How To Travel 12 European Cities Without Going Broke
What on Earth can be better than travelling?
And what on Earth can be better than care-free travelling when you are 20-something-years-old in the company of friends who are as young and ambitious as you are? Nothing! But it’s not possible to travel care-free… is it? After all, travel is expensive… right? Wrong! This is what I prefer to call a travel stereotype. Travelling WITHOUT breaking the bank is possible. Let me tell you how!
First up – a little background! I am from Ukraine. Every time I want to go on travel to Europe, I need a Schengen visa, which is hard to get. That is why during my 5-month stay in the heart of Germany as an Erasmus student, I realized that I was literally obliged to make the most of the time that I had.
And what did I have to work with? A half-decent Erasmus scholarship, a university located in the Northern Germany and lots of 3-day-long weekends.
Let me start with explaining you how to pay minimum for transportation.
My number-one discovery was FlixBus, which is a German company that provides international bus service for extremely competitive prices. I purchased a Berlin to Amsterdam return ticket from time to time and on each occasion, it only costed around €20! Be sure to book tickets well in advance, however, because the closer to the date that you purchase your tickets, the higher the prices will be.
The second thing that impressed me about Western Europe were the low-cost airlines. Unfortunately, we do not have them in Ukraine. The airline I most commonly used while studying abroad was RyanAir. Some of my friends even managed to pay as low as €9 for their flights, such as a trip from Berlin to Milan. The key secret here is (again!) booking everything in advance.
Another useful tip for saving money is to leave Southern European destinations (such as Rome or Barcelona, for example) for the winter season. This is a good idea for those of you interested in the pure idea of travelling and sight-seeing, because most people prefer to visit such places in summer, which makes it (especially during July to August) a so-called “tourist season” with higher prices for everything – including flight tickets and accommodation. Traveling during the off-season therefore prevents you having to fork out extra (and unnecessary) money. This principle also works with airlines such as RyanAir, so plan your travel destinations carefully!
The third option regarding transportation (which may be suitable for you) is Bla bla car or even hitchhiking. Just make sure to have enough courage!
Now, as soon as we’d got ourselves to the place we’d wanted, a new aspect arises. Where do you stay?
From personal experience, I have found that resources like Booking.com or Airbnb are extremely useful. Okay, I know, I keep repeating it – but what if it really works this way only? Book well in advance! If there is a group of you and your friends going on a trip, it may be better to leave €10-per-night hostels alone. They might seem to be cheaper, but a €100-per-night apartment may be of more benefit to you and your friends as there will be a kitchen and you won’t have to eat out every single day. If, of course, you are traveling alone, then a cheap hostel is the right choice.
I would also like to mention Couchsurfing, which many of you may have already heard of. Not only that it is free, but it literally pays you back in the currency of cool stories and true country experience. It may be hard to start, as many couchers check the references and a kind of rating you have on the website, but as soon as you jump into this boat you won’t want to jump out of it.
Well, now we have somewhere to sleep at night… what about the other expenses?
As to food: remember that grabbing food from the supermarket is always cheaper than eating out. That is why a few paragraphs before I told you that, all in all, it may be cheaper to book a room that has kitchen.
Moreover, always research the food in the country you are going to. Maybe it is a clever idea to take some food with you. That is exactly what we did on our trip to the Netherlands. Actually, during that 3-day trip, we managed not to buy ANY food and that was pretty crazy! We only ate the free breakfasts in the hostel and what we took over the border from Germany. Okay, I’m not being entirely truthful… On our last day in Amsterdam we tried all sorts of cheese available for degustation in cheese shops all around the city. But this doesn’t count, does it?
As to transportation costs, don’t go past public transport! It is also a part of your expenses which can be drastically lowered! Always check special offers such as day or weekend ticket specials, group tickets or even 7-days cards, because usually they save you more money. Another good idea is to choose accommodation somewhere in the city center so that you won’t have to waste time and money on public transport.
All in all, these are (at a first sight) easy and logical tips – but combined together, they’ve helped me to visit four countries, 12 cities AND pass 8,000km in four months. All without going bankrupt. So, make sure to give these tips a go!