Erin K. studies Media Arts and Design at James Madison University, and is spending a Semester in London with CISabroad. Learn more about her studies and travels here, and stay tuned for more great posts from Erin!
Traveling around Europe doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, if you budget your money well, it really isn’t that expensive. Here are some tips for saving money I have learned this semester.
1. Stay in a hostel or Airbnb– You definitely don’t need to stay in a 5 star hotel when trying to save money in Europe. Hostels are great because you can find multiple in any city you are traveling to. They provide a bed, bathroom, and sometimes kitchen and breakfast- everything you need. They can be very inexpensive and are usually located in prime locations. Airbnbs are another very inexpensive option, especially when traveling with multiple people. With this you can rent a room in an apartment or the whole thing for one set price. They often include a kitchen as well. Sometimes you are staying in the apartment with the owner and other times you are with other travelers. And even better, sometimes you get it to yourself.
2. Cook your own food- eating out can be very expensive. 9 times out of 10 it will save you money to buy food at the grocery store and prepare it yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the famous local cuisine, you just get to see it truly as the locals would. Shopping in foreign grocery stores gives you a really good idea of what locals eat and it is actually a really fun experience. In Switzerland I opted to buy a make-your-own fondue kit from the grocery for six Frank rather than spend 30 Frank per person at a restaurant. It was still delicious and so fun to make! I know that you won’t always have access to a kitchen, so when you do eat out, stick with the local places out of the touristy center. They always have better prices and more authentic food.
3. Eurail pass- The Eurail pass is a pass you can buy to use on any train in Europe. There are many options that work for a specific time or in specific countries, so you can choose the one that works best for you. I chose the 8 days of unlimited travel in 1 month. This means that I can take as many trains, busses, or boats in a day that I want for eight days in one month. The pass may seem expensive, but it saves you money when you add up the individual cost of each ticket you would have had to buy. It is also really flexible because you can hop on any train at any time as long as it doesn’t require a reservation.
4. Walk everywhere- Public transportation is expensive and hard to navigate in foreign countries. Walking is good exercise and it allows you to explore and see things that you would have otherwise missed, so try to walk as many places as you can.
5. Avoid expensive tourist attractions- These may look fun, but often times they are extremely crowded and overpriced. Try to do things that the locals would do and search for alternatives to the busy tourist attractions. Some places, however, shouldn’t be missed. If there is a certain museum or historical site you have been dying to see, don’t let the price stop you. This may be your only chance to see it and you don’t want to give it up just for money. Look online in advance and see if there are any discounts you can use.
6. Make a budget- Know how much money you have to spend and create a budget. Give yourself a certain amount to live off of each day and really try to stick with it. This can be a challenge, but it is fun to see how far you can stretch your dollar. Allot a set amount to leisure each month and spend it wisely!
7. Do your research- Know the currency of the country you are traveling in and the exchange. Over time it is easy to see that certain things are very expensive in certain countries and relatively cheap in others. This is when it is best to plan ahead and buy the things you will need while you are in a country that is less expensive before traveling somewhere like London, where everything is very expensive. It is also best to research discounts for whatever it is you want to do. The Eurail Pass offers many discounts on attractions, transportation, etc. It is also good to know student discounts and two for one discounts. There are so many, it is just up to you to know them before you need them!