It’s true that traveling in Europe on a tight budget is achievable, but if you aren’t careful miscellaneous expenses start to add up. Here are some ways I’ve saved during my travels in and around Belgium!
1) Always carry a student ID
This saves you money in many ways: transportation costs, food, museum entry fees, etc. Some places will ask to see your ID and some won’t, so it’s best just to have it with you.
Do your research to see where you can save with a student ID! I’ll use the example of Belgian transport since it’s what I know best.
I found out my friends were paying €14 for a train one way. Having now lived in Brussels all semester, I was aware that I could get round-trip to anywhere in Belgium for less than that! All they needed to do was a little more research on the website to evaluate their options.
2) Get most meals at grocery stores when traveling
I’m all for trying new food while travelling, but that can add up quickly.
My friends and I like to eat one large meal while we are out each day and supplement other mealtimes with food from the grocery store.
It’s also good to familiarize yourself with the area you’re in. Is it touristy? What is the local industry in that area? Is it a high-traffic location? If so, prices for goods even at the same grocery store chain will vary differently.
I’ll use the example of a can of Coke since it’s universal.
In Brussels at a Carefour (grocery store) by Schuman, a can of soda will cost you €1.30. If I were to walk ten minutes towards my internship office, I could visit another Carefour and find the same product for €0.65.
If I can pay half the price for a Coke, imagine the price differences you would find in other products. It is important to note that the reason the first store was more expensive, is because it is located near the European Commission.
3) Plan ahead for transportation
There are many budget airlines (Ryan Air, Whizz air, etc.) available throughout Europe. Please take note of the word budget. Even when booking a few weeks out, you can find some great deals.
However, if you book about a month to a month-and-a-half before your trip, you can find flights with these budget airlines for €30 or less round-trip!
Sometimes, you can even find them for €9.99 one way!
The only downside is that these airlines often have delays, hidden fees for luggage, and minimal comforts. Nonetheless, I’m never too upset about this considering what I pay for them.
Most international trains work this way as well. If I book ahead, I can get a train to Paris for approximately €19. If I wait, it can cost over €100.
The cheapest form of travel is of course by bus. The only downside is that it takes longer. Bus prices don’t change. They are most often the same prices months or a few days before a trip. Bus companies like FlixBus are very popular here and a cheap way to travel.
I also suggest looking into a company called BlaBlaCar. It is a carpooling platform where you look to see if someone has posted that they are going from point A to B. If you are going the same way, you can essentially pay them for the gas to get there!
I sometimes take this option to get to the Brussels South Airport. The shuttle to the airport costs €14. If I find a ride on BlaBlaCar, I pay about €5! It’s much cheaper and a nice way to meet new people.
There are many other ways to save by researching your options prior to departure. However, these tips are ones that I find most applicable to Western Europe as a whole.
Enjoy and have safe travels!
About the Author – Tiffany Byers, fall 2018 BCA Brussels, Belgium Storyteller & Manchester University student
Tiffany is a senior at Manchester University doubling majoring in Public Relations and Peace Studies. As a fist generation college student, she aims to make the most of every opportunity that she can while in Belgium!