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Top 25 Ways to Save on Europe Travel

Transportation

11. Cut out the car... Most of us know that a rental car isn't really necessary (and in fact can be a hindrance) when visiting a major city. But many European nations have such comprehensive networks of trains and local buses that you may not even need a car to visit the countryside. Public transportation is available to many small towns and rural tourist attractions, which will save you not only the price of your rental but also the cost of gas (Europeans pay significantly more than Americans do). If you truly are headed out into the middle of nowhere for a day or two, plan to keep your rental for only as long as you need it rather than for your entire stay.

london cab bus12. ...and the cab. Most European airports are served by trains, buses or other public shuttles that will take you downtown and back for a fraction of the cost of a cab. (Make it easier on yourself by packing light since you may have to schlep your own luggage.) Similarly, it's much cheaper to get around town via public transportation or, better yet, by walking from place to place. If you think you'll be relying heavily on a subway or bus system, a single- or multi-day pass could be a good buy.

13. Consider a rail pass. Whether you're concentrating on a single country or traveling all over the Continent, there may be a Eurail pass that will save you money. Before purchasing a pass, carefully plan out how many train trips you will take and calculate the total cost of point-to-point tickets at RailEurope.com. Keep in mind that short trips are relatively inexpensive -- so if you're going to be sticking to a very small area, a pass may not be worth the cost.

14. Overnight it. If you're planning a lengthy train journey, consider traveling on an overnight train. This way you won't waste valuable daylight hours in transit, and you'll save on the cost of a night's lodging as well. Learn more about European train travel.

Meals

15. Go grocery shopping. Stock up on bottled water, fruit and snacks at grocery stores rather than tourist shops. You'll pay what the locals pay and often get a wider selection too.

16. Learn to love lunch. Instead of eating a pricey multi-course dinner, make lunch your big meal of the day. Often you can enjoy similar dishes for half the price.

17. Don't overtip. Americans are used to tipping 15 - 20 percent in restaurants, but in most European nations, 10 percent is the norm unless the service was truly extraordinary. Check first to see whether a service charge has already been added to your bill; if so, you usually don't need to leave anything additional. For country-specific tipping information, refer to a good guidebook or ask at the local tourist office. And don't miss our Tips for Tipping Abroad.

18. Save on breakfast. If breakfast is included in your hotel's nightly rate, then be sure to take advantage of it. But if it's not, skip the overpriced room service. You can almost certainly find a much cheaper croissant and cup of coffee at the cafe down the street. Ask your hotel's concierge or front desk about what's nearby.

19. Be wise about wine. If you're dining out, order the house wine; you'll save money, and in places like France and Italy, you may be surprised at how good it is. Want a drink out on your hotel balcony? Pick up a bottle at the local liquor store and bring it back to your room for an affordable taste of luxury.

20. Choose wisely. To find authentic and affordable food, skip the restaurants with the tourist-friendly English-language menus out front and seek out places where you see plenty of locals. Don't hesitate to ask your hotel concierge to recommend affordable restaurants in the area. For more information, see Finding the Best Restaurants on the Road.

21. Follow the locals' lead for cheap eats. Eat the plentiful pizza in Italy, grab a quick baguette sandwich in France or nosh on takeaway curry in London.

Lodging

22. Consider a rental. Choosing a vacation rental instead of a standard hotel has several cost advantages. Renting an apartment or house often gives you more space for less money (so it's a particularly economical option if you're traveling with a group or family), and having kitchen facilities means you can cook for yourself rather than spending a lot on overpriced restaurant meals.

hostel23. Don't count out hostels. Many travelers steer clear of hostels, thinking that they're just for 20-something backpackers who don't mind sleeping 10 to a room. However, you may not know that many hostels also offer private rooms, some with private bathrooms as well. They may not be luxurious, but if you're looking for a clean, basic room at a low price, it's worth checking out the hostel scene.

24. Look at location. To get a lower hotel rate, consider staying outside the city center. As long as you're located somewhere near a public transit line, it will still be pretty convenient -- and you could save big bucks.

25. Read more. Don't miss these tips for finding unique, affordable lodging in Europe from our very own Traveler's Ed.

Ditch the Hotel: 10 Cheaper Ways to Stay

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--written by Ed Hewitt and Sarah Schlichter

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