By Debbie Fletcher, Guest Post
From the bustling boroughs of London to the regal architecture of Vienna, heading to a European city is a fantastic option if you want to see something new.
They’re full of history, dripping with culture and are geographically close to one another — meaning you can easily visit more than one place while on the continent. Hop from city to city on planes and trains, or really get to know a single destination.
While there’s much to love about Europe, there’s one small caveat: cities can be expensive, especially during summer when it’s high tourism season.
So, what can you do? Well, here are some tips for making your money go further during your city break.
1. Ditch The Public Transport
Some cities, like Berlin, offer excellent public transport services. They’re fast, reliable and affordable, so you’ll have no problem factoring them into your plans and budget.
However, other cities such as London doesn’t have a public service system that’s quite so friendly on your wallet, and it can be slow and overcrowded too.
If you’re heading somewhere where the public transport has a bad reputation, ditch it in favor of getting around on foot. Pack your comfiest shoes, or research to see if the city offers a bike-sharing program. For example, in London Santander Cycles lets you hire a bicycle for £2, for example.
2. Eat In The Markets
During the summer, restaurants are going to be busy and probably quite expensive too – particularly if you’re heading to cities that are going to be flooded with tourists like Paris, Madrid and Venice.
That being said, you can stretch your money further by limiting the amount of times you eat in a restaurant and heading to the local markets instead.
The best part: you won’t miss out on delicious local flavors. In fact, Europe boasts some of the world’s most incredible food markets (often rivaling their brick-and-mortar competitors). From markets in Paris loaded with fresh bread and cheese to Italian markets offering the most delicious olives, pizzas and pasta dishes, you’ll be able to pick up mouth-watering food at low prices.
Find yourself a seat in the market square and watch the world go by while you’re tucking in – you’ll look and feel just like a local.
3. Buy Show Tickets Last Minute
If you’re hoping to catch a show, hold off on booking tickets until the very last moment. Venues are eager to sell them off rather than seeing empty seats when the lights go down. Therefore, you can often find highly discounted tickets if you wait, even for major productions.
For example, you can call into the box office in Vienna’s State Opera House an hour before a concert is due to start, picking up a ticket to listen to a world-class orchestra for less than $5 – the same price as a cup of coffee. Bear in mind you’ll only be able to secure a standing ticket at the back of the room at these kinds of prices, but approach it in the same way that the locals do by bringing a fold-up chair and making yourself comfortable. Or, simply lean against the ornate rail like many of your neighbors will. It’s so thrilling to hear the Philharmonic filling up the renaissance opera house for such a small amount of money that you likely won’t mind standing for the duration.
4. Look For Free Attractions
You may be surprised to learn that many of Europe’s hottest attractions are free to enjoy. For example, you can get into the following places for free at certain times:
- Louvre (Paris) – free to under 26s on Friday evenings
- Prague Castle (Prague) – the castle grounds are free to walk around at all times, making it a great spot to visit whether traveling in a group or enjoying solo travel in Prague
- Vatican Museum (Rome) – free admittance on the last Sunday of the month
Do a little research beforehand if you’re keeping a careful eye on your budget.
For attractions that are pay-to-enter, there are still ways to save money. Make your money stretch further by skipping the official audio tour. You’ll be asked to pay for a headset to explain what you’re looking at from room to room, but you can reduce the cost — or even avoid paying completely — by downloading a tour from YouTube, Spotify or the iTunes library. There are many free audio tours of major points of interest, such as the Notre Dame in Paris, the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Take it all in without racking up the cost of your holiday.
5. Be Smart When Booking Accommodation
Accommodation can be expensive in Europe in the summer. Unless you know where to look, that is.
Start by perusing the offerings on Airbnb, which allows you to live like a local in unique spaces. Best of all, you can get $40 off your first Airbnb booking by using this link.
You might also consider staying in a hostel. Share a room with others to really save money. Or, if you’d prefer some privacy, find a hostel that offers private rooms. You can still enjoy the social aspect of hostels by opting for one with common spaces like lounges, patios, game rooms and a kitchen.
If you fancy a hotel room, head to fancier “business hotels” and see if they can offer you a good deal. Their usual business traveler clientele are less frequent during the summer and weekends, so you may be able to snag a discount.
Finally, ask at the local tourist information offices to see if they can recommend any cheap accommodation options. They’ll be the most well-informed source for knowing about all the local options.
Bonus tip: If you’re traveling solo, make the most of your credentials by snapping up last-minute cancellations or taking a single-room with good extras like meals and free tours.
These are just a few tips for making your money go further in a European city this summer. Do you have any tips of your own to add?
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