Keeping budget on your upcoming trip to Europe is easy with the right know-how.
Whether it’s a little thing like bringing an empty bottle into the airport so you don’t have to pay expensive airport prices to keep hydrated to a larger thing like how to shave hundreds off accommodation by shopping around these are a few things to keep in mind when travelling halfway across the world that could save you heaps.
Before you leave it’s good to get your travel finances in order – or at the very least know how you’re going to fund yourself for the first few days of your trip.
1. Make use of travel-friendly cards
Once an expensive option for foreign travel, there are now plenty of travel-friendly credit, debit and travel money cards that won’t charge for international transactions and international ATM withdrawals.
All travel money cards let you load Euro, but not all countries in Europe are part of the Eurozone. Check the table below to see which countries use Euro if you’re unsure.
Europe in general is card friendly and you’ll likely not have a problem paying with card in retail outlets and restaurants.
2. Consider a bank account with a global presence
The two biggest fees you’ll be slammed with when withdrawing money from ATMs are international bank fees and conversion fees. These can sometimes be avoided by withdrawing from that bank’s ATMs. Some banks, including Citibank, don’t charge you at all for withdrawals from any ATM in Europe. Bear in mind that sometimes it’s not the bank but the ATM that charges you a fee. The ATM will advise you of a possible charge fee before you withdrawal if this is the case.
3. Keep various forms of payment on you
For safety reasons as well as to save on potential fees, it’s a good idea to travel with various forms of payment. This can be a combination of a credit card, debit card and cash.
Travelling with various payment methods can save the hassle of having to find an ATM (and copping its fees) when making a purchase from somewhere that doesn’t accept cash. Conversely, it can also save you from minimum transaction amount fees that some merchants may charge.
4. Don’t change money at the airport
Airports are notorious for offering inflated exchange rates. Get a small amount of cash exchanged before you leave the country or withdrawal money from the ATM first before you head into town.
5. Always check the daily exchange rate
Don’t get caught out with a dodgy exchange rate if you have to change your money to the local currency.
6. Don’t take out more than you need in cash – especially for countries that don’t use the Euro
Euros is the official currency of 19 European countries however, as stated above, it is not the official currency of every European countries. Many countries including Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Croatia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Poland use their own currency.
If you’re planning to visit any of these it may be worth estimating how much physical cash you might need so you don’t convert too much. This will help you avoid double the fees to convert whatever remaining cash you have back.
Accommodation options are as varied as the continent and come in every shape and size to suit every comfort level or budget. So because every traveller has different preferences and price-points we’ve tried to include a tip for every one.
7. Compare hotel prices across various websites
Like groceries from one shop to the next, the price of a room in a specific hotel can change depending on which website you book through.
An easy way to check that you’re not being ripped off is to use a hotels comparison site like Trivago to get the cheapest price on your desired room.
8. Use those price match guarantees
After you’ve found the cheapest advertised price for the hotel you’re eyeing, have a quick look on the official hotel website to see if it offers a “lowest price guarantee”. If it does, call them up on it to the price matched or see if they can beat it.
9. Book last-minute or book a secret hotel
Go are the days when last-minute bookings would have cost you an arm and a leg. These days it’s all about filling empty rooms no matter what the price. If you’re willing to risk it, booking a few days before or evening on the morning of the day could give you big discount. The same goes for secret hotel deals only you won’t know which hotel you’re booking until you’ve paid. Curious? You can often figure this out with a quick Google search.
10. Be loyal
Loyalty pays off when you book through certain engines. has a membership program that awards you one free stay for every 10 paid stays. Booking.com also awards loyal users with “Genius” benefits such as early check-in and a drink on arrival.
11. Book a private room in a hostel if you still want your space
Hostels are a low-cost accommodation solution typically favourited by backpackers and young travellers. They offer dormitory beds and multi bed rooms but can also offer private rooms with your own ensuite for less than a hotel, making it an option if you want your own space. Facilities such as toilets and showers are often shared and extras such as room service aren’t included.
12. BYO your accessories when staying in hostels
Being a “no-frills” accommodation option, hostels don’t typically come with complimentary towels and toiletries. To save money on having to hire these or purchase them, bring your own from home. Hostels sometimes also charge you to use their padlocks, so keep one on hand as well if you wish to lock up your belongings.
13. Consider couchsurfing
This form of accommodation is so cheap, it’s free. Couchsurfing can be an authentic and fun way to meet people and have a real-life tour guide help you navigate your way around. They’re also a good point of contact to reach out to for advice or help during your stay. Just remember to treat your host like a friend, not a hotel. To keep this system safe for you, read your host’s feedback to get a good idea of them and avoid anyone that doesn’t sound right. Always have a backup plan in case things don’t go the way you planned.
14. Consider camping to save on accommodation costs
Campsites are plentiful throughout Europe and vary in service and quality. They can be a cheap way to sleep in Europe, but don’t count on it. Often, you may find renting or hostel bed is cheaper than sleeping in a campground when you consider all the costs like Wi-Fi and electricity outlets. Frequently, campsites charge an extra fee for these facilities.
15. Try a homestay network like Airbnb
Airbnb, Vrbo and HomeAway are shaking up the market by offering affordable homestays. These can be cheaper than hotels but do vary in quality and location.