Travel Cost Guides
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Europe is one of the most expensive regions in the world to travel to. There can be a lot of variability by country, with some of the more affordable countries found in Eastern Europe. Western Europe has some of the more expensive countries, but it attracts the greatest number of tourists. Because of this high demand, you can really find any type of accommodation in most countries. There are many quaint, boutique style hotels that can be a wonderful experience. You can also find many of the western or American chains if you're looking for those familiarities. Hostels are readily available throughout Europe as well. They are far more common than in the United States. Even in smaller towns, you're likely to find at least one or two hostels where you can rent a cheap dorm bed.
Depending on the season you're traveling during, you should probably consider making a reservation in advance. Rooms can fill up and the prices are usually lower at least a couple of weeks out. While you can occasionally find last minute deals, you're not likely to get a good rate if you show up without reservations. If you're visiting a larger city, it can be overwhelming to arrive without a destination in mind. Comparing prices across neighborhoods is virtually impossible as well once you arrive. Save yourself some hassle, and probably some money, and make a reservation before you arrive.
Finding the Best Deals
Because of Europe's high costs and popularity among travelers, you can often get the best deals by booking in advance. There are plenty of hostels throughout the region, but if that's not your style and you're traveling with a companion, you can easily get a private room in a budget hotel for roughly the same cost. You won't have access to a kitchen, which you may have in a hostel, but you will have your own room and a lot more privacy. Couples traveling together will often find that budget hotels and guesthouses are their best option, especially in the rare occasion that they find one with a kitchen.
If you're looking to save some money but don't want to sleep in a dorm, consider getting a room that has a shared bathroom. It's actually not as inconvenient as you might think. You typically share the bathroom with only a few other rooms. There is usually plenty of hot water, and you may have to wait a few minutes for the shower, but the inconvenience is minimal. Most guests are very respectful of each other and there's a good chance you won't even encounter the other guests. Many rooms that offer shared bathrooms also provide a sink in the room itself, so you can brush your teeth without going down the hall. It's a great option because you'll still get the privacy of your own room, but you'll cut down on costs dramatically.
Traveling in the shoulder season can really make an impact on costs in Europe. The fall and spring months are usually a great time to travel because the weather is still warm, but the prices are lower. Hotels often have different rates for peak and off seasons, and the prices between these two times are usually at a discount as well. Also make sure you check out the holiday schedule for the country you're visiting. It's best to avoid a national holiday because prices will climb and crowds will be more dense.
In Europe, the cheapest way to make reservations is usually through a booking website. There are popular websites that list hotels, and then their are websites that specifically list hostels. If you're hoping to stay in a hostel make sure you find a site that targets that type of traveler. Do some research and make sure you thoroughly understand all of the options that are available to you. Otherwise, you'll likely end up at an overpriced, low quality hotel. Also make sure you read reviews for the specific hostel or hotel you choose. Reviews can tell you a lot about the value for the money.
A Range of Choices
There are a range of accommodation types in Europe. You can pretty much find something for any travel style or budget. In larger cities you'll find a good number of hostels, guesthouses, and popular hotel chains. Consider staying at a locally owned hotel where you might feel more integrated into the community. Make sure you've chosen a hotel that's in a convenient neighborhood. Although most cities throughout Europe have excellent transportation systems, it can quickly eat away at your time and money if you have a long commute to reach any of the popular attractions.
In the smaller towns that are frequented by tourists you'll find plenty of guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, and mid-range hotels. Even in the smaller towns there's usually at least one or two hostels. If you're an independent traveler looking to meet some fellow travelers on the road, a hostel may be the way to go. They also often provide a kitchen so you can save some money if you plan to cook your own meals. If you're traveling with a companion, in many places it's just as cheap to find a budget private room as it is to get two dorm beds.
In smaller towns, particularly in Eastern European countries, you can often find a room in the home of a resident that they rent out. Often, when you arrive at the train or bus station you will be greeted by a handful of "touts" offering you any range of accommodation options. Be sure and see the room before you make any confirmation. You can usually negotiate the price down in these situations as well. Also make sure you understand where you're going before you leave with someone. You don't want to end up in a far away neighborhood with no way to travel back to town. Have the owner point to their hotel or residence on a map so you know exactly where it is.
If you're going to be in a city for an extended period of time, or you're traveling with a larger group of friends and family, consider renting out an apartment or house. This will give you access to a kitchen, and the costs can be split several ways, so the overall expenditure may actually be less. You'll also have more of the comforts of home, so your holiday may actually be more enjoyable. Having your own apartment really makes you feel like part of the community. You can go to the local market and prepare meals with local produce. Some apartments offer balconies so you can enjoy eating a meal while you look out over the town. This is a great way to fully experience a city.
Camping is another option if you're traveling when the weather is warm. There are campgrounds throughout Europe and many have hookups including water and even electricity. You will often have access to a bathroom with showers and a toilet as well. Campgrounds are most common in rural areas, particularly near national parks or in the mountains. Some may require reservations during peak seasons, but most do not. It's a fun and unique way to experience the European countryside. If you're planning to do any camping it is best to come prepared with your own tent. It's possible to buy one in most larger cities, but the rental options are limited or nonexistent.
Choosing a Country
Europe is a large region and it can be difficult to narrow your trip down to a small area. If you're using prices as a guide for selecting a region then you will find the best deals in Eastern Europe. In particular, Bulgaria and the Ukraine can be quite affordable, but the Baltics and the Balkans are all reasonably priced as well. If you're concerned about price then it's best to avoid some of the more popular cities like Dubrovnik or Prague, and instead go to more rural, less discovered areas where you will find your money goes a lot farther.
In Western Europe you'll usually find the best deals in Spain, Portugal, and southern Italy. The smaller towns are substantially cheaper than the larger cities, but the selection may be more limited. Towns along the coast are also much more expensive, particularly during the summer months. Head to the mountains or the inland countryside if you're looking for a good deal. Scandinavia is a notoriously expensive region and hotels are no exception. Even if you're staying in hostels, your budget could be as much as twice the amount you would pay elsewhere. The quality is usually quite high, but the expenses can quickly add up, so if you didn't budget for it, you're likely to be in for an unwelcome surprise. Switzerland is another expensive country, but you can still find some good deals there. The exchange rate may work in your favor in Switzerland as the country is not on the euro. Traveling during the shoulder season there is a good option as well. Winter can be expensive because of the country's popularity with winter sports, and summer months are always a popular time to visit.