Top 9 money saving tips for travelling Europe

With so much to see and do, it’s no surprise that many people visiting Europe want to try and fit as much as possible into their trip. Exhilarating as it might be to see the Eiffel Tower one day and Big Ben the next, or to travel between 2 or 3 countries in the space of a week, the costs of this high-intensity travel do add up. 

But don’t worry, the costs of visiting Europe don’t have to stop you from seeing all you want. We’ve reached out to Stephanie Parker, creator of the travel budget blog Big World Small Pockets to share with us her top money saving tips which will help you see as much of Europe as you want to, without spending an amount you don’t!

1. Look into City Passes

City Passes are cards issued in many European capitals and large towns that provide great potential discounts to visitors. By paying a set fee to join the scheme, tourists then receive a card pass which enables them to make large savings on entrances to attractions, public transports fares and even shops and restaurants. Be sure to research the benefits of each City Pass you’re considering before you buy it, as each has its own rules and benefits. However, if one you’re interested in includes museums, galleries or events you were already planning on seeing, then a City Pass can be a great way to save money when travelling Europe. Particularly recommended are the Zagreb City Card and the Berlin Welcome Pass, which offer holders a huge range of savings across their respective cities.

2. Get a Transport Card

Talking of passes, if you’re less interested in attractions, but still want to get around a city, perhaps to explore its more unusual sides, then I highly recommend you consider a transport pass. Again these vary from city to city within Europe, but most of the major tourist destinations have some form of discounted transit card that allows visitors a share of the action too. Depending on how long you may be staying in a city, consider the length of card you purchase – normally the longer the ticket the bigger the savings – or opt for a locals’ card like the Oyster Card in London, which you simply top up at a machine and swipe each time you ride. Simples!

3. Consider AirBnb

One of my favourite ways to save money when travelling in expensive locations like Paris or Rome is AirBnb. This new arm of the share economy is taking the accommodation market by storm and you’d be silly not to get in on the action. When travelling Europe, staying in an AirBnb property can be a great way to save money – usually you can find some wonderful places in prime areas of the city that would cost a fortune were they a hotel. AirBnb is easy to sign up to, simple to use and gives you a great choice from simple rooms to whole apartments. Payment is secure and there is a great peer-review system which helps provide a good level of certainty for the visitor. For bigger groups or families especially, AirBnb is a real winner.

4. Location, Location, Location

If you prefer to book your accommodation in more conventional ways, then a key money saving tip when travelling Europe is to select the location of your hotel or guesthouse carefully. Many people think that booking accommodation right in the centre of a city is a definite no-no given the inflated rates. On one level they are right, but also consider all the additional transports costs you’ll incur if you choose to stay somewhere far out just because it’s cheaper. Normally the best bet is to opt for somewhere in between. Don’t look for a place in the Old Town Square of Prague, for example, but considering rooms a few blocks away is probably a good idea. If you can walk to the locations you want to visit from your hotel, without being slap bang in the central plaza, you will certainly keep your costs down.

5. Discover Bike-Sharing

On the theme of transport, walking is a great way to keep budget low if you’re travelling Europe and is definitely one of my top money saving tips. If you’re looking for something a bit different and exciting however, why not consider bike-sharing instead. These great new schemes are popping up right across Europe and providing locals and tourists alike with a super new way to get around cheaply and efficiently. Bike-sharing usually involves bicycles being made available to people for short periods of time and often offers 30–45 minutes of free or very cheap initial use. A real winner when it comes to saving money when travelling Europe, check out the relevant schemes wherever you plan on visiting.

6. Use a Currency Converter App

Hard to fathom sometimes I know, but money doesn’t disappear by itself, so keeping track of your spendings is crucial if you want to stick to a budget. Despite the Euro, many European countries you might look to visit still use their own unique currency and trying to remember the conversion rates between them all and your home currency can be a nightmare. To save you the effort and misfortune of any incorrect calculations, I highly recommend you download and use a currency converter app during your European travels. Making sure you know the amounts you are spending, in terms of your home currency equivalent, is a great way to make sure you don’t go to wild with those purse strings!

7. Shop at Local Markets

Another a key part of not going wild when it comes to your travel budget is hunting out some bargains. Local markets are a great place to source food when you’re travelling as they usually provide regional produce that hasn’t incurred any of the transport costs that can sky-rocket prices. Buying food that is in season in also a great money-saving tip when travelling in Europe, as a glut, of say strawberries in June, will keep their price low. Instead of going out to dinner therefore, why not hit up the local market and stock up on some delicious picnic treats instead. Find a park and enjoy a great meal for far less than you’d pay to eat out.

8. Take Overnight Trains

After your cheap meal, why not consider a cheap bed for the night too?! One of my top money saving tips when travelling is to try and combine your transport and accommodation costs so that you’re effectively getting 2 things for the price of 1. A great way to do this in Europe is take overnight trains between cities. There a heap of different routes available and if you book about 90 days in advance you can score some incredible bargains in sleeper seats (essentially beds that fold down from the wall). So why not enjoy a night’s sleep for free as the beautiful landscape of Europe whizzes past your window. Then wake up in the morning refreshed and ready to explore your new destination.

9. Time it Right

When it comes to travelling Europe without breaking the budget, probably the best advice I can give you is to make sure you time your trip right. Avoid European capitals at weekends - when many people from the continent enjoy city breaks. Visiting them mid-week instead will keep prices low. You should also high seasons such as Christmas and summer bank holidays if you want to score the cheapest accommodation and flights. Probably the best time of year to visit Europe, but still to get a bit of sunshine, is during the shoulder months of May/June and September/October. At this time the summer rush is either just about to start or just finished and you’re more likely to grab yourself a bargain. So those are my top 9 money saving tips for travelling Europe that should allow you to spend less yet travel more. I hope they help!

About Stephanie

Stephanie Parker Stephanie Parker is a travel addict and creator of the budget travel blog Big World Small Pockets. Never one for staying at home and working for too long, she's always had to make sure she can travel cheap to fund her nomadic lifestyle. Originally from Jersey, Channel Islands, but currently based in Australia, she backpacks the world on a shoestring collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile.