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Tips on travelling in Europe on a budget

October 19, 2011
Dining with locals

Travelling to Europe doesn’t come cheap, we know that.  Airfare from Manila is already expensive costing at least 30,000 pesos return. It’s no wonder that trips to Europe are often reserved to those with deep pockets.

But travellers don’t despair, there more ways to travel than doing it high roll. You don’t have to be rich to experience Europe. For those adventurous and open-minded enough, here are a few simple tips you can follow:

1. Research before your trip

Planning on where to go in Bruges, Belgium

Doing good research before a trip helps in managing the budget.  Read travel blogs and forums as they offer tips on what to see and how much is needed to see them. Museum websites, for example, can give you dates to getting in free. Paris’ Louvre (first Sundays / Friday evenings for under 26) and Madrid’s Prado museums (from 6-8pm Tues-Sun)  both offer free entrances on certain dates and times. 

2. Do Couchsurfing

Couch in Brussels

Couchsurfing  is a great way to meet local people and get free accommodation as well.  The website offers over thousands of hosts with “couches” to surf into.  It’s also a good way to experience local living. Giving out a simple gift or helping out with household chores often is enough to pay back for their hospitality.

3. Spend a day on parks

Park Cinquantenaire - Brussels, Belgium

Europe has the best parks in the world– and most don’t cost a Euro to visit. They’re beautiful and usually donned with trees, bike paths and old monuments and statues. It’s a good place to relax and still feel the city’s vibe. During summer, parks also play host to free concerts and street performances. My personal favourites – Parc Cinquantenaire in Brussels, Retiro Park in Madrid, and Vondelpark in Amsterdam.

4. Eat local and stack up at groceries when you can

Dining with the locals in UK

When in a new place they say to “do as the Romans do”. This comes with dining too. Avoid tourist dining establishments if you can. Find places where locals go and try some local flavour instead for an authentic travel experience. They serve good perhaps even better food at a lower price.

For those who want to take shoestring travel to the next level, head  to a supermarket and get ready-made salad or sandwich. Stack up on water as well for your day trips. Another cheap alternative is to cook at your hostel or at your host’s place.

5. Join free city tours

Free city tour in Amsterdam

Keep an eye for organisations like the New Europe tours, that offer guided tours around most big cities. It’s a great source of information about the city and a good way to meet other travellers. It’s completely free yet they do accept tips for those who enjoyed the tour (which is often the case).

 6.  Rent a bike

Bicycles in Amsterdam

Public transport is already a good way to travel cheap around but to those seeking a richer travel experience, best is to hop onto a bicycle. It’s a cheap (and healthy way) to jump from various sites. You can go around at your own pace and can control which route or area you want to see. Smaller cities like Amsterdam & Brussels can easily be navigated with a bicycle. In Brussels, check out Villo which rents out bikes starting at 1,50 euro a day.

What are your tips on travelling on the cheap in Europe? Share your tips on the comment section!

This article has originally been published for Discounts Philippines.  I wrote it together with another article on tips about Backpacking in Bohol. Grab a copy of their anniversary issue on most magazine stands and bookstores today. 🙂

How To Guides

GUEST POST: A Roundup of the Best Travel Guidebooks for your Trip

September 21, 2011
Guidebooks

Considering not only my profession (as an English teacher), and my absolute love of reading (my personal goal each year is to read 100 books!), it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to discover that I have a small crush on travel guidebooks. 

While it may be true that the majority of information in travel guidebooks can be found on the Internet, I’m of the opinion that there’s not much comparison between the two options; and when it comes down to it, I vote for the guidebook as the final source of information. 

For the most part, they’re reasonably priced, easy to find, and you have a multitude of options for whatever destination you’re planning on visiting.  On top of this, there is something about the feel of a new book that is unbeatable (at least to literary nerds such as myself).

Guide Book

The only small problem that arises is when you step foot in your local bookstore, face the travel section, and find 6 books on your next location.  Oops.  Which one do you choose?  I’m pretty sure buying 6 guides for your trip isn’t the most logical decision, which is why I’ve put together a bit of a “review” of some of the major travel guides available.

Rick Steves

Rick Steves’ guidebooks focus on Europe, so they don’t have the largest market.  What they lack in worldwide reviews they make up for in accurate, easy to understand information.  When spending a few days in Rome last year his guidebook was invaluable to me (along with almost every other tourist I saw there).  The books contain a ton of maps (both regular maps and “hand drawn” ones), and the format is easy to follow.  Steves also focuses on helping you see things on your own by giving detailed self-tours.  There is no large push to use certain tour companies, which is fantastic.

Let’s Go

Is there anywhere in the world that Let’s Go doesn’t review?  Unlike Rick Steves, who has such a small market, Let’s Go travel guides cover everywhere from North, South and Central America to Europe to Asia to the Middle East.  The guides focus on budget travel that is still safe and enjoyable.  Each book is geared towards a large geographical location, and then broken up into smaller areas (think of a US state as the main focus, and then counties as a smaller division).  This really allows you to get an overview for the area and what to expect; they even include recent updates and what’s changed recently just in case this isn’t your first visit to that location.

Moon

Although they only cover the Americas and the Caribbean, Moon guides are another of my favorite (most recently used for our trip to Yosemite).  Like the Let’s Go books, they organize their book by looking at small sections of the overall location.  They’re honest though (because I don’t find that all travel guides are created equal), and integrate all of their information into an easy to read, concise format.  There’s maps and pictures, and details on some historical and pop-culture information aspects thrown in; which in the end makes you very, very excited for your upcoming trip.Guide books

Fodor’s

Fodor’s is probably the brand of travel guidebook that I use the most often, and for good reason.  They are one of the most popular companies out there, and they produce guidebooks for practically any destination you could dream up.  They’re insights are detailed and useful, they just tend to be a bit dry for me.  It often feels like reading a textbook, while other travel guides paint more of a story to me.  Depending on what you’re looking for, this may be the right choice for you-they’re both factual and well researched.

Frommer’s

To me, one of the best part of Frommer’s is the way they include sample itineraries, along with a section titled “Best Of”.  When you only have a limited amount of time in a location, these can both be fantastic resources to help with planning.  The guidebooks themselves remind me quite a bit of Fodor’s, and are geared toward a wide range of travel interests; anywhere from sitting on a beach to hiking to exploring a city.

 

* Photos from fotologic and jystewart and used under creative commons license

Do you find guidebooks useful for trips? Which guidebook gives out the best travel advice?

 

This is a guest post by Kayla Mundy.


Kayla Mundy is the founder of traveLove, a website created to chronicle her travels with those she loves (who make up her travel companions).  An avid traveler in her plentiful time off (one of the perks of being an English teacher), she dreams of traveling the entire world one trip at a time. Follow Kayla on twitter

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