While the coronavirus may have the world under lockdown, we are sure many of you are dreaming of the time you can book your next vacation. We are waiting for the day when you can actually push the big ‘Book Now’ button and lock in dates for your escape overseas.
Is Europe in the cards for you? The food, the history, the culture. Strolling down the Champs-Élysées, hand-in-hand. Island-hopping in Croatia. Can you tell that we are dreaming of Europe too?
While our European Travel Guides are the best place to start when you are ready to start planning your itinerary, here are five tips to help you save money while traveling in Europe:
Save money with an international SIM card or eSIM
We have all been there, forgetting to turn off ‘Airplane Mode’ or the data roaming setting on your phone. You land in-country, hear the familiar sound of WhatsApp messages flying in and rush to switch it off before you have spent your entire holiday’s budget in one minute. What if we told you the days of relying on Wi-Fi were gone?
An international SIM card or eSIM is the answer. Both options, unlike your regular cellular provider at home, are programmed to work on multiple networks across the world and help you avoid expensive roaming charges. While an international SIM card will replace your regular SIM for the length of your stay overseas, an eSIM is a virtual SIM card that works simultaneously with your regular SIM, meaning you can have two cellular phone lines in one device. While eSIM is only compatible with the latest iPhones, Google Pixel phones and Samsung devices, you can find some great deals through online eSIM stores, with European rates as a low $0.07 per MB and $0.7 per minute. Never have to worry about uploading and sharing your photographs again!
Minimize your bank fees
One of the biggest headaches of international travel is getting and using foreign currency; it is complicated and often, expensive. But it does not have to be. By following a few basic rules, you will minimize your bank fees and save money while traveling in Europe:
- Get in touch with your bank and ask them about their charges and fees prior to your trip. If they are low, great! If not, you can decide whether it is worth investing in another bank with better rates, using a credit card for your trip, or simply purchasing an international travel card and topping it up with Euros. While all three options have their perks and pitfalls, cash is still king.
- Try to avoid exchanging money at the airport to steer clear of expensive service charges and unfavorable exchange rates.
- ATM fees are often unavoidable, but you can minimize those fees by withdrawing a large amount of money at one time and storing it safely for use as and when you need it. When possible, pay using this cash to avoid any credit or debit card charges.
- When possible, always choose to pay in the local currency, not dollars. Vendors are likely to offer terrible exchange rates and you may find yourself paying a considerable amount more than the original price.
Find free events and tours
From the Vienna State Opera House and Royal Albert Hall, to Shakespeare’s Globe and Teatro allo Scala, Europe is well-known for its extraordinary venues that are home to world-class musical and theatre performances. But, with big names come big prices. While a ticket to the ballet or a musical is certainly worth it for some, it is also worth looking online (and speaking to a tourist information center) for upcoming free events and tours. In the city of Berlin, the Berlin Philharmonic hosts free lunchtime concerts, while you can experience the magic of jazz free every Sunday night at De Badcuyp in Amsterdam. If it is more information on history and culture that you are after, then hit the streets on free walking tours that are available in most major European cities.
There is a whole host of free events happening every day in Europe, it is just on you to find out where and when.
Do as the locals do
When your free walking tour is finished and you are dying for a coffee, do not stick around at the closest cafe. More often than not, tours start and finish from the city center – meaning overpriced coffee shops and restaurants. If you can hold on just a little longer, it is worth venturing a street or two back from the center where you will see fewer tourists and more locals.
Just like any destination worldwide, you can find some great deals in family-owned restaurants and local taverns. At the end of the working day, where are people heading for happy hour drinks or meeting their friends for food? If you do as the locals do, you are likely to stumble upon a gem and save some money at the same time.
Consider where to lay your head at night
There is no doubt that travel in Europe is expensive, particularly if you are visiting countries who use the Euro currency. And keeping a roof over your head is no different. However, there is plenty of options available to travelers to help keep those costs down while still getting a comfortable night’s sleep.
- Hostels: Europe has some of the best hostels in the world, and not just because most of them throw in some extra goodies like free sangria, filter coffee, or the odd beer-pong competition. Many are centrally located and offer affordable accommodation. For the best deal, however, try booking a dorm-bed in a hostel that is a little further away from the city center. Even a street or two can make a huge difference to the price.
- Night Trains or busses: If you are traveling across multiple countries, why not consider booking a night train or a night bus ride? Aside from train fare often being cheaper than flying, securing your spot on a night train means you can snooze while journeying to the next city. You save money on a bed-night and you are not wasting any valuable time for exploring. Win-win.
- AirBnb: Depending on the season, AirBnb rentals prices drop dramatically and can offer you a whole apartment for the same price as a hotel room. But if that is not social enough for you, you can always try Couchsurfing!
We hope these five tips for helping you save money while traveling in Europe inspire you to begin planning your European adventure.