How to Budget When Travelling to Europe


The best things in Europe are free: lively plazas, stunning monuments and the atmosphere. Walk down the Champs Elysée marvelling at Parisian decadence or chart London’s history from a Thames stroll without spending a euro.

But before that, make a financial plan for your adventure and get the best deals on food, transport and accommodation. With our guide, European travel can be easier and less expensive than you ever thought.

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Where To Eat

European food needn't cost the earth. The main destinations, from Dubrovnik to St Petersburg, usually all have lunch specials that allow you to sample the local cuisine at a fraction of the cost of the evening menu, with many options coming in at under 10 euros.

If you're on a serious budget of less than 30 euros a day for everything, you can save money using kitchens or local products from delicatessens or supermarkets to make your own meals.

To save cash on fine dining, step away from the central tourist areas where restaurants usually charge higher prices for location rather than quality of cuisine. Also, remember that it's customary in countries like Italy to pay a cover charge of around 3 euros to sit and eat, so factor this into your budget, too.

Look for eateries full of locals or check out regional food blogs to see which pop-ups are up and coming – these often have experimental dishes at cut prices.

Transport In Europe

How To Get Around

Transport prices vary hugely and while Europe looks small on a map next to Australia, a Swiss train booked on the spot can make your eyes water. Booking in advance offers big savings both on buses and trains. In recent years, new bus companies such as megabus or flexibus have entered the scene offering strong price competition for as low as a euro. For those with fast feet, a train pass – either the Europe-wide Eurorail or country-specific passes – mean you can see a lot in a short time while capping your travelling expenses.

Compare alternative travel options, too. Sharing is caring and car sharing offers savings. Apps such as BlaBlaCar partner people with empty seats with those in need of a ride, many times on routes that aren't covered by public transport. Budget airlines often have sales in advance and are far cheaper than their Australian counterparts – check comparison sites like SkyScanner for the best options – or travel overnight and kill two birds with one stone. Buses, trains and even ferries have seats or bunks, which saves time and money.

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Where To Sleep

Sites like HotelsCombined offer accommodation price comparisons and last-minute deals, especially on weekdays and in low season. For an option that allows you to get to know locals, AirBnb is an excellent alternative to traditional accommodation services and prices. Hosts usually offer weekly and monthly rates which are far cheaper and more flexible than hotel long-stay prices.

Often in Europe, you only need somewhere to put your head for a few hours before the next destination, and it needn't be expensive. Hostels are a budget-traveller's friend, especially in Western Europe, and their dorms are usually the cheapest bed in town, coming in at under 20 euros a night even in popular cities like Barcelona.

If you are staying in the same hotel for a week or so, then rather than pay with your credit card (and have the extra fees and poor exchange rate often linked with credit cards) an alternative is to transfer the money directly with a company like OFX or Transferwise. You can often negotiate a discount with the hotel for paying in advance especially as they don’t pay credit card transaction fees.

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