How to Travel Europe on a Budget: 13 Tips

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how to travel to europe on a budget

Whether you’re craving stunning landscapes, rich history, or vibrant cultures, Europe has it all. However, the idea of exploring this breathtaking continent can often seem out of reach for many. With careful planning and strategic budgeting, an unforgettable European adventure is well within your grasp.

Europe may be a dream, but it doesn’t have to cost $20,000 for a family of four. You could travel to Europe on a backpacker’s budget or a modest budget. Can a single person travel to Europe for $1,500? Absolutely! Could you also do it for $2k, $3k, or any other budget? Yes, you can! Read on to learn how to travel Europe on a budget, and spend less than you’d spend at home. 

Is it possible to travel to Europe on a budget?

It’s a common misconception that Europe is expensive. It doesn’t have to be, and for locals it isn’t. You can travel to Europe on nearly any budget. For many Americans, the most expensive part of a European vacation can be getting there. 

While Europe may be renowned for its luxury accommodations and high-end experiences, there are so many ways to experience Europe like a local for less. If you’re ready to uncover hidden gems and embrace local customs, the possibilities for an affordable European getaway are endless. Savvy travelers can stretch their dollars and indulge in the continent’s grandeur without breaking the bank. 

From Airbnbs or local rentals to public transportation and museum passes, there is so much to experience in Europe without high costs. Food and transportation costs are generally lower than in the US so you can save more. And some of the most spectacular natural destinations, like parks and beaches that the continent offers are free. 

In this guide, we’ll explore 13 valuable tips to help empower you to experience Europe on a budget, ensuring that your dream vacation becomes a reality without compromising on authentic experiences. From leveraging off-peak travel seasons and budget airlines to embracing hostels and public transportation, we’ll uncover strategies to help you maximize your funds and create unforgettable memories.

Before embarking on your European journey, consider opening a high-yield savings account. A high-yield savings account is one of the best savings vehicles for preparing for your European vacation. Higher interest rates can help you save up faster and maximize your savings. 

13 Tips on how to tour Europe on a budget

Embarking on a European adventure doesn’t have to drain your bank account. With a little creativity and savvy planning, you can explore the continent’s wonders without sacrificing your financial well-being. The 13 tips below are a starting point to stretch your travel budget and make the most of your European getaway.

1. Travel during the off-peak season for lower prices

One of the most effective ways to reduce costs when traveling to Europe is to plan your trip during the off-peak season. By avoiding the peak summer months, you can take advantage of lower airfares, discounted hotel rates, and fewer crowds at popular attractions. 

For instance, visiting the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris during the spring or fall can save you up to 50% on admission fees compared to the busy summer months. Likewise, Mediterranean countries like Spain, Italy, and the south of France are beautiful in the “shoulder seasons” of May, June, September and October. You can enjoy beautiful weather, lower cost accommodations and avoid lines or crowds.

2. Consider an AI travel planner to plan your trip

Leverage the power of artificial intelligence to streamline your travel planning and uncover hidden gems that fit your budget. AI-driven travel planners can scour countless resources to curate personalized itineraries, recommend cost-effective accommodations, and suggest affordable activities tailored to your interests. 

By using an AI planner, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars on your trip to destinations like Rome or Barcelona by uncovering lesser-known but equally captivating experiences or maximizing discounts and city passes. 

3. Make the most of budget airlines for inexpensive flights

Europe is home to numerous budget airlines that offer incredibly affordable flights between major cities and destinations. By opting for these low-cost carriers, you can significantly reduce your transportation expenses, freeing up funds for other aspects of your trip. 

For instance, a one-way flight from London to Amsterdam can cost as little as $50 with budget airlines, compared to upwards of $200 on major carriers. Cheaper EU airlines include Ryanair, Eurowings, EasyJet, Wizz Air, Pegasus Airlines, Transavia, and others. You can set flight alerts to save even more. 

4. Pack light to avoid baggage fees

Many budget airlines charge hefty fees for checked baggage, so packing light can save you a considerable amount of money. By carrying only a carry-on bag or a small backpack, you can avoid these extra costs and have more flexibility when navigating Europe’s charming, narrow streets. 

For instance, avoiding checked baggage fees on a two-week trip to Italy could save you up to $100 or more, depending on the airline and how many flights you take. Many budget airlines charge around $40 (depending on the route) for a large wheeled carry-on bag within Europe, so plan accordingly. 

5. Reserve your museum passes online

Europe is home to some of the world’s most renowned museums, and admission fees can add up quickly. To save money, consider purchasing museum passes or tickets online in advance, as many institutions offer discounts for online bookings. For example, the Louvre Museum in Paris offers a 20% discount on admission when you book your tickets online, potentially saving you over $5 per person. The Netherlands, Barcelona, and many other destinations offer multi-museum passes that can help you save substantially if you want to visit more than one museum.  

6. Stay in hostels or budget accommodations 

While luxury hotels can be tempting, opting for hostels or budget accommodations can significantly reduce your overall travel expenses. Many European cities offer a variety of affordable hostel options, often with dormitory-style rooms or private rooms at a fraction of the cost of traditional hotels. In cities like Amsterdam or Berlin, you can find comfortable hostel stays for as little as $30 per night, saving you hundreds of dollars over the course of your trip.

To further maximize your savings, consider using a travel rewards credit card when booking your accommodations. Many cards offer bonus points or cashback on travel purchases, allowing you to earn rewards that can be redeemed for future trips or statement credits. Or, book an Airbnb to share with friends or family. A two-bedroom apartment in many beautiful European destinations could cost $300 or less for a week. 

MoneyLion can help you explore a wide variety of credit card options tailored to different needs and preferences.

7. Use public transportation instead of taxis 

While taxis can be convenient, they can also be a significant drain on your travel budget. Instead, opt for public transportation options like buses, trains, or metros, which are not only more affordable but also provide an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture. In cities like London or Paris, a single taxi ride can cost upwards of $20, while a day pass for public transportation may be as low as $8, saving you considerable funds over the course of your trip.

8. Take advantage of free walking tours in major cities 

Many European cities offer free walking tours led by knowledgeable local guides. These tours provide an excellent opportunity to explore the city’s highlights, learn about its history and culture, and get insider tips from locals – all without spending a dime. 

For instance, in cities like Prague or Budapest, you can join free walking tours that typically last 2-3 hours and cover major attractions, saving you the cost of a professional guide or tour package. Note that “free” is a bit of a misnomer as you’re expected to pay the guide at the end of the tour, but the cost of $10 to $20 for a three-hour tour with local insights is still a great deal. 

9. Choose to dine at small-scale diners

While Europe boasts some of the world’s most renowned fine dining establishments, these can quickly deplete your travel budget. Instead, seek out small-scale diners or cafes frequented by locals, where you can enjoy delicious and authentic cuisine at a fraction of the cost. In cities like Rome or Athens, you can find hearty, flavorful meals for as little as $10-$15, compared to upwards of $50 or more at high-end restaurants.

In addition to small-scale restaurants or hidden gems, consider dining out for lunch, which usually costs less. For example, across Spain, you can get the daily four-course lunch menu plus a glass of wine for around $25. 

Finally, consider having a few strategic meals out for special experiences and eating simple meals in your hotel or making “picnics” by picking up some good-quality bread, cheese, fruit and other picnic items from a local grocery store. With that strategy, you could feed a family of four for around $15. 

10. Use a rail pass for traveling between countries

If your European adventure includes multiple countries, consider purchasing a rail pass. These passes often provide significant discounts on train travel, allowing you to explore various destinations without breaking the bank. For example, a Eurail Global Pass, valid for travel across 33 European countries, can save you hundreds of dollars compared to purchasing individual train tickets between cities like Munich, Vienna, and Budapest. 

However, before buying a rail pass, compare the costs to airline tickets, as they’re often less expensive unless you’re set on the railway experience. 

11. Buy a scratch card for your phone at a European newsstand

Instead of incurring hefty international roaming charges, opt for a local SIM card or scratch card for your phone when you arrive in Europe. These prepaid options provide affordable data and calling plans, allowing you to stay connected without costing too much. 

Lebara is a popular prepaid SIM card option that works throughout Europe. Its “All In International” plan includes 8GB of data plus unlimited minutes and 100 SMS for €20 or about $22. Of course, to take advantage of this option, you’ll need an unlocked cellphone. This is especially helpful if you’re staying in an apartment or hostel without Wi-Fi. 

12. Use student discounts if applicable

If you’re a student, take advantage of the numerous discounts available across Europe. Many attractions, museums, and transportation services offer reduced rates for students with valid identification. For example, students can save up to 50% on admission to the iconic Colosseum in Rome, or take advantage of free days. You could also enjoy discounted train tickets across Spain, stretching your budget even further.

13. Don’t skip travel insurance

While travel insurance may seem like an unnecessary expense, it can provide invaluable protection and peace of mind, especially when traveling on a budget. Look for affordable travel insurance policies that cover medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost or stolen belongings. By investing a small amount upfront, you can potentially save thousands in the event of an unexpected situation during your European travels. 

Whether you’re planning to island hop in Greece, lounge in the sun in Tuscany, or ski the Alps, travel insurance can give you peace of mind and a backup plan so you don’t have to blow your budget if anything goes wrong. 

Embrace the wonders of Europe without breaking the bank

Exploring Europe’s landscapes, cultures, and historical treasures can be a dream come true and is doable even on a shoestring budget. The 13 budget-savvy tips above are a starting point. With some planning and saving, you can embark on an unforgettable European adventure on any budget. 

From leveraging off-peak seasons and budget airlines to embracing hostels and local experiences, each strategy can help you stretch your travel funds and create lasting memories that will forever enrich your life. Finally, don’t forget free experiences! Most parks and nature preserves in Europe don’t charge an entry fee. You can swim in turquoise waters, hike majestic mountains, and experience spectacular natural beauty without even the cost of an entry ticket.

Get ready to embrace your wanderlust and embark on a budget-friendly European odyssey that will leave you with stories to cherish for years to come and perhaps plans for your next trip! Find more tips to save for your next vacation or research travel loans


Is $100 a day enough for Europe?

While it’s possible to travel on $100 per day in Europe, it can be challenging, especially in larger cities or during peak seasons. This budget would require staying in hostels or low-cost Airbnb accommodations, relying heavily on public transportation, and eating inexpensive meals.

What European country is the cheapest to visit?

European countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, and the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are some of the most budget-friendly destinations. You can also consider gems like Slovenia or Montenegro for their beautiful nature and history.

What is the cheapest month to travel to Europe? 

The cheapest months to travel to Europe are typically during the late fall and early spring. This is considered the shoulder season between the peak summer and winter months.

What is the best way to travel within Europe?

For budget-conscious travelers, the best way to travel within Europe is often by train or bus, as these modes of transportation are generally more affordable than flying between destinations. However, with budget airlines, you could score a deal that’s even cheaper than trains or buses for long-distance travel within the EU. 

Which country to visit first in Europe?

Which country you should visit first in Europe depends on what you’re interested in. Want to visit wine regions? Consider Burgundy, France, Spain, or Portugal. Want spectacular beaches? Choose any Mediterranean destination. For first-time visitors to Europe, popular entry points include England, France, Italy, and Germany, as these countries offer a wealth of iconic attractions and cultural experiences.

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