Traveling abroad can be an expensive venture between plane tickets, hotels, and food, but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of ways to adventure on a budget and still enjoy yourself. Recently, I ventured to Munich, Germany, with my cousin and her friends, and all of us were on a strict budget and were determined to have as much fun as possible. First, I’m going to go ahead and say that since the people I was traveling with were university students, we did indeed book cheap flights with Ryanair and stayed in a dorm-style room at the Euro Youth Hostel. These are honestly the two parts of any trip that I am willing to splurge a bit more on for a comfortable flight and a sound night of sleep, but let me tell you about the other ways we managed to save money in Munich.
If you’re from America where the main mode of transport is a car, then you’ll be as amazed as I was how many different types of transportation the city had to offer. You can bike, take a cable car, hire a taxi, or hop on a bus to name a few. The best (and by far the cheapest mode of transportation) is your own two feet! My phone tracked how much we walked during our trip, and we were averaging close to 15 miles of walking a day. That might sound like a lot, but it was so worth it. We walked all the way from the flea market near the Bavarian Statue to the English Gardens, and it was a fabulous experience. We didn’t have to worry about time schedules for public transportation or finding a particular bus stop in any location. There was no waiting for a bus or squishing onto a crowded cable car. The downsides to saving money this way, though, was that we didn’t get to see all of the city. We were pretty limited in the places that we visited. However, that isn’t to say that we didn’t make the most of where we were. In fact, we stumbled on a ton of historical, Instagram worthy buildings on accident. We were actually trying to find our way to dinner when we found ourselves walking through the main city square called Marienplatz and staring up at beautiful buildings with rich histories. Among these we found were the Munich Residenz (Palace), Frauenkriche (a gothic church), and the Odeonsplatz (a Roman-themed square).
My next tip will depend on which days you’re visiting Munich. On Sundays, there really isn’t much to do in the city considering that a lot of the shops (including grocery stores, by the way) are shut. Museums must have seen this opportunity and taken it because most of them are a measly one or two Euro per person for Sunday entry. I will warn that if you want to spend as little as possible, you probably shouldn’t bring a bag with you because most of them will charge you extra to store your bag.
There is a cluster of museums not far from the southwest section of the English Gardens that cater to anyone with a love of history, art, and learning. We visited the Modern Pinakothek, Alte Pinakothek, the Glyptothek, and the Egyptian Museum, but we barely scratched the surface. There were museums in the same area dedicated to paleontology, architecture, and Munich’s World War I and World War II history that we ran out of time to visit.
Help the Environment Help You: Carry A Reusable Water Bottle
My fourth tip is to carry a refillable water bottle with you while you traverse the city. Most places that thrive on tourist money make a killing selling people overpriced plastic water bottles that will hardly last you the day. And most coffee shops will refill a water bottle for you free of charge with your morning or afternoon coffee anyway. Not to mention that if you splurge on a sit-down restaurant, they might even charge you for glasses of water. By bringing your own, not only will this let you spend money on more important activities, but it’s also a better alternative for the environment.
Food & Drink
Dinner can be expensive in Munich, especially if you want the classic beer and bratwurst. I highly suggest finding a less touristy area if you want a great bratwurst or currywurst, and you can buy beer at a corner store or an inexpensive grocery store like Aldi or Ledel. My friends and I bought cheap dinner and drinks and then carried the food with us to the English Garden. There, we found a place in the grass near the river to sit and enjoy the atmosphere without having to spend a small fortune on food. The English Garden is ripe with adventure. People were swimming in the river, others were topless tanning, and my friends and I joined a group of locals and tourists who were mesmerized by surfers who practiced in the rushing river at the head of the park. It was a fantastic experience to watch, but it isn’t recommended that you try your own hand at surfing the river unless you’re really experienced at the sport. Side note: there are places within the Garden where you can purchase food and beer, but they aren’t the least expensive option. You can, however, split a giant beer with friends, and when you return the glass tankard, you get some of your money back.
Finally, a cheap and fun way to explore Germany is to buy a cheap bus ticket and embark on a day trip with your friends. Our group went to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which was an hour bus ride from Munich, and far exceeded any of our expectations. The charming town was nestled in the Alps, and I could have easily spent a week there with how relaxing it felt. We followed the river up to the site of the 1936 Winter Olympics and continued walking until we found the entrance to the Partnach Gorge. This hike was so spectacular that it quickly became top of my favorite travel adventures list.
We had to hike through a man made cave and walkway combination beside the Gorge itself. All the while gaping at the way the sunlight streamed down from the top of the Gorge and reflected on the rushing water, we were getting soaked as the powerful river slammed up against the rocks. Parts of the cave were pitch-black, and we had to feel our way through until we saw the literal light at the end of the tunnel. When we came out the other side of the cave-walkway, we continued hiking up the mountain and only stopped to eat the bread, cheese, and apples we brought. For a trip that only cost us 14 Euro round trip and about 10 Euro in total for the food, it was a fantastic and cheap way to spend an afternoon. Travel is made out to be a luxury sport only for the rich, but if you’re savvy enough, you can do it with little more than what is in your pocket. So grab a pair of good walking shoes, a reusable water bottle, and good luck out there in Munich.