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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, Laura and I did manage to keep our expenses to a minimum. Surprisingly, visiting during Christmas time actually helped with this!
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. Laura and 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 us 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 us up early and start chatting with barely a moment for us to open our eyes. On the second morning, his criticism turned toward the British, which was the last straw for my girlfriend. 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.
Our second host was the opposite. She and her husband were located in Esch-sur-Alzette, a city an hour to the southwest by train. We were 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. We heard from her around 9 p.m. and were on a train within minutes. We then stayed up for several hours with them chatting about all kinds of different things. Our 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 we had a bad experience shouldn’t ever put you off from using this platform, and it won’t ever stop us. 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. We got extremely lucky with our very last-minute request, and it also helped that we were 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 we arrived. We were there in the last week of November for the opening of the Christmas markets, and the free public transportation doesn’t start until January 1st, 2020. Perhaps it’s already after that date for many of you reading this. As it was, we didn’t have to pay much. A single ride was only €2 ($2.20), and a 24-hour ticket was €4 ($4.40).
Getting into the country is also surprisingly cheap. Ryanair flies to Luxembourg from all over Europe. We booked our flights from Edinburgh for €10 ($11.00) each, plus another €10 for our 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 Laura and 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 we wanted to eat for every meal.
We ended up purchasing a lot of our 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 we 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. We were only in Luxembourg for four days, so we didn’t stock up, but we did return to the market several times for simple meals and all of our drinks. I found the cheapest items were in the deli where they also had a large salad bar.
The meals we 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! We 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).
The reason we went to Luxembourg, other than it was a country I hadn’t been to yet, was to see the Christmas markets there. This year, the markets opened on November 25th and stay 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, we 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. We did it as our last activity and learned about several places in town I would have loved to see more of.
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.
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). We only saw the parts that were shown on the walking tour, so we’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.
On our second day in Luxembourg, we went up to Vianden to see the castle there. We took the train to Diekirch, where we stopped at Snack Istanbul for lunch. Google reviews said it was the best kebab in the country, and we could easily agree. Our $5 kebab sandwich was massive and delicious. We also grabbed some drinks from the Match shop around the corner, and then jumped on the 570 bus which dropped us off in Vianden at the base of the trail to the castle.
There are three ways to climb up to the castle. The way we 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 we only learned about this route as we were leaving, so we didn’t get those photos.
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. We kept our 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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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.
- 6 Interesting Facts About Luxembourg I Learned While Visiting
- Visiting Vianden Castle from Luxembourg City
- Which Christmas Market in Luxembourg City is the Best
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.