Europe is quite a popular travel destination — more than 11 million Americans visited the continent in 2013 alone, according to theOffice of Travel and Tourism Industries. With so many countries in close proximity to each other, you can spend one day climbing the Eiffel Tower and the next day posing with Big Ben.
After studying in London for a semester, I know that travelling on a budget in Europe is not always easy.
According to an article in USA Today, one week in Europe costs approximately $US2,000 (plus airfare) per couple, and that’s if you stay in just one city for your whole trip.
It is, however, possible to have the vacation of your dreams without shelling out a ridiculous amount of money.
Here are six cheap ways to travel between countries while you’re staying in Europe.
1. Fly budget airlines: Europe has a bunch of budget airline carriers, two of the most popular being easyJet and Ryanair. They aren’t the most luxurious planes by any means, but they get you where you need to go for cheap. For example, Ryanair is currently offering flights from London to Oslo for only $US30 per ticket.
Many of these planes also have impressive on-time performances — Easyjet arrived on time 91% of the time in March 2014. I flew on budget airlines six times while in London, and every plane departed and arrived on time.
2. Book flights in advance: It’s crazy what a difference one or two months can make in terms of flight prices. I tried to book a flight from London to Barcelona one week before my trip, and flights were way out of my price range. When I looked at the prices for flights two months from my intended travel date, the tickets were $US30 cheaper.
3. Be sure to pack light: Many of the budget airlines have very strict height and weight restrictions for carry-on bags and checked baggage, so try to pack as few unnecessary items as possible. If you know your checked baggage is over the weight limit, you should pay the baggage fee online instead of at the airport. It will be significantly more expensive if you wait.
4. If you have the time, travel by bus: If you’re travelling between countries, taking a bus might not seem like the most appealing option since the journey can be long. However, if you’re only travelling to a neighbouring country, it might be worth your while. Bus tickets between London and Paris for about five weeks from now are as low as $US25 on Eurolines, versus a $US55 flight on easyJet the same day. The bus ride is quite long at approximately 9 hours, but you can save a little money if you have the time.
5. Stay in hostels: Hostels have kind of a bad rap (the horror movie Hostel probably didn’t help), but many don’t deserve this reputation. Every hostel I stayed at while travelling in Europe was very clean, and I never felt unsafe. The website Hostelworld is a great resource for finding hostels; you can view available rooms by location and have the search results sorted by “overall rating” to get the best options. The dorm-style rooms are cheapest because you have to share your room with a group of strangers. I’ve had friends book these rooms for as cheap as $US15 per night, and they have met a bunch of interesting people through the experience.
6. Book trips through tour groups: If you’re planning a trip of one week or more and want to make sure you see everything, it might be worth travelling with a tour group. These trips are often more affordable than travelling alone, and they typically include extra perks like guided tours and a few meals. The tour group Trafalgar has an option called CostSaver where travellers can depart from the U.S. and travel throughout multiple countries. One of their trips is the 11-day Britain & Ireland Delight, which costs approximately $US1,600 per person. If you’re a student, you can enjoy great rates from the tour group Bus2Alps. I took a one-week trip to Italy with them, and it cost only $US784 and included all of my accommodations, multiple meals, tours in every city, and more.
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