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4 Tips for Affordably Exploring Europe on Your Gap Year

Gap years have been popular among young Brits for several decades. However, the market for gap year tourism has seen a boom in recent years, with almost 185,200 people between the ages of 18 and 24 taking a gap year in 2022. Of this group, 56% chose to go travelling, with Europe emerging as a top destination for young travellers seeking authentic experiences. 

The European continent offers ample opportunities for gap year travellers to immerse themselves in diverse cultures and landscapes. Yet, many find themselves intimidated by the potential costs of exploring this avenue, especially given the cost of living crisis. Thankfully, there are practical tips for budget travellers to affordably explore Europe during their gap year. Below, we explore four tips to start you out. 

Scoring cheaper flight deals

One of the biggest expenses to take into account when travelling to Europe is undoubtedly the cost of flights. However, by being flexible with your travel dates and destinations, you can significantly reduce this expense. Keep an eye out for budget airlines offering deals and discounts.

The low fare finder of easyJet helps track prices across different schedules so you can nab cheap flights to your desired destinations, whether it’s to Bordeaux in France or Faro in Portugal. Try to book outside of peak periods, too. For instance, scoring the cheapest tickets to warm-weather destinations in Spain or Italy can typically be done when booking in the winter months of January and February. Similarly, you’ll find more affordable flights in November or March when booking flights to traditional winter destinations like Finland.

Embracing overland travel

Gap Year

While flying between European cities may seem convenient, it’s often not the most cost-effective option for budget travellers. Instead, save the flight for your initial transfer from the UK to your European choice of destination, then embrace overland travel. Europe boasts extensive train and bus networks, offering affordable and authentic options for exploring multiple destinations.

Take advantage of young person rail discounts to save on transportation costs during your gap year. The ‘Young’ discount of Trenitalia in Italy offers up to 70% off specific tickets for travellers under 30 years old. In France, SNCF offers a youth card for discounts on TGV, TER and Intercité trains. Not only will overland travel save you money, but it also allows you to soak in the picturesque landscapes and vibrant cities along the way, adding an extra layer of adventure to your journey.

Opting for budget accommodations

Accommodation costs can quickly eat into your travel budget, but there are plenty of affordable options available across Europe. For starters, hostels are a backpacker’s best friend, with budget-friendly dormitory beds and communal spaces ideal for meeting fellow travellers.

However, if you value privacy, then consider staying in budget chain hotels, like EasyHotel in Budapest, Hungary. These offer small but clean and comfortable rooms at affordable rates. Lastly, if you want more luxurious amenities, then book hotel rooms through Airbnb and not directly through the resort’s website. These alternate accommodations can help you save up to hundreds of dollars while you enjoy a more immersive experience.

Eating like a local

Gap Year

One of the highlights of travelling in Europe is indulging in the local cuisine. Some of the best foods aren’t found at expensive restaurants but in casual eateries. The tascas in Lisbon let you sample authentic local dishes at affordable prices, offering a true taste of the region’s culinary delights without breaking the bank. Meanwhile, the slow food movement in destinations like The Dolomites in Italy lets you explore locally sourced, seasonal menus. This highlights the region’s rich culinary traditions, providing a more authentic and budget-friendly dining experience compared to fancy places in tourist hotspots like Bologna.

With careful planning, flexibility, and a sense of adventure, you can make the most of your gap year and create lasting memories that will stay with you long after you return home. So pack your bags, embrace the journey, and get ready to discover the wonders of Europe on a budget-friendly adventure of a lifetime!

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