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Travelling on a budget: 5 most pocket-friendly destinations in Europe
Many readers of this blog will know that we love travelling!
In fact, it is one thing that we didn’t cut down too much on our journey to Financial Independence.
We just became smarter and more intentional about our travelling and planned way in advance.
This year, we have been fortunate enough to have visited:
- France (Disneyland Paris – Free flights and cheap accommodation),
- Italy (Florence – cheap AirBnB fun),
- St Lucia (10 year anniversary celebrated in Gros Islet)
- UK (Center Parcs – family-sponsored)
These took 2 years of planning, collecting Avios points, etc through our AMEX card.
For example, using the card mentioned above, our flights to Florence and St. Lucia were 100% Free (except taxes).
In addition, we made sure that we are saved enough money and booked these in advance to keep costs low.
Travelling keeps life exciting for many reasons, not just for me and my marriage but also for our children.
As such, it will remain a very important part of our life design and we choose different countries to visit every year.
Today’s guest post comes from a friend that I met at the UK Money Bloggers conference.
Laura is full of energy and is passionate about London and loves travelling.
Her Instagram is full of many interesting and wonderful travel ideas.
I asked Laura to share some travelling insights with our readers and she agreed.
Over to you Laura.
Travelling On a Budget
Hi, I’m Laura and I write the Thrifty Londoner blog.
Thrifty Londoner has a focus on millennial personal finance, with a London twist!
I write about ways to save money and make money whilst living your best life in the capital city.
I chat a lot about saving money and budgeting on my blog.
One of the main reasons that I stick to a budget is so that I can put money aside to travel.
Travel is so important to me that I cut back on other areas of expenditure (like clothes, for example), so that I can afford to do it.
Whatever your passions are in life, you can adjust a budget to ensure you are spending your hard-earned money on something that you love.
I love travelling to new and exciting places because it educates and inspires me, and it’s fun to experience new things and to have some respite from a normal routine.
Travel can often be considered a luxury, and it is.
However, travel can be an affordable luxury if you pick the right destinations and use the right tools to save some money on your trip.
In the UK we are fortunate enough to have a large number of short-haul destinations in Europe available to us on our doorstep, and some countries in Europe can be surprisingly affordable to travel to.
How To Travel Cheap In Europe
This is a breakdown of 5 destinations in Europe that can be super affordable when travelling on a budget.
I recently holidayed in Portugal and was pleasantly surprised by how affordable it was as a holiday destination.
Not only are the flights cheap (return flights are currently on sale from London to Faro from £56 per person in March 2020), but day-to-day spending is also easy to keep to a minimum.
On our trip, we were drinking small bottled beers for as little as 70 cents, and found cheese toasties for 2 euros.
Hardly gourmet cuisine, but a satisfying lunch for a budget traveller all the same.
We were staying in the Algarve, a tourist hot-spot, so assumed that prices would be high- but it was quite the opposite.
By opting to stay in an Airbnb a little off the beaten track, about a half hour drive from the beach, we were able to save a huge amount on day-to-day spends.
The most we spent on any evening meal in the local area we were staying was 20 EUR for two of us, with alcohol included.
We booked a villa for our stay using Airbnb.
It can be a great alternative to a hotel because not only can you get cheap deals in off peak months…
…but you can also save money by making some of your own meals at your accommodation or preparing a packed lunch for a day of exploring.
Any excuse to go to a supermarket in a foreign country!
Staying in the spare room of someone else’s home through Airbnb is another very effective way to keep travelling costs down.
You will often find that you will be able to stay somewhere very central, very inexpensively if you are not paying for the entire apartment or house.
Eastern European countries can often be super affordable due in part to the fact that many do not use the euro.
The pound is currently weak against the euro, and so by heading to a destination like Poland which uses Zloty, you can get more for your pounds.
There are a ton of amazing cities to visit in Poland including Krakow, Gdansk and Warsaw.
About 6 years ago I went interrailing with a friend and our last stop was in Krakow.
The lovely hostel we stayed in only cost us the equivalent of £8 per night!
Hostels can be a really affordable way to visit a new city when you are travelling on a budget.
Some hostels offer private rooms, so even if you’re a couple travelling on a budget and would prefer some privacy, you can still get a great deal on accommodation.
Most hostels will also have a kitchen and cooking facilities, so again, this is another way to save some money by cooking some meals yourself whilst on holiday.
Gdansk has long been on my travel wish list, and with flights from London from £26 return in March 2020, I’m seriously tempted to tick it off my bucket list next year!
Food and general day-to-day costs are much lower in Poland, which means that along with cheap flights and cheap accommodation, a trip to Poland can cost less than a train ticket from London to Manchester.
That’s my kind of budget travel!
Turkey is a gorgeous warm-weather holiday destination, with a stunning Mediterranean coastline that’s also surprisingly affordable.
It could be a great choice for some autumn sunshine, with the average temperature being over 20 degrees Celsius from May through to October.
If a beach holiday isn’t your thing, you could head to Istanbul for a city break (another place that’s been on my ‘to visit’ list for a long time!) and enjoy the incredible architecture and exquisite traditional food at prices that will not break your budget.
In 2019, Turkish Lira hit a 10 year low, which means that again, the day-to-day spending in this country can be very low if you want it to be.
It’s not hard to find a full meal in Turkey for between £5-10.
The pound now buys almost twice as much Lira as it did in 2017.
Whilst this wouldn’t be so noticeable whilst on package holidays, it would definitely be noticeable when eating out, paying for excursions and shopping.
Did you also know that you can save money on exchanging your foreign currency using an app-based system rather than heading to a currency exchange?
Most services like Monzo and Revolut will allow you to exchange your pounds into foreign currency and load it onto your card and spend it as though it is a normal debit card.
You can even take out up to £200 in cash whilst travelling abroad.
Revolut reckon that since you’re not paying currency exchange fees, they save the average traveller £40 per trip!
You can also track your holiday spending within the app to ensure you stay on budget.
Something I wish existed when I was in my early twenties and didn’t know better!
On one fateful trip to Thailand with a friend, we opened our purses and genuinely exclaimed, “have we been robbed!?”
Nope, we were just young and terrible at budgeting our money. Thankfully, things have changed.
Sunny Beach in Bulgaria is well known as a super-cheap beach holiday destination.
Bulgaria has been known as an affordable travel destination for decades, but did you know that there are also some beautiful Bulgarian cities that are also great on a budget?
If you head to the capital, Sofia, you can expect to pay around £25 a night to stay in an Airbnb apartment, which is incredible value.
Museums are also aplenty in the capital city of Sofia, and most are free or cost only a few pounds to get into.
Much cheaper than the many pricey museums throughout the rest of Europe (£15 for the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam – no thank you!).
In many European cities, you can take free walking tours with a knowledgeable tour guide and Bulgaria is no different.
Walking tours can go on for as long as 5 hours, you can leave at any time throughout the tour, and you pay the tour guide a tip at the end.
It’s not completely free, but likely to still be cheaper than most commercial city tours.
Bulgaria is a destination where you can expect to pay less than £5 a head for a decent meal, which is really mind-boggling when you consider that a rubbish meal deal from a supermarket in the UK could cost you a similar amount.
Try eating local foods when you travel to help keep food costs down, as traditional local food will often cost less than imported foods that come from other countries.
Plus, as an added bonus to your trip, you might find yourself coming away with a new favourite dinner that you can recreate at home!
Riga is the capital city of Latvia, and you can see why this city has grown in popularity as a budget city break. It’s beautiful!
It has a real medieval vibe that you don’t get in every European city, the architecture is stunningly unique.
The official currency of Latvia is the euro.
Despite the fact that the pound is currently weak against the euro, you’ll be happy to hear that the generally cheap cost of living in Riga won’t break your budget.
With return flights from London from around £50 in March 2020, flights are affordable and so is the everyday spending whilst you are visiting.
A mid-range evening meal will likely set you back around £10 per head. Pretty good compared to the UK!
An Airbnb apartment in Riga is around £25 a night, which is again very reasonable.
The capital city is pretty compact, so you can quite easily see all of the major attractions on foot which again saves money on transport around the city whilst you are visiting.
If you did want to explore a little further afield, you can hop onto a train and be at the beach in around 40 minutes.
Using public transport to get around a city can be super-costly, a single ticket on the Paris metro will set you back 1.90 euro.
Whilst a single journey on the London Underground will cost you up to £3.90 if you are travelling between zones 1-4.
That’s a crazy amount to spend when you are on a budget trip.
So before you set off on any trip, it’s a great idea to get a feel for what will be your cheapest mode of transport.
Other Travel Tips
These are only a few ideas about destinations to visit whilst travelling on a budget.
There are plenty of other countries which are further afield where the day-to-day living costs and accommodation are really cheap (although flights to these destinations can often bump the travel costs up quite considerably!).
A great way to afford travel whilst you are cutting down on expenditure in every other part of your life is to create a standing order to a separate account every month so that you end up with enough money for one trip a year.
Figure out what you want your budget trip to cost you, divide that amount by 12 and get saving!
You won’t notice the small amounts of money leaving your current account over the course of 12 months, and you’ll end up with something incredible to look forward to all year.
When you’re on a budget, it can often feel like you have no money spare to spend on yourself or on experiences that feel like a ‘luxury’ rather than ‘necessity.’
But being intentional with your spending, and spending some money on yourself (and your family, if you have one), to do some travelling, can often enrich your life and give you a new perspective.
Hopefully, these destinations have given you a feel for European countries that are affordable whilst on a tight budget.
And you have come away with some ideas of how little tricks like staying in an Airbnb, eating local food and tracking your spending within a dedicated app can really help you to keep costs down whilst travelling.
What To Read Next>>
- How To Travel Cheap On A Budget While On A Low Income
- Is Keeping Up With The Joneses Destroying Your Future?
- 5 Reasons Why Self-Care Is A Necessity Not A Luxury
What To Watch Next>>
Here are some of the tips for how we save money for travelling on a budget:
Aside from travelling on a budget, making extra money is another way to start travelling and seeing the world…
What are your favourite budget-friendly destinations in Europe? How have you managed to do travelling on a budget?
Do please share this post if you found it useful, and remember, in all things be thankful and Seek Joy.