How to Save Money Traveling in Europe

Hi Frugalistas!

Make multiple small savings and they soon add up!

It’s easy to save money while traveling in Europe if you do your research and plan ahead.  Here are my top tips for saving money while traveling in Europe:

1.  Saving Money in Your Hotel

Look for a hotel that includes breakfast in the room rate.  Breakfast costs can add up if it is not included in your room rate.  I look for hotels that offer a generous buffet breakfast included in the room rate.  Not only do I save money on my breakfast, but by making sure I eat a generous breakfast, I can save more money by eating a much smaller lunch.  I would say though that taking food from the breakfast buffet to eat later is tacky and just bad manners, so don’t be tempted!

WiFi.  One of the great things about cheaper hotels is that WiFi is often free, whereas the more expensive hotels see it as a way to separate you from even more of your money.  I do my research and find hotels where I get my WiFi access free.  If I can’t work it out from my guidebook or the hotel website I ask when I enquire about a booking.

Location, location, location.  A centrally located hotel will save you money in taxis and public transport costs as you are closer to the action and where you want to be, so don’t fall for cheaper, outlying options – they are often a false economy.

2.  Eating and Drinking

Cafeterias in department stores.  These are a good cheap option where you will often be eating with the locals at a bargain price.  As an added bonus they are often located on the top floor of the store – and come with a view.  My favorites for views are Galeries Lafayettes in Paris with its million dollar views of the Eiffel Tower and the Opera dome, and La Rinescente in Milan where you can dine overlooking the ramparts of the Duomo.  A good meal comes at EUR15, and the million dollar views are free!

Museum and gallery restaurants are also a good option to try.  Some museum restaurants (such as the terrific one at the Jacquemart Andre Museum in Paris) can be visited without viewing the restaurant.

Picnics.  Stocking up at the supermarket saves a lot, and if you can find a great location is a brilliant budget beater for discount million dollar view dining.

Chef schools.  All great culinary cities have chef schools that will often have a restaurant where you can dine on a gourmet meal at a relatively moderate price.  While these restaurants are not backpacker cheap, if you want a fabulous meal and great service at a realistic price, look one up.  One I can recommend is the Institut Vatel in Paris.

The magnificent dessert trolley at the Institut Vatel in Paris – fine dining on a budget

3.  Travel and Transport

Railpasses.  Only buy a Railpass for countries and days that you will use.  “Just in case” is very expensive when it comes to Railpasses.  If I have a rail travel day that is only a short journey, I always check the price of a point to point ticket versus an extra day on my pass before I buy.  There’s no reason why you can’t buy a Railpass AND point to point tickets for individual journeys where it makes better financial sense.

A combination of a railpass and point to point tickets will often work out cheapest

Traveling with friends and family.  If you are traveling with others check out whether you might be able to buy your tickets at some discount.  Sometimes airlines will offer companion fee tickets for two of you traveling together at a cheaper price, and Railpasses are discounted for two or more people traveling together.  If you go down this path, do check the rules of the ticket before you buy.

Buying food on the train/plane.  It is so much more expensive, so plan ahead and just don’t do it!  Take something along with you and limit yourself to a coffee if you want one.  Even buying something at the train station or in the airport in cheaper than on board.

4.  Combo passes for museums

These can be a huge saving if you are going to use them enough to get the saving, or if they offer some other benefit like not needing to queue with everyone else.  Sometimes saving time is the greatest luxury of all!

5.  VAT refunds

Make sure you claim your VAT refund when you leave Europe to save even more!  For more details on how to do this, see my earlier post here.

Work out how to do a VAT refund, and your savings will sky rocket!

I can save up to EUR70 per day by following these tips.  What are your top money saving tips on the road in Europe?


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13 Comments on “How to Save Money Traveling in Europe”

  1. everydayclassy 15/07/2012 at 2:17 am #

    I absolutely love this post! I’m applying for a travel scholarship for next summer that covers all my costs to basically go wherever I want, and I’m planning to do a round-the-world trip with the money if I get it. (*Fingers crossed!*) Europe is somewhere that I definitely what to explore fully. Do you recommend anywhere specifically that I should visit?

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 15/07/2012 at 7:33 am #

      I love northern Italy – Milan for great shopping and people watching, bellagio on lake como for romance, not such big crowds and do able on a budget, and Venice because it’s like nowhere else. Do your research and follow your bliss. If you do where you want to go and do what you want to do you will always save money and feel what you have spent is worth what you paid.
      Thanks for dropping by and subscribing!

  2. Katie 18/09/2012 at 4:16 am #

    Transport, accommodation, and food are the major expenses during travelling. You can save a lot if you spend less in these 3 aspects! Great post anyway 🙂

  3. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family 03/10/2012 at 8:43 pm #

    Love, love, love the idea of visiting chef schools for gourmet meals.

  4. Tina Somberg-Buiks 18/10/2012 at 7:43 pm #

    Have never thought of searching for chef schools. Thanks for the tip.
    Free museums will save you a lot as well. Especially in the UK where all the national museums are free. Buying lunch at Subways is splendid: you choose whatever filling you like and they offer lots of cheap specials and free lunches with the points on your card.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 19/10/2012 at 2:26 am #

      Yes, London is a gold mine of free museums etc, and of course the Louvre is free one Sunday per month if you can cope with the crowds.

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting

      • Tina Somberg-Buiks 19/10/2012 at 4:25 am #

        It’s not just London it’s all the national museums in the UK

  5. continentalcajuns 03/01/2013 at 11:40 am #

    I also love the idea of visiting chef schools – great idea! We’ll definitely try this on our next trip!

  6. I’ve never thought about chefs schools before and wish I had known before I went to Paris. I will have to go back. Thanks for the tips.

  7. fotoeins 14/09/2014 at 7:51 pm #

    Thanks, Jo, for writing this!

    1. Please have a look at (Hotel Reservations Service). They began as a small German outfit, now they’ve stretched out to other parts of Europe. They’ve gotten big(ger) over the years with more capital in their pockets. Great thing about searching hotels, especially the 3-stars in Germany, is sorting by distance to train station and WiFi availability.

    2. I always see the cafeterias at the Kaufhof department stores throughout Germany, and I don’t visit them, because I almost always go get a Döner, or a 3 Euro small noodle box, or a sandwich or pastry on the go from the ever ubiquitous pastry stands (independent or chain). To that end, one might find bargains at the “food court or plaza” at the main or central train stations in German cities: the “Imbiss” or snack stands found in the Hauptbahnhof for Frankfurt, Köln, München, Hamburg, and Berlin provide extensive options from the meaty to the vegetarian. Or perhaps, I’ve become too familiar with all five cities and their train stations …

    3. Within Germany, I’ve been writing about comparing individual train fares with a railpass, and it’s true you’ll save more money on long-distance trips. In fact, I’ll be writing about another comparison in the next couple of months.


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