6 cheap (and better) ways to travel to Europe in 2023

Last updated: 5/13/2023 | May 13, 2023

Traveling around Europe can be expensive. Air tickets, high-speed trains, overnight stays, and ferries – they all eat into your tight (and precious) travel budget.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get around Europe on a budget. The sharing economy, new bus options, discounted train tickets and plenty of budget airlines help you get around Europe without breaking the bank.

I’ve been traveling to Europe since 2006 and I’ve seen a lot of things change over that time period. I’ve watched travel hacks come and go and prices change and change again. Despite the impact of COVID on things, I can honestly say that it has not been easy to get around Europe since there are so many new cheap ways to travel on the continent.

Here are the best ways to travel around Europe on a budget:

1. Traveling by bus

FlixBus on a highway in Europe during the summer

Taking intercity buses is one of the cheapest ways to get around the continent. The main international bus companies are Germany-based Eurolines and FlixBus, which expanded significantly when they acquired Megabus and now have routes across the continent.

Flixbus is usually the cheapest bus option, with fares starting at €5. Their buses include Wi-Fi, electrical outlets, free luggage (one carry-on bag and one stowed under the bus), and comfortable seats. (Megabus still operates in the UK).

FlixBus has quickly become my favorite no-train way to cross Europe cheaply. It is by no means fancy but it is the cheapest way to get around. They are most of Europe. Here’s a map of their tracks to help you plan your trip!

However, there are plenty of specific regional bus companies that will get you somewhere else. For example, Alsa is the main provider in Spain and its neighboring countries.

You can use BusRadar or Get By Bus to find the cheapest and fastest option on your desired route.

2. Travel by budget airline

Ryanair flight takes off in Europe during the summer

By far one of the cheapest ways to travel long distances in Europe is with the budget airline. These airlines are extremely prolific on the continent and the competition has resulted in incredibly cheap fares. It is not uncommon to find flights for less than 10 euros! I use Skyscanner to find the best deals. They do all the legal work!

Just remember that budget airlines make most of their money through fees. They are very strict about baggage limits or a lot they will read you if you forget to print your boarding pass. Don’t expect any free drinks or meals either. But if you follow the rules and know what to expect, you can save a lot of money!

For more information, here is a complete guide to finding cheap flights.

3. Traveling on a Eurail pass

Eurail train stopped at a train station in Europe

I love traveling by train: sitting in a big seat, relaxing with a book, and watching the scenic landscapes pass by. It’s more comfortable than a bus and less stressful (and more sustainable) than air travel. The European railway system is one of the best and most comprehensive in the world.

If you’ll be traveling by train, it’s hard to beat them for price and convenience for short city-to-city travel. For long trips (overnight trips, between countries, or trips that require a high-speed line, such as Paris to Bordeaux or Berlin to Munich), trains can get expensive.

If you plan to travel around Europe and don’t want to travel, getting a train pass is your best money-saving travel option. The cost of each trip will be much lower than if you were to buy these tickets separately.

Not sure if Eurail is right for you? Below is a full breakdown of Eurail passes and when to use them to save money.

4. Travel by BlaBlaCar

A car driving on a road in Europe

The rise of the sharing economy has allowed people to get around with locals on their way, and BlaBlaCar is the reigning king of that service. It is very popular and widespread in Europe and I have used this service many times. It allows you to share trips with people who have extra space in their cars. You find a ride, they agree to take you, and you go. Prices are set by the driver and are intended to offset the cost of gas and overall wear and tear on the vehicle.

This is the best paid way to get around Europe because you meet a local, have friendly conversation, save money, and get to where you’re going faster. It is available in nearly 20 countries in Europe.

While BlaBlaCar may not always be cheaper than the bus (FlixBus can be very cheap!) it is usually faster and more interesting!

5. Travel by car rental / campervan

Car parked near the mountains in Iceland

If you’re traveling around one country or a small region in Europe and are looking for flexibility, renting a car or campervan may be worth the price—especially if you can split the costs with someone. Car rentals can be found for as low as €25 per day, but keep in mind that gas is very expensive. For the best car rental deals in Europe, use Discover Cars.

Campervans are especially popular in countries like Iceland, Scotland, and Norway because these destinations offer plenty of hiking and camping opportunities. You can find campers for as low as €60 a day – very affordable when split with a travel partner and when you consider that this also includes accommodation! Use the app “park4night” to find free (and cheap) overnight parking across Europe.

NBMany countries in Europe require foreign drivers to have an International Driving Permit. You can get one in your country before you arrive for about €20. (It’s basically just a copy of your license in other languages). Also keep in mind that renting an automatic transmission versus a standard transmission will usually cost about twice as much.

6. Travel by hitchhiking

Someone moving around in Europe

Delivery is very common – and it’s safer than you think. I’ve met plenty of travelers who have done it without incident. I myself traveled this way in Bulgaria and Iceland without any problems.

Just keep in mind that it is important to use your head when hiking. Always trust your instincts and use common sense. Keep your valuables with you in case you forget your bag in the car and never hesitate to text a friend or family member with your license plate before you enter. Write your destination on a banner and look stylish. This will help you find a faster flight.

Use the Hitchwiki website for tips to help ensure you have a fun and safe experience.

The best and cheapest way to travel to Europe? Mix and match your transportation

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to get around Europe on a budget. But the best way is to mix and match your transportation depending on where you’re going and for how long. For short trips, I love the trains and BlaBlaCar. For medium-length trips (i.e. half a day), I’ll take a BlaBlaBla bus, car, or train. For long distances, I travel or take a high-speed train or a night bus.

Many travelers think it is an all or nothing thing. Like one way is always better than the other. this is not true. There is no one way to travel around Europe. There are many more – and you need to know when to use the method.

If you have more time, choose the slower and cheaper methods.

If you have more money and a shorter trip, fly and take the train.

If you have no preference for how you travel – and just want the cheapest option (which I usually do) – use a website like Rome2Rio or Omio. All you need to do is enter where you are going and these locations will mix and match different ways to get around the continent for the least amount of money. They will put buses, trains and planes together to build the fastest ride with the least amount of money.

Remember: no single method works 100% of the time. Mix and match. Do this and you will save a lot of time and money!

Get our detailed budget guide for Europe!

My 200+ page detailed guide is made for budget travelers like you! It cuts out the fluff found in other guides and gets straight to the practical information you need for travel while in Europe. She suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on and off the beaten track things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, bars, safety tips, and so much more! Click here to learn more and get your copy today.

Book your flight to Europe: logistics tips and tricks

Book your flight
Find a cheap flight with Skyscanner. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines all over the world so you will always know that no stone is left unturned.

Reserve your accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they constantly show the cheapest rates for cheap guesthouses and hotels.

For suggestions on where to stay during your trip, here are our favorite hostels in Europe!

Don’t forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will protect you from illness, injury, theft and cancellation. It is comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Ready to book your flight?
Check out my resources page for the best companies to use when traveling. I list everything I use when I travel. It’s the best in class and you can’t go wrong with it on your trip.

Do you want more information about Europe?
Be sure to visit our robust Europe destination guide for more planning tips!

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