Europe has always been a popular vacation destination, but for so many it seems out of reach. Flights to the continent that saw the birth of Western culture have become increasingly cheaper, but once there, how do you maneuver without spending an exorbitant amount of money, but without living like a starving bohemian?
Here are some tips, straight from someone who traveled and lived in Europe for half a year, on how to best see the sights while getting a bang for your buck.
Buses are Your Best Friend
Forget taking trans-country trains; that said, the experience of riding a train through a European landscape is priceless, and may sometimes be a cheaper method if it's cities within the country. Where country-hopping on a train or flight can cost anywhere in the $60-$200 range, taking a bus can make a huge monetary difference. Even though it takes longer, buses have become extremely comfortable and versatile, especially for longer trips. Getting to Budapest from Prague and back won't cost more than $20 USD, if you time it right.
Breaking the Myth of the Hostel
Not just for wandering tourists and college students, hostels are more comfortable than what most think. Already inexpensive, big groups can sometimes get further discount. The community aspect of the hostel that's unappealing to some not only creates a homey space, but it's extremely easy to have your own privacy and security. Most hostels have safes available, so you don't have to worry about your things despite sharing a room with strangers. And for the price, these little "inconveniences" offer an experience where you can talk to fellow travelers from completely different places and connect. What else could one want out of traveling?
The Kindness of Strangers
This is a bit general, but try and diverge from the group of people you're traveling with and meet those around you. We spoke about this briefly when talking about hostels, but meeting new people should be a given when traveling to another country. Make friends who live in the city you're visiting, and go along with whatever plans arise. See the city through local eyes. They'll tell you what's a rip-off and what isn't, and show you parts of a new city you never even imagined. The art scene in Europe is absolutely exciting, and you have to really seek to find the underground things that may not even cost money. Isn't that better than paying almost 70 USD to ride the London Eye?
Wandering is Key
Lao Tzu once said that a good traveler is not intent on arriving, and he was onto something. You can go to, say, Paris and decide to see the Eiffel Tower after eating at a specific restaurant. Find your way to the big, popular point for visitors later. Skip planning anything, and get completely lost. This is usually a cheaper option than simply taking cab to cab or metro ride to metro ride following a schedule. Travel, even for business, should be enjoyable. Go off the beaten path, find a café that sells 2 euro coffee in an obscure little alleyway, and be that friend who found both the better deal than going to a French Starbucks and the cool experience of exploring.