For decades, a post-college trip across Europe has been somewhat of a rite of passage for young adults in the world. Unfortunately, with rising tuition costs and questionable job opportunities, many individuals are saying good-bye to such trips. However, this doesn’t necessarily need to be the case; it takes a little more planning, but most European countries can be visited on a budget! Dying to see the Tower of Pisa? Yearning to see the canals of Venice? Craving an authentic Sicilian pizza? Believe it or not, even the traditionally expensive country of Europe can be done on a budget. Here are some tips on how to make your trip to The Boot both memorable and economical.
Summer is definitely high season in Italy, and the crowds and prices prove it. Hotel rates are usually more expensive during this season, so consider traveling in spring or fall. Another option is to find accommodations outside of the “big” cities (Rome, Venice, Florence, etc.) rather than in the city itself. You’ll get a better value, and you can easily hop on the train for a day trip into the city. If you’re travelling with a group, and plan on staying in one area for a while, look into vacation rentals; they are often less expensive than hotels, and the kitchen will allow you to eat some of your meals at home, saving you a few bucks.
When you do go out to eat, aim to eat your day’s big meal at lunchtime. Restaurant’s lunch menus are more affordable than their evening menus, and you can always set up a picnic or stop by a no-frills pizzeria for dinner. Always bring a water bottle to avoid having to pay for over-priced beverages on the streets.
The best way to explore Italy’s towns and cities is on foot. Walking through the historic streets, gazing at the rich architecture, and soaking in the unique atmosphere doesn’t cost a dime! Many churches can also be explored at no cost. Check out the local papers and keep an eye open for flyers, as there are often many free concerts and shows that take place in the parks. While most of the country’s top attractions do charge admission, there are certain ones that can be visited for free. Rome’s Pantheon, for example, doesn’t charge admission, and you can certainly wander through the historic markets and town squares without having to pay anything.
If you do want to visit the museums, keep your eyes open for tourist cars; these all-inclusive passes often include deals on public transportation and museum entrances. The RomaPass is a good deal for many people.
Many travellers believe that the best way to see Italy is to rent a car. While there are some nice perks to having your own vehicle, it is definitely one of the most expensive options. The cost of gas alone will set you back a surprising amount. No-frills European airlines have made travelling by plane much more affordable than it used to be; companies like RyanAir and Easy Jet offer terrific prices on domestic travel through Italy. Of course, not every Italian city has an airport, so air travel does have its limitations. Most backpackers prefer to take the train, which is fast, reliable, and cheap.
The national train network in Italy is Trenitalia, which offers regional, long-distance, and high-speed trains at affordable rates that can be booked on Rail Europe. If you’re going to be using the train as your way around Italy, purchase an ItalyPass, a rail pass that provides you with unlimited travel on a selected number of days.
Don’t let the tight purse-strings stop you from enjoying one of the world’s most beautiful countries! You CAN have fun in Italy without breaking the bank!
Photo credit: italy image by Yvonne Bogdanski from Fotolia.com