7 Tips to Travel Europe Cheap and Safe
Traveling is a great experience no matter where you go, but Europe can be an unbelievable experience. There is nothing better then touring the countries that basically gave birth to the United States. This country was founded by mostly Europeans, so when you’re traveling around Europe you find a lot of our heritage throughout the continent. This can, however, be an intimidating and costly experience if you are not prepared. Luckily for you I have taken this journey and I have done it cheaply. Also lucky for you, when I took this trip I was young and dumb so I made plenty of mistakes and am here to help you avoid making the same ones. So, here are seven helpful hints to make your way through Europe cheaply, and most importantly, safely.
1. Get a Eurail Pass
This may be one of the most important tips for traveling Europe and seeing the most without completely breaking the bank. Now it may end up being the most expensive purchase you make the entire trip, and that includes the plane ticket over, but believe me it is worth your money. When you get yourself a pass it allows you to hop trains like it was your job. You can purchase a pass for about fifteen or twenty countries throughout Europe. Here is where I can give you some of my personal advice; you must go to the ticket window and get your ticket before your board the train. Trust me on this one. I had no clue you had to get a ticket and I hopped right on the train and at the first stop they kicked me off because I had no ticket, even though I had a pass. You don’t have to pay anything, you just walk right up to the ticket window, give them your Eurail pass, and tell them which train and to where and they will print you a ticket. The ticket punchers on the trains are not nice and they will not hesitate to kick you off wherever the next stop may be.
2. Book Trains Overnight
This is another great way to save money while traveling Europe. Almost every train line has an overnight train with rooms that have tiny, and I do mean tiny, beds that fold down and allow you to sleep on the way to your destination. The best part about it is that you can use your Eurail pass to get a ticket for these slumber parties on the train. It is not the most comfortable bed ever, and you will definitely not get the best night’s sleep, but it beats paying for a hostel when you have little to no money. My best suggestion for this is to get a bottle of wine and drink as much of it as you can before you board or even on the train. This makes the constant stopping and going throughout the night a little less noticeable and much less miserable. Still, you better be prepared to about roll out of bed when the train stops at its many destinations along the way. The squealing breaks don’t help either, but it’s a essentially a free night of sleep.
3. Book Hostels Ahead of Arrival
This is a stupid mistake I made time and time again while traveling, so please take the opportunity to learn from my folly. Booking ahead is a great way to save money. This tip is especially important if you’re traveling during the high volume tourist time in Europe, which is the summer. There were too many occasions where I would show up somewhere and look endlessly for a hostel and they would all be booked up. So I would end up staying in one of the hotels, that are actually pretty reasonable, but nothing like paying five or six Euros for a night. Also, it is a lot of fun staying in a hostel because you meet so many people who are doing exactly what you’re doing. Many hostels even will have a bar in them that will be up and running all night. The best way to book ahead for these hostels is to find one the many Internet cafes around all the countries in Europe, and hop online and book your hostel anywhere from couple of days to a week in advance. This tip is might be the most important one because sometimes even all the hotels are locked up, and trust me, sleeping on the street or in a train station in miserable and scary. Not to mention the security guards in the train station are not fond of this practice and they will enjoy waking you up and kicking you out.
4. Be Prepared to Stink
Traveling through Europe is the first and only time I have been mistaken for a homeless man. As I sat at the train station in Berlin, after nearly two months of no shaving or haircuts, with my hat between my legs, I hear a little jingle and it is because some one dropped some change my way. Looking back I don’t blame them; I was pretty haggard. This is just the nature of traveling quickly and having to share a shower with a lot of other people you don’t know. Hostels generally have community bathrooms and they can get pretty dirty and unpleasant. If being a little stinky is not for you then you may want to rethink living out of a backpack for two months. On the bright side, you don’t stand out too much because many of the Europeans are not big on deodorant.
5. Air Travel is an Option
Surprisingly enough, there are lots of little airlines in Europe that hop from country to country all the time and are relatively cheap. For example, I found a plane ticket from Barcelona, Spain, to Rome, Italy for 60 Euros. Granted, this is much more expensive than using your Eurail pass, considering it is all paid and the train ticket is free, but that same trip may have taken days. When I checked out taking the train to go this exact route, there would have been a three day delay because it was too windy for the train to make the journey. So, I looked for alternatives and found the plane ticket. I would not recommend traveling this way the whole time, but if you’re sick of trains, a plane ride is a nice change of pace.
6. Wear a Money Belt
This is one of the most important things you can take along with you on your journey. It is essentially a little fanny pack that lays flat across your belly under your clothes in which you can store important stuff like your passport or money. You will want to have these items on you at all times because, if for some awful reason, you lose your passport it is a big deal, and getting pick pocketed is not fun either. Once again learn from me and always wear one of these and put your money, credit cards, and passport in it. While I was in France I decided I was sick of wearing mine, because believe me they can become a pain in the rear, and the next thing I know I was at dinner with no money. It was not fun. I was embarrassed, and the owner of the restaurant was extremely annoyed to say the least. Believe me, I realize how annoying and ridiculous these money belts may seem, but pickpockets can pick out a tourist and they will take everything you have if you’re not careful.
7. Learn a Little of the Native Language
In almost every country in Europe the people speak a decent amount of English, but not all of them like English speakers. I am not suggesting that you to go out and become fluent in any European language unless you want to, but knowing a few phrases helps. You may even sound like an idiot while you try speaking their language, but they notice the gesture. Europeans often find Americans to be arrogant because we don’t even try to learn their language while they know ours sometimes better than many of us do. France is notorious for this. While I was there almost all of the French people knew English but would refuse to talk to me because I spoke in English. Then I picked up a little English to French phrase book and attempted to speak in French. Many times when I did this I would get a comical smirk and then an answer in English.
These tips could continue forever, but what fun would it be if you didn’t learn any lessons yourself? Hopefully these tips will help you in your travels throughout Europe. I know if I had done my research and stumbled across a few tips like this it would have made my journey go a bit smoother. Regardless, remember that while you’re there, have fun and soak up every experience and sight that you come across.