, examining the menus to see what looks good and will fit your budget. This is a fun way to experience part of the city and also find little holes-in-the-wall with great prices you’d have never known about. Not everyone is listed on the Internet and these places are often more special because they are known only to locals. If you absolutely must know exactly where you are going in advance, check out online reviews and recommendations for the sort of experience you’d like to have. You can often see menus and prices online and make reservations if necessary.
A lot of sightseeing can be accomplished just by walking through the neighborhoods of the city you are visiting. Public transit is a cheap way to get around to different points of interest, and there’s often a metro or train stop near where you’re looking to go. Many places offer tourist discounts or even free events and entry to museums. As long as you’re willing to get creative and prioritize the sites you absolutely must see, you can often include many monuments and other places of interest in your visit.
The beach is always free! There are some places you need to pay a fee to access the sand, but going to the beach is one of the least expensive (and most fun) activities to enjoy when traveling. You can combine your beach visit with a cooler full of groceries and drinks for an awesome afternoon on the water. For inland places, try a local park with historic significance. Check the open container licensing laws before you go, but this is one of the cheapest options available.
9. Staying Connected
When you’re on vacation, you want to be able to upload all your photos and keep in touch with friends. Several large European cities now have city-wide WiFi so you can keep in touch on the go. Trains, buses, and even the metro systems in some countries have WiFi availability. If you’d like to relax and surf the Internet, try finding a local coffee shop or cafe with inexpensive drinks. Some cities even have theme cafes, like cat cafes or places of historic interest, so you can enjoy your time online while also immersing yourself in a new culture.
10. Meeting people
Cultural immersion is an integral part of any visit to another country. Meeting people and bringing home those memories is one of the best parts of traveling. Making new friends doesn’t have to be difficult for those on a budget. Many European cities offer free language or cooking classes, free open-air concerts, or other events and activities. There will usually be an online resource for these. For those of you who prefer to do it the old-fashioned way, this is the time to find out where everyone hangs out in the evenings for drinking and dancing. As long as you keep an eye on the cost, you can often meet interesting people while out and about at night in the city.
Most of the tips listed above allow you to live like a local. Think about what you would do if you were in your hometown. What do you do to make it affordable for yourself? Follow those instincts and you should be able to enjoy an extremely enriching vacation in the European city of your dreams.
To learn more about budget travel or to connect with locals before you get on the plane, join Konversai. Konversai is a personal knowledge-sharing platform that allows you to connect one-on-one with anyone, anywhere, about anything all via live video. You can use Konversai to connect with people who live in different places or who know these places well and who can share the inside scoop with you that you wouldn’t be able to find in a guidebook or on a travel website. All users are encouraged to both knowledge providers and knowledge seekers on the platform on any and as many topics as they wish, and knowledge providers are encouraged to charge for their time. If you don’t need the money, you can always hold sessions for free or you can donate the earnings to a charity of your choice.
Traveling is not as expensive as it seems on the surface. It all depends on your comfort level and what you’re willing to sacrifice in exchange for adventure. Start the adventure today by joining Konversai!
Blog edited by: Pavita Singh