Here is a typical conversation I have with some of my friends about my travel in Europe –
Me, to my friend: I’m just back from a trip to Europe!
My friend: That’s great. Must have been quite expensive.
Me: Not really. Travelling to Europe is not as expensive as you think it is.
My friend: Oh, really? I’ve always wanted to go to Europe but never took it forward due to fear of how much it’s going to cost me.
Travelling to or within Europe is not expensive if you know how and where to spend. Here are a few tips from my personal experience that could help save you a lot of cash when in Europe –
- Do NOT use a cab: Honestly, I have no idea why Europe even has cabs (I’m sure there is a good reason, but I can’t think of any). The public transportation in Europe is just too damn good. Every part of any European country is very well connected by public transport. You have your metro/subway, trams and buses constantly running around the city, throughout the day (frequency may decrease very late in the night/early in the morning in a few cities). Most of the tourist spots are well connected by public transport and usually, in most cases, are very close to the metro/tram/bus stops. You wouldn’t find any need to use a cab. You may have to do some changing over though. For instance, you may have to take two metros to reach a spot but that’s totally okay because you can experience the city like a local. My sincere advice to all those who plan to visit Europe – never take a cab (unless you’re not well or challenged in some other way and cannot walk). Cabs can be quite expensive. Instead, depending on how long you plan to stay in a city, buy a daily/weekly/monthly transport pass. With this pass, one can usually use any form of transport (metro/bus/tram), any number of times in a day/week/month respectively. These passes work out to be much cheaper than hiring a cab. In fact, you need not take a cab from/to the airport as well. There is usually a bus/metro that connects the airport to the city centre. From the city centre, you can take another metro/bus to reach your hotel. It’s that simple.
- Stay in an Airbnb: I’m a big fan of Airbnb. It’s cheap, it’s safe, and it’s totally cool. Imagine you get to stay with a local or in a local’s home, in an apartment or area filled with locals. How better to enjoy the city than to get a taste of how the locals stay. On my trip to Paris, my husband and I stayed at a local’s home and we had an amazing experience. We would wake up quite early in the morning, make ourselves some hot chocolate, get ready and travel in the Metro just like a local would do on any normal working day. It’s easy on the wallet too. One night in an Airbnb room/home will cost you roughly around Rs. 3000 to Rs. 4000 which is much less than what you would end up spending in a decent hotel. You can also stay in a Youth Hostel dormitory if you are open to sharing rooms with other tourists. You can save much more. You also get private rooms with shared bathrooms or private rooms with a private bathroom at these youth hostels which are very well maintained and clean.
- Select your souvenirs wisely: Never buy anything and I mean anything near tourist spots. Anything you pick up near a tourist spot will be twice (or even more) as expensive as what you can get in a remote neighbourhood away from the tourist spots. I have this habit of buying a fridge magnet from every city I visited. In Pisa, I enquired the price of a fridge magnet near the tower and the price was close to 3 EUR. I decided not to get it. The same magnet was being sold at 1 EUR in a shop much away from the tower. It may not seem like a lot of money but imagine if you were buying souvenirs for all your colleagues, family and friends back home. The difference is going to add up to a lot of money which you could use to buy yourself a decent meal J. You could also save some money by deciding what to buy as a souvenir. Do some souvenir shopping at the local department store chain. I prefer buying the local cosmetics and skin care products as souvenirs. They feel much more ‘local’ and are useful when compared to a fridge magnet or a keychain. You can buy it from the local department store chain (e.g. Monoprix in Paris). When it comes to buying a souvenir for myself, well, the best thing I decided to do was stop buying them. Honestly, what’s a better souvenir than the experience and some good photos. What I usually do is save all the bus tickets and entrance tickets, develop the photos and make a good scrapbook out of them.
- Save some money on the food: One needs to note two things when it comes to food. One, where you eat and two, how many meals you eat. You can save some money by eating in restaurants away from the tourist spots. The restaurants near the tourist spots are overrated and expensive. You can also have a quick bite at food trucks. Also, if you want to really save some cash and do not care for trying the local cuisine, you can visit the Indian restaurants. Every European city will have at least one Indian restaurant. Indian food in general is cheaper than local cuisine. Regarding the number of meals you eat, from my experience, two full meals per day should suffice. I usually prefer a heavy breakfast and a good late lunch to keep me going throughout the day. You can totally skip dinner or even make do with some fruits. It’s both good on your stomach and cheap.
- Avoid buying tickets to places which you can enjoy just as much from the outside: This is a major money saver. In my opinion, the Eiffel tower or the Leaning tower of Pisa looks much good from the outside than from the inside. You honestly don’t need to spend so much money and time to climb these towers. If you want a good view of a city, there are other free places to go where you can get a wonderful view of the city. Similarly, there are plenty of museums you can enter for free. Unless you are a history geek, it’s not much use to spend so much money to enter a museum. If you do want to see the inside of a museum, then pick and choose which one is worth it. During my trip to Paris, I preferred to pay and enter Rodin’s museum rather than the Louvre. Bottom line – Do a lot of ‘free’ sight seeing.
- Buy your inter-state/city tickets much in advance: The later you book your tickets, the more expensive it’s going to get. If you plan well in advance, you can get good deals online before you set foot in Europe.
- Buy your chocolates from the local department store chains: You’re never going to leave Europe without buying some chocolates for yourself and for your family back home. You might as well save some money doing it. It’s much cheaper to buy chocolates at a local department store. You can get a lot of good deals especially if you are buying them in bulk. And you mostly get every brand of chocolate in such departmental stores. So you need not worry about choice!
- At times, flights between the Schengen states are cheaper than rail: Our return air tickets from London to Scotland cost us just 18 Pounds on Ryan Air. Imagine if we had taken a train or a bus. Check all modes of transport before booking your ticket. The trains are at times much more expensive than flights.
- Do your research and plan! Many a times, entrance to certain tourist spots are free of cost on certain days of the week. For instance, the entrance to the Vatican museum is free every last Sunday of the month. So it makes more sense to visit Vatican on the last Sunday. You may have to spend some time waiting in the queue but that’s okay. You will end up saving a lot of money! So, plan well and do your research about the place you’re visiting.
- Buy your tickets online: Most of the times, online tickets to tourist spots are cheaper than buying the tickets in person. This also helps you skip lines and save time.
Additional tips –
Plan a trip to Eastern Europe. Much cheaper and in my opinion, much more beautiful and pristine when compared to Western Europe.
Avoid going to the overrated tourist places. I’m not saying don’t visit them at all. Enjoy them from the outside and spend more time at the less well known places.
If you decide to go on a walking tour, you have many free walking tour options available. It is equally good and at times even better because the ‘tips’ you give your guide has to be ‘earned’ by him or her. So they make sure they do a good job.
Do you have any suggestions? Please mention them in the comments section below!