How to Travel to Europe for Cheap

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Are you an American who wants to know how to travel to Europe for cheap? This guide is for you. 

Today I am thrilled to have my friend David give his tips on how to travel to Europe for cheap. He has circled the globe and has great ideas for how to make a trip to Europe fit within your budget!

Introducing David – World Traveler

Hello everyone, my name is David. I’m an engineer, programmer and budget traveler that was born and raised in Central Texas.

how to travel to europe for cheap

My first true international trip was to Eastern China; I visited the cities of Shanghai and Suzhou.

During this trip I realized how little I knew about the rest of the world. I decided to travel again and selected Europe. 

On this first trip to Europe, I visited England, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Vatican City, France, and Spain. I did make one mistake and I didn’t repeat this mistake again.

I spent an average of two days in each nation.

That is not enough time to fully understand and experience the country.

I returned several times and visited Austria, Switzerland, Turkey, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic.

Visiting multiple nations can be very expensive.

For this reason, I learned quickly how to budget travel.

I love visiting Europe and I highly recommend it as the first international destination for American travelers. It is very accessible and easy to navigate.  

After Europe, I traveled to Africa twice (Egypt and Kenya). After Kenya, I undertook the longest trip yet (in time duration and distance covered).

I traveled for five and a half weeks backpacking across Turkey, Iran, Jordan, and Israel. My most recent trips include ten days in Ecuador, South American and ten days in Tasmania, Australia.

As of June 2020, I have visited 27 nations and I plan on visiting another 27 nations in the next few years. My priority is to return to Africa, Asia, and South America.

Travel to Europe for Cheap

Europe is a diverse continent with at least fifty nations and territories.

The budget information found in this guide applies to most of the nations, but every nation is unique.

I recommend that you take this budget information and cross-reference it with internet search engines. Always do your research and plan ahead.

Far better to over-plan than to be caught unprepared.

Need a vacation planner for your next trip? Click the image above!

Scheduling Your Trip

When planning the amount of days for travel it is ideal to “reverse engineer” your trip. 

First, decide how many days you want to travel. Secondly, determine what activities you want to be able to accomplish.

I recommend that you leave the last full day before departure as a free day or a day of rest.

On that day:

  1. Don’t plan any major activities.
  2. Arrange your airport transportation for the last day.
  3. Exchange most of the European currency you have left-over (make sure to leave yourself some cash for food or use a credit card)
  4. Pack all your items. 

I made a common mistake during my first trip to Europe; I visited seven nations within two weeks.

That was too many countries.

As a result, I spent around one or two days in each nation. My advice is to spend at least four full days in each nation.

I recommend that you visit nations that border each other. This will limit travel time costs from nation to nation. 

Air Travel to Europe

Air travel to Europe is expensive and will be a sizable portion of your total cost. There are several steps you can take to save money:

  1. Purchase the airline tickets at least five months in advance of departure.
  2. Search for airline tickets from different companies and compare prices.
    • Keep in mind how long the flight layover is, which day you will arrive into your final destination, and the arrival time.
    • Some flight bookings are very cheap, but you will have to take a long layover in a city you are not interested in visiting. 
  3. Always book your tickets directly with the airline company and not a third-party company/website.
    • Flight delays/cancellations might happen. 
    • It is better to speak directly with the airline than with a third-party company.
  4. Use the airline multi-city flight option instead of round-trip flights. You will save money because you don’t have to return to the European airport that you started in.
    • An example, I booked multi-city flights from Austin to Budapest and two weeks later from Prague to Austin.
      • In December 2019, I traveled for several days each in Budapest, Bratislava, and Prague.
    • If I booked round trip flights Austin to Budapest, then I would spend money returning to Budapest to depart Europe.
  5. Travel insurance
    • Flights across the Atlantic to Europe are very expensive. 
    • Most airlines recommend that you purchase travel insurance with the airfare.
    • During the high season of travel, (mid-May to mid-August & Thanksgiving & Christmas to New Years), I recommend travel insurance for the airfare and accommodations.
      • If you decide to take a short trip during the low season of travel, you might not need to purchase travel insurance. 
    • These insurance companies offer affordable quotes:

Currency Exchange

The most common forms of payment in Europe are the local currency or credit cards.

Always convert American dollars at your local bank before you travel or at a local bank in Europe. American banks offer the best exchange rates.

Don’t convert your money at European exchange booths located in the airports and train stations. Their exchange rates are terrible and they could include some additional fees.

Credit cards are a great option on long trips in Europe. Use credit cards that don’t charge you international transaction fees.



Hotels can be expensive in Europe.

Major cities offer affordable options such as hostels, Airbnb, Bed-&-Breakfast. Make sure to call in advance for any accommodation to make see if they have a kitchen, microwave, and refrigerator. This will help you save money on dining out.

  1. To save money, book accommodations at least five months in advance. Use a third-party booking website like Expedia.
    • Create an account with the website to earn points for savings on future trips.
    • After booking, contact the hotel directly to confirm. Contact the hotel again one week before your first night. 
  2. You should book accommodation outside of the major city center to save money.
    • The city centers contain the best activities/sites and you will travel into the center often. 
  3. Hostels are an affordable option to hotels. The most cost-effective option is to book only a bed in a shared dormitory.
    • Keep in mind, you should stay there if you are social (or if you want to improve your social skills) and if you are a tough sleeper.
    • Several recommendations of hostels I have stayed at:
      • Paris – St Christopher’s Inn Gare du Nord
      • Munich – Wombats City Hostel
      • London – Wombats City Hostel
      • Budapest – Wombats City Hostel
      • Prague – The RoadHouse
      • Bratislava – Hostel Blues
      • Amsterdam – Flying Pig Uptown
    • Use the search feature at this website, type the name of city and hostel (i.e. Rome hostel) for many more options of cities I have not visited.
  4. Airbnb and Bed-&-Breakfasts are other affordable options.
  5. Hotels can be affordable if booked months in advance and outside of the city center.
    • I have only stayed in a few hotels in Europe.

Transportation Within Cities

Major European cities offer amazing public transportation such as subway trains, buses, and tram systems.

  1. Subways, buses, and tram systems usually consist of zones and sell tickets for one-way trips.
    • Several one-way trip tickets quickly add up in costs. 
  2. I recommend that you purchase all-day transportation passes. 
    • These passes allow unlimited access to bus, train, and trams.
    • Save money when you frequently use the transportation passes.
      • Before buying the passes, make sure the pass applies to the city zone for your accommodation.
    • The passes can be purchased at train stations, airports, and some tourist offices.  
  3. Car rental in Europe is expensive, the gas prices are high, and parking within the major cities (even outside the center) is very expensive. For budget travel, I don’t recommend it.
  4. Bicycle rental or scooter rental is a great affordable option for small cities or city centers.
    • For example, Amsterdam city center contains miles of bike lanes and dozens of bicycle rental shops.
    • https://www.mikesbiketoursamsterdam.com/bike-rentals-amsterdam
    • Research online and search for rental shops near your hostel or hotel.
    • The following cities are bicycle friendly: Copenhagen, Budapest, Amsterdam, Ghent, Bordeaux, Malmo, Dublin, Prague, and Oxford. 
  5. Taxis are available in major cities and frequent usage will be expensive.
    • Use a taxi only when the public transportation is not available (i.e., the public transportation has closed for the day).
  6. Ride share apps such as Uber and Lyft are available in Europe and a more affordable option to taxi.

Transportation Between Cities and Nations

Europe has great options for transportation between cities and nations. These include airlines, buses, trains, and even ferries where they can apply. This will help you travel around Europe for cheap.

  1. Discount airlines are plentiful in Europe such as easyJet and Ryanair.
    • These airlines offer access to all the major cities and offer frequent flights.
    • I recommend these airlines if you have limited total vacation time.
    • Research the additional fees of these airlines and do your best to avoid the fees.
      • Common fees include carry-on luggage fees, select your seat fees, etc.
  2. Additionally, long distance travel train is another option.
    • These trains run often and are connected to the major cities in almost every nation. 
    • To save moneybook train tickets before arriving into Europe.
      • I recommend reserving the tickets four weeks in advance. 
    • If you don’t have exact dates of departure for the train, I recommend that you purchase a rail pass.
      • Purchase the pass before departing to Europe and at least six weeks in advance.
      • https://www.raileurope.com/
      • The rail pass saves money if you plan on traveling often from city to city or nation to nation.
  3. There are a variety of long-distance bus companies that connect major cities and nations.
    • Flixbus offers fast and affordable bus tickets. 
    • Other affordable bus companies: Megabus, National Express, Eurolines, and IDBUS.

Historic Sites and Activities

Major European cities have dozens of museums, historic palaces, gardens, cathedrals, and other great sites.

how to travel to europe for cheap
  1. Most of those sites are not free and visiting several of them can be costly.
  2. I recommend free walking tours.
    • https://www.freetour.com/destination
    • There are available tours in most of the major cities.
    • These tours cover the major historic sites.
    • After the tour, ask the tour guide for information on affordable restaurants and shopping sites.
  3. If you are a college/university student, take your school ID to the historic sites and museums as some sites offer student discounts.
  4. Most major cities offer city tourism cards.
    • Research if the card offers unlimited transportation (most do).
      • Purchase this card instead of the all-day transportation cards.
    • The tourism cards offer discounts or free access to several museums, and historic sites. 
    • Use the tourism card often and the savings quickly add up.
    • The tourism cards can be purchased online or in person in the city.
      • Airport information desks and train stations sometimes sell them.
    • A popular card I have used is the I AM AMSTERDAM card: https://www.iamsterdam.com/en
    • You can purchase similar cards in Paris, London, Prague, and other cities.

Food and Drink

Restaurants are expensive and the costs of eating at restaurants three times a day quickly adds up. 

  1. Some hostels and hotels offer free breakfast (or affordable breakfast). Take advantage of those savings.
  2. Before departing to Europe, do research and find nearby food markets. 
    • On your arrival day, purchase food and drinks such as fresh fruit, cold cut meats, bread, and bottled water. 
    • Every day, prepare yourself sandwiches or other snacks for breakfast and dinner.
  3. Visit some restaurants during your stay. 
    • Visit during the restaurant lunch hour to save money.
    • Do research about the operation hours of the restaurant.
    • Some restaurants close for a few hours after the lunch rush ends.
  4. Use websites like Yelp to search for nearby and affordable restaurants. 
  5. Most of the city tourism cards/passes I mentioned above offer restaurant discounts. 
    • Use those discounts often to add up the savings.
  6. Many hostels offer discounts and information for nightlife and drinks.
    • Some tourism cards offer discounts as well.

Trip Budget

During December of 2019 I took a trip to Central Europe. I focused on three nations: Hungary, Slovakia, and Czech Republic.

Included here is a table with the major costs of the trip. The table displays the costs per the three cities I visited. 

The entire trip lasted 13 days and this includes the day of departure and the day of return.

  • The column Total Allocated Expenses is an estimated amount in dollars to cover food, souvenirs, etc for the entire period of in each specific city (calculated per day).
  • The column Train Ride is the one-way train ticket to the next city. The column Transport Pass Total is the cost of the passes that cover unlimited public transport within each city. 


I highly recommend a trip to Europe at least once for every American.

The cost of traveling shouldn’t discourage you from taking this kind of trip.

The price of the airfare, accommodation, transportation, food, etc. does quickly add up. However, if you are mindful then you can travel Europe for cheap.

Try to book your flights early and fly during the off season. Use public transportation and buy tourist cards. Planning ahead can make or break your travel budget.

Research and plan your trip to save some money. Above all, you too can travel to Europe for cheap! Your next adventure awaits.

Start your budget journey to reach your travel goals!

How to Travel to Europe for Cheap

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