Get a Travel Credit Card
I’m sorry, I’ll never stop emphasizing how important a travel credit card is. I talk about this all the time and I still have people ask me about travel cards! They can save you money traveling abroad for so many reasons, but most importantly, no transaction fees! It’s also just an added bonus that you are continuously earning points and saving money for your next trip while still on your current trip! Check out my previous blog post about travel hacking and what credit cards to consider.
One of my friends went to Europe with me and she didn’t have a travel card (rookie), so I put all of her expenses on my card and just had her settle up at the end. AKA, I got enough points just from her alone to book a flight when I got back! Her loss was my gain… but.. don’t be like her and just get the dang travel card.
So many places in Europe ONLY took cash when I first visited. Now that is not necessarily the case, but I still run into plenty of places that are cash only. If they aren’t cash only, there is also a chance they offer a cash discount. Plus if you are traveling with others, most places won’t split the bill. Better safe than sorry!
Exchange money for local currency in advance
Avoid the airports at all costs! Plan ahead and ask your local bank. They likely will have the best exchange rate and often charge a flat fee (my small local bank charges a $10 flat fee). Trust me…
Always buy in local currency
You may be prompted to pay in the local currency or your own currency. You may think it’s cheaper to pay in your own currency, but that’s not the case. If you choose to pay in dollars instead of euros, the store probably has a transaction fee to do that. However, if you have a travel card with no transaction fees (you better), then you can just choose euros and no fees are associated.
Check baggage restrictions
Look into all carry on/checked baggage limits for any transportation you plan on taking and pack accordingly. A 40L backpack is my go to that usually passes the carry on check. My first time in Europe I didn’t know this.. I had to check BOTH my bags and it cost me more than my flight from Italy to Greece! I was BUMMED.
Do your research
Ask friends, read blogs, etc. Taxis or Ubers? Do they charge for anything extra in restaurants? What are the biggest scams? Are bathrooms free? Is there anything super offensive to their culture you may not be aware of?
For example: Portugal has a lot of restaurants that will place starters like bread and olives on the table. In the US, we assume things like this what we don’t ask for are complimentary. In Portugal, you WILL be charged if you eat them even though they may be placed on the table without you asking for it.
Try cheaper housing like hostels
You can save so much money by staying in hostels. And forget what you heard about hostels…. there are some NICE ones! You can be super cheap and stay in a large dorm, or you an opt for smaller sizes and gender specific rooms as well with an increase in price. Shared bedroom not your thing? You can stay in PRIVATE rooms and it’s still going to cut back on your typical housing prices with hotels or even Airbnb. To find the best hostel for my needs, I use Hostel World.
Use public transportation
Public transportation gets a bad rep in the US because we are lacking the quality. Europe however…. *chefs kiss.* Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always perfect, but I’ve mostly had really good experiences on public transportation. Plus, you can’t beat the prices and accessibility. Flying is quicker if you are in a time crunch, but it can add up quick! You may look at a Ryanair flight for $30 one way to Greece from Italy… but oh boy… you better be only taking the smallest backpack or your price will easily start to double with checked bag prices. Day of checked bags can be up to $80 (not that I would know…. okay yes I totally know.)
Basically, Europe is a lot more accesible and affordable than you think. The key is to know what you are doing! I hope these help, friends.