How To Travel On A Budget While Experiencing A Country’s Culture

By: Tom Malone

Traveling can be expensive. Add the restaurants, drinks, airfare, taxis, tourist attractions, and hotels and you're left with one huge bill. The shock of a surprisingly high bill and an empty wallet can alter travel plans. Here are some money-saving tips to avoid that stress when traveling on the "college student" budget:

1. Food
  • Cheap street food can oftentimes give a better representation of a country's culinary culture than a fancy restaurant can.
  • Bread, meat and cheese don't cost much and are easy to find.
  • Restaurants in major tourist areas will be significantly more expensive. Some may charge extra for pre-meal bread and water.
  • Some cultures don't expect tips (like Spain), so be aware.
  • Europe provides two types of water: carbonated or non-carbonated. Specify when ordering.
  • Take advantage of free hotel food.

2. Drinks
  • In some areas, wine/beer can be cheaper than water.
  • Always carry a sturdy water bottle (metal is ideal). Most tourist attractions feature water fountains and bathroom sinks. Avoid buying in-store water bottles and save about five euros per day.
  • When in doubt, ask for the most popular drink.

3. Travel
  • Travel with only a carry-on whenever possible to open cheaper travel options.
  • Easy Jet and Ryan Air feature ridiculously low-priced flights through Europe when traveling with a carry-on.
  • Investigate the Eurail Pass options. Compare projected train use with price per train ticket.
  • Metro passes in large cities save money
  • Avoid taxis unless traveling with a group that can fill the car. A taxi split 4/5 ways can be cost effective.

4. Tourist Attractions
  • Don't pay for a tour guide. Walk near the sea of loud tour groups and glean information.
  • Many sites suggest a payment or donation upon entry, but don't require payment. Look carefully.
  • Save time and money by booking online tickets in advance. Ex: Avoid the 3-hour Vatican Museum line with advanced ticket purchase.
  • Arrive to major attractions early to avoid giant lines. Save minor attractions for later in the day.
  • Never pay to ride an elevator if stairs are available.

5. Hotels
  • Stay in a hostel! European hostels radiate comfort and trendiness and feature every common amenity needed. Databases like Hostel World compare rates and ratings with a reservation feature.
  • Some hostels don't provide sheets. Ask first.
  • Stay in a large hostel room with random people. This saves money and presents the potential to meet cool people.
  • Most hostel rooms have lockers, so buy a sturdy, inexpensive padlock to ease any worry of theft.

*Photo By: Tom Malone
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