We love hostels here at Hostelgeeks and would often choose to stay in a hostel over any other lodging option – even if money was no issue. Still, we know that one of the main reasons people often opt for hostels is that they’re trying to save costs on traveling expenses.
Booking a hostel is a great way to save some money (and have a good time, too!). And if you go prepared with some in-the-know advice, you can save even more money while you’re staying at the hostel. More savings = more travel fun!
That’s why we’re here to help you with our expert tips on how you budget travelers can save money while traveling Europe (and staying at hostels).
Travel Europe Cheap: 51 Tips
Here are all 51 tips in a nutshell. Feel free to skip to ones that catch your eye or continue scrolling through the list.
The prices during off season are significantly cheaper during high season – pretty simple to understand. Let us give you an example:
During August you can easily pay 25€ for a bed at a hostel in Barcelona. During January, the price can drop to 6€-7€. Quite a difference! The same goes for airlines and transport in general.
2. Choose a hostel offering breakfast
Your parents were right – a solid breakfast can help you start the day off right! If you book a hostel that offers breakfast in the price, not only you won’t have to fuss about finding a place that’s open in the morning, but you can also save the money on eating out.
Why? Even though the breakfast might not be included, it is worth it to go for it. Usually it is cheaper than going out, having breakfast at a local café.
Have a look at We Bologna Hostel. Their breakfasts comes only with local, high-quality products. And the coffee? Yes, this is important for us at Hostelgeeks, the coffee is one of the best coffees we had in a Hostel.
The standard (included) hostel breakfast is usually nothing exciting (think toast, juice, coffee, and maybe fruit, yogurt, or cereal if you’re lucky), but some hostels really do go all-out for their morning meal.
Fill up at breakfast and you’ll be ready for a big day of sightseeing!
3. Research free and cheap stuff to do (ahead of time!)
It’s entirely possible to spend a weekend or longer in many major cities and never pay an entrance fee. If you do your reading ahead of time (and by “reading” we mean Googling), chances are you’ll be able to come up with a pretty great itinerary that will cost you next to nothing.
Just walking around a quirky neighborhood can be a fantastic and totally free way to spend an afternoon in a new city!
Look up opening hours and days, too. Often times, museums are free on a certain day of the week or after a certain hour.
Here are a few guides to get you started (they all include free and cheap options):
The hostel website is generally the best place to start looking for this information. Check also major hostel booking sites to read reviews guests have left as well.
7. Find out about potential bank fees
One thing that often comes as an unpleasant surprise to newbie travelers is the fees you can rack up while abroad. Inform yourself about your bank charges in case you use an AT.
Let your bank know where you’re going to be; cards can get blocked for suspicious activity if you haven’t let them know you’ll be on the road.
Boring stuff, we know, but it can save you trouble (and money!) down the line.
8. Cook your meals yourself
A lot of hostels have kitchens you can access – with the basics (oil, salt…) . Cooking at the hostel is a smart way to save money. You can whip up some simple meals at a fraction of the cost it would take you to eat out. Pasta is a staple at many hostels for a reason!
We always love to try the local specialties when we travel, so why not take advantage of the local markets rather than going to a supermarket? You might find some seriously amazing food at rock-bottom prices.
And there is more: Many Hostels offer cooking classes, dinner nights and so on! Join those! They are usually very affordable – or even free. You do not just only save some coins, but also end up making new friends.
Okay, and now it gets even more confusing. Lunch is often way, way cheaper than dinner, but you get to eat the same delicious food. If you’re going to eat one meal out per day, choosing lunch over dinner is a smart way to get bargain prices without sacrificing any of the taste.
Especially in destinations like Barcelona, Lisbon, all over Italy, Zagreb and many more destinations, the restaurants have their daily menu. Take this into account!
11. Buddy up with other guests
If you’re already planning on buying stuff to make dinner or to wash your clothes, offer to split the costs with other hostels guests. It’s a great way to save some money and make friends in the process, too.
You can also use this strategy if you decide to go out at night and catch a taxi home. In some cities, if you split the cost of a taxi (or an Uber or Lyft) between a small group, it might actually be cheaper than using public transportation.
Some Hostels have their own black board where travelers can put their itineraries or requests. You can find people looking for sharing a cab to the airport, for renting a car for going to some special place, and so on. Keep an eye on that!
12. Pack some snacks with you
Another way you can reduce food costs?
Pack a few days’ worth of snacks with you! It might sound silly, but if you’re visiting countries with notoriously high prices (Norway, anyone?), you might save some serious cash this way.
13. Don’t be afraid to book group rooms
Not surprisingly, these massive rooms are where the cheapest beds in the hostel are. If it’s your first time booking a hostel, a room with 16 people may sound a little intimidating. If you’re a seasoned traveler, it could sound tiresome instead!
But depending on the season, you may book a bed in a 16-person room and find out that it’s nowhere near being full. It’s luck of the draw, but keep in mind that just because a room can hold 16 people doesn’t mean all 16 of those beds will be booked.
Even if all the beds are booked, you might discover that the room is full of interesting people to make friends with. Or perhaps incredibly boring, quiet, and tidy travelers – the ideal roommates!
In any case, don’t write off the idea of a big shared room. It probably won’t be as intimidating (or tiresome) as you expect.
Prevent unnecessary extra spending on replacing stuff by keeping your belongings safe, and avoid traveling with expensive and irreplaceable items. Have a look for lockers! Those are usually the best way to keep you valuable belongings safe!
16. Stay in smaller, less touristy cities
Touristy cities are normally more expensive than they eclipsed neighbor cities. Thinking about visiting Venice? Consider staying in Mestre, the city next to it, well connected with the train.
If you plan only to stay in the city during the day, consider stay in a nearby and less touristy city. But, if you want to take advantage of the nightlife in the city you are visiting make sure beforehand there is a way to come back to your accommodation with public transport.
If not, this saving trick can actually add up some extra cost.
They are incredible countries and have so much to offer! Actually, Montenegro is of my favorite countries in Europe… Good food, plenty of beautiful landscapes with affordable prices and few touristy spots.
18. Special Events going on at the hostel
On the note of making use of the hostel staff, don’t forget to ask them if there are special events going on.
Maybe the hostel will be throwing a barbecue that’s free for guests, or there will be a drinks offer for happy hour that can help you save money instead of going out.
Hostels sometimes also have discounts for certain tours or activities, like bike rentals.
Generally, the stuff that’s going on will be budget-friendly – and a lot of fun, too!
19. Avoid Souvenirs aka. be creative with your souvenirs
Another budget travel tip to save money and space in your backpack/luggage. That does not mean you should not take memories! Maybe you need a new shirt? Buy one in the city you just felt in love with.
We are not talking about a city-themed tourism shirt á la „I love London“.
Even a regular grey shirt bought at a store turns into a souvenir.
20. More slow travel
Moving slower is cheaper!
When traveling Europe, there is no need to jump from one city to the next. Instead, take a deep breath, and plan a few more days in one destination! This will save you especially some travel money on the transport.
Think about it. Your travel expenses are mainly:
Food does not really count fully as an expense. After all, you would need to eat at home as well. Sure, when you eat out and try local dishes and stuff, this is an expense.
However, transport is something you can really save money on by simply not jumping on a bus or train every 3 days instead of each day.
21. Transport: Compare City Passes and offers
Many cities offer a city pass that includes transport, museums, …even some free drinks in certain restaurants! Have a look at these offers carefully because sometimes they are really a good deal.
I remember the first time I visited Amsterdam I bought the Amsterdam card and used it a lot. I can tell you I saved a lot, cause I visited many museums.
Google Flights: This one is one of the best budget travel tips out there – seriously!
Google flights shows you the cheapest flights from your destination. Just pick your airport, budget and dates. And the magic will appear in form of itineraries.
You can also set up alarms when prices go down a certain amount, or just have a watch list of desired destinations.
24. Stay out of the city center
Show us a city center which is NOT more expensive than the suburbs! Having a caña (beer) around Plaza del Sol in Madrid is more expensive than the other parts of town. Makes sense right?! At restaurants, bars, cafés and so on you usually pay for the location as well.
So don’t get a coffee in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Big Ben or the Colosseum.
25. Avoid roaming fees
Cell phone roaming charges is a big cost that can really leave your wallet reeling.
Check in with your cell phone provider so that you can be informed about potential fees.
If you want to save money while traveling on your cell phone, the easiest way is to always use WiFi. Most hostels nowadays offers it with no extra cost.
It is also a good idea to buy a SIM card from a local cellphone service provider when you arrive.
In Europe, there is a free roaming policy, meaning, if you have bought a SIM card in Spain, you will be able to use it in France, Uk,… with no extra charges.
However, things are getting also complicated in some countries, like Germany, where you can only buy a SIM card if you have a permanent address (they will send the SIM Card to you in around 2 weeks).
As for a great pocket WiFi in Europe, we tested the Hippocket WiFi. It is fast, cheap and simple to use! Check out our full review about Hippocket WiFi Europe here.
26. Search for „Free Things to do in …“
Pretty basic, right?!
Head over to Mr.Google and type in „Free Things to do in“ + destination. You will most likely find plenty of websites talking about this.
And even better: Don’t stay only on the first page. Go for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th page on Google. This is where you can find smaller websites talking about slightly different free things to do in that place you want to discover.
It is a good thing the app is not that popular like TripAdvisor or other huge platforms/ Apps. You can search on foursquare for places with special offers e.g. a free drink by checking in, 10% discount on the daily menu and so on.
Another big advantage: People love to rate the locations and create their own lists for food, bars, things to do, .… So, hope over to FourSquare and search for such lists and use the recommendations.
36. Shop at Local Markets (okay okay…not always cheaper!)
BUT: You can really score some big points and sweet deals. Obviously, we are not talking about the popular tourist markets here. The local markets have local prices, and you can sometimes have a free sample before buying.
37. Book your Hostel like a pro
There are many ways to book a hostel in a cheaper way. We created a special article about this including 11 booking hacks for hostels.
To get to some places that have fewer connections, try a carsharing service.
BlaBlaCar works quite well in Europe!
We used it from Barcelona to Marseille, from Marseille to Zurich…. and met many interesting people. I recommend you to see the driver reviews and other information. Also important: be easy on your plans so you can find a ride easily.
43. 5€ can be more than 10€ – Spend your money wisely
Traveling on a budget means you have to make choices. No private room, but therefore only a 4-bed dorm. However, there are situations where you should spend more and go for it. It is called investing. Other moments you should give it a pass.
When it comes to a unique tour you really want to take for whatever reasons, you should do it. You can save the extra coins you spend here later on sacrifice a bike rental or going for a drink.
44. Take Overnight Trains/ Buses
Here you save accommodation for a night.
Especially in expensive destinations, this can be a good money-saver.
Have you heard of Omio? This website is great for booking affordable transport in Europe. From busses, to trains, to planes. Here’s our full review of Omio.
45. Make sure you are insured
Before buying any insurance, make sure you don’t have any.
If you are a European citizen, you are covered while traveling in Europe. kindly check that with your social security system and make sure you have all the papers (or card) you need with you before your trip. When traveling without these papers or card you will have to pay for your medical expenses in the country visited.
Also, if you have a private medical insurance, it might cover you while traveling abroad.
Not covered? Then consider getting a travel insurance. What looks like an extra cost can save your but in case of emergency.
The number 1 item I always advise people to take if they’re looking to save money and travel more frequently, is a tent. This is one of my more unusual travel tips, but it can save you a fortune on accommodation costs. Nowadays, many hostels have camping spaces, which means you still get to enjoy all the amenities they offer, just at a cheaper rate. Tents also allow you more personal space than a dorm room and often you can camp in the hostel garden, which usually means a nicer set of surrounds than a 16 bed shared room!
Besides Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have lots of hostels with camping.
48. Don’t sit for a coffee
In Italy, there are three prices for coffee.
One is for sitting down (the most expensive option), while the second option is drinking the coffee at the bar – medium-priced. The cheapest option is ordering the coffee for take away. And score: this is the cheapest way to do it!
Chances are, they’ll be more than happy to help you out with suggestions on what to do, see, eat, and drink (particularly if it’s one of the 5 Star Hostels).
If you’re on a tight budget, then go ahead and let your hostel staff know that when you’re asking for tips. Maybe they know about a super cheap and super tasty local restaurant, or they might be able to let you in on the secret to getting discounted entry into tourist sights. It never hurts to ask!
50. Pay attention to currency leftovers
Be careful and plan your expenses so you do not have high currency leftovers. When traveling around Europe, you might encounter different currencies:
Switzerland: Swiss franc
If you have currency leftover, bear in mind banks will only accept to change bank notes. So, be smart about your currency leftovers and spend them in snacks -specially if you are traveling from a cheaper country to another with higher prices- or try to change your coins in the hostel with other travelers or in the reception.
This is a great way to save money, to meet new people and generally have a lot of fun!
Worldpackers is a fabulous platform for finding a wide range of volunteering opportunities in Europe, and across the world.
It’s a community, too. So not only can you try new things, but you can also learn new skills from their online academy and read many useful blogs.