(Canal district, Amsterdam)
It’s that time of year when many European cities are teeming with tourists. Savoring the countless sights is rewarding, but the costs involved, not so. The plane ticket and hotels can pack a punch on your wallet alone. As well, the exchange rate with the euro is enough to make your head spin. How do you spend two weeks or more in this lovely continent without breaking the bank? It’s possible, believe me. I manage to save quite a bit every time I go there. Even the little things can save you big bucks.
Here are some tips to help you save money while traveling around Europe:
- Buy a tourist card. These cards, which can be purchased at European airports or official tourist offices, allow you to visit all the main attractions for free. When you buy them, they can be used for one, two or even three days. These cards start at 30 euro for one day and run up to 60 euro for three days (more or less). If you plan on visiting four major attractions, say London or Paris, it’s worth it to buy the card because you’ll pay one price for the card and be able to visit all the major attractions for free. I recently went to Dublin for three days and purchased a tourist card for one day’s use. As a result, I visited the Guinness Brewery, Dublin Writer’s Museum and the Jameson Distillery for one price. I would’ve spent more if I had paid separate admission to these places! Additionally, these cards entitle you to discounts at restaurants, bars/pubs and even free public transportation.
- Avoid eating lunches in restaurants. An alternative is buying food in local supermarkets. I usually eat a light meal at lunch, so a few rolls, an apple and a can of juice is all I need. And I usually never pay more than six euro. Many European supermarkets have hot counters, so you can buy a sausage roll or hot sandwich for half the price you would pay in a restaurant. However, if you happen to be going to Madrid, I would recommend a restaurant called, Museo del Jamón. You can get what is called a ‘Picnic Para Llevar’, which includes a sandwich, an apple/banana and a can of soda or beer all for 2 euro – you won’t do better than that for lunch in Madrid!
- Use public transport from the airport to the city center. Let’s take Madrid for example. A cab ride to the city center from the airport can cost up to 30 euro (cabs charge supplements for airport rides and luggage). If you took the metro or train, you would only pay up to 6 euro for that same journey. If you don’t have a lot of luggage, this is a better option and will save you a lot of money.
- Avoid restaurants and cafes in the touristy zones. You’ve heard about them from friends/family and read about them in tour books and websites. They are great for sightseeing, but best avoided for eating/drinking. Not only are they expensive, but they are catered to the tourists, which means you don’t get the authentic cuisine of the city you are in. Furthermore, you are more likely to get robbed because these zones are full of pickpockets and other thieves. The lesser known zones often have cheaper, and more authentic restaurants. Ask someone at your hotel or drop by the local tourist office for suggestions.
Hopefully this helps you better plan your trip, so you can enjoy Europe while saving money at the same time. Take it from someone who has spent more than a year living there.