by Meryl Hanmer
How I visited twenty-six countries in a fifteen-month period on a student’s budget.
After finishing my final exam of my second year, I packed my bags and embarked on a fifteen-month journey across the European continent. Over this period, I lived in three cities, toured twenty-six countries and visited sixty-seven cities/towns. Having never travelled before, I made plenty of mistakes at the beginning but learned quickly how to refine my travelling technique as well as how to make my budget stretch even further. Through my experiences, there are six money saving techniques that allowed me to travel both so extensively and intensively.
Take advantage of the University’s Go Global opportunities
I was lucky to receive University funding for two summer programmes in Paris and Valencia. Following these, I had Erasmus funding to spend one semester studying in Valencia and another semester in Brussels. I would urge all students of any degree subject to take advantage of the study/work abroad programmes that Swansea offers. Were it not for Swansea University Go Global opportunities then I never would have taken the initial leap to go abroad at all.
Be flexible about either when or where you go
Before going abroad, I knew that I wanted to see as much of Europe as was possible. Being flexible about where I went meant that when I had time to travel I could search for the cheapest flights from my closest airport and that was how I picked where to go. On the flip side, if I knew where I wanted to go, I searched for cheap flights to that destination but remained flexible about my dates of travel. Using this method I was able to secure flights for as little as £6 one way.
Make use of travel apps such as ‘SkyScanner’, ‘GoEuro’ and ‘rome2rio’
Over the fifteen months I journeyed on 31 flights, 23 buses and 16 trains. How I travelled depended greatly on the country I was in, for example, in Poland, trains are cheap, easy and plentiful whilst in Spain, buses are generally cheaper and more ‘traveller friendly’. To find cheap buses and trains, I love the app ‘GoEuro’ which generally presents lots of options. For flights, ‘SkyScanner’ is my absolute go-to app; I’ve rarely paid more than £25 for a flight anywhere!
Learn to love hostels
So many people dismiss hostels, but after staying in a total of thirty-four hostels I can honestly say I would chose a hostel over a hotel any day. The app and website ‘hostelworld’ gives statistics of all hostels in regards to their location, cleanliness, facilities, atmosphere etc. For me, my priorities are good location, cleanliness, luggage lockers and price. Whether I travelled solo or with friends, hostels always provided a friendly atmosphere with all the facilities needed for a fraction of the price.
To save money on flights, I only travel with hand luggage. Everything that I need for a 4-6-week trip can fit in my 40L bag pack which fits fine in the overhead storage on all major airlines. For some, packing light can be difficult but it is essential not only for saving money on baggage costs but also to save effort on the amount to carry around between destinations. There are lots of YouTube videos on ‘packing techniques’ but my biggest trick is to either make use of hostel laundry facilities or to save even more money I carry liquid detergent with me and a sink plug so I can wash clothes myself in the sink.
Free city walking tours
In almost all major European cities (and even some smaller towns) there is a company that runs a ‘free city walking tour’. If you like the tour, then you can tip the guide at
the end but there is no obligation to do so. Their tours are one of my
‘must do’s’ everywhere I go because they give a great introduction to the city’s history, culture and layout. For solo travellers, it is a great way to meet other people and often the tour guides will be locals who are willing to direct you to other free activities / sights nearby.
Following these six money saving techniques, I have been able to keep my travelling costs to a minimum and use the savings to travel to even more destinations.