How to Travel the EU on a Budget

a #thetwopotatoes post

Thinking of planning a European adventure? Here are some tips you might find useful to make your trip perfect for you and whoever you’re going with. Besides being prepared and tending to the minimal details there are a few practical things that can help you save money while having fun.

Belgium

Travel in the low season: I know it might be hard to see everyone flaunting their vacay on Instagram during the summer months but Europe is generally a lot more fun to visit when there are fewer tourists. The queues are shorter, the air is cleaner and most importantly, everything is cheaper. So instead of travelling from May till August, leave sometime in the middle or at the end of September and stay for a month.

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Travel by Rail: Don’t simply travel by rail, get all the offers you can when doing so. Sign up to the membership service for discount travel and lounge cards. When booking your tickets remember that some countries are cheaper to fly to and fro than others so you might want to make lists or diagrams to help you outline your journey. For example, flights from Italy to Belgium are generally cheaper than flights from Portugal to Belgium. Instead of flying to Amsterdam from Belgium you can take a three hour train. But it’s not that easy, honestly, you can’t travel everywhere by rail because some countries don’t connect. That’s why you’ll need some diagrams.

Book months in advance: This applies everywhere. Any travel hacker will tell you that you can’t do last minute dot com bookings and expect to go scot free. You’re trying to travel on a budget, nothing wrong with buying your tickets 5 months in advance.

IMG_1927Carry only hand luggage: Much as you’d love to have a suitcase for your makeup and another for your shoes, it would save you a lot of money if you travelled light. Roll your clothes into the largest size of hand luggage there is because low cost airlines like Easyjet permit only one free hand luggage on board. Checking in a hold luggage can cost you somewhere between 17 to 30 euros per bag. So squeeze the basic necessities into a convenient bag and prepare to miss using the body lotion you used to.

IMG_2924Don’t visit all the monuments: Please just don’t, unless it’s free. Go into all the most important ones but if you are holding tight to your money save it for another trip. You may skip a monument or two, or simply take a picture in front of one to make your mark.

It’s a trap: Locals might charge you extra because your DSLR and straw hat is proof that you’re a tourist. Don’t fall for it. Ask for receipts for everything, ask for explanations and if you speak English there will always be someone who can attend to you in these areas.

Seek alternatives: Is it too expensive to go by taxi? Take the bus instead. Google maps says to take this route. Is there a shorter one? Is food cheaper elsewhere? Is there a cheaper budget hostel that wasn’t listed on booking.com – maybe on a local website?

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Style and Travel – Rose Lazard

Don’t buy so many souvenirs: Control the urge to buy every single thing you see. I save a lot of money when travelling because I don’t buy souvenirs like fridge magnets and key holders. Some would have my head on a dish for this, but don’t judge. Instead, I keep the local metro cards and photographs from my favourite places and print them out on t-shirts when I’m back home.

Don’t shop: Just keep in mind that buying anything means you’ll have items that can’t fit into your carry on bag.

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Don’t eat in tourist areas or popular zones: Cafès near the train stations, restaurants named after the monuments and the like are to be avoided. The six euros for a glass of coke could be used to buy a whole meal in the local zones.

One more tip you might not be comfortable with: Buy your drinks in the supermarket before going into the restaurants. If you’ve ever paid four euros for a glass of water this will be nothing to you. It’s the small things that make your money disappear during budget trips. So save a few bucks by avoiding the exaggerated prices charged by less than fancy restaurants.

For my American friends: Don’t tip. Waiters in many European countries are well paid.

IMG_2553Don’t change money often: Change money once and for all when you get to your country of destination if they offer zero commission. Otherwise, withdraw as much cash as you’ll need from the ATMs but try to do so only once and pay by debit card whenever possible.

Got more tips? Comment below!

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