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BUDGET TIPS

Got Your Room? 9 More Ways to Save

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By Tim Leffel
Budget Travel
Sunday, April 6, 2008

Even with the weak dollar, there are ways to save when traveling abroad. Here are nine.

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1. Check airline deals. Europe's low-fare carriers are good for more than cheap airfares -- many also sell packages (air and hotel) for a bargain price and offer hotel and car-rental specials. EasyJet has hundreds of packages in dozens of European cities, many departing out of London ( http://www.holidays.easyjet.com). The deals require planning and patience: EasyJet doesn't fly to the United States, so you'll have to connect to it in a hub such as London, and the airline charges to check bags and for extra weight. Vueling ( http://www.vueling.com) and SkyEurope ( http://www1.skyeurope.com/en) airlines also list hotel and car-rental discounts on their Web sites.

2. Buy train tickets in advance. Train travel is sometimes more expensive than flying, but you can save by buying tickets online in advance and traveling during off-peak hours. In Germany, weekday, round-trip Deutsche Bahn tickets purchased at http://www.bahn.de at least three days in advance are 25 percent off the regular price -- and weekend tickets bought in advance are 50 percent off. Look for Dauer-Spezial one-way tickets on the Web site for low prices, too. Many tickets purchased more than a month in advance for France's TGV trains are also at least half the normal price ( http://www.voyages-sncf.com).

3. Dig deep on tourism Web sites. Tourism bureau Web sites are often loaded with overly rosy descriptions of a place, but some also have good deals. Click on the People Like You tab on Visit London's site ( http://www.visitlondon.com) for budget hotel and entertainment listings. The Special Offers tab links to a page with hotel-and-attraction packages.

4. Evaluate city passes. Many tourism bureaus sell city cards that cover the costs of mass transit and admission to museums and provide discounts to other attractions. To determine whether they're worth it, however, do the math: Sometimes you'll have to go to four or five museums just to break even. For a list of cities with the cards, go to http://www.europeancitycards.com.

5. Don't buy single rides. Multi-ride subway cards are almost always a better value than individual tickets. In London, a single tube journey costs a whopping $8, but a one-day unlimited-ride Travelcard runs you just $13.25. An even better value is the Oyster card, which starts at $16 (a $6 refundable deposit for the card itself and $10 worth of credits toward subway and bus rides). With the Oyster card, a single ride on the tube is $3 to $4, and a day of unlimited transport is $12.25. When you run out of credits, you can reload the card.

6. Use a bike to get around. In Paris, about 20,000 bikes are available for short-term rentals at hundreds of pickup and drop-off spots. You buy a Velib card for $1.50 per day or $7 per week; each bike is then free for the first half-hour, $1.50 for the second half-hour, $3 for the third half-hour, and $6 for every half-hour after that. The bike-rental machines accept only credit cards with smart chips, such as certain American Express cards. Other cities with bike programs: Brussels, Vienna and Helsinki.

7. Skip the train, take a bus. Long-distance bus travel may not be as glamorous as riding the rails, but some bus lines, such as Busabout ( http://www.busabout.com) and Eurolines ( http://www.eurolines.com), sell multi-city passes that rival the Eurail Pass in terms of price and flexibility. Eurolines has a pass that gives you unlimited travel over 15 days for $485 or 30 days for $647 (both prices are for the summer). There are 40 cities on the route, including some such as Krakow, Poland, and Riga, Latvia, that aren't reachable with a Eurail Pass, and you need to reserve each leg at least two days in advance. The pass has one major restriction: All trips, with a few exceptions, must cross international borders.

8. Rent a super-cheap car. If you really need a car, check the prices of rentals at European chains such as EasyCar ( http://www.easycar.com), Alimex ( http://www.alimex.eu) and Sixti ( http://www.sixti.com). Sixti advertises cars in France and Italy for as low as $7.50 a day, but beware of add-ons.

9. Find the freebies. Scour the Internet before your trip for free museums, concerts, cultural events and activities -- you may be surprised by what's out there. The Visit Oslo Web site, for instance, has an extensive list of free festivals and museums ( http://www.visitoslo.com). The blog at EuroCheapo -- a worthwhile source for affordable hotels -- also routinely posts articles on how to find free stuff in Europe ( http://www.eurocheapo.com). And at http://www.budgettravel.com, Budget Travel is posting a list of eight free European events this summer, including performances by the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and various ensembles at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw hall, as well as the annual White Night festivals in Rome, Paris, Brussels and Madrid.


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