With historical towns, incredible food, and enough natural beauty to keep you occupied for years, Europe is an absolutely amazing place to travel. Even though some parts destinations and experiences have a higher price tag, it’s totally possible to travel Europe on a budget!
How To Travel Europe On A Budget
Below, we’ll take a look at ten ways you can travel across Europe on a budget.
Explore Budget Accommodation Options
Accommodation eats through a travel budget fast no matter where you are in the world. For many people, booking a hotel room is the default while traveling. But there are so many other kinds of accommodation that could mean major savings.
House sitting is where you stay in someone’s home and take care of their pets while they’re away. You get a free place to stay and they get peace of mind knowing their pets and home are in good hands. House sitting opportunities are common in Europe and this can be a fun way to explore areas that are away from the traditional tourist destinations.
Because you won’t need to pay for a hotel while house sitting, longer gigs can mean serious savings. For some, this can mean saving thousands of dollars in accommodation costs.
Learn more about house sitting here.
With Workaway, you can volunteer in exchange for a free place to stay and sometimes even free meals. On the Workaway platform, you can find opportunities like language exchanges, babysitting, helping out at a hostel, farming, and sustainability projects.
Workaway is more than just a free place to stay. It’s also a way to meet friends, explore off-the-beaten-path destinations, and connect with locals.
There are over 50,000 Workaway opportunities on their website right now, so there’s a good chance you can find something that suits your interests and travel dates.
Learn more about Workaway here.
Hostels are a popular budget accommodation option in Europe where you can stay in a shared dorm with other travelers. Rooms are usually pretty basic, but if you’re out exploring most of the day it doesn’t matter much.
Hostels are very budget-friendly and also a great way to make friends! If you’re not into dormitory life, some hostels also offer private rooms at an affordable rate.
I’ve had the best luck finding hostels in Europe on HostelWorld.
Airbnb can also be an awesome way to save money in Europe. By booking a whole apartment, you’ll have access to a kitchen where you can do some cooking at home. You can also book private rooms in shared accommodation to save even more.
I stayed in private Airbnb rooms while traveling around Eastern Europe and I loved how easy it was to meet friends. Many of the homes I visited had other travelers staying too and our host was able to give us great insider tips.
Consider Visiting Less Expensive Places in Europe
Around Europe, some countries have a much higher cost of living than other countries. These destinations have so much to offer and provide a lot of value for your money.
According to Numbeo, countries like Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland have higher costs of living, and countries like Ukraine, Moldova, and Romania have lower costs of living. If you want to stretch your travel budget farther, it makes sense to stick to areas with lower day-to-day costs.
Budget Airbnb Tip: If you still aren’t sure exactly where to go in your travels, head to Airbnb and type “Europe” into the location search bar. Add your expected travel dates and click “Search” to get a full map view of places around Europe and their prices.
For me, this was a really quick way to see how far my budget would go in different areas. But fair warning, you might get inspired by all the amazing places available and find yourself deep in a rabbit hole of charming flats in Croatia, historic studios in Paris, and beach villas in Spain!
Save Money On Transportation In Europe
Another big travel budget-eater is transportation. Luckily, Europe is known for having robust public transportation systems and plenty of budget airlines, train ticket deals, and affordable busses.
With affordable flight carriers like RyanAir and EasyJet, flying in Europe can be very reasonable. You can also find cheap flight deals across all carriers with EuroWings.
But a word of caution, even if you find an inexpensive airline ticket, pay attention to the other costs involved with flying.
If you factor in the cost of the flight, transportation to the airport, the food you will probably have to eat in the airport at some point along the way (but thick, gooey pizza in the Milan airport, I don’t regret you), then the cost of transportation to your accommodation when you land, that “cheap” flight could work out to a pricey day.
Trains and Busses
Europe is well known for having an excellent bus and train system, so use it to your advantage. For affordable train tickets, check out HappyRail for current discounts across several carriers.
For busses, Flixbus, Megabus, and National Express (UK) cover many countries and offer competitive prices. Bus stations are often centrally located, which means you won’t lose time going all the way to the airport.
Travel With Only A Carry On
When researching budget flights, I was shocked by how much extra a checked bag can cost. Some of the budget-y-ist of the budget airlines charge for a carry-on bag too, so look out for that.
Traveling with a carry on only made it much easier to get good flight deals… and sprint through airports when I was late for tight connections.
Plus, I really didn’t need more than what I packed. Most of the time I felt like I packed too much. (Why… why did I pack not one but two light flowy dresses for a windy European winter? Why did I think that would be a good idea?)
Cook Meals At Home
A big part of travel is eating. I did eat my fair share of delicious things in Europe, but I didn’t eat out every meal. To save money, eating at least some meals at home can make a huge difference.
Eating at home doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on the local cuisine of a destination either. It’s fun to check out local markets and cook up recipes with new ingredients you find!
One of the best meals I had abroad happened when my sister and I picked out some fancy cheeses at a French Fromagerie and ate them in our hotel room with a baguette. Simple and budget-friendly meals can be just as memorable as high-end dining.
Track Your Travel Expenses
We’ve all had travel days where we spend way more than anticipated, but tacking expenses can help you make sure things balance out in the end.
I use Trail Wallet to track my travel budget and show how much I’m spending in each category like accommodation, transportation, groceries, and pain au chocolates.
After using it for a while, it helped me clearly see where I could be saving money. For example, I noticed that buying subway tickets one at a time was costing way more than buying the weekly or monthly pass, so I was able to adjust.
I don’t even want to admit what my pain au chocolate budget was…
Free Museum Days Are Your Friend!
Many countries around Europe have “Free Museum Days” each month. In Paris, for example, you can visit the Pompidou Center and the Musée d’Orsay for free on the first Sunday of the month.
If you aren’t visiting on a free museum day, there’s a good chance you can still see art and artifacts in one of the many free museums around Europe. In London alone, there are dozens of free museums with impressive galleries.
Make Local Friends
My local friends were amazing about showing me spots off the tourist path. By going to local restaurants and lesser-known attractions, I felt like I learned more about the place I was visiting and it was easy on the budget.
Making friends in a destination you’re visiting means you’ll learn more about life in that area. I’ll always remember board game nights with my friends in Bucharest (I now know how to say all the Clue murder weapons in Romanian) or going to a free festival with new friends in Germany.
Here’s a post all about exactly how you can make friends while traveling abroad!
Ditch the Strict Itinerary
Traveling on a budget is significantly easier if you don’t have a strict itinerary.
I learned this lesson a few years ago. My sister and I had flights booked from San Francisco to Seattle but found a better deal on a rental car at the last minute.
If we had driven, we could have seen even more of the coast with lower costs. It was a tough pill to swallow as we schlepped it to the airport and vowed to return another time.
I promise you, it goes against every fiber of my being to not plan things out in advance. But being flexible has major benefits.
If you don’t have to be somewhere at a certain time, you are free to price shop for cheap flights/train/bus tickets. When you hear someone rave about this little town just an hour away, you can hop on a train and go see it for yourself.
You can stay with new friends you meet and visit places that the locals recommend. And if you absolutely fall in love with a place, you can stay longer and explore.
All that said, while I believe it’s important to be flexible while you’re traveling, proper planning beforehand is still important. Especially if you’re taking a longer trip, there can be a lot of details to sort out before you jet off into the sunset. Here’s a great pre-travel checklist if you’re going to be away for a while.
Loose Your “Trip of a Lifetime” Mindset
I first heard this idea on one of my favorite podcasts, CruizeCast, when the hosts were talking about how to save money while traveling and cruising in Europe.
One of the biggest ways to overspend is to think “This is the one time in my life I’ll be here, I better do everything.”
While there are some opportunities that are worth indulging in, like a Belgian chocolate making class (because hello, it’s chocolate, in BELGIUM), don’t stretch yourself too thin with activities.
I had to make a tough decision to cut Croatia from my travel itinerary on my recent Europe trip. I couldn’t find affordable flights and I knew that getting there would be a multi-day affair.
I’ve heard amazing things about Croatia, but there is so much of Europe left to explore, I know I’ll be back.
Final Thoughts: Traveling Europe on a Budget
Traveling Europe is an amazing experience, with all its train riding, Piata walking, beer tasting, cathedral gazing, friend making, bread eating, language learning glory.
And thankfully, traveling Europe doesn’t have to be expensive. Do you have any tips for traveling Europe on a budget? Let me know in the comments below!
Read more budget travel tips in these posts:
- 13 Ways To Save Money While Traveling
- How I Saved $3000+ for Travel
- How To Book Cheap Flights Using Skyscanner
- Interview With Budget Travel Expert, Nomadic Matt