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A European vacation and budget holiday don’t always figure in the same sentence. But if you have some basics covered, it’s not an impossible task. Here are some hacks that can help you travel this continent without breaking the bank.
1. How to save on food
The food and beverage bill is a necessary evil that is going to keep making that unwelcome dent in your holiday budget if you’re not too careful. Other than the regular tips like filling up water bottles from the kitchen, stashing snacks from 7/11 or convenience stores in your backpack, shopping for pre-made sandwiches, and making a picnic out of your lunch, here is how to work your way around effectively managing those hunger pangs and unquenchable thirst.
- If you find yourself in Italy craving a shot of joe, head to the nearest bar. Standing at the bar and getting your fix will cost you a fraction of the price as compared to sitting down at a table for the same.
- Another ‘at the bar’ tip! All across Europe, getting a meal at those sunny tables on the pavement outside the eatery is quite the budget breaker. Pay half – all you have to do is sit inside at the bar!
- It’s beer time and even if you’re guzzling it down in Ukraine, those pints are going to add up. To keep your high merry, consider figuring out where the locals go to chill, and get your cold ones during happy hours. You’ll also manage some interesting interactions. Win-win!
- If wine is your poison of choice, ditch those per glass places and head to where you can ask for a bottle instead. Stock up for your trip by paying a visit to the local supermarket.
2. How to save on travel
We all know about the budgetary benefits of using public transport instead of hopping onto a convenient cab. But it’s not only about using public transport, saving substantial money on travel also depends on HOW you use it. Read on.
- Save big on your UK travel budget by scouring the net before you leave for your trip. You will find pocket friendly options like Megabus, a low cost bus company that is making promotional offers; or National Express and their S$9 fares for certain routes. You should also know that booking National Express online is cheaper than booking the same trip over the phone by about S$2. Another London-specific option is the Oyster card. Also check out Eurostar’s all-new SNAP fares, which if booked 7 days in advance, save you a whole bunch of dollars. If you wish to head out of London to Paris, Eurolines takes you there for a very reasonable S$30. There are discount cards that you can look into, discounted rates for advance bookings, and rebate on budget accommodation with Eurolines partner companies. Just sorted out your UK trip, right?
- Walking is obviously the cheapest way to get yourself from one point to another. But when it is not an option, opt for public transport. Using public transport is not as easy as it sounds – you’ve got to do some research. Figure out your city’s options and buy 24 hour passes or passes for multiple days. You even get weekly passes in some European cities. Travelling by local and regional trains is extremely cheap in countries like Hungary and Poland.
- Where longer connections are concerned, book your train in advance – there are discounts to be enjoyed. Also, save double by booking a cheaper overnight train and sleep your way to the next destination. You just saved one night’s room rent as well! If you are in France, check out the Intercities Night Train network.
- Golden rule for travelling through Europe: Book your Eurail pass online way ahead of schedule.
- Ditch the flight for the train. Take for example, getting to Milan from Paris – there are a number of high speed trains connecting the two cities. Yes, it will take you something like 7 hours, but on the brighter side, it will be 7 hours of a comfortable train ride through the scenic French Alps!
3. How to save on sightseeing
Sightseeing can take you places – budget wise, especially. Put a cap on that expense by figuring out what deals your city of choice is offering. Let’s say you are a culture vulture and the museum run is a must. These tips should set your budget free!
- Any museum in Paris has free entry on the first Sunday of every month.
- In Berlin, free-entry days vary from museum to museum. The Museum of Contemporary Art, for example, is free from 4pm to 8pm on Thursdays.
- In Venice, some museums and galleries welcome art lovers for free in the evening on the last Tuesday of each month.
- In the UK, state run museums offer free entry for people of all ages. Yay!
- Meanwhile, in Italy, in state run museums like the Uffizi, entry is free for kids under 18.
- Thumb rule for all visits: If you are a student, you must carry your ISIC card with you. It will get you anywhere between 20% to 50% off on museum admissions as well as tourist attraction entries. Also, always enquire about special rates for students, seniors and groups at all tourist sites and museums – you never know what pops up to save you dollars!
4. Plan and save
All saving starts with planning – the more meticulous you are, the larger the stash you’ll save. So get on it months in advance, if that’s what works for you.
- Early birds catch the worm – and in your case, the cheapest flight fares. We all know that, but did you know that even some rail passes open bookings up to 6 months in advance? Research your way to cheap transit!
- Plan to see cities that are not in, let’s say, Switzerland or Germany. Head to Romania, Bosnia, or Portugal instead. If you insist on doing the France, Italy, UK circuit then visit in non-touristy season. Try visiting Rome in August; you’ll have the place to yourself with cheaper rates.
- Whenever you reach a new destination, head to the Tourist Information Centre first. Arm yourself with all the relevant information regarding city and travel passes, museum and sightseeing passes, free events, promotions, and discounts that you can get your hands on.
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