There are a few tricks to traveling. I think one of the most important tricks is using your money wisely and traveling smart.
Last summer I spent two and a half months traveling through Europe, slowly bleeding money and counting pennies because of it! I think I learnt a lot; so today, I’m going to give you five easy tips to remember when on your dream Europe adventure.
1) Travel by bus or train (or book your planes veryyyyyy early)
Flight prices will rise and rise and rise in Europe, so if you want to travel with an adequate bag and not stress, use the trains and buses. Europe has one of the best on-ground transport systems on any continent. Personally I used trains and buses interchangeably.
Europe has this thing called Eurolines which I LOVED. You can take 2 suitcases under the bus, plus carry on. You have great views of the countryside and get to see random little villages. Plus, they’re generally cheaper if you are looking for last minute tickets.
Of course, I have to mention EuRail. Europe has a great system of trains that can take you basically anywhere you want to go. I didn’t do this but you can get tickets that will allow you to travel 5 to 8 days out of a 2 month period. These will generally cost around $450 but are quite cost effective and convenient if it fits your holiday plans.
2) Check multiple sources (for tickets)
One memorable moment was when I figured out going from the German to the Italian website for a bus company would save me 15 euros. If you’re backpacking that’s like a whole extra night somewhere. Don’t take the first price you find, compare websites for the cheapest trip, or look for the same route and time at multiple places.
Also, as I explained in my last blog, use sites such as STA and Monomondo to find cheap flights. They will compare all the airlines for you!
But, just make sure it looks legit, you don’t want to be stranded at a random bus stop in the middle of nowhere!
3) Always use relevant discounts!
I am a student and a youth (under 26), so a lot of places and transport will have slightly cheaper tickets. Using relevant concessions can save a lot! i.e. the time I got a first class train to Venice for the cost of slightly cheaper than a normal adult in 2nd class. It was worth it.
So moving on from the transport tips,
4) Stay at Hostels (or Courchsurf!)
I recommend staying in hostels when possible. They are less expensive, friendly, and often provide great cheap or free breakfast. You can find hostels at sites such as HostelWorld or Hostel Bookers. What is great about these sites is that you can look at reviews and they have percentage ratings. Personally I won’t stay in a hostel under 80%.
But, there are some people who shouldn’t stay in hostels. When in Paris last July, I found my hostel and checked in. I stepped into my room and was greeted by 5 panicked Australian girls frantically packing their bags and talking to their parents on long distance phone calls. I recommend staying in hostels but please know what you’re paying for. These girls were expecting luxury and what they got was bunkbeds, a pub at the bottom and a slightly crazy hotel feel. To me it was actually one of the nicer hostels I had stayed in, to them it was horrible and not their ‘dream’ Parisian experience.
Also, Couchsurfing is a great experience if you are up for it! Basically, people offer up their couch, floor space or sometimes, a bed, where you can sleep and wake up to the local experience. You make an account just like your facebook (but less personal!) and send messages to people you want to stay with. They decide based on your profile and previous reviews. It is a great experience if you want to know the ins and outs of a city and don’t mind sleeping on someones floor. I couchsurfed in Montreal, Canada and had some amazing chats with my host in their tiny but amazing apartment.
Ok, so after all of that I give you
5) Don’t eat where the tourists eat.
Seriously guys, C’monnnnn. Don’t do it. You know you are going to pay double or triple the cost and in places such as Italy they will charge you a huge cost simply for sitting in the restaurant, and yes that is on top of the 20 Euro pasta. Go find some random cafe with lots of yelling and laughing Italians. Drink, be merry and spend way less than the tourists being tricked into poor quality and poor service in the main square.
Even better, grab breakfast, lunch and/or dinner from the supermarket! A lot cheaper and you can control how much and how healthy you want to eat.
Alright, so that is my five tips to traveling Europe cheap! There are, of course, a lot more but these are the common sense ones that are not so obvious to newbies. Let me know your tricks to traveling cheap in the comments below.