Top Tips for Saving Money When Travelling in Europe
Travelling through Europe can offer fantastic experiences with the opportunity to see a large quantity of cultures within a relatively small area compared to Australia. Visitors to Europe often try to cram in too many things to their trips in order to get good value for money. The result though, is that they tend to overspend on their original budgets (not to mention that rushing around doesn't allow them to properly enjoy each destination).
Climbing the Eiffel Tower one day and taking a selfie in front of Big Ben the next might sound like a great way to explore all that Europe has to offer, although with $1 only buying €0.67 (exchange rate: 21/3/16) a high intensity trip like this will probably get your head and wallet spinning. Therefore, here are my top money saving tips for travelling Europe to help keep control of your wallet amidst all the excitement.
European city passes are cards that are issued by most European capitals for tourists, designed to give discounts on a range of products and services. The concept works by allowing customers to pay a set fee for the scheme where you receive a card pass that awards cheaper admission prices, reduced public transport costs and discounts for shops and restaurants. As always, when travelling do plenty of research ahead of time to ensure that you get the right city pass. If, like most tourists, you have plans to see particular attractions, museums and other areas of interest, these are very good reasons purchase a pass to save you money on entrance tickets (particularly for families).
A few city cards which are very popular with tourists on account of all the discounts they offer include:
Attractions and queuing might not be your cup of tea. So if you are less interested in that and would prefer to explore a city's less ‘touristy’ sides, then a transport pass might be just the ticket to help get you there as cheaply as possible. As expected, the offers will vary from city to city but generally most of the major cities in Europe have a type of discounted travel card for tourists to save money on travel. Generally speaking, the longer period of time you buy the pass for, the greater the saving. So if you plan to stay for 3 nights somewhere look at the value for money you'd get if you were to buy a 5-day travel pass for example. Cities like London usually have a card like the London Oyster Card that can be topped up before travel, but recently the system has been updated and can now be paid for with contactless payment bankcards if this is more suitable for you.
Expect similar hotel prices to those you would find in Sydney across most European capital cities. Expensive hotel locations, like central Paris or London, might mean you have to look further outside the city centre to save money. Thus, it’s always a good idea to combine AirBnB into your hotel searches when looking for cheaper alternatives which are still relatively central. If you’re not a fan of staying in someone’s property then be sure to use meta search websites such as Trivago or HotelsCombined to compare a wide choice of hotel prices online. When you find something you like, double check the Buckscoop deals board and vouchers page to make sure you can’t shave off a few more dollars with hotel discount codes or existing deals.
Ultimately, saving money when travelling through Europe will be about finding a balance between staying centrally in a city and exploring by foot, or sleeping a little further outside the centre and commuting in. Remember that travel passes can help reduce costs significantly if commuting, just make sure you don't need to spend on other forms of transport which aren't covered.
As already mentioned above, saving money on transport is a key way to increase your spending cash at each destination. So finding out the cheapest forms of travel will definitely help extend your budget. Obviously, walking is the first resort because it’s practically free (minus the food you need for energy) but for those who have more ground to cover, a bike sharing option might be more suitable. The bike-sharing scheme is popping up across cities all over Europe as an efficient form to get around at the lowest cost. These schemes, such as London’s for example, charge £2 for you to have access to all bikes across the city for 24 hours and also gives users 30 minutes free with each bicycle before it must be returned or they are charged.
I have personally used these London bikes and 30 minutes seemed like more than enough time to travel to different stops across central London. If you need to travel further then return the bike to one of the hundreds of docking stations before the 30-minute deadline, wait 5 minutes and take a new bike for another 30 minutes.
A local market might not seem like the first choice for eating but it’s one of the best ways to save money on food whilst travelling. Also, being a market it opens up the opportunity to find in-season bargains on produce. So instead of eating at tacky, rip-off restaurants every day (simply because they're convenient), why not buy picnic food from the closest market and sit in the park on a sunny day to experience the city park life instead. Even if the surroundings don't end up putting a smile on your face, the money saved certainly will.
This form of travel is a smart way to save on expensive hotel bills. Why spend money on a hotel room when you have to travel the next day anyway? If you have the opportunity to travel and sleep at the same time then this can be the best value for money, giving you two for the price of one. Overnight trains and coaches can provide the solution for sleeping and travelling at the same time and whilst the sleep might not be as peaceful, it will leave more money aside to enjoy when you arrive at your net destination.
Timing is Key
The best advice I was given from a fellow traveller was to avoid capital cities on the weekends. Although you might enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city on Saturdays and Sundays, nobody likes getting stuck behind the hordes of tourists with A2 fold out maps on every corner. Capital cities are alive all week so enjoy the off peak travel and slightly quieter trains and busses for a less stressful experience. High season such as Christmas, school holidays and summer can also add heavily inflated costs to your travel bill. So try and avoid these times if possible. Many travellers agree that the best time of year to visit Europe and still experience good weather (generally speaking) is May/June or September/October. The sun will still be high enough in the sky to keep things relatively warm, but the crowds will be far fewer. You should also be able to find better prices on flights and accommodation bookings as well.