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Travel Tips: 10 ways to travel Europe for under $1000

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Budapest, Hungary
Budapest, a Cheapo-friendly destination. Photo by **Maurice**.

Don’t let the fear of expenses get in the way of a trip across the pond. When done right, touring Europe can be cheaper than traveling through North America. If I can manage a four-month jaunt for under $1500, you can manage a two-month trip for $1000 or less. Here are 10 ways to make it happen:

1. Pick the route less traveled

Paris, Vienna and Switzerland are luxury gems worth seeing when you have the budget, but penny pinchers should lean more towards Mediterranean marvels and Eastern European beauties like Dubrovnik, Krakow and Budapest.

2. Avoid travel packages

Seven-day bus tours and vacation packages are carefree ways to roam, but extra costs for meals and side attractions add up fast. Europe can be a traveler’s playground in most cases, so be independent.

3. Couch surf

The hotel industry, even in cheap Euro destinations, knows tourists will easily pay high costs for beds. Couch surfing communities, like couchsurfing.org, provide a network of inviting hosts offering their couches to travelers for free. The wave has notably hit Europe, and the option is a big money saver for the adventurous traveler.

4. Fly

Eurail passes are still good deals for backpackers on an unplanned continental whirlwind. Yet those with a decided destination can search dozens of low-cost airline companies carting passengers for pennies. Long-distance flights, like Istanbul to Morocco and London to Rome can be as cheap as $20 to $60 one way. Visit our flight section for budget airline information, and also check out the Skyscanner Web site.

5. Pack light

Those who’ve traveled in the past five years know that checking in luggage is an annoying extra cost. Strip your pack to less than necessary and throw it on your back. Aim to carry around 10 percent of your body weight. You can buy whatever you need upon arrival.

6. Take photos

The best way to document your journey is not through trinkets and t-shirts. Small digital cameras allow sightseers to capture hundreds of frames (and memories) while saving some precious cash. Plus, photos have a lifetime warranty!

7. No. 1 souvenir: Postcards

Everyone loves postcards because they’re a novelty, collector’s item and personal greeting all in one. The old-fashioned task of sending postcards only highlights the charming surprise one feels when receiving them. Postcards keep the souvenir tab low in cost but high in sincerity.

8. Two’s company

While three’s a crowd and solo style can get pricey, traveling with a buddy sheds cost in unexpected ways. From two-for-ones to special offers for couples, it’s surprising how much you can save when “going Dutch”.

9. Walk

Trams, buses, metros and taxis are a city’s biggest rip-off. Walking has so many advantages—exercise, more photo-ops, and overall a better and more exciting view of a city and its surroundings.

10. Eat light

Munching on smaller meals and going grocery shopping for snacks can keep your energy high all day, plus it keeps you away from big bills at tourist trap bistros. Don’t forget that ordering to go costs less, and eating in a park with a bottle of wine is more romantic than a busy terrace with sub-par service.

Bonus Tip: Avoid summer travel. Europe can be just as fun and beautiful in the spring and fall. Even the winter can make way for romantic wonderlands in the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Scandinavian Mountains.  Traveling during the off-season means cheaper prices—and less crowds.

About the author

About the author: Audrey Sykes hopped across the pond from the US eight years ago for a Masters degree in global journalism. Since then, she’s lived all over Europe, reporting and editing for music sites, snowboard mags, and travel media. She’s also the Amsterdam author for Party Earth, a guide to nightlife across Europe.

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19 Responses to “Travel Tips: 10 ways to travel Europe for under $1000”

andrew says:

Sold!

Eurotriptips says:

I think Europe not only can be nicer in Spring and Fall but actually is nicer. Moderate climate, less tourists, less crowds, cheaper hotels.

Plus flowers and trees are always lovelier in these two seasons, which makes great pictures.

I definitely agree about travel packages! Worst rip-off ever, not only does it cost you an arm and a leg but you don’t get to appreciate anything to see because it everything is rushed.

Another great souvenir is a restaurant menu. Most of the time, restaurants are happy to comply if I politely ask them for a copy of their menu. Some of them I frame and put in my kitchen. They make very interesting conversation pieces.

noambit.com says:

The catch is actually getting across the pond cheaply. While flights continue to go up it’s not a bad idea to design your trip around cheaper arrival / departure airports. Flying into Frankfurt airport is almost always cheaper than Berlin, Madrid is usually cheaper than Barcelona and I’d just avoid Rome if you want to stay cheap (Italy for that matter). Just alter your trip a bit and who knows you might end up with some neat little surprises!

brian says:

One great idea is to use HOSTELS, but get a private room with en-suite bathroom, meaning you have the bathroom to yourself and don’t share it with anyone. If you’re concerned about your privacy or just don’t want to deal with the other guests, this is a good compromise between those factors and saving cash. Hotels are expensive anywhere you go.

Isabelle says:

Great tips! I definitely like to save on flights and accommodations.

Re Tip #4: For flights I use Ryanair (http://www.ryanair.com), though I heard they had floated the idea of charging for toilets; if that ever becomes the case, I’m not flying w/ them anymore, but for now they are a great deal! The only thing you have to keep in mind is that you need to keep your bags light – which I guess is Tip #5. Oh and also the fact that the airline flies out of the less centrally-located airports will add to your travel time.

Re Tip # 3: For saving money on accommodations, I use Tripping (http://www.tripping.com). It’s a network of travelers from all over the world who host each other. Another bonus of connecting with locals besides accommodations is that you can have a local person show you around instead of paying for a tour. Plus then you get to visit the cool places where locals actually go. ;)

Jeff says:

Excellent advice! Anyone who takes this advice is bound to have a great trip without breaking the bank!

Sonya says:

Wow, I love these simple, easy ways to save money traveling Europe. Some of these are green travel tips too!

For free accommodation in Europe – do a home exchange, or a series of shorter swaps. Takes a little time to organise but it’s a great way to spend time living in an area, getting tips for places to visit/things to do, that most travellers never find out about, from local residents.

George Whitehall says:

Thanks for the great tips. Right in the first one you suggest visiting one of the less crowded cities. I think Prague needs to be mentioned here. It truly is a gem in the heart of Europe. And the city is really working hard to make tourists feel good. I’ve been here two times and always got a good deal. To get there, flying is most definitely the best solution. Many airlines serve Prague airport (I did my search on http://www.whichairline.com ). Getting from it may be worse, avoid the overpriced taxis and use public transport. I stayed in 4* hotels and paid surprisingly little money for them ( I did my booking via hotels.com ). All in all, Prague is definitely worth visiting.

bruce carr says:

Great tips!!
Especially the one about walking. It is definitely free and healthy.
I did the Free Communist Walking tour (tip based) than went to Terror Museum and Statue Park. Without this walking tour I would not be able to have a clear picture about what really happened in the Communism and what the post-Communism means.
Guides lived through the Communism. They both were very approachable, knowledgeable and humorous. They gave real life examples from their own family.
We found them vis Facebook.
Their website is http://www.triptobudapest.hu

I’ve always dreamed of backpacking through Europe, but am so afraid of the cost. These tips will definitely help. I wonder though, how couch surfing is. To be honest, I would be a little nervous about that!

Hi Shelly,

I’d suggest checking out couchsurfing.org and creating a profile to look around. You’ll notice that people who offer a place in their home had full profiles, a public history of previous surfers they’ve hosted, as well as feedback and comment left by surfers in the past. So in the end, you get a good idea of potential hosts you’d like to meet. Even if you’d rather stay at a hostel, there are people with accounts willing to meet up for a coffee and give you a few pointers!

Best,
Audrey

Alfons says:

Summer travel in Europe is the most expensive by far. The airplane tickets are extremely expensive, and if you travel to northern Europe, there is nothing interesting in the summer. Another thing that can help is if you have to travel to multiple cities is renting a car, because you can return it to e different location so you don’t have to come back to the same city. I rented a car in Brussels this past winter, drove it to Milan and returned it there. it costed me about $45 per day, but it was worth it.
From my experience food will kill your budget, so locating cheap restaurants, and eating light will help a lot. So excellent tips in this blog, I use them when I go to Europe, and I go quiet frequently.

jims travels says:

In the past years, you can already venture into a European getaway with merely $5 in your pocket to spend for your daily provisions. Since the cost was too cheap, there were lots of sacrifices which the travelers had to endure too. Among of those worthy to mention are the need to sleep in the train stations or inside the train cars and the necessity to stay in a cheap hotel wherein the occupants of at least 12 rooms or so had to share one bath.

A big thanks to you for sharing such a great post. Really you have showed some amazing ways to cut off cost and reduce your expenses while traveling. I personally find these tips very helpful and will keep this in mind next time when I travel.

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