How you can save on accommodation, transport, food and entertainment in Europe.
Keeping budget on your upcoming trip to Europe is easy with the right know-how.
Whether it's a little thing like bringing an empty bottle into the airport so you don't have to pay expensive airport prices to keep hydrated to a larger thing like how to shave hundreds off accommodation by shopping around these are a few things to keep in mind when travelling halfway across the world that could save you heaps.
Before you leave it's good to get your travel finances in order - or at the very least know how you're going to fund yourself for the first few days of your trip.
1. Make use of travel-friendly cards
Once an expensive option for foreign travel, there are now plenty of travel-friendly credit, debit and travel money cards that won't charge for international transactions and international ATM withdrawals.
All travel money cards let you load Euro, but not all countries in Europe are part of the Eurozone. Check the table below to see which countries use Euro if you're unsure.
Europe in general is card friendly and you'll likely not have a problem paying with card in retail outlets and restaurants.
2. Consider a bank account with a global presence
The two biggest fees you'll be slammed with when withdrawing money from ATMs are international bank fees and conversion fees. These can sometimes be avoided by withdrawing from that bank's ATMs. Some banks, including Citibank, don't charge you at all for withdrawals from any ATM in Europe. Bear in mind that sometimes it's not the bank but the ATM that charges you a fee. The ATM will advise you of a possible charge fee before you withdrawal if this is the case.
3. Keep various forms of payment on you
For safety reasons as well as to save on potential fees, it's a good idea to travel with various forms of payment. This can be a combination of a credit card, debit card and cash.
Travelling with various payment methods can save the hassle of having to find an ATM (and copping its fees) when making a purchase from somewhere that doesn't accept cash. Conversely, it can also save you from minimum transaction amount fees that some merchants may charge.
4. Don't change money at the airport
Airports are notorious for offering inflated exchange rates. Get a small amount of cash exchanged before you leave the country or withdrawal money from the ATM first before you head into town.
5. Always check the daily exchange rate
Don't get caught out with a dodgy exchange rate if you have to change your money to the local currency.
6. Don't take out more than you need in cash - especially for countries that don't use the Euro
Euros is the official currency of 19 European countries however, as stated above, it is not the official currency of every European countries. Many countries including Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Croatia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Poland use their own currency.
If you're planning to visit any of these it may be worth estimating how much physical cash you might need so you don't convert too much. This will help you avoid double the fees to convert whatever remaining cash you have back.Back to top
Accommodation options are as varied as the continent and come in every shape and size to suit every comfort level or budget. So because every traveller has different preferences and price-points we've tried to include a tip for every one.
7. Compare hotel prices across various websites
Like groceries from one shop to the next, the price of a room in a specific hotel can change depending on which website you book through.
An easy way to check that you're not being ripped off is to use a hotels comparison site like Trivago to get the cheapest price on your desired room.
8. Use those price match guarantees
After you've found the cheapest advertised price for the hotel you're eyeing, have a quick look on the official hotel website to see if it offers a "lowest price guarantee". If it does, call them up on it to the price matched or see if they can beat it.
9. Book last-minute or book a secret hotel
Go are the days when last-minute bookings would have cost you an arm and a leg. These days it's all about filling empty rooms no matter what the price. If you're willing to risk it, booking a few days before or evening on the morning of the day could give you big discount. The same goes for secret hotel deals only you won't know which hotel you're booking until you've paid. Curious? You can often figure this out with a quick Google search.
10. Be loyal
Loyalty pays off when you book through certain engines. has a membership program that awards you one free stay for every 10 paid stays. Booking.com also awards loyal users with "Genius" benefits such as early check-in and a drink on arrival.
11. Book a private room in a hostel if you still want your space
Hostels are a low-cost accommodation solution typically favourited by backpackers and young travellers. They offer dormitory beds and multi bed rooms but can also offer private rooms with your own ensuite for less than a hotel, making it an option if you want your own space. Facilities such as toilets and showers are often shared and extras such as room service aren't included.
12. BYO your accessories when staying in hostels
Being a "no-frills" accommodation option, hostels don't typically come with complimentary towels and toiletries. To save money on having to hire these or purchase them, bring your own from home. Hostels sometimes also charge you to use their padlocks, so keep one on hand as well if you wish to lock up your belongings.
13. Consider couchsurfing
This form of accommodation is so cheap, it's free. Couchsurfing can be an authentic and fun way to meet people and have a real-life tour guide help you navigate your way around. They're also a good point of contact to reach out to for advice or help during your stay. Just remember to treat your host like a friend, not a hotel. To keep this system safe for you, read your host's feedback to get a good idea of them and avoid anyone that doesn't sound right. Always have a backup plan in case things don't go the way you planned.
14. Consider camping to save on accommodation costs
Campsites are plentiful throughout Europe and vary 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 cheaper than sleeping in a campground when you consider all the costs like Wi-Fi and electricity outlets. Frequently, campsites charge an extra fee for these facilities.
15. Try a homestay network like Airbnb
Airbnb, Vrbo and HomeAway are shaking up the market by offering affordable homestays. These can be cheaper than hotels but do vary in quality and location.
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 by looking at the following:
16. Stay on the ball when booking your flight
When we say crafty, we mean crafty. When booking through budget airlines some may pre-tick unnecessary boxes for you, charging you for things you don't need. Untick these along the way to make sure you get only what you want.
When booking, airlines may also highlight buttons to opt-in for extras and hide buttons that dismiss these extras. Again, look carefully before you click to make sure you really are getting only what you want.
17. 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.
18. 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 a cheap ticket. You might still be getting a good deal, but be sure to double check.
19. 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 what hand-luggage dimensions you're restricted to and pay for luggage costs before you travel. It's almost always cheaper to pre-buy your check-in luggage than to purchase it at the airport so get this sorted early.
20. Check into 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.
21. Join the program
While most budget airlines won't be affiliated with frequent flyer programs, if you're the kind to travel a little more luxuriously, joining an airline's program can be beneficial. You'll rack up points for flights you're already intending to take and with those could score yourself a free flight or upgrade down the line. Some airlines in Europe with awards are British Airways, Emirates, Alitalia, Finnair, Lufthansa and KLM.
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 night's accommodation because unless you can sleep through an earthquake you are going to want to get a few hours sleep during the following day.
22. Google Map your 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.
23. Book your bus ticket early
Like flights, bus prices tend to increase the closer you get to its departure date. Book early to get the best price.
Without getting too black-and-white, generally trains are quite efficient but also quite expensive in Western Europe. On the flip-side, they can be quite inefficient but affordable in Eastern Europe. Take of that what you will but before you train, check the price and the journey time to make sure it's the best transport option for you.
24. Book your train ticket early
Similar to bus tickets, buying your train ticket early anything from one week to three months in advance can see you snap up advance rates. This is particularly true for trains in and around Austria, the UK, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden. Some trains may also charge more for travelling during peak periods. If your departure time is flexible, take advantage of this to shave even more costs.
25. Rail passes
Rail passes such as Rail Europe passes enable travel between many countries and are popular with travellers. Sounds like a dream but consider the decision carefully. They are not cheap and while they will suit some travellers, how much of a deal you are getting depends on your personal travel itinerary.
For example, Eurorail passes can be great in France as trains are expensive, but across the border in Spain trains are pretty cheap and most of the time your pass won’t get 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 extra for each new train you take. In Eastern Europe train travel is pretty affordable and your global pass might exceed the cost of normal train travel or other travel options.
26. Dealing with fake train guards
If a train guard inspects your ticket and declares it invalid when you know that it's not ask for ID or offer to have the local police sort it out.
27. Validate your ticket
One of the most common mistakes travellers can make is not realising they need to validate their ticket. It doesn't matter if you've purchased it in good faith and followed every other rule, inspectors generally won't be forgiving.
Following what others do is not highly recommended as many locals have subscription passes that don't require validation. Instead, research prior to arrival whether you need to validate your ticket before or after boarding trains, trams or buses. Generally, if your ticket doesn't display a specific date and time on it, you'll need to validate it.
Car rental is good for Central Europe and the Balkan or the Baltic regions where countries are close together. For example, it will take you less than four hours to drive from the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius to the Latvian capital of Riga.
28. 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.
29. Car share.
Cut down on costs by opting to travel by Uber instead of a taxi or for other similar rideshare apps like myTAXI and BlaBlaCar.
30. Toll roads and highway tickets
Almost all highways in Europe require you to pay for use. Some allow you to pay for these by cash or card at designated booths, others require you to purchase passes to use toll roads.
If you're taking it easy you might not need to think about this as non-toll roads often take a similar route to toll roads and provide you with the advantage of getting to stop in weird and wonderful towns along the way.
If you are in a rush, stop at the last petrol station before the border or the first one inside a border to check if you need a specific pass. Slovenia, for example, requires you to purchase and display a vignette on your dash. This allows you to drive on toll rolls for a specified number of days. If in doubt, do a quick Google search before entering a new country.
Road and traffic patrols are frequent especially around national borders and they tend to target foreign and rental cars.
31. 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. Like in Australia however, they are often more pricey than supermarkets.
Hitchhiking is an acceptable mode of travel in many European countries. You'll find drivers in most places are pretty happy to have a chat with a random roadside drifter with a good smile and a stand-out sign.
We say sign because thumb isn't exactly the best way to hitchhike. The easiest way to do this is to grab a sheet of paper and boldly write your destination on it. It's more likely a passing driver who knows they can carry you some or most of the way will stop for you rather than one who has room but isn't sure you're heading in their direction.
Hitchhiking is a game of trust and luck. Most people are kind, friendly and happy to help. If you don’t feel okay about something remove yourself from the situation. Only hitchhike in daylight. More than anything, you are harder to see in the dark which can be dangerous especially in regions where people have never heard of drink driving laws.
32. How much to pay?
You may notice that in some countries like Romania locals catching a lift on what feels like their daily commute will often pay for the ride. As a tourist however, you are generally not expected to however buying the driver a coffee at the petrol station when you stop for a rest is a nice gesture and will surely be appreciated.
33. Where to stand
Be careful when standing on highways to hitchhike as it is illegal in some countries. Others do have more common and accepted hitchhiking points. If you plan to hitchhike, Hitchwiki is a fantastic resource for location, advice and etiquette.
34. Some countries are better than others
Not all countries are hitchhike friendly. Places infamously poor for hitchhiking are Italy, the South of Spain and Sweden. Ireland, parts of France, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Germany will likely be easier. Bring your sense of humour and a load of patience with you when you hit the road.
If you are at home on a pair of wheels consider travelling by bike around Europe. It’s more common than you think and the European summer is suited to trips from village to village as you slowly make your way between two destinations.
35. Take your bike on a long journey
Many trains allow travel with bicycles. Popular long-haul trips are Berlin to Istanbul or Rome to Dubrovnik. You can just do one leg by bike, say from Vienna to Budapest and then continue on by other methods. It's a cheap alternative way to see the continent.
36. Hire a bike for short journeys
Europe is overflowing with bicycle-friendly city that operate tourist bike borrowing systems for cheap. Popular cycle cities include Amsterdam, Copenhagen and London. In London, you can rent a Santander Cycles bike (formally a Boris Bike) for just £2 a day or for free for 30 minutes.
Getting around in general
37. Download the app
European countries are super savvy about their transport apps now with most public transport systems having their own apps which let you know what the fastest route from A to B is as well as what's the cheapest route. For an all-in-one app, try Citymapper. Compare prices on different routes and transport modes to help you save while discovering the city.
38. Download offline maps
Instead of burning data on Google Maps, download offline maps when you have Wi-Fi. If you star places that are important such as your accommodation, train stations and city landmarks you'll be able to search for directions to these without having to access your data.
39. Make use of tourist or daily travel passes
Many cities have tourist transport passes that provide you with unlimited daily travel on public transport in the city for a set price. This is handy if you're short on time or know that you'll be hopping from one-end of the city to the other in the day. If you just want to travel into the city, walk around and return home this is probably not worthwhile. Consider how large the city is and how many trips you'll be making in the day first before committing to a pass.
Tips to save money on food in Europe
40. Eat the local food.
No good trying to eat sushi in Serbia. Sample the local delicacies for a delicious budget experience.
41. Eat street food and eat 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 that is likely to be cheaper than the food in supermarkets. If your hostel or hotel has a kitchen, cook. If not, picnic and people watch.
Eat according to the season. Eating what’s in season will ensure what you munch is fresh and friendly for your wallet.
42. Stay away from restaurants with a view
It's generally assumed that the better the view, the more expensive the menu. Steer clear of restaurants in the town centre, with bird's eye views of the city or that sit on the waterfront as these tend to be overpriced. Stick to side streets with small frontages for more affordable feeds.
43. Free tours
Free walking tours operate in practically every major city. They're tip-based but you shouldn't feel obliged to offer anything if you can't afford it or if you're unsatisfied with your tour. They're often run by locals or expats who are enthusiastic about the city and are a great way to spend your first day and orientate yourself.
44. 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.
45. 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 dramatically. 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.
46. Pre-book attractions
This option works two-fold. Not only does it mean that you could save money by booking early and online with attraction specials, it also means you won't have to wait in line when you arrive at the attraction as there is usually a fast-track pre-book line.
47. Search for tourist deals
Many major cities have tourist passes that allow you to access numerous attractions. Examples of this are Paris Pass and London Pass. They're especially ideal if you know you'll be visiting numerous attractions on their access list.
Less common deals you can cash in on include the 2FOR1 London pass. This deal can get you two for one entry into hot attractions such as London Eye and Tower of London and requires that you purchase on ticket on the National Rail on the day of the attraction. Sounds like a battle but if you pop into a railway station and buy the cheapest possible ticket for spare change, you could save a motzah on attraction prices when travelling in pairs.Back to top
Travel tips to avoid getting ripped off in Europe
European cities are generally pretty safe and many travellers report feeling 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 uncommon. In others, it’s something you need to watch out for. If you practice a few good habits, keep your eyes open and stay aware of your surroundings, more often than not you’ll be fine.
48. Use good quality materials for luggage and backpacks.
Cheap, flimsy materials can be easily sliced open. If you ever feel unsafe move your backpack to your front. You might not look "cool" but this will ensure you can see your possessions at all times. Also, lock those zips. It'll make it immediately harder for thieves to prey on you.
49. 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. Use a money belt to hide the larger wads of cash and drip it into your wallet if you need to in private places such as the bathroom stall. As a rule of thumb, avoid pulling out large amounts of cash and waving around your valuables like a king as overt displays of wealth can invite the attentions of a Robin Hood.
50. Bring a lock or use the safety deposit box
Keep your valuables in a safety deposit box in your hotel or locked away in the hostel locker if they have one.
51. 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.
Pickpockets come in all shapes and form from an unsuspecting child to a street performer. To lessen the risk of pickpockets, don't leave your valuables in your back pocket or in easy to get to places. Keep your wits about you, even when totally lost. It is lost, distracted tourists that draw a pickpocket's attention.
Also, be careful when using open Wi-Fi. Never access private sensitive information such as your bank account. Leave that to private connections. If you must use open Wi-Fi, use an open or pptp VPN for piece of mind.
52. Be aware of great deals
If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
Poverty and homelessness are particularly visible on the Eastern side of Europe. There are 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.
54. Gorgeous girls
As old as time itself, a young and beautiful woman approaches a foreign man and flirtatiously suggests they go to a bar for a drink. When the bill comes 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 some cases, very big men may force you to pay up or take you to the ATM if you don’t have cash.
55. Taxi routes
Running up the meter by taking a tourist three times around the city to get to the hotel one block away is not unheard of. To lessen the chance of being ripped off, act as though you know where you're going by pulling your phone out and watching their route. Uber is also a good way to monitor your route as it will be tracked by the app for you.
56. No meters
Make sure that your taxi driver turns the meter on. Don’t listen to stories that it's broken.
57. No public transport
You'll find in smaller airports you'll be met by a mob of taxi drivers calling out to you for a taxi to get your business. Some of the time, these aren't the official taxis of the airport and may charge overcharge you. Ignore them and walk straight to the official taxi stand. These taxis will have regulated prices or even set prices so you know you won't get ripped off. In some airports, such as Podgorica in Montenegro, you'll hear tale that there is no public transport available and that the only way into the city is taxi. Research prior to arrival whether this is true. In the case of Podgorica, it is not and the train station is less a 5-minute walk away.
58. Fake police/ticket inspectors
Men wearing serious-looking uniforms with badges demanding on-the-spot cash fines for something bizarre. Alarm bells should be ringing. Don’t hand over cash or your passport to anybody if you suspect they're not across the board.
59. Fake charity
This is 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.
60. Mystery prices
Be skeptical of any place in a tourist district that does not advertise prices. You don’t want to pay $100 for a beer.
61. Card skimming
More common than you might think, it's relatively easy to rig up a plastic strips that read or photograph your card in an ATM. Before inserting your card, pull on the plastic card slot hard to make sure there's nothing attached. If something comes out, walk away. Always cover your hand when entering your PIN. Keep an eye on your statements and don’t use any ATM that looks strange.
61. No change
It's frequent that at markets and smaller shops, vendors will tell you they don’t have change. If you don't want to give a tip offer to take your business elsewhere.
62. No speak English
This can happen anywhere from at the store or at a currency exchange and can mean that you'll hand over money without knowing how much something actually is.
64. Get the right travel insurance
Whether you are gearing up for a backpacking adventure or a romantic European getaway, having the right travel cover is critical. Travel insurance can offer protection from a range of losses including medical emergencies, lost/stolen baggage, trip cancellation and rental vehicle excess cover. Hopefully you won't need to use travel insurance but if you do, it could save you a fair bit. You can find out more about Europe travel insurance here.