Europe is probably the most popular region to travel to in the world. It's popular for it's impressive history, beautiful small towns, lively pubs, and easy transportation. It's a great place to visit if you're going on your first trip abroad, because the train system is excellent and the tourist infrastructure is some of the best in the world. There's a great diversity of things to see and do in Europe, so if you have a limited amount of time or money, you need to pick your destinations wisely. Some areas are more expensive than others, so if you pick the right countries and cities, you'll find that your money will take you a lot farther.
If you're short on time but want to see some of the most popular gems in Europe, head to the northern areas. It's easiest to fly into London, because there are plenty of plane connections that are usually cheaper in price. Spend a few days exploring this city and visiting its many museums and diverse neighborhood. From there you can head over to Lille, or Paris, France, and then on to Brussels, Cologne, and Amsterdam before rounding out your trip back in London. The cities are all quite close to each other so transportation is easy and convenient. It's great way to visit some of the most popular cities in the area.
The most efficient way to do this trip is to start in one city and end in another. See if you can find an open jaw ticket, but if not, there are often cheap, one way airfares within Europe so you can connect the first and last cities on your own. Look at regional airlines that usually offer the best rates for shorter connections. Start your trip in either Valencia or Barcelona, Spain and spend some time exploring the Spanish culture. Then more on to Avignon and Nice, France before circling down into Genoa, Cinque Terre
, and Rome.
Start your trip in Prague where you can experience the rich history of the area. Then head south into Budapest and live it up in this cosmopolitan city before moving on into Sarajevo. From Sarajevo you can travel to the famed town of Mostar, then on to Dubrovnik, Croatia, which sits on the coast. Finish off your trip by heading into Montenegro and seeing it's beautiful coastline.
On a Backpacker's Budget
Europe has always been an expensive travel destination. Some areas are more expensive than others, but wherever you go there are some tricks you can use to help you save money. Picking the right region can give you more for your money. Historically, Eastern Europe has offered the most value for your money, but today, most countries in Eastern Europe are rivaling their Western counterparts in cost. This is particularly true for the more popular areas like Hungary and the Czech Republic. Scandinavia is one of the more expensive regions in the area and cities like London, Paris, and Amsterdam can cost a lot as well.
A good way to keep your costs in check is to consider traveling in the shoulder season, between the peak and low seasons. The weather will still be comfortable and most of the outdoor activities will still be open, but everything will likely cost you a little less. The crowds will be at a minimum as well, so you can enjoy having the attractions to yourself.
Also, look into budget airlines before you arrive. There are many ways to get cheap plane tickets around Europe and this can save you time and money. Do make sure you understand what is, and isn't included in the price of your ticket. Some of the discount airlines fly into inconvenient airports as well, so check the connections and make sure the budget option is also an efficient option.
Another trick for keeping your food budget in check is to make lunch your largest meal of the day. In most larger cities you can get a "businessman's lunch" for a cheaper price. These set menus often include an appetizer, main dish, and dessert, all for a low price. Then for dinner you can either cook, or eat a light meal out. This will allow you to try the local specialties in a nice restaurant, but also keep you from spending too much. Cooking fresh food from the market can be a fun experience as well.
If you're traveling as a couple, it may be cheaper to stay in a hotel than a hostel, so consider your options. The downside to this option is that you likely won't have access to a kitchen, but you will have more privacy than you would in a hostel. The quality of the hotels is often much better than the hostels as well. Also, do some research into couchsurfing. Alternatively, many local residents rent out rooms in their apartments in larger cities in Europe. You can often find these listed on Craigslist.org.
History, Sports and Shopping
People head to Europe for any number of reasons. The history in the area is very impressive and you can visit anything from churches and cathedrals to castles or old forts. You'll also find plenty of outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, or kayaking. If you're looking for a good beach, just head to the Mediterranean and you won't be disappointed.
Europe is rich in history and has some of the best museums in the world. From the British Museum in London
to the Louvre in Paris
, a history or art enthusiast could spend days lost in these incredible examples. If you're on a budget, do some research ahead of time. Many museums have a "discount" day once a week or month. Try to schedule your museum visit on that day. If you plan to visit a lot of museums and sights within one city, consider getting that city's "City Pass." Most touristy cities have them and they will often get you discount or free entrance into museums among other things.
While many people go to Europe for the cities, there are many opportunities for adrenaline junkies as well. There are some famous winter sport destinations. If you're heading to Switzerland, consider using Lucerne as a jumping off point. If you're on a budget or looking for a different experience, consider going somewhere a little less famous and expensive like Vitosha, just outside of Sofia, Bulgaria.
Whether you're looking for clothes, antiques, or handmade gifts, shopping opportunities in Europe abound. You can find high end boutiques in almost every city, and most small towns have lovely weekend markets where you can pick up something unique and memorable.
Castles and Old Towns:
Europe's strong history is still visible in many cities, and around the countryside where you'll see impressive castles, and amazing examples of detailed architecture. From the well preserved old towns in cities like Prague, to the famous castles dotting the countryside of Germany, history buffs can always find something to keep them entertained.
Low Cost Destinations
While Europe is far from a budget destination, there are still a few hidden gems where you can get by on a backpacker's budget. Eastern Europe remains the cheaper option, although places like Budapest, Hungary and Istanbul
, Turkey give Western Europe a run for its money. For affordable prices, you have to look elsewhere. Consider going to the Baltics, where cities like Tallinn
offer incredible history and a nightlife that draws the young crowd. In southern Italy, places like Naples, are more affordable than their northern counterparts, Rome
or Florence, and Dubrovnik
is still more affordable than Mykonos
Cities are generally more expensive than small towns as well. If you're hoping to save some money, head outside of the big city and look for an interesting, quaint town that has a large selection in accommodation. Generally, food and entertainment can cost a lot less if you're willing to get away from the big city. You'll also have a very different experience, because in most countries, small town culture is very different than big city culture. Many smaller towns have weekend flea markets, which can be a fun place to visit and pick up some locally made souvenirs for friends and family.
Unlike in some parts of the world, you'll generally get the best rates on hotels and train tickets if you make reservations well in advance. This involves doing more planning than some travelers prefer to do. It may take away a little of your flexibility, but in the long run it will save you a lot of money. Do some research before you arrive in Europe. If you plan to travel by train there are some discount rail passes. Unfortunately with these passes you often have to pay unexpected add-ons. Often, the cheapest way may actually be a cheap flight. Also look into bus routes and prices. These can be faster and more affordable than trains. If you're a student, get a international student ID card, which will also give you many discount options.