How to do Europe on a budget

Posted on 20 October 2011

Most of us don’t think carefully enough about the long list of expenses and hidden costs involved in travelling – especially if we’re first-timers to Europe, the most pricey continent on the planet. Often, we set out on holiday with a daily budget in mind, realise it was unrealistic and end up over-spending. Read on to learn how to make your Euro go further and enjoy a stress-free holiday for it.

And, if anyone asks, you’re not “˜cheap’, you’re thrifty.


The easiest way to cut your spending on food is, of course, to sleep through breakfast. Not an option? Then make sure that your hotel accommodation fare includes breakfast – specials like these can save you a lot of money. The occasional meal out is not a problem (especially if you opt for lunch rather than dinner), but if you’re on a budget you shouldn’t overdo it. When staying in self-catering accommodation, buy the bulk of your food from the grocery store. Ready-made meals in Europe are much cheaper than the average restaurant pizza (which, by the way, is €8.50 in Paris and €10 in Dublin).


If you’re single and willing to mingle, you shouldn’t have to pay for your own drinks. Guys might think themselves sadly exempt from this rule, but they’re clearly just aren’t meeting the right strangers. If you do have to buy your own, drink what the locals drink. You might enjoy the change and imported alcohol is more expensive than locally-produced drinks. During the day, take a water bottle with you and refill it with tap water. The water in most major European cities is drinkable, but do enquire upfront.


They say that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but if you play your cards right, you may stumble upon quite a few. From parks and beaches to student night discounts at cinemas and art galleries, most European cities offer activities that are free of charge or cheaper on certain days. Information on freebies can easily be found at organisations like the YMCA, universities and language schools. Also check online at to see if you qualify for the International Student Card, which can cut your travel costs by as much as a 30%.

Getting around

If you’re a struggling student or a broke backpacker, you always should prioritise your dwindling budget over an aching back and feet. Whenever it’s possible and safe to do so, walk to your destination rather than using public transport. Not only will you save your bucks, you’ll learn more about the city you’re in that way. Taxi fares in European capitals are atrocious and unless you’ve got a monthly pass, public transport costs can add up, too. (You might also want to befriend locals who own cars, boats, scooters or other means of convenient transport.)


Find out where the locals shop. This is especially important when visiting markets, which can often be tourist traps. Also, make the effort to learn three of four phrases in the local language – you’ll substantially boost your bargaining power that way.

These tips might not be life-changers, but remember that it’s the small things that add up. Follow even two or three of them and, who knows, you might be saving towards your next holiday much sooner than you thought.

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