My brother-in-law, Josh, is preparing for a study abroad semester in Italy, and he asked if I’d share some insight into traveling Europe on a limited budget. Whether you’re studying abroad like Josh, or simply working with a tight budget, there are tons of ways to see Europe while making the most of your greenbacks!
- Low Season Travel. If possible try to plan your trip during your destination’s low season as not only will your lodging be more affordable, but you’ll bypass the crowds and enjoy a more authentic experience. Europe’s low season is usually October-March, but there are a few exceptions, so do some research.
- Free with student ID! If you’re studying abroad or taking a trip abroad while in college, don’t forget your college ID. Most State Museums are free to students in Paris & London, and I bet they’re free in other cities as well.
- Many national landmarks are free for everyone (for example the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Borghese Gardens, etc. in Rome are all free), so stick to the free landmarks, and you can get by pretty inexpensively exploring your chosen city, leaving your major costs to be lodging and transportation.
- Eat cheaply by buying food from street vendors (rather than eating at sit-down restaurants). Baguette sandwich and/or crepe stands seem to be on every other corner in Paris. And if you do eat in restaurants ask for tap water, or they’ll bring you bottled water and charge you for it.
- Tipping?? It seems crazy to Americans, but tipping at bars and restaurants is considered rude in some countries. Read up on the countries you’re visiting as it could save you 15-20% at each meal!
- Plan a picnic! Pick up inexpensive lunch fare (cheese, salami, bread, fruit and maybe some wine!) at a nearby market and set up shop a in a public garden. This spring Ken and I picked up lunch fixings for two at a St. Germain market (10 Euro) and had a picnic in Luxembourg Gardens. It was an awesome setting for an inexpensive lunch (and people watching!).
- Google It! Wherever you’re going, Google “Free Things to do in _____.” This seems obvious, but you’ll be surprised at how many free things you’ll find if you specifically search for it.
- Open-air Markets. Check to see if your destination city has any open air markets. They’re usually packed with local, inexpensive, handmade things (souvenirs!), street performers and cheap eats. London’s Camden Market is a good example.
- Check out the Study Abroad Financial Resources compiled by Credit Card Insider for unbiased tips and insight on navigating the not-so-glamorous but oh-so-necessary side of travel planning: foreign transaction fees, exchange rates, chip credit cards, bank communication, etc.
Do you have any budget travel tips to add?! Please share!
Picnic image via Colie Parks.