Travelling to Europe is far easier today than ever before. Several European countries that were hitherto relegated to just blobs of colour on your atlas are now taking center-stage as popular tourist hotspots that charm visitors of all ages with their drop-dead gorgeous scenery and cultural diversity. Unfortunately, far more people are reluctant to travel to Europe than those that actually take the plunge, and the reason lies not in their desire (or lack of it) to travel to Europe but rather in how expensive European vacations usually are. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little planning and foresight, you’ll be able to explore the very best of Europe without spending a dime more than accounted for in your budget. That said, here are the best ways to save money while vacationing in Europe.
- Book your tickets on time
International flight tickets are expensive and will undoubtedly be one of the most expensive parts of your European vacation. However, booking your tickets early and leveraging cost-effective travel portals such as Musafir.com can help you to leverage low-cost fares and other exciting deals that take away some of the sting. Make sure you don’t book too early though – experts recommend booking roughly five months in advance for the best deals. Also, try to book a weekday flight and avoid flights that leave early in the morning or in the evening, in favour of mid-day and late night flights. Try booking your tickets on Tuesdays through Thursdays since this is the part of the week when all the discounts issued by airlines are circulated to travel agencies.
- Use miles, if you have enough
If you travel frequently, you may want to look into signing up for a frequent flyer program that earns you free air miles that you can use towards subsequent flights. Certain programs also award your air miles for hotel bookings, so make sure to do your research before signing up for a lucrative rewards program.
- Avoid Europe in the summer
In summer months, prices in Europe shoot through the roof and everything is either nearly booked to capacity or sold out. The cities are uncomfortably crowded as many of the locals are on holidays and jostle for space with eager tourists. Instead, we recommend planning your trip during the low season of November through March, where hotels are up to 40 percent cheaper and the crowds are pleasantly thin. Else, opt for the shoulder months of mid-June through October for comparatively cheaper prices and a supremely enjoyable stay. Do bear in mind though that Europe’s geographical location will mean that you will have to deal with chilly weather and shorter days (the sun can set as early as 5 pm during winter months). But you can easily compensate by starting your days earlier and dressing appropriately – layered clothing is a lifesaver. On the flip side, skiing resorts can be crowded during winter and prices may veer on the higher side, so make sure to take that into account as well before you plan your trip.
- Don’t forget to visit the Tourist Information point
The tourism bureau can quickly bring you up to speed with the best discounts and deals, free maps and also a list of free events. Make sure stopping by the tourism bureau is one of the first things you do when you arrive at a new city. Also, ask if the city offers tourists an all-inclusive pass that allows you unlimited use of public transportation as well as access to museums, restaurants and certain tours.
- Avoid taxis
Europe is best experienced on foot or by public transport for longer distances. Most of Europe is covered by very good public transportation networks, and the buses and subways are punctual, safe, cheap and clean. Trains are an excellent way to get around and buying yourself a rail pass will afford you unrestricted mobility, flexibility and freedom. Take the night train for lower fares, especially when travelling between cities. Biking is another option if you’re eager to also stay fit and travel cheaply during your stay.
- Eat like the locals do
For the cheapest food in Europe, look for alternatives that are popular with the locals. Pastry shops offer cheap but delicious breakfasts, while lunches and dinners can be bought from local delis and markets. This doesn’t just allow you to save a pretty penny on food, but also introduces you to local delicacies at a fraction of what you would expect to pay at a sit down restaurant. Street food is another way to experience the local culinary culture, without paying top dollar for your grub. Make sure to carry a water bottle – many European cities have public drinking water fountains where you can refill your bottle and save on buying expensive bottled water.
- Take advantage of free tours
Many cities offer free tours with local guides who will eagerly introduce you to the city’s culture, history and most memorable attractions for no cost at all. You can choose to tip your guide at the end of your tour, although this is more an expression of your gratitude than payment for their services.
- Don’t withdraw money from local ATMs
You won’t just get hit by lower exchange rates but will also be charged an extra fee per withdrawal. Also, make sure to exchange your currency before you leave and don’t wait until you get to the airport to buy travel currency – you will invariably get much less value for your money.
- Look for cheaper accommodation alternatives
Hotels can be pricey and, honestly, quite unnecessary when travelling in Europe. Instead, consider living in a hostel – Europe has several family-friendly hostels. If you must stay in a hotel, check out a list of affordable hotels from Musafir.com that offer a homely but safe and comfortable stay. You could also consider living away from the city center for cheaper hotel tariffs. Travelling with a companion could also help you to save on costs, since family rooms and quads cost you only slightly more than a double room.
- Attend free events
Free musical concerts, music festivals, film festivals, museums and galleries – your options for free entertainment are endless when travelling in Europe. Once again, make sure to do your research online and ask at the tourism bureau for the most relevant and up-to-date information.
Planning your budget European vacation doesn’t always have to involve breaking the bank, especially if you are flexible and open to new experiences. Whether you’re planning a quick trip to Europe or are looking for ways to save money and get the best bang for your buck on your next European vacation, make sure to run through our checklist to keep saving on the go. For the best deals on European vacations and flights, do check out Musafir.com, India’s most trusted portal for affordable Europe tour packages.