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Budget Tips

Tips to Stay on Budget

•    If you're serious about staying on budget, for every splurge expense there must be an equal and opposite money-saver. There are many free things to do in Europe, from hiking to beach bumming to loitering on a piazza. The following tips can also save you money.


•    Always ask to see a menu with prices at restaurants and cafes. Also ask if there's a surcharge for sitting inside, on the patio, at a table, etc.

•    Buy food at open-air markets and supermarkets. Remember that a tube of mustard or garlic spread can transform dull bread and cheese into a tasty meal.

•    Wash your clothes in hotel and hostel sinks if facilities are available.

 

•    Spread lodging costs among a few trustworthy travelling companions. At many hotels and hostels, quads (four-person rooms) are cheaper than triples and triples are cheaper than doubles.

•    Take overnight trains on long trips to save the cost of a night in a hostel or hotel.

•    Concerts and cultural events are often free in summer - ask at tourist offices and check around town for fliers and posters.

•    Buy alcohol at supermarkets and drink with the locals on main squares, gardens and beaches (where it's legal and acceptable to do so).

•    Many museums are free one day a month and sometimes one evening per week - be sure to ask. Also ask about joint-entry tickets and discount passes for tourists.

•    Use a phonecard (instead of coins or tokens) to make phone calls within Europe. If dialling home you may save money with a 'Home Direct' service offered by your local telephone company.

•    Don't spend all your time in big cities. Prices are generally lower in towns and villages.


Smart Ways to Blow your Budget

Successful budgets strike a balance between low cost and high value. Europe on US$10 a day is a low cost, low value strategy - you may save a heap of money, but you will see absolutely nothing. Aim instead to get the maximum value for your money, even if that means occasionally going over budget.

•    If you don't make an effort to sample local cuisines, you are denying yourself one of travelling's great pleasures. Self-service and budget restaurants are OK, but every now and again try an upper-end spot. Most restaurants - even the 'fancy' ones - offer set-priced meals and lunch specials that are good value.

•    Don't assume that the cheapest hostel or hotel is also the best-value. A hostel may charge only US$20 for a double, but factor in the incidentals: you and a friend arrive by bus (US$0.50 each), pay extra for showers (US$ 1 each), rent sheets (US$1), take a bus back to town (US$0.50) and then catch an early bus back (US$0.50) in order to make the 11 pm curfew. Grand total: US$13.50 per person. If you stay at a central hotel with US$35 doubles and free showers, the cost is US$17.50 per person. That extra US$4 per person saves you three bus rides and an early evening staring at a hostel TV.

•    Renting a car can be good value in the right circumstances, especially if you're travelling in a small group and do not already have a rail pass. In remote or rural regions that are poorly served by buses and trains, a rental car will save you time and trouble. It may also enable you to sleep at a far-flung (but cheap) camping ground instead of a (more expensive) hostel or hotel.

•    You spent 12 hours on an overnight train to reach a small town in the Swiss Alps/Moroccan desert/French wine country. You booked into a cheap hostel for two nights and saved a bundle shopping at the local supermarket. You've done a good job keeping costs down, so don't balk at splashing out on a skiing/trekking/chateau tour, even if the cost exceeds your daily budget.

 
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