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Have a student holiday on the cheap

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Being a student is not legitimate ground for spending the entirety of your holiday period in box set TV binge position; beached in bed, laptop propped on stomach, and snacks to hand.

The attitude students have towards preserving the simple pleasures of a “frugal” student life such as cheap shots and value beans is infuriating. Whilst they await the arrival of the student loan in bed, Facebook acquaintances caught on camels in the Sahara, or a gondola in Venice, are heavily berated for their extravagance.

However the reality is, trips abroad can be entirely affordable. Here are some tips on how to make the most of Europe on the cheap.

Air travel

The much-abhorred Ryanair offers a range of exceedingly cheap flights to numerous European destinations. Once you’ve navigated their insurance scam-ridden online check in, braced yourself for the loud on-board fanfare announcing the on time arrival, paying £16.99 for a 2000km flight seems reasonable. If you plan on getting insurance, which we recommend you definitely do, you should check out a comparison site like Quote Goat.


I recommend flying to one destination, then flying home via another. For example last March I flew to Stockholm, and then booked a return flight from Malmo. The obvious benefits of such a schedule is a cheaper flight cost; but overland travel is also a great way to really acclimatise to a country. Overland transport in Europe is generally very cheap; avoid the multitude of extortionate EU Rail cards by targeting regional rail travel websites and booking in advance. The stunning vistas afforded from the window of a train are priceless, fly to Pisa in Italy and explore the charming villages nestled in the rocks of the Ligurian coast, single train tickets cost as little as €1.50.

City transport

With regards to city transport, generally avoid buying the bulk 72-hour tram/Metro tickets. They are aimed at lethargic tourists religiously following guidebooks. Venture off the beaten track, and you’ll realise the city can be walked and thus that overpriced bus ticket is redundant. As an aside, without advocating illegal behavior, European city transport often operates on an honesty policy. So if you are very strapped for cash…


The flourishing success of large chain hostels is testament to backpacker’s rising accommodation standards. Chains such as Generator, and Wombat Hostels are immaculately clean, cheap and colourful; a hub for young international travellers, the larger hostels boast bar crawls and club nights. However I would also recommend checking into an independently-run hostel, they often offer walking/food tours, and do a much better job of supporting local family businesses.


If you are counting pennies, there is nothing wrong with relying on supermarket food. Most hostels are now equipped with kitchens, so rustling up pasta is easy and cheap. Do not delude yourself into believing fast food is the more economic option, chains such as KFC and McDonalds ramp up the prices overseas: don’t be the English fool that pays €10 for a Happy Meal. For an authentic taste and local taste, bakeries, markets and street food are worth sampling, mainland Europe loves to barter so embrace it.


Be under no allusions, club-bought alcohol remains expensive across Europe. Head to your nearest Billa and buy a bottle of their cheapest wine. In Hungary a bottle of white wine set me back by just 400 HUF, the equivalent of 85p. However watch out for the alcohol monopoly in Sweden: liquor stores close at 6.30pm.

Do you have any more tips for holidays on the cheap? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo: Steven Conry / Flickr

Helena SkinnerHave a student holiday on the cheap

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  • Susanna Chapman - August 4, 2014 reply

    This is a brilliant article- so many good tips, it makes me just want to travel off into the world! Unfortunately I’m alreafy from Europe and have already seen most of it. I suppose there’s always more that can be done, though 🙂

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