6 Ways to Travel Cheap

in Europe

by Daniel | Last Updated October 9th, 2019


It’s every traveler’s dream to take a vacation from work and spend a few months backpacking across Europe.

Unfortunately, the biggest thing standing in the way of that dream is the thought of not having enough money. How will you eat? How will you sleep? And more importantly, how are you going to get around?

It’s common to think that in order to have a nice time traveling around Europe you’ll need to have thousands of dollars in your bank account. The good news is, that’s no longer the case.

Backpackers and travelers everywhere have come together to create a community of people who like to travel with limited funds. That being said, there are tons of ways to travel around Europe and not break the bank.

Keep reading to learn 6 great ways to get around in Europe on a budget, as well as a couple of bonus frugal traveler tips.

1. Flying

If you’re budget traveling, you might think that flying around Europe is automatically off list. But, there are actually tons of budget airlines that cater to backpackers.

Ryanair is a budget airline that flies all over Europe. You can find Tickets from one country to another for as little as $7.

As sketchy as it might sound, these are real airline prices. There is, however, a catch to finding such low prices. 

When flying Ryanair, you have to be careful and follow the fine print. Ryanair only allows you to carry a personal item up to the size of a small backpack. Anything larger than a child-size backpack and Ryanair will charge expensive luggage fees.

You’ll also need to make sure that you check-in online 48 hours prior to your flight, otherwise Ryanair will charge you a boarding pass printing fee. This cost can vary, but it’s typically between $20-40.

Another low-cost airline that many travelers fly with is Vueling. This airline is typically more expensive than Ryanair, however, they don’t charge you any boarding pass printing fees. 

Vueling also allows you to carry on additional luggage free of charge. With this airline, you can have a personal item and a standard size carry-on suitcase. They have larger luggage sizing requirements, so you can take a normal backpack instead of a child’s size.

These are just two of the more common budget airlines around Europe, however, there are several others. You can use websites like Skyscanner or Google flights to compare several airlines at once. 

ProTip: if you are truly looking to minimize cost on this trip, try to keep your dates as flexible as possible. Flying with fixed dates can get significantly more expensive than having open availability.

2. Buses

Buses are another good option for traveling cheaply around Europe.

One thing that the budget airlines don’t tell you is that many of them fly into rural airports. Ryanair, for example, states that it flies into Frankfurt airport when in reality, it actually flies into a smaller airport that’s about a two-hour bus ride into the city center.

Since the airline tickets are so cheap, it’s still a good deal to fly into these rural airports and hop on public transit. You’ll just need to be aware of what buses you can take and what time they run.

There are several bus companies that are used to catering to long-distance travelers. Some bus companies even offer a bed where you can lie down for an overnight trip.

FlixBus Is a well-known bus company that frugal travelers use. They often don’t charge too much for tickets and are fairly comfortable for riding long distances. 

MegaBus is another company that’s budget-friendly. Just like FlixBus, they are equipped for long-distance rides. Some buses will even have a charging cord for your phone or computer, as well as Wi-Fi onboard.

Do some research before planning to take a bus ride. Remember to plan ahead and check out the bus routes before taking your trip.

3. Rent a Car

If you’re going to be doing a lot of traveling back-and-forth in one city, it might be beneficial to just bite the bullet and rent a car.

Renting a car doesn’t have to be horribly expensive, though. Sometimes, depending on what your travel plans are, it’s actually cheaper than taking buses and trains. 

You can usually rent a car through your airline or hotel website for a discounted rate, but, these cars are still pretty expensive. Instead, look at discount sites like Turo

Turo is a budget car rental company that’s often referred to as “the Airbnb for cars”. The company is simple. The owner will list their vehicle on Turo, you’ll enter your requested dates, and the owner will either confirm or deny your request. 

4. Trains

Trains are a great way to get around Europe, whether you’re just looking to go somewhere within a city or want to travel to another country.

If you’re looking to go somewhere in the same city, look into the metro system. Often times, metro trains will allow you to buy a multi pass card instead of a one-way ticket. The card will cost a bit more money, but it will save in the long run.

If you’re trying to go to another country, look into getting a Eurorail pass. There are different passes available depending on what you’re looking to do.

You can purchase passes that are valid for different lengths of time. 

For example, you can get a 15-day pass with 10 open train rides. You can also purchase a 30-day pass with 15 train rides.

The Eurorail pass also offers discounts for young adults and college students.

Your best bet is to check out the Eurail website and plan your trip ahead of time.

5. Shared Rides

If you’re trying to go somewhere that’s not super far away, but aren’t looking to take a bus, using shared-ride companies can save you a decent amount of money.

Many of us are familiar with Uber, but did you know that Uber has a carpooling offer? Instead of paying for a ride, the carpool setting lets you pay for a seat.

Typically, using the Uber carpool option will take quite a bit longer to get to your destination because you’ll have to stop on the way to pick up other riders. 

But if you don’t mind taking your time and sharing a ride with some strangers, Uber carpool is a good option.

Another option that’s really popular in Europe is Blablacar. This company works similar to Uber, however, drivers for Blablacar are not contracted with the company. The drivers are simply people who are planning a trip and don’t mind picking up a rider.

The way it works is a driver will list their trip and a rider will request a trip. If the two destinations are the same, Blablacar will match the driver and the rider. 

Just like Uber, you will pay the company through the app, and not directly to the driver.

6. Vanlife

If you’re an avid traveler, you’ve probably heard the buzz about van life.

Some Vanlifers take this lifestyle to heart and actually use their van as a home residence. But, even if you’re not looking to sell your house to move into a van full-time, it’s a great option for traveling around on a budget.

Now, don’t think of just kicking the seat back and sleeping every night in an uncomfortable sitting position. There are a lot of cool things that you can do to trick out a van to make it more comfortable for sleeping.

Many Vanlife vans have full-size mattresses, sinks, and even kitchens.

Vanlife is particularly popular in Europe, so if you search around the area you’re staying, you might be able to find someone who is renting out their van.

Bonus Tips

Before you jump on a plane and head out, there are a few extra tips you should be aware of. Always book hotels or hostels in advance, Couchsurf if you can, and always go for local cuisine. 

Book Hotels and Hostels in Advance

Staying in a hotel might make your trip feel a bit more like a vacation than a backpacking adventure, so it’s really up to you to decide what type of trip you’re looking for. 

If you prefer to have a comfy vacation, look for low-cost hotels. You’ll find these hotels away from airports and city centers. 

ProTip: If you’re staying in a hotel that is super cheap, be sure to look out for bed bugs. These nasty little devils will attach themselves to you and never let go. Use a flashlight to check under mattresses and in the seams. You’ll know them if you see them.

If you’re looking for something more along the lines of a backpacking adventure, consider booking a hostel. 

A hostel is basically like staying in a hotel, except you’re sharing a room with other people. You can have a room with just one roommate or you could have 20 roommates. It really depends on the rate that you’re looking to pay and which hostel you stay at.

Rates for both hotels and hostels will fluctuate daily, responding to demand. Typically, the further in advance that you book your stay, the cheaper rate you’ll be able to lock-in.

Try Couchsurfing

If you haven’t heard of Couchsurfing, it’s exactly as it sounds. You will be sleeping on a stranger’s couch.

The way the app works is a host will post their home and a bio about themselves. They will talk about what they like to do, what languages they speak, and why they are on Couchsurfing.

While Couchsurfing doesn’t do background checks on its hosts, the app basically works on a review system. You can accept or deny any request you want, for any reason.

So as the couch surfer, you will look through a list of hosts and find one that you would be interested in meeting. You can select the days that you want to stay with them and send them a message.

Typically, it’s not a good idea to use Couchsurfing if you just want to sleep and leave. Couch surfers are a community of people that love to travel and meet other travelers to swap stories. They will expect to have long conversations and hang out with you. 

Just popping into sleep for the night will end up getting you a bad review and you won’t be able to use Couchsurfing anymore.

Eat and Drink Locally

And of course, always eat and drink the local cuisine.

By this, we don’t mean you have to go to a fancy local restaurant and spend a load of money on something prepared. You can always go to a grocery store and pick up some raw fruits and vegetables that are local to the area.

Cyprus, for example, is a small island country. Anything that gets imported will cost a significant amount of money compared to anything that’s grown there. But if you stick to what’s local, you can find fruits and veggies for literally pocket change.

There’s Always a Way to Get Around in Europe

So, you see? You don’t have to have thousands of dollars stored away for a great trip around Europe.

We do recommend having some form of savings before you go on your trip, but if you utilize budget airlines, buses, ridesharing, and other financial-friendly options, you’ll be able to see everything without emptying the bank.

Ready to fly out? Book your trip today.


Welcome to LuggageGuru!
My name is Daniel and I am a full-time world traveler and constantly on the move.

My goal with luggageguru.com is to provide helpful information about travel-related products and accessories and also useful travel tips to make your vacation or trip more enjoyable!
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