European Budget Basics: On-the-Ground Savings Tips

Posted by Fodor's Editors on July 07, 2011 at 1:00:58 PM EDT | Post a Comment
By Rachel Klein and Cate Starmer So you've planned, you've saved, and now you're ready to jet off to the Continent. To counteract this summer's skyrocketing European ticket prices, travelers need more ways than ever before to make their euros stretch on the ground. While simple budgeting tips apply everywhere, here's a round-up of our favorite ways to save throughout Europe. Paris-Metro-entrance.JPG

Getting Around: Transportation Tips

Take public transit. Most European cities have excellent subway and bus options in addition to good country-wide train transportation. Don't automatically buy bulk tickets or a pass without doing the math. Avoid airport cabs and taxis. Research alternatives before flying to prevent hailing a pricey taxi on arrival. Public transit isn’t always your best option here; some cities also have privately-operated shuttle services to and from the airport that are cost-effective. Save on car rentals. Weigh taking daylong bus tours or trains against car rental. Book ahead for savings on rentals and opt for a manual compact car. Remember that one-way rentals usually include steep fees. Do the math on railroad passes. These can be great for multi-city and country touring, but again, individual tickets may cost less. Check European airlines. There are several; get a low-cost trans-Atlantic ticket and then take carriers such as Ryanair or EasyJet to your final destination. Note that light travel is often required due to strict luggage rules, and that airports may be far outside city centers. London-National-Gallery-exterior.jpg

Exploring: Save on Things to Do

Pass or no pass? Buying a multi-site or museum pass can make sense—but only if plans include heavy sightseeing rather than hitting a few top spots. Don’t assume passes are only available in cities; there are country-wide passes as well, often for historical sites. Book the cheapest tickets. Check online for advance purchase discounted tickets. Theatre and music can also be a deal for matinees and shows early in the week. Research schedules. Find out which sites have discounted hours ahead of time and plan accordingly. Many museums offer lower-priced tickets one afternoon or evening each week. Find free and almost free events. Check with your concierge or the local tourism board to see what festivals, markets, concerts, public art displays, and the like might be on. Also ask about discount tickets to events and dining coupons. Barcelona-Boqueria-market.jpg

Where to Eat: Dine Like a Local

Have a European-style lunch. Adopt locals' practice of enjoying a long, leisurely mid-day meal and have a lighter, later dinner. Seek out special deals. If dining hours are flexible, take advantage of early bird specials or prix fixe menus. Make dinner out of small plates with drinks at a bar. In some places, it’s less expensive to eat standing at a counter than sitting at a table. Also, today’s top chefs often have more casual, less expensive eateries in addition to their prize restaurant. And note that house wine or a draft beer will always be less than bottled beverages, especially imported ones. To market, then to picnic or kitchen . . . or takeout. Shop with locals at markets or pick up street food and dine al fresco. Save even more by using the hotel's mini- or full kitchen. Also consider getting takeout for a relaxing night in. Don't leave your hotel unprepared. Fill a water bottle before heading out and some snacks to tide you over if stuck looking for inexpensive eating options.

More on Europe Savings

Photo Credits: Paris Metro entrance courtesy Atout France / Patrice Thébault, National Gallery courtesy British Tourist Authority / Jonathan Crabb, Barcelona's Boqueria Market courtesy Ron Lewis / a member.
Posted in Travel Tips Tagged: Europe

Member Comments (4)  Post a Comment

  • Ryan on Jul 21, 11 at 02:01 PM

    Check the fine print on the EXACT location of the airport with budget airlines. We met an American family in Paris that was flying out to Spain on Ryan Air and didn't realize until after they arrived in Paris that Ryan Air does not operate at the two airports nearest Paris. Also, do be aware that international baggage limits are about 70 pounds. If you switch to a "domestic" Europe flight on a discount carrier it is about 40 pounds.

  • elsell on Jul 21, 11 at 05:19 AM

    These are all excellent tips. From a London perspective:
    To add to the bit about avoiding airport cabs and taxis, I would also suggest avoiding the Gatwick Express and Heathrow Express if you want to save money getting into the centre of town. Take the underground from Heathrow and the regular train service from Gatwick.
    To add to the section about finding free events, amazing museums such as the British Museum and the Natural History Museum, as well as galleries such as the National Gallery and Tate Modern are free.

  • Cate_W Fodor's editor on Jul 20, 11 at 03:16 PM

    Hi mewp - look for a chart at the beginning of each chapter/section - it will give you the dollar amounts

  • mewp on Jul 20, 11 at 03:13 PM

    In the guide books, what does $ mean? $$? Is there a dollar value?