Europe on a Budget - Defeating a Travel Oxymoron

Today I'm back with Bootsnall's Indie Travel Challenge. This weeks topic: How to tackle Europe....On a Budget.

It is not often that the words "Europe" and "budget" collide together in the same sentence. There is little denying that everything costs more in Europe...everything. Yet there are countless people taking to the continent for weeks or months at a time, with less in their pockets than my annual coffee expense. They are proof that tackling Europe on a budget is still possible, but I use the word "they" intentionally.
Mediterranean Sea at Barcelona
On the Mediterranean in Barcelona. Yes, that's Starbucks in my hand.
I've made no hiding here that I don't really fit the true mold of a budget traveler. I have never sustained myself on a pack of crackers for 3 days, nor have I ever chosen to sleep on a wooden deck outside a restaurant instead of the $25 hostel like my buddy Just Chuckin' It.  I am a traveler, however, and since I wasn't born into the House of Windsor, my trips to Europe have always had a budget.

So for all the Semi-Budget Travelers like myself, here are a few money saving tips I've learned in my three trips across the pond. 


Don't take a cab....Ever. They will bleed any semblance of a budget dry. The first two times I visited Europe my travel sea legs hadn't quite grown in, so I took a cab from the airport to my hotel. $80-100 later I arrived, but had to skip dinner as a result.

Disneyland Paris
This is always an option in Paris, but there's time constraints...

The great thing about the the main tourist cities in Europe is that their transportation systems make America look like the days of the Erie Canal. Hop on the subway or bus, and use the money you saved elsewhere. Or you can use the most cost effective transportation available...your feet. On visits to both Paris and Barcelona, we bought our metro passes in advance, and had one less thing to worry with once we arrived. 


Since we already determined that everything in Europe is expensive, I don't have to explain that also applies to hotels. Those which are near the main sites will easily give Manhattan a run for their money in terms of cost, but thankfully there is an alternative.

Barcelona Marina
Or if you're P-Diddy you can sleep here...
Seeing as you'll be using public transportation, consider staying just on the outskirts of town at a hotel near a metro station. For example, we once stayed at the Hotel Duret in Paris, which was only a few metro stops from the Lourve, but considerably cheaper than hotels in that area. If you really want to stay on the Rue de Rivoli, be my guest...just be prepared to bleed out your eyes when you see the bill. 


Don't buy any. Take pictures...They're free. Or if you insist, pretend to light a candle at Notre Dame and put it in your bag instead - with the appropriate donation of course. 


Food is where Europe might give your budget a little reprieve. The nice thing about those great cafes you see in the movies is that many of them also happen to be fairly cheap. Well, not crackers and water cheap, but still a good value for the semi-budget traveler.
McDonald's in Paris
Large in Europe is the kid size in America..That explains a lot...

Of course, there are also plenty of American fast food options in Europe, and I have no shame in admitting I've had dinner at McDonald's on the Champs Elysees. Turns out, a Royale with Cheese really does taste just like a Quarter Pounder.

On the surface, it would seem that visiting Europe either requires one to be Mark Zuckerberg rich, or comfortable sleeping on a bench in a metro station. Dig a little deeper and you'll find that with a few smart choices, Europe can be conquered by us semi-budget travelers.

Oh and drink the's the only thing cheap on the continent.

~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~ 



  1. Do you know anyone who has ever rented an apartment in Paris (or elsewhere)?  On the surface, they look like great deals for a week stay, etc.  I know it's not "budget" travel, but lodging is usually the biggest expense and some of them have ovens with heating plate and a microwave.  I'm planning a trip with my son and want to know if anyone has experience with this.   

  2.  I don't know of anyone personally, but it is very common. See what you can find on sites like homeaway and roomorama...

  3. Great advice, but the last piece is my favorite.  Went to Rome in college and drank a lot of boxed wine, haha. :)

  4. Thanks for the tips and you are so right about drinking the wine!

  5. Please, please, please tell me that Coke isn't expensive over there. It's about my only shot, since I can get through a week on bread as long as I have my Coke to go with it (although I may need a couple of Royales with Cheese as well).

  6. Thanks for the shout out mate! Great tips =P Though you should try a deck sometime! Quite comfortable (yeah right...)

  7. Wow that is a great oxymoron! Budget/Travel. Budgeting food is the hardest for my family and I. My father-in-law loves food and experiencing new foods, so we tend to 'spend' extra in that area ;)


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