Saturday, July 7, 2018

Travel Hacks: Save Money in Europe

Europe is one of the most interesting parts of the world to travel to - its cultural highlights, its culinary indulgences, and the diversity of people and languages.  Theoretically, one can visit several countries just in one day.  But don't do it!  Enjoy an area and go for more on your next vacation. 

From the snow-capped alpine peaks and Norwegian fjords to Icelandic geysers and Croatian lakes, let alone Swedish rivers clean enough to drink from and the pristine Portuguese coast adored by surfers: Europe's diversity offers virtually unlimited opportunities for exploration.  Here are tips on how you can save money - often as the locals do too.

Book as early as possible if you are fixed on a travel time and a destination.  These prices often include the corresponding early booking discounts. In many cases, you are able to cancel hotel bookings or car rental free of charge during the holiday planning if you find cheaper offers.

Use flight search engines such as Skyscanner, Idealo, or Kayak and then book the cheapest flight directly with the airline.  Travelers to Germany: From August on there are the new inexpensive tickets for train travel.  For only 20 Euros to the other end of the republic!

Brooke Saward advice: “Traditionally it has always been cheaper to book a return ticket from your point of origin… but times are changing.  A great way to save a tonne of cash is to book a one-way flight to your starting point, journey from there to your final destination (i.e. Land in London, travel throughout Southern Europe and fly out of Vienna in Central Europe), and not have to worry about travelling in a loop back to your starting point.”

Find out in advance about the costs of local public transport at your destination.  It would be a pity if the savings on flights or train tickets had been eaten up by 60 Euros for taxis, where only 5 Euros would have been spent on public transport.  Mobility apps such as Ally and Qixxit (both for Android and iPhone) will help you, as well as the local city websites.

If your flight is delayed significantly, stay relaxed and afford something.  Documented delays of more than three hours will bring compensation.  You are entitled to between 250 and 600 Euros per person and flight, depending on the distance to your destination. You can claim the money yourself or leave the claim to an air passenger assistant for a fee.

Avoid luggage trouble and book your tickets accordingly.  Additional luggage at the check-in counter can be tremendously expensive.  You do not need luggage insurance, this is usually expensive and does not replace much.  Your household contents insurance pays for it.

If you can, travel offseason.  This way you avoid that prices are hiked, hotels are fully booked, and the lines for museums go around the whole block.  And you will be among locals, not hordes of tourists. Best times might be May (April in Southern Europe too) and late September and October.

For inexpensive accommodation during July and August, especially if you travel with your family, check out university websites in large cities. Many are offering dorm rooms or whole apartments at very low prices. Even some hostels in Europe are worth the stay, and you might find two-person bedrooms, sometimes even in lovely castles.  Get a hostel pass which lets the overnight fee drop even lower.  There is also a new breed of hostels called Luxury Hostels often with swimming pools or a sauna.

Eat out or Dine in?  Eating out in Europe can be a bit pricey, especially if you are traveling with the whole family on a tight daily budget.  Nibbling street food sandwiches or baguettes for 4-5 Euro’s will keep you going, but if you have time, cook at the hostel or your holiday home. Pasta or a stew is always the easiest dish and keeps the costs way down. In Spain and Italy you will find amazingly inexpensive “antipasti” in form of the famous Tapas/Cicchetti: fish, meat, cheese or other delicious goodies in small portions and for very low prices. In Rome, Milano and other Italian cities, the locals go to “tavola calda”, as the cafeterias are called, and enjoy cheap homemade food at lunchtime for locals on a budget.

Take out a reasonable travel health insurance policy for around 10 Euros so that illnesses or accidents do not ruin your holiday fund, as well as your holiday.  A good travel health insurance also pays for rescue flights and return transports.  You can also conclude the necessary contracts last minute, but you must still be in Germany at that moment.

Visit the local “Tourist Information” once you arrive to find great information (from locals) and advice (for free) as well as get the best option of what to visit. Get free maps and free internet access.

Consider ride-sharing, especially if you travel alone.  Long-distance ride-sharing is popular in Europe, with millions of people now hitching rides with complete strangers on a monthly basis.  Check out, now BlaBlaCar.  You can travel from Hamburg to Berlin in Germany for as low as $16 including free insurance.  And it’s as environmentally friendly as train travel.

Do you need a rental car?  Then you should book it in advance in Germany, including the desired insurance cover.  Check the price again before departure.  Sometimes there are special offers and you can still cancel the previously booked car.  Avoid additional expensive insurance on-site at the car rental company as your own car insurance covers your rental car as well.

Use your smartphone as a navigation device abroad.  For travel outside the EU (or your home country), you should upload the maps on your mobile phone beforehand.  This may avoid high fees for downloading the maps. Within the EU, download costs are capped by EU roaming rules - if you have an EU contract.

Staying in a city: treat yourself to an overnight stay in a hotel from Sunday to Monday, which is often significantly cheaper than any other night.  During the week, business travelers ensure a high price level. Friday and Saturday night you would compete with other tourists for the cheapest and most beautiful places to sleep. If you travel single go one step further: try websites such as and if you want to stay completely free!

You are also able to organize guided city tours from home using your smartphone.  If you want to visit famous sights such as the Colosseum in Rome, the Eremitage in St. Petersburg, or the Louvre in Paris, order your tickets online in advance to get a better price and to avoid long waiting times in queues.  Many museums offer free entry on particular days.  Check out their online presence and do a Google search for these days.

DKB and Santander credit cards do not charge foreign currency fees.  Report your trip abroad to your bank, which handles the credit card, so that it does not block the credit card because of "suspicious foreign bookings".  You can do this easily online.  Always take at least two cards with you.

If the cash automat in Paris, Madrid, Rome or Athens asks for your currency when withdrawing, specify the local currency.  If you press "Euro" instead, many vending machine operators will charge you unfavorable exchange rates.  You will quickly lose 10 to 20 Euros per withdrawal.

For longer stays abroad it is almost always cheaper to buy a local Sim card from the country of travel. Check the card instantly right in the shop where you bought it to find out that it works and the full amount is available.

Try to get free local newspapers or flyers in libraries where you will find lots of free events, such as art shows, book readings, or a myriad of free music events. Thursday is the day where art galleries start their next shows and invite interested art lovers (you!) to a vernissage including wine and cheese.  State-run museums in the UK are free of charge for people of all ages.  And in Italy, families can take their kids under 18 for free to state run museums like the Uffizi in Florence.  Don’t forget to ask for special rates for students, seniors, or small groups.

Wi-fi connection is almost everywhere… and best of all, it's free!  Whether you go to the closest McDonalds or Starbucks, or simply log on in a public square as more and more cities are offering free Wi-fi, or W-Lan as it is called in Germany.

The hotel room wasn't as promised?  Document the defect immediately and request remedy on site.  If you have booked a package tour and the defect has not been remedied, you are entitled to a price reduction.  This means that you can get a part of the travel price refunded later.  Even if you have booked the car and hotel together and paid for them on one invoice, this is a package tour under the new European law.

Back home, don't forget to check your credit card statement carefully. Not that an unauthorized payment has crept in. Immediately contact your credit card organization in order to contradict this false amount.

Safe travel and lots of fun in Europe!

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