My 18 tips for travelling on a budget in Europe (oh and some mildly embarrassing photos of my baby-faced 18 year old self Interrailing)…
1. Save enough money plus buffer.
Self explanatory. That bit of extra buffer money may come in useful for emergencies or random fines you may encounter because you’re not used to European transport….. (hopefully this won’t happen to you).
2. Budget per day
Sounds obvious and boring but it’s necessary. Use websites like these to work out how much you need to budget in each country. Take a notepad to jot down how much you’re spending per day and work out how you’re doing compared to your budget per day. Obviously don’t make budgeting the main priority and dampen the fun, but having a general idea of your expenditure is great.
3. Plan a route.
Get a big ol’ map (or get up Google maps) and plan a route of all the places you want to visit. Even if it’s just a rough one. Then you can see if there are any places of interest in between your desired destinations. Then you can research and get an idea of transport links between each place too.
4. Get a guidebook.
Or just do research online and write it down. But getting a guidebook is easier. This one is great for travelling Europe on a budget.
5. Book some hostels before you go.
Don’t book all your hostels in advance because then you will create a schedule for yourself which you may not stick to. Instead I would recommend booking 3-5 hostels before you leave, especially for places that are likely to be busy during peak season and places you really want to go. When I went Interailing we booked hostels for our first stop in Paris, our last stop in Amsterdam, and our beach stop in Croatia (because we’d heard most hostels got fully booked up here during the summer). Doing this puts the mind at rest. Hostelworld is the best sight.
6. Book the rest of your hostels one stop before.
For the rest of our hostels, we booked them using free wifi one day before arriving at our next destination. Again, for peace of mind knowing we’d have somewhere to stay when we got to our next destination. Very easy to do. Again using Hostelworld.
7. Don’t be afraid of staying in crazy sounding hostels.
Big rooms = big savings. In Prague we stayed in a gym turned into a 90 bed hostel. Quite the experience. Don’t be afraid to go for the cheap option where possible!
8.Take a padlock.
For the lockers, and your bag when travelling…. oh and take ear plugs. If you remember one thing… EARPLUGS.
10. Socialise with fellow travellers
Talk to people you’re sharing your room and people in your hostel, they’ll be able to give you tips on good places to stay and go. You might even meet some people you want to continue travelling with.
11. Book hostels with a communal kitchen.
If you’re on a super tight budget, its a good idea to book a hostel with a kitchen so you can cook your own meals. It’s also nice to cook your own food for a change if you’ve been eating out a lot.
12. Have a half way rest point.
It’s a good idea to have a ‘rest’ around half way through your trip. Try and stay with friends/family or book a hostel in a sleepy town or by the beach. You’ll appreciate a few days of laying in and monging.
13. Take 1 book.
You can swap your book in hostels for new one.
14. Download podcasts.
Of something that interests you. And music of course.
15. Learn some card games.
Good to pass the time whilst travelling, and also good for drinking games to play with all your new hostel friends.
16. Take normal washing tablets.
You can get these ‘travel’ washing tablets or liquid. They’re shit. Take the normal strong stuff.
17. Interrail and buy one of these.
Having an Interrail pass means you reduce your transport costs whilst you’re away and you know how much you’ve spent on the bulk of your transport before you go away. Using the trains is a breeze, although in some countries (France and Italy I’m looking at you) you have to book yourself onto trains before you go on them for no extra cost. Not too much of a problem as long as you remember in good time. Get the European train time book, the Bible of getting around Europe on rails.
18. Stay East.
Cheap, hot, beautiful. What more could you want. Paris, Amsterdam and Rome are all beautiful, but on a budget you don’t want to stay there too long. The East has more to offer in terms of town, beach, lakes and mountains.