Top 10 money-saving travel tips for Europe

1 SHOP FOR FOOD IN SUPERMARKETS

A customer selects a product from a chilled dairy cabinet inside a Rewe supermarket, operated by the Rewe Group, in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday, April 29, 2014. Berlin retail sales adjusted for inflation climbed 5.8 percent last year, according to the city's statistics office, compared with a rise of just 0.1 percent in Germany as a whole. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Supermarkets are the way to go for cheaper food. Photo: Bloomberg

While eating out is part of the European travel experience, it's far cheaper to shop at supermarkets and cook your own food. Look out for small local markets, too, which stock great fresh produce. If you're really keen to eat out, in Spain, try a "menu del dia", which is a discounted three-course lunch with a glass of wine offered by many restaurants, or in Italy opt for "aperitivo", the free snacks that come with a drink before dinner. 

2. PURCHASE DISCOUNT CARDS

You can save big in many places in Europe by purchasing a "city card", which offers discounts on transport and attractions. In Rome, the Roma Pass secures free public transport and entry into two museums, while the Paris ComboPass has similar discounts in the French capital. Some of the others worth looking out for include the Oslo Welcome Card, the Berlin Welcome Card, and the I Amsterdam Card.

3. HOUSESHARE

Rather than opt for a traditional hotel or hostel stay, make use of the sharing economy on your next European sojourn. For the cheapest of the cheap, stay with strangers for free with couchsurfing.com, or organise a house swap. Alternatively, use a home-sharing website such as airbnb.com which offers the choice of either sharing an apartment or renting out a private dwelling.

4. BOOK TRAVEL IN ADVANCE

You can save plenty of money by booking longer journeys in advance. Train tickets are heavily discounted, while flights with budget airlines will also be cheaper. To find the best deals, check out an aggregator like skyscanner.com for flights, and go to railbookers.com.au or raileurope.com.au for train tickets. Travelling by overnight train will save on accommodation costs.

5. LOOK FOR FREE-ENTRY DAYS

In 2012, the Rodin Museum opened the doors to a fully renovated interior, complemented by the gorgeous redesigned outdoor sculpture garden. The museum holds the most extensive public collection of Auguste Rodin???s works outside Paris, including The Thinker and a bronze cast of The Gates of Hell.

The Rodin Museum, one of many that can offer cheap or free access. 

Here's a great deal: enter any museum in Paris on the first Sunday of the month and it will be free. There are plenty of other cities and attractions that offer similar deals, too. In Berlin, museums offer varying free-entry days. In Venice some museums and galleries are free to enter in the evening on the last Tuesday of every month.   

6. TRAVEL IN LOW SEASON

While it might sound ideal to visit Europe in the height of summer, when the days are long and the weather is warm, it's also by far the most expensive – not to mention crowded – time of year. Hotel prices go up; even attractions are more expensive. To save money, plan to visit in low season, around October/November or February/March. 

7. VISIT NEW DESTINATIONS

Strike the likes of France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland off your list. If you want to save money, cast your eyes further afield to lesser-visited destinations that offer just as amazing an experience. Countries such as Portugal, Bosnia, Romania, Malta and Poland are all incredible destinations in their own right, while the prices are refreshingly low compared to their better-known neighbours.

8. USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT OR WALK

Schweiz. ganz natuerlich.
Bernina Express: Chur-Tirano. 
Alp Gruem, Poschiavo.

Switzerland. get natural.
Bernina Express: Chur-Tirano. 
Alp Gruem, Poschiavo.

Suisse. tout naturellement.
Bernina Express: Coire-Tirano. 
Alp Gruem, Poschiavo.

Copyright by: Swiss Travel System/Switzerland Tourism-By-Line: swiss-image.ch / Marcus Gyger alp grum station - CREDIT Switzerland Tourism
str4switzerland

Using public transport saves money: Bernina Express, Switzerland.

Taxi rides will eat away at your savings faster than… Well, much faster than the actual taxi ride. In European cities it's better to use public transport. From the metro in Barcelona to the U- and S-Bahn in Berlin, the Copenhagen Metro to the Tube in London, this is by far the best way to get around. For an even cheaper journey, however, you could always walk. 

9. GO TO FREE ATTRACTIONS

Plenty of Europe's best attractions and events are free. Keep your eye out for free concerts; most museums in London and plenty in Berlin are free; there's the Free Fringe Festival in Edinburgh; many cities offer free walking tours; and most European cities have some amazing buskers performing in the streets. 

10. VISIT TOURIST INFORMATION DESKS

F7WFPW Tourist Information Sign, Granada, Spain. Image shot 10/2014. Exact date unknown. str18-trav10
Tourist information  sign

Travel offices offer valuable information on free attractions, cheap transport, and discount cards and accommodation. Photo: Alamy

The best way to save money in Europe is by harnessing local knowledge. Do that by visiting Tourist Information desks – they'll advise you on free attractions, cheap transport, and discount cards and accommodation.

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

​See also: Ten items you should never pack

See also: 21 things you'll only understand if you travelled before 2005

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