Last updated: February 14, 2024

Written by travel expert: James

Master the art of budget travel in Europe with our top tips for affordable adventures, from cheap transport options to free attractions.


Are you dreaming of meandering through the romantic streets of Paris or perhaps sipping rich, bold espresso in an old Italian piazza?

With its historic charm, vibrant cultures, and distinguished cuisines, Europe is a dream destination for many travellers. However, if you’re across the atlantic, it’s often associated with extravagant expenses and big budgets.

But what if it doesn’t necessarily have to be?

In this post, we’ll debunk the myth of costly European travel by guiding you through budget-friendly tips and revealing incredibly affordable destinations to make your Euro-trip dreams a reality without breaking the bank!

Get ready to pack your bags, and let’s embark on a joyous journey of discovering Europe on a shoestring budget!

In a rush? Here's a summary of the best info from this article:

There are several budget-friendly ways to travel across Europe. Inter-city buses, such as FlixBus, offer amenities like Wi-Fi, electrical outlets, and free baggage with prices starting as low as 5 EUR. 
Budget airlines also offer cheap fares, sometimes as low as 10 EUR, but be aware of strict baggage limits and additional fees. 
Eurail Pass is a cost-effective option for short city-to-city travel and can save money compared to buying individual train tickets. 
BlaBlaCar is a popular ridesharing service in Europe that allows travellers to share rides with locals for faster and more interesting alternative to buses. 
Renting a car or campervan can provide flexibility, especially when travelling within a single country or small region. 
Last but not least, hitchhiking is a common and usually safe way to travel in Europe, but one should use caution and follow safety tips. 
The best way to travel Europe on a budget is to mix and match transportation methods based on the length and destination of your trip.

Budget Transportation Options in Europe

When planning a budget-friendly trip to Europe, one of the first considerations is the mode of transportation. Luckily, there are several affordable transportation options that can help you explore the continent without breaking the bank. Let’s delve into some budget transportation options in Europe and how they can make your travel dreams a reality.

Another popular option for budget transportation in Europe is using budget airlines. Several well-known low-cost airlines like RyanAir, EasyJet, WizzAir, Volotea, EuroWings, and Vueling fly to numerous destinations across Europe. These airlines often offer promotional deals and discounts if you book in advance or during off-peak seasons.

Picture this: You stumble upon an irresistible airfare deal from your hometown to Barcelona for just a fraction of what you usually pay. You seize the opportunity, and before you know it, you’re soaring above snowy mountain peaks and fluffy clouds.

The affordability allows you to splurge more on experiences once you reach your destination – whether it’s savouring tapas at Barcelona’s bustling La Boqueria Market or indulging in a flamenco show.

Not everyone is fond of air travel or prefers a more communal experience. That’s where rideshares and carpooling services like BlaBlaCar come into play. They provide an alternative, cost-effective option to explore Europe while interacting with fellow travellers. Ridesharing allows you to share the expenses with others heading in the same direction.

Taking a Bus

One popular and cost-effective choice for travelling within Europe is taking buses.

Buses are affordable and offer an excellent opportunity to witness stunning landscapes and picturesque towns along the way.

FlixBus, one of the leading contenders in this realm, offers fares as cheap as 5 euros one way. Eurolines and RegioJet are other options worth considering. Additionally, local bus lines are particularly affordable, especially in the Balkans region.

Imagine hopping onto a comfy bus in Budapest, Hungary, for just a few euros and enjoying breathtaking views of the Danube River as you wind your way through charming villages in Romania.

Along the way, you strike up conversations with fellow passengers, exchanging travel tips and even making new friends. As you pass through charming little towns and stunning natural landscapes, you can’t help but feel a sense of adventure.

And the best part? Your wallet remains relatively intact.

Using Ridesharing Services

Alternatively, if you’re looking for more flexibility or want to experience a shared journey, ridesharing services like BlaBlaCar can be a great option. BlaBlaCar connects drivers who have extra space in their cars with travellers heading to the same destination. It allows you to save money by splitting fuel costs while embracing the social aspect of travel.

Picture yourself seated comfortably in the passenger seat of someone’s car as you embark on a scenic drive through the winding roads of Tuscany. You strike up interesting conversations with your driver, learning about hidden gems in Florence that don’t make it into guidebooks. The money saved on transportation can be put towards indulging in a delicious Italian gelato or visiting world-renowned museums.

  • FlixBus, one of Europe’s leading bus service providers, revealed that more than 60% of their tickets sold in 2022 were priced under 20 EUR, showcasing the affordability of inter-city bus travel.

Navigating Budget Airlines in Europe

When travelling on a budget in Europe, using budget airlines can be a game-changer. These airlines offer incredibly low fares that can make exploring multiple destinations much more affordable. However, navigating the world of budget airlines can be overwhelming if you’re unfamiliar with how they operate.

Let’s dive into some tips and tricks for effectively navigating budget airlines in Europe.

It’s essential to do your research beforehand and compare prices across different budget airline options. Some popular budget airlines in Europe include Ryanair, EasyJet, and Wizz Air. These airlines often provide attractive deals and promotions, allowing you to score even cheaper flights if you keep an eye out for them.

One crucial aspect to consider when booking with budget airlines is baggage allowance. While the initial fare might seem incredibly cheap, additional fees for checked baggage or exceeding weight limits can quickly add up. Make sure to read the baggage policy of each airline carefully before booking your flight to avoid any unexpected costs.

Booking your tickets well in advance can help you secure the best deals on budget airlines. Prices tend to increase closer to the departure date, so planning ahead can save you quite a bit of money. Additionally, being flexible with travel dates and times can open up more options for snagging discounted fares.

For instance, if you’re willing to take red-eye flights or travel during off-peak seasons, you’ll likely find significant savings on your airfare. Remember that flexibility is vital when securing the best deals with budget airlines.

While budget airlines may have some trade-offs in terms of comfort compared to full-service carriers, they still provide a safe and efficient way to travel around Europe without breaking the bank. With their extensive network of routes connecting various cities across the continent, they offer ample opportunities for exploration on a limited budget.

  • According to the European Travel Commission, in 2019, approximately 51% of global travellers utilised low-cost carriers for their trips within Europe.

Finding Affordable Accommodations

After sorting out affordable transportation, the next crucial step in travelling cheaply in Europe is finding affordable accommodations. Where you stay can often take up a significant portion of your travel budget, but there are several strategies you can employ to find more affordable options.

Cost-effective Alternatives to Hotels

One option is hostels, which have gained popularity among budget-conscious travellers. These establishments offer dormitory-style rooms with shared facilities, allowing you to save money while still having a place to rest and mingle with fellow travellers.

Hostels also often organise social activities and provide communal kitchens, further reducing your expenses by allowing you to prepare your meals.

For instance, if you’re planning a trip to Prague, you can find hostels located in the heart of the city that offer affordable accommodations and easy access to major attractions. Staying in a hostel not only helps you save money but also enables you to meet like-minded travellers and make new friends from around the world.

While hostel accommodations may vary in amenities and privacy, many modern hostels offer private rooms for those seeking more comfort.

If hostels aren’t your cup of tea, another alternative is renting apartments or rooms through online platforms. Websites like Airbnb and VRBO allow locals to rent their homes or spare rooms at reasonable rates. These options provide the advantage of having access to kitchen facilities, allowing you to save further by cooking your meals rather than dining out every day.

Another alternative to consider is booking budget hotels or guesthouses. These will be on the cheaper end of the hotel market – not quite a hostel, but also without the luxuries usually found in a hotel. Your room may only be cleaned and tidied every few days, and you may get nothing more than a bed and a bathroom, but you can sometimes get great views from the window for very little cost.

Now that we’ve explored cost-effective alternatives to hotels let’s dig into some valuable tips for eating and sightseeing on a budget during your European adventure.

  • A survey by Hostelworld in 2020 found that budget-conscious travellers can stay in hostels in most major European cities for less than 30 euros a night.

Tips for Eating and Sightseeing on a Budget

Exploring the culinary delights of Europe doesn’t have to be costly. Here are some practical tips for eating on a budget while immersing yourself in the local culture:

Firstly, embrace street food. Many European cities are known for their vibrant street food scenes, offering delicious and affordable options. Whether it’s indulging in a mouthwatering crepe in Paris, devouring a savoury kebab in Istanbul, or savouring a delectable burek in the streets of Sarajevo, street food is not only a budget-friendly choice but also an opportunity to try authentic local flavours.

Some may argue that dining at restaurants is an indispensable part of travel. While sitting down for a meal at a local eatery can be enjoyable, it often comes with a heftier price tag. Instead, consider picnicking. Find a picturesque park or square, visit a local market for fresh produce and artisanal products, and enjoy a budget-friendly meal surrounded by the sights and sounds of the city.

Another helpful tip is to research affordable dining options before your trip. Look for neighbourhood restaurants away from major tourist areas where prices are typically inflated. These hidden gems often offer more reasonably priced authentic cuisine, catering to locals rather than tourists.

Another option is to visit local markets where you can find fresh produce, local specialities, and prepared meals at reasonable prices. In cities like Lisbon, Barcelona, and Athens, you’ll discover vibrant marketplaces such as Mercado da Ribeira, La Boqueria, or Central Market, where you can sample local delicacies without burning a hole in your pocket.

When sightseeing on a budget, take advantage of free attractions and discounted admission days. Many European cities have museums, galleries, and landmarks that offer free entry or reduced fees on certain days or times. Research these opportunities ahead of time and plan your visits accordingly to make the most of your budget without sacrificing experiences.

Armed with these tips for eating and sightseeing on a budget, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your European adventure while keeping your wallet happy.

Sample Itinerary for a Budget-Friendly European Trip

Travelling through Europe on a budget doesn’t mean missing out on the best attractions and experiences. With careful planning and resourcefulness, you can create an itinerary that allows you to explore incredible destinations without putting a strain on your wallet.

Let’s consider an 8-day itinerary that combines affordability with cultural immersion, with two days in each destination;

Starting off in Budapest, Hungary—a city known for its beautiful architecture and thermal baths—you can spend two days exploring top attractions such as Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, and the vibrant ruin bars. Sample delicious Hungarian cuisine, such as goulash or chimney cake, at local eateries that offer great value for money.

Next, head to Prague, Czech Republic, where you can admire stunning historical landmarks like Prague Castle and Charles Bridge. Don’t miss a visit to the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square. Many popular attractions in Prague are free to explore, allowing you to soak in the city’s beauty without spending a fortune.

From there, go to Krakow, Poland, where you can dive into the city’s rich history and vibrant culture. Explore Wawel Castle and the Old Town Square, and don’t forget to try some pierogi or kielbasa at one of the local restaurants. Affordable public transport makes it easy to get around.

Then, journey on to Vienna, Austria, a city that boasts an array of stunning architecture and classical music heritage. Take a stroll around the Hofburg Palace or indulge in some Viennese pastries at a local café. Public transport options are readily available, and you’ll find that Vienna is less expensive compared to other Western European capitals.

Some travellers might argue that this sample itinerary doesn’t include other famous European destinations like Paris or Rome. While those cities are undeniably iconic, they can be more expensive for budget travellers compared to some of the alternatives listed here. However, choosing an itinerary that aligns with your interests and preferences is essential.

By opting for less crowded destinations or slightly off-the-beaten-path locations like Tallinn in Estonia or Granada in Spain, you can fully immerse yourself in their unique cultures while keeping costs low. These destinations often have affordable accommodations and offer free attractions or discounted passes that provide access to multiple sights.

As we can see, planning a budget-friendly European trip involves making strategic choices about destinations and activities while still enjoying a fulfilling travel experience.

Exploring Southern Europe on a Shoestring Budget

If you’re looking to embark on a sunny yet affordable adventure through Southern Europe without breaking the bank, you’re in luck. This region offers a plethora of stunning destinations that won’t drain your wallet.

From the beautiful coastlines of Italy to the vibrant cities of Spain and Greece, there are countless budget-friendly options to explore. Let’s dive into some essential tips and affordable destinations that will make your journey through Southern Europe unforgettable.

To begin with, consider narrowing down your itinerary to focus on specific countries or regions within Southern Europe. This allows for a more immersive experience and helps reduce transportation costs. For instance, if you’re interested in history and culture, you could explore cities like Rome, Athens, Faro, and Barcelona. Conversely, if you prefer coastal beauty, the stunning Amalfi Coast in Italy or the Greek Islands should be high on your list.

Imagine strolling down the picturesque streets of Santorini or indulging in delicious tapas in Barcelona. These experiences are well within reach, even on a limited budget. With careful planning and research, you can select affordable accommodations outside of expensive city centres, such as hostels or guesthouses. Consider booking directly with accommodations or using platforms like Booking.com to secure the best deals.

Here’s a 10 day travel itinerary for Southern Europe;

Day 1: Arrive in Athens, Greece

Start your journey soaking up the Mediterranean sun by landing in Athens and heading straight to the historic city center. Take a stroll through the picturesque cobblestone streets of Plaka and visit the majestic Acropolis and the ancient Agora landmarks. Stay overnight at one of Athens’ cheap hostels or bed-and-breakfasts.

Day 2-4: Explore island hopping in the Cyclades

Hop on a ferry ride from Piraeus to any one of Greece’s stunning Cycladic islands such as Mykonos, Santorini, Paros or Naxos. Enjoy wandering around idyllic towns overlooking turquoise waters, taste local cuisine with fresh ingredients and relax on white sandy beaches. Opt for budget accommodation such as campsites or Airbnb rentals instead of expensive hotels.

Day 5-6: Discover Rome’s heritage in Italy

Fly from Athens to Rome and immerse yourself in Italian culture full of history, romance and world-famous gastronomy. Admire priceless art pieces at Vatican City, tour ancient ruins like the Coliseum, stroll along charming Trastevere or toss coins into mythic Trevi Fountain. Stay at cozy guesthouses near Termini station or lake-side accommodations in Castelli Romani area.

Day 7-8: Savor Portugal’s seaside vibes

Board a Ryanair flight from Rome to Lisbon or Faro in Portugal and allow the ocean breeze to refresh you. Visit historic sites like Torre de Belem, stroll around Alfama’s hilly streets and take a beach day at Algarve coast’s heavenly beaches. Stay at unique hostels or affordable apartments near city landmarks.

Day 9-10: Dive into Andalusia’s charm in Spain

Cross the border from Portugal to Southern Spain and lose yourself among the stunning Moorish architecture of Andalusian cities like Granada, Seville, Cordoba, and Malaga. Marvel at the ornate Alhambra Palace in Granada or visit the birthplace of flamenco in Seville. Find cheap hotels by staying in side-streets near major avenues.

Cost-saving Strategies for Southern Europe

A great cost-saving strategy is to leverage local transportation options. Many cities in Southern Europe have comprehensive public transportation systems that are not only affordable but also efficient. Opt for utilising metros, buses, or trams instead of relying solely on taxis or car rentals. Not only will this save money, but it will also allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture and get an authentic taste of life in these vibrant destinations.

Think of it as taking the scenic route during a road trip – by using local transportation, you can see more and connect with the everyday lives of locals.

Now, let’s talk about the gastronomic delights that Southern Europe has to offer. One of the advantages of exploring this region on a budget is the abundance of affordable and delicious street food. Picture yourself savouring mouthwatering pizzas and pasta in Italy, enjoying freshly prepared paella in Spain, or indulging in souvlaki in Greece – all at budget-friendly prices. You can savour authentic flavours without breaking your budget by opting for local street food vendors or small family-run restaurants.

Beyond the cities, Southern Europe boasts breathtaking natural landscapes perfect for outdoor enthusiasts on a shoestring budget. From hiking the picturesque Cinque Terre trails in Italy to exploring the caldera in Santorini or swimming in crystal-clear waters along the stunning coastlines, there are countless opportunities for adventure without spending a fortune.

It’s important to note that while Southern Europe offers numerous budget-friendly options, it’s essential to be mindful of potential scams or tourist traps. Avoid eating in heavily touristic areas as prices tend to be inflated, and instead, seek out local recommendations for authentic and affordable dining experiences. Additionally, be cautious when booking accommodations and opt for well-reviewed establishments with transparent pricing policies.

Exploring Southern Europe on a shoestring budget is an incredible experience that allows you to soak up rich history, indulge in delicious cuisine, and immerse yourself in stunning natural beauty. With careful planning, leveraging local transportation options, and seeking affordable accommodations and dining experiences, you can enjoy a fulfilling and memorable journey through this magnificent region without breaking the bank. So pack your bags, grab your map, and prepare for an unforgettable adventure!

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About the author, James

James and the team at Turtle Trip are seasoned travelers with experience in the travel industry. We've worked for major holiday booking sites, and have explored the world on foot for our own travels.

Our goal is to make travel accessible to everyone, by providing you with the most comprehensive and easy-to-digest guides about the destinations you’re traveling to.

We believe that planning a trip should be fun and exciting, not overwhelming, so, whether you’re a first-time traveler or a seasoned adventurer, we’ve got you covered.

We wrote this Turtle Trip guide to give you our best tips all in one place, so thanks for reading and have a great time!


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