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If you’re looking for how to travel around Europe cheaply, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the best Europe budget travel tips from a seasoned solo Europe traveller.
Altogether, I’ve spent approximately six months travelling around Europe on a budget and solo. I have previously published a guide to travelling alone in Europe, so I feel like it’s time to share my top Europe budget travel tips. From transport advice to general travel recommendations, I cover all bases.
How much to budget per day for travel around Europe?
This is a loaded question, as it depends on several different factors. However, on my recent trip to Europe, I was travelling alone, staying in hostels and predominantly taking buses between cities. I kept a record of my spending and my daily expenditure ranged from under $60 in Tallinn to $135 per day in Copenhagen. This includes everything – accommodation, transport, food and retail therapy!
Hopefully, that answers the question of how much to budget per day to travel around Europe. If you stick to cheaper Eastern Europe countries like Poland and the Baltics, you could comfortably budget around $60 per day. However, if you visit more expensive places like London and Scandinavia, adjust your budget accordingly and safely aim for at least $100 per day (if not more).
Europe budget travel tips – the transport edition
1. Take the bus
I believe the cheapest way to travel around Europe is to take the bus. This is how I travelled around Europe on my previous two trips, with a train or two thrown in for good measure. On my recent trip, my cheapest bus journey was $10 and my most expensive was $50 (an eight-hour journey). I am a big supporter of FlixBus, as their buses are always clean, comfortable and on time. The only time I didn’t use FlixBus was when it wasn’t available (in the Baltics and the UK).
To make your trip even more affordable, check out overnight buses. I did a couple of overnight bus journeys in the United States, but my body did not approve, so I stay away from them these days. Nevertheless, if you’re young and able to sleep anywhere (I’m incredibly jealous), overnight buses allow you to save money on accommodation and give you an extra day of sightseeing. Win-win!
I also want to mention Eurail, as many people recommend trains as the cheapest way to travel around Europe. Yes, they do offer youth discounts for people under 27 years of age. However, I still believe FlixBus is more affordable. Definitely look at both transport options before purchasing your tickets.
2. Keep an eye out for cheap airfares
If you only have a short amount of time in Europe (two weeks or one month, for example), flying may be a more efficient alternative. Fortunately, there are many budget airlines operating across Europe these days. I flew with EasyJet from Amsterdam to Prague in 2017 and the flight plus transfers cost me $100. However, if you choose to fly, it’s always cheaper to book well in advance. So once you have your Europe trip planned, look out for sales.
3. Walk the walk
One of the reasons I like staying in hostels is that nine times out of 10 they’re located close to the city centre. This makes it so much easier to visit the most popular attractions, which are predominantly located in the city centre. I’m a big walker and would usually reach 10,000 steps before lunch in Europe. It’s a win-win as you get to see the sights and exercise, so you can indulge in delicious European treats later 😏.
Sometimes it’s not possible to walk everywhere, which is when I would use public transport. I recommend heading to Google to figure out how to navigate a certain city’s public transport. I believe I used Uber less than five times in three months in Europe and only when I had no other option. One of my top Europe budget travel tips is to avoid rideshare services and taxis as much as possible. They are costly, particularly when travelling solo.
Europe budget travel tips – general travel advice
4. Avoid travelling in peak season
Another one of my top Europe budget travel tips is to avoid travelling in peak season. Although I would love to experience a European summer one of these days, it’s much more affordable (and less crowded) if you visit Europe outside of this peak season. To break it down, Europe’s off-season is November to March, while its shoulder seasons are April/May and September/October.
In popular European destinations like Paris and London, there are crowds no matter when you visit. But on the other hand, I felt like the only tourist in Gothenburg in September. A totally underrated destination, by the way! I also find that accommodation is cheaper and hostels are less busy the closer you get to winter.
Another slight positive for autumn travel in Europe is the weather and the glorious golden trees. Yes, it can be cold in some destinations, but I also experienced a lot more sunny days than rainy ones.
Speaking of autumn, here’s my autumn packing list for Europe
5. Book in advance
I mentioned this previously, but on my last trip to Europe, I didn’t take my own advice and paid for it (literally). Picture me sitting in my Helsinki hostel’s common room trying to book accommodation a week in advance for the UK. As you can imagine, I struggled to find a bed in affordable but also well-reviewed hostels. So unless you’re a spontaneous traveller, I highly recommend booking accommodation and transport in advance. By in advance, I mean at least one month to six weeks prior to your trip. The earlier the better, folks.
6. Seek out free things to do
I know that in some destinations, there are specific world-renowned paid attractions everyone wants to visit. As long as you have money in your budget, I say go for it. However, I’m not a big museum person and I would rather spend my money on food than visiting an art gallery 😬.
So before visiting a city I always research free things to do on both Google and Pinterest. Sometimes you’ll get some surprising results. For example, I didn’t realise there’s more than one free museum to visit in Edinburgh (the only museums I visit). I also now know that there’s plenty of free things to do in Copenhagen, which I subsequently turned into a blog post.
7. Check out city passes
If you do want to visit more than one popular attraction, check if the city offers some kind of city pass option. City passes usually allow you to see multiple attractions at an overall discounted rate. I don’t use them often, but they might suit you and your travel needs.
8. Embrace “free” walking tours
If this is your first time visiting Hayley on Holiday, welcome! One thing you will learn about me if you click on any of my European blog posts is that I love free walking tours. They are a great way to support locals and learn more about new cities. I find I learn not only about the city’s history but contemporary recommendations too. For instance, in Dublin, our guide mentioned his favourite brunch spot and it was amazing. If you also read my Copenhagen blog post, you’ll notice my walking tour guide passed on so many helpful recommendations. There are also some companies that offer a variety of free walking tours. In Warsaw I did a really interesting street art tour in a neighbourhood I never would have visited alone. Now, although they’re labelled free walking tours, a tip is always appreciated. Make room in your budget, guys!
9. Visit more affordable European cities
If you’re on a strict student budget or want to travel around Europe as cheaply as possible, choose more affordable European cities. I specifically recommend heading to Eastern Europe, as your budget will stretch a lot further in Poland or Prague in the Czech Republic, compared to Paris. In Wrocław, I was blown away by how cheap everything was, including food and drink, accommodation and transport. I didn’t pay more than $10 AUD for a meal and purchased $1.50 cans of cider from the supermarket. I also enjoyed the $1 tram rides to reach the bus station from the city centre. Alternatively, I remember getting breakfast supplies in Prague (bread, spread and fruit) for $2.
10. Pack light
This is one of my top Europe budget travel tips – always pack light. Now, by pack light, I don’t necessarily mean carry-on only. If you can swing it (particularly if you visit in summer and don’t need to pack multiple bulky tops and pants), I say go for it. However, on my last two Europe trips, I travelled with a day backpack and a medium-sized suitcase. Here are options from Strandbags for Aussies and Amazon for international readers. My suitcase remained until 20kgs the entire time, which means I never got penalized on transport and it was relatively easy to travel between destinations. If my suitcase was any bigger I would have struggled to get it from A to B and up narrow hostel staircases. I also probably would have made more unnecessary purchases too 👀.
Wondering what to pack for travel in Europe? Here’s a comprehensive list of my travel essentials.
11. Go light on the souvenir shopping
This brings me to the next one of my Europe budget travel tips. Although I love shopping, I do try and control myself when travelling for an extended amount of time. On my last trip, my souvenir of choice was buying replacement clothing items in H&M and Primark. If I had space, I think I would have brought back multiple things from Flying Tiger and HEMA. Now I like to think of photos as my souvenir of choice 😉.
Europe budget travel tips – accommodation options
12. Stay in hostels
My number one budget travel tip is to stay in hostels. Hostels sometimes get a bad rap, but they have a lot of positive aspects. This includes the fact they’re affordable, usually in central locations and include kitchen facilities. Staying in hostels is also a great way to meet people when travelling alone in Europe. When travelling solo, I prefer to stay in female-only dorm rooms. I also always check whether there are affordable private rooms available. When booking hostels, I check the reviews and prices on Hostelworld, Booking.com and the hostel’s official website. I know, I’m the definition of a bargain hunter, but my thoroughness pays off. It’s also a great way to share the love, you know?
I know Airbnb is another alternative, but as a solo traveller, it’s seldom the cheapest option. Affordable Airbnbs are also not usually located close to the city centre, which adds unnecessary costs.
Europe budget travel tips – the food and drink edition
14. Travel with a water bottle
One of the easiest ways to save money when travelling in Europe is to travel with a reusable water bottle or two. Before visiting a city, I do a quick Google search to see whether it’s safe to drink the tap water. You’ll find the tap water is potable in most European destinations. If I was ever uncertain, I would inevitably purchase bottled water. However, then you run into the problem of trying to determine whether you’re purchasing sparking or non-sparkling water (this is a serious issue in Europe). I would also like to point out that I’m still standing after drinking a lot of tap water 😂.
15. Eat one meal out a day
When I travel to Europe, I usually have a morning pastry, a large traditional lunch and then a small snack for dinner. My lunch may have been schnitzel in Vienna, perogies in Poland or goulash in Budapest. Having one bigger but traditional local meal a day allowed me to save money and, you know, calories 💁♀️. As a solo traveller, I also prefer not to be wandering down unknown streets alone at night.
16. Embrace supermarkets
My final money-saving tip is to embrace supermarkets. Do as the locals do, as “traditional” food and drinks don’t just exist at restaurants. You can also stock up on unique and affordable snacks to enjoy on travel days. As I said previously, I embraced cheap cider from Polish convenience stores and chocolate from Belgian supermarkets. But I would just like to say, I didn’t take the cider on the bus, although I saw more than one person enjoying a bus beer.
Hopefully, these Europe budget travel trips help you plan your upcoming trip.
With these tips and tricks up your sleeve, it’s so easy to travel around Europe cheaply. No matter how much money you have to spend, you’re guaranteed to have an amazing time in Europe. If you find these tips helpful, please let me know in the comments section below or come say hi on Instagram.
P.S. Don’t forget to organise travel insurance before your trip!