How to see Europe on the cheap without missing out

By Kirrily Schwarz

The view from the top is great but you can get the same thing for free down the street. Photo / iStock
The view from the top is great but you can get the same thing for free down the street. Photo / iStock

When I first started planning a trip to Europe, I thought I'd visit for three weeks and go back to my fulltime job.

Eight weeks later, I'm still here. I had about $7000 in the bank when I left Australia, and so far I've spent a little over $2670 (NZ currency) - or roughly $48 per day.

It's not much, and yet I'm having a grand old time. So far, I've visited Italy, England, Scotland, France, and Belgium. I'm currently in the Netherlands. Next? Who knows.

Maybe Germany. Maybe Spain. Or maybe Ireland. The possibilities are exciting!
If you want to travel, don't let a lack of money put you off.

This is how I'm doing Europe on a shoestring:

1. Flying over

Paying for an airfare is daunting, and it will be your single biggest overhead. Look for deals. I used Sky Scanner to research the best destinations - you may find flying to a city like Rome or Amsterdam is far cheaper than flying to London or Paris, for example. If you want to fly on a particular date, beware: the airfare may double overnight as you get closer to departure, so try to book ahead.

2. Finding a place to sleep

Accommodation is the next biggest expense, and there are lots of options. Hostels are definitely the cheapest, and I'm using an app called Hostel World to find the best deals. I used AirBnb in Italy, which is significantly more expensive, but great if you're travelling in a group. Other than that, I'm staying with friends at every possible opportunity. It's free, and a wonderful chance to live like a local.

3. Getting around

Once you see how little flights costs in Europe, you'll want to fly everywhere. Personally, I'm taking the bus. It's ridiculously cheap ($25.60 from London to Edinburgh, for example); you can take luggage for free; you don't have to deal with security queues; and it's much more scenic. As an added bonus, if you take a night bus, you can save on accommodation. I'm using Megabus, Ouibus and Flixbus to book tickets.

London to Edinburgh by bus is $25.60 and luggage is free. Photo / iStock
London to Edinburgh by bus is $25.60 and luggage is free. Photo / iStock

4. How to eat

It's easy to eat cheaply in Europe. In France, you can buy a fresh baguette for $1.60, some local cheese for about $2.15, and some ham for not much more. Ta-da! You have a picnic. If your hostel has a free breakfast, definitely stash food for later. If you have access to a kitchen, cook two meals yourself and eat out just once a day. Always avoid tourist hot spots, because you'll spend twice as much for half the quality.

In Paris, grab a baguette and go. Photo / iStock
In Paris, grab a baguette and go. Photo / iStock

5. What to see

This is tough, because if you're on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, you'll want to see everything. But did you know you can visit the Louvre for free on Friday nights if you're under 26? Boom. Money saved. Similarly, you could pay to climb Il Duomo in Florence, or you could see the view for free from Piazzale Michalengelo. Ask around. Also, be aware of things you MUST see, and things you can live without. At the London Eye, for example, the line was enormous - so I chose to keep strolling along the Thames.

If you're under 26, visit the Louvre for free on Friday nights. Photo / iStock
If you're under 26, visit the Louvre for free on Friday nights. Photo / iStock

6. Focus on priorities

The cost of travelling depends on the kind of trip you want to take. My main priority is to travel for as long as possible - and while I'm still checking out landmarks, going out, and sampling fine cuisine (hello, Belgian chocolate!) - I'm always conscious of that goal. If you'd rather hit designer shops, sample all the local beers, or spend a week on a yacht - that's no problem. You can just prioritise accordingly.

In other words: Europe is as expensive or cheap as you want it to be. What are you waiting for?

- news.com.au

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