For all of you students that are debating whether or not to go backpacking in Europe but the main barrier is money then you have come to the write blog post. With my experience travelling around Europe while on Student Exchange I have learned a travel tips that will make your visit as cost efficient as possible. These are my 8 travel tips for exploring Europe on a Student Budget:
1. Planes and Coaches
Plane tickets in Canada are super expensive so you may think that flying would be the most expensive. On the contrary it is the cheapest way to get around Europe if you use the discount airlines namely Ryanair and Easyjet. There are discounts as well when you go search their ticket prices. One of the best deals I found was a plane ride from Manchester to Brussels for 18 pounds, which at that time was a little more than $30 CDN! Another way I found that was pretty cost efficient was to use coaches. I went from Brussels to Paris to Amsterdam for about 40 Euros so about $50 CDN.
2. Use Hostels or Airbnb
When you actually get to your destination you will need a place to stay. I am a big fan of going the hostel route as it is cheap (on average 20-30 Euros/night) and you will meet a bunch of other like minded travellers that you can explore the city with. The main site that I used is called hostelbookers.com. I personally haven't used Airbnb overseas but I met people who have and it is great as it is cheaper than a hotel, your host may help you plan your days and it is semi private.
3. Go on Sandeman's tours
In every major city in Europe there are free guided tours that take you around the city and the tour guides are pretty knowledgeable on the area and history. It is a great way to educate yourself and see the city at the same time for whatever amount you wish to tip them.
4. Walk or use public transit
The way I usually get around the every city is walking and/or public transit. Walking is great because you get to see all of the places up close and you can take your time admiring the sites. Best of all it's free. The farthest I walked in a day is from my hostel in Paris all the way to the Eiffel Tower. However, for the cities that are too widespread like Barcelona and Paris it makes sense to use their transit and they are all better than the TTC by far.
5. Bring a water bottle
You are going to get thirsty while travelling around the city all day so it is best to bring a water bottle with you everyday. All over Europe it is very hard to get free tap water in any restaurant, the only water you will get is bottled water and you have to pay for it. I think I only got free water once. What I did was bring a water bottle and refilled it at the hostel I was staying in before I left for the day, which lasted me most of the day.
6. Buy groceries
The expense that creeps up on you that you don't see coming is food. Eating out is very expensive in Western Europe especially because of the exchange rate not being in most people's favour. The typical meal will run you 15 Euros, which is about $20 CDN. I wouldn't substitute every meal for groceries because I believe that food is an experience that is worth it. For example, eating their local cuisine like tapas in Spain and escargot in Paris were well worth the price for me. For lunches or snacks while travelling I would go to the grocery store to buy bread and cold cuts for example, which would feed 3-4 people at a very economical 10-15 Euros.
7. Use a budget app
I found it to be very useful to use a budget app to track your expenses to see what you are actually spending on. Set a limit per week on what you are willing to spend and try to track everything that you purchase to see what you can minimize or cut down. I generally tried to keep my expenses to less than 100 Euro per day including accommodations. A two week trip will approximately run me about 1,500 Euro including flights and transport from country to country. The budget app that I recommend is Travel Expense in the Android store.
8. Use tripadvisor offline app
This tip doesn't directly you save you money but it does save you time and you know what they say., "Time is money". Another app that is extremely useful for travelling around anywhere is the offline tripadvisor app. Every major city has its own tripadvisor app that you can download onto your phone and use it offline making it super convenient. In this download you get all of the places of interest, maps, restaurants and the reviews that make it easy for you to choose where to go next.