As the majority of my travels are limited to trips to campus, Madonna’s Pizza, or the local dep, I was in need of some counsel when assembling a frugal traveller’s guide for that quintessential Euro trip. After questioning friends ranging from the casual sightseer to the travel-hardened veteran, I’m confident this guide will provide you with tips and tricks to cheaply navigate your way through Europe.
First of all, you need to be realistic with how far you are willing to go to save some cash. If the spontaneity of hopping from campground to campground doesn’t appeal to you, you may want to look for other options. Preparing a budget is great way to pre-plan your trip, and can provide a better outline of where you plan to visit. At the lowest-budget level, travelling in a tent or couch-surfing with strangers is the most cost effective method, shy of staying with friends and family (which you should definitely try to take advantage of). The most standard options, such as hostels and designated student housing, offer safe, fun, and usually clean lodging at reasonable prices. More expensive options include hotels and villas, with added fanciness, security, and community at a premium.
When researching your lodgings, try to stay away from designated hostel and hotel booking websites. These sites almost always prove more expensive than booking through smaller, independent sellers. The added work of searching for local hostels could save you up to 50% over large online listings.
Before visiting any country, it is key to do at least a little research. Knowledge is power, whether it has to do with historical landmarks or the cheapest place to grab a pint. Lonely Planet books are widely recommended among travellers and offer comprehensive guides to any city imaginable. Its historical facts are interesting and insightful, while the restaurant recommendations provide possible meal costs and a surprisingly accurate overview of the joint’s vibe. Another indispensable traveller’s tool is the International Student Card, which qualifies you for student discounts on all major forms of transport, many retail stores, and student accommodation.
A quick tip to save money on drinking: a lot of European cities permit you to drink in public, often when accompanied by food. To save you from spending a month’s worth of flights in the first bar you find, buy your booze dirt cheap in a local supermarket, and enjoy an evening in the park or by the ocean. To recap, is bringing a sandwich and three bottles of wine to your local park wrong? Un-classy, yes. Illegal, no.
Don’t be afraid to work when travelling! Finding odd jobs in places like vineyards can earn you money to continue your travels, alternatively many places offer food and a lodging for a day’s work. Several friends told me some of their most memorable moments were had while working, and that it provides a great place to socialize in an otherwise unfamiliar location.
In a similar fashion, ‘woofing’ is the term used when travellers work, usually in the fields on some sort of fair-trade, organic farm in exchange for room and board. If you are stuck between destinations and are strapped for cash, woofing is a great solution. While I was looking for work in Urubabma, Peru, I met an elderly couple who ran an organic farm and regularly took in ‘woofers’. While the tarantulas kept me on my toes, the farm owners were some of the kindest, most knowledgeable people I met on my trip.
Featured Destination for Summer 2014: Poland
Our featured destination for summer 2014 is Poland, a great choice for its unparalleled beauty and ease of mobility. Bonus points for Canadians not needing a visa to visit! Located in the heart of Europe, this gem is not to be missed when you’re planning your Euro trip this summer. Here are the top five reasons why Poland should be on your must-visit list.
1. The Tatry mountains
Already conquered the Rocky Mountains? Well, this summer you can take on the Tatry Mountains. Located in the south of Poland, about 100km south of the city of Kraków, these mountains feature beautiful hiking trails. The highest peak is near the city Zakopane, which is home to the Góral people. Make sure to try oscypki (Góral cheese) when you’re down there!
How to get there: From Kraków you can take Polskibus for 15złt ($5) one way or if you want to experience the train-life, the “express” (6 hour) train from Warsaw is 64złt ($20) one way.
Where to stay: There are many pensions and cottages around for as little as 50złt ($15) per night!
2. The longest wooden pier in all of Europe
The Molo (pier) is found in the beautiful city of Sopot in northern Poland, close to the city of Gdańsk, which make up the Tricity region with Gdynia. The pier is a great place to watch the sun set on the Baltic Sea – probably the most beautiful sunset in all of Poland. Don’t forget to go for a dip in the Baltic Sea (not recommended in months other than July or August) and eat some gofry (waffles) on the beach. They are to die for!
How to get there: From Warsaw you can take either the Polskibus, which is about 30złt ($10) one-way or the train which costs 27złt ($9) one-way. Both take about 7 hours.
Where to stay: There are also many pensions and cottages around for as little as 50złt ($15) per night!
3. The food and alcohol
What better place to eat some authentic and homemade pierogi? These delicious dumplings can be found anywhere in Poland for a great price. A typical meal in a small restaurant can cost about 12złt ($4) and will fill you up for hours. Also make sure to try some delicious kiełbasa (polish sausage), zapiekanki (pizza subs), krokiety (meat-stuffed crepes), and gołąbki (cabbage rolls).
There is no better place to try wódka (vodka) than in its birthplace. It costs about 21złt ($7) for a 500ml bottle of wódka and there are a variety of flavors and brands available. One of the most popular types of wódka among students is Soplica Orzech Laskowy (hazelnut vodka), which is essentially Nutella in alcohol form. Who can say no to that?
Poland is also known for its beers such as Zywiec and Tyskie, which cost about 4złt ($1.30) for a bottle. A great bar chain to check out is Pijalnia Piwa i Woódki, which can be found in every major city and offers all drinks for 4złt (1 euro).
4. UNESCO sites
It is no surprise that a country with such an old and rich history has many UNESCO sites. Many city squares, such as the ones in Krakow, are certified UNESCO sites, as well as, the famous Białowieża Forest, which is home to the largest reserve of the vulnerable European Bison species.
5. The People
Lastly, Poland is home to many famous people. From Chopin to John Paul II to Maria Skłodowska-Curie, there is an inspirational figure for everyone and many museums to visit! The city folk are friendly too, and it is easy to get around with just English, saving yourself from learning how to pronounce those pesky “sz”, “cz” and “sz” & “cz” together.
When setting out on your European adventure, be sure to plan ahead and get to know your surroundings. Before you embark, make sure that you are honest with hose pw much you wish to spend, and what level of travel quality you are looking for. Always be open to new experiences along the way, including various rental, social, and occupational situations. Travelling is an inherently chaotic and impulsive process, so try your best to embrace the confusion, and make the most out of every day!
For more information about traveling to Poland, check out http://www.poland.travel/en-us/