Money Saving Tips For Travelling in Europe

The relatively strong pound is good news for us
With a relatively strong pound at the moment, holidaymakers from the UK can find some exceptionally good deals when travelling to destinations in the Eurozone. In addition, the cost of buying some other European currencies has fallen in recent years, such as the Lev in Bulgaria and the Kuna in Croatia.

Therefore, British travellers do not necessarily need to stick to southern European destinations that use the Euro, like Greece, Italy and Spain, to take advantage of the pound’s buying power.

When booking your accommodation, it is often – although not always – preferable to go to the hotel or holiday letting agency directly and to pay in the local currency.

Travelling Locally
For many sorts of resort-based holidays, local travel often just boils down to arranging transfers to and from the airport. This is seldom the case with city breaks, however, where getting about each day can be a considerable expense. In most European metropolitan areas, public transport remains the best way of getting about. Not only does it allow you to really experience a city as the locals do, but it is often the most cost-effective way of travelling.

Opt for block tickets which allow you to roam over the course of your stay, because this is commonly cheaper than buying tickets individually. Systems similar to the famous ‘carnet’ of ten tickets that can be bought on the Paris Metro now exist all over Europe. For example, in Rome you can buy passes which allow for one, three or seven day travel, as preferred. In Lisbon, choose a Lisboa card which offers access to the Metro, buses and trams.

Most cities require travellers to self-validate their tickets, so remember to do this to avoid unwanted fines.

Uber – an alternative to taxis
As a cheaper alternative to taxis, many travellers now use Uber, which is a very popular service. Uber is an app for your mobile phone, which knows your current location and can usually get a car to you within a few minutes (it even tells you how long it will be, and you can see your car arriving on a map).

When you install the app onto your phone you link it to your credit card, and then payment is all automatic, so there’s no fumbling around with strange foreign currency to pay the driver. It’s actually very simple to set up and to use, and you can often get good discount codes for your first trip – just do a Google search for Uber discount codes.

(Note that Uber drivers are not subject to the same city licencing codes as conventional taxis, which some people believe has implications for your safety.)

Find Some Free Things to Do
Look for museums and exhibitions which don’t have an entrance fee. Often, even those which charge will allow free access on certain occasions, such as the Louvre in Paris, where it costs nothing to enter on the first Sunday of each month from October to March.

San Sebastian: A Great European Destination to Spend Christmas

Every year, more than 12 million Britons head to Spain for their winter holiday. This means that some of the most popular Spanish tourist destinations can get crowded at this time of the year, but others – such as the Basque city of San Sebastian – remain pleasantly crowd-free.

With its mild weather, exceptional setting between the sea and the mountains, and first-class cuisine, San Sebastian is a hidden gem that should rank high in your travel plans this winter. This destination offers great opportunities for sightseeing, keeping active, and experiencing the local culture, and also makes for a fantastic city break during the Christmas season.

You can reach San Sebastian by plane from several UK airports by flying to either Bilbao or Biarritz, which are served by easyJet and other budget and regular airlines. Transport to the city is readily available at both airports and the trip takes 1 hour. You can also fly into San Sebastian airport from the UK with a brief stopover at either Madrid or Barcelona.

Mid-range accommodation can be found in the charming Old Town, where many Baroque buildings have been turned into boutique hotels or B&Bs. Other accommodation options are located along the waterfront and the river.

Magical landscapes are waiting to be explored
Visitors never fail to be impressed by San Sebastian’s stunning setting. The city faces the Bay of Biscay and is hugged by three crescent-shaped bays on the one side and by lush mountains on the other.

To get acquainted with the city’s layout and enjoy the best panoramic views of the coastline, take the cable car to the top of Monte Igueldo or take a pleasant walk to the viewpoint on Monte Urgull. The views from the top of both hills are wonderful, as the magical scenery of the Basque Country extends as far as the eye can see: rolling green hills shrouded in fog, tiny villages dotting the landscape, and the vivid blue waters of the Cantabrian Sea.

Discover the fascinating Basque Culture
San Sebastian’s unique cultural heritage is best reflected in its world-class gastronomy. Cooking and eating are the top local pastimes and the selection of culinary delights is never-ending. Pintxos (the local version of tapas) are served in most establishments and represent great value for money when it comes to eating out.

Dozens of award-winning chefs showcase their creations at Michelin-starred restaurants, and some of the local eateries are among the world’s best.

Christmas events – festival of Santo Tomas
From mid-December to early January, Christmas craft fairs are set up near the Cathedral. Other must-see festive events include the Christmas cavalcades along the waterfront.

The festival of Santo Tomas is on 21st December 2015. Here, the best turkeys, capons, fruit and vegetables from the “baserris” (farmhouses) of Vizcaya are displayed on more than 300 stalls. If it is your first visit to this fair, don’t leave without first having tried a thallus (similar to a tortilla) with savoury sausage accompanied by a good glass of txakoli, a dry white wine.

Europe’s Christmas markets: Germany, Sweden, and beyond

Visiting Europe’s Christmas markets is a great excuse for a city break in December, just when we could all do with a treat. It’s sure to put you in a festive mood, too.

Cologne, Germany
Many of the symbols and traditions we now associate with Christmas in Britain originally came from Germany, courtesy of Prince Albert, so it’s not surprising that many of us think of Germany when we imagine a classic Christmas.

Cologne has seven Christmas markets. The largest of these is arranged around the cathedral, with a huge Christmas tree as its centrepiece. Elsewhere, you’ll find the maritime Harbour Market, the Angel Market lit by shining stars, and the Stadtgarten market, offering more unusual crafts and gifts.

While a fir tree in your hand luggage might be pushing it a bit, there are lots of smaller gifts and treats to choose from. Find hand-carved wooden ornaments, gingerbread hearts and stars that can be personalised with a loved one’s name, candles, and delicious chocolates.

There’s plenty to see and do around the markets. The more adventurous can try the skating rink, though you might prefer to sit down with a glass of mulled wine and enjoy a performance by a live band.

Other European Christmas markets
Germany is the country best known for Christmas markets, and you will find them all over Germany, in the well-known cities such as Berlin and Dresden, but also in smaller places: for example, our photograph at the top of this newsletter was taken in Annaberg-Buchholz in Saxony.

Further afield, you can find Christmas markets all over Europe. France, Belgium and Holland are conveniently close to home for us, but you can go as far afield as Finland – for a Scandinavian take on the season – or Estonia for a distinctive eastern European flavour.

Gothenburg, Sweden
Gothenburg, in Sweden, also has several Christmas markets to choose from, including one in the Liseberg amusement park. Short days and cold nights give a real festive feel. Take the opportunity to try traditional Swedish cuisine, like seafood, reindeer meat, and, of course, excellent coffee accompanied by gingerbread biscuits and saffron buns. For family and friends, bring home some sweets. Salt liquorice is a classic – try it first because it certainly isn’t to everyone’s taste! – but there are plenty of sugary alternatives.

In Haga, the old town in Gothenburg, the cobbled streets give a timeless atmosphere to the market. Browse for handmade gifts and local produce at the stalls, and also in the quirky boutiques that line the route.

For something truly modern and unique, head for Gothenburg’s Röda Sten Art Centre. You’re sure to find the perfect gift among the wares created by artists and craftspeople from all over Sweden.

A souvenir of your trip
And finally, you deserve a little gift too, so why not take home a commemorative bauble decorated with the city and the year, to remind yourself of your visit?