Europe as a budget destination – part V – what to do there?

In the first post of this series, I’ve bundled the travel issues into 5 categories: “Where to?” , When to go?”, “How to get around?”, “Where to sleep?” and “What to do there?” Having dealt with the first four questions, I now get to the best part – the fun stuff to do in Europe on a budget. Now I know Europe is famous for the amount and quality of attractions, like museums, churches, beaches etc. And you can save, for example, by visiting several museums in one day on a city pass, by doing what I call a “museum run”. However, when on a budget, its nice to have a few fun options that cost virtually nothing. The following 3 are my personal favourites.

  • Go hiking
    Europe is the best continent for hiking. Period. Nepal, New Zealand, New Mexico, all are great hiking destinations, but hiking in Europe is just so much easier. Every country in Europe, large or small, offers a vast array of well-marked hiking trails of every degree of difficulty and length. There are fully equipped, clean campings all over the place. If you don’t feel like camping, a mountain cabin is usually available. And if you’re tired of hiking, civilization is just a couple of hours away even in the remotest parts of Europe. This doesn’t mean you will hike among hordes of people (like on the Around Annapurna trek or on any of the Great Walks of New Zealand). Even slightly off-season (in June or September), in a bit less touristy areas (Pyrenees or Scandinavia) or on not-the-most-popular-paths you will be mostly by yourself. Best part – hiking is for free.

    Europe is ideal for hiking

    Hiking is for free even in expensive Switzerland

  • Take the tram
    The tram is my favourite vehicle and is a distinctly European mode of transport. Trams are virtually non-existent outside Europe. Unlike the metro, the tram runs above ground, so you don’t get claustrophobic. Its on rail, so it doesn’t veer like the bus does (buses always give me nausea). You’re inside a tram so you don’t get wet like you do when cycling. Finally, the tram offers a great view with zero effort, and tram routes usually go through cool parts of town. Buy a day ticket – it’s a great (budget) way to get to know a city. Just hop on, ride all the way to the suburbs, step out at the end of the line and have a walk in the park – usually there is a park where the line (and the city) ends. Then go back to the tram and go back. If still in the mood, repeat, using another line. Congratulations, you’ve just had a great day of sightseeing for about 5 euros. Probably met a few locals on the tram, too.

    Tram crossing the Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam

    Tram crossing the Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam

  • Have a break
    Yes, this one is, again, not unique to Europe. But while backpackers all over the world spend their time in hammocks, the ones in Europe seem to be rushing from museum to church to party, with never a dull moment in between. European distances are, indeed, relatively small and the attractions are innumerable, but taking a day or two off your travels is as good an idea in Europe as it is anywhere else. Give yourself a rest – the museum will still be there tomorrow, the church has been there for 800 years and will wait, and you still have a hangover from yesterday’s party. Stay in your hostel (or with your Couchsurfing host), have a walk in the neighbourhood without actually going anywhere, read a newspaper in the local library (most have newspapers in English) or a book, even if its your Lonely Planet guide. Perhaps you might end up reconsidering your next destination or decide to stay longer where you are at the moment. Having a break can and probably will save you money, short- and long-term.

    A book store in a former church in Maastricht

    If you don’t have a book – why not buy one? A visit to a local book store can be quite interesting, even if you don’t end up buying anything. Especially if its anything like this one, located in a former church in Maastricht.

    This sums up my series of posts about budget travel in Europe. As usual, if you have any tips of your own, or anything to add to the ones I wrote, you’re welcome to leave your comment here. Happy travels!

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9 Comments

Filed under Europe, Europe on a budget, Tips and tricks, Travel

9 responses to “Europe as a budget destination – part V – what to do there?

  1. I agree with you on the hiking part. I’ve been on some awesome trails in Greece, Germany, Austria, Turkey and Italy. Some places you need a car to get to trailheads; in Europe, it is possible to get to places on public transport. The Cinque Terra is a prime example, as is Meteora in Greece.

    • Excellent point about the public transport, Jeff. In New Zealand, for example, there is a special “bus” service in Queenstown to all the trailheads, but the price is quite steep. Makes sense, as the trails are in remote, rugged areas. In the Alps, on the other hand, almosty any hike can be accessed by taking the regular train or bus, that will also be available on the other side of the mountain, so that you’re not limited to circular trails. So even in “expensive” Europe, hiking is cheap thanks to the availability of budget facilities.

  2. Jeff, I agree about the whole Cinque Terre hiking trails – what a location! And thanks for posting this article, Michael. I think people assume Europe is out of reach financially when they see all the movies, but I found it is actually quite feasibly financially if you just think a bit before opening up your wallet. Thanks for these particular suggestions – I’m about to head to Europe for a couple of weeks actually and have been poking around on different blogs to start the gears turning in my mind about things to do. Hiking is now on the list! Any ideas of good hiking spots in Italy outside of Cinque Terre?! Any recommendations appreciated!

    • Happy to hear my articles are useful. I haven’t been hiking in Italy, except for climbing to mountain passes from the Swiss and French sides. But the hiking is probably the same (=great) on the Italian side, and Italy might be cheaper than Switzerland. I hear the Dolomites are quite spectacular, but it will utlimately depend on the time of year you’re going – the Alps are quite snowy now but I guess you can hike in Sicily year-round. Perhaps Jeff knows more.

      • Yeah, I think the Dolomites might be a bit rough this time of year when it comes to hiking!! I have been there in the summer though and it’s absolutely beautiful. Perhaps some hiking (read: strolling) in the Tuscan hills will be in order then!

  3. Michael thank you for stopping by my blog and your comment about the hiking in Spain. As you point out here we were amazed that the hike was free of charge! Also cycling in a national park there again there was no entry fee.

    • Are hikes in North America a paid “attraction” as a rule?

      • Michael I’m not an expert but in Canada you need t pay to enter a national park. so all of the hikes for example in Banff National Park would be charged in that way. As another example if you want to do the famous West coast Trail hike on Vancouver Island you need to register and there is a significant fee.

  4. Pingback: Amsterdam is a cycling hell | Small European Country

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