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Often I get asked how on earth I travel Europe for so little money and can live this lifestyle. Well, I’m definitely not a rich person, so I’m always looking for budget options. Here I’ll go over how to travel Europe for cheap and save all the coins you can while still having a great experience!
For example, I’ve gone from Croatia > Poland > Denmark for a total of €7 in flights, spending €10 on quality food, and €10 in bus/train fares without paying for accommodation. Instead of spending $500 on flights, hotels, and restaurants, I paid a total of 37 eur – not bad! Here’s my method(s).
It’s a myth that you need money to travel around and see the worlds best destinations. No – you just need to do some research, be flexible, and ready for adventure. I hope this article can hope inspire, motivate, and shed light on the ability to move around and travel on a budget 🙂
Note: I am not paid or sponsored by any company in this article – these are my genuine ways to travel. There are affiliate links which generate me a small commission if you use some of these services.
Table of Contents
1 – Cheap flights
There are a variety of budget airliners which offer cheap, budget-friendly flights. Obviously, you’ll be in economy class and you won’t be booking $10 tickets for a flight across the continent tomorrow. No, you need to be flexible.
I primarily use Skiplagged to find budget-friendly tickets. I usually plug in the airport that I’d like to leave from, choose ‘Anywhere’ for destination, and scan around – you’ll come across many $10-$20 flights all over – sometimes days in advance, sometimes in a few weeks time. Sometimes Skiplagged gives you the best price, but I always use it to search and then go to the airlines website to see if I can find the rate for cheaper.
SkyScanner and Google Flights work quite well too, but to me Skiplagged is the best search engine for cheap flights. Other engines I find add 10%+ to the fare to earn commission. Still, even with Skiplagged I find the flight then often go to the airliners site to find the fare there.
If you’re trying to go to a place in particular, try plugging in nearby airports from your departure and arrival destination – consider taking a train, bus, or ridesharing to get somewhere.
There are a slew of common budget airlines, but beware – some of them are really irritating for their baggage policies and other reasons.
Cheap as can be, it shows in the service and product. I’ve used RyanAir dozens of times at this point and while all the flights have gone off without a hitch, their new baggage policy is complete trash – even a regular sized backpack is ‘oversized’ and you may have to pay at the gate to bring it on. I’ve had to pay once for this stupid policy and it was something like 30 euros. Sometimes I slip through without disturbance though.
Definitely a bit more generous than RyanAir, I’ve had no problems with my 40L backpack going through WizzAir. Still, they’re definitely a budget airline and I wouldn’t be surprised if you got nailed from extra fees for using a backpacking-style bag. No problems so far though and their prices are unreal.
Less ‘budget’ than the other airlines, easyJet flights usually cost around 20-50 euros but are much more professional with service and baggage policy. Never had a problem with baggage with them and the little extra money spent doesn’t feel like a scam.
Like EasyJet, EuroWings is less like a hardcore budget airliner and my experience flying with them has been more ‘proper’ and ‘professional’ to a degree – it feels a bit closer to the quality of a domestic, subsidized airliner and while their tickets are often a bit pricier, I’ve had no complaints.
Local airlines can sometimes be great – TAP Portugal for example. Just refer to each companies baggage policy when you’re looking at travelling – don’t want to get dinged for an extra $50 if you’re carrying a ‘plus-sized’ backpack!
2 – Cheap accommodation
Forget about hotels, and forget about AirBnB. AirBnB ruins local rent economies and the prices aren’t really so great most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, AirBnB can be fine in a pinch, but I don’t like to support their business.
Instead, consider local hostels or my favorite – CouchSurfing and WarmShowers.
Pretty self-explanatory, hostels are cheap and often have shared accommodation. This can be great for the adventurous traveler who would like to socialize with other people. Too, local hostels are often ripe with staff who are friendly are care – willing to suggest a budget-friendly place to eat or party.
Although it used to be free, the now $1/month subscription-based CouchSurfing is still an excellent resource for travelling. Yeah, it sucks that they went and monetized the platform, but it’s still an amazing service.
For the uninitiated, CouchSurfing works like this: You make a profile, send a message to a host in a city that you’re going to asking to stay the night, and they’ll offer you a place to stay! No payment, no strings attached. Of course you should buy your own food and it’s good etiquette to bring a small treat or something for the host – however it’s definitely not mandatory.
The advantage of CouchSurfing is you connect with someone who lives in the place itself and you can share real knowledge & experience with each other. I’ve travelled and hosted with CouchSurfing dozens of times and it has connected me to some amazing friends and people as a result – can’t recommend it enough!
Like CouchSurfing but for bikepacking – if you’re into bicycle touring and adventuring, WarmShowers is the way to go. It has a one-time payment of $30 to use the platforms which I find is reasonable because it really builds a dedicated and kind community.
Oftentimes hosts will have a safe parking space for your bike, tools/spare parts to share, and share a common interest. I love WarmShowers and also can’t recommend it enough.
An exchange of services – Workaway and WWOOF operate on the basis that a host will offer you accommodation and food in exchange for your labor or skills. The tasks can vary from helping with farmwork to babysitting, working at a hostel or at a yoga retreat – there are thousands of different experiences available and oftentimes the hosts are very kind and friendly people. Expect to put in 3-5 hours a day of work.
It’s a great way to settle down for a few weeks or months at a time and develop personal skills. Workaway costs $30 per year to sign up the platform which is well worth it in my opinion. WWOOF is free and is dedicated to Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
I’ve really enjoyed Workaways and have met some amazing people as a result. Highly recommend for mid-term stays in a particular place 🙂
3 – Cheap transport
Local trains, local busses, and ridesharing are the best ways to get around for cheap. Sure, you can use Uber or a Taxi, but in most places you’re going to be paying a ‘tourist premium’ for this.
Search for the local trains in the native language to the country you’re visiting – use Google Translate!
Flixbus & FlixTrain
I’ve used Flixbus a good 50 times at this point. They’re cheap, do international routes, and are (often) punctual and professional. Oftentimes Flixbus network will pair up with a local domestic bus network to offer better service & coverage. It’s also very popular and usually rides are filled up and cost the most on the same day or 1 day in advance.
I love ridesharing too. Quicker than bus, about the same price, and you get to share a ride with people from all over which can lead to nice conversations and connections. BlaBlaCar is free to use but you will pay the driver to share on fuel and toll costs.
Don’t be afraid – hitchhiking isn’t dead! At least not in some places – in Croatia me and my (former) girlfriend had an incredible time getting rides rapidly from strangers. I’ve even used it to get to an airport with confidence. Sure, some places will definitely have different people which are hesitant about strangers and you definitely need to present yourself in a nice location at a good time of day and try to be clean.
Try to hitchhike at night in a small place in Slovenia? Well, it can go wrong too… (click link for disaster). It can be fast and cost $0 too though so don’t be afraid!
4 – Cheap food
Just go to a supermarket. Local markets are great too, and street food vendors often have nice cheap meals. Restaurants if you’re bougie, but don’t be afraid to ask a local about a nice place to eat for cheap – they’ll probably know!
Delicious huge baked potato in Poznan, Poland? $3. Filling apple burek in Croatia? $2. Eat local, eat nice, avoid fast food and chains.
Food at hotels and even hostels are often a scam – avoid those tourist traps if you want to save your coin!
5 – Cheap entertainment
Depends where you’re going! Museums and galleries are often well-priced. Clubs and bars can be fun if you pre-game a bit to save some coins, and even local sport matches often cost quite little.
If you’re in a beautiful place like the beaches in Rijeka, entertainment can be free! Nature doesn’t cost anything and can give you a much-needed unwinding.
Or meet up with other CouchSurfers, check local classifieds, Facebook groups, etc. Even just walking around the city and discovering the culture is free – just use your legs!
These last 5 years in Europe I’ve gone around a lot and still have so much to see. I’m by no means rich or wealthy – just very peculiar about how I spend my money. A little bit can go a long way and travel doesn’t need to be expensive.
Do some digging and you can save a few hundred on flights and accommodation. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there – it’ll pay off in the end!
I’ve done (cumulatively) hundreds of bus trips, flights, train rides, CouchSurfs, etc and been able to go around for very little cash and so I hope this inspired or motivated you to be able to do the same 🙂
Consider donating a coffee-amount of coins via PayPal at bottom of this site if my article helped you 🙂
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