A Europe trip is on every one’s bucket list and I was no exception. Travelling to Europe is not a journey, it is an experience. After some meticulous planning, inputs from friends who had travelled to Europe before and considering my limited budget, I chose Eastern Europe to be my first area of visit. I chose a region for my solo trip around Europe and not just a particular country because travelling between different European countries is fairly cheap and hassle-free, and it’d be a shame to limit one’s explorations. Also, I had always heard, and now believe, that Europe should be visited according to the four cardinal directions as it helps in inter-connectivity between the different countries on this beautiful continent. However, this is no thumb rule, and I know of people who love to visit one country at a time, and at the end of the day, it all boils down to personal choices.
Irrespective of whether you want to go all out covering as many countries as possible on a single trip or explore one destination at a time, there are a few tips and tricks that can help cut down your solo trip to Europe cost. Here’s my takeaway on planning a solo Europe trip on a budget based on the extensive research that went into putting together mine:
Look Beyond Travel Packages
Like anyone else planning a vacation, I too started my research with holiday packages available on popular travel websites. After just checking a handful of options, it was clear that a 15D/14N holiday package from any well-known travel brand would burn a hefty hole in my pocket. The cost of travelling with agencies is far more than planning something singularly, all by oneself. I also believe that devising strategies, making all travel decisions based on other people’s experiences coupled with one’s own intuition makes the travel more exciting.
Make a Detailed Itinerary for Your Solo Trip around Europe
A few days into my planning, I had zeroed in on a few places I really wanted to explore. The places that I visited were (in chronological order): Vienna in Austria, Bratislava in Slovakia, Salzburg and the village of St Wolfgang (I took the Lake District Tour from Panorama Travels for this one) in Austria again, Munich in Germany, Prague in Czech Republic and Budapest in Hungary. Let me bust a myth right in the beginning – travelling to Europe is not expensive. There are certain parts of it that are definitely very expensive – the likes of France, London, Scotland, Ireland and Iceland. So planning and executing a solo Europe trip on a budget depends entirely on the kind of choices you make.
I think one tends to spend the maximum amount of money on flights and hotels, and therefore, the travel costs surge. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip without having to bother about limited Euros because I made all the booking for my Europe trip well in advance. This is a golden rule when you are travelling abroad. I took an Air India flight from Delhi to Vienna (direct), which I had booked this almost four months in advance. Do not delay and always book a multi-city round trip. I stress on this because we generally do not return from the same city we arrived at. I took my flight back to Bombay from Budapest via Turkey on Turkish airlines. Booking early generally gives you a steal deal. This is not only true of flights but also other modes of transport. For this solo trip to Europe, I booked my intercity bus and train tickets well in advance too.
Trains and buses are the most convenient and cost-effective means of travelling across Europe. There are several bus services plying on different routes across the continent, but my personal favourite would be Flixbus. They service almost all of Europe and have tickets priced as low as 5 Euros (approx Rs. 400).
Trains in Europe are always on time and make for an enchanting experience. You must include at least one intercity train journey just to see the picturesque landscape, the farmlands and the delightful meadows. For all my train journeys during this sole trip around Europe, I booked the tickets from individual websites of the rail companies. You can access all rail-related information on Seat61. The generous gentleman running this website has compiled all possible data on trains across Europe, their price, their food, their quality, the carriages, the cleanliness and everything possible. However, the prices fluctuate, and skyrocket during the peak tourist season, so booking early is the key to making big saves.
Ditch Hotels for AirBnBs
AirBnB is by far the most modern way to travel and a great way to minimise cost of your stay in a foreign destination. It is basically someone renting out their entire apartment or a portion/room in their apartment. Apart from being easy on the pocket, staying at an AirBnB immediately gives you a sense of the local culture. Base your choice on the reviews for different properties.
Airbnb is genuinely safe and a heartening way to explore a new place. In fact, my Airbnb host had asked me bring her incense sticks from India. I was pleasantly surprised and had carried a whole bunch for her. During my stay there, I caught a terrible cold and she helped me with the medicines. My experience in Budapest and Prague was also similar. I have stayed at wonderful houses and the warmth of living at a home only made the experience so much better. Choosing the right location in an absolutely unfamiliar city can be tricky but cities in Europe are relatively small and accessible. So, wherever you stay, the Old Town Square, City Centre and other key attractions would not be far. Talk to your host before booking.
Rely on Local Transports on Your Solo Trip to Europe
Local transport is very convenient and efficient. All major cities have an amazing and robust transportation system and it works out to be one of the cheapest ways to get around on your solo trip to Europe. City guides and maps are available everywhere, and tourist information centres are a big saviour for tourists unfamiliar with the landscape. Save all offline maps of cities and places you plan to visit on Google Maps beforehand. This way, even if you do not have internet access, you would have an idea of where you are. You can easily locate the metro stations and bus/tram stops with help of these offline maps.
These tips should set you up for a fun solo trip around Europe on a budget. Watch this space for my experiences on travelling across Europe locally, exploring the amazing cuisine at different destinations and how much Europeans love India and its people.