Airfare and accommodation are the biggest expenses when travelling.
We have already put together the ultimate guide to finding cheap flights to Europe and the Schengen Area (you can find it here).
Now, it’s time to have a look at some nifty tips for finding affordable places to stay in Europe – plus some surprisingly good alternatives to expensive hotels.
Though not known for being a budget-friendly destination, Europe offers a whole heap of cheap lodging options (that are clean, fun, comfy, and nice).
So, if you are looking to find budget-friendly places to stay during your trip to Europe so that you can spend less on accommodation and more on sightseeing and souvenirs, then look no further!
Here you’ll find all the information you need to score a good, wallet-friendly deal and travel throughout Europe without spending a fortune.
Table of contents:
1. Cheap Alternatives to Hotels Worth Trying
We all know that a nice place to stay has the power to enhance your overall travel experience. At the same time, bad accommodation can literally sap out all the fun and excitement you are expecting from your Eurotrip.
But who says that expensive hotels with plush services and amenities are the only type of accommodation you need to get to enjoy a great journey to Europe?
Here is an array of interesting lodging options that won’t bleed your budget dry. In some cases, these alternatives to hotels might even be more fun than the actual trip itself.
- Hostels: If you are young and adventurous and it doesn’t bother you to share a room with complete strangers, hostels are a great option for you.
- House swapping: For many frugal holidaymakers, staying in another’s family house is a great way to save money on accommodation. What’s great about house swapping is that it is nearly free and allows you to live like a local and enjoy an authentic travel experience.
- Capsule hotels: Also known as pod hotels, these cosy, small, compact hotels are focused on basic necessities such as sleep and shower. They are an excellent option for an overnight trip.
- Airbnb: This is a popular platform connecting people who want to rent out their homes with travellers looking for accommodation. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll find incredibly affordable deals inside Airbnb.
- Religious houses: Some convents and monasteries in Europe offer travellers cheap lodging. This type of accommodation isn’t for everyone, but if you want to step off the beaten tourist path, religious guest houses might be a great alternative to traditional hotels.
- Camping: If you’re travelling on a budget, camping is one of the cheapest alternatives to hotels. If you’re comfortable sleeping outdoors, camping can provide you with a uniquely awesome travel experience.
- Help exchange: If you’re travelling on a budget, you can exchange your time and skills for free accommodation. If you’re lucky enough, you can also get the opportunity to enjoy perks such as meals or the use of a vehicle.
- World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF): WWOOF is a worldwide movement that connects travellers with organic farmers and promotes cultural interactions and exchange. If the idea of helping on a farm appeals to you, you can exchange your skills for food and shelter.
- B&B: A Bed and Breakfast (B&B) is a great alternative to traditional hotels you may want to consider, whether it’s because you’re looking to save money on accommodation or simply because you shy away from impersonal hotel rooms.
- Couchsurfing: This popular website helps you meet locals and gain access to free accommodation in a local’s home. If the host agrees to let you stay in their home, they will make their couch, guest room or air mattress available to you.
- Glamping: If you are not able to cope with wild camping hardcore style, you may want to consider glamping – A more luxurious way of camping, where nature meets modern amenities.
Now that you know a wide array of affordable lodging options, you may think that each of them is suitable as proof of accommodation for your Schengen Visa application (if you are not sure whether you need a Visa to travel to Europe, check here.)
In most cases, you can use all of the types of lodging listed above as proof of accommodation for your Schengen Visa application as long as you are able to provide documents in relation to your accommodation.
According to the Schengen Visa Code (article 14), “when applying for a uniform Visa, the applicant shall present documents in relation to accommodation, or proof of sufficient means to cover his accommodation”.
Nevertheless, we do not encourage you to submit campground reservations as proof of accommodation for your Schengen Visa application.
The reason for this is that the Visa officers need to ensure you have enough means of subsistence to cover the expenses for your journey. As a result, submitting campground reservations as proof of accommodation might raise some red flags about your ability to cover your expenses during your trip to Europe.
If you choose to stay at someone else’s home during your trip (whether it’s home swapping, help exchange, WWOOF, couch surfing, a friend’s house, etc.), make sure you submit a Schengen Visa Sponsor Accommodation Letter. The letter must state that someone living in the Schengen Area provides you with accommodation only during your trip.
If the person providing you with accommodation will be covering other expenses as well (e.g., meals), you should submit a General Sponsorship Letter to the Embassy or Consulate.
Also, make sure you book your hotel reservations without paying 100% upfront as, in the unfortunate event of Visa rejection, the hotel may not refund you, and you risk losing the money spent on accommodation.
With that in mind, let’s see some great tips on how to search and find affordable places to stay in Europe.
2. 6 Ways to Find Cheap Accommodation in Europe
If you’re travelling to Europe on a budget, the following tips will help you keep more money in your pocket and enjoy more tourist attractions and activities:
1. Choose the location carefully
When looking for affordable accommodation, you may be tempted to find a place to stay miles out of town (as they are typically cheaper than central locations). But are you sure you want to pay extra for transport costs? How much would you pay to get there from the airport?
Is it near a train or bus station so that you won’t end up paying for a cab each day to reach the main attractions?
We recommend you look at accommodation and choose based not only on price but also on location. This will help you save plenty of time and money!
2. Use the best hotel booking sites to compare prices
Whether you’re looking for a hotel, hostel, or B&B, you need to use the best booking sites to find great deals.
- Priceline: An easy-to-navigate search engine. If you’re looking to save money, Priceline offers a unique “Name Your Own Price” option where you can submit a final price you’re willing to pay.
- Hotels.com: A leading provider of hotel accommodation that offers a wide array of filters you can use to narrow down your choices.
- HotelsCombined: An amazing metasearch engine that cuts through availability and prices from all the top hotel booking websites available in the world.
- Tripadvisor: One of the best online travel companies. Tripadvisor includes a unique feature that enables you to simultaneously access hotel reviews and compare prices to find the best possible deals.
- Trivago: Another great hotel booking website that includes some lesser-known hotel sites you may not be able to find elsewhere.
3. Share the costs of an apartment
If you’re travelling with your family or a group of friends, this is one of the best ways to save money on accommodation.
Apartment and rental homes like the ones on Airbnb are usually much cheaper than separate hotel rooms.
Furthermore, these places are typically more flexible with check-in and check-out times and allow you to actively engage in the local lifestyle rather than staying in a modern and impersonal hotel room.
4. Follow on social media and sign up for alerts on booking websites
Many websites release great accommodation deals through their social media channels, so make sure you follow their pages and stay on top of the latest deals.
Some websites (such as Hotels.com) allow you to monitor your favourite hotels’ prices and get a notification if the price changes at any time.
Monitoring fluctuating hotel prices is a great way to save money on accommodation if you start looking for a place to stay in Europe well in advance and you’re not in a hurry to get accommodation right away.
5. Book a secret hotel
These “mystery hotels” give you the opportunity to save up to 70% on accommodation, so if you want to score some extra savings, it’s a good idea to try your luck with one of these secret hotels.
Although you are typically able to see the price and amenities provided, please note that the hotel’s identity will remain hidden until you make the booking.
6. Consider how free amenities can save you money
The free amenities included in your hotel room can help you save more money than you think.
If you find a place to stay providing you free services such as parking, WiFi, or breakfast, this can help you save a significant amount of money – As long as the room price isn’t hiked in order to cover them.
Also, electrical appliances such as a coffee machine, fridge, microwave, or electric kettle can help you store food and prepare your own tea and coffee so that you can save money on eating out.
Conclusion: If you’re travelling on a tight budget or want to score some extra savings, the tips in this post will help you find the best place to stay in Europe at best possible price, whether it’s a hotel, hostel, apartment, or another type of accommodation that best fits your needs.
So, if you know the right tricks, finding nice, clean and affordable accommodation will become as easy as a breeze.
We are firm believers that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on accommodation as the highlights of your lovely trip to Europe should be the destination itself and not the place you are going to sleep for the night.
If you have any questions concerning the proof of accommodation for your Schengen Visa application or need help preparing the documents to submit to the Embassy, do not hesitate to contact us or get your 100% FREE Consultation. We will help you walk into the Schengen Visa appointment with confidence, knowing that you have the highest chances of success!