How to Travel Europe Like a Pro
posted by Erin Jacobsen
Since I’ve never been to Europe before, and didn't know when I would return, I knew I wanted to travel as strategically as possible. Throughout my semester studying abroad in France, I’ve traveled to ten countries. With my travel experience, I thought I would share some of my tips for traveling on a student budget.
1. Learn language basics
Hello, thank you, excuse me, bathroom etc. in the language of the country you are visiting. The people around you will appreciate your effort and will often make for a better experience with the locals.
2. Eating and shopping local
Buying food items at grocery stores when you travel will save you a lot of money compared to eating out for every meal. It’s interesting to see how different countries organize their stores, see the variety of brands, and shop with the locals who are just buying their daily items. I suggest planning a few traditional foods you want to try in restaurants for each country and then eat market items for the remainder of your meals.
3. Research where you are staying.
Find out what type of neighborhood your airbnb, hotel, or hostel is located and make sure that it is in a safe and convenient area for sightseeing. While it may be cheaper to stay farther out, you need to consider the cost and time to get to your desired destination. Research public transportation and how far your stay will be from the airport or bus station. Make sure to look at pictures and reviews when searching for a place to stay. Reading the fine print of check in and out times and procedures can help you avoid any unexpected fees. If you plan on staying in hostels, make the most of this community situation by talking to the other guests. This is one of the easiest ways to meet people who are there for the same reason as you - to have fun and be a tourist! Most hostels have a place to hangout/eat/drink, which gives you the best opportunity to meet other young travelers. You may end up spending your whole visit with them and even make long-term friendships.
4. Using budget airlines to travel
Budget-friendly sites that compare flight prices are helpful when trying to find the best price on flights and even hostels. Some days or times may be more expensive than others and advance purchases are usually cheaper - so try to plan your trips as smartly as possible. Also be sure to research where the airport is in relation to where you're staying. Departing from a closer airport will allow you to spend more time sightseeing, and less time and money on transportation. I often took the earliest flight possible to my destination and the latest flight back. This allowed me to get a full day of sightseeing in on my arrival day and saved on hotel costs.
5. Make an itinerary
Before traveling, create a list of all the places you want to see and activities you want to do. Plan the best routes to get to big destinations and consider how you will get from place to place. Mass transit is very good in Europe, but each city has its own ticket and payment system. Review the purchase options and routes online before you leave so you don’t waste time and money trying to figure it out on the spot. I also suggest looking up the taxi services because Uber is not legal in every country. Mapping out where you want to go will give you a better sense of the city and how much you can do on your trip.
Overall, prioritize what you want to do most and don't worry if you aren't able to fit in everything. In many countries Sundays are a lazy day for the locals, many local shops, restaurants, museums and even chain stores will be closed all day. Although you probably will have a lot to fit in on your trip, take time to walk around the city and explore new areas that you weren't planning on seeing. Instead of taking the subway to somewhere close, opt for going by foot so you get to see more of the city and pass more areas you may not have discovered even with the best planning.