Europe can either be one of the most expensive destinations in the world, or one of the least costly, depending on what you do, where you eat, where you stay and how you get around.
Europe is a hit with budget travelers and the well heeled alike, but this article focuses on helping the former get the very most from their travel dollar.
The goal of budget travel is not merely to spend as little as possible. The true goal of the budget traveler is to get the most value out of his or her travel budget, and to focus those limited funds on the things that mean the most to them.
Often this means finding cheap lodging in order to enjoy a four star dinner at the finest restaurant in Paris. For others, it could mean buying food at the local grocery and cooking your own dinner, so that you can splurge on a night at the opera or the ballet.
Listed below are some of our all time favorite tips for saving money on a vacation in Europe (or anywhere else for that matter):
- Eat where the locals eat. Eating with the local people instead of the tourists is a great way to save money and enjoy some of the finest cuisine. The restaurants favored by local residents tend to be those that provide the best meals at the lowest prices.
- For a quick and economical breakfast, pick up a roll, some fresh cold cuts and a piece of fruit from the local market. Then enjoy a delicious sandwich and a cup of coffee in the local park.
- When eating out, choose the fixed price menu and the house wine for the best value. Most restaurants offer two or three choices on their fixed price menu, and these dishes are often a great way to sample the local cuisine.
- Sleep cheap on the train. Overnight trains are a great way to both get from place to place and sleep cheaply.
- Be sure to bring a meal, bottle of water and snack along with you. You will save money by not visiting the dining car, and you will enjoy some great food as well.
- Take lots of pictures and enjoy the people you meet on the road. Take pictures not only of local tourist attractions but of the friends you meet along the way. If using a film camera, it is best to bring the undeveloped rolls back with you and have them developed once you get back home, since film developing in tourist locations is usually quite costly.
- And of course a digital camera offers a great and cost effective alternative, and you can choose to print only the best shots.
- Try emailing your postcards. Find a website that offers some great photographs of local attractions, or upload your own from your digital camera. Use these shots to send some great personalized email postcards to family and friends back home.
- Try to learn at least a little bit of the local language. If you know the language, or at least the names of the currency, it will be easier, and often cheaper, to buy the things you need.
- When making large purchases, it is always best to use a credit card. Not only will your cash last longer, but credit cards provide the best exchange rates.
- Get cash through an ATM instead of at currency exchange kiosks and hotels. Like credit cards, ATM cash transactions provide the best exchange rates, and you will avoid the sometimes costly fees charged by hotels and currency services.
- Take advantage of all the discounts you are entitled to. Many locations provide student discounts, senior discounts, etc. If you are not sure about discounts, always be sure to ask.
- Plan your vacation budget wisely. There are some excellent, and very inexpensive mementos of your trip, such as stickers, patches or postcards. For more expensive purchases, remember that the further you venture from the tourist attraction, the less expensive the souvenirs will become.
- Tour the city with the locals. A bus pass or subway token is a great way to meet the local people and see the sights. The public transportation service of most European cites is remarkably efficient, clean, safe and easy to navigate. It is not necessary to speak the local language to navigate on the subway or the bus system of most cities.