Affordable Europe trip: how to travel on a budget in Europe

How can you travel on a budget in Europe?

Ever wondered how some people manage to explore the streets of Prague, the ruins of Rome, and the landscapes of the Alps without breaking the bank? Well, buckle up, because I’m about to list you all the ways to travel for cheap, showing you exactly how to stretch those euros, pounds, and kroner to their absolute limits. I have been traveling solo for 10 years in 40+ European destinations for very little, in total less than 10,000 euros over the years, in a mix of solo backpack, youth volunteering and more conventional travel. At this point, I’m a pro at budget travel.

So here are my top tips and tricks to plan a trip: I’ll go over how to keep a budget, how to get the cheapest flights, accommodation and attractions possible, and ways to travel Europe for next to nothing thanks to volunteer opportunities.

Affordable Europe trip: how to travel on a budget in Europe

Hi! I’m Anya, founder of the travel blog Stop Going to Paris which focuses on underrated cities in Europe. I’m a passionate traveler but above all, a passionate adventurer always looking for the hidden gems that deserve more love.

After 10 years and 70+ destinations, I can help you plan your European trip: book a call with me. It includes a full itinerary with unique destinations, transportation, accommodation and activities.

Fun fact, I live in… drumroll… Paris! That’s why the name of the blog is funny.

Work, volunteer and travel Europe on a budget

My number one tip for true cost-saving is this: work or volunteer in Europe and use that opportunity to travel. A good option would be the European Voluntary Service (also called the European Solidarity Corps). Youth from 18 to 30 years old can volunteer for a few weeks to a few months in an organization looking for help in a specific area, usually environment, social inclusion or entrepreneurship, to benefit the local community. Transportation is paid for and accommodation is provided, as well as pocket money. I spent two months doing archeological excavations in Bulgaria, had my plane tickets refunded and was given a free room and 300 euros per month – more than enough to enjoy life in Bulgaria and travel in Romania and Greece.

Participants usually come from EU countries but participants from the following list of partner countries are eligible: Iceland, North Macedonia, Turkey, Liechtenstein, Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Norway, Palestine, Russia, Serbia, Syria, Tunisia, Ukraine

Tons of other volunteering or internship opportunities exist in Europe, Eurodesk would be the best place to start.

If you’re over the age limit or not from any of these countries, I recommend trying Workaway. It’s not EU-governed and more flexible, since opportunities come from private parties to private parties. Accommodation will be provided in exchange of a few hours of work every day, perfect to exchange with locals and live authentically in Europe.

Choose affordable destinations

Some European cities offer more bang for your buck. Think Zagreb over Paris, and Lisbon over London. Your money will go further in these spots. Western Europe will of course be more expensive than Central or Eastern Europe (same for Northern Europe vs. Southern Europe). My advice is to look into those even smaller, but very much underrated places, that most people will have never heard of but that have so much to offer.

Lucky for you, that’s exactly the purpose of my blog, Stop Going to Paris: to make you discover those hidden gems that you don’t want to miss. This includes guides on unknown cities, but sometimes even underrated activities or neighborhoods in well-known cities like Barcelona and London.

If you want to start with a few destinations, check out these articles:

  • Amboise, the heart of the Loire Valley, the most romantic region of France with dozens of Renaissance castles
  • Sorrento, an alternative to the Amalfi coast for a fraction of the cost
  • Zakopane, the most affordable ski resort in Europe
  • Nazaré, the international surf capital, is ideal for intense sensations
  • Nîmes, nicknamed the French Rome, due to its numerous Roman ruins.

All these destinations are great places to visit, affordable and rich in history, activities, and incredible sights. Absolute must-sees when you visit Europe.

Budget for your trip from the beginning

The cornerstone of any budget trip is, well, the budget. It’s not just about the big expenses; the little purchases can add up quickly. Start by determining how much you can afford to spend, and break it down into different time periods: on a day-to-day basis, weekly, monthly. Break it down into expense categories as well: plane tickets, public transport, food, accommodation, activities, etc.

Track your expenses

The best way to stay on budget is to track your expenses. I use the app Tricount for that. Even if it’s technically supposed to be about keeping track of shared expenses between friends, I find it useful to log on and write down how much I just spent. They have a great category breakdown as well as the possibility to attach a picture of the bill for each expense.

Amboise Royal Castle, Loire Valley, France

Travel off-season

Of course, one of the cheapest ways to travel around Europe is, without a doubt, during the shoulder seasons (spring and autumn). It can save you a good sum on plane tickets, accommodations and activities. Plus, fewer tourists mean a more authentic experience. March-May and October-November are the best time to visit Europe.

Fly to Europe: choose your overseas flights wisely

For the most part, transportation inside Europe is affordable enough (with the notable exception of France and northern Europe). This means that for people living overseas – the American continent, Asia, Oceania, parts of Africa far from Europe -, one of the biggest expenses when traveling will be the plane tickets from your home country to Europe.

The most affordable airports to fly to are usually London, Paris or Dublin airports, so be on the lookout for flights to these cities. Additionally, from Dublin, you can catch very cheap Ryanair tickets to anywhere in the continent, so it might be the best deal you can make.

That also means you need to maximize the tickets you buy, so if you can, spend as much time as possible in Europe when you do come (which you should do anyway, if only to phase out the jetlag). Try to stay at least 3 weeks when you come.

Always be on the lookout for cheap tickets during promotion periods like Black Friday or Christmas time for travel deals.

Fly inside Europe: cheap airlines and luggage size

Low-cost airlines are your best friend, often they’ll be cheaper than trains. Here is a quick list of budget airlines in Europe:

  • Easyjet
  • Transavia
  • Ryanair
  • Wizz
  • Vueling

Some great flight price comparison tools are Skiplagged, Skyscanner and Google Flights.

If you already know where you’re going and when, it’s better to check individually each airline for your flight. It’s the only way to make sure all the flights’ prices and information are accurate.

Keep in mind, taking a budget airline also means you’re not going to be able to take a lot of luggage with you. If you’re coming for a few weeks, having only a few clothes with you can be uncomfortable. In that case, I’d suggest only traveling by bus or train, but that of course limits you to shorter distances.

If you think you might want to jump from country to country and need to fly, I’d say a duffle bag can take you a long way, if you don’t mind wearing the same stuff again and again. I’ve personally backpacked across Europe and I was just fine – there are laundromats everywhere, as well as washing machines in all forms of accommodations. Pack only the essentials.

Nazaré, Portugal

Travel between cities: trains, buses, ridesharing,

It can be difficult to check which mode of transport is cheaper, so I usually use Rome2Rio, an app and website that offers itineraries and price comparison. I tend to privilege the bus, thanks to Flixbus and Blablabus dirt cheap tickets.

Train costs vary from country to country, but often you’ll find it is more expensive than flights. However, in my experience, train tickets are more affordable in Italy, Germany and Spain. I use seat61 to get the best train itineraries. The Eurail pass is the best way to travel by train on a budget between European cities. Very affordable and convenient if you’re planning to move a lot.

In some countries, you’ll be able to partake in a fantastic cost-saving activity: ridesharing. These apps offer cheap trips between cities, for example, a trip from Berlin to Prague can go as low as 13 euros. It can be quite useful to get you out of sticky situations when you cannot wait for the next bus or train.

If you’re worried about safety, don’t be – ridesharing is very common in Europe, in France especially thanks to Blablacar. I’ve taken many rides and never had a problem, even as a woman.

Book budget accommodation: hostels

For cheap accommodation, there is no secret: it’s hostels. What you might not know, is that hostels offer not only beds but sometimes entire private rooms, for more privacy. While remaining cheaper than a traditional hotel or an AirBnB. Fantastic, right?

The vast majority of budget hostels I’ve stayed at are clean, problem-free and I have met wonderful friends in them. Even now that I’m able to afford more expensive trips, I still stay at hostels for the friendly company of other travelers.

Book free accommodation: couchsurfing, house-sitting, house exchange

For the more adventurous, there are alternatives, though unusual: couchsurfing, house-sitting and house exchange. A quick definition of these three terms:

  • Couchsurfing: you sleep on other people’s couches
  • House-sitting: you stay in someone’s home to look after it and their pets while they are away
  • House exchange: you exchange houses with another family for some time – you stay in theirs and they stay in yours

Now those are a bit unorthodox, I’ll admit – at least to me, since I never gave them a try. But it works for some people, right? Thousands of people leave couchsurfing, house-sitting and house exchange websites positive reviews. I have seen the documentaries, the YouTube videos, the recommendations. It works. So if you feel bold, give it a chance. In these cases, it’s completely free.

Try these websites:

Go to the tourist office for reductions and free information

One very underrated thing I never see tourists do is go to the tourist office to get free AND hassle-free information. It’s always my first move anywhere I go to in Europe because those places are rich in information and people are always willing to lend a hand. They’ll give quick and up-to-date advice about the best things to do in the city, as well as info about prices, accesses, reductions, etc. Very often you’ll find good deals in tourist offices: reduced monuments and attractions tickets, city passes, free maps of the city, and cheap souvenirs.

Zakopane, Poland

Get the City Card

Most European cities offer a city card, which is some kind of combined public transport and museum pass, to get access to metros, busses, museums and activities, for example: the Barcelona Card or the Lisbon Card. It should be easy to look up, it’s usually some combination of the city name and “card” or “pass”. The best place to look it up is on the city’s official tourist office website or in the tourist office when you arrive.

Meet other travelers

A cool way to cut costs is to meet other travelers or visitors and plan activities together to share costs. You can meet them at the hostel, pub crawls or internationals meetings that you’ll find on Facebook or Eventbrite. Just write “internationals” or “expats” + event/meeting/party and these should come up. It’s an easy way to make friends and have fun wherever you’re going, to really enjoy the joys and benefits of traveling. Especially if you’re traveling solo!

Eat for cheap

The cheapest thing to eat abroad is your own food, if you have access to a kitchen. However, if you can’t or don’t want to cook, the next best thing is the local markets, boulangeries and street-food stalls for cheap food on the go.

If you’re set on trying a few restaurants, try the website and app The Fork, which features every week thousands of restaurants in Europe with good deals. True story, just yesterday I had my bill reduced from 83 euros to 21 – couldn’t believe it myself.

For cheap beer, the app Mister Good Beer is the one you’re looking for. Also, always pre-game at home.

For the environmentally conscious, Too Good to Go is a great option: it allows you to retrieve restaurant leftovers that they would have otherwise thrown away at the end of the day, for a reduced price. Great for your pocket and great for the environment!

Sorrento, Italy

Plan in advance for free and cheap attractions

Many European cities offer free entry to museums and historical sites on certain days: for example, in France, the first Sunday of every month. Ask the tourist office and do your research to plan accordingly.

You can try parks and natural wonders, very often completely free or dirt cheap. Many of Europe’s natural landscapes are breathtaking and, best of all, free to explore. Also, perfect for a picnic! Never underestimate the power of a good picnic in a beautiful park.

Another thing is free walking tours. A guide (usually with a degree in history) will take you through the city and its monuments and teach you everything about it, including the best places to eat and buy souvenirs. At the end, you can leave a tip of your choosing, usually around 5 euros is fine. No specific website, just google “free walking tour” + “city name” and it should come up in the first 3 results. Truly one of the greatest things to do in Europe, and a great way to save money while learning in-depth about a location.

Affordable SIM Cards and Wi-Fi

Staying connected doesn’t have to be expensive. Look for prepaid eSIM cards with good data plans, and take advantage of free Wi-Fi in cafes and public spaces. I recommend looking into Holafly, an e-sim provider that offers affordable plans in 160 different countries. The European plan costs 27 euros for a week of unlimited data.

Get refunds for the VAT tax

If you’re not an EU resident, you may be able to get a refund of the VAT tax paid on big purchases over 175 euros. You can claim that refund in specific shops, just get your documents ready (passport, return plane tickets). Get more information here.

Avoid these costly tourist mistakes

  • Steer clear of the main tourist areas and hotspots where prices are inflated. Walking just a few streets away can significantly reduce costs.
  • Always ask for the menu in the local language on top of the English menu. It might shock you, but sometimes the prices on the English menu are higher! Tourists are seen as cash cows and pay more for no reason.
  • Understand your roaming charges before making a call or sending a message.
  • Never buy the souvenirs next to the attraction, that is where they’ll be the most expensive. Buy them in random souvenir shops instead.


Traveling Europe without breaking the bank is entirely possible, provided you’re willing to make some sacrifices: less luggage, staying in a hostel, working while traveling, etc. The continent is the number one tourist destination, and for good reason: it offers so much in terms of culture, experiences and encounters. Spending a few months there is a fantastic life experience that will enrich you like nothing else, and create unforgettable memories. So with a little planning and flexibility, you can make your European dream trip a reality.

If you liked my travel hacks, check out my other articles detailing my favorite destinations from years of travel experience backpacking through Europe.

The Famous Arena of Nimes in France
Arena of Nîmes, France

FAQ: Travel on a budget in Europe

How can I travel on a budget in Europe?

Yes, you can visit Europe on a budget if you plan your trip carefully. Ways to save money include working or volunteering through programs like the European Voluntary Service or Workaway, selecting budget-friendly destinations, tracking your expenses carefully, and traveling off-season. Look for affordable flights, and opt for budget accommodations like hostels or alternative options such as couchsurfing, house sitting or house exchanges. Book free walking tours and catch reductions in tourist offices.

What are some budget-friendly European destinations?

Consider visiting lesser-known yet remarkable places like Zagreb, Lisbon, Amboise in the Loire Valley, Sorrento as an alternative to the Amalfi Coast, Zakopane for affordable skiing, Nazaré for surfing, and Nîmes, a cute city nicknamed the French Rome.

How do I budget for European travel?

Start by determining your total available budget, then break it down into time periods and purchase categories. Use apps like Tricount to track your spending.

How do I budget for European travel?

Start by determining your total available budget, then break it down into time periods and purchase categories. Use apps like Tricount to track your spending.

What are some tips for getting cheap flights to and within Europe?

Monitor deals to major airports like London, Paris, or Dublin. Use budget airlines like EasyJet, Ryanair, and Vueling and flight comparison tools like Skiplagged, Skyscanner and Google Flights for the best deals.

How can I find cheap accommodation in Europe?

Consider beds or private rooms in hostels, or couchsurfing, house-sitting, or house exchanges for free or unique lodging options.

Are there cost-saving strategies for transportation within Europe?

Yes, compare transport options using Rome2Rio and seat61. Consider buying a Eurail pass for cost-efficient trains in Europe. For busses, use Flixbus or Blablabus. Use ridesharing apps like Blablacar for affordable travel between cities.

How can I save on meals and drinks in Europe?

Prepare your own meals if possible, explore local markets and street food, and use apps like The Fork for restaurant discounts or Too Good to Go for restaurant leftovers. For affordable drinks, use Mister Good Beer and pre-game at home.

Can I access free or discounted attractions in Europe?

Many cities offer free museum entries on specific days, and you can enjoy parks and natural sights for minimal or no cost. Look into city cards for combined transport and museum passes, and consider walking tours for insightful, budget-friendly exploration.

What are some common tourist mistakes to avoid to save money?

Avoid dining and shopping in main tourist areas, where prices are higher. Always compare menus in local languages and English to avoid paying more. Be aware of your mobile roaming charges and buy souvenirs away from major attractions to save money.

How can I stay connected affordably in Europe?

Consider prepaid eSIM cards for data, and take advantage of free Wi-Fi in public spaces and cafes. Providers like Holafly offer competitive rates for data plans across Europe.

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