“Europe is, perhaps, the least worn-out of the continents because it is the most lived in. A place that is lived in lives.”
Europe has always had an appeal to it. Something difficult to describe, but every person feels. You mention the word, and people’s hearts flutter with excitement.
Like a popular news website, though, it seems hidden behind a paywall. It feels like you must empty your savings simply to get a taste.
I’m here to tell you that’s a lie.
You can travel Europe on the cheap; you just have to know where to look.
Budget traveling can mean various things, and it’ll be different for each person.
Some people think budget travel means $100+ hotels and meals cheaper than in their home country.
And that’s fine.
Everyone is free to travel how they want, and there’s no right way to travel.
For this post, I will focus on budget traveling, meaning accommodation is around $50 or below and meals don’t exceed $15-$20.
In short, budget travel is a type of travel focused on keeping costs low.
These travelers seek the cheapest flights, the lowest cost accommodations, cheap food, and free or low-cost activities.
So, if you’re a budget traveler hoping to travel Europe on the cheap, read on.
7 Cheap European Cities to Fly Into
Barcelona may be one of the busiest airports in Europe, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the price of flights.
A growing number of budget airlines have made Barcelona a hub because of its lowered landing fees and taxes. This combination makes it an attractive option for budget airlines and passengers alike.
Even better, you can reach most other European cities for less than $100 roundtrip.
Dublin is another hub for low-cost airlines, and that makes it attractive for travelers around the world.
Plus, like Barcelona, it’s cheap to fly to other European countries. Like a club, once you’re in, you’re free to hop around and enjoy the full experience of Europe.
Look for flights with Ryanair for cheap flights out of Ireland. Or, enjoy the quaint churches and endless Guinness on tap.
Spain is a cheap gateway to Europe if you can’t tell by the two Spanish hubs on this list.
Like Barcelona, the most popular cities in Europe can be reached for less than $100 roundtrip, and quite often even less than $80 roundtrip.
Frequent deals to the Spanish capital make it an attractive option for budget travelers worldwide.
The French capital is a central hub of air activity. It’s the second-busiest airport in Europe and the ninth-busiest in the entire world.
As such, it has frequent routes from most cities worldwide, especially the United States.
Keep an eye out for frequent deals in and out of Paris.
Budapest. Rome. Amsterdam. All are cheap options from the City of Light.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Increasing in air traffic, we arrive at Amsterdam. This beautiful city in The Netherlands is the world’s third-busiest airport.
If you’re traveling from the United States, Amsterdam is often one of the cheaper and more frequent options; sporting 19 direct flights.
But it’s not just cheap flights from Amsterdam; they also have a robust rail system that services Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and Germany.
Lisbon has become one of the top cities to fly into or transit through in Europe.
Competing airlines have dropped prices and made this a cheap option. You can catch direct flights from Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, and many others.
Plus, with a shorter flight time compared to other European countries, Lisbon is a very attractive option.
The Eternal City serves as an excellent gateway into Europe. From there, Europe is your oyster (if you’re into seafood).
Eastern Europe, Western Europe, it doesn’t matter. You can find cheap flights to most major European cities — usually under $100.
Plus, with 10 US cities having direct flights, this is an easy option to get your fix of Europe.
10 Cheap Countries to Visit in Europe
It’s hard to beat the prices you find in Romania. Cheap food, cheap accommodation, and cheap travel make this a top destination for budget travelers.
Romania is perfect for you if you’re an outdoors/culture person. Castles, old towns, and beautiful scenery dot Romania. And most of it is free.
Plus, if you’re a Dracula fan, you can visit Transylvania, where the fictional character resided. Or, if you’re more of a beach person, head to the Black Sea, where you’ll find resort towns along the coast.
Bulgaria remains hidden off the tourist map — for now. So, it remains pretty cheap to travel through.
Food and accommodation prices are a fraction of what you’ll find in Western Europe, and you get the same bang for your buck.
For activities, you won’t be short on options.
The Central Balkan National Park is a top spot for hikers who go there to enjoy the stunning scenery. The hiking trails are extensive and provide plenty of free activities.
And, in the countryside, you find castles, small villages, and more to get away from the cities and into the local culture. Plus, Bulgaria is home to over 40,000 archaeological and historical sites.
Bulgaria is a top spot for anyone looking to travel Europe on the cheap.
The Balkan region remains underrated for travel, and Albania is no different.
Historical remnants such as bunkers, museums, and squares fill the country, giving you cheap activities while also helping you learn about the people and place.
And, if you want to dip your feet into clear waters, head to the Albanian Riviera in the south. Saranda. Ksamil. Dhermi. All these small seaside towns provide stunning beach options. And you can save a ton of money if you avoid peak tourist season.
Plus, you have the Greek island of Corfu right off the coast which makes for a great day trip.
If you’re a hiker, head north to the Accursed Mountains. While they sound intimidating, the views are anything but that. Forming part of the Albanian Alps, you’ll have endless hiking options here.
And regardless of where you go in Albania, you’ll find affordable restaurants that provide mesmerizing cuisine. Or, get yourself an espresso and watch the locals go by. You won’t be alone, as Albanians prefer this activity.
Now it’s time to head to Western Europe, and Portugal tops the list of places to travel in Europe on the cheap.
Like the other countries on this list, it’s affordable due to the number of free activities to do. Beaches, hiking volcanoes and visiting castles all keep money in your pocket.
The Faro District is a top choice for beach-goers with its incredible beaches and vistas. And the small towns outside Lisbon appeal to the history/culture fans with their architecture.
The difference between Portugal and the Balkan countries listed above is the cost of food and accommodation. There’s no escaping it in Western Europe.
But, if you time it right and go outside the peak season, you can save money while enjoying the nice weather.
Timing is everything.
Slovenia often goes unnoticed due to its more popular (and expensive) neighbors — Italy, Austria, and Hungary.
But, you shouldn’t overlook Slovenia. It has a wealth of outdoor activities and beaches to keep you occupied for a low price, as long as you avoid the peak seasons.
Most known for Lake Bled — a stunning lake in the center of the country — Slovenia’s lesser-known regions often go overlooked.
Medieval towns and villages, as well as an outstanding Triglav National Park, should top your list of free things to do to help you travel Europe on the cheap.
Although it’s one of the more expensive countries in Eastern Europe, Hungary is an excellent option for budget travelers.
Hungary offers accommodation, food, and activities much cheaper than its Western European counterparts.
While the capital Budapest is slightly more expensive, venturing outside the city, you’ll see prices drop. Castles and natural scenery fill the country, offering plenty to do at a low cost.
Lake Balaton is another excellent option if you’re looking for beaches and remarkable scenery. Take a dip or sail around it to enjoy this massive body of water.
Last, thermal spas are a staple of Hungary, so be sure to visit for a relaxing afternoon/evening.
Most people have a dark memory of Bosnia, especially if you lived through the 90s. But, it’s made significant progress in recovering from wartime and becoming a top destination to travel Europe on the cheap.
Prices for meals are excellent — usually around $7-$10 — and the accommodation follows suit.
Sarajevo, the capital, is considered one of the most underrated capitals in Europe. Given its history with the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, the architecture blends seamlessly to glimpse the past.
Furthermore, don’t miss out on the town of Mostar, which has one of the most famous Ottoman-style bridges in Europe. If you go at the right time of year, you can witness people jumping off it into the calm waters of the Neretva River.
Compared to its more expensive neighbor Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina is a steal in price and value.
Who doesn’t know Italy? It’s beautiful architecture, delicious food, fascinating history, and…low prices?
That’s right. Compared to its surrounding Western European neighbors, Italy is one of the best values you can find.
While everyone thinks of Rome, Milan, Florence, and Venice, the actual budget comes when you head to its southern areas. Because of the draw of the north, most visitors miss out on this region and thus miss out on its fantastic prices.
But, just because it goes unnoticed doesn’t mean it’s lacking in activities. Beautiful beaches and quaint towns fill the region and offer plenty of activities to fill up a week or more.
If you’re searching for a specific place, check out the Puglia region during the off-season. You can snag cheap accommodation while enjoying everything Italy offers — especially the food.
While you may not spend an entire week here, Montenegro offers plenty for a few days’ trip. It’s small in size but big in value.
You can’t miss out on Kotor and its beautiful blue waters. Start by visiting its Old Town and walking its narrow streets before hiking to Kotor Fortress for an aerial view of the city.
Afterward, head to the shores to relax on the beach, take a boat trip or go paddleboarding.
Or, if you’re more into nightlife, head to Budva to party the night away with the locals.
Though it’s tiny, Montenegro has a bit of everything. And, it’s a perfect example of how to travel Europe on the cheap. Meals only cost around $6-$12, and accommodation can be found for around $30 a night.
Budget travelers rejoice!
Poland is another country that gets overlooked for its more famous neighbors. But that’s a bonus if you’re a budget traveler, as this makes prices much cheaper.
Plus, with beautiful national parks to hike through, old castles to explore, and local markets to sample, you can’t go wrong with the activities while staying on the cheaper side.
Warsaw and Kraków get most of the visitors (for a good reason) but venture outside these, and you’ll ditch the crowds and higher prices. Gdańsk, Poznan, and Lublin are great options.
You can find rooms for around $15 a night or larger apartments for a little more.
Plus, the food is filling and delicious. If you play it right, you can find cheap meals on the street, as long as you avoid the larger (and more crowded) than regular restaurants.
Cheapest Way to Travel Europe
Search Budget Airlines
It’s strange to see budget airlines as a way to travel cheap in Europe (especially if you’re from America), but flights can be dirt cheap.
Don’t believe me? I booked a flight from Italy to France for $25.
So, if you’re pressed for time, search for flights and deals. It’s not uncommon to find flights between $40-$70 between the major cities in Europe.
Some top options are:
- Wizz Air
- Norwegian Air
- Aer Lingus
- Pegasus Airlines
Take a Bus
If time isn’t an issue, buses are frequent inside and across borders for a low price.
Plus, you slowly watch the lesser-seen parts of a country roll by as you make your way.
While the trips are longer, the savings could be massive, especially if you’re traveling during peak season.
Some options for buses include:
- Lux Express
Take a Train
Train is a preferred travel method for Europeans. And, with their extensive railway lines, you can understand why.
People often view train travel as a thing of the past, but it’s still very much alive in Europe and is an excellent way to travel Europe on the cheap if you plan it right.
Take a look at these options to save some cash on train travel:
- Deutsch Bahn
While some of these companies only service within specific countries, they’re excellent options to get around the country for a low cost.
The other option is to check out Eurail and get a pass, which allows you to hop on and hop off between countries.
Rent a Car
This will be the most expensive option, depending on gas prices and season.
But, if you look to travel outside the peak season, rental rates drop considerably. They offer an easy way to get around Europe at your pace.
Rates vary depending on the country, but I’ve seen rates as low as $15/day. Check with the local rental companies (and verify you can take the car across borders) to get the best rates.
Another option is BlaBlaCar. This service is a carpool-like option to join travelers traveling to the same place.
A unique way to connect with others and snag cheap travel between destinations.
Traveling in Europe can be costly, especially if you travel at peak travel times.
But, you can easily travel Europe on the cheap if you pick your destinations and time it right.
Using the tips and destinations in this post, you can get a full taste of Europe while keeping money in your wallet. And more money in your wallet means more extended travel!
So, what are you waiting for? Start searching for those cheap flights and get to Europe. But, you’ll want to learn how to fold your clothes properly to save space for your trip!