Welcome to my post all about how to travel Europe on a budget, if you’re like me, you would rather travel for longer and see more amazing things and meet more awesome people than just spend all of your money in a mere few weeks.
But to travel for longer means that you need to come up with more creative ways to keep those costs down.
Here are all of my tips when it comes to the best ways to travel around Europe without blowing away that budget.
When it comes to travel costs, accommodation is definitely right up there as something that will slowly but surely rid you of all of your hard earned travel savings. Check out my five hot tips.
Couchsurfing – The big one, and probably the most well known is Couchsurfing. It has the best website layout and a good community vibe; it’s the one that I’m a member of.
Hospitality Club – Gives you access to a large community of friendly members and have a certain amount of security screening for hosts. The least pretty of the bunch, but who said non pretty sites weren’t valuable? Check it out here.
Global Freeloaders – Another site with a very ‘give back what you take’ attitude. You are expected to act as a host as well as a guest. It’s very travel focused. Check it out here.
Remember that you’re not just using this person (host) for free accommodation, the whole idea is that it’s about meeting new people, making new friends and networking on the traveler’s grapevine. If you only want a free night but don’t want to talk to anyone or socialize, then this is not for you.
WWOOF’ing – What Is WWOOF And How Do I Get Involved?
I’ve done a lot of WWOOF’ing in Europe, and I grew up with a best friend whose family actually hosted WWOOF’ers on their farm in Australia. I always thought the acronym stood for:
Willing Workers On Organic Farms
But now apparently (according to the official website) it stands for:
World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms – (I think they changed it on me).
Either way, WWOOF’ing is a great concept, and essentially allows you to work 4-6 hours of the day on a property in exchange for food and board. It allows you to spend time in some real local areas with nice local people, and it’s a very different experience to staying in Hostels in the capital of that country, for example.
You are generally expected to stay for 2 weeks at a minimum, so you cannot just show up for one night and then leave the next day – that would be considered very rude (unless you had a good reason for leaving abruptly).
WWOOF’ing is world-wide, and is a super network of farms and hosts willing to take you on. You will need to pay for registration and membership with the WWOOF’ing community, but trust me; this is no scam, so if it sounds like your sort of thing then go for it.
House sitting for people who would like their house occupied whilst they are away for extended periods of time is certainly a viable option. Of course it is more for those with long term travel plans in mind, but it can be a great way to begin living in another country and get a feel for the local place and culture.
A good site for house sitting is: MindMyHouse.com
It does cost $20.00 to sign up as a ‘sitter’ though, but has one of the more comprehensive listings for house sitting.
Hostels are currently the biggest way to travel Europe cheaply. The cheapest way to do it is to stay in a large dormitory room. The advantage to hostels is you make loads of new friends of like minded backpackers, and often hostels will have kitchen facilities which can help to drastically reduce your food bill.
I’ve stayed in so many hostels I’ve lost count, but I can tell you that you will absolutely love some and hate others – just roll with it, it’s all part of the game!
If you plan on staying in hostels in Europe, check out my articles:
AirBNB gives you the option to pay for someone else’s apartment or a room in their house. Can offer a lot more comfort and privacy than hostel’s, but can also save you a bundle compared to paying for hotels. Worth checking out if you don’t plan on staying in any hostels, or want a break from the 15 bed dorms!
This concept is what it appears, giving you the chance to ‘Camp In My Garden’
, at the moment this idea and the gardens is heavily UK based, so it’s a great idea of you are backpacking with a tent and travelling through the United Kingdom.
Hitchhiking is definitely do-able. On my first backpacking trip through Europe when I was 18 I hitchhiked a lot with a friend. We only met friendly people – and even got a lift in a sports car from a guy who ‘remembered the good old days of backpacking’. So it’s not all weirdo’s and scary characters.
We did meet a couple of strange people in our hitchhiking trip though, and my honest opinion is that a solo female traveler shouldn’t be hitchhiking, call me old fashioned if you like, but there it is. Being two males certainly made hitchhiking a much more comfortable affair; I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from doing it, just giving my views on the matter based on my own personal experience.
WHAT the diggety is Mitfahrgelegenheit!?
Well, for those travelling Germany, there is a site called Mitfahrgelegenheit, which is one of those obscenely long German words that essentially means ‘car-sharing opportunity’. And that’s exactly what it is.
It’s an inexpensive way to get around Germany, although you will need to brush up on your German skills or start using Google Translate as the site and most of its users operate in German.
For an example of pricing, getting a ride with a car from Berlin to Munich tends to range from about €25 to €30. So you can see it’s a lot cheaper than the train if you are passing through.
Travelling via train is probably the most common and the easiest way to get around Europe. For non European citizens the best way to travel Europe by train would be to purchase a EuroRail pass, which will allow you to use the same ticket to train through multiple European countries. Check out these two sites:
I think RailEurope is generally cheaper then EURail (but do your own research) – however a global pass for 3 months will easily set you back over €500. So it’s not exactly cheap, but it is EASY and makes the travel section of your trip a real breeze.
There are discounts for those who are considered ‘Youths’ (under the age of 26)
If you are only going to one or two countries, it can be a lot cheaper to just get a train pass for that individual country instead of a global pass – so always investigate your options to get the best deal.
These guys handle most of the international bus trips, don’t bother trying to use them from one city to another within the same country (I tried to organize a bus from Cologne to Munich for example, but had no luck with EuroLines).
They can be great for getting from one capital city to another, so include them when sourcing your cheapest option to get between cities.
This company arranges ‘bus loops’ that offer pre-paid routes through Europe via their own bus system. They offer drop offs at your hostel door and other various travel packages. It’s a little more ‘hand held’ – but can be a good option for first time travelers.
I received a tip in the comments below that Orange Ways are a nice cheap bus option, especially around Eastern Europe. I haven’t used them myself yet, but they might be worth checking out.
Remember that each country tends to have their own individual bus systems, so investigate which companies are running the more local routes. Buses are generally a lot cheaper than the train system.
I have a friend who has done the BusAbout bus loops, she gave her thoughts on them in this article.
First start by getting a base idea of the flights, companies and prices operating on the route you wish to travel.
Use Kayak and Skyscanner to compare prices. Kayak will also compare AGAINST a bunch of other companies as well. This will give you a good general idea for the prices (but will open lots of windows on your computer, so be prepared!)
Next I check the two big budget airlines in Europe, which are EasyJet and RyanAir. But remember, these companies add on prices after the initial ‘price flight’, so you will pay for luggage etc. So always get the ‘final price’ from them by clicking through (but not paying, obviously!).
Update: 09/02/2012: Also take a look at Wizz Air and Transavia – these are some other budget airlines I’ve discovered whilst living here in Europe.
Make sure the flight you are after is flying into the airport that you want, some cities have multiple airports, with one being an airport for ‘budget’ airlines, and another for normal airlines. EasyJet tends to operate in better airports than RyanAir for example – and it will cost you more to get into the city from a further away budget airport then the main airport for that city.
EasyJet uses London and Paris as its two big hubs for transport, so keep that in mind.
Remember to factor in all of your costs. Will you need to get a train or bus into the center of the city from the Airport? How much will this cost? Will it ultimately be cheaper just to get a train or bus all the way instead of flying once you tally up all of these extra flight costs? You need to be asking yourself all of these questions to ensure you get the best price available for your travelling.
Are you about to start planning a big backpacking trip, and looking for planning advice and travel ideas for Europe? Then check out my super planning guide to help you with exactly that.
So those are all of my tips for travelling through Europe on a budget. I hope they prove a valuable resource for you and your backpacking adventure – if you have any of your own tips or advice to give for readers, then please leave a comment or send me an email.
Thanks and safe travels,