Eating on a Budget in Europe: Part Two

After I finished my semester abroad in Paris, I spent three weeks backpacking across Europe with my best friend Katie. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and we did it with almost no money. You’ve already seen how to eat cheaply through Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Hungary in Part One – but the trip isn’t over yet!

Vienna, Austria: Beer

The next stop on our itinerary was Austria, home to some of the best beer in Europe. You’d be crazy not to try some, but those late night bar tabs can add up fast! So what did we do? Found a bar with a fantastic happy hour, offering pints of many different local brews for only €2 – about $3. Even better, the bar had tables outside, so we were able to enjoy the afternoon sun, take in our amazing surroundings, and drink some great Austrian beer. Many bars will also offer happy hour deals on food, giving you another opportunity to try some local cuisine at reasonable prices. Prost!

Venice, Italy: Bread, cheese, and olives

We spent almost the whole final week of our trip in Italy, and it took all our willpower – and occasional panicked checks of our bank balances – to keep from eating everything we saw! On our first Italian day we arrived in Venice, a magnificent city where everything seems out of a movie, but which unfortunately is not known for its affordability. Thanks to our trusty guidebook however, we found an adorable little café that offered small, tapas-like plates of local cheese, bread, and olives, and we were able to snack on some delicious authentic Italian food for a relatively small price. Just be careful not to order too many things, or you’ll be over budget in no time.

Rome, Italy: Pizza

No visit to Italy would be complete without pizza, and I had some of the best I’ve ever had in my life in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome. What’s not to love about a huge “individual” pizza that’s only about €7 and will keep you full all day? This was another trick we learned: if you eat a large meal mid-afternoon, you won’t need much else for the rest of the day…except maybe some gelato! The pizza in Italy is truly not to be missed – and with the fresh ingredients and thin crust, it’s not the high-calorie monstrosity that American pizza is, especially if you load it with veggies.

Rimini, Italy: Seafood feast

Ok, I’ll confess: we did splurge once. And that’s ok! When faced with the incredible seafood offerings in the gorgeous coastal town of Rimini, we felt it would be ok to indulge in one fabulous meal, as long as we ate even more cheaply than usual for a couple meals to keep things balanced. We found a reasonably priced restaurant facing the beach, and ordered to our hearts’ content: fried calamari, fish raviolis, salad, and some delicious wine. We didn’t go overboard, though it was certainly more than we’d spent on one meal before. But as long as the budget can be balanced out, there’s nothing wrong with picking one meal to splurge on. In our experience, the memory of that amazing meal made eating granola bars for the next two meals not seem too bad!


Munich, Germany: More beer, and good friends

The last stop on our trip was Munich, where we were delighted to find that we had scrimped enough to afford one last big night out at the famed Hofbrauhaus. We ordered steins of local beer from the impressive women who can carry eight at once, and reveled in the memories of the past three weeks.

If I had to pick one thing that made traveling cheaply through Europe doable, it was selecting the right travel companion. If the people you’re with are not fully on board with saving money whenever possible, budgeting will be a constant battle and make for some uncomfortable conversations. Katie and I always encouraged each other to find the best deal, and because of this cooperation we not only didn’t starve, we ate some amazing things.

Take home lessons:

  • Find a happy hour for a cheap way to try the local brews
  • Look for tapas-style restaurants
  • Eat one large midday meal instead of a lunch and a dinner
  • Splurge every once in a while
  • Pick the right travel companion

Those three weeks in Europe were some of the best times of my life, and I didn’t go bankrupt in the process. If you approach traveling and eating cheaply as an adventure, it will seem less like a hassle and more like part of the fun!

Bon voyage and bon appetit!

- Molli

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