This post has been contributed.
When people find out that I spent almost three months traveling throughout Europe during my college years, I get a lot of the same reactions. In fact, I almost always hear, “Wow, I wish I could do that.” Or at least something along those lines, which is exactly why I’ve written this post.
Many people think that traveling in Europe is an unattainable goal unless you are very lucky or incredibly wealthy. However, I was able to have the trip of a lifetime on a college student’s budget.
If you’re going to travel to Europe on a budget, careful planning is absolutely imperative. First, the time that you choose to go travelling will make all the difference. You obviously want to stay away from busy tourist seasons. Since I was able to travel during a less busy time of year, I found my flights for almost half of the price that I would have to pay around major holidays – #Winning.
Getting your expectations in line is another important part of budget travel. If you’re expecting to stay in five-star hotels and eat gourmet meals every day, you’re going to be disappointed, and you’re also going to run out of money faster than I can finish this sentence. Fortunately, Europe does actually offer many options for budget travelers.
I recommend staying away from hotels altogether and instead researching hostels (backpackers) before you arrive. I started my trip in London, and I spent six nights in a hostel. Most of the other people staying there were students like me, so I made some great connections. The hostel wasn’t fancy, and I shared a room with three other girls, but the property was clean, and I felt completely safe during my stay. What else can you ask?
You want to stick within your budget, but there is nothing more important than your safety. That’s why thorough research is vital. Thanks to the power of the Internet, finding safe hostels is easier than ever. You don’t have to plan your entire trip in advance, but take the time to check ratings and reviews of hostels before you book your stay. You certainly can’t trust every word that you read online, but steer clear of properties where a majority of reviewers have significant complaints. Read between the lines, common sense comes in handy here.
I’m not an expert in European travel, but I’m happy to share my experiences so that I can help others. Once I convince them that European travel just might be within their reach, my friends have a ton of other questions. They want to know what to do, what to eat, where to stay and what they should avoid.
In my opinion, one of the best things about traveling to a new area is tasting new food! When I visit a new place, I want to try local foods, especially things that I’ve never been able to try before.
In many European cities, fast food chains are present. Sure, I might be able to save a few dollars by getting a burger at McDonald’s for lunch, but I’d much rather enjoy the local flavor! You don’t have to eat only fast food during your trip to stick with your budget. In fact, I found plenty of delicious options that actually cost less than a normal fast food trip.
In order to get the most for your dining dollars, you need to determine your priorities. Do you love eating a big breakfast in the mornings? Would you rather save your money and deserve a sweet, late night snack? When you determine what’s most important to you, you can spend your money wisely.
Next, take advantage of local favorites! During my stay in London, I ate fish and chips almost every day for lunch from a cheap local stand. When you stick with foods that are popular in an area, you’ll be able to find great prices.
It would take way too long to list every delicious new dish that I tried on my trip, but I found plenty of delicious, budget-friendly options. While I was in Paris, I found that fresh bread accompanied by a wedge of cheese made the perfect breakfast. In Athens, this tiny souvalki stand was the perfect place to find a quick, fresh meal. My favorite was the lamb souvalki accompanied by plenty of fresh, local vegetables.
Of course, I didn’t love everything that I tried in Europe. In Germany, for example, I tried Blutwurst, or blood sausage, and I was not a fan! I met the sweetest family in Sweden who invited me to their home for a traditional meal. While most of the food items were delicious, I couldn’t stand the smell, much less the taste, of the fermented herring that was placed in front of me. I choked down a few bites so I wouldn’t insult my hosts, but I’ll be happy to go my whole life without tasting that again!
I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on extra activities during my trip, but that didn’t stop me from seeing some of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever visited in my life. Many of my favorite afternoons were spent exploring local parks, gardens and other outdoor areas, and many of these places have no admission fees. I would pick up a quick sandwich, grab my backpack and spend several hours exploring, picnicking and snapping photos.
In general, you’ll be able to save a lot of money by staying on foot during your trip. That’s one of the best things about backpacking, because you already have everything that you need with you! Sure, it took longer to walk from Point A to Point B instead of taking a bus or taxi, but it’s a great way to experience the local culture while you save your money for something more important.
My backpacking trip through Europe was more than just a vacation. It was a time that I was able to really find myself and figure out what is most important to me. That’s why I think that everyone should experience international travel at least once. When you get out of your comfort zone and comfortable environment, you’ll be able to discover new things about yourself and learn more about this huge world that we are all a part of.
Author Bio: Natalya Pobedova is a travelling nomad and backpacker from beautiful Brno Czech Republic. She is 27 and makes a living as a freelance web developer to support her traveling needs. She also runs a budget flight search website for backpackers as a hobby: http://www.travelsiders.com/. She dreams of visiting Brazil and speaks Portuguese fluently. She visited 14 countries already and most of them are in Europe.