A trip to Europe is usually found on every dreamers’ bucket list. A magical place filled to the brim with a variety of offerings for every kind of traveler. This dream is always within reach but what usually stops people from doing it is the notion that it’ll create a gaping hole in your finances. Europe may be one of the most expensive places to travel to, but there are ways, my friend. All you have to do is take care of getting there, and let this pocket friendly list help you to get a unique travel experience in Europe.
1.) Stay at hostels
When it comes to accommodation, hostels are the best way to go! You not only get an affordable place to sleep in, but it’s a great way to get instant friends! Hostels are the usual traveler’s haven and everything becomes easier when you choose to check into one. Receptionists already know the best and affordable things to do around the area. You get to explore the city and party the night away with your room mates. Travelers that you meet along the road are also great people to get travel tips from. Hostels are usually fully equipped with WiFi, a kitchen (to cook your meals ergo cheaper food), and a common room. On top of all that, you get a comfortable bed to sleep in and recharge before jetting off to your next location. Hostels basically gives you an easy way to get all your necessities at a pocket friendly price and gets you an additional bonus that hotels can never give— friends and adventure.
In all my trips in Europe, there is one very reliable website that I turn to that never fails to give me another great story to tell. Go visit www.CouchSurfing.org to see what I’m talking about. Brief background: You become a member and you can use the site to either surf, meet or host. Surfers are travelers who go to other countries and they find hosts who allow them to stay at their place for free. If you can’t host or surf, you can opt to just meet up with these locals/foreigners.
Why is this such a great goldmine? Because locals know best. Besides the fact that your accommodation is taken care of without charge, you create a great connection with other global citizens! These locals have been living in the area and know the best way to experience the city like one! Some of them are even nice enough to take the time to go with you on out of town trips. I’ve had my fair share of negative experiences, but it’s just all about knowing how to handle and take care of yourself. I’ve used this as a solo female traveler and as you can tell, I’m still alive and well.
Just to get you all psyched up about this, one of my most memorable CouchSurfing experiences was meeting a CS-er in Milan, Italy who saved my life when I had a transportation mishap. On top of saving me, he not only toured me in Milan, but took me to his family lakehouse in Lugano, Switzerland which was 1.5 hours away from Milan. This is just one of many great adventures I’ve had with CouchSurfing. It’s not for everyone, but if you give it a chance, you might find yourself collecting great stories along your travels!
3.) Free Walking Tours/Affordable Unique Tours
When traveling, it is inevitable that one must participate in tours. Before shelling out money for the first one you see, there is an option that is lighter on the pocket. Nowadays, there are so many walking tours that are absolutely free! They both still give out the same information as do the others, and some of these free walking tours have much more fun and engaging tour guides! They are paid by the amount of tips that the tourists choose to give them after the tour. They appreciate all amounts, though of course it would be best if you give a good tip if the tour was amazing! They get to have an extra source of income, and you get to have a much more affordable tour! Same information and tourist guidance for a fraction of the price.
Another variation is the much more unique kind of tours. Personally, if I have to pay for a tour, I’d go with one that is unique and different from the usual kind. When I was in Barcelona, I went for a bicycle tour with my hostel roomies! It was super fun!! For only 15 euros, we each were rented a sturdy bike, 3 hours’ worth of touring and biking around Barcelona city center (it included stops at each tourist spot for photo ops and for the tour guide to talk), a super duper fantastic tour guide who was really creative in delivering his tour spiels, and it all ended with a nice lunch by the beach. Going for a more unique tour makes for a better story to tell as the whole experience instantly becomes way more awesome because it’s out of the ordinary!
4.) Cheap souvenirs.
Every traveller wants to be able to remember their trips and the usual way to go is to get souvenirs. This is why vendors usually jack up the prices at their shops because tourists usually swarm to clamour for an item to remember their trip by. On top of the memento, there’s also the required ‘pasalubong’ that you have to give to family and friends at home. Let’s break down the two shall we…
What I do for a more unique way of remembering trips is bartering with a local. I bring something Filipino-y with me on my trips and when I make a new friend in a country, I usually exchange an item with them. For example.. In Milan, I exchanged one of my Filipino looking wallets (DEFINITELY WITHOUT the money please haha) with an Italian who had a really pretty bracelet. I was happy with my new pretty accessory, but she was happier with her weaved Filipino wallet. You hit three birds with one stone by getting a memento from a country you were in, getting a remembrance to think of your new friend in the future, and you’re able to leave your mark (via the traded object from you) with someone from somewhere in the world. Did I also mention that you didn’t even need to spend a single Euro?
As for the typically expected ‘pasalubong’ (souvenir) for your loved ones, hit the grocery stores and convenient shops! They have the cheapest (but still yummy) food that won’t expire immediately! When I was in France, I just bought a lot of food from the convenient store. Shelling out only 25 Euros, I was able to make about 50 friends happy! Besides, if food can’t satisfy a person and make them happy, I don’t know what will.
5.) Immerse in all your senses.
Some people tend to think of only the tourist spots they’re excited to see when they travel. Most only think of the pictures and photo opportunities that they can upload on social media/share with their friends. It’s a common ground for everyone to be excited about exploring new places! I’m not saying that these are menial reasons. But the magic of travel happens when you completely immerse yourself in everything— even the tiny little things that would’ve gone unnoticed had you been unaware. I don’t have a lot of pictures when I travel cause I prefer being in the moment, completely submerging myself with everything and everyone. If you use all your senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing, you give yourself a much more personal memory that’ll always take you back to that certain country.
There’s just something about traveling with the intent of pure discovery for everything that a country stands for— its culture, its inhabitants, its environment, its cuisine that makes it a more enriching experience. This is evident most especially in Europe, wherein pretty much everything is pretty and rich in culture and detail… Without spending a single Euro, you can enjoy all the beauty that foreign lands have to offer just by being present, being in the moment, and giving in to all your senses. Take some time to detach from anything digital, and just appreciate and embrace the country for all its beauty and individuality. After all, we travel to discover, to enlighten ourselves, and to make our world bigger.