$1500 flights, $150 hotel rooms, $50 day trips…cha ching! At a first glance, traveling throughout Europe seems impossible for someone on a graduate student budget. Historically, travel has been perceived as luxurious, reserved for the upper class. I’m here to tell you that your first glance and historical perceptions are now false. It is absolutely possible, now more than ever, to travel throughout Europe with limited funds!
Here are some tips for you as you plan your journey in a financially saavy fashion:
- Consider your flight destination! While you may plan to travel in France, for example, it may be cheaper to fly into another country, such as Belgium, and then take a train to France. Use a map and think of creative ways to travel to your desired destination. Certain airlines also offer better deals, such as RyanAir for intra-Europe travel.
- Seek alternative lodging arrangements. Hotels are no longer your only option. I’m a big fan of AirBnB, which offers cheap lodging and also an opportunity to learn about the local culture by meeting a local host. My friends have also tried CouchSurfers, which is popular in Europe.
- Brush up your cooking skills and buy groceries! Restaurants are often the most expensive part of travel. You can be financially smart by buying groceries, making food at home, and packing snacks with you so you aren’t persuaded by the costly tourist concession stands as you wait in long lines for tourist attractions.
- Research free tour options in your destination. I am a huge fan of free walking tours, such as Sandemann’s, which give you a great overview of cities throughout Europe and tell you interesting facts that you wouldn’t otherwise know by just walking through the city.
- Avoid taxis – taxis love tourists and the possibility to upcharge you. Instead, use Uber, public transportation, or better yet, walk! By walking, you can people watch, become more aware of your surroundings, and enjoy some fresh air while you are traveling. Another popular ride sharing option in Europe is bla bla car, which I have yet to try, but have heard great things about its convenience and cheap prices!
- Bring a first-aid kit with common cold medications and other toiletries you often use at home. Medicine, first-aid supplies, and toilettries in some European countries can be more expensive than other countries throughout the world. You will also save time by not having to go to the pharmacy while you are abroad!
- Don’t buy souvenirs from tourist shops – prices are often increased for the guilty “gotta-have-it-before-I-leave-Rome” buyers. Instead, check out the stores on side streets or find out where the locals go. You are guaranteed to find better deals and something that more genuinely reflects your destination. On top of that, how many “I ❤ …” keychains and t-shirts do you really need?
- Take advantage of WiFi. Be sure to turn data roaming off your smartphone, and use WiFi to contact local friends and family at home. My favorite Internet-based calling and texting applications are WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
- Check tourist attractions for student discounts or age-related discounts. I have been reaping the benefit of mostly free museums because I am under age 26 (many European museums are free for those between age 18-25) and am a student! There are also special discounts if you have an EU visa, are a teacher, or work in public service. Tourist attraction websites usually outline these special discounts!
Other travelers on a budget, what advice do you have? I want everyone to have the opportunity to travel Europe and throughout the world. For those of you approaching age 26, be sure to travel to Europe before it is too late to experience great deals while enjoying the most beautiful continent (maybe I’m a little biased) in the world!