6 Cheap (and Best) Ways to Travel to Europe in 2023

High-speed trains waiting to depart on the platforms of the train station in Milan, Italy

Last updated. 13.5.2023 |: May 13, 2023

Traveling through Europe can be expensive. Airfare, high-speed and overnight trains, ferries—they all fit into your limited (and expensive) travel budget.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get around Europe on a budget. The sharing economy, new bus options, discounted train tickets and plenty of budget airlines all help you navigate Europe without breaking the bank.

I’ve been traveling in Europe since 2006 and I’ve seen a lot change in that time. I’ve watched travel hacks come and go and prices change and change again. While COVID has affected things, I can honestly say that it’s never been easier to get around Europe as there are so many new cheap ways to travel across the continent.

Here are the best ways to travel in Europe on a budget.

1. Traveling by bus

FlixBus bus on the highway of Europe in summer
Intercity buses are one of the cheapest ways to get around the continent. The main international bus companies are Eurolines and Germany’s FlixBus, which expanded greatly with the acquisition of Megabus and now has routes across the continent.

Flixbus is usually the cheapest bus option, with prices starting at €5. Their buses include Wi-Fi, electrical outlets, free luggage (one hand and stored under the bus) and comfortable seats. (Megabus still operates in the UK).

FlixBus has quickly become my favorite non-train way to get around Europe on the cheap. It’s not fancy by any means, but it’s the cheapest way to get around. They most of Europe. Here is a map of their routes to help you plan your trip.

However, there are many other regional specific bus companies that will take you elsewhere. For example, Alsa is the main supplier in Spain and its neighboring countries.

You can use BusRadar or Get By Bus to find the cheapest and fastest option for the route you want.

2. Travel on a budget airline

Ryanair flight in Europe in summer
One of the cheapest ways to travel long-distance in Europe is with a budget airline. These airlines are extremely prolific on the continent and the competition has resulted in incredibly cheap fares. It is not uncommon to find flights for €10. I use Skyscanner to search for the best deals. They do all the legwork!

Just remember that budget airlines make most of their money through fees. They are very strict about baggage limits, or many will hit you if you forget to print your boarding pass. Don’t expect any free drinks or food. But if you follow the rules and know what to expect, you can save a ton of money.

For more information, here’s a complete guide to finding cheap flights.

3. Travel with a Eurail Pass

A Eurail train is parked at the Europa train station
I like to travel by train. sit on the big seat, relax with a book and take in the stunning landscape. It’s more comfortable than the bus and far less stressful (and more sustainable) than air travel. And the European railway system is one of the best and most popular in the world.

If you’re going to travel by train, it’s hard to beat them for price and comfort for a short trip from city to city. For longer journeys (overnight journeys, between countries or routes that require a high-speed line, such as Paris to Bordeaux or Berlin to Munich), trains can be very expensive.

If you plan to travel through Europe and don’t want to fly, getting a rail pass is the best option for your trip that saves money. Your cost per trip will be much lower than if you bought these tickets separately.

Not sure if a Eurail ticket is for you? Here’s a full breakdown of Eurail tickets and when to use them to save money.

4. Traveling with BlaBlaCar

The car on the road in Europe
The rise of the sharing economy has allowed people to travel with locals going their own way, and BlaBlaCar is the reigning king of this service. It is very popular and common in Europe and I have used this service many times. It allows you to share with people who have extra space in their car. You find a way, they agree to take you, and off you go. Prices are set by the driver and are designed to offset the cost of gas and general wear and tear on the vehicle.

This is the BEST paid way to get around Europe because you can meet a local, have a friendly conversation, save money and get where you’re going faster. It is available in about 20 countries in Europe.

Although BlaBlaCar may not always be cheaper than the bus (FlixBus can be super cheap), it is usually much faster and much more interesting.

5. Travel by rental car/Campervan

The car is parked near the mountains of Iceland
If you’re traveling within a single country or small region of Europe and are looking for flexibility, renting a car or camper might be worth the price, especially if you can split the cost with someone. Car rentals can be found for €25 per day, although keep in mind that gas is expensive. Use Discover Cars for the best car rental deals in Europe.

Campervans are particularly popular in countries such as Iceland, Scotland and Norway, as these destinations offer plenty of camping and hiking opportunities. You can find camper vans for as little as €60 per day, which is very affordable when you split with a travel partner and considering that includes accommodation. Use the park4night app to find free (and cheap) overnight parking in Europe.

Note:Many countries in Europe require foreign drivers to have an international driving permit. You can get it in your home country before you arrive for around €20. (It’s basically just a copy of your license in other languages.) Also note that automatic and standard transmission rentals will usually cost about twice as much.

6. Hitchhiking

A hitchhiker in Europe
Getting hit is quite common and a lot safer than you think. I’ve met tons of travelers who have done this without incident. I myself have traveled this way in Bulgaria and Iceland without any problems.

Just remember that it’s important to use your head when hitchhiking. Always trust your instincts and use common sense. Keep your valuables in case you forget your bag in the car and never hesitate to text a friend or family member the license plate number before getting in. Write your destination on a sign and look presentable. It will help you find a ride faster.

Use the Hitchwiki website for tips to help you have a fun and safe experience.

The BEST and CHEAPEST way to travel to Europe. Mix and match your transport

As you can see, there are many ways to get around Europe on a budget. But the best way is to mix up your transportation depending on where you are going and for how long. For short trips I like trains and BlaBlaCar. For trips of medium length (ie half a day), I will take the bus, BlaBlaBla car or train. For long distances I fly or high speed train or night bus.

Too many travelers think it’s all or nothing. How one way is always better than the other. It is not true: There is no one way to travel in Europe. There are a ton out there and you need to know when to use which method.

If you have more time, take the slower, cheaper routes.

If you have more money and a shorter commute, fly and go.

If you don’t have a preference for how you travel and you just want the cheapest option (which I usually do), use a site like Rome2Rio or Omio. You just need to enter where you’re going and these sites will mix and match different ways to get around the continent for the least amount of money. They will combine buses, trains and planes to build the fastest journey for the least amount of money.

Remember, no method works 100%. Mix and match. Do this and you’ll save a ton of time and money.

Get your in-depth budget guide to Europe.

My detailed 200+ page guide is made for budget travelers like you. It cuts through the fluff found in other guides and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel in Europe. It offers itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, things to see and do off the beaten path, non-touristy restaurants, markets, bars, safety tips and much more. Click here to learn more and get your copy today.

Book your trip to Europe. logistics tips and tricks

Book your flight
Find a cheap flight with Skyscanner. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines worldwide, so you always know that no stone has been left unturned.

Book your accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest prices for guesthouses and budget hotels.

For recommendations on where to stay during your trip, here are my favorite hostels in Europe.

Don’t forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft and cancellation. It’s comprehensive protection should something go wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I have had to use it many times before. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Ready to book your trip?
Check out my resources page for the best companies to use when traveling. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

Want more information about Europe?
Be sure to visit our sustainable destination guide for more planning tips in Europe.

Source link