Illinois Tourism & Travel

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How To Travel Europe On A Budget

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There’s no need to blow your savings on an epic trip.

Hi! My name is Jemima, and I’m all about traveling on a budget.

Looking for some budget travel inspiration? Here are all the best tips and tricks I’ve picked up that allow me to travel well without spending all my savings.


Take advantage of free walking tours.

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Every single time I arrived in a new city, I took a free walking tour. Just do a quick Google search to find one in the city you’re visiting. I’ve found that these free tours are the best way to get oriented in a new place, learn about the culture and history, and get some local tips on where to eat, drink, and sightsee. Just remember to tip your guide at the end!


Consider doing a work exchange for free lodging.

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If you’re traveling alone and have a good amount of time, you could consider spending a month or two working in a fixed place. On websites like WorkawayHostel Jobs, and plenty of others, you can find short-term jobs where you’ll work a couple of hours per day in return for free accommodations. I spent a month working at a bed and breakfast in Florence where I stayed for free in exchange for my work, and it was an amazing way to really get to know the city.


Keep a running list of places you want to go in order to make last-minute planning easier.


Use buses wherever and whenever you can.

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Trains are convenient, but they can also be pricey. A lot of people opt for the Eurail pass when traveling long-term in Europe, but for the sake of your wallet, consider traveling by bus instead. I personally really liked traveling via Flix Bus.

Sure, the bus takes longer and often the stations are less conveniently located, but when you’re traveling for a long time and you’re not in a rush, the savings make it worthwhile. 


Plan a little, but keep your schedule flexible.


Research which countries are most affordable for traveling.


For even more savings, go off the beaten path.

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Even while visiting these more affordable countries, capital cities can be relatively pricey because most tourists flock there. If you want to save cash, it’s worth researching other destinations beyond the big cities. I do a lot of googling, watching YouTube, and scrolling through Reddit to find recommendations for hidden gems and destinations that aren’t so mainstream.


Stay somewhere with free breakfast…or better yet, a kitchen.

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Free breakfast is the backbone of any budget travel trip. Yes, I am that person who will sneakily make a sandwich at breakfast time and keep it in my bag until lunch. There’s no shame.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a food lover. And for me, the best part of traveling is trying new foods and cuisines. But eating out every single lunch and dinner can get very expensive very quickly. On a two-week trip, I’ll blow most of my budget on meals. But when I’m traveling for a longer period of time, I make sure I’m staying somewhere with a kitchen so that I can make my own food a few times a week. 


Book directly and avoid third-party booking sites for the best rates.

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By all means, use Agoda or Hostelworld to find the best place to stay, but whenever possible try to book your accommodation and transport directly with the hostel, hotel, or B&B. You’ll avoid random fees, and if something goes wrong with your booking, it’s always a lot easier to resolve when there’s no third-party involved. 


Take advantage of Skyscanner’s everywhere search feature.


If you’re flexible, you can travel wherever the deals take you. I love Skyscanner’s everywhere search feature because you can plug in dates and find the cheapest flight available without having a specific destination in mind. That’s how I ended up taking a 24-euro flight from Rome to Bulgaria and had the best time in a place I wouldn’t have otherwise visited. 


Get a local SIM card.

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Don’t get stuck paying for an exorbitant data roaming charge. If your phone isn’t locked to a network, you can buy a local SIM card for pretty cheap. Get a basic data plan — enough to use Google Maps and Messenger when you’re out and about — and do most of your internet browsing and social media scrolling when you’re on Wi-Fi. Try to get a SIM that works in all (or most) European countries. 


If you’re traveling for an extended period of time, budget by month rather than by day.

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When I tried to stick to a daily budget, it didn’t go well. I found it hard to juggle larger expenses like bus tickets with smaller expenses like meals on a day-to-day basis. I discovered that setting a budget on a monthly basis was way more effective. Some days I’d spend $10 and some days $100, but seeing it all average out over 30 days made a lot more sense. 


Use a journal or an app to track your spending.

During my first month abroad, I didn’t actually track how much I was spending, and it got a little overwhelming. It didn’t help that I was in London, which felt like the most expensive city on Earth. But then I started using the TripCoin app, which makes the whole budgeting process easier by helping you plan and log your expenses. I set up one trip with TripCoin for each month I was gone, which helped keep myself on track. 


Consider traveling in the shoulder season or off-season.


Don’t underestimate hostels — they’re often better than you might expect.


Make friends if you’re traveling alone and maybe even split some costs.


Use public transportation whenever you can.

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Using public transportation in a new place can be daunting, especially if you don’t speak the local language, but Ubers and cabs really add up. Get advice from the front desk of your hotel about how to use public transport. Then rely on Google Maps, which has a transport option that’ll show you the best way to your destination using buses, metros, or trains complete with timetables and route numbers to make things easy for you. 


Prioritize and determine what’s worth spending money on.

Do you have any great tips for saving money while traveling? Tell us in the comments below!