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Are you dreaming of working from a coffee shop in Barcelona one day, then on a beach in Croatia the next? You can turn this dream into reality if you have a job that allows you to work completely online and you don’t have any obligations that tie you to one specific geographical location. If you are considering becoming a digital nomad, or if you already are and wondering how to minimize costs while roaming Europe, keep on reading.
Money and currency exchange
Foreign transaction fees and ATM fees can really add up over time. The best way to travel and use money across different currencies is by having a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card. Even better, have one that also gives you cash back. In fact, you may already have a credit card that doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees (such as the Costco Visa card, which also gives you 3% back for travel-related expenses) or it may be worthwhile getting a new card just to save on those pesky fees.
Make sure to read the fine print so you don’t end up with a card that has a hefty annual fee. A good option is the Uber Visa card, which has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, and gives you 4% back on restaurant purchases.
Another expense that can quickly build up is cell phone bills, especially if you are going to use roaming services. Some money saving options include:
T-Mobile’s ONE™ plans give you free texting and free internet in over 140 countries. This is invaluable if you frequently hop around from country to country.
Google Fi offers unlimited texting and $10/GB data – or unlimited data for $60/month – in over 200 countries.
The best option if you are staying in one country for an extended period of time is to buy a local SIM card for your unlocked phone.
If you fly frequently and on the spur of the moment, and are open to different destinations, you can use Skyscanner’s “To: Everywhere” feature to find the cheapest airfare from your current location. The results will be ordered starting from the least expensive flight.
Even if you are planning to return to your current location, always check the price for two one-way tickets instead of one round-trip ticket as sometimes the total cost will be less if purchasing separate tickets for each leg of your flight.
If you want to spend extra time in random cities, Cleverlayover might offer you unusual routes to your destination with layovers that allow you to really get out and enjoy a new city. They can save you some money too but be careful when booking to make sure that you won’t need to pay extra for your luggage. Some discount airlines charge extra even for carry-on bags, so always double check the policy before booking a flight.
If you fly frequently, you might consider paying for a Priority Pass that gives you access to over 1200 airport lounges worldwide. Membership options range from $99 to $429. With the cheapest option, you do have to pay $32 each time you visit a lounge, whereas all your visits are included in the $429 option. You get complimentary food and drinks, free WiFi, and even conference rooms in some of the lounges.
Airport food and drinks can get expensive, so this lounge pass might end up saving you money if you tend to spend a lot of time at airports around the world. Alternatively, you might want to get a credit card that offers the perk of airport lounges. The credit card annual fee will pay for itself very quickly if you use the lounges frequently enough.
Finally, if your flight to or from Europe is delayed by at least three hours or canceled within 14 days of departure, make sure you claim flight compensation. For flights between the U.S. and Europe, the amount of compensation is typically 600 euros but even for flights within Europe, you can get between 250 and 400 euros.
European air passenger rights mandate this compensation but airlines don’t automatically pay it – you must file a claim. You can certainly do this on your own but if you don’t want the hassle or don’t want to spend hours going back and forth with the airline, use the services of a “no win, no fee” company. You can find the link to the only U.S.-based flight compensation company in my author bio.
Americans in Europe tend to be pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of public transportation options. In most European cities, public transportation is affordable and efficient. Getting around from city to city is also feasible using Europe’s extensive railway system. Gas typically costs about twice as much in Europe as it does in the U.S., so driving can get expensive quickly.
If you do want to ride in a car, the best ridesharing service in Europe is Blablacar. It connects drivers and passengers so they can travel together between cities and share the cost of the journey. For shorter trips within a city, Uber is also available in most places in Europe — though it has been banned in some countries, including Bulgaria, Denmark, and Hungary.
For digital nomads who actually need to get work done while they spend time in different countries, couchsurfing is probably not the best option. Many use the services of Airbnb to find accommodation as they travel. A money-saving tip is to negotiate with Airbnb hosts for longer stays. Many hosts are willing to discount their fees by 20-30% in exchange for the stability of a longer term visitor – it definitely doesn’t hurt to ask. Another option to try for longer stays is to join local facebook groups for rentals.
These tips should start you on the path to saving money while living and traveling as a digital nomad in Europe. Got other tips? Please share them!
Anna Hamp is the owner of EU Flight Delay, the only company based in the U.S. that helps passengers get compensated for delayed and canceled flights to or from Europe. She also runs a facebook group for Americans Traveling to Europe where members share tips, ideas, and inspiration.