So you want to see the Swiss alps from Interlaken, eat herring in Copenhagen or chill in a sauna in Oslo? Many travelers are surprised by the variation in cost of living across different cities in Europe. But even in the priciest location there are a couple simple ways to keep your hard-earned coppers in your pocket.
Cost of Living Index by Country. Source: NUMBEO

Plan Ahead for Accommodations
As you can see from the map above, cities in Switzerland and the Nordics have the highest cost of living. That cost of living expense flows down to travelers most directly in the form of accommodation prices. It’s expensive to build a hotel or apartment building, so its expensive to rent those rooms as well.

There are plenty of cities you can walk into or call just a few days in advance and find reasonable accommodations. But to save your budget, plan as far ahead as possible in expensive cities. By booking early you can generally get a lower price due to there be more supply of rooms.

Additionally, by planning ahead you can pick which day of the week you are staying in an expensive city. The same sites are open on Thursday as on Saturday, but room rates on the weekends can be much higher. Avoid the weekends and do your nightlife activities in locations where you can stretch your dollar.

I hear your free traveling spirits saying, “that’s too restrictive!” Think of these cities as the tent poles in your trip. You know where you are going to sleep for a couple of nights during the trip, but you still have wide open expanses to cover to get between them. You’ll enjoy the adventure and your wallet will too!

Limit Your Time by Day Tripping
A great way to get the flavor of a town, but not its high prices, is by day tripping into a big city from a smaller city or from a neighboring country. For example, Baden-Baden, the amazing and amazingly expensive spa town, is just 1.5 hours from Frankfurt where hotels and hostels are plentiful and generally cheaper.

Or you could stay in Lyon and day trip into Geneva. By arbitraging the lower cost of living in France over Switzerland, you can get a flavor of that city but pass on the bill.

Buy Food From a Grocery Store
Buying food from a grocery store and preparing it for yourself is mainstay of budget traveling strategy. But in pricey cities where the cost of labor and living are high, the gap between the grocery store and even the cheapest restaurant widens.

The average cost of McDonalds Combo Meal by Country, in U.S. Dollars. Source: NUMBEO

Grabbing a loaf of bread, butter and ham and making an on the run the sandwich can easily cut the cost of your meal by 50%. You don’t need a kitchen to make that happen, just a frugal attitude.

Travel Smarter, Not Pricier

Traveling to a city with a high cost of living is going to put a bigger dent in your budget, but it doesn’t mean you have to avoid those cities entirely. Be creative and you can find a way to fit any destination into your budget. What creative solutions do you have for traveling to expensive cities?

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