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Cancun is one of the three most expensive parts of Mexico, along with Mexico City and Los Cabos. As such, knowing how to travel to Cancun on a budget is essential if you’re a backpacker or don’t have a huge fund for your travels.

Backpacking Accommodations in Cancun

Cancun is a major destination for international travelers. During the pandemic of 2020-2021, it was one of the first places in the world to open up again to tourists. In the first three months of 2021, International visitors only dropped by 50% from the previous year (compared to places like Scotland, which saw the numbers drop by at least 78%). To accommodate the massive numbers of tourists, Cancun has hundreds of resorts, hotels, Airbnbs, hostels, and one campground.

The price range for accommodations in Cancun is massive. Some of the all-inclusive resorts in the Hotel Zone charge thousands of dollars a night. On the other hand, there are hostels that have rooms for rent under $10 a night. The one campground might seem like a nice place to stay on a budget, but sadly, they aren’t cheap.

There isn’t a huge range of hostels in Cancun. The cheapest are $5 per night, and the most expensive (a pod-bed hostel) is only $25 per night. All have surprisingly high ratings (over 8 on Hostelworld). Vanesa and I were going to stay at the Nomads Hotel/Hostel and Rooftop Pool, but we ended up finding a private room on Booking.com for even cheaper.

Mayan Monkey Hostel Cancun

One thing to know about accommodations in Cancun is the occupancy tax. In Mexico, tax is 16%, except for the state of Quintana Roo, which is where Cancun is. In Quintana Roo, the tax is only 10% plus 2% lodging tax, but this didn’t seem the reflect the quotes on Hostelworld. Often, the occupancy tax given was closer to 30%. When you use Airbnb, they’ll also add on the service and cleaning fees, which can really start to add up.

Our room on Booking.com cost us $83 for four nights, which was just a couple dollars less than two bunks at the hostel would have cost us. It wasn’t fancy – just a private room in a house shared with two other rooms. There was a basic kitchen, air conditioning in our room, a comfortable bed and good security…all the essentials for a temporary lodging before we got down to our monthly rental in Puerto Morelos.

To summarize, your cheapest accommodations in Cancun will be around $10 per night per person. You can also stay in opulent luxury, but that has no place in this article for backpackers.

Cost of Cancun Transportation

Local transportation around Cancun is where you’ll be saving the most money…if you do it right. I’ll start off by saying you’ll need to avoid the taxi system if you want to stick to a budget.

There are two main forms of public transportation in Cancun (other than taxis). These are buses and colectivos. Buses are self-explanatory, but there are only four main routes that you need to know about, which you can read about in this great article.  The two main routes to the Hotel Zone are R1 and R2. R1 runs between the Hotel Zone and the Ado bus station (and beyond). R2 goes from the Hotel Zone down Avenida Andrés Quintana Roo. Note that the fares have now increased to 10 pesos ($0.50), and will probably increase again in the future.

Cancun Bus

Colectivos are minivans with benches along the sides and back. There are two styles of colectivos. One is very simple, has no air conditioning or fan, and follows various routes around the city. The other colectivo runs from Cancun down the highway to Playa del Carmen, where you can then another colectivo all the way to Tulum.

The price for the coletivos around the city is usually 10 pesos. You can either pay when you get on or get off, but it’s better to pay when you get on. If the driver has his hand up when the colectivo approaches,  it means the van is full. When you’re ready to disembark, say bajar (drop me off here) or la esquina (at the corner). At this time, you must wear a mask at all times in the colectivo.

Sadly, there’s no map or app that gives the routes of any public transportation in Cancun, at least that I was able to find. If you’re staying in a distant neighborhood, hopefully you can find out from someone what colectivo you can take to where you need to get to. Otherwise, you’ll have to settle for a taxi. Just make sure you settle on a fair price with the driver before you depart.

Where to Eat in Cancun on a Budget

Just like the accommodations, you have a huge range of prices when it comes to food in Cancun. By far the most expensive places are in the Hotel Zone. In fact, we didn’t find anything cheap along the beach.

Instead, head into the city center to find places to eat on a budget. Our personal favorites were at Mercado 23, about half a mile north of the Ado bus station. Along the southern end of the market is a strip of kiosks serving breakfast dishes, empanadas, tacos, tortas (sandwiches), and many other Mexican meals. This is also where you’ll find some of the local Mayan cuisine, such as huevos motulenos and papadzules.

Huevos Motulenos in Mercado 23

Another option for cheap meals is Parque de las Palapas, a few streets southwest of the Ado bus station. Along one side of the park are several food stands serving traditional Mexican cuisine, empanadas, pizzas, hamburgers, smoothies, etc. We had empanadas that were the deep-fried Mexican style, not the Argentinian style which I prefer.

The best places to eat are the street food trucks that come out at night along the main streets. One night, we found a truck called 4:13 Taqueria. Five tacos were only 45 pesos, which converts to $2.25! Sure, you can get meals for cheaper than that in Albania, Thailand and probably Puerto Escondito (I haven’t been there yet), but that’s about the cheapest you’ll find in Cancun.

Taqueria 4:13 in Cancun

Cheap Activities in Cancun

To be honest, there aren’t that many activities and attractions properly IN Cancun. It’s the rest of the State of Quintana Roo that has the real attractions. Some of the excursions outside the city are as follows:

  • Isla Mujeres
  • Holbox Island
  • Chichen Itza – a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Diving at the Great Mayan Reef
  • Los Coloradas Pink Lakes
  • Countless Cenotes
  • Mayan Ruins
  • XCaret
  • And many, many more.

Not only are these attractions outside Cancun, they’re also crazy expensive. If you were to do everything on this list, you would probably have to spend several thousand dollars. As such, they don’t really belong in this article. They are incredible in their own right, and I’ll be writing separate articles for them as I visit each one.

However, there are good attractions within Cancun. Some are better than others. I review a few of these in my article about my impression of Cancun. Of the attractions I mention, the Mercados (23 and 28) are really the only attractions you can do on a budget. I could also add exploring downtown Cancun and finding as much street art as you can.

Cancun Street Art

Cancun Hotel Zone

Of course, the main attraction of Cancun is the beach. To get there, you’ll need to go to the Hotel Zone. This is the wide sandbar along the coast with nearly a hundred hotels and resorts side by side. Thankfully, there’s a wide sandy beach to enjoy between the hotels and the water (unlike Playa del Carmen, where the hotels are right up to the waterline).

The water of Cancun Beach is simply divine. It’s warm (about 86°F year-round) and the most vivid blue you can imagine. The waves are decent – not big like California, but not small either. And it’s free to go to the beach. Just don’t be put off by the heavily-armed military men guarding the entrances of the beach from time to time.

Cancun Beach

If you want to do anything else in the Hotel Zone, you’re going to be spending a lot more money. The restaurants were the most expensive we found in Cancun, and the shows were comparable to Las Vegas. As such, if you’re traveling on a budget (which I assume you are if you’re reading this post), you’ll probably want to avoid the Hotel Zone as much as possible. But that’s hard since you’re probably in Cancun for the beach. So instead, bring a picnic lunch for the beach, and skip the shows.

How Expensive is Cancun?

Putting an exact price on a budget for any location is hard, as it can vary so much depending on your tastes, whether you’re going to be buying alcohol, if you want to stay at hostels or Couchsurf, etc.

For those on the tightest budget and not planning to Couchsurf, plan to spend about $10 per day for accommodations, $10 for food, and $2 for transportation in Cancun Obviously, that’s without any activities or excursions, but you can always haggle with those.

If you want a bit more comfort and plan to do an excursion every couple days, you’re probably looking at $50-60 per day. But don’t forget, you could also be spending thousands a day at an all-inclusive resort. Personally, I like to make my money last longer, which means more traveling. But a bit of comfort now and then is also nice.

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Cancun on a Budget Pin

Further Reading

My adventures in Mexico are just starting, but here are some other articles I’ve written so far while being here.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

France is not one of the cheaper countries to visit in Europe. If you’re on a budget, definitely avoid Paris and aim for one of the other gems. So far, my favorite is Bordeaux. If you end up backpacking in Bordeaux as I did, here are some tips to save you money. As always, the less you spend, the longer you can travel.

Find a Host on Couchsurfing

My favorite accommodations will always be Couchsurfing. There’s no better way to visit a city than staying with a local host who can help you with suggestions. It’s even better when you provide some ingredients so they can show you how to prepare a local dish. I’ve even had several hosts who went out of their way to tour me around their city, show me the landmarks, perhaps take me out to a party and generally integrate me into the culture better than any hotel or hostel could have.

In Bordeaux, I was honored to stay with Bertrand and Stéphanie. They both had very busy schedules, but still made the time to talk with me, watch a French movie, and cook some amazing meals. I arrived late on Sunday night after all the shops and restaurants were closed, and they had a delicious quiche ready for me. For the next night, I brought home the ingredients for fondue, and they provided the proper cooking dishes and utensils. At Lidl, the ingredients were less than $10 for all of us. I might not have made it to any restaurants in Bordeaux for a fancy meal, but I still felt I ate like royalty.

Only Go Window Shopping on Rue Sainte-Catherine

France is one of the best countries in the world when it comes to fashion and shopping. I think the French actually spend more time shopping than any other country in the world. In Bordeaux, the primary walking and shopping street is called Rue Sainte-Catherine. This street follows the original course of the Roman market street and is now one of the longest walking streets in Europe (or maybe the world). It travels north and south over three-quarters of a mile from the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux to the Gate of Aquitane.

Rue Sainte-Catherine

There are hundreds of shops of every type lining the street, and hundreds more down the side streets. A slightly fancier area is the Saint-Catherine Promenade, located on the west side of the street not far from the Grand Theater. If you’re on a budget, this probably isn’t where you’ll end up unless you’re looking for McDonalds or Starbucks, but those are two places you’ll never hear me recommending, as I’ve been boycotting them for years.

One product you absolutely have to try on the street is called canelé. This is a French pastry unique to the Bordeaux region and has its own interesting history. When they make wine in Bordeaux, they use a ton of egg whites by putting it into the top of the vats and letting them settle to the bottom, collecting any bugs along the way. Afterwards, they have all the egg yokes left over. They use the egg yokes to make the canelé, along with flour, butter, salt, sugar, vanilla and a touch of dark Agricole rum. I thought they were delicious.

Purchase the Bordeaux CityPass

If you’re going to be in Bordeaux for a couple days or more and want to see many of the key attractions, or even just want to visit the Cite du Vin Wine Museum, you need to get the Bordeaux CityPass. A 48-hour CityPass is worth well over $100 between all the attractions, a tour of Bordeaux and transportation that it includes. Cite du Vin by itself is $22, and a 24-hour public transportation ticket is $5.50, so $43 for the 48-hour card isn’t bad.

Bordeaux CityPass

The best value is the 72-hour card, which includes a full-day tour to either Saint-Emilion or the Citadel of Blaye. This card is $47.50. The cost for three days of public transportation and Cite du Vin comes out to $38.50.

If you’re on an extreme budget, the CityPass might still be too much. However, Bordeaux is one of those rare cities with attractions that you just can’t miss. Cite du Vin was voted as one of the best museums in the world by National Geographic. So if you can swing enough money to get this card, I’d highly recommend it.

Eat at a Corner Deli

If you want to eat on a budget in Bordeaux, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any restaurants within your price range. Numbeo.com puts the average meal in an inexpensive restaurant at $13.20! While there are the usual cheap options like fast-food restaurants and kebabs, I’d suggest finding a corner deli to get a meal at, or all your meals for that matter. The one I found was called La Mie Câline. They provided everything from sandwiches and focaccia to several flavors of Croque monsieur.

At lunchtime, I scored a fantastic deal – a mere $5.50 for a sandwich, pastry and drink. The sandwich flavors are all in French, but the staff speak English and are really helpful in getting you the perfect lunch. There are three La Mie Câline locations in the center of Bordeaux, plus plenty of other corner deli options to choose from.

Take the Right Backpack to Bordeaux

If you’re planning to be backpacking in Bordeaux, chances are you’ll be taking one of the budget airlines to get there and will probably find a ridiculously cheap ticket. I found my tickets from Edinburgh last minute for only $13 each way! Unfortunately, the budget airlines make their money from baggage and other fees. I usually travel with my Osprey Farpoint 40 backpack, but that’s no longer free with companies like Wizz and Ryanair. In fact, the fee for the bigger backpack (usual carry-on size) is sometimes more than the ticket itself.

Carry-On Backpack

Instead, try to travel with something like the Osprey Daylite Plus 20L backpack. This one will fit under the seat in front of you on the plane, which is what is now considered a free carry-on with many of the budget airlines. It’s big enough for a laptop and several days worth of clothes, if you pack smart and roll everything up.

Traveling with a small backpack has another benefit – it prevents you from loading up on souvenirs and thus saves you more money. Then again, Bordeaux has some really lovely items that you’ll probably want to take back with you. I would have brought back a large pack of canelé, but unfortunately I found the Lindt outlet – Switzerland’s finest chocolatier – with every manufactured flavor available…and a mystery box containing 10 flavors for only $11. I obviously had to get my own, thus using up the tiny bit of extra room I had left in my backpack.

Lindt Outlet in Bordeaux

Of course, if you’re arriving by train or bus, such as Flixbus, using the Osprey Farpoint 40 backpack is a great idea. I learned that having a great backpack was of the utmost importance before I even started traveling, and it’s become even more true over the past five years.

How Much Does it Cost to Go Backpacking in Bordeaux

On an extreme budget, you could always get by in Bordeaux on just a couple dollars a day (like I used to do in my early days of travel). It would require Couchsurfing, eating cheap meals at a local supermarket like Carrefour, walking everywhere and not going to any of the paid attractions. Personally, I got tired of that kind of shoestring budget. If you utilize the five tips given above, you could spend three days in Bordeaux for $25-$30 a day. If you only spent one day, it would cost more like $40-$50, since the 24-hour CityPass itself is $32. It really just depends on what and where you eat, and if you want to see any paid attractions not covered with the CityPass (there aren’t many).

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Backpacking in Bordeaux Pin

Further Reading

If you have more time in Bordeaux and like wine (or perhaps even if you don’t), you definitely have to take a Bordeaux Wine Workshop!

If you’re going to get one, read my full review of the Bordeaux CityPass.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Back in 2016, I spent a week exploring Berlin on a budget without really knowing what I should be doing there. I had originally planned to go to Hamburg and only changed my plans at the last second. Now I’ve gone back for the holiday season, once again without a plan.

Getting to Berlin

Both times I’ve traveled to Berlin, I’ve gone with Flixbus. The first time was from Copenhagen, and the second was from Hamburg. In 2016, I chose Berlin over Hamburg because the bus ticket from Copenhagen was cheaper, which didn’t make any sense as Berlin is twice as far as Hamburg. Back then, I was on a pretty tight budget and my gameplan was always to choose the cheaper bus. I couldn’t complain as I fell in love with Berlin (although I’ve now found Hamburg is even better!).

If you’re already in Europe, most of the low-cost airlines fly to Berlin for a ridiculously low price. For example, you can fly round trip from Edinburgh or London to Berlin for $32! FYI, that’s one of the reasons I love living in Edinburgh. Conversely, you can fly round trip from Berlin to nearly every country in Europe for under $50 (depending on the dates, of course).

On my last trip, I got a Flixbus from Hamburg. The trip lasted three and a quarter hours and cost a whopping $10 each.

Once you get to Berlin, you’ll probably want to get the Berlin WelcomeCard. This gets you free transportation and discount tickets to 200 attractions. There’s also a premium, all-inclusive card which gives you free access to 31 attractions in town, including the hop-on, hop-off bus tour and a boat tour. Both cards are available for 2 to 6 days. The regular card starts at $26 for 48 hours, and the all-inclusive card starts at $99 for 48 hours. If you’re on a budget, stick to the regular card. If you’re planning to use public transportation a lot and visit at least one or two attractions, the card is worth it.

Where to Sleep in Berlin

Between my two trips to Berlin, I had a chance to stay at several different locations across town. Here are some options to consider.

Check In Hotel

The first hostel I stayed at in Berlin back in 2016 has since converted into a hotel, and opened a second location as a hostel. I got really lucky with my room, as it ended up being an en-suite 2-bed dorm! The disadvantage was the location was quite far outside of town, but the new hostel is much closer to the center. Check In Hostel is still one of the cheapest hostels in Berlin with a decent review score.

Check In Hostel Bedroom

Hostel Ballhaus

The first hostel I stayed at on my second trip was Hostel Ballhaus, located about a mile north of Brandenburg Gate. My planning for Berlin was quite last-minute and I didn’t have a lot of options left to choose from. Ballhaus was a no-frills hostel with some of the cheapest rooms in town. It’s located several floors up and the elevator was broken when I went, so it’s not the best for people with large suitcases. Otherwise, there’s a good common area with WiFi and the rooms are very clean. The bathrooms on the second floor of the hostel (5th floor of the building) are full most of the time, but those on the first floor are mostly empty.

Citystay Hostel

Ballhaus was fully booked on my second day, so I made my way to Citystay Mitte, located across the street from Alexanderplatz. Mitte means center, and the hostels and hotels with this in the title are thus in the best locations. Berlin is the most-visited city in Germany with 13.5 million visitors each year, and the hotels and hostels are built to accommodate that. Citystay is a huge hostel with dozens of dorms and private rooms. Due to a mix-up at reception, I was given the key-card for a private room and got to see inside. It looked really cozy and had an ensuite bathroom. This hostel had a lot of other nice amenities, like a huge, secure storage room, laundry service, a large dining area (which we used for work), and dozens of showers.

Meininger Mitte Humboldthaus Hotel

For my last night in Berlin, I went for something a bit nicer. Meininger Mitte Humboldthaus is a hotel with ridiculously cheap rooms. Some of the rooms are also dorm rooms, but with only 4 beds. At first, I thought I’d be alone in the room, but at the end of the night, a couple arrived. Sadly, they smelled like they hadn’t showered in weeks which kinda spoiled the experience, but that certainly wasn’t the fault of the hotel. Other than that, everything was really nice, just as you’d expect in a mid-range hotel.

Meininger Mitte Hotel Room in Berlin

For other hostel options, check out this list of best hostels in Berlin for under $10.

Couchsurfing

Of course, my favorite accommodations when traveling will always be with Couchsurfing. There’s nothing better than staying with a local. During my first visit to Berlin, I stayed with Petra in the tranquil Samariter Quarter, just a stone’s throw from the bohemian center of Berlin. She had a really comfortable spare loft bed with one of those ancient concrete heaters beneath to keep the room warm. In the evening, she invited me to a potluck picnic in Mauerpark. I didn’t understand most of what was said there (since I’ve long-since forgotten the German my Granny taught me), but the park was fascinating with all the people hanging out, playing and partying in the evening.

Picnic with Couchsurfing Host in Berlin

What to Eat in Berlin

Burgermeister Schlesisches Tor

I thought Hamburg would be the German (or world) capital for hamburgers. It turns out that Hamburg is more famous for its fish burgers. What’s more, I found one of the best burgers ever in Berlin, and that’s not hyperbole. Located beneath the Oberbaum Bridge, Burgermeister Schlesisches Tor just knows how to make a perfect burger. Perfect beef, perfect bun, perfect bacon and cheese toppings, just perfect! What was even better was the price – less than $5 for the burger! I was exceedingly lucky with only a five-minute wait, as I had been told there’s usually at least a thirty-minute queue and never a spot to sit.

Burger Under the Bridge in Berlin

There are four Burgermeister locations across Berlin, with a fifth opening this year. What makes the Schlesisches location interesting is not just that it’s under a bridge, but that it used to be a public toilet!

Scheers Schnitzel

Schnitzels actually originated in Austria, and they’re called wiener schnitzels in Vienna (Wein is German for Vienna) where they’re made with veal. In Germany, they’re usually made with pork. As popular as this dish is in Germany, for some strange reason, it was actually hard to find a good schnitzel restaurant in Berlin. The one I did find was called Scheers Schnitzel, also located under the Oberbaum Bridge. I ended up going back to the same restaurant two more times during my three days in Berlin. I think the “proper” way to eat a schnitzel is with a side of fries, but I preferred mine in a bun like a chicken burger, topped with coleslaw and tartar sauce.

Schnitzel on the Secret Food Tour in Berlin

A Kebab Shop

Cooking meat on a rotating stick (doner kebab) goes back millions of years. Serving it in a sandwich roll is attributed to Berlin, Germany in 1974. I can’t say that the kebabs in Berlin are particularly special, but there are certainly plenty of them. Germans love their kebab sandwiches and consume a staggering 600 tons of doner meat every day. If you want to mix things up a bit, you can try a Pakistani or Persian kebab shop instead of the traditional Turkish kebab. What’s the difference? Mostly the spices and vegetables that they use. Some of them even do all their marination and preparation by hand each day.

Iraqi Kebab on the Food Tour in Berlin

Almost Any Currywurst Stand

One meal that definitely originated out of Berlin is the currywurst. The origin of this dish goes back to 1949 when Herta Heuwer got ketchup and curry powder from British soldiers. She used these to flavor her bratwurst sausages she then sold to the construction workers who were rebuilding post-WWII Berlin. Nowadays, you can get two types of currywurst in Berlin, or mix them together for the “double currywurst special.” In East Berlin, they didn’t have sausage lining. Instead, they would batter and deep-fry their sausages, essentially creating a European version of the corndog. They are wayyyyy too tasty, and I had several portions of these as well in the three days I stayed in Berlin.

Currywurst on the Food Tour in Berlin

Any Vegan Restaurant

Berlin has been labeled the vegan capital of the world, and ranks up there with Tel Aviv, London and Bangkok with the biggest number of vegan restaurants. What’s more, they have four different supermarket chains selling only vegan food. If you’re not a vegan, it would still be worth trying some of these restaurants in Berlin. I’m not a vegan myself, but I love vegan food (although I didn’t actually make it to any of the vegan restaurants in Berlin, mainly because I was stuck eating schnitzels and currywurst).

Take the Berlin Secret Food Tour

If you really want to get a sense of the food culture in Berlin and learn about even more dishes and amazing restaurants, I’d highly recommend taking the Berlin Secret Food Tour. I’ve long since learned that a food tour is the best way to learn about a city. You get to walk around, learn the history, taste the food, indulge in the culture, and generally have a great time.

Flammekeuche on the Food Tour in Berlin

Things to Do in Berlin

Tempelhofer Feld

I’m a huge fan of urban ruins, and Berlin proves to have some of the best in the world. Tempelhofer Feld, named after the Knights Templar land it sits on, is the site of the Templehof airport which served Berlin until 2008. It was originally built in 1923 and was used by Hitler in World War II. Now it’s used for kiteblading, picnics, comedy shows, and morning runs. The two 1.3-mile runways are perfect for sports or just an afternoon stroll. There’s a large community garden on the east end to explore too. When I visited in 2016, thousands of people filled it in the evening for all kinds of activities.

Tempelhoffer Feld in Berlin

Treptower Park

Berlin is simply full of fantastic, huge parks. Treptower is located along the Spree River and has two big sections. The first is a dense woodland with numerous paths crossing it and the defunct Spreepark hidden behind a tall metal fence. The rest of the park was just as busy as Tempelhofer Feld when I went (in the summer), primarily with people singing or performing on musical instruments, playing sports, having picnics, or smoking and lounging for the sunset. This isn’t the kind of attraction I would recommend if you’re in a rush, but if you have a few days in Berlin, definitely stop at a couple of these parks!

Treptower Park in Berlin

East Side Gallery

The most important attractions to visit in a city are those which are completely unique to that city. You can see parks and castles anywhere, but the Berlin Wall is a one-of-a-kind. The Berlin Wall lasted 30 years from 1961 to 1991 and separated West Berlin from communist East Berlin. True, hundreds of chunks of the wall have been sent all over the world, but there’s still a huge display along the Spree river in Berlin called the East Side Gallery, and seeing it in its original location is different than just seeing it in a museum yard somewhere.

Berlin Wall in the East Side Gallery

Alexanderplatz

If you’ve seen The Bourne Identity or Atomic Blonde, you might have caught a glimpse of Alexanderplatz. This is the large square in the center of Berlin with the Berliner Fernsehturm television tower rising above it. The square is surrounded by shopping malls and food stalls. In the center is the iconic World Time Clock. It might not be the most interesting attraction in Berlin, but why skip it.

World Clock in Alexanderplatz

Brandenburg Gate

Another icon of Berlin is the Brandenburg Gate, completed in 1791 back when Berlin was the capital of Prussia. Similar to Alexanderplatz, it’s an iconic monument worth a visit, but I wouldn’t say it’s particularly special. Perhaps more interesting is the balcony of the hotel nearby where Michael Jackson once held out a baby. At least, that’s what my tour guide felt was more vital to talk about.

Selfie for 48 Hours in Berlin

Berlin Cathedral and Museum Island

In the center of Berlin, not far from Alexanderplatz, is Museum Island. This small island has five different museums, as well as Berlin Cathedral. The museums are Pergamonmuseum (Pergamon Museum), Bode-Museum, Neues Museum (New Museum), Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), and Altes Museum (Old Museum). Tickets for all five museums combined are €18 ($20) for adults. If you want to visit the Cathedral, entrance is €7 ($8) or €5 with the Berlin WelcomeCard.

Berlin Museum

Free Walking Tour

There are a handful of attractions in the city center, such as Checkpoint Charlie, the site of Hitler’s bunker, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Rather than list all these out, you should take a free walking tour and let your guide tell you about them and their history. I could easily write a full article on these spots, but why spoil the tour.

Site of Hitler's Bunker in Berlin

Christmas Markets

I specifically went to Berlin over the holidays to see the Christmas markets (and to take the food tour). I visited several of the nine main Christmas markets in Berlin, including the Eco Market on Sophienstrasse, the sprawling Alexanderplatz Christmas Market and, of course, the Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus (Berlin Christmas Time at Red City Hall) with its big ice skating rink around the Neptune fountain. I also walked by Weihnachtszauber (Christmas Magic) at the Gendarmenmarkt, but they were charging for entry and it looked like that market was mostly just selling beer. To get an idea of how magical these Christmas markets are, check out my article on the Christmas Markets in Cologne.

Ice Skating Rink for Christmas Market in Berlin

Berlin Olympic Park

The main attraction in Berlin that I really wanted to see but never made it to is Olympic Park. This is the series of stadiums and buildings built for the 1936 Summer Olympics. Unlike many of the Olympic villages around the world, this one is still in use…kinda. You can go swimming at the restored outdoor swimming pool, and the Olympic Stadium reopened in 2004. There are some sections that are not open to the public, but you can still explore them on a guided tour. I’ll be making it out there myself the next time I’m in Berlin.

Not Spreepark

When I visited in 2016, I’d learned that the climax scene in the movie Hanna was filmed in the abandoned amusement park Spreepark. With my love of urban ruins, I needed to explore the park myself. The only problem was that the park was closed to visitors and guards patrolled throughout the day. I managed to find one spot where there was a gap in the fence and took some photos of a roller coaster decaying in a pond. Sadly, most of the park’s features are now gone, due to looting and two large fires. Now, it’s mostly just the Ferris wheel and the remains of a T-Rex.

Spreepark Ride in Berlin

I returned in 2019 to find the holes in the fence had all been patched up. As much as I love to recommend urban ruins, this one is off the list. You’ll have to just watch Hanna to see what the park looked like after it was closed.

Exploring Berlin on a Budget

Thankfully, Berlin’s cost of living makes it one of the cheaper cities to visit in Germany. Hostels start at under $10 a night, and you can even get a private room for 2 for under $30 a night. Then again, there are over 100,000 Couchsurfing hosts in Berlin (5,000 active within 30 days of this article). I found it quite simple to find meals under $5 each. I would highly recommend getting the Berlin WelcomeCard if you plan to see any of the paid attractions. Otherwise, stick to a 24-hour transportation ticket for €7 ($8). If you just plan to see all the attractions around the city center and have a hostel around there too, you won’t even need to use public transportation.

As always, the budget is quite variable. You could easily stay with a Couchsurfing host, buy your food from a supermarket and walk everywhere, keeping your budget to well under $10 a day (as I did back in 2016). Or you could find a cheap hostel, have some nice but cheap meals at the street food stands around town and get the WelcomeCard, and still keep your expenses to about $30-40 a day (as we did in 2019).

If you really want to stay in a hotel and see as many of the attractions as you can, you’ll probably be looking at $100-200 a day, but I don’t consider that budget travel. As far as I’m concerned, why spend more money when you can spend less and travel more?!

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Further Reading

Looking for more things to do in Berlin? Here are some of my other articles for Germany’s capital.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

I had no idea that visiting Luxembourg on a budget would be so hard when I booked my flights there to see the Christmas markets. It wasn’t until afterward that I learned it’s one of the five most expensive countries in the world!

Why Travel to Luxembourg

If you’re not familiar with Europe, there’s a good chance you don’t know where Luxembourg is or even that it’s a country. It’s quite small (smaller than Rhode Island), and only has a population of about 600,000. The capital is Luxembourg City, which is also referred to as just Luxembourg. The country is located in western Europe between France, Belgium and Germany. If I wasn’t trying to get to every country in the world, I don’t think I would have considered putting Luxembourg on my itinerary.

In a nutshell, Luxembourg is a concatenation of German and French cultures, with its own twist. As it was described to me, the Luxembourgish language is essentially a form of German with a French twist. The food is also common throughout the nearby regions of Germany and France. The biggest differences were the cost of living and the quality of life. The wages are far higher, but so is the cost of rent and meals in the country. That’s why so many (200,000) French, German and Belgian citizens commute to Luxembourg for work each week.

As such, traveling to Luxembourg on a budget is nearly impossible. But since I don’t have a big savings account after years of working for corporate America, I did manage to keep my expenses to a minimum. Surprisingly, visiting during Christmas time actually helped with this!

Budget Accommodations

Most accommodations in Luxembourg are anything but budget-friendly. Even using websites like Agoda and Airbnb doesn’t yield cheap results. The average price for a hotel is well over $100 a night, and the cheapest are over $50. Airbnb rentals are about the same.

There are several youth hostels around the country, but even those aren’t that cheap. One night is usually about $30 or $40 a night minimum. The problem is that these are quite often fully booked. Some of the 200,000 workers in Luxembourg prefer to stay in the hostels rather than commute back to their countries. The hostels have a 5-day maximum stay, so the workers just jump between hostels each week. Thus, you need to book your hostel well in advance if you plan to stay in one.

By far the best accommodations in Luxembourg on a budget are on Couchsurfing. I found two different hosts for our three nights in the country. The first was a man twenty minutes north of town. Right off the bat, things seemed off with him. He met me at a cafe and almost immediately went on a tirade against previous guests he’d had, different cultures, etc. Things got worse. Each morning, he would come to wake me up early and start chatting with barely a moment for me to open my eyes. On the second morning, his criticism turned toward the British, which was the last straw for the other traveler I was with at the time. We packed up our bags and left, but not after I had words with him that he needed to give a little more respect to his guests, which is what his previous guests had also said in their references for him.

My second host was the opposite. She and her husband were located in Esch-sur-Alzette, a city an hour to the southwest by train. I was in quite a pickle by the end of the third day trying to find a place to stay that was under $100 a night, as everything cheaper was booked. I heard from her around 9 p.m. and was on a train within minutes. I then stayed up for several hours with them chatting about all kinds of different things. My own bedroom was really comfortable, and overall it was a wonderful night.

A very small percentage of the world are unwholesome people. They’re not limited by country, creed, religion or anything else. They exist on Couchsurfing too, but in the same tiny number. Just because I had a bad experience shouldn’t ever put you off from using this platform, and it won’t ever stop me. I will always recommend Couchsurfing as the best way to travel the world, as you get to stay with locals and learn about the culture, or even go to parties, shows, etc.

As a note, Luxembourg Couchsurfing hosts get a ton of requests in the summer, including by those 200,000 workers. I got extremely lucky with my very last-minute request, and it also helped that I was in the off-season. Make sure you send your requests far enough in advance, especially in the summer.

Free Public Transport

A few months ago, I heard that Luxembourg was the first country in the world to get free public transportation. That’s true, but it hadn’t occurred by the time I arrived. I was there in the last week of November for the opening of the Christmas markets, and the free public transportation didn’t start until January 1st, 2020. As it was, I didn’t have to pay much. A single ride was only €2 ($2.20), and a 24-hour ticket was €4 ($4.40).

Bus in Luxembourg City

Getting into the country is also surprisingly cheap. Ryanair flies to Luxembourg from all over Europe. I booked my flight from Edinburgh for €10 ($11.00), plus another €10 for my carry-on baggage.

Another option to get into the country is with Flixbus, but I actually found them to be more expensive! While I was in Rotterdam, I was planning to visit Luxembourg for a weekend, but the bus tickets were $30 each way. In the end, it was cheaper to return to Edinburgh and fly from there.

The Easy Way to Eat

If the accommodations don’t take the biggest part of your budget, then the food will. It was almost impossible for me to find a meal under $10 at any of the restaurants in town. Numbeo.com puts the average price of a meal in Luxembourg at over $20! There are kebabs and fast-food restaurants where $10 is possible, but that’s not the kind of food I wanted to eat for every meal.

I ended up purchasing a lot of my meals from the supermarkets, using Proxy in the center of town. There’s also a Cactus supermarket further away from the center which appeared to be cheaper, but I didn’t make it to that one. Even in the store, food wasn’t cheap. There were some pre-made sandwiches and wraps for about $4 each. I always like to hit the bakery section to see if they have any focaccia.

When traveling on a budget, I prefer to eat some cheap meals from the market and then spending a bit more on a fancy dinner now and then. Depending on the country, I find different products in the market that can turn into a really cheap meal. In Italy, I’ll get cheese, cold cuts and a loaf of bread for sandwiches. In Thailand, I stock up on peanut butter and crackers. The meat in Sweden is particularly cheap, and so is the fruit there. I was only in Luxembourg for four days, so I didn’t stock up, but I did return to the market several times for simple meals and all of my drinks. I found the cheapest items were in the deli where they also had a large salad bar.

Selfie with Pastry in Luxembourg

The meals I did have in town ended up being at the Christmas markets! I was used to the prices in Edinburgh where a sausage runs about $8. In Luxembourg, the sausages were as little as $5! I ended up having one for almost every meal! Most of the other choices at the Christmas markets were more expensive (closer to $8) such as spätzle (an egg noodle pasta), tartiflette (potatoes, bacon and cheese), and flammkuchen (German pizza).

Awesome Attractions

Christmas Markets

The reason I went to Luxembourg, other than it was a country I hadn’t been to yet, was to see the Christmas markets there. In 2019, the markets opened on November 25th and stayed open until Christmas Eve. There are three in Luxembourg City, which I detailed in my article on the Christmas markets of Luxembourg.

The best attraction at the Christmas markets is the ice skating in Knuedler Square. It’s not a simple ring like the rink at the Edinburgh Christmas Market used to be, but rather squarish. Tickets are €5 ($5.50), plus €2 ($2.20) for the skates.

There are more rides at the Constitution Square Market, but these are more for children. Even though they’re not that big, I spent quite a few hours in the Christmas markets just looking at all the products available.

The TwentyTour Free Walking Tour

There’s nothing more budget-friendly than a free walking tour. TwentyTour is the tour company for Luxembourg City. There are tours every day at 11 a.m., plus two more on Saturdays and one more on Sundays. The tour leaves from the Monument to Dicks and Lentz by the Place d’Armes in the center of the Old Town.

The tour leads through the Old Town, explores some of the gorgeous churches and the cathedral, continues down into the Petrusse Valley that cuts through the center of town, covers the massive fortress, and returns to the city center in about two and a half hours. I always say that a walking tour should be your first action on your agenda in a new city so you know where to go back to explore, what to eat, etc. I did it as my last activity and learned about several places in town I would have loved to see more of.

Luxembourg Fortress

I don’t want to spoil the tour, but I have to comment on the fortress, especially since it’s mostly free. It was built back in the 15th century and was one of the most impregnable fortresses in Europe. In 1867, the Second Treaty of London following the Austro-Prussian War demanded that the fortress be dismantled and the country of Luxembourg to remain in perpetual neutrality. In 1994, the remains of the fortress and the Old Town were given UNESCO World Heritage status.

Luxembourg Fortress

You can still see some of the remains of the fortress along the Petrusse Valley. One of the old gates still stands, and you can also take a tour of the tunnels (outside the winter season) for €7 ($7.70). I only saw the parts that were shown on the walking tour, so I’ll have to go back someday to see the tunnels and other sections…maybe. Luxembourg City is one the few places where I felt like one visit was enough.

Vianden Castle

On our second day in Luxembourg, I went up to Vianden to see the castle there. I took the train to Diekirch where I stopped at Snack Istanbul for lunch. Google reviews said it was the best kebab in the country, and I could easily agree. My $5 kebab sandwich was massive and delicious. I also grabbed some drinks from the Match supermarket around the corner, and then jumped on the 570 bus which dropped me off in Vianden at the base of the trail to the castle.

There are three ways to climb up to the castle. The way I went was directly up the main road of the town to the entrance. Another way is the shortest, cutting through the buildings across from the church and through the forest. The best way is up the far side of town, across the fortress wall where you’ll get the best views of the castle. Unfortunately, I only learned about this route as I was leaving, so I didn’t get those photos.

Vianden Castle

Admission to the castle is €7 ($7.70) per person. Along with €4 ($4.40) for a 24-hour transport ticket, it’s a rather cheap excursion from Luxembourg City.

How Much is Luxembourg on a Budget

This is a really hard question to answer. If you stay in hostels, you could probably get it down to about $50 a day for one person. I kept my expenses down to about $20 a day using Couchsurfing. I suppose you could probably get it down to $10 if you were desperate, but I think traveling that cheaply just stops being fun.

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Further Reading

Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries in the world, but there are still quite a few things to do there. Here are a few other ideas for how to spend your time in the country.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Budget travel in Cyprus is nearly impossible. It’s not that the country is particularly expensive – it’s more than the Balkans but cheaper than the Nordic countries. No, Cyprus just makes it really difficult to enjoy the country if you’re not rich and looking for a luxury vacation.

Updated October 2019

Transportation

Flights to Cyprus

Since Cyrpus is an Island, your only real option to get there is by plane, unless you’re planning on getting the ferry from the coast of Turkey (which is not budget-friendly). While my blog post on finding cheap flights will give you some great tips, there’s another trick which is invaluable for finding the cheapest flight to Cyprus. Using Skyscanner, search for round trip flights starting from Cyprus, select “everywhere” in the destination, and then find the location closest to you. When you reverse the route from that airport to Cyprus, the price should be about the same. For instance, I found round-trip tickets from Cluj to Larnaca for about $45 (€40) and was able to get a ride from Bucharest to Cluj for $17 (€15) with Blablacar, saving over $100 (€90) compared to what a direct flight from Bucharest would have cost.

Inter-city Buses

Once you get to the island, you might want to rent a car to truly be able to explore some of the best places. If the minimum $20 a day for a rental car is not in your budget, don’t fret. The intercity buses are quite cheap. Round-trip tickets are mostly $8 (€7). You’ll probably need one between Larnaca and Limassol, and another between Limassol and Paphos. The cities themselves are mostly walkable, as long as you get accommodations not too far outside of town. Having said that, I did walk a whopping 50 miles within 5 days in Cyprus! Hopefully you can find some locals, Couchsurfing hosts or other travelers to team up with.

Selfie on the Bus to Kyrenia

Local Buses

There is a local bus system on the island, but the locals say it’s horrible. It doesn’t show up on Google Maps, and you have to pay to download their map. They have a website that you can use, but navigating it can be difficult. While it’s in English, you still need to know some Greek to find the locations. However, if you do work it out, bus rides are only $1.65 (€1.50) per ride. A central hub for the buses in both Larnaca and Limassol is the Old Hospital bus stop. Yep, the stops have the same name in both cities. Seriously confusing!

The timetable for the buses can be found on their website. One thing to know is that they don’t really follow the timetable, and they all stop around 6-7 p.m. Also, there are far fewer buses on the weekend, especially Sunday.

While Google Maps has hardly any data for Cyprus, you’ll find everything you need on the 2Gis App. If you can navigate through the Cyrillic alphabet, you’ll find all the bus stops. It’s also the best app in general for navigating around the island.

Selfie on Cyprus Bus

These photos make it look like I’m the only one who used the buses in Cyrpus. Sometimes I just got lucky, but they were often full.

Hitchhiking

Unfortunately, hitchhiking proved to be rather difficult for me, but perhaps you’ll have better luck.

Accommodations

Hostels

First of all, the Cypriot government ordered all hostels to shut down in Cyprus back around 2014. Most of the cities – Larnaca, Nicosia and Paphos – complied with that order, but you can still find three available in Limassol. Ironically, they’re all within a couple minutes of each other, just down the street from the inter-city bus stop. They cost about $17 (€15) a night. There are few cities in Europe where you can’t find a hostel cheaper than that.

I stayed at Lima Sol Accommodations House and Trip Yard Hostel. Lima Sol was nothing to write home about. On the other hand, Trip Yard was fantastic. But there’s a secret I probably shouldn’t be telling you. Trip Yard is listed on Couchsurfing and you can get your first night there for free if you are on an extreme budget. It’s not in the dorms but rather outside in a tent or hammock. In the summer heat during my week in Cyrpus, the tent was actually the most comfortable place for me.

Selfie in Tent at Trip Yard Hostel

Update: Since my visit, several more hostels have opened up in Cyprus, primarily in Larnaca, Paphos and Ayia Napa. Most of them are charging around $30 a night, which hardly puts them in the budget range. There are other apartments and cheaper hotels for that same price, and for a better rating. Also, the Trip Yard moved in 2019 from Limassol to Larnaca. I don’t think their tent is still available, but they’re now the cheapest place to stay in Larnaca.

Couchsurfing

Speaking of Couchsurfing, that’s obviously the best way to explore Cyprus on a budget. But Cyprus is also the first place I really ran into trouble with Couchsurfing, other than just not being able to find a host. In a nutshell, I was confirmed to stay with a host who completely disappeared a few hours before I was scheduled to arrive, and only contacted me at midnight the following day, asking where I was! Then there was another guy who was very insistent that I meet up with him for sensual activities. Apparently this pervert contacts every traveler and host on the island. Read the whole story about my crazy adventures with Couchsurfing in Cyprus.

Couchsurfing wasn’t entirely horrible there, and I did end up with a truly fantastic host who brought me out to the waterfalls, a truly hidden gem of a restaurant and swimming in the sea. He spent most of the time at his girlfriend’s house so I had his place to myself. There wasn’t any air conditioning or fans, but that’s usual in Cyprus. Get ready to sweat a lot when you’re there.

Couchsurfing in Cyprus

Airbnb

If you’re not traveling solo, I’d definitely recommend getting an Airbnb. There are some fantastic ones on the island, and they come out to less than individual beds in the hostels. Click on this link to get a $29 credit to your next Airbnb reservation.

Food

The food in Cyprus is the one department where you won’t have to watch your budget…too much. While there will always be the fancy, five-star restaurants to blow your wad at, Cyprus offers a wide range of eateries. There are bakeries offering sandwiches and salads, kebab shops with gyros and doner wraps, street food trucks selling cheap hamburgers and hot dogs, and supermarkets where you can get all kinds of meals, or food to cook at home. Getting a meal for $4 (€3.50) is not hard. A large bottle of water costs about $0.75 (€0.60).

Usually I’d say to avoid the touristy spots of town, like the harbors, city centers and old towns, but this isn’t necessary for Cyprus. Even the fancy harborfront in Larnaca has some surprisingly cheap restaurants intermingled with the tourist traps.

Gyro at Derlicious – Larnaca

On my first day walking along the waterfront of Larnaca, I ran into a perfect gem in the center of Mackenzie Beach near the airport. Derlicious is a small chain of small Greek food stands serving gyros and souvlaki (Greek grilled meat on skewers). For a really delicious, fully-loaded gyro and a drink, I spent $5.50 (€5). That’s less than half what the other restaurants on the beach were charging.

Selfie at Derlicious

Sample Platter at Mezedokamomata Sotiris

My abovementioned Couchsurfing savior brought his girlfriend and me to a tiny hole-in-the-wall joint up in the hills outside of town. The place was called Mezedokamomata Sotiris and the lady running it was just tickled that a foreigner was eating at her restaurant. She didn’t speak a word of English, but she understood just how much I was enjoying the food. Most of the portions are $4.50-$5.50 (€4-€5). As with most places around the world, the small family-run places in rural locations tend to be the cheapest, as long as they’re not on a tourist route.

Sample Platter at Mezedokamomata Sotiris

Ice Cream Tower at E. Pygra

It’s no secret I love ice cream. I eat it all the time when I travel, especially in hot countries. Thus, I was overjoyed when I found E. Pygra at the Old Harbor in Limassol. For a meager $1.65 (€1.50), I purchased an all-you-can-stack ice cream cone! Umm, twice…or maybe thrice. Don’t judge me! Anyway, Cyprus gets really inventive when it comes to their ice cream. Not only is it homemade, they have some really wild flavors such as halloumi and watermelon, or loukoumades (a Greek honey dessert). Check out this full list of crazy Cypriot ice cream flavors.

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Attractions

Nearly all the historic and archaeological sites I found, such as castles and excavations, were $2.80 (€2.50) for entry. Unfortunately, not all of them were worth it. If you’re interested in these locations, they are all worth a visit for that price. But if you’ve been around the world as much as I have, there’s not really anything special at most of them.

Kition Ruins

The Kition Ruins in the center of Larnaca were small with faded information panels and a casual walk-through doesn’t take more than a couple minutes. There’s a single walkway over the excavation site and I couldn’t read the faded words on the panels. The attraction might be budget-friendly, but still not really worth it.

Kition Ruins in Larnaca

Tomb of the Kings

The Tomb of the Kings in Pathos is another matter entirely. While there are a lot of negative reviews for the place, and several of the people leaving while I was there said it wasn’t worth it, I found the attraction highly interesting. Technically, there were no kings buried here, but rather high-ranking officials. The ruins are extensive and really take at least an hour or two to explore. Just make sure you avoid the mid-day heat in the summer months, and bring lots of water for you. There isn’t a lot of shade except in the underground tombs, and those are even hotter.

Paphos Tomb of the Kings #2

Larnaca Salt Lake

There are also plenty of free attractions on the island. My Airbnb host told me about the Larnaca Salt Lake, and I made it a priority. After a day trip to North Cyprus with WayAway, I met up with Sarah Funk for an absolutely delicious meal at Militzis Traditional Tavern before going for a photo shoot on the lake. If you get a chance, try to get to the for sunset. You might even get to see the flamingos there, depending on what time of the year you arrive.

Selfie Jumping on the Larnaca Salt Lake

Some of the better attractions on the island, such as the Blue Lagoon, Aphrodite’s Rock and the Troodos mountains are only accessible with your own transportation. I enjoyed a hike to the Caledonian Waterfall with my Couchsurfing host, but would never have made it there without a ride in his car.

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Summary of Budget Travel in Cyprus

Aside from your flights, I would recommend budgeting $15 a day on Cyprus, plus accommodations. If you can get a Couchsurfing host, then it will be that $15 or less. If you have to pay for a hostel or Airbnb, expect your expenses to double ($30 a day). Obviously, you’ll have to do the usual things to stick to that budget, including skipping the fancy dinners, expensive tours, cocktails and hotels. But if you’re a budget traveler reading this, you should already know all those things.

Sure, there are other places in Europe you can visit for far less than $30 a day, but I would personally recommend a visit to Cyprus at least once in your travels. I completely fell in love with the country…except for the unbearable heat. I’m looking forward to going back someday, preferably in the spring or autumn. Will I see you there?

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Planning to Visit Cyprus?

I feel like I only scratched the surface of activities to do in Cyprus, especially without my own car to get around with. If you’re interested in the places I did make it to, here are my articles on them.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

5 Steps to Book Cheap Flights
Hostels: To Book or Not to Book
Is Workaway Worth it for the Traveler?