Europe offers a multitude of unique experiences to the Singaporean holidaymaker. Sip ‘une cafe’ on the Champs-Élysées; devour cannelloni as the sun dips behind Rome’s Coliseum; indulge in shopping therapy in Harrods of London. Fantastic activities – but ones that can leave bank balances looking rather depleted. But is it possible to see Europe ‘on the cheap’? At DirectAsia.com we believe it is. Here are our nine top tips for bringing down the cost of your dream European getaway.
1. DIY or package?
If you’re planning a seven, 10 or 14 day visit to Europe, then a package holiday may be the cheapest option. For a longer trip, a ‘Do-It-Yourself’ arrangement could well be cheaper. Indeed, you may not find package deals over the ‘standard’ holiday lengths, making ‘DIY’ the only option.
2. Book ahead.
Book well in advance if you’re looking for separate flight and hotel deals; both tend to go up as the desired dates approach. However, don’t rush it, keeping an eye on flight booking websites can help you bag some very good deals as batches of seats are made available by airlines. But be snappy, they can sell out fast!
3. Choose a cheaper country or city.
France may be the most visited country in the world (boasting 81,400,000 tourists in 2013), but it is also one of the most expensive – especially if you spend a lot of time in Paris. Prices are of course very high in London too, along with a number of other popular European cities. But there are cheaper options that can be equally rewarding. Why not head to Spain’s Mediterranean ‘costas’, where cities like Barcelona, Valencia and further inland, Granada, offer culture galore – and affordable food and accommodation to boot. Italy’s beautiful south is another lower-cost option, contrasting sharply with rather extortionate cities like Venice and Florence. For even cheaper cities, you could go east and visit beautiful Bucharest or Poland’s delightful Krakow, both of which were ranked in the top five cheapest backpacker hot spots for 2014 in a recent survey. You may not wish to vacation like a backpacker, but the aforementioned list demonstrates that prices are low in these areas no matter if you’re seeking four star comfort or hostel simplicity.
4. Go off-peak.
Whichever European country you wish to visit, find out when the school holidays are, since prices for accommodation can shoot up as hoteliers and guesthouse owners take advantage of rigid academic timetables. This is sometimes called ‘price gouging’, but you can sidestep it by targeting periods just before and after the big summer school breaks, and by avoiding other busy periods such as Easter (early April) and Christmas. The various European school holidays of popular countries are listed here:
While you may think sleeping in a tent is not your thing, reserve judgement until you’ve seen the quality of some of Europe’s campsites. Comfortable tents, well-stocked shops and even swimming pools are often found on-site. The French in particular have a superbly equipped selection of local authority-run campsites.Of course, you’ll probably need to rent a car in order to travel around France or any other European country – but this need not be too costly.
6. Compare car hire prices.
Sites such as Skyscanner and Kayak offer rental price comparisons as well as flight and hotel bookings. Many car hire firms in Europe mean lots of competition – so you can find some great deals around.
7. If you really, really want to save money on accommodation…
Accommodation is one of the biggest costs for the holidaymaker, but if you’re really serious about reducing your outgoings, there are some very useful websites available. Couchsurfing.com: This site connects you with people who wish to host travellers or holidaymakers. An exotic couple from Singapore may be very popular, and the cultural exchange could well enrich both parties. Staying is free, but accommodation can vary a lot. You may be given a mattress in the hallway, or you may have your own comfy double room! Bringing a gift from your country is often appreciated, and reading reviews from previous guests is highly recommended to ensure you have something in common with your host and that they do not have bad reviews. Couchsurfing is not suitable for everyone, but it can connect you with real locals like nothing else!
8. If you really, really want to save money on transport…
Blablacar.com: A couple are driving from Barcelona to Paris next week; you have roughly the same trip in mind. Blablacar connects you with the couple. You then meet them at an agreed location, give them a contribution for petrol – and you’re on your way to Paris! Very cheap, and another great way to meet the locals! Low-cost coach travel is also accessible on the popular Eurolines network.
9. Don’t skip on insurance.
If you have an accident or get robbed whilst away, or if your flight is cancelled, you may find yourself facing big additional costs. Take out a high quality travel insurance policy so you’ll be ready for almost anything. It will give you peace of mind and help you truly enjoy your break. DirectAsia.com offers fast, easy online travel cover for a great price.