Categories
Home Travel Tips & Advice

How to actually travel on the cheap

Sharing with you some of my ultimate tips on how to travel like a boss, on a budget.

So by now most of you will have already read a tonne of travel hacks on how to bag cheap flights, and compare deals online.

So now comes the next step, extending your stay and maximising your money.

Travel europe on a budget by girl about europe

In this post I want to share with you how to make the most of backpacking on the cheap, particularly across one of the worlds more expensive continents. Europe, however these general rules will apply to most countries.

Europe as a whole (especially Western) can be a pretty expensive and exhaustive place to be mindful of the cash but with a few of my tried and tested steps, I have put together some actual tips to stretch your cash a little further.

Five weeks in and enjoying a free walking tour of Vienna, Austria.

1. Be Realistic

Depending on which countries you visit will largely play a role in your budget. The trick is to always overestimate. Countries such as the United States, New Zealand and Norway will always be considerably more expensive than say Moldova, Mexico or Thailand for example. So bare in mind the countries on your itinerary aswell as the mode of transport. An 8 hour first class train journey in Ukraine may only cost $8 but a train from Edinburgh, Scotland to London, England UK can cost around $120 if not planned.

2. Hostel life

If Air-b&b isn’t your thing and you worry about last minute cancellations and flaky hosts, hostels will become your best friends.

Europe is rammed with thousands of Hostels to choose from, you can even choose a theme of hostel, such as an all female hostels, art themed, and even dedicated party hostels.

My advice when booking a hostel is to go firstly by rating and then price, trust me.

The ratings really depend on how picky you are but if you plan to spend 80% of your time out exploring, then a locker, clean bed and shower will do just about everyone fine.

*Tip – Try carrying a couple of different sized padlocks with you, I found that some hostel lockers came in varying sizes, so sometimes my padlock wouldn’t fit.

Many hostels will be conveniently located nearby major trains and bus stations, so if you do want to save on added transport fees do your research and check out the distances from city centres and main attractions, your hostel may only be a 500 meter walk away and won’t require spending a fortune in transport costs. Lastly, the closer you are to a major attracrion, the more expensive the hostel.

City Passes

City Passes are a great way to take the hassle out of buying multiple tickets as well as fumbling around with change. They also include fairly generous discounts and free passes to many attractions, eateries and of course transportation.

They free up a little more of your budget which certainly helps to stretch it further.

However be sure to plan out what you wish to see and where to travel to really maximise the benefits of the city pass, some sights and attractions may be free already.

Definitely do some research beforehand to make sure you’re getting the most out of your money.

Here is an example of a city pass:

Berlin Welcome Card – Transportation is covered within zones A,B and C dependent upon the type of pass and duration. Whilst in Berlin I opted for the cheapest option and purchased the Zones A and B six days pass as everything I wanted to see was right within these zones.

Also because I was flying out of Tegel (TXL) airport in zone B.

Tip* Zones A and B passes include airport transport to and from Airport Tegel (TXL)

Zones A, B and C passes include airport transport to and from Airport Schönefeld (SFX) and Airport Tegel (TXL)

It’s always worth checking out of your destination of choice offers some variant of the city pass and if not, it never hurts to look into weekly bus/train pass but remember ID may be required upon purchase.

Accommodation

Although there are some dedicated Hostel booking sites out there like Hostelworld and Hostelbookers, I do encourage you to check out other popular booking sites such as Booking.com, Trivago and my personal favourite Agoda.

Booking.com

It’s free to sign up, easy to use and just after 2 bookings you are automatically added to their Genius membership. Being a Genius Member includes extra perks such as special deals, free downloadable city maps and discounts on attractions.

When you become a Genius Member you can refer and earn back up to £15 on your next booking.

Chances are you will meet other travellers who also use Booking.com so it’s definitely worth suggesting that you exchange booking links.

For each booking and completed stay through your link you will redeem £15 deposited straight back into your bank account as part of their rewards scheme.

The traveller who books through your link will also receive the same and redeem £15 back into their accounts too.

….and vice versa if you book through their links. (£15 each)

I hope that makes sense.

I booked a €5 hostel stay during a stop over between Ljubljana, Slovenia and Prague, Czech Republic through a link one of my traveller friends sent me, we both received £15 back after I completed my stay. I was £10 up and with that it covered my 3 nights in Bratislava, Slovakia at a later date. Mini win!

Although it doesn’t sound much, every penny counts for the budget minded and it will certainly add up when trying to extend your stay.

In total I have accumulated £60 in Booking.com cash back rewards which easily covered my 2 weeks hostel accomodation in Odesa, Ukraine (Which was a steal at £4 a night – N1 Hostel)

Agoda

An alternative to Booking.com and also my secret weapon, Agoda. Agoda often holds daily flash sales on accommodation with discounts of up to 80% off. In few cases I have even found the same hostels on Agoda to be anything between €5 and €20 cheaper than Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Below is just a small example but it’s a no brainer really.

Paris – 1st to 2nd December – Booking.com

Paris – 1st to 2nd December – Agoda

Tip* If possible try to book a hostel which includes free breakfast. If not add this option to your filters and compare any additional cost as sometimes just adding the breakfast option can ramp up the prices. Some hostels even charge up to €7 a day for breakfast.

3. Transport

Omio

My one stop for all train, coach and flight comparisons.

All you do is input your current destination, where you would like to go on X date and it will do all the leg work for you. Giving you an extensive list of options, times and prices.

Another added perk is that it tells you the duration of travel so you can plan accordingly. I always aim for a 1/2pm arrival so when I reach my hostel I’m not hanging around for check-in, even though most hostels let you store your bags beforehand. Plus there’s nothing worse than getting lost at night in an unfamiliar destination.

You may find a coach which is €1.50 more but gets you there 2 hours earlier, the time and choice is yours.

Flixbus

Flixbus offers super affordable coach travel through an extensive network across Europe. They’re clean, comfortable and equipped with free WiFi, charging outlets and onboard WC. This is the cheapest way to get around Europe and least stressful as the hassle is all done for you.

Regiojet

Another budget coach provider, again similar to Flixbus but with added freebies such as WiFi, bottled water and magazines on board.

Night Coaches

Both Regiojet and Flixbus amongst other train providers offer night travel, so if you want to save even further on hostels, just grab your neck pillow and sleep throughout the journey, by the time you arrive all you need to think about is breakfast in a new destination. 😊 Most stations will be equipped with ATMs and currency exchange kiosks.

Tip* Be sure to browse the flyers scattered around hostels and train/bus stations. I found these 10% off Flixbus coupons at my hostel in Italy so I grabbed a few. All you do is input the discount code before paying on the Flixbus app and you’ve saved yourself a few €.

A small saving… but pays for a couple of beers right? 😉

I usually save these for longer more costly coach rides to really maximise the discount.

4. Extending your stay

Whilst bagging a great deal online is the way to go, what most hostels don’t tell you is that if you check the prices on their websites and find a cheaper deal elsewhere, the hostel/reception will match that price so do ask.

Better still if you get to know the staff and make a great impression, they may even throw you in a freebie breakfast. 😉

Tip* Its always a good idea to ask at reception first, I’ve often found that by asking about extending my stay the staff do really help to get you the best deal.

I just wanted to pint out that Whole Wide World Hostel and Bar in Zagreb, Croatia offer many incentives to bag yourself discounted and even free stays at their hostel, even arriving on Australia day and singing the national anthem upon entry (The owner Cracker is Australian) Or turning up whilst wearing your underpants on top of your outfit.

Infact here is a list of My favourite hostels in Europe You’re welcome.

5. Food and drink

When researching your hostel of choice do try to find out if they have an equipped kitchen, the usual like electric oven, microwave, toaster and kettle.

If you really want to stretch the cash, go grocery shopping and cook your own meals. I know this sounds like a hassle but it is a fantastic way to meet and chat to other travellers whilst trying new food.

Definitely invest in a flask suitable for both hot and cold beverages.

Now I’m not saying not to ever eat out or try local dishes, I fully encourage it. Just try not to get carried away with eating out as it really does add up.

I was surprised to find out how cheap Sushi is in Berlin so I treated myself on night, this platter including miso soup and a ginger ale cost me €8.99

*Tip – Another piece of advice is to try branch away from the tourist traps and popular eateries scattered around famous attractions, these places definitely ramp up the price and sometimes it’s not always the best quality.

Have you ever walked down a popular plaza or square and been collared by promoters trying to get you to visit their restaurant? Annoying right?

Instead try to branch out a little further and move a few streets back, try to scope out where the locals go. The food, atmosphere and overall quality I can assure will be much better.

Tip* Remember many cafes will add an extra ‘tourist tax’ to your meal as well as expect tips, just a thought.

In some cases you can even replicate a local dish buy buying and cooking the dish yourself, for a fraction of the price. That’s if you haven’t already gotten tired of eating pasta that is.

This applies to alcohol too! Buying beer in the supermarkets will save you a small fortune. Particularly in Italy and Norway.

However the further East you travel you will be surprised at just how cheap alcohol is in Poland and Slovakia.

Low cost/Discount supermarkets

For the most part they sell exactly the same products as most premium stores, it’s essentially the ‘name’ you’re paying for.

In the UK a 4 pack of Heinz baked beans can cost up to £3 at ASDA but you can get 3 for a £1 at Poundland. The same can apply in mainland Europe.

Here are a list if a few discount supermarkets;

Aldi/Hofer – Can be found scattered throughout Europe, particularly in Germany and Austria

Lidl – The UK and Mainland Europe

Rema 1000 – These can be spotted around Norway and Denmark.

Tutti 99c Store – Italy, they also stock a pretty decent selection of toiletries so stock up on toothpaste, sanitary pads/tampons too.

Of course these are just few.

6. Freebies

Always take advantage of the free events taking place in your area.

Travelling at Christmas? Visit the free Christmas markets around the city.

Sign up for a free walking tour (such as Sandemanns free walking tours) your guides will be full of local knowledge on where the best free (or cheap) spots are to eat, along with other local recommendations.

*Tip – My favourite app is called Freetour and we’ll basically rounds up all of the free and affordable guided tours in the area, it’s completely free and easy to navigate. Just download and select your desired tours by filling out a simple form. It literally takes a couple of minutes.

Here during a Sunday?

Did you know that in some cities such as Zagreb and Munich there is free entry to selected museums and sights on the first Sunday of every month?

You’re welcome. 😀

6. Be flexible

Keep your options open, is it cheaper to travel the next day? Is the hostel or hotel putting on a promotional offer on accommodation? Is there a free event coming up?

Tip* Try booking a Tuesday flight rather than a Friday flight, it’s generally cheaper to fly during the week rather on weekends.

7. Cash handling

When exchanging money, avoid the airport as you’re likely to get a bad deal. After all you are the target customer with no other option for exchanging. Airports will take advantage of this. Always check the exchange rates!!!

If you decide to withdraw from a bank or ATM be sure to take out larger amounts as they charge for transactions fees, sometimes up to €3.95 per withdrawal!

Tip* For the same reason as above, try to use your bank card as little as possible as this applies too.

Do a currency swap with hostel friends, it’s also a great opportunity to find out where people have been, where they are going and any solid tips. Just grab a calculator!

Tip* Do your research before you leave and order your currency in advance, you can do this online or through your local post office, travel agent or bank. Don’t get stuck at the airport or in the city without the correct currency, you will regret exchanging at the airport.

Revolut Card

Alternatively, get yourself a REVOLUT card before you travel, this little gem was an absolute lifesaver!!!

You can open new account in minutes.

Here are some features of the standard free account:

● You can transfer money back and forth between your regular bank accounts and Revolut card and costs nothing to do.

● You can split bills, add Google pay and even set up recurring payments

● If your Revolut card gets lost or stolen, you can block the card and transfer money directly from the app

● Revolut will notify you whenever you spend money and even convert the rate into your home currency, so you can really keep track of your spending

● You can spend abroad in overy 150 currencies with no extra charge

● Contactless is optional as you can change the setting in the app. (£30 max)

● You can withdraw upto $300 overall 30 day at no extra cost. Only afterwards is a small fee of 2% for each withdrawal there after.

● No hidden fees, No monthly fees and no nasty rates.

You can learn more about the Revolut card here.

😊

Tip* Do your research before you leave and order your currency in advance, you can do this online or through your local post office, travel agent or bank. Don’t get stuck at the airport or in the city without the correct currency, you will regret exchanging at the airport.

12. Travel in the low season

Travelling out of season (or booking for the low season) is the best way to snatch a bargain. When I travel I usually set out in early October, after the school holidays have ended but also before the Christmas season begins. Prices throughout the summer and any special holiday will always be rammed up.

Another advantage is that it is less touristy, museum entrance fees will drop and there will be fewer and smaller queues.

Tip* If possible book flights in advance and be mindful of weekends during the winter season, beds will sell out fast and prices will skyrocket! I experienced this problem in Prague where people were visiting for a party weekend and I struggled to find a hostel within my price range.

Branch out

Branch out a little further, the further you go into the Eastern Europe, the less crowded, cheaper and more underrated yet beautiful discoveries you will find.

Paris at Valentines and Munich at Christmas will forever be a popular choice (and expensive during these holidays) but I definitely recommend checking out other treasures such as Branson, Romania and Bratislava, Slovakia for a reduced price but just as fun.

Lastly – have fun, be safe and don’t forget to connect with me on social media. Instagram: Girlabouteurope

🗼

If you enjoyed this post or feel that I missed anything then please let me know. Be sure to chexk back as I’m always doing more to this list.

Don’t forget to like, share and add any tips of your own in the comments below.

Happy travels xo

By Girl About Europe

Hello my name is Sara and I am the creator behind Girl About Europe, where I share with you all things budget travel and minimal living.

10 replies on “How to actually travel on the cheap”

This is by FAR the best blog post about cost effective travel in Europe! Your advice was sound, realistic and specific which is so incredibly helpful. I have done my fair share of travel but there are some things you mentioned that were new to me. And you didn’t aim for a target demographic. I find that most travel blogs gear toward millennials and I am older. This was usable for any traveler. I just loved it!! Plan on promoting your blog and I definitely subscribed!

Liked by 1 person

Hi Polley, apologies for the late reply. I just want give you a huge thankyou for your amazing comment. I’m so happy to know you found it helpful and informative. I try to aim for a wider bracket of travellers when possible. (I’m a slightly older traveller too) I thought it would be fun to throw in some extra bits which I haven’t seen on other blogs. Once again thank you! 😀

Liked by 1 person

This is actually so useful! Thank you for sharing these tips! I’ve stayed at a few hostels before and they’ve been fine, you don’t need anything fancy if you’re only using it as a place to sleep and shower!
-Kyra || lovekyra.000webhostapp.com

Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.