How to Travel Europe on the Cheap

10 Ways to Travel Europe on the Cheap

Written By: author image Kyle Cash
author image Kyle Cash
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.

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Discover the best and cheapest ways to travel Europe on the cheap! Explore ten affordable ways to get around, see Europe, and plan your cheap Europe trip.

“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 it. You mention the word, and people’s hearts flutter with excitement. But it seems hidden behind a paywall like a popular news website, like you must empty your savings simply to get a taste.

I’m here to tell you that’s a lie.

So, I’ve compiled 10 best travel tips to help you visit Europe on a budget.

Let’s dive into them.

1. Fly into cheap cities in Europe

Part of budget travel to Europe? Finding the best deal on your flight.

And while you don’t have complete control over prices, you can control where you start your trip to Europe. So if you can get the best deal to these destinations, you’ll save some serious cash.

Upgraded class on a budget airline

If you can book in advance, even better.

  1. Barcelona, Spain – Barcelona’s busy airport doesn’t affect fares. Reduced fees and taxes entice budget airlines, creating an affordable European gateway.
  2. Dublin, Ireland – A low-cost airline hub with easy access to Europe. Ryanair offers cheap Irish departures. Guinness awaits!
  3. Madrid, Spain – Cheap gateway to Europe with budget-friendly flights to famous cities like Barcelona and Madrid.
  4. Paris, France – Central hub, second busiest in Europe. Frequent routes worldwide, including the US. Look for Paris deals and explore affordable Budapest, Rome, and Amsterdam options!
  5. Amsterdam, The Netherlands – World’s third-busiest airport. Affordable and frequent flights from the US, with 19 direct routes. Explore Europe via its extensive rail network to neighboring countries.
  6. Lisbon, Portugal – Rising as a premier European city to fly into or transit. Affordable fares, direct flights from major US cities. Shorter flight time adds to its appeal.
  7. Rome, Italy – Gateway to Europe. Cheap flights to major cities, often under $100. Direct routes from 10 US cities for easy access to European adventures.

Find the cheapest flights to Europe, and you’re starting your trip off the right way.

2. Stay in cheap accommodation

Want to visit the most popular cities in Europe on the cheap?

Then finding budget accommodation is one of your first steps. And it’s one of the most difficult because it means you’ll be staring at a computer screen, dissecting tiny price differences for hours! If that sounds fun, I may hire you as my accommodation finder!

How do you find cheap accommodation, though? Well, check places you already know about:

  • Airbnb
  • Hostelworld

These are all great places to get started. What is the best way to get cheap accommodation? Look in advance and look often.

Prices change constantly, and the best people at finding cheap deals are constantly checking. So you should follow their example and always be looking for a cheap deal, too!

3. Visit cheaper European countries

Traveling within Europe doesn’t seem possible when you see the prices while planning a trip.

But you’d be surprised by how cheap a few European countries can be, especially if you’re willing to visit Eastern and Central Europe.

Let’s take a look 👇

1. Romania 

Budget traveler’s paradise with affordable food, accommodation, and travel. Rich in outdoor beauty and culture. Free attractions like castles and old towns. Visit Transylvania for Dracula enthusiasts or explore resort towns along the Black Sea for beach lovers.

2. Bulgaria

An affordable travel gem. Food, accommodation, and activities offer excellent value. Hike in Central Balkan National Park, and explore castles and villages for a local experience. Over 40,000 archaeological sites await. Perfect for budget travelers exploring Europe.

3. Albania

Mountains in Albania

An underrated Balkan gem, Shkoder offers historical sites, affordable activities in Tirana, and stunning beaches like Saranda and Ksamil. Explore the Theth and the Accursed Mountains for epic hikes. Shkoder offers charming streets. Enjoy mesmerizing cuisine and people-watching with a local espresso. It’s a budget traveler’s haven.

Check out my Albania travel guide for more info on your trip.

4. Portugal

Affordable Western European destination with free activities like beaches, volcano hikes, and castle visits. Faro District entices beach lovers, while small towns near Lisbon offer rich history and architecture. Food and accommodation costs are higher, but off-peak season can save money on travel without compromising weather.

5. Slovenia

Underrated gem amidst pricier neighbors. Affordable outdoor activities, beaches, and hidden regions. Explore Lake Bled, medieval towns, and Triglav National Park for free. Perfect for budget travelers exploring Europe.

6. Hungary

Budget traveler’s haven in Eastern Europe. Cheaper accommodation, food, and activities. Explore castles and natural scenery. Relax in thermal spas. Lake Balaton offers stunning beaches. Budapest has slightly pricier but affordable options outside the city.

7. Bosnia-Herzegovina

Remarkable recovery from wartime, now a budget-friendly European destination. Affordable meals and accommodation. Explore historic Sarajevo architecture. Visit Mostar for the iconic Ottoman-style bridge and thrilling jumps into the Neretva River. Great value compared to neighboring Croatia.

8. Italy

Amalfi Coast in Italy

Unbeatable value compared to Western European neighbors. Savings in the south with beautiful beaches and charming towns. Explore off-season Puglia for affordable accommodation and delectable cuisine. Don’t miss out on Italy’s hidden treasures. And don’t skip Rome, of course!

9. Montenegro

Small in size, big in value. Explore Kotor’s Old Town, and hike to Kotor Fortress for stunning views. Relax on beaches, enjoy boat trips, or experience nightlife in Budva. Affordable meals ($6-$12) and accommodation ($30/night). Perfect for budget travelers.

10. Poland

Affordable gem overshadowed by famous neighbors. Hike national parks, explore castles, and sample local markets. Escape crowds and high prices in Gdańsk, Poznan, and Lublin. Rooms from $15/night, delicious street food. A budget traveler’s delight.

4. Fly with budget airlines

As an American, it’s incredible to see how cheap it is to fly within Europe. 

Don’t believe me? I booked a flight from Italy to France for $25. And I’ve seen prices drop below $10 multiple times to fly within Western Europe and Eastern Europe.

Budget European airline RyanAir's airplane

There are plenty of budget European airlines to choose from for a cheap way to get around.

Some top cheap fare options are:

  • Ryanair
  • Wizz Air
  • Norwegian Air
  • EasyJet
  • Eurowings
  • Aer Lingus
  • Pegasus Airlines
  • Vueling

Beyond checking those individual airlines, you can find cheap flights with Skyscanner, Hopper, and WayAway to get cheap flights in one area.

5. Take a Bus

If you have time to travel, buses are the perfect low-cost option for both inside and across borders.

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 bus companies popular in Europe include:

  • FlixBus
  • Megabus
  • Eurolines
  • BlaBlaBus
  • Regiojet
  • Lux Express
  • Busabout

6. Use the train system

Train is one of the most common travel methods 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 alive in Europe and is an excellent way to travel Europe on the cheap if you plan it right and get your train tickets in advance.

European train in Italy

Take a look at these companies for the cheapest option for train travel:

  • Eurostar
  • SNCF
  • Deutsch Bahn
  • FlixTrain
  • Trenitalia
  • Renfe

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 Pass, which allows you to hop on and off between countries. But this can get expensive depending on how many countries you plan to visit and how long your trip is.

7. Rent a car

This option will be the most expensive way to travel around Europe (of the budget options).

But it’ll also be the most effective mode of travel to visit all the places you want in Europe.

You can be more flexible with your travel dates, hopping around the different cities to visit in Europe. Plus, you get a more private travel experience to enjoy yourself how you want!

Try a rental car to travel Europe on the cheap and go at your own pace

While rental rates will be high during peak season, looking in the off-season is best. During this time, rental rates drop considerably. Sure, you won’t have fantastic weather or the best pictures. But you do have a way to get around Europe and avoid the crowds!

Rates vary depending on the country, but you can find prices 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.

8. Eat & drink local

Notice the primary ingredients used in each country’s cuisine?

There’s an excellent reason for that! Those are the locally available ingredients, so they’ll be cheap!

So, there are two things you can do:

  1. Go to local restaurants where they’ll make local dishes
  2. Buy local ingredients and cook for yourself

But how do I find the best local restaurants?

Easy. Watch where the locals go. If you stumble upon a small restaurant packed way beyond fire code with locals, that’s the spot to eat.

Local dishes in Europe

And don’t be afraid to ask, either! People love showing off their home city, and they’ll often be more than happy to recommend a few spots.

But you can’t eat out every night, that could get expensive.

So head to the local supermarkets and buy fresh produce from the people who are growing/producing it!

This helps in two ways: you get fresh and cheap ingredients and help the locals by putting money in their pockets!

So, if you’re looking to travel around Europe on a budget, eating at local establishments and cooking your own meals can be a great way to save some cash while also enjoying the cuisine and culture of your destination. 

9. Take free walking tours

Almost every city has walking tours.

And they’re the perfect way to get exercise, learn more about the place you’re in, and possibly meet some new friends!

Take a walking tour past the Louvre

There are plenty of fancier tours you can break the bank on. Or you can meet a local that will show you some hidden spots! But remember to tip the tour guide at the end.

Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show your appreciation in some way!

10. Work your way across Europe

But, Kyle, that’s what I’m trying to do!

Not that work! I mean, give your time in exchange for accommodation or a stipend!

I’ve met many people who travel Europe for free using this method! And if you want to travel in Europe the same way, this is the section for you!

There’s work exchange, WorkAway, or you can even be an au pair! This is the perfect way to travel cheaply in Europe and meet locals. Then, when you’re not working, you’ll hop around Europe on a slim travel budget.

Frequently asked questions about the cheapest ways to travel in Europe

Which is the cheapest country to visit in Europe?

The cheapest country to visit in Europe varies, but some budget-friendly options include Bulgaria, Hungary, and Poland, known for affordable accommodations, food, and attractions.

What month is the cheapest to travel in Europe?

The cheapest month to travel in Europe depends on various factors. Generally, shoulder seasons like April, May, September, and October offer lower prices and fewer crowds than peak summer months.

Is 1 month enough in Europe?

Whether 1 month is enough in Europe depends on your travel goals and preferences.

While exploring multiple countries or regions in that time is possible, it’s crucial to prioritize and plan efficiently to make the most of your visit.

What is the most expensive country in Europe to visit?

Switzerland is considered one of the most expensive countries to visit in Europe.

It is known for its high cost of living, including accommodation, dining, transportation, and attractions.

However, it offers stunning landscapes and unique experiences that make it worth considering despite the higher expenses.

Ready to travel across Europe on a budget?

Traveling in Europe can be costly, especially at peak travel times.

But you can go to Europe cheaply if you plan wisely. And I hope these tips brought you closer to visiting your preferred places to travel in Europe!

author avatar
Kyle Cash Owner
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.

2 responses to “10 Ways to Travel Europe on the Cheap”

  1. Matt Avatar

    Great post! Agree, Europe can definitely be done on the cheap! Though it’s getting harder with a lot of hostels increasing their prices post-pandemic…

    I’ve found travelling during shoulder season provides an acceptable balance between saving money and experiencing the best of the continent (lots of countries are still very nice in October – Malta, Cyprus, Spain etc…)! As you say, Portugal is always up there as one of the best-value Western countries in Europe.

    1. Kyle Cash Avatar
      Kyle Cash

      Thanks for the comment, Matt!

      Yeah, I agree. I was reading a post recently about the hostels in Europe and how they’re battling with, essentially, corporate hostels. So they’re increasing prices. Interesting situation.

      And agree about the shoulder season! I visited Italy just before the tourist season a few years ago and it was perfect. Some crowds, but not too much. And great prices since they hadn’t raised them much.

      Have you been to Albania or any of the Eastern European countries? A lot of great value there as well, and plenty to see!