It’s always time for a European adventure.
After all, the fascinating blend of epic history, raw nature, delightful cuisine, inspiring arts and architecture, and sheer entertainment make the continent the most unforgettable of stops.
Just think of all the things you could do in Europe:
- Hike in the Geirangerfjord area in Norway, and get lost in all that beauty.
- Search for hidden gems in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey.
- Go sailing and see dolphins off the coast of Ischia, Italy.
- Wander around the Acropolis of Athens in Greece.
- Let loose at the clubs in Berlin, Germany.
Obviously, we could continue that list for a while. Europe has so much to do and see.
Now, if funding your European vacation presents a problem, fear no more! We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of advice and strategies for cheap travel to Europe when you’re on a budget.
Read on—and make an affordable vacation to Europe possible today!
12 Ways to Travel to Europe for Cheap
Transportation, lodging, food, and sightseeing can get expensive in Europe. And your budget can slip down to zero in no time.
That may leave you wondering: Is cheap travel to Europe even possible?
Yes! It is.
You just have to employ some cost-saving strategies. Luckily, lots of options exist.
For instance, those traveling Europe on a budget could volunteer. Not only does volunteering in Europe offer you a way to give back, but also most organizations include accommodation and meals with the program fee. That eliminates a big expense.
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ), a top-rated volunteer abroad organization that’s been around since 2007, has a variety of high-quality service opportunities in Europe, including in exciting destinations like Chios, Greece and Naples, Italy. Fees begin as low as $330 for one week (Romania programs) and you don’t have to pay for a hotel or food.
Ready for more tips on how you can enjoy cheap travel to Europe? From finding low-priced flights to teach abroad positions, we’ll cover it all here.
So, look over our tips! Learn how to do a Euro trip like royalty—even if you’re on a shoestring budget.
1. Look for cheap flights to Europe
Snagging a cheap plane ticket to Europe requires planning and flexibility. Here’s what you need to do:
- Go during the right time: According to FareCompare.com, the cheapest time to fly to Europe is during winter and then fall (followed by spring and then summer). Even the day of the week matters. Budget Travel notes tickets prices for Europe dip on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
- Book well in advance: According to Kayak’s 2019 Travel Hacker Guide, you can get the cheapest flight to Europe about six months before departure. While it may not be possible to book that early, booking as soon as possible definitely saves you money. USA Today also recommends use flight price prediction tools to see if now is the best time to book.
- Choose the right airline: Some airlines have better deals than others. Definitely check these two airlines individually:
- Norwegian Airlines: A top budget carrier on the continent, Norwegian provides travelers a great low-fare calendar and the opportunity to get alerts on good deals. In 2019, we found one-way flights from San Francisco to Barcelona for just $169.90.
- XL Airways France: If you want to begin your Euro trip in France, this airline may be your best option. In 2019, we found round-trip flights from New York to Paris for just $355. Check here for promotional deals.
Of course, shopping skills come in handy when looking for flight deals to Europe. If you want cheap travel to Europe, actively hunt for the best flights. In addition to employing the strategies above, compare prices across Google Flights, Skyscanner, Kayak, and other platforms. By searching on multiple platforms and with numerous airlines, you can ensure you get the best price.
2. Take the bus around Europe
Sure, a bus won’t offer the ultimate luxury. But bus travel around Europe most often has the lowest price tags.
Some good bus services for traveling in Europe on a budget include:
- Megabus: Great for transportation around the United Kingdom, Megabus fares rarely exceed £20 within the UK. For example, finding a ticket from London to Bristol for around £5 is entirely feasible.
- Flixbus: Megabus becomes Flixbus in continental Europe, covering more than 20 countries and 2,000 destinations. Convenient for country-hopping, Flixbus fares average around €20 for a 5-6 hour journey. You can even book shorter trips, like from Paris to Brussels, for under €10. Buses have WiFi, electrical outlets, and cozy seating (hooray!).
- Note: Flixbus has a pass called Interflix, which gives you five bus trips for €99.
- Busabout: Opt for the hop-on/hop-off experience if traveling from May through October. This allows you to travel Busabout’s whole network without having to worry about booking separate tickets. An unlimited pass for 2019 costs just $1,189, and you can create shorter trips at lower prices (a 1-week pass is $229). That means you can travel to and from all sorts of cities, like Budapest, Split, Venice, and Munich, as you please. When you break costs down into individual trips, you’ll see you get a lot of bang for your Euro.
3. Get around Europe by budget airlines
Budget airlines can cut travel costs to Europe, as well as get you around the continent quickly and affordably. Sometimes plane tickets within Europe have even lower prices than bus or train tickets!
Here are some samples of what you could get with various airlines in 2019:
- A flight from Dublin, Ireland to Lisbon, Portugal for $26.01 through Ryanair (see special deals here)
- A flight from Rijeka, Croatia to Hanover, Germany for €19.99 through Eurowings
Note: With budget airlines, pay attention to added fees. You may end up paying a decent amount more than the ticket price for luggage, a meal, and other amenities. Calculate how much you’ll spend on fees, and weigh that into consideration when deciding the best way to get from one city to another.
4. Go with budget accommodation in Europe
Along with transportation, lodging will eat into your budget the most. If you want cheap travel to Europe, save money by staying in a guesthouse. Don’t worry—the more affordable hostels still provide comfort.
The average price of a hotel in Europe varies across countries and cities. Expect to fork out between $75-$150 per night for a mid-range hotel, according to Skyscanner data for 2019. Opt for a hostel, and you’ll pay between $15-$35 per night.
Calculate that over the course of a 14-day or month-long adventure. You’ll save at least hundreds of dollars, if not more than $1,000.
Note you also have a way to pay nearly nothing on lodging. Simply apply for the hostel internship in Barcelona with GoEco. Through this internship, you’ll work at a hostel for six weeks or longer (up to 12). You pay just $350 for the whole period, with lodging and breakfast covered each day. How awesome is that?
The GoEco program also enables you to gain experience in hospitality. GoEco, a top ecotourism company, placed more than 15,000 volunteers in programs in their first 12 years. They ensure projects offer the chance for growth and development.
5. Travel to Europe during the off-season
Going during peak travel times, like late spring, can increase your expenses greatly.
For truly cheap travel to Europe, plan your trip for between November and March. USA Today reports late fall and winter as the least expensive time to vacation in Europe (we mentioned this in tip #1 for flights).
If potentially cold weather doesn’t seem inviting, try shoulder season (October and April). It will be a bit warmer. And you can still save hundreds or maybe thousands altogether on transportation and lodging.
6. Teach English in Europe
Want to help others build language skills as you travel?
Then teach English in Europe!
You can find paid English teaching positions in countries like Belgium, Slovakia, and Turkey. Just remember: Most jobs entail year-long contracts, as the International TEFL Academy notes.
Another organization to look at is International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ), as they have lots of affordable English teaching programs.
For instance, you can sign up to teach English in Naples, Italy with IVHQ. Help disadvantaged children improve their English as you explore one of Italy’s most gorgeous and historic cities. Fees begin at just $685 for two weeks (meals and lodging provided).
7. Intern abroad in Europe
Want to gain valuable international work experience while living in Europe on a budget?
Then consider an intern abroad program.
Regardless of whether you wish to travel to Italy or Ireland, you can find a good internship. You’ll boost your resume and reduce travel expenses. Most intern abroad positions in Europe have a program fee that includes lodging, meals, and even sightseeing. That means less money out of your wallet!
Intern Abroad HQ, a leading international internships provider, has lots of programs across a variety of industries and destinations. Intern in Valencia, Spain in areas like engineering, finance, and marketing (from $1,540 for two weeks). Or, do a professional internship in Samos, Greece in a field such as marine conservation and environmental law (from $1,125 for four weeks).
Past interns have terrific things to say about Intern Abroad HQ, like Stephen:
“You can tell they’ve been doing this a long time and companies like this help take the stress out of finding the right internship for you.”
8. Volunteer with children in Europe
Do you want to make a positive impact on the places you visit?
Then volunteer with children in Europe!
For volunteer programs with children, check Love Volunteers, an organization known for their transparency, affordability, and commitment to creating sustainable change.
Through Love Volunteers, you can volunteer in childcare in destinations like Cerrik, Albania (from only $339 for three weeks) and Cherkasy, Ukraine (from only $285 for one week). Not only are such programs super affordable, but you can also improve the future prospects of the region’s most marginalized youth. The work you do can change lives, including your own.
Also, these destinations offered by Love Volunteers may not garner as much attention as Rome or Amsterdam, but both Cerrik and Cherkasy feature natural beauty and wonderful culture. Volunteering in either city makes a unique (and inexpensive) European vacation destination.
As Karine, a volunteer in the Ukraine childcare program, attests:
“Altogether it was a truly touching experience and I plan on keeping in touch, sending toys, crafts, and pictures during the year!”
9. Join an environmental volunteer program in Europe
Coming to enjoy the natural spots?
Then volunteer in an environmental program in Europe.
For an unforgettable wilderness adventure, sign up for the Scotland Highland conservation program. Fronteering, an organization that provides volunteers with raw experiences in unspoiled locations, hosts the program and it costs just $1,495 for eight weeks. You can journey through the spectacular Scottish Highlands on a budget!
10. Study a European language
Did you know the European Union has 24 official languages?
The continent also has more than 60 indigenous and minority languages, along with languages spoken by migrant communities. The continent has a fascinating and rich linguistic diversity.
As a way to get cheap travel to Europe, take a language class. It’s a great way to meet new people, explore local culture, and learn a valuable skill.
For example, Frontier, a volunteer and travel abroad organization that began in 1989, has long been running an Italian language school in Bologna, Italy. Learn about the Italian lifestyle and culture through immersive language classes—and taste the true spaghetti Bolognese! The fees, which begin at $745 for one week, include a homestay with a local family and breakfast.
11. Use credit card travel rewards
If you want to travel to Europe on a budget, you can’t overlook the potential to get free flights and accommodation with points and miles. Even if you don’t fly or stay at a hotel often, you have methods to accumulate miles and points, especially if you have good enough credit.
Many credit card providers have lucrative sign-up bonuses that can earn you a free round-trip flight to Europe (or at least one way). That can cut down your overall cost by more than $1,000. To obtain those points, you have to meet the initial spending requirements.
To know which cards may suit you, research blogs like The Points Guy, NerdWallet, and Million Mile Secrets. They’ll show you the best and most recent offers, as well as provide info on maximizing travel with credit card travel rewards.
Just remember: Use a credit card with caution. Spend within your means.
12. Visit affordable cities in Europe
If you want cheap travel to Europe, you probably should choose some affordable destinations. This way, you can stretch your Euro further.
So, which cities make for a great (yet inexpensive) destination?
The Independent has done a lot of research, analyzing the price of food, accommodation, transportation, and more. They’ve found some of these cities to offer the best travel value:
- Krakow, Poland: See the well-preserved Medieval core of this historic city. The average cost of a two-day trip is $214.
- Vilnius, Lithuania: Explore trendy bars, the large medieval Old Town, castles, and more. The average cost of a two-day trip is $215.
- Riga, Latvia: Make your way to Latvia’s gorgeous capital and soak in views of the Baltic Sea. The average cost of a two-day trip is $224.
In addition to these, choose among numerous other cities that won’t run you much more than $100-$125 per day total, like:
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Tallinn, Estonia
- Valletta, Malta
- Dubrovnik, Croatia
- Nice, France
Bonus! More Tips for Visiting Europe on a Budget
When it comes to cheap travel to Europe when you’re on a budget, options for saving cash abound. We’ve listed the top tips above. To give you even more ideas, we’ll summarize other cost-saving strategies by category.
Common ways to save on your Euro trip include:
- Train: The train isn’t necessarily the cheapest form of transportation in Europe, but sitting and watching the stunning landscape makes for a memorable experience. By booking in advance, you can get a cheap ticket. Also, consider the Eurail Pass, which allows you to ride across Europe as you wish within a certain timeframe. For local deals, check regional operators, such as Deutsche Bahn in Germany.
- Carpooling: The go-to platform is BlaBlaCar. This app lets you snag a seat in a car and make new friends during your journey. Deals as low as €5 can be found.
- Rental car: A rental car offers privacy and convenience, and may save you money if you’re heading to remote destinations.
In addition to looking for cheap hostels and guesthouses on sites like HostelWorld, Airbnb, and Booking.com, think about alternative accommodation.
If you’re between cities or enjoying the wilderness, camp (if the weather permits). As a StudentUniverse article states, “With gorgeous campgrounds scattered all across the continent, camping is the travel method of choice” for frugal travelers.
If you want to meet locals and sleep inside for free, try couchsurfing. It will save you lots of money, and you may even learn about hidden gems in the places you visit.
Sightseeing and Activities
Many European countries provide visitors with free tourism activities.
In Stockholm, Sweden, you can take a free guided walking tour of the city. In Edinburgh, Scotland, the National Museum doesn’t charge for entry. And most of the great parks and gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark can be enjoyed at no cost.
No matter where you plan to travel in Europe, research free things to do. Some of the sites you most want to see may cost you nothing.
Volunteering and Work
You have plenty of choices here. Some opportunities may even pay you (how incredible would that be?).
Like wine? You could work at a vineyard in Champagne, France, and get meals, accommodation, and wine for your labor.
Or, if you want to learn about farm-to-table operations, volunteer for sustainable farming in Cork, Ireland. Held by GoEco, this program costs $1,480 for three weeks (lodging and all meals included!).
Scholarships and Grants
Did you know there are lots of travel scholarships and grants?
No matter what you plan to do in Europe, you can find funding. Just use your resources and take time to fill out applications.
If you want to study abroad in Europe, apply for a scholarship like the Tortuga Backpacks Study Abroad Scholarship. You could get $1,000 (and a travel backpack!).
Or, if you want to volunteer abroad in Europe, check out Abroadly, a one-stop-shop for volunteer abroad experiences. When you apply to a program on Abroadly’s platform, you’ll automatically be entered for a chance to win a $500 scholarship. Plus, you’ll get access to Volunteer Forever’s crowdfunding platform.
For a full list of scholarships and grants, see our guide:
Cheap Travel to Europe: Final Advice
Europe can get expensive. But the right strategy makes cheap travel to Europe when you’re on a budget very possible.
Overall, the best strategy is to mix and match all these tips we’ve covered. They’re not mutually exclusive. Consider what you want to do, how much you can spend, and what your travel preferences are. And you’ll save money and have the time of your life.
So, why wait? Get started on your ultimate European adventure today.
For some inspiration on what to do, read our other articles on Europe:
Volunteer, Teach and Intern in Europe
Nick Callos · Writer
With a BA in English Literature & Writing from Boston College, Nick researches and writes about volunteer, intern, and teach abroad programs worldwide. He has studied abroad and taught English in Chengdu, China, and aims to help fellow travelers make a lasting impact on the communities they visit.