Europe on a Budget: Traveling Like a Local Can Save Cash

Photo by Aaron Clark
Morris Su
Photo by Aaron Clark

There has never been a better time to travel to Europe on a student budget. The United States dollar is practically even with the Euro, creating opportunities that should be taken. For the next month I will be backpacking throughout the continent while sending out weekly updates on what to see, how to see it, and most importantly, how to do it as cheaply as possible.

The biggest obstacle for most students is the price of a plane ticket to Europe (which in the summer can be upwards of $1500). I wish I had better advice on the matter, but the best I can offer is to get on your knees and beg your parents to invest in your future. Either that or get a part-time job. It will be worth every penny.

The next most outrageous expense is finding a place to stay. The best option I found is to find refuge in hostels, where I was able to find accommodations for as low as $20 a night.

Hostels are not as scary and murderous as Hollywood makes them out to be. In fact, they are surprisingly clean, comfortable, and a great spot to meet like-minded people. Hostel Bookers allows you to book rooms from all over Europe without any extra fees, with the added ability to read reviews from other travelers as well as see pictures of the hostels and where they are in proximity to the sites you want to see.

I started off my European adventure in Rome, Italy — the perfect starting point. It allows me to move north to Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic before ending my month-long journey in Paris. Here’s my first tip: buy a one-way ticket to Rome and a one-way ticket back from Paris. This will allow you to explore every nook and cranny in between.

Roman Ruins.jpg
Roman Forum. Photo by Aaron Clark

Embarking on a trip through Europe in Rome is the best decision you can make, but it also has its drawbacks. You can see the ancient Roman ruins, but the heavy scent of urine will follow you throughout your entire stay. That, unfortunately, is the end result of a city where bars outnumber restrooms almost 20 to 1. That aside, there really is nothing quite like gazing at the evening light reflecting off the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. This easily makes up for the fact you’ll be breathing through your mouth for your entire visit (which, coincidentally, is my second tip.)

My third tip is to go online and purchase a Roma Pass at, rather than strolling up the gates of the Colosseum and expecting to walk on in without waiting in an eternal line. A three-day pass costs 36 euros and grants you a line-less admission to the Colosseum as well as entrance to the Roman Forum and metro transportation.

Likewise, the lines at the Vatican can get so long that they will leave you wanting to scale the walls to get in. I would recommend going online and purchasing an advance reservation ticket at least a month prior. There you can reserve a time and buy a ticket for as low as 20 euros. This is a considerable savings as tour vendors will charge nearly 45 euros for the same privilege of not having to wait in line.

Tiber River.jpg
Photo by Aaron Clark

By planning in advance you can save a boatload of money and time. It pays to do some research. Save money on rail travel by booking online like the locals do. When traveling in Italy go to, which gives you the ability to buy tickets for commuter trains. These are far cheaper than the tickets that online operators will try and sell you for Eurostar trains.

It’s cutting corners like that and planning in advance that has allowed me to stick to a tight budget as I travel through Europe like a local instead of like the average wealthy (but clueless) American tourist.

Tune in next week and I will share with you my money saving tips as I travel through the heart of Tuscany, the only place in the world with fewer parking spaces than the U.



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