1. Be prepared
It’s not the scouts’ motto for nothing! Planning before your trip can help to make sure everything runs smoothly, including your finances. Work out your daily budget and stick to it. Research your destination and any special free events that might dictate when you decide to go. For example, during La Nuit des Musées in Paris (held one night every May), many of the city's top museums open their doors completely free of charge. Before you set off, download any useful apps onto your phone that will help you navigate places, book hotels, search for deals and so on. The more you prepare, the less likely you will get caught out by unexpected costs.
2. Visit in low season
There are actually many benefits to travelling in low season. If you’re looking to find cheaper accommodation, then you’ll discover significantly reduced prices as soon as you move away from the high season. Forget August. If your holiday schedule allows for it, consider exploring the rugged Italian coastline in October or the rustic French countryside in March. Not only will you avoid the crowds, but often destinations take on a different charm of their own in a different season. Your budget will often go twice as far in low season, and as an added bonus, that spot of beach you might normally have to fight for or that restaurant table you can’t seem to get for love nor money, are suddenly freed up.
3. Book early
When it comes to making travel plans, often the early bird catches the worm. Certain hotels or package holidays reward early bookers with a discount. Whilst it’s true that you can find late deal holidays, when booking train tickets, the sooner, the better. When searching for tickets, prices usually increase as availability goes down. With tickets going on sale up to 12 weeks before, passengers who book trains in advance with us can see significant savings. Just a few clicks could lead to great deals such as London to Paris from as little as 26 euros, Paris to Amsterdam from 20 euros or maybe Amsterdam to Berlin from 32 euros. With prices like these, making your way across the continent by train can be a very cost-effective way to cover ground!
4. Eat like a local
Whilst some people love nothing more than taking their taste buds on an adventure, a lot of us are creatures of habit and feel happier sticking to what we know. Yet if you are prepared to venture out of your comfort zone, the rewards can be beneficial for both belly and wallet! Whether it’s tapas from a rustic Spanish tavern, delicious carbonara at an Italian trattoria or perhaps the escargot in that petit Parisian bistro, local flavours and specialities are often cheaper and help you gain a more authentic experience, too. Especially when travelling in a developed continent like Europe, the street food scene is a quick, cheap and tasty way to grab a bite to eat without the expense of a restaurant.
5. Help exchange
You can combine your travel adventures and gain even more memorable experiences along the way by helping in exchange for accommodation and sometimes even food. Whether it’s volunteering for a charity, picking fruit on a farm or staying with a family just to help out around the house, there are endless opportunities across Europe on various websites specifically set up to place volunteers with people looking for help. In return for working a few hours a day, you get a free place to stay and the chance to see the destination more like a local.
6. Go to the tourist information
The tourist information offers far more than just directions when you are lost! With everything online at our fingertips, it can be easy to overlook the local experts. When you arrive, make the tourist information your first port of call, as they can quickly point you in the right direction of the best deals and ideal places for your budget. They can tell you if a certain type of travel card will save you money or about a free event, museum, music concert that may have otherwise completely passed you by.
7. Take the night train
Taking the night train can be a great way to save. Not only does travelling during off-peak times usually mean cheaper ticket prices but sleeping on the train in between destinations saves money on accommodation at the same time. You will find lots of sleeper trains running between Europe’s main cities that are more comfortable than you may first imagine. Whether you opt for a more basic reclining seat or a private sleeping cabin, there is something for all budgets. You can even buy breakfast on the train for just a few euros!
8. Be mobile phone savvy
Depending on where you are travelling to, data roaming charges on your mobile phone can still be extortionate. Yet in our internet reliant society doing without it seems daunting! Find out before you leave if you will incur extra charges for using your phone abroad, and how much. You can often buy a data only Sim card in many countries. It’s then easier to make phone calls or send messages to friends and family using free services that use data, like FaceTime (on Apple phones), Whatsapp, Viber or Skype.
9. Avoid big currency withdrawal fees
Sadly, it seems almost impossible to completely avoid charges when taking out your money abroad. There are some steps to significantly reduce it though, some of which are simple and some require more effort. Know before you go how much your bank will charge. If you have more than one account, withdraw from the lowest fee-charging account. Certain banks, such as Metro bank in the UK, don’t charge for European withdrawals. If you are taking an extended trip, it’s possibly worth opening an account that offers low-fees. To make sure you are getting the best exchange rates, avoid changing money at airports or more obscure locations such as hotels, hostels and convenience stores. Lastly, when the ATM asks if you would like to be charged in your home currency, always opt for the local currency, as the ATM will offer a far worse conversion rate!
10. Avoid the tourist traps
Whilst you may want to see certain famous sights or monuments within a country, don’t forget that the hidden gems of a destination are often cheaper and more authentic. Avoid eating at restaurants that are on the main street or close to the most popular attractions. When looking for accommodation, opt to stay a little further out of the centre. Don’t be afraid to try the local restaurants that don’t have the menu in English. These are less likely to be touristy, and a little effort can be rewarded with better value food and more genuine encounters to add to your travel memoirs!
Wherever you take your next adventure in Europe, travel by train can offer cheap and convenient solutions to getting around. Check out more at our dedicated page Trains in Europe.