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To the average American, a week in Europe seems like a pretty high-class/high-dollar endeavor. When you consider that the plane tickets alone are going to run you about $1500 a person, at the least the latter seems to be an accurate statement. Fortunately for me, my plane tickets were covered by the same scholarship foundation that helped my find my internship. Now that I don’t have to worry about the requisite cost of getting to Europe, I’m finding that if you know what you’re doing and you’re willing to sacrifice on the high-class aspect of your trip, travelling in Europe can actually be done pretty cheaply. Here’s a few tips for being able to do extensive touring with limited funds.

Plan ahead

While it may feel liberating and exhilarating to be spontaneous with your journeys, you’ll be able to travel a lot more if you do your research and make plans well ahead of time. Any kind of ticket (plane, train, etc) should be bought weeks, if not months, in advance before the dwindling supply and increasing demand have their predictable effect on cost. Compare prices on hotel/hostels in the area where you are staying and make a reservation if possible.

Currency exchange

Be careful where you change your money. Exchange offices in touristy areas often have signs claiming to offer a no fee exchange, which makes you think they must be very nice people instead of the crooks the guidebook warned you about. The fee is in the rate that they give you, which will be below the actual market exchange rate. If you must exchange money and you neglected to look the market rate up on Google before you left, look at the spread between how many euros you get for selling one US dollar and how many euros it costs to buy one US dollar. The smaller the spread, the more fair the exchange. Also, never exchange money at an airport, they routinely charge 15% more than the market rate. Check with your local bank to see if they have branches in Europe or corporate relationships with European banks. For example, Bank of America has a relationship which allows me to withdraw euros free of charge from Deutsche Bank ATMs.

Eating

While restaurants may be the most intuitive place to find your meals, tourist restaurants are generally hard on your health and budget. If you’re still looking for local flavor, street vendors (also hard on your health) and bakeries are a better option for a quick yet filling lunch. Also, grocery stores are your friend. I often pick up breads and fruits to eat for my breakfasts and lunches when travelling.

Hydration and the necessary consequences thereof

Despite the fact that hydration is important for all manner of health reasons, Europe has declared war on making hydration and done everything possible to make it inconvenient. A glass of water with a meal at a restaurant is going to cost you and don’t think that mean’s you’ll get a refill. Also, good luck finding a water fountain anywhere, so a reusable water bottle isn’t really an option either. Grocery stores are again your friend in this case. Buy large bottles at a grocery store whenever you can and carry them with you to avoid having to buy them from street vendors. But what about when you need to micturate after drinking all that necessary-for-life water? Because public restrooms are not a thing in Europe. It’s often even hard to find pay toilets, which I may be a little morally opposed to. Trains, restaurants you are patronizing, and any building you already paid to enter will most likely have facilities you can take advantage of. Otherwise, a church or a coffee shop may have a free toilet, but it’s just as likely that they’ll charge.

This is a bit of an inside look on how I travel. Maybe you’ll find it useful, hopefully it was at least interesting.

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9 Comments

  1. I’m glad you had a good time with your parents! The bathroom thing is pretty rough, what do people do when they are out and need a restroom?? I also love your pictures of the Alps; I got to see them in the summer, so I didn’t see them with snow on them.

    • In the past four months, I’ve witnessed more public urination than in the rest of my life combined. One time I went to a festival and there was this one big tree where dozens of people (men and women) were relieving themselves on like it was no big deal. It’s kind of gross if you look too closely at the streets in the more populated sections of town.

  2. That’s outrageous to charge for toilets! I would be broke the first day!! So glad you were able to spend some great moments with your mom and dad. I’m sure it was very memorable for all of you. Looking forward to hearing more of your trip!

  3. Reblogged this on Travel in Europe Blog and commented:
    Here is another BLOG on traveling in Europe with some great ideas for saving money.
    George & Jo Anne

  4. Beautiful photography, Evan. I enjoy reading about your adventures. Perhaps one day I can put all your (and Dare’s–from her China trips!) helpful tips to use đŸ™‚

    • Thanks Dori, maybe you could drop out of school and just frolic around Australia for a while? (Since we already covered Asia and Europe…)

        • Dorian
        • Posted November 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm
        • Permalink

        That would be marvelous. Just call me when you’re ready to adventure.

  5. Beautiful photography! I love the castle and did not realize it inspired Walt Disney. Also, I never thought I was timid with heights, but just looking down in your photo made me a little lightheaded. The architecture on the buildings is terrific!

    • Looking off that mountain was really creepy. You should have seen dad while we were on the cable car to get to the top. He was not a fan of the view down.


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