Europe is a wonderful, diverse mix of countries. I went there on my first solo trip abroad and I’ve been back many times since. The beauty about Europe is that it’s so accessible once you’re there. You could be eating pizza in Rome one day and exploring the Berlin party scene the next without it costing you an arm and a leg. With a little bit of planning, Europe can be done on any budget; even with the stingiest of shoestrings. So, if you dream of doing your own trip to the continent but you only have a small amount of cash to spare, here are my five top tips for travelling around Europe on a shoestring budget.
1. Take the Megabus
Back when I was still at university, I was desperate to go abroad for the summer, but in typical student fashion, I had more wanderlust than money (still do…). That’s when I discovered the beauty that is the Megabus. The coach service runs across Europe for a fraction of the price of air travel. You can get tickets for as low as £1! (Although I can’t say I’ve ever been lucky enough to find one. I’m convinced it’s a myth). I travelled by Megabus all the way down to Barcelona. It goes without saying, it took a while, twenty-seven hours to be exact. So, if you’re planning on doing a similar route you have to be prepared for quite a hefty journey. This method is perhaps not suited to shorter trips but if you enjoy the travel, taking the Megabus is a fun and inexpensive way to watch the world go by. You can even break up the journey by hopping off the coach and spending some time in a few different places along the way.
2. Fly with a budget airline
Choosing when you travel is the key to getting a good deal. As a rule, if you’re aiming for cheap and cheerful then you want to avoid the summer months. Everything, from the flights down to the accommodation and activities skyrocket in price. So aim for low to shoulder seasons. I find Skyscanner the easiest and most effective way of finding cheap flights. It often means you end up on a budget airline which is admittedly more cramped than luxurious. But you’re only in the air for a couple of hours so you might as well save the pampering until you get to your destination. To get the most out of your cheap flight, pack only a carry-on to avoid those sneaky checked luggage fees. Just make sure you’re aware of what you’re allowed to take on board because some budget airlines (*ahem* Ryanair) tend to like shrinking their luggage size allowance which means you have to pay for anything larger than a postage stamp!
3. Road trip with a rideshare
If you can drive, one fun way to travel is to hire a campervan and hit the road. But the cost of hiring vehicles can get expensive. A budget-friendly alternative is to take part in a ridesharing scheme. Apps like BlaBlaCar have grown across Europe. Similar to the Uber taxi service, you simply find a car going your way and hitch a ride by paying through the app. Drivers can join as well as passengers so it’s handy if you’re doing a road trip and have a spare seat or two in your car. Perfect for shorter journeys, ridesharing is a great way to meet new people and make friends with travellers and locals alike. It’s like hitchhiking but without the stress of worrying about personal safety as every member has to be validated. Female travellers can even opt for a women’s only rideshare for extra piece of mind.
4. Use the local railway system
I find trains one of the easiest, most relaxing ways to travel. There’s nothing quite like curling up into a seat with a good book and a picnic, watching the world speed by beside you. Trains are more comfortable than coaches and less stressful than flights. You can get almost anywhere in Europe by train, and if you’re on a budget, buying your ticket well in advance is the best guarantee of a cheap deal. Alternatively, you can buy a Eurail pass which allows you to travel through and around up to twenty-eight European countries. Cheaper still are the sleeper trains. You end up saving money on accommodation for the night and you have the whole day to explore your destination when you arrive. What could be better?
5. Research, and mix and match your transport
There’s ultimately no wrong or right way to save the pennies while travelling. It really comes down to researching where you want to go. I wanted to go backpacking in the Greek Islands this year but I knew that my budget couldn’t realistically accommodate the likes of Santorini. I found an alternative island (Folegandros) in the same vicinity which happened to be a lot less touristy and as a result, more affordable to visit instead. So, opting for the road less travelled can pay off. Think about what you want to get out of your trip. If you’re going for a short weekend away then a twenty-four hour Megabus might not be the most efficient way to spend your money. Consider mixing and matching your transport itinerary to suit your time and money. It might take a little while to map out but it’ll be worth it if you’re on a shoestring budget.
Thanks for reading,