Not all of us can afford luxury travel. I am sure we all would love to stay in 5- star resorts , eat at Michelin star restaurants and zip around in taxis while abroad but our weak currency makes that seem a distant dream. Plus , I think its lots more fun traveling in metros and staying in Bed & Breakfasts !
So , here are my 5 tips to save a buck while in Europe
Give tour operators a miss
Now , I am not against tour companies – I think a lot of folks wouldn’t venture on their foreign jaunts if not for them. However , they are middlemen and they do take a small commission on everything they book for you. Train tickets , museum admission passes , river cruises etc are all easy to book online – there is no need to ask a travel agent to do this. Sometimes , you may even find discounts offered online , which an agent may not pass on to you
Use local transport
European countries have fantastic public transport systems. Their metros , trains and buses are all clean and efficient. In fact , in cities like Paris and London where the traffic is a nightmare, using the metro saves time as compared to taking a taxi. Metro maps are available easily at hotels as well as tourist information kiosks. http://parisbytrain.com is a very useful website – I especially found it useful for taking the RER train from Charles de Gaulle airport into Paris. www.seat61.com is another great website with advice on train travel in UK and Europe.
Use Audioguides for major attractions instead of a tour guide
Most museums and many major tourist attractions either include an audioguide in the price of admission or charge a small amount for them. Using these guides helps get a sense of understanding of the history of the place and it is like having someone explain what you are looking at so you can appreciate it better. They work out cheaper than a guided tour.
Rick Steves is a famous American travel show host and also runs his own travel company. His travel guides are very popular, especially in the United States of America. He offers free audioguides on his website which can be downloaded and I’ ve used them extensively. Granted , his sense of humour is sometimes annoying but then come on , its free! We used his audioguide for Pompeii (in Italy), St Peter’s Basilica (Vatican city) , Notre Dame Cathedral ( Paris). We have also used his audioguides for museums like the Uffizi and the Academia in Florence as well as the Louvre and Orsay museums of Paris. It beats paying a guide to show you around and its definitely better than seeing these monuments and museums with no idea of what we are actually looking at.
Book a self catering apartment
We did this in Paris – we were in Paris for 5 days and chose to stay in an apartment instead of hotel. The advantages were many-fold. We ate all our breakfasts in and even had a few dinners there. Most of the days , we packed our lunch and had them on the go – saved time and money. Buying basic groceries and visiting bakeries to buy fresh bread for our pinic lunches was fun! Our apartment also had a washing machine , so we did our laundry for free! Ours being a 17 day trip , it was necessary to do our laundry somewhere , unless we wanted to carry 3 suitcases each! We also stayed in an apartment in Seville – we planned it such that we could wash our clothes every week.Thus , we saved quite a lot of money we would have otherwise spent on laundry and meals.
Airbnb is a good place to start looking for self -catering options but make sure you read all the reviews to avoid getting scammed.
Avoid touristy restaurants and cafes
Restaurants near touristy sites and those which have someone standing outside to usher patrons in are almost always going to disappoint in the food department. Plus, they’ll burn a hole in your pocket too. Research good and reasonably priced places to eat before your trip , based on the general area where you will be at the time of lunch or dinner. You don’t want to travel an hour to eat lunch just because it had good reviews. I did not do this before my Italy trip and I learnt from that experience. In France and Spain , we had amazing food at decent prices.
So , these are my ideas for budget travel. Do you have any? Please share them!