10 Ways to Meet People, Have Fun, and Not Go Broke in Europe

I recently finished a three-and-a-half week working holiday in Amsterdam. I went there knowing no one except for a college friend, and I ended up having a great time without spending much money (compared to typical travel expenses).

Here’s my advice for planning your own low-cost, high-experience trip to Europe.

  1. Go with another person. I convinced my college buddy Matt to join me. Everything is cheaper (and usually more fun) with a friend!
  2. Spend the $$ necessary to get a great rental apartment. We used Homeaway to find our place; AirBNB is another popular option. Split it with your friend. Having privacy, your own kitchen, and a good location are vital.
  3. Buy groceries and prepare most of your own meals. Doing this saved us more money than anything else. Also, don’t go out for drinks when you can invite people over to enjoy them (at supermarket prices) at your apartment.
  4. Search/ask your Facebook network for friends who live in the area. Our (one) friend-of-a-friend introduced us to her friends, with whom we enjoyed many home-cooked meals and evenings out. They also lent us their museum passes so we could visit  the Van Gogh Museum and other famous places for free.
  5. Connect with like-minded people at like-minded organizations. For me, that was Knowmads, where I met a lot of cool people interested in alternative education. It helped that Knowmads had a coworking area where I could do my writing and other laptop work.
  6. Use Couchsurfing.com to find interesting-looking people who live in the area. We met many! Couchsurfing also has weekly meet-up events in most major cities—look on the city’s location page.
  7. If you’d like to go out on some dates, our Dutch friends told us that—as of early 2014—everyone uses Tinder. (We didn’t use it.)
  8. Don’t do touristy stuff. Just because you’re visiting a new country doesn’t mean you have to “do everything” in that country. I mostly spent my time in Amsterdam writing, working on my computer, drinking coffee in cafes (here’s my Amsterdam favorite), relaxing in my apartment, going for runs, and exploring the city on foot or bike—stuff that I do at home in the USA, too. I didn’t force myself to go to a million museums or visit every high-rated restaurant. I felt relaxed.
  9. Do your social networking at the very beginning. Investing lots of time in meeting new people in the first week paid us steady social dividends for the next two and a half weeks.
  10. Invest in mobility. In Amsterdam, that meant having a bike. Luckily our apartment came with free bikes. If we didn’t have bikes, we probably would have purchased unlimited access tram cards (or asked our new friends for lender bikes). Being able to go anywhere in the city, at any time, was highly liberating.

Photo: Stuck in Customs via Compfight cc



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