Ultimate Guide to traveling Germany on a budget!

So, you’re headed to Germany but you want to do Germany on a budget? Well, good news because you’re in luck! Germany, a popular destination in Western Europe, is actually a very economical place to travel to!

In this article we’ll discuss proven ways to save money on your next trip so you can spend less time worrying about money and more time enjoying beautiful, amazing Deutschland!

money matters travel planning
Germany on a budget! It can be done!

It’s probably cheaper than what you are used to!

I’m by nature a frugal person but I skip my way around Germany (and many other European countries) saying “wow, this is cheap!” From food to accommodations, to attractions, things are just less expensive. If you are traveling from the United States, you’ll find this to be especially so.

A while back I did a price comparison and created some illustrations to show just how much more reasonable prices are for tourists to European Countries. Of course, there are some exceptions to this, like Norway and Switzerland but Germany is not one of them!

Let’s compare one of the most recognizable sites in all of Europe: Neuschwanstein Castle, with the Laura Ingalls Wilder House in Missouri. Guess which was more???

Traveling soon? Rookie mistakes people make when traveling in Germany

cost comparison, Neuschwanstein Castle / Laura Ingalls Wilder home
cost comparison, Neuschwanstein Castle / Laura Ingalls Wilder home (2022 prices)

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. 

Here are the absolute best proven tips and tricks for traveling to Germany on a budget:

Book Early

My top tip for getting the cheapest flights, and the best deals on car rentals and accommodation is to book early. Last-minute deals are a thing of the past and if you wait too long, you may miss out on the best deals. I try to book at least 6 months out.

Pro tip: DON’T stop there! Once booked your airfare rate is probably locked in but you can still monitor the prices on your accommodations and rental cars! I try to always book options that offer free cancellation. Once a month I will go back and check rates on my rental car and rooms and if the rates go down, I rebook!

top tip for traveling on a budget, book early!
top tip for traveling on a budget, book early!

The cheapest time to travel to Germany

The short answer: the best time for travelers who are on a budget to visit Germany is during the off-season.

summer

Summer is considered high season in Germany and that’s when you will experience the highest rates on everything from rental cars to accommodations to flights, although comparably still not bad!

winter

Winter, (apart from the Christmas market season) is off season. This is when you will find the best rates on flights, hotels, and rental cars HOWEVER, many attractions close for winter.

(Winter in Germany is a magical time, but get your itinerary set early and carefully check your everything on your itinerary to be sure that everything you want to see will be open.)

Ultimate Neuschwanstein Castle Winter Guide
Neuschwanstein Castle Winter wonderland

shoulder season

If you are looking for a happy medium then shoulder season is your best bet. It’s the perfect balance between lower prices and finding attractions open. Shoulder season in Germany is approximately April and May and again in September and October.

Other benefits of shoulder season:

  • fewer crowds: you’ll find fewer tourists and crowds compared to high season
  • temperate weather: the weather tends to be better than in the heat of the summer and chill of the winter months!
spring time is a great time to travel to Germany on a budget!
spring, all the world’s abloom! Spring is a great time to visit Europe for warming weather and less crowds!
fall in Europe, a great time to visit!: as the leaves start to change the summer crowds begin to dissipate and summer temperature fall!

destination matters

Bigger cities tend to be more expensive than small towns. Budget minded travelers can save more by skipping big cities like Munich and Berlin in favor of small historic cities like the fairy tale town of Rothenburg or small towns in the Black Forest.

The city center of German cities tends to be more expensive than outlying neighborhoods. Pick a place outside of the city center and use inexpensive buses, subways, and trams to get around affordably.
main cities.

The small town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a destination all in itself! Their Imperial City Festival just happens to occur during shoulder season and best of all it’s free!

Imperial City Festival Rothenburg ob der Tauber, admission is free!

transportation

When it comes to traveling in Germany on a budget, transportation is a significant factor to consider.

Flights

Airfare is often one of the most expensive travel expenses. Here are some strategies for saving money on flights:

Flights to Germany: My strategy for finding good deals on airfare is to search flight options on Google Flights. Be sure to set up a price tracker and they will let you know when prices change.

Pro tip: Once you have found a cheap flight and are ready to book, go to the official website of the airline and book there to avoid any issues with 3rd party booking.

In my experience, Frankfurt International Airport is generally the cheapest place in Germany to fly into.

cheap flight notifications

My TOP TIP for snagging flight deals is to sign up for GOING (Formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights.) You simply give them your email address, tell them your home airport, and they will periodically email cheap flight deals to your inbox! Simple AND Free! sign up now!

FREE FLIGHTS!

We fly to Germany for free with points. Find out how you can fly to Germany for free!

Cheap flights in and around Europe: There are many low-cost airlines that operate in Germany, such as Ryanair, EasyJet, and Eurowings. These airlines offer affordable fares to various destinations in Germany and other parts of Europe. However, it is crucial to note that budget airlines often charge extra fees for baggage, seat selection, and other services.

public transportation

Another way to save money while traveling to Germany is to take advantage of public transportation. Germany has an extensive rail network and bus system that is efficient and affordable. Perfect for a day trip to the European cities of your choice! Seamlessly plan your bus and train routes in German with either the Deutsche Bahn app or Rome2Rio.

Trains
The German railway system, Deutsche Bahn, offers several types of train services, including regional, intercity, and high-speed trains. Regional trains are the most affordable option, but they are slower than intercity and high-speed trains. High-speed trains zip you around in a flash but they cost more. Travelers can save money by booking their train tickets in advance and by purchasing a German Rail Pass, which allows for unlimited train travel if they plan to travel extensively.

Buses
Traveling by bus is the most affordable way to get around Germany. Bus tickets are often cheaper than train tickets, but travel times can be longer. Flixbus is the most popular bus company in Germany, and they offer services to various destinations across the country. Some bus companies may charge extra fees for baggage.

Taxi

Taxis are affordable in Germany. Companies are heavily regulated, so you don’t need to worry about getting ripped off or short changed.

Car

If you’re a free spirit like me and don’t like to be tied to a schedule, you may want a car. I find that car rentals in Germany are typically cheaper than other European countries. The motorway in Germany is called the autobahn and it is toll free.

Potential extra costs for driving:

  • Insurance: Some credit cards offer rental car insurance when you book your rental on the card. Check with your card provider. If not, you will need to purchase insurance. (Our Chase Preferred covers this)
  • International Driving Permit: you may need an International Driving Permit to drive in Germany, get one at your local AAA office around $30
  • other drop off locations: there are significant fees for dropping off a car at a different location
  • boarder crossing fee: there is generally a small fee associated with crossing a country border in a rental car.
  • navigation system: Most companies charge if you want to use the GPS navigation system. If you don’t have any other way to navigate, I highly recommend it for convenience. We have this Garmin Unit, that we bring when we travel. (European maps cost extra)
  • DO NOT BREAK TRAFFIC LAWS. There are cameras everywhere and the drivers license that the rental car company requires you to show is associated with the license plate of the rental car. If you break a traffic law while driving in Germany, you may get a ticket in the mail after you return home!
  • Parking in larger cities: This is one place where Germany is right on par with the rest of the world. Parking in a busy city center is expensive, around $25 per day. If you plan to spend most of your time in an area like this, skip the car.

accommodation

Your two biggest expenses when planning a trip to Germany are generally going to be airfare and accommodations. There are a few ways for the budget minded to save on accommodations. (and don’t forget to book early!)

Get outside of the tourist core

Sometimes you only have to get a few blocks away from the busy tourist core of a town to find cheaper rates. Look for accommodations just outside of town that are on the bus route into the city center.

hotels

I often consider my accommodations part of the experience. I like to book unique options like castle stays, historic buildings, places with old world charm. I try to avoid chains and sterile accommodations (some of you consider that modern decor and clean lines ha ha.) You get the idea. For that reason, I’m kind of a middle of the road girl, willing to pay a bit more for the experience. That considered, I don’t usually pay more than $250 a night for even my favorite stays! Most places we stay at are about $150 per night based on double occupancy but you can find better rates.

If you want to check the best rates you can find them on Booking.com. Simply sort your results by the lowest prices, but don’t forget to check guest ratings and reviews because a bad experience may not be worth the money you save on a cheap stay!

Solo travelers

Something you almost NEVER find in the US and something I really love about Germany is that single travelers get a break on hotel room rates! Generally, you can get a private room for a solo traveler for a discount off the regular rate! WUNDERBAR!

Hostels

Hostels are very popular in Europe and a popular option with travelers on a tight budget. Hostels can be a significant savings over a hotel and aren’t just for young people either. There are often private rooms available with a range of amenities such as shared kitchens, laundry facilities, and common areas. Be sure to read the hostel policy (as well as reviews on places like Booking.com and Google Reviews) carefully to be sure it’s something you will be comfortable with. They aren’t for everyone. Hostels in Germany typically charge between €20-€40 per night, depending on the location and time of year.

Some of the most popular hostel chains in Germany include A&O Hostels, Meininger, and Generator Hostels. These chains have multiple locations throughout the country and offer a consistent level of quality and service.

Vacation Rentals

Vacation rentals are great options for larger families or groups, or travelers looking to save money by cooking their own meals. You can book anything from a private room to an entire house.

Check vacation Rental rates on VRBO now!

I hear a lot of negative feedback on Airbnb. I wouldn’t recommend them or personally use them unless I really wanted to stay at a property and Airbnb was the only place it was being offered. I don’t really hear any negative feedback on VRBO so it would be my first option for vacation rentals.

Vacation Rental prices in Germany vary depending on the location and type of accommodation. In general, prices are higher in major cities such as Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg. However, travelers can often find affordable options in smaller towns and rural areas.

IMPORTANT: READ THE REVIEWS: always read the reviews on a property before you book and choose a host with a good reputation.
Search options on VRBO

Search Hotels, Hostels, Vacation Rentals now!

(if you use this link to book your hotels I’ll get a small commission that helps me fund this website!)

Booking.com

Camping

Camping is another budget-friendly option for travelers in Germany. The country has a well-developed network of camping sites, ranging from basic tent sites to fully-equipped caravan parks. Camping is particularly popular in the summer months, when the weather is warm and sunny.

Camping fees in Germany vary depending on the location and facilities provided. Basic tent sites can cost as little as €5-€10 per night, while fully-equipped caravan parks can cost up to €30-€40 per night.

House and Pet sitting

Sign up for services like Trusted House sitter and you can stay for free! These services match up people who are looking to house and or pet sit and in return you get a free place to stay.

Food and Drink

Germany is known for its delicious food! And in general, I find it quite inexpensive! However, it can add up if you’re eating out every night. Here are a few ways to save on food and drink.

First time in Germany and don’t know what to eat??? Check out my article on the Best Mouthwatering German Food!

drink beer

it’s cheaper than almost everything else including water and cola.

free breakfast

Many of the hotels and Gasthauses, my favorite type of stay in Germany, offer a free breakfast. German breakfasts are HEARTY! If I fill up on breakfast, I often find I’m not hungry until well after noon. By that time, I can have an affordable meal like Schnitzel and won’t need to eat again that day! We’re talking around €10-€15. ($13 USD) per day for one meal! CHEAP!

Street Food

You don’t want to miss the street food from street vendors in Germany. It’s so good! And is a great option for shoe-string budget travelers. Here are some of my favorite street foods:

  • wurst: In Germany, wurst is where it’s at! There are literally hundreds of types of wurst or sausages. My favorite is Currywurst is a popular street food in Germany, made of a sliced sausage covered in curry ketchup. It’s a filling and delicious meal that can be found for around €3-€5.
  • Doner kebab is another popular street food in Germany, made of meat cooked on a vertical spit and served in a pita bread with salad and sauce. It’s a great option for a quick and cheap meal, costing around €3-€4.
german currywurst with french fries pommes curry ketchup and mayo
one of the best things about Germany: the delicious food! currywurst with Pommes! (fries!)
doner kebab German Street food
doner kebab, delicious!

supermarkets

Supermarkets and grocery stores are a great option for budget travelers who want to save money on food. Aldi and Lidl are two popular discount supermarket chains in Germany, offering a wide variety of food and drink at affordable prices. Visitors can find bread, cheese, cold cuts, and other snacks for a fraction of the cost of eating out. It’s also a great way to try local specialties, such as German beer and sausages, without breaking the bank.

Sightseeing: inexpensive and free things to do

In general, most of the attractions in Germany are quite affordable so don’t let your desire to save money prevent you from doing the fun stuff! I mean you really do only live once, and you’ve been dreaming of being here so just enjoy!

Some of the best things to see and do in Germany are free! Here are some ideas for inexpensive and free things to do to fill out your itinerary:

free attractions

  • Find a beer garden and enjoy some live music. Did I mention that beer is cheap? Plus, food at these places is cheap too, think pretzels and brats.
  • Churches, Cathedrals, and Abbeys: Germany has some of the best in Europe and they are most often free!
  • Museums can be a great way to learn about Germany’s history and culture, but they can also be expensive. However, many museums in Germany offer free admission on certain days or during specific hours. It’s important to check the museum’s website or call ahead to confirm their free admission policy.

Famous Landmarks: many of the most famous landmarks in Germany are reasonably priced or free. Here are just a few ideas but be sure to check out my full list of Famous Landmarks in Germany!

  • Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
  • English Garden in Munich
  • Porta Nigra in Trier

The Parish Church of St. Sebasian Ramsau is one of my favorite Landmarks in Germany and it’s FREE

Parish Church of St. Sebastian Ramsau

Exploring

It’s free to explore! take in the architecture in Germany’s most beautiful medieval towns, or head to the city for some of the worlds best modern architecture! Make your way down a winding trail, perhaps in the Black Forest and soak up the atmosphere that inspired fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm.

Berchtesgaden National Park, parks are a great place to explore for free!

tours

To find information about both guided and self-guided tours check the local Tourist Information office.

Guided Tours
A Guided tour can be a great way to learn about a new city, but they can also be expensive. Fortunately, there are many free walking tours available in Germany. These tours are typically led by a local knowledgeable tour guide who is passionate about their city and its history.

Self-guided tours
In addition to free walking tours, there are also many self-guided tours available. These tours can be found online or in guidebooks and can be a great way to explore a new city at your own pace. Download free audio guide tours before you leave home.

money matters

credit cards

Call ahead to be sure that your credit card doesn’t access foreign transaction fees on purchases. We use our American Airlines card to earn points for free flights, but I also like the Chase Preferred cards because not only does it not have any foreign transaction fees, it also has built in travel protection.

Getting money (ATM)

The easiest and best way to get Euros for your Germany trip is at a reputable ATM. I usually hit one at the airport upon arrival. If I need more, I look for an ATM either in or attached to a bank during business hours. That way if the machine snatches my card I have a good chance of getting it back. This is how you’ll get the best exchange rate and ATM fees are minimal. Don’t forget to refuse the Dynamic Currency Conversion. You want to be charged in Euros not dollars because they will charge you more to convert the money.

Note: Be sure you use your debit card to withdraw money from an ATM. Credit cards consider this a cash advance and that can be very costly!

How much cash do I need?

Really that depends on you. We use our credit cards for almost everything because that’s how we earn free flights. You should have some Euros on you at all times… if nothing else so you have money to use the bathroom because you often have to pay to use the restroom!

Euro to dollar / dollar to Euro exchange rate

Check current exchange rates here.

protect your investment

If your budget minded then you probably don’t relish the thought of losing money! Travel Insurance is a good way to protect yourself. While it is an extra expense, if really pays off if something goes awry. I shop at Travel Insurance for the best policy for my needs.

save money by using tips in Rick Steves best travel europe guides budget travel
penny pinchers rejoice! Follow the tips in this article to plan your trip to Germany on a budget!

shopping for gifts and souvenirs

souvenirs

As with most things in Germany, your average souvenirs are reasonable. Consider saving up for a quality purchase in Germany, like an authentic handcrafted cuckoo clock or nutcracker.

I have a whole guide to help you choose the very best Germany Souvenirs but here are some ideas for dirt cheap things to buy in Germany:

  • Food items (like Chocolate and other candies)
  • Magnets
  • Postcards, pretty postcards, are very inexpensive. Start an album when you get home!

where to shop for inexpensive gifts and souvenirs

For bargain shopping search out:

  • Flea Markets
  • Farmers Markets

staying connected on a travel budget

It’s important to be able to stay connected when we travel. Most cell phone companies offer rates for international travel, but it can be costly, around $10 per day. Check your provider for rates and policies on using your phone in Europe and to find out exactly what your charges will be.

These are some low cost or free options for staying connected:

getting free wi-fi

You’ll either need cell phone service or wi-fi to use these options. Most hotels offer free wi-fi and you can find it at different places around town, such as near the Tourist Information Center.

Whatsapp

Is an app where you can make calls, send texts, and video chat through a wi-fi connection. Your contact will need to download Whatsapp so that you can connect.

Facebook messenger

Make calls and video chat with your friends at home who are also on Facebook.

Purchase a phone or a SIM card upon arrival

You can pick up an inexpensive phone when you get to Germany. Alternatively, you can purchase a SIM card to replace the one in your phone. This is an inexpensive option, you can probably get by for under $30 for your entire trip. There are cell phone stores in airports, and almost every town on your itinerary, that can assist with these options.

Wi-fi calling

Find the “allow wi-fi calls” setting on your cell phone. Even though we don’t have cell service in Germany, we are able to make and receive phone calls from the US when connected to wi-fi. We were not able to get this to work for calls within Germany though.

Guest cards and discount passes

Inquire at your hotel, guesthouse, or other accommodations about discount passes and guest cards that may be available to you.

Guest Cards

Often overnight visitors to a town or region are eligible for discount passes that offer free or reduced admission to many area attractions as well as free use of local public transportation.

Discount Passes

You may be able to purchase a single or multi day pass that could save you money depending on how many attractions you plan to visit. To be certain this will save you money, add up the cost of a single ticket entry fee for each attraction and compare it against the cost of the discount pass. It may not be cheaper.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cheapest way to travel in Germany?

The best option for cheapest way to travel in Germany is generally by bus. You may be able to save even more by purchasing day, week, or month passes.

How much should a trip to Germany Cost?

The cost of a trip to Germany can vary greatly depending on your travel style and itinerary. On average, budget travelers can expect an average cost of around 50-70 euros per day on accommodation, food, and transportation. However, this can be reduced by staying in hostels or signing up for house or pet sitting opportunities.

What are the cheapest months to travel to Germany?

The cheapest months to travel to Germany are typically during the winter months of January and February. However, be prepared for colder weather, reduced opening hours or attractions that have temporarily closed, and shorter daylight hours.

What is the cheapest way to get from the US to Germany?

The cheapest way to get from the US to Germany is by booking in advance and being flexible with your travel dates. Budget airlines such as WOW Air and Norwegian Air offer affordable flights to Germany from major US cities. Alternatively, consider booking a flight with a layover or flying into a nearby European city and taking a train or bus to Germany. I’ve found that there are often good deals to fly into Paris.

How can I travel around Germany by train on a budget?

Consider purchasing a rail pass if you plan to travel extensively throughout the country. Purchase online or at the train station. Regional trains are cheaper than high-speed trains and can be a good option for shorter distances. Booking in advance and traveling during off-peak hours can also help save money.

trip planning resources

Planning a trip to Germany? The first thing you should do is purchase a Germany Travel Guide from Rick Steves. It’s the ultimate guide for planning travel anywhere in Europe! You’ll get the scoop on the best places worth visiting, from big cities to hidden gems!

check out my Ultimate Guide to Traveling in Germany!

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3 Comments

  1. Great Post, I am always amazed how cheap Germany can be. I agree with everything here. I always tell people that drinking wine and beer is nearly cheaper then water. I also am a fan of Döner Kebab, such a delicious and quick meal.

  2. Hi there, this is a great article, thanks for much for the tips. May I also share some tips that is useful for travelling Germany on a budget, particularly with regards to ATMs and money.
    Hi there, great article, thanks, very very helpful. I also do these things when travelling on a budget:
    1. Germany ATMs charge low to very high fees. So I try to find the low fee ATMs – I use the ATM Fee Saver mobile app for this – it gives a list of ATMs with its fees for foreign card holders along with withdrawal limits. May you can try it out too!
    2. Get fee-free cards from home. I get a bunch of such cards because most of them have limits on how much you can withdraw free in 1 month.
    3. Avoid withdrawing cash from credit cards as the cash advance fee is very high
    4. Withdraw maximum amount ATM gives me in 1 transaction if I need it. Of course only from bank ATMs.
    5. Book directly with hostels/hotels to avoid extra commissions

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