by April Antonellis
For college students emptying their bank accounts while traveling in Europe, every dollar counts. But with creativity and a willingness for adventure, anyone can travel without overspending.
Try low-cost airlines that fly out of smaller airports or fly indirectly—the more transfers, the less expensive.
But if you capitalize on enough of these money-saving solutions, two things are bound to plague your trips: overnight layovers and missed flights.
Never fear. Just pack your ear plugs, steal a blanket, and get cozy at one of Europe’s airports.
PRAGUE, Czech Republic – Ruzyne
For the price of a tram ticket (about $1), you can leave Prague’s Ruzyne Airport and, a 20-minute bus and metro ride later, check into your hostel room, which costs between $15 and $30.
Prague’s airport is the best example of a get-the-hell-out-and-into-the-city European hub. Its accommodations are not particularly bad, just sparse: two tobacconists and a Coffee Heaven—Eastern Europe’s response to Starbucks. It is cold, uncomfortable, and 30 minutes away from any warm pub filled with liters of Europe’s best beer.
Comments: Get a place to stay in the city—it is more comfortable, more fun, and reasonably priced.
BRUSSELS, Belgium – Zaventem
As if Belgium was not confusing enough with two distinct languages, its capital has two distinct airports. Check your ticket carefully. The larger airport, Zaventem, is located a good 50 km from Brussels South Airport, where most budget flights arrive.
You can try finding a place to stay in the airport; search out the chapel, which offers darkness to sleep in and wooden pews to stretch out on. Should that not work out, it’s easy enough to get into the city. A two euro train runs every 20 minutes until midnight, giving you the option of a number of hostels starting at about $20 per night. Brussels has some of the best bars in Europe, so stash your bag in a locker, drown your sorrows in a glass of Belgian wheat beer and catch the train back in the morning, which starts running at 5:30 am.
Comments: If you really need the sleep, stay. Otherwise turn a tragic mistake into an unforgettable night.
PARIS, France –Charles de Gaulle
For a city famous for its five-star hotels and gourmet restaurants, Charles de Gaulle is surprisingly unaccomodating.
There are cafés and fast-food chains outside the secure zone, which are accessible to the stranded traveler; none of them are open past 10 p.m. The only option is a vending machine in Terminal 2.
Seating consists of metal benches with armrests, which annoyingly prevent your goal: lying down.
It takes about $16 and two hours to find an afforable room—most often outside of Paris. Hardly worh leaving.
Comments: Not particularly comfortable, but better than the alternative – braving Paris in search of an overpriced hostel.
LONDON, England – Heathrow
The aesthetic of the main waiting area at London’s Heathrow Airport, the busiest airport in Europe with 70 million commuters annually, is vast, cold and crowded. It offers no privacy with its high vaulted ceilings and long, echoing halls.
Once you get through security, there is a haven of padded benches and cozy restaurants, but the constant stream of traffic and the paranoid death-grip that holds your possessions makes sleep difficult. A 15 minute train ride takes you downtown to Paddington Station where you make the connection to the Picadilly Tube Line for an outrageous $24. As London is one of the most expensive cities in the world, even when you get there you should be prepared to pay about $35 on a hostel bed.
Comments: Don’t even think about sleeping. Crowded until the early hours, Heathrow offers some of the best people-watching in the world. Enjoy it and sleep when you get to your destination.
VIENNA, Austria – Schwechat
If there is a heaven in the sleeping-in-an-airport-to-save-cash world, then Vienna is it.
The arrivals gate downstairs has more seating options than most theatres. There are tables with chairs, curved metal benches without armrests and leather armchairs with ottomans. There are four benches attached to a restaurant that offer the holy trifecta of airport sleeping: reasonable privacy, a place to stretch out and blissful padding.
After the last flights arrive around 1 a.m., the room becomes quiet, albeit bright. Meanwhile, the tables make an excellent card-playing surface.
Although getting to the city is easy, via a $10 shuttle bus, and hostels run as cheap as $20 per night, the Vienna airport has better accommodations than any airport in Europe and even many hostels.
Comments: When people ask for a recommendation for a hostel in Vienna, this is the address to give. The food is better and you can’t beat the price.
* – Fly out of there PRONTO
** – Welcome to metal bench hell
***- Take it or leave it
****- Nearing airport perfection
*****- What hostel?