If you combine budget hotels and budget airlines you have budget travel! You’ll see more than you’d think – and in greater comfort that you’d imagine.
This blog is aimed at North American travelers who want to see Europe. Perhaps you have tried backpacking, Eurail and hostels in the past – maybe this will be your first time. This year, 2016 could be the best time ever to see Europe on a budget and you can avoid overnight trains and hostels!
Why visit Europe in 2016?
- The Dollar is strong. The Euro (currency of 19 European countries) and particularly the British Pound are at historic low levels against the US Dollar. Your Dollar goes much further than in previous years. This is also true to a lesser extent for the Canadian Dollar.
- Flights to Europe are cheaper than they have been in years. Competition from mostly European budget airlines combined with low fuel prices make for great deals. Check out the deals from carriers such as Norwegian, Air Berlin, Condor, WOW Air and Thomas Cook. From Canada, WestJet and Air Transat are offering low, low prices. Many of these airlines offer one-way flights so you can arrive on one European city and return from another. All European airlines have the world’s highest safety standards – even if they sell bargain tickets. All airlines that fly to Europe also have to obey strict consumer laws. There is generous compensation for delayed and cancelled flights. North American airlines may not advertise the fact – but they have to pay compensation too.
- Demand for travel to Europe is down because of terrorist activity. Be rational. Many more people are killed by terrorist activity and gun violence in North America than in Europe. Statistically, Europe is a much safer place to be.
Your transatlantic flight is likely to be a substantial portion of the total cost. Prices are significantly lower on routes with the greatest competition. Direct flights to Barcelona or Rome may seem a great idea but you are likely to save by flying first to a budget airline “hub” such as London Gatwick or Amsterdam. Both these airports offer budget flights to all the corners of Europe. I recommend a flexible fight search engine such as www.skyscanner.net. This site allows you to see the cheapest flights over a month long period or even the cheapest flights from an airport to “Everywhere”. This tool often reveals one-way international tickets within Europe for less than $50. Buy tickets individually. If you use multi-flight options on ticket websites more often than not you will be limited to tickets from legacy carriers in the main airline alliances – and pay heavily for the privilege.
Yes, using airports is a pain but security tends to be more efficient at European airports, within the 15 Schengen zone countries there are no immigration or customs checks (just like flying “domestic”) and all airports have public transit into city centres or nearby resorts.
Europe is relatively small compared to North America. From a central point like Geneva you can be in most cities in Europe within 3 hours. Stick to non-stop budget flights and you wont waste more than half a day travelling from destination to destination.
Where to stay when travelling on a budget in Europe
The short answer is that you want to pay as little as possible for the level of comfort and convenience you are happy with. There are some great websites out there that do much of the work for you. Check out www.budgethotels.com This is a hotel price comparison tool. It will show you prices from a range of big brand hotel suppliers. You will see who offers the lowest price and you can be sure you won’t be overpaying. This site covers all levels of comfort from 5 star luxury to budget hotels, cheap hotels and hostels. Start with your destination and dates and filter the results by star grade, facilities and price and you will soon find your perfect accommodation for your travel budget. Budget travel is within your grasp. Go out and explore!