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    Lisbon, Portugal: Crowd of visitors of outdoor restaurant drinking and relaxing on terrace with beautiful city view on May 14, 2019. Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon city LISBON, PORTUGAL: Crowd of visitors of outdoor restaurant drinking and relaxing on terrace with beautiful city view on May 14, 2019. Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon city 1165713145 terrace, beverage, group, happy, bar, food and wine, vacation, park, beer, holiday, outdoor, weekend, friends, meet, view, green, evening, slow food

    Local tips on how to save money on your next European adventure © Getty Images

    How to save money on your European trip in 2024? Ask a local

    We’ve asked writers across some of our most popular European destinations to share local tips and tricks to help you save money when you get there.

    There’s no doubt that spiraling inflation impacted everything from fuel to food and transport and accommodation costs across Europe this year. That has had a knock-on effect on holidays, too. Prices increased by around 30% for a week-long trip to Greece in 2023, and about 20% for holidays in Italy and Spain compared to the previous year, according to a Guardian report. If that wasn’t enough to swallow, those prices are unlikely to decline — it’s likely only that the pace of increases will slow. 

    But don’t fret! There are numerous ways to save money while traveling in Europe this year. There are the obvious ones, like being flexible about where and when you can go. Choosing to fly mid-week in the “shoulder seasons” of May to June and September to October to less-busy destinations will cut costs. Booking directly with the hotel rather than a tour operator or booking platform can sometimes save you money, too, as well as taking a card without transaction fees. And once you’re on the ground, there are plenty of things you can do to offset the rising cost of living here and there.

    We’ve consulted colleagues residing in some of our most popular destinations, including Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal, to bring you their valuable insights on how you can save money and still get the most out of your trip.

    People cycling over a bridge while others kayak in the water below them in Copenhagen

    You can explore Copenhagen’s harbors for free on a Green Kayak © Daniel Rausmen

    Denmark

    Laura Hall is a travel writer and journalist based in Copenhagen, Denmark

    If you plan to travel by train, book on DSB.dk and look out for the limited, heavily discounted Orange tickets. The tickets get released two months ahead of travel, so be sure to book in advance to score them.

    There are still a handful of free museums in Copenhagen – The David Collection, which shows Islamic art, European 18th-century art and Danish early modern art – is one of them.

    For a fun way to explore Denmark’s cities from the water, book ahead and grab a Green Kayak for free. All you have to do is gather some litter while you explore. The kayaks are available in locations including Copenhagen, Aalborg, Aarhus and Odense.

    The country’s open-air floating harbor swimming pools are free and in use all year round. Just pack a swimsuit and a towel – they’re a great place to meet local people and make friends. Some cities also have floating saunas you can rent by the hour, too. You’ll find one in every Danish city.

    Looking for a cheap lunch? Ask for a boller med ost – a cheese roll. Every bakery serves them – though they might not be on the menu – and there’s even a healthy competition between bakeries about which serves the best version. A fun Instagram account seeks out the best and rates them.

    Bakery shop facades in Arles, France

     For a cheap and tasty lunch, hit up the boulangerie rather than a cafe © Getty Images

    France

    Julien Marsault is a reporter, writer and photographer from Rennes, France

    When it comes to cost and quality, you can rarely go wrong with a quick bite in a local bakery or boulangerie. The selection is vast, and the service is usually (expect to pay around €4-5 for a jambon-beurre and a croissant). My tip: you should focus on independent shops, which are generally of higher quality.

    Navigate France through carpooling. Nowadays, many French people use carpooling services like BlaBlaCar daily to get around and save on fuel expenses. As a traveler, it’s also an excellent option to meet people and get recommendations for your journey.

    Enjoy a bottle of wine in a park instead of a bar. Drinking alcohol in public spaces is not prohibited in France. As the warmer days approach, it’s a pleasant experience to have an outdoor apéro (except to pay €5-10 for a decent bottle of wine in a local caviste or wine merchant). However, be cautious to drink responsibly.

    Taking part in free national events Throughout the year, all across France, free events take place to promote culture and local heritage. This is the case, for example, with La Fête de la Musique, every June 21, which hosts free concerts and events all over the country, or La Nuit des Musées offering free nighttime visits to museums.

    Purchase seasonal products based on their location. Whether you’re interested in getting vegetables, fruits or seafood, take the time to learn about their origins and production season. For instance, spider crabs have become a worrisome invasive species in Brittany, making them relatively inexpensive to purchase and a delicious local specialty.

    This is the port of Naxos with boats, cars, stores, restaurants. You can see people in the Blue Star Naxos Ferry and is boarding travelers.

    If you’re ferry-hopping around Greece, be sure to sign up for a loyalty card for discounts © Getty Images

    Greece

    Sarah Souli is a freelance travel journalist living in Athens, Greece

    There’s no need to order dessert in restaurants in the north of Greece. Restaurants will almost always serve you a free sweet treat at the end of your meal – anything from sliced fruit to lemon curd to kormos (a traditional cake made of biscuits and chocolate).

    In tsipuradika or mezedakia (bars serving tsipuro, a triple distilled liquor), a shot automatically comes with a small plate of savory snacks. Drink enough, and you’ll have basically eaten a full meal.

    You only have to pay for a beach chair and umbrella if you’re visiting an “organized” beach, that is, a beach with amenities. Be on the lookout for unorganized beaches where you can lay your towel down without spending a dime.

    Most pharmacies do promotions on beauty products but don’t necessarily advertise them. Be sure to ask the pharmacist for discounted items, especially on local luxury skincare and beauty brands like Korres and Apivita, which are usually expensive from Greece and can be up to 30% less in the country.

    If you’re planning on taking a lot of ferries around Greece, make sure you sign up for a loyalty card (each ferry company in Greece has one, including BlueStar Ferries and SeaJets). You’ll get discounts on trips and reward points.

    Pints of Guinness beer sit on a barrel outside Temple Bar

    Temple Bar is home to some of the most expensive pubs and bars in Ireland © Getty Images

    Ireland

    Sasha Brady is a Lonely Planet editor from Dublin, Ireland

    Purchase a Leap Visitor Card. It’s an easy way to pay for unlimited travel in Dublin across the bus, Luas (tram) and DART (city train). If you’re in the city for the weekend, the 72-hour card at €16.00 is good value. No deposit is required.

    Car rental is notoriously expensive in Ireland, but it’s generally easy to navigate the country by train; you can cover much ground without a car. Just be sure to purchase your ticket online, as prices are more expensive at the stations, sometimes even double the price.

    You can enjoy much of Ireland’s artistic offerings (and take shelter from the rain) without spending a cent because most museums and galleries are always free. This includes all National MuseumsCork Public MuseumGalway City MuseumChester Beatty Library, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and so much more. Even Dublin Castle is free to visit. In addition, heritage sites throughout the country can also be visited for free on the first Wednesday of every month. 

    Temple Bar is famous for nightlife, but there’s a reason why you’ll mainly spot tourists there instead of locals: it’s the most expensive part of Dublin to drink in. Some pubs here will charge close to €10 for a pint of Guinness. While alcohol is generally expensive throughout Dublin, and there’s no such thing as “happy hour” anywhere, you’ll find cheaper options once you leave the Temple Bar district.

    Download Early Table, a restaurant app offering between 25% and 50% off food bills for dining during off-peak times, helping restaurants fill tables when they’re quiet.

    Three smiling women eating ice cream while walking in an Italian city and laughing together

    Walking is one of the best and cheapest ways to explore Italian cities © Getty Images/Westend61

    Italy

    Benedetta Geddo is a journalist and content creator from Turin, Italy

    Almost half of Italy’s coastline is privatized, so you’re often required to pay to rent sunbeds and umbrellas, and the cost can be pretty high, reaching up to €160 per day in some upmarket areas like the Italian Riviera.

    However, free public beaches are still available, and locals can provide recommendations for hidden gems without the added expense. Inquire at your hotel or Airbnb. Italians often have favorite spots that may not be widely known but offer a more authentic experience.

    Italians walk everywhere, especially in cities like Venice and Florence, and rarely use Uber and taxis unless in a rush. It’s not just about saving money on transportation; it’s about immersing yourself in the lifestyle and experiencing the city on foot. Many cities in Italy are compact and pedestrian-friendly. However, if you’re in a hurry, single bus and subway tickets are generally quite affordable, especially compared to cities like Paris or London. 

    Before renting a car, familiarize yourself with the limited traffic zones (Zona a Traffico Limitato or ZTL) to avoid potential fines. These restricted areas are commonly found in tourist areas such as the Centro Storico (historic center), where parking is prohibited most of the day. As a general rule, it is advisable to choose parking locations farther away from the crowded tourist hubs and utilize public transportation wherever possible.

    Most public toilets require payment, so most Italians buy coffee at a nearby café. By doing so, you can then use the café’s bathroom without incurring an additional fee—you essentially still have to pay but at least you get a coffee in return for your visit.

    Speaking of coffee, you may pay more for one if you sit at a table in a café, particularly in touristy locations or outdoor seating areas. This is why many Italians often stand at the bar while enjoying their espressos.

    By standing at the bar, you are typically charged a lower price for your coffee than sitting at a table. This is a common practice in Italy.

    Crowd of visitors of outdoor restaurant drinking and relaxing on terrace with beautiful city view in Alfama, Lisbon

    When dining out in Portugal, try the menu do dia to save money © Getty Images

    Portugal

    Joana Taborda is a travel writer and editor from Lisbon, Portugal

    Take advantage of the menu do dia. Around lunchtime, most restaurants will offer a fixed menu deal or a daily dish (prato do dia) for a little under €10.

    Say no to starters. While it’s tempting to start tucking into that bread and olives spread the waiter casually dropped on your table, it’s usually not free. You can politely decline it and avoid that extra fee on your bill.

    Buy a transport card. Save money on public transport, including those quaint funiculars and trams, by getting a prepaid card like Navegante (in Lisbon) or Andante (Porto). For long-distance travel, such as buses and trains, book tickets up to one week in advance to get up to 50% discount.

    Enjoy free entrance attractions. Sunday is usually a free admission day for local museums, such as the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. Alternatively, you can time your visit around International Museum Day on May 18th.

    Get drinks on the go. Skip those pricey cocktails at the bar and head to the supermarket to stock up on an affordable bottle of wine. Then, hit the nearest viewpoint for the ultimate sunset ritual with the locals.

    Young woman getting in a train before departure at the railroad station

    Spain’s Renfe AVLO (high-speed) train offers competitive fares © Getty Images

    Spain

    Natalia Diaz is a guidebook author and journalist who lives in Madrid, Spain

    Order the menú del día for lunch. On weekdays, most restaurants offer a fixed-price daily lunch menu (ranging from €8 to €17) that includes a filling three-course meal with dessert, drinks, bread, and coffee.

    Buy “marca blanca” products in supermarkets. This refers to products manufactured by a third-party producer and sold under the brand name of a supermarket or retail chain instead of a well-known brand. Commonly available for food, household, and personal care products, these are more affordable and of decent quality.

    Take the Renfe AVLO (high speed, low cost) train. You can save as much as 70% on long-distance train fares (and not skip on comfort!) if you take this high-velocity early bird train. It departs Madrid at 6:30am and connects you to several main Spanish cities, including BarcelonaMálagaSevilla, and Valencia, going as low as €7.

    Eat inside restaurants instead of a terraza (outdoor terrace). While it’s tempting to dine al fresco, especially during perfect weather in sun-drenched Spain, many establishments charge extra for an outdoor table. Save a few euros by eating indoors.

    Another pro saving tip – if the server asks if you want bread, it’s always good to ask if you’ll be charged for it.

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