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The best – and cheapest – ways to ‘do’ Europe


With its rich history, Alpine landscapes and Mediterranean beaches, Europe continued to draw tourists from around the world in 2013. France was the most visited country last year, attracting 16 million more tourists than the United States.

One downside of visiting Europe, however, is its prohibitive pricing, with seven of the ten most expensive cities in the world located in Europe. But worry not, just because you’re on a budget this doesn’t mean you should give up your dreams of an adventure through the Old Continent.

Having picked the most popular tourist countries in Europe, we put different means of transportation to the test to find out which one would be the best choice for you. The evaluation is based on Time, Cost, Ease of Use and Comfort.

Germany:

Germany has a lot more to offer than beer and the Oktoberfest. But, if you insist on starting with a hangover, we begin our journey in the southern metropolis Munich, which is, to be honest, quite expensive compared to the rest of the country. We recommend couch-surfing, which basically means sleeping on a stranger’s couch. But be prepared, you’ll make tons of friends by sleeping on their couch! There are many proper German restaurants so make sure you check their prices online beforehand.

Our route goes northward through the country to Hamburg by car. With no speed limits on the Autobahn the 775km can take you less than 7 hours. And if you don’t have a car with you: No worries! There are several carpooling websites, called “Mitfahrgelegenheit” or “Mitfahrzentrale” where cash-strapped car owners offer people without cars to join them on their chosen route for petrol money. No matter what happens: never never never take the train, the Deutsche Bahn – delayed, incredibly expensive and never worth their money. In Hamburg stay on a couch again and if you are looking for cheap food and drinks, go to St. Pauli and the Reeperbahn.

United Kingdom:

With UK’s capital London being the most expensive city in the world, it was hard to think of a cheap way to explore this country. But I think we did a good job. Here is your route through the United Kingdom by foot. Well… the 874 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats will take you around three months and, considering our limited budget, we decided to take the bike for a ten to fourteen day trip.

Everybody knows the English weather, so keep that in mind when we suggest our preferred accommodation: the tent. Sounds ridiculous to you? There are thousands of campsites along the route and it is definitely the cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to get to know the United Kingdom. If you visit Land’s End throughout August there are fireworks displays lighting up the coastal landmark twice a week. Make sure you are prepared for the stunning view from Duncansby Head next to John O’Groats, the most north-easterly part of the country. And in the end, when you fancy a ride home: there actually are people who took several local buses from one end to another in less than two weeks. You’re not alone!

France:

Mervyn Hughes, Managing Director at Cosford Caravans, recommends using the Route National in France:

“It is a great way to save money by not taking the toll on Auto Routes. Because you are only allowed to drive up to 90 kph, which by the way also saves petrol, it doesn’t make that much of a difference if you take the Auto Route or the Route National. In fact: driving slower and through small French towns lets you experience beautiful France and its nature even more.”

The route we chose starts in “La perle d’Aquitaine”, the centre of the French wine industry Bordeaux. One of the reasons why we wanted to go by camper or caravan is the possibility to store many boxes of great French wine to take home with you.

We are heading northwards to Paris which takes us slightly less than 7 hours in total. And whenever you fancy a quick nap or a nice meal you can stop along the road on so called “aires” as you have everything important with you. Don’t forget to stop at French supermarkets like Auchan or Carrefour – you won’t regret it, trust us.

With Paris being the busy heart of France you might find some rest on a great campsite called Huttopia Versailles just outside Paris and next to the Palace of Versailles (which is definitely worth visiting). More tips for good campsites are featured in the travel guide “Cool Camping France”.

Spain:

Although taking the bus in Spain is often the cheapest (but also most time consuming) way to explore the country, our chosen route from Seville to Barcelona is unbeatable by train. 50€ for a one way journey of 6 hours definitely beats a 16 hour bus journey that costs around 100€.

The accommodation we prefer in both cities are hostels, but take your time to find one that suits you regarding area, price and recommendations from other tourists. The Oasis Backpacker Hostel, for example, in the centre of Seville with a swimming pool on the roof terrace (amazing, right?) might be a great pick to cool down during the Spanish summer heat. Go and rent a bike at their reception to ride along the Rio Guadalquivir, it is amazing! Take the train in the late morning and you’ll arrive in Barcelona after siesta, and if you’re into skating then you already know what to do – the streets of Barcelona are waiting for you.

Before dinner take a stroll through the area “Esquerra de l’Eixample”, which is far less crowded with tourists. There is a lovely restaurant called “Balthazar” in the Roselló 189 which offers great bargains for foodies. You might want to check it out!

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