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European countries such as the Netherlands, France, Italy, Belgium, and others are often on many people’s bucket lists. However, these destinations remain a dream simply because of the perceived expenses one will incur by traveling to Europe.
Let’s face it, Europe is an expensive destination. You’ll definitely need a sizable amount of money to visit any of its countries. Flights to the region and back to the Philippines are expensive. On top of the flight, you’ll have to spend on food, accommodation, drinks, attractions, and transportation. All these eat into your budget. However, there are ways you can save money for your trip while not draining your savings.
Book flights in advance
If you are a frequent flyer whether just around the Philippines or Asia, you’ll know that buying flights months in advance saves you a lot of money. You can apply for a visa six months before your target dates. This provides you with more than enough time to look for the cheapest possible flights for your trip. Once you have a flight from the Philippines to your chosen destination, you can look for regional flights if the distance between the cities in your itinerary are too far apart for land travel by bus or train. Budget airlines such as Ryanair, Wizz Air, Vueling, EasyJet, Eurowings, and others provide discounted tickets for those who book their flights early.
Buy train and/or bus tickets early
Train and bus tickets in Europe are just like flights – you get lower prices if you buy them as soon as they’re available. This is usually weeks or months in advance. It helps to check official pages of rail and bus companies. Rail tickets are often more expensive than taking the bus. Buying a ticket months ahead provides you with substantial savings. Sometimes the one-way train ticket costs as much as a flight if you buy it on the day or day before your planned trip. Flixbus is my go-to company for bus travel; you can buy tickets here.
If you’re primarily planning to take the train throughout your trip, the Eurail Pass might be a good option. However, it pays off when you visit multiple places within a short amount of time. It also provides you with more flexibility and spontaneity during your trip. You can learn more about the Eurail pass here.
Purchase a museum pass
If you’re planning to visit a lot of attractions, museums, and art galleries within the first few days of your trip, you’ll save money when you purchase a city, day, or museum pass. Cities like Rome, Vienna, Paris, and others offer different types of passes that are valid for a day or multiple days. These cover many attractions and either provide you with a discount or you get to enter for free at least once. For example, I bought a 4-day Paris Museum Pass, and got to visit attractions such as the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Musee d’Orsay, Sainte-Chapelle, the Pantheon, and the Chateau Versailles. The pass paid off and I got to save money after the 4th or 5th attraction (and I continued to see other places covered by the pass).
Go on a walking tour
European cities offer visitors tip-based (they’re often marketed as “free”) walking tours to provide you with an insightful overview of the city you’re currently exploring. The local guides are knowledgeable and provide historical anecdotes about the streets, plazas, and attractions you’ll be seeing. They can also recommend local spots that are cheaper compared to the places tourists often visit. Since the walking tour is tip-based, it’s up to you how much you’d want to give to your guide.
Get a transportation pass
Many European cities have extensive public transportation networks that make it convenient to get from point A to point B. The cities in Europe I visited often offer unlimited rides on public transportation for one day or multiple days. You can buy these passes through the counters at stations, machines, or tourist information centers. A transportation pass pays off quickly and saves you a lot of money. Some city passes come with additional perks but are more expensive than a pass purely for transportation. These city passes sometimes include free entrance to attractions and discounts with partner establishments. These pay off if you plan to visit a lot of attractions in a short amount of time.
Stay in a hostel dorm
Staying in a private room quickly eats into your budget. Consider staying in hostel dorms to save money on accommodation since you’ll be out most of the day anyway. Accommodation near popular attractions or districts is often expensive. Look for accommodation outside attractions and a few blocks away from tourist areas. You save money this way and might actually see the local side of a famous city. If you decide to stay in a hostel, look for one within walking distance from a metro station or bus stop. This makes it easier to get around the city and compensates for the distance from attractions.
Get a local SIM card
Roaming charges will cost you a small fortune when you travel around Europe. The most affordable way to stay connected while traveling around the region is to get a local SIM card. You can buy one that only works in one country or a SIM card that works in the entire region. You can choose from a variety of data packages and inclusions. There are also e-SIM cards available; however, you have to determine if your phone can use an e-SIM.
Visit free attractions
The most famous attractions are often the most expensive ones to enter. Many of these are worth the price of admission. After you’ve seen the greatest hits, you have plenty of options when it comes to free attractions. Several historic buildings, landmarks, plazas, churches, city centers, and districts are free. Roam the cobblestone streets of any European old town and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a different epoch. You can also just admire a famous landmark from outside instead of paying the entrance fee.
Travel during low season
Peak season which is often around summer, Christmas, and New Year’s are expensive times to visit. This is when accommodation is at the highest possible price and rooms are often booked. Crowds also descend upon famous attractions with long lines and sometimes long wait times as well. Consider traveling during autumn and shoulder season. Crowds of tourists are fewer and accommodation prices are lower. You’ll save more money during your trip.
Save money on food and drinks
One of your biggest expenses in Europe will be on food and drinks. Indulging in the local cuisine everyday will add up. Eating at bakeries, buying food at supermarkets and groceries, and preparing your own meals will save you a lot of money. Most locals don’t eat at a restaurant everyday anyway. However, if you plan to eat out, go for lunch instead of dinner. The prices are often cheaper for the same meals.
Consider other destinations
Countries in Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and the Balkans aren’t as popular as countries such as Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and others. The three mentioned regions are quite lovely destinations with plenty of history, culture, and attractions to fill out your itinerary. Those regions are also more affordable. Countries such as Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Serbia, Hungary, Estonia, Czechia, and others provide good value for money.
Planning your trip allows you to find the best possible deals and affordable prices for accommodation, transportation, and tours. Plan your route and go in straight lines rather than moving back and forth which may cost you more. Once you know your itinerary, it’ll be easier to decide on buying train and bus tickets early. Booking things early and planning your route eliminates spontaneity, but it does save you a lot of money. – Rappler.com