Why I Travel Europe Like the Locals
As a kid, I dreamed of traveling Europe with nothing but a backpack, hopping on and off of trains, and staying in renovated castles. Then I started looking at costs and decided there had to be a cheaper way to make my dream happen.
At the start of my European summer in 2013, I planned on using planes and trains, just like every other backpacker. However, I asked locals how they travel without paying a fortune and this is what I learned:
Trains are over-rated.
Sure, it sounds nice to get a Eurail pass and hop around from country to country but it costs a fortune, especially if you’re in Europe during the tourist summers. If you plan ahead a bit, you can travel cheaply with buses or budget airlines.
So here’s the deal: buses are miracles. They’re cheap, easy to catch, relatively easy to sleep on, and they go everywhere. Sure, they’re not as dazzling or as fast as trains, but they get the job done…and cheaply. Some people may like Busabout which gives you a hop-on-hop-off bus option, but I prefer booking each leg separately.
Now I use Eurolines exclusively. I was able to travel from Istanbul to Germany through Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria. I even took Eurolines from Germany to Hungary for a quick visit to my mission in 2013. I met a lot of great locals and got to see more of the countryside. The busses were classy and some even had stewards/stewardesses that provided meals!
Flying can still be a cheap travel option IF you plan ahead. RyanAir will get you the best deals if you consistently search for cheap flights. I found flights from Munich to Morocco for 15 Euros and flights to Dublin for less than 30 Euros. Keep in mind that luggage costs extra (even carry-ons, if overweight) so pack light! They might not be ritzy like Qatar Airlines but they work! Also, check out Transavia, EasyJet, and Vueling airlines. And I just heard that Norweigan Air is hoping to have $69 flights between the US and Europe by 2017.
Remember to use Mormon Explorer to find LDS members to crash with and Hostel World to avoid expensive hotels. For longer stays in Europe (with free room and board), plan a few stays at an organic farm via WWOOF or become live with a family as an au pair.
Most people spend thousands and thousands of dollars to travel Europe. If you're not afraid of roughing it and want to see more of Europe than just the tourist sites, there are so many wonderful ways to lengthen your trip and keep it cheap!