We all know Europe isn’t one of the cheapest destinations to travel in, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed by budget adventurers too.
Have travelled extensively across my home continent, here are my top 33 money-saving tips when it comes backpacking Europe cheaply…
- 5 Backpacking Essentials That Will Save You Money
- How to Choose the Best Women’s Hiking Boots
- 50 Best Places to Visit in Western Europe
This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.
#1 Visit Tourist Information Centres
Always wealth of free information, Tourist Information Centres are a mecca when backpacking Europe cheaply.
They know all about the cheapest stuff to do and how to get there, including awesome free events like music concerts, public art displays or film festivals.
#2 Travel Insurance
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
#3 Show your Student ID
If you are a student or have been, flash your card at every available opportunity and you’ll save a ton of money when it comes to transport, attraction entry and even food!
#4 Adventure East
As a rule of thumb, Eastern Europe is less developed economically than Western Europe, meaning travel here is generally cheaper.
#5 Wait for Free Attractions
Many cities and towns in Europe have a wealth of free museums, galleries and exhibitions.
Even if you’re somewhere they don’t seem to be free, then do some research.
Like a lot of European cities, almost all museums in Barcelona are free to enter on the 1st Sunday of every month – time you visit accordingly!
#6 Never Pay for Wifi
Almost every McDonalds and Starbucks in Europe has it for free, as do many transport hubs, central squares, accommodation providers and even modes of transport.
Never pay for wifi if you’re looking to backpack Europe cheaply!
Timing Your Travels Right
#7 Avoid July/August
This is peak tourist season in Europe and, as such, prices across the continent will be skyrocket at this time.
Add to this the fact that many European people themselves holiday during these months – the whole of Paris basically shuts down during August for example – and you can expect a lot of coastal or countryside destinations to be packed to the rafters – ergh!
#8 Skip Weekends in the Capitals
I also recommend avoiding European capital cities during weekend aka Friday-Sunday.
This is when many people will take city breaks and, as you’d expect, prices for accommodation and flights are highest at this time of the week.
Visit capital cities between Monday – Thursday and you’re bound to score yourself a better deal.
Money Saving Cards
#9 Get a Travel Card
Travel Cards will give you discounted journeys on public transport and mean you’ll save a heap in the long run when backpacking Europe cheaply.
The Oyster Card in London is the best example of a travel card, giving you discounted travel across most buses, trains, underground services and even riverboats in the capital – bargain!
#10 Research City Passes
City Passes are cards which, after paying a set fee, normally give you blanket admission to a huge range of different attractions in a city – the total entrance fees for which would be far greater if you paid for them all separately.
This can help the cultures vultures among you save a heap when backpacking Europe cheaply. Some city cards even offer free transport as well!
The Zagreb City Card is a winner offering unlimited free travel on public transport, 50% discounts at virtually all of the city’s museums and Zagreb Zoo and 20% reduced prices for opera, concerts and summer festivals.
The Berlin Welcome Card is another great example, giving you free transport on the city’s buses and trains, a handy map and guide and discounts of up to 50% at almost 200 different partners such as Madame Tussauds Berlin, the German History Museum and the Botanical Gardens.
#11 Discover Bike-Sharing Systems
From Slovakia to Sweden, Bulgaria to Belgium, bike-sharing systems are going from strength to strength across Europe and using this great money-saving scheme has never been easier.
Bike-sharing systems are ones in which bicycles are available for people to use for short periods of time and often offer 30–45 minutes of free or very cheap initial use.
Rules and price rates vary from city to city, but they are worth taking the time to research when backpacking Europe cheaply because they provide an extremely affordable, flexible and fun way to discover a new city.
#12 Don’t be Afraid to Walk
Grab a free map from a Tourist Information Centre or where you’re staying and get out to explore some of Europe via your own 2 feet.
Walking is the best way to see a city and you’ll probably discover some awesome side streets and stores you’d never have got the chance too if you’d stuck to public transport.
Hiking in the European countryside is also spectacular and will give you a great insight into the huge diversity of this continent.
From the Swiss Alps to the Croatian Coastline, getting out there and seeing the beauty of it all will always be worth the effort.
#13 Optimise Ride-Sharing Apps
Not without controversy, but ride-sharing apps like Uber are probably the cheapest way to pick up a taxi if you’re backpacking Europe on a shoestring.
#14 Sleep on Overnight Trains
There is a great range of overnight sleeper trains available to whisk you between major cities in Europe both comfortably and cheaply.
Book in advance and score yourself a deal – I, for example, once managed to travel Madrid to Paris for under €70!<
Sleeping on a train will also save you money on a night’s accommodation.
Go to bed in Amsterdam and wake up in Zurich? Couldn’t be easier!<
#15 Consider Hitchhiking
I’m not vouching for its safety, but I am a big fan!
Check out my top 5 tips for successful hitchhiking if you want honest advice from someone experienced.
#16 Hop on the Bus
The >Megabus is the king of budget bus travel in Europe and while it’s not the most pleasant, it is dirt cheap!
I love it, but sadly it only currently covers travel in the UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.
Beyond that, Busabout is the company to go for if you want a bargain ride when backpacking Europe cheaply.
#17 Fly Smart
Ryanair, Wizz Air and Easyjet are the cheapest companies to fly with when backpacking Europe … so long as you watch the extras!
Crucial is trying to restrict your luggage to just a carry-on, not buying any of their food, and not booking your seat ahead of time.
Skyscanner is such a great resource when it comes to flight price comparison.
#18 Research Rideshares
As a budget traveller I love rideshare – they offer the comfort and often flexibility of private transport, but without any of huge costs.
Packing to Save
#19 Pack a Combination Padlock
This will enable you to use lockers provided at hostels and will keep your valuables safe and limit the chance of you having to replace them.
Combination padlocks are better as they don’t require you to carry, and therefore potentially lose, a key!
#20 Remember your Phrasebook
Knowing a bit of the local lingo, might get you further than you think. I never travel without one of the Lonely Planet’s phrasebooks, which are cheap to buy and easy to use.
Locals always appreciate foreigners taking the time to engage in the ways of their country a little, so learning some simple pleasantries or questions in their language, might just help score you a bargain in return!
#21 Carry Laundry Liquid
Having the resources to do your own washing will save you a fortune in launderette fees when backpacking Europe.
I recommend Dr Bronner’s all-in-one Pure-Castile Liquid Soap, it’s organic, fairtrade and all round brilliant.
A universal sink plug will also come in handy.
Check out my 5 backpacking essentials list for other great budget travel kit items to take.
Budget Accommodation in Europe
#22 Don’t Dismiss Hotels
There are any increasing number of budget alternatives to hostel accommodation that offer equal, if not better value in Europe.
In the UK specifically, Premier Inn are a great hotel chain that offer incredible value for money.
#23 Hit up Hostelworld
If you do want to stick to hostels however, Hostelworld really is the best site when it comes to booking your accommodation in Europe.
They have great reviews of places, easy to follow maps of locations and no booking fees – hoorah!
#24 Stay Within Walking Distance of the Centre
That’s right within walking distance.
When you’re backpacking Europe, you want to keep costs low but not staying right in the centre, but you also don’t want to spend a fortune on transport costs either.
Strike a balance and stay somewhere you can easily walk to and from.
Ideally, you want to judge how far you’re keen to walk and weigh this against the price of accommodation as you move further out of the centre.
#25 Couchsurf or House Sit
Free accommodation when backpacking Europe never goes a miss.
Check out Couchsurf or Trusted Housesitters for opportunities wherever you are.
If you’re a newbie, then my tips on how to housesit for the first time, may come in handy.
#26 Don’t Change Currency at the Airport
The rates will be inflated, the commission high and the money back in your pocket low.
#27 Download a Currency Converter App
I really recommend Amount, which is a great currency converter app with some added bonuses!
Not only does it allow you work out how much you’re spending when trying to backpack Europe cheaply, but Amount also allows you to convert other things too.
From clothing sizes to electric currents and distances, Amount can help backpackers out in all sorts of ways.
For more ideas about great apps to download for your next adventure, check out my list of the best apps for travelling in cities.
#28 Forget Buying a Money Belt
You’ll look stupid and probably get robbed.
Save the money you would have spent on one for your travels.
Eating in Europe for Less
#29 Shop at Local Markets
It’s a no-brainer, but doing as the locals do will help you save money when backpacking Europe cheaply.
Eating with the seasons and eating locally grown produce, i.e. what is being harvested at that time and what grows in that area, will also save you some cash.
#30 Picnic Where Possible
I love a good picnic at the best of times and never have I done more so than when I was backpacking in Italy for 2 months. It’s a budget.
It’s a budget traveller’s key skill and the food there was so good anyway, there was no need to do anything else!
#31 Watch out for Happy Hours
Still very common across Europe, many bars and restaurants will offer happy hour style deals between 3pm-5pm.
If you can hold out for lunch till then, you can normally bag yourself a deal.
The aperitivo time in Italy (normally between 5:30pm-7:30pm) is also a winner!
#32 Don’t Dine in a Tourist Trap
Never eat or drink or shop in the vicinity of or, even worse, within a major tourist attraction.
The fare will luckily be overpriced and overrated.
#33 Stick to the Tap Water
Stick to drinking water if you do eat out while backpacking Europe cheaply and save drinking alcohol for at your hostel or in a budget bar.
Make sure you specifically request that you want tap water too, otherwise you could end up with a nasty surprise with the most expensive bottled water you’ve ever had in your life on the bill!
LIKE IT? PIN IT!
So those are my 33 top money-saving tips when backpacking Europe cheaply.
Do you have budget travel experience in this part of the world?
What are your key cost-cutting bits of advice?