6 Money Saving Travel Tips for Europe.

By Posted in - Budget Travel & Europe on March 31st, 2015 The bridge near our Colosseum Rome apartment in Italy.

It’s no secret that Europe is one of the more expensive regions in the world to travel. Hefty hotel rates in major capitals coupled with a high cost of living can make your European dream vacation seem, well, just like a dream. But the truth is Europe can be done on a budget. I know because we’ve have done it, multiple times. In fact, some of our richest experiences have been the moments that required very little money. And with the American dollar the strongest its been in years, now is time to go. Here are six easy ways to save money on your next European vacation.

Take a Long Lunch

One of the best ways to save money eating out is to make lunch your main meal. You can often find similar multi-course dinners for half the price. Also, remember not to over tip regardless of what time of day you are eating. In most European countries, 10 percent is normal unless the service was outstanding. However, before laying down your tip, it’s important to check the bill to see if a service charge has already been added. If it has, then you don’t need to leave anything additional.

Don’t Supersize Your Trip

It’s only naturally to want to fit in as many cities and countries as possible during your trip to Europe. But you’ll likely have a better experience if you narrow your focus down to one city or region, not to mention your wallet will also thank you. While budget airlines and trains run throughout Europe, costs can quickly add up, especially for longer journeys. On the other hand, short regional train trips are usually inexpensive.

WWOOFing: It’s Just Not for Dogs

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This is one of our favorite money saving travel tips for Europe, especially in more expensive areas like France and Italy, is to volunteer with the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms organization (WWOOF). By signing up to WWOOF at a farm, volunteers get the chance to learn about organic farming while working with hosts who produce a variety of organic products like cheese, olive oil and wine. In return, the hosts provide them with free room and board. We once spent two weeks at a biodynamic winery outside of Florence, and to this day our time on the farm with the other volunteers and hosts is still one of our fondest travel memories.

Alternative Accommodations

Unless you’re a hobo who doesn’t mind sleeping on park benches, then you are going to need a place to sleep at night. Luckily, there are ways to circumvent Europe’s costly hotels. When it comes to alternative lodging, hostels are that the top of the list. However, European hostels, particular in major cities like Paris, Rome and Barcelona, aren’t always the most budget friendly way to go, especially if you are a couple or family. Instead, look into apartment rentals, couchsurfing or camping. For example, on our first trip to Europe, we camped in Paris and Cinque Terre, Italy, and discovered as we were doing research for our trip that many European cities have campgrounds located in them.

Not all Money Exchanges are Created Equal

Currency exchange kiosks at the airport or train station are convenient; unfortunately, they also offer the worst rates. Your best bet if you need to exchange money is to do it in a bank. Even then, it’s best to only exchange what you’ll need until you can visit an ATM, which tend to offer much more favorable exchange rates. Keep in mind, though, to avoid ATMs that aren’t attached to a bank. Not only can these have higher fees, they are also more prone to identity theft scams.

Support Your Local Grocer

paris_eiffel tower and wine_copyright Bethany Salvon

Just like at home, you can save a lot of money by buying food from the grocery store instead of eating out at every meal. This is where having an apartment or access to a kitchen at a hostel or campground can help you save money on your trip since you can stock up on groceries for your stay. Hitting up the grocery store or local market is the perfect way to taste local flavors, such as cheeses, fruits, cured meats, and wine for the local price. Plus, grocery stores are a huge money saver when it comes to bottled water and snacks, which cost a premium at tourist shops and train stations.

*A version of this story originally appeared on Flight Network’s Let’s Roll Travel Blog.

Did you hear? We also make travel scarves with hidden pockets! You can check out our shop at Speakeasy Travel Supply.


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(16) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Simon -

    March 31, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Mmm… Europe one of the most expensive regions in the world to travel? That sounds a bit weird, and possibly a little misleading. In fact, Europe is so diversified that you can indeed find very expensive countries like Norway to other very budget-friendly like Greece, Turkey and others.

    Europe is not always cheap, but as a European I can tell you that I was shocked by Australia, New Zealand and, more recently, even Argentina.

    • Randy Kalp -

      April 2, 2015 at 2:02 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Simon. I thought about your comment, and I do agree that it was a little harsh to say “most,” as the drop in the Euro has helped make Europe more affordable for US travelers. When I originally wrote the piece, the exchange rate was somewhere around €1 to $1.30, which can add up suprisingly quick, even in the cheapest parts of Europe.

  • rebecca -

    March 31, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    it’s certainly worth checking out some of the less touristy countries or cities as well. Eastern Europe is stunning and so under estimated.

    • Randy Kalp -

      April 2, 2015 at 2:10 pm

      So true Rebecca! Definitely overlooked that, despite spending time in Serbia. I may have to go back and add it in, because it is a really good tip.

  • Svensk -

    March 31, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    Europe is NOT expensive, if you work the credit cards and don’t have to pay for airline tickets!! An economy airline ticket for two to Europe can run $2000-$4000 !! Two can easily do two weeks in Europe for $3000 in great hotels, with breakfast ,with a rental car if the airline tickets are free.. If you have the appropriate credit card with no foreign exchange fee, you can earn 2X valuable frequent flyer miles for your next trip…It’s a no-brainer!! Bon Voyage!! Gute Fahrt!!

    • Randy Kalp -

      April 2, 2015 at 2:16 pm

      No doubt, flights to Europe can be expensive. If you can find a deal or use airline miles like you said, then a trip to Europe definitely gets more affordable. We’re heading to Italy this month, because we found a great deal on airline tickets a couple of months ago. We got round trip tickets to Milan from NYC for $400/person. Not too shabby.

  • Ajay Sood -

    March 31, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    I found Poland to be an extremely reasonably priced destination – Warsaw, Krakow, Opole… all nice, all reasonably priced… I hence tend to agree with Simon… Generalising Europe as expensive perhaps isn’t right…

    • Randy Kalp -

      April 2, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      Good to hear about Poland. I’d love to spend sometime exploring the country.

  • Rouven @ yarnsofwhalesandsnow.com -

    April 1, 2015 at 1:30 am

    How are those tips special to Europe? And France and Italy surely don’t belong to the most expensive countries in Europe 🙂 If you think Paris is expensive go to Helsinki or Oslo or to Switzerland or Luxembourg. As mentioned in a comment above, there’s a big difference between countries. Eastern Europe can be quite cheap.

    2 morethings that just came to my mind:

    1. If you’re traveling by train, buy an interrail ticket. It’s valid for multiple weeks in multiple countries. A great way to travel.
    2. If you’re going to northern Europe, you can save a lot of money by camping. Scandinavia has the so called “everyman’s right”, which allows you to put up your tend almost everywhere and free of charge – as long as you don’t leave any trace behind.


    • Randy Kalp -

      April 2, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      Thanks Rouven for the tip about “everyman’s right” in Scandinavian countries. I’m pretty sure Iceland has a similar policy. I’d like to backpacking around and take advantage of that sometime.

      Depending on the trip, I do think using Eurail has its advantages. However, one thing to keep in mind is that in a number of countries passengers holding Eurail tickets still need buy a reservation ticket for their journey.

      Another good option for getting cheaper high-speed train tickets is to order them in advance whenever possible. For example, I recently booked four tickets from Venice to Milan for €9/piece by ordering them online a couple of months in advance.

      • Rouven @ yarnsofwhalesandsnow.com -

        April 3, 2015 at 12:16 am

        Indeed you are allowed to put up your tent almost anywhere in Iceland. But I wouldn’t recommend it without decent gear. It can get quite windy, wet, and chilly.

        Pre-ordering train tickets is highly recommended. In Norway, they have the so-called “minipris”. On every train, a small number of tickets is sold for something between €35 and €50, no matter how far you travel. Compared to how expensive Norway is, that’s quite a bargain. In Germany, you can buy a ticket that’s valid for up to 5 persons for one Saturday or Sunday. You can’t take high-speed trains, but there’s no limitation on how far you can go. We traveled this way with 4 persons from the austrian border to Cologne for just ~ €30.

  • De’Jav -

    April 1, 2015 at 2:05 am

    Nice tips when traveling through Europe some of these had been overlooked in previous travels. I’ll be coming through Europe later this year so will definitely take these to heart.

  • Randy Kalp -

    April 2, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Thanks De’Jav. Have a great trip!

  • Erick -

    April 3, 2015 at 12:03 am

    I think the “super sized” trip is one of the biggest budget busters for new travelers to Europe. With the recent rock bottom prices from the US to Europe, it’s plausible to visit twice a year on shorter trips. Also you’ll be able to slow down and really get to know the locations which definitely helps you get out of the “tourist bubble” where everything is overpriced.

    Also Eastern Europe and the Balkans region really needs to be on everyone’s travel list. Inexpensive, authentic, and beautiful.

  • Andrew -

    April 4, 2015 at 3:36 am

    the major cities of Western Europe can be pricey and for Brit a weekend on the continent can mount up. however, moving away from the capitals and spending some time in central and Eastern Europe can be very affordable. My best tip is to use pre-paid currency cards. We carry a number of them and whilst it may not give you the best rate on the day you can be sure it’s one of the best without hunting around. Plus, we opted for ones that don’t charge when withdrawing cash. This means we can keep the amount of cash we carry down to a minimum.

  • Claudia -

    May 9, 2015 at 8:52 am

    I went shopping for Justin, my recently arrived partner. I went to a local farm and bought strawberries, lettuce, carrots, oranges, tomatoes – lots of them. Everything organic. It costed me 9 euro. You need to know where to shop, for sure!