Having traveled through Europe several times, I do know how to have a great trip on little money. Here are my tips:
- Don’t stay at hotels – Choose Air Bnbs, regular bnbs, hostels or Couchsurfing. The prices are cheaper, the experiences more personal and you can choose places that include kitchen usage and laundry to cut down on costs more. Which brings me to…
- Cook your own meals sometimes – While eating out is a huge part of travel, on longer trips it gets expensive and unhealthy. Cooking occasionally gives you a break and it’s a great excuse to wander local markets and ask vendors about unknown ingredients.
- Eat street food – Street food is much cheaper than a meal at a restaurant. And no trip to Europe is complete without having a ubiquitous donor kebab.
- Pack light – By packing only what you need, you avoid luggage fees. You also avoid having to take taxis because your baggage is too much to handle on public transport. For this three-week trip, I only brought two carry-ons, a small suitcase and a large purse. You can accomplish that by doing what I mentioned above and staying at apartments or hostels that have self-service laundry (just remember that many Europeans don’t have dryers and air-dry their clothes instead).
- Free walking tours – Many European cities offer free walking tours. These tours are comprehensive, easy for any fitness level and a great way to get an introduction to the city and country. There are tours that go into standard history but there’s also tours that explore alternative culture, like this one I took of Berlin back in 2011. The tours are not completely free as you are encouraged to tip (and with the quality you tend to get, you should) but it’s still a really good deal.
- Use mass transport – Most European cities have phenomenal public transport options as opposed to the United States (example: Lisbon’s public transport system, which serves half a million people, is much better organized and runs much more frequently in off-hours than NYC’s, which serves 8 million). Seriously, with underground trains, trams and buses, there is almost no reason to take a cab or Uber.
- Go East – Remember this scene in Eurotrip? The first part couldn’t be further from the truth, but the second part is still fairly true. Eastern Europe is gorgeous, fascinating, historical and usually devoid of the crowds found in Western Europe, but your money still goes a long way.
- Go off season – Not only is it cheaper, you have much less crowds. And you have Christmas Markets. And hot wine.