Europe travel tips for smarter, better and cheaper travel
What do you want to save money on?
If you are travelling to Europe, these Europe travel tips are for you. Read on for some of the best Europe travel tips getting around, including how to make the most out of accommodation and transport with tips for saving money and advice about food. Use these Europe travel tips so you can holiday cheaper, better and smarter.
Moneywise. Europe travel tips for taking and spending money
Europe travel tips to help you organise your finances.
Getting your finances in order is important. Read through the overview of your travel money options below and go to finder.com.au/travel-money for a comparison of some of the best travel money products on the market.
1. Make good use of travel-friendly cards.
Once an expensive option for foreign travel, there is now an abundance of travel friendly credit, debit and travel money cards that do not charge for international transactions and international ATM withdrawals.
All travel money cards will let you load Euro, but not all countries in Europe are part of the Euro-zone. Check the table below to see which countries use Euro if you are not sure.
2. Consider a bank account with a global presence.
You may avoid fees if you only withdraw from that banks ATMs. A good example of this is Citibank which has a presence in almost every European country, and won’t charge fees at all for withdrawals from a Citibank ATM, wherever you are in the world.
3. Consider opening a European bank account.
Many banks will have a Europe wide presence, and are part of global and international ATM networks. Becoming a customer could save you on bank fees.
4. Don’t get your money changed at airports.
Airports are notorious for offering inflated exchange rates. Get a small amount of cash exchanged before you leave the country or get enough cash changed at the airport to get you into town.
5. Always check the daily exchange rate.
Don't get caught out with a dodgy exhcnage rate if you have to change your money to the local currency.
A few words about spending cash in Europe
6. Always keep local currency cash on you and use it most of the time to pay.
If you really tried, you might be able to get away with just using using your card to make purchases in Europe. If you only book and pay online, only stay in large chain hotels and hostels, eat in larger restaurants and only shop in Tesco, then you won’t need to worry about cash at all. Sound like fun?
Some of the best bits about being in another country is eating at that little mama-style kitchen on the corner or buying local cheeses at the market. If you go cash-free, you can forget about all of these little things that make travelling so wonderful. And besides, many times you find paying in cash gets you a better deal.Back to top
Europe travel tips on saving money on accommodation
Accommodation options are as varied as the continent and truly come in every shape and size to suit every comfort level or budget.
Staying in a hostel?
Hostels are the favourite of backpackers, frequented by young people are and the ultimate solution for low cost accommodation. They are characterised by dormitory style, shared accommodation and facilities but many have private room options as well.
For the slightly more upmarket choices, generally everything will be provided, however if you want to rough it in classic a no-frills hostel, there are a few tips to make the experience a bit friendlier.
7. Bring a few things of your own.
If your luggage allows, bring along your own sheet, or even better, bring two, sewn together to make yourself a personal and clean-ish sleeping sack. Bring flip-flops for the showers.
If you are light sleeper, earplugs and an eyemask never go astray, especially during the busiest periods like festival season in major cities.
8. Compare to find a deal.
Use a comparison site like hostelworld or hostelbookers to compare prices and read reviews
Check the prices on a hostels own website before making your booking; often they have more flexible terms and better prices.
Large hotel chains often offer ‘internet prices’ at a discount. Smaller hotels generally can’t afford to offer large discounts on these sites. You might even find the prices a little higher via booking sites compared with booking through the hotel directly or simply walking in the door. Many of the smaller hotels will raise the prices on major booking sites to compensate for the hefty commission they need to pay after every booking.
9. Consider couchsurfing:
So cheap, its free. Couchsurfing can be a an authentic, cheap and fun way to meet people and have a real-life tour guide to help you navigate your way around.
10. Trust your instincts.
As is the case with hitchhiking giving your trust to somebody you don’t know if often a rewarding experience; it’s likely you will make a new friend. But, if you don't feel safe, just move on.
Have a back-up plan. Particularly if you are arriving late at night, know where you are and where you will go if things don’t work out.
11. meet somewhere first.
Arrange to meet in a public place first like a cafe or go to grab a bite to eat. It should be long enough to tell you if you would like to stay at this person’s house or not.
12. Be a good guest — Don’t forget your manners.
Being polite and helping out with the washing-up are easy and don’t cost anything.
13. Consider camping to save on accommodation costs.
Campsites are plentiful all over the european continent, with a pretty wide variation in service and quality. They can be a cheap way to sleep in Europe, but don't count on it. Often, you may find renting or hostel bed is even cheaper than sleeping in a campground when you consider all the costs like Wifi and electricity outlets. Frequently, campsites charge an extra fee for such facilities.
14. Pensions, guesthouses and B&Bs are cheap.
These low cost options generally have the same kind of friendly service as other budget accommodations with prices and comfort ranging from budget to mid-range. They may not necessarily be very social places to stay, but if you want privacy, cleanliness and a good rest they are a great option.Back to top
Europe travel tips to save money on transportation
Fly around europe on the cheap:
Flying ‘no frills’ can be a great way to save money on travel in Europe, but budget airlines are more than a little crafty in making up what they loose in ticket sales in the form of add-ons and extras. Make sure your cheap air travel stays cheap.
15. every summer one flight route is discounted.
Every summer one route will be significantly discounted, depending on where you are flying out of and who with.
Europe is serviced by many budget airlines; Easyjet, Ryanair, Germanwings, Virgin and Wizz are just a few examples. Make good use of ticket comparison websites, and check out the deals.
16. Take a packed lunch.
Budget airlines make a killing selling overpriced food to half-starving passengers. Beat them at their own game and bring a cut lunch instead.
17. Check the exact departure and arrival ports.
Low cost airlines save on taxes by using smaller and less central airports. Sometimes, the cost and time taken getting to and from these airports can exceed the money you saved by buying cheap ticket. You might still be getting a good deal, but be sure to double check.
18. Don’t get stung by fees for check-in luggage.
If your Europe trip is more of a weekender than an expedition, you probably will be able to get away with just hand baggage. If you are carrying your worldly possessions, find out how much it costs to check-in a bag. You might find that the budget ticket is not so budget for you. The charges for carrying overweight luggage will be outrageous once you arrive to the airport, so find out how much your luggage weighs and pay for luggage costs before you travel.
19. Check in to your flight online.
This is a great feature of low cost carriers that allows you to check-in online, saving you you time, money and hassle.
Europe by bus:
Buses are often the cheapest option for travel between countries in Europe. Be prepared to sacrifice a bit of comfort, and don’t count on them to save you a nights accommodation; unless you can sleep through an earthquake you are going to want to get a few hours sleep during the following day.
20. Stop locations.
The bus stops for cheaper lines are sometimes located a little further away from the main central bus stations. Be sure sure to check exactly where you need to go.
21. Plan ahead.
Don’t count on the bus stations being open 24 hours in all cities. If your bus leaves at 4am, check if you are able to buy a ticket from the driver. If not buy online, or go to the station the day before, just to be sure.
On the railroads; train travel in Europe:
Settle in. Travelling by train is usually not the fastest way to move so bring a book, an mp3 player and your patience. But trains can be a cheap, relatively comfortable and interesting way to travel in Europe.
22. Border crossings.
Have your passports and tickets ready. Expect to be in for the long haul (especially if you are entering the EU from a non EU country). Customs officers often search the train carriages looking for contraband, a meticulous and lengthy process.
23. Rail passes.
Railpasses which enable tarvel between many countries on one pass are popular with travellers, but consider the decision carefully. They are not cheap and while they will suit some travellers, how much of a good deal you are getting very much depends on your personal travel itinerary.
For example, eurorail passes can be great in France, where trains are expensive, but just across the border in spain, trains are pretty cheap and most of the time your rail pass won’t be getting you much of a discount. If you plan to travel by train from western to eastern europe, check the extras you need to pay on each reservation. In some cases you might need to pay an extra amount for each new train you take. It might not be worth it, especially now longer routes have been cut up into smaller legs. In eastern europe, where rain travel is pretty affordable, your global pass might even exceed the cost of normal train travel, or other travel options.
24. Dealing with fake train guards.
If a train guard inspects your ticket and declares it invalid, ask for ID or offer to have the local police sort it out (of course, if you know that it is actually valid). Fake officers are a pretty common occurrence, especially on domestic trains and around big cities.
25. Using a multi-country rail pass?
Expect a look of utter befuddlement upon handing your multiple country rail pass to ticket inspectors east of Hungary. You’re unlikely to have problems with it, but most of the time inspectors will have no idea what it is.
When you buy your train ticket, it will often come without a seat reservation which you need to buy either on the platform or from the train attendant after you board. If the train is not too full, and if you can smile nicely, slipping another 5 Euro might be enough to get you a cabin to yourself.
Europe by car:
Car rental is good for central Europe, the Balkan or the Baltic regions, where the countries are really close together. For example, it will take you less than four hours to drive from the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius to the capital of Latvia, Riga.
26. Save on Car rental rates.
Many car rental companies will have by the hour rates which can be a fast, convenient and cheap way to get from ‘a’ to ‘b’, especially if you are travelling in a group.
27. Car share.
Cut down on costs by car sharing with other travellers. There are a number of good sites that are dedicated to this service, do a quick google search to find one that’s fully operational in your area.
28. Toll roads and highway tickets.
Almost all highways in Europe will require you to pay for use. If you are taking it easy, you might not even need it; non-toll roads often take a pretty similar route to toll roads, and you have the advantage of getting to stop in weird and wonderful towns along the way. If you are in a rush, make sure you stop at the first petrol station when you enter a new country or merge onto the highway. Road and traffic patrols are frequent especially around national borders, and they tend to target foreign and rental cars.
29. Petrol stations and roadside stops.
Petrol stations on major roads in Europe are often well-equipped mini cities that appear like an oasis for weary drivers. You can count on them for showers and bathrooms, mini (or big) supermarkets, mechanics and restaurants.
In many European countries hitchhiking is a more than acceptable mode of travel, and you’ll find drivers in most places pretty happy to have a chat with a random roadside drifter with a good smile and a stand-out thumb.
30. How much to pay?
You are generally not expected to give any money if you are catching a ride, but buying the driver a coffee at the petrol station when you stop for a rest is a nice gesture and will surely be appreciated.
31. Where to stand.
Careful when standing on highways. It is illegal in many countries. Stick to smaller, or toll-free roads.
32. Some countries better than others.
Not all countries will be easy. Places infamously poor for hitchhiking are Italy, the South of Spain and Sweden; while Ireland, parts of France and almost all throughout the Balkan will likely be easier. Bring your sense of humour, and research a little about hitchhiking etiquette in that location before you hit the road.
33. Positioning is everything.
Especially if you are leaving big cities, there will be tried and true ‘spots’ that will greatly increase your chances of getting a ride and getting you faster to where you want to go. Hitchwiki is a fantastic resource for hitchhikers.
34. How to stay safe.
Hitchhiking is a game of trust, and luck. Most people are kind, friendly and happy to help. If you don’t feel Ok about something, just remove yourself from the situation.
Only hitchhike in daylight hours. More than anything, you are harder to see in the dark which can be really dangerous especially in regions where people have apparently never heard of drink driving laws. Staying away from hurtling trucks on roads with blind corners and drunk drivers in the dark is advice well-taken!
Riding a bike through Europe:
If you are at home on a pair of wheels, why not consider travelling by bike around europe. It’s more common than you might think and the European summer is pretty suited to trips from village to village, ice-cream shop to coffee shop, as you slowly make your way between two destinations.
35. Take your bike.
Many trains will allow travel with bicycles (even inner city lines) or you can buy a bike at your first destination and sell again when you have had enough. Popular long-haul trips are Berlin-Istanbul or Rome -Dubrovnik, or you could just do one leg by bike, say Vienna to Budapest, and continue on by other methods. Its a cheap, alternative way to see the continent and you will be blown away by the warm reception you get from locals when you arrive on wheels.Back to top
Tips to save money on food in Europe
36. Eat the local food.
No good trying to eat sushi in Serbia. Sample the local delicacies for a delicious and budget experience.
37. Eat street food and from local bakeries and delis.
Look out for the daily menu in restaurants and cafes. There is a variation in every language, in every country. It will be local, authentic, probably delicious, and cheap.
Shop at the markets for local produce twice the quality and half the price of the food in supermarkets. If your hostel or hotel has a kitchen, cook. If not, picnic and people wtach.
Eat according to the season. Eating what’s in season (usually on special in the restaurants, or cheap at the market) will ensure what you munch is fresh, and friendly for your wallet.
Europe travel tips about having fun on a budget
38. Free tours.
Operating in every major city in Europe tip based, or free tours are generally run by young locals who are enthusiastic about their city. It’s a great way to spend your first day and orientate yourself.
39. Pick up funzines, free press and street magazines to find cheap local going-ons in the city.
Find the cultural centres in the city and ask what exhibitions, projects and gigs are going on.
40. Stay away from tourist venues.
Buskers and street musicians are a great feature about European summer. The lend a certain atmosphere to sun-kissed cobblestones and cost only a donation and a smile.
Venture away from major cities, and you’ll find the prices drop immediatly.
If you are on a fixed schedule, pick an area as your focus and explore. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Europe is so compact you can see it a few weeks. Travelling this way will be expensive and less fulfilling, you won’t get the feel of any one destination and spend your whole time on (and paying for) public transport instead.Back to top
Travel tips to avoid getting ripped off in Europe
European cities are generally, pretty safe, and many travellers report feel overwhelmingly secure walking around. That being said, when you are away from home, keeping your wits about is essential. The number one tip for safety is to use your common sense and trust your instincts, if you don’t like the feeling you get from someone or someplace, stay calm and walk away.
Europe is a big continent. In some countries theft is extremely uncommon, in others it’s something you need to watch out for. But, if you practice a few good habits, keep your eyes open and stay aware of your surrounding, 9 times out of 10, you’ll be fine.
41. Use good quality materials for luggage and daypacks.
Cheap, flimsy materials can be easily sliced open.
42. Lock your zips.
43. keep your finances apart
Separate your cash and cards, and separate them from your back-up cards and passport. Keep an emergency stash of cash separate from everything else. Avoid pulling out large amount of cash, jewellery and waving around your valuables like a king…. overt displays of wealth, especially in poorer countries could invite the attentions of a Robin Hood.
44. Use a safe deposit box
Keep your valuables in a safety deposit box in your hotel or hostel, if they have one.
45. Make use of a money belt.
46. Watch out for pickpockets.
Be aware of the presence of pickpockets, they are famously active in tourist centres like Rome, Barcelona and Milan, but in all big cities you should be careful.
Dont leave your valuables in your back pocket or easy to get to places, and try to keep your wits about you, even when totally lost. It is lost, distracted tourists that draw a pickpockets attention. See (barcelona page) for some pickpocket know-how.
Careful when using open wifi. Use an open or pptp VPN for some piece of mind.
47. Be aware of Great deals.
Say it three times; ‘if it seems too good to be true...’
Poverty and homelessness are big problems in Europe, particularly visible on the Eastern side. There are however more reasons for street-side begging than you might think. Some beggars (particularly if they are children) are pawns in a much wider criminal network. They will not keep the money you give them, but give it to their bosses. Some beggars are really pickpockets, so be careful when opening your wallet or distractedly rummaging through your bags. Some are really just hungry. Use your better judgement.
49. Gorgeous girls.
As old as time itself; a young and beautiful woman approaches a foreign man and flirtatiously suggests they go to a bar to have a drink. When the bill comes at the end of the night, the unsuspecting victim finds that the price of the the drink was was $500. Ouch. This is rife in central and eastern Europe, and usually most likely around tourist centres, and erotic bars and clubs. In these cases, very big men will force you to pay up, or take you to the ATM if you don’t have cash.
50. Taxi routes.
Running up the meter by taking a tourist three times around the city to get to the hotel one block away.
51. No meters.
Make sure that your taxi driver turns the meter on. Don’t listen to stories that its broken, or offer to find another taxi.
52. Fake police/ticket inspectors.
Men wearing serious-looking uniforms with badges demanding on-the-spot cash fines for something bizaar. Alarm bells should be ringing. Don’t hand over cash or your passport to anybody.
53. Fake charity.
Generally a ploy to distract tourists by pickpockets, the fake charity scam has many faces. Assume that you are giving any money directly to the person who is collecting it, and watch your bags and valuables.
54. Mystery prices.
Be sceptical of any place in a tourist district that does not advertise prices. You probably don’t want to pay $100 for a beer.
55. Card skimming.
More common than you might think, its relatively easy to rig up a plastic strips that reads your card data or to photograph your card. Keep an eye on your statements and don’t use any ATM that looks strange. Always cover your hand when entering your PIN.
56. No change.
Frequent at markets and smaller shops, vendors telling you point blank they don’t have change. If you dont want to give a 50% tip say so, or offer to take your business elsewhere.
57. No speak English.
Especially in exchange booths, when you inquire how much money you will receive. Most of the time, especially in larger cities, someone who doesn’t speak English, won’t be working in an exchange booth. If somebody won’t tell you how much local currency you will receive for foreign currency, find another exchange place.
58. Phony exchange rates.
Check what the exchange rate is on the day, at always ask exactly how much money you will get in return. Often, unscrupulous exchange office will advertise one rate, and give another.Back to top
Europe travel tips about doing it like a local
Doing it like a local requires a little more effort on your part, but you find it pays off in more ways than one. Prices are lower, your experience will be more authentic and you will have the chance to mingle with locals and get a better feel for the culture.
59. Stray from the beaten path. It will be cheaper.
Savvy travellers eat cheese in France, Olives in Greece, and Burek in Serbia. They search for the local restaurants (ones that don’t have english menus) and search for the equivalent of the daily special in restaurants and cafes.
60. Look for accommodation that isn’t a hotel or a hostel:
Stay in top notch, low cost B&Bs and pensions in Germany and eat your fill from the classic german breakfast das Frühstück come morning. Germans do it, and so should you. While on the Croatian seaside, staying in a spare room of a nice old lady whose children have moved out is alternative way to get good and cheap accommodation for those in the know.
Of course, if you get homesick and crave a conversation laden with familiar quips and close-to-home references, heading to a main city and booking one or two nights in a popular hostel should fix that, but know that your options are open.Back to top
Bonus tip: Remember travel insurance
Whether you are gearing up for a backpacking adventure full of bull runs, beer halls and yacht weeks or you are off on a romantic European getaway, having the right travel cover in place is critical. Travel insurance can offer protection from a range of losses including;
- Medical emergencies
- Lost/stolen baggage
- Trip cancellation
- Personal liability
- Rental vehicle excess cover
Nobody wants to be overcharged for travel insurance and Finder.com.au has access to a range of exlusive coupon codes to help you save even further. Use the form below to compare quotes from Australian insurers.
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Europe is an exciting place to visit. Getting the most out of it is up to you. That’s why its a good idea to do your research before you go and arm yourself with as much local knowledge as you can find from the other side of the world. Listening to advice from friends, or searching the internet for tips from locals is sure to give valuable advice about how to travel better and cheaper in Europe.