Whenever I tell people that I visited 12 countries during my first 12 months in Sweden, I often get asked how I plan my travel, especially about managing finances. Obviously, neither I own any oil wells nor I am a drug dealer! So I need to plan budget trips and I’ve managed to do that successfully so far. You won’t believe how less our road trip to Norway cost, just SEK 2400 per person, that too including food, accommodation, fuel, toll tax, and car rentals. And we rented a Volvo V70, didn’t camp anywhere, and stayed in cabins. I’ll try to share some tips from my such experiences.
What makes a trip expensive, Tickets, Accommodation, Fun, Food
In the times of dynamic pricing, the biggest favor you can do to your wallet is to plan early. Especially, in Sweden where people travel on every possible holiday, if there’s a long weekend, expect the ticket prices to be very high if you’ve not booked in Advance.
In most of the travel plans made with friends, a majority of time is wasted in convincing people and finalizing plans, which results in delays long enough to make ticket prices go higher. Though this is an unavoidable situation, I’d still advise to book tickets early and keep a track of the offers on different airlines. I’ve currently subscribed to newsletters of most of the airlines I’ve flown with and this ensures that I get email alerts whenever there are low priced tickets.
Duration of trips
This is a bit of debatable topic, most of the money in any trip goes into booking flight tickets. And that remains fixed regardless of how many days you stay. I had done some short trips earlier, but once I went to Prague for two days and it was snowing/raining all the time, so when I booked my next trip to Barcelona, I booked it for a week. And one of the biggest advantages of making longer duration plans is the freedom to explore the small towns near any city. With my experience in traveling through Austria, Spain and Portugal recently, I’ve found the small towns which are not so popular among tourists to be the best places.
While you’re a student, there are plenty of chances of getting a week off and making most of it.
Book open-jaw airline tickets
What I usually recommend people is, try to fly into one place, and fly out of another place, try to combine multiple places on one trip if you want to make most out of it. In Europe, you can reach a totally different and place in another country on an overnight journey.
Like Paris – Brussels – Amsterdam, Berlin – Prague – Vienna, Barcelona – Valencia – Madrid, Lisbon – Porto, Vienna – Budapest, Berlin – Warsaw, Riga – Vilnius, and much more. Just find overnight buses and make most out of paying for two flights.
This might look like a 10-minute process, but there plenty of minute things which come into play when you are booking
This is one of the most important thumb rules, I always prefer to take flights between 6 – 9 AM, which makes sure that I’ve reached the destination by noon. So that gives me a full day ahead to explore. If you fly late evening, this will cause you to spend extra on one day of stay. So if an 8 AM flight is 200 SEK expensive than the evening flight, go for the morning one, as you’ll save the day for yourself.
Do the opposite thing while coming, back, take the flight that brings you back around 8-10 PM, so you can use that day and sleep at home afterward.
I recently flew to Zurich via Berlin, it took me almost 6 hours to get there. On the contrary, when I was coming back, I took a direct flight which brought me back in 2:30 hours. So even after taking an early morning flight, I reached Zurich at 3:00 PM which didn’t give me much time to explore on day 1. So yeah, if you can get a direct flight, go for it.
To Ryan or not to Ryan
Ryan Air, Wizz Air, and many more budget airlines are pretty popular because of the low prices, and the services aren’t bad either. But there’s a small catch, in most of the cities these airlines operate, they don’t fly from main airports. For example, in Stockholm, Ryan Air flies out of Skavatsa Airport, which is in Nyköping 100 km south of Stockholm, I don’t even understand how it qualifies as an airport in Stockholm. It takes 1.5 hours and 150 SEK to reach there. So if you are booking with Ryan air in Stockholm, make sure that you count in the extra time and the extra money you’ll have to spend. I remember flying to Dusseldorf in 2015, It was a 1.5-hour flight but it took me 2 hours to reach the airport in Stockholm and 2 more hours to travel from the airport to Dusseldorf, I ended up spending more money on getting to and from the airports than on the flight ticket.
In some cities, they fly to the main airports, for example, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Gothenburg. So my suggestion is, if you are getting a very cheap flight, make sure that the airline flies to the main airport in at least one of the cities.
Buses and Trains
If you are traveling within countries like Germany, France, Italy buses are the best and cheapest way to reach from one place to another. If the destination is more than 5-6 hour away then go for a night bus which will save you a lot of time and money. Trains are generally expensive in most of the countries compared to buses.
- You can always use websites like Rome2Rio for comparing prices of different modes of transport.
- Student Universe is one of the better portals for finding student deals. I use Google Flights and Skyscanner as well to book flights
- For buses, Flixbus is one of the most popular options all across Europe, it is, in fact, the cheapest way to go to Malmö and Copenhagen from Stockholm. In Sweden, Swebus and Nettbuss have a good network. In Germany, In addition to Flixbus, Berlinlinenbus, and Eurolines are popular.
- Blabla car is one of the famous ridesharing platform popular in Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and many more countries.
- In Sweden for peer to peer car renting and ridesharing GoMore is a great portal.
- Car Rental Companies: Hertz, Sixt, Europcar, Mabi, CircleK
Couchsurfing, Hostels & Airbnb
If you don’t plan wisely, accommodation can be one of the biggest money sinks on any trip. What would be the best way to stay depends upon if you are traveling alone or in a small group or a big group.
If you like traveling solo, the best option is Couchsurfing, single travelers can find plenty of hosts for themselves, you don’t have to pay anything but make sure to bring a gift for your host as a sign of gratitude. If you don’t find a host, you can definitely find a good hostel to stay at and they are fun places to stay. Many of the hostels also provide free walking tours.
If you are traveling as a couple or a group of two or more people, I feel Airbnb is a more economical and convenient option. For small groups, you can go for private rooms in apartments while for big groups, renting the full apartment is not a bad option. In past couple of years, I’ve stayed in Airbnb accommodations almost all the times, and my experience has been amazing.
- Hostels.com and Hostelworld are a couple of good websites to find hostels, always read the reviews before booking hostels.
- If you think why people are not accepting your requests on Couchsurfing, this may be because you don’t have any reviews on your profile, a good way to get reviews is to host people, it could be a good way of knowing people as well.
- Airbnb gives you a 350 SEK discount on your first booking if you used a referral from someone to sign up, ask any of your friends for a referral. If you want it to be quick I can give you referral too, Use this link to sign up on Airbnb and get the 350 SEK bonus.
- When renting on Airbnb, you can always ask your host to decrease the price a bit while sending the request, in some of the cases, the hosts oblige and give a 10-20% discount.
- If you are planning to travel in Sweden, it would be a good idea to become a member of Swedish Tourist Association (STF) as it gives free or discounted access to STF mountain stations, so it’s a good option for all the hiking and camping enthusiasts.
If you want to save money while traveling, this is the most important department you should be looking at and this is exactly where I’m saving the most.
- Always try to rent an apartment where you have access to the kitchen, this allows you to cook at least one heavy meal and saves at least 100-200 SEK.
- Keep a bottle of water always with yourself, else you’ll end up spending a lot on beverages.
- I usually buy plenty of packets of biscuits, muffins, chips, and cookies from any supermarket and keep with myself while traveling.
- If you’re an Indian and vegetarian, there are chances that you might not get food according to your diet in most of the countries, I’ve found a way around it, I carry Haldirams/MTR ready to eat food packs with myself on every trip, this makes sure that I at least get a good dinner every day. Muesli and milk make for a healthy breakfast too.
Though I a big fan of Italian food and eating out is cheap in Italy too, so I ended up eating out most of the times when I was in Italy, but it was worth it !!
Research a lot
If you are traveling to any place, make sure to read a lot of TripAdvisor, SmarterTravel, WikiTravel, and other travel websites. You might end up discovering some really nice places which are not much popular among tourists. Last week, when I went to Innsbruck, I discovered a lake called Achensee on TripAdvisor, and it turned out to be the best place I saw in Austria during my time there. (I’ll publish a blog from my trip to Austria soon). So, read as much as you can about the place you are going to visit.
Free Walking Tours
I always take free walking tours in any city I go to, there are many free walking tours in most of the European cities (Have you taken the one in Stockholm yet?). This is the best way to find the places, their significance and to know about the brief history of the city. Most of the tour guides will also give you tips for going to different places and what to do and not to do.
I was going to write a short packing list, but I’ll say grab a camera, your phone, and sunglasses and enjoy the summer. Btw, I found this nice packing list on mindmap inspiration, so you can have a look at it.
- If you are not a citizen of EU, don’t forget to bring your Passport, although it’s rarely checked you should always bring it.
- When paying at Kiosks or any place with your Swedish bank card, you will get an option to select the currency, always pay in the local currency (never pay in SEK). If you pay in SEK, you end up paying a higher amount as the kiosk will use a higher conversion rate, if you pay in local currency, then the currency conversion is done by your home bank. I’ve keenly observed that the Kiosks/PoS charge 2-10% extra.
- Be careful of pickpockets, I almost lost my wallet in Paris and Barcelona and then I decided to keep just a bank card and some bank notes in my pocket wrapped in a kerchief. There are a lot of scams in all big tourist towns, Paris, Rome, Barcelona and all the popular places. So be careful!
Do you have any more tips which I can add to this blog? Feel free to drop your suggestions in the comments section, till then enjoy this breathtaking piano composition by Yiruma!