‘How do you afford to travel so much?’ – a question I get asked so frequently, but can’t really answer in one or two sentences. Being a full-time university student, who has a part-time job and covers almost all of the living expenses themselves, finding time and money for travelling can be challenging, to say the least. However, thanks to some ‘tricks’ I’ve learned throughout the years, I still manage to visit a new place almost every other month. To give you an example, in 2017 I went to Denmark in February, to Paris in May, visited Malta in July and Greece in August, spent 2 weeks in Thailand in September and to top it off I went to Italy in December. And all of these trips were paid for with my own savings from my part-time job, which let me tell you, doesn’t pay much. And what if I also told you that you can do the same? I am here to share with you my tips and tricks on how to travel even when you think you can’t really afford it.
1. Low-cost airlines are your best friend
Did you know that European low-cost air companies offer extremely good deals? You can find flights from €10 to €30 to so many destinations across the continent, and I am talking about places like London, Paris, Milan, Barcelona etc. The airlines I always book with are Wizz Air, Ryanair, Level, Vueling and EasyJet. However, if you want to get the cheapest prices you need to be travelling with hand luggage only, so make sure you have your small suitcase prepared. Another thing I do to make sure I always get the best deal is to always use Private Mode when browsing. This way your data and search history can’t be saved, so the prices won’t start going up as you look for flights over and over again (which is a trick a lot of companies do when they notice you are looking for a certain flight).
2. Use bus instead of train
If you are looking into visiting neighbouring countries or places that are nearby, definitely take a coach instead of a train! Trains in Europe tend to be way more expensive than buses (with some rare exceptions). Central Europe in particular is extremely easy to explore just by getting on a bus from one place to another. The distances between Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Prague and Munich for example vary from 1 to 5 hours and the prices are usually between €5 and €20 tops. I can definitely recommend Flixbus – a reliable bus company which can pretty much take you anywhere you think of. You also get additional discount if you own an ISIC card! However, if you’d still rather stick to trains, then you should take a look at EUrail. They offer combination passes for all trains in Europe, depending on where you want to visit and how long you want your trip to be.
3. Find a cheaper accommodation option than the usual hotels
One of the greatest expenses when travelling are the accommodation costs. Why not cut back on those and save the extra cash for a future trip? My number one recommendation would be to ask a friend or a friend’s friend to crash at their place, which would probably only cost you a small thank-you present for the host, but I know this is not always possible. If you are going to a new place where you don’t know anyone, don’t go straight into looking for hotels! If you want to enjoy a more relaxing trip and just enjoy the company of your travel buddy, then my number one recommendation would definitely be AirBnb! You can find some absolutely incredible places on there! You would have your own kitchen most of the times as well, which is always a great plus if you want to save up some cash on eating out and just prepare something at home. The website offers rooms and apartments with different interior designs and home decors – way more interesting than the usual boring hotel room. And if you sign up by clicking the link below, you get €26 off your first booking with AirBnb!
For the more adventurous personas out there, who would love to meet new people from different countries and maybe create new friendships – why not go for a hostel! When I visited Prague, I stayed at a hostel with my friends in the very city centre, and we only paid €5 per night! It is definitely a great alternative for everyone who wants to experience something more interesting and get out of their comfort zone. And if you are even more adventurous, Couchsurfing might be the thing for you. You pretty much get to crash at a stranger’s place, but don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it may sound! All these people offering a place to sleep at must have reviews from previous travellers, so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
Travelling to a cheaper country is one of the best things you can do to stay on a budget. The beauty of countries with lower standard of living is that accommodation would be crazy cheap and you will be able to save up quite a bit. You might want to consider visiting European countries like Poland, Slovakia, or even Bulgaria.
4. Take a free walking tour
Now that we’ve covered the transport and accommodation, it’s time to look into some cheap activity options. Europe is a place full of incredible history and it would be a shame to only be walking and looking around without knowing some historical facts. My favourite thing to do when visiting a new city is to take a free walking tour if they are offering one! I’ve already taken such free tours in cities like Paris, Copenhagen, Budapest, Warsaw, Sofia etc., and honestly, I’ve never been disappointed! Due to the fact that these tours work on a tips-only basis, the people who lead them are usually extremely motivated to share with you everything they know about the place and give you tons of useful information. They would discuss the city and the country’s history and point out interesting facts you normally wouldn’t come across. You can also ask them for directions to the next good and affordable restaurant, so you can save up on that as well 😉
Needless to say, there is a huge difference from one place to another. It’s one thing to decide to explore Scandinavia (the most expensive place in Europe), and a completely different thing to go to the Balkans for example. But at the end of the day every single cost can add up, no matter how big or small it is. Decide on what you want to splurge on and be smart about it. I would usually look for free accommodation (someone’s place) when I am in a more expensive country, but book a nice place to stay in when the circumstances allow it. This is how I manage to travel constantly and it’s what works best for me, and let me tell you, I have had trips with crazy low costs when using these tips.