While on the rise in recent years, Puglia is still a relatively undiscovered destination for foreign visitors. Italians, though, have known for a very long time that the region stretching across the heel of the country’s boot is a perfect mix of everything that there is to love about Italy: breathtaking beaches, excellent food and centuries of history in every stone.

If you’re looking to travel on a budget, then you’ll be happy to know that you’re already saving money just by choosing Puglia over some more popular seaside destinations, like the Amalfi Coast in Campania or Cinque Terre in Liguria. Traveling during the off season will ensure those costs stay even lower, making planning a trip to Puglia on a budget something that is very easy to do.

Here are some more tips and tricks to help you save up during your trip to Puglia, as well as a breakdown of the daily costs you can expect while you’re on the road.

Average daily costs (during high season)

  • Hostel room for two: €80
  • Basic room for two: €100
  • Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb) for two: €80
  • Public transport ticket in Bari: €1.20
  • Train ticket from Bari to Polignano a Mare: €3
  • Coffee: €1
  • Panzerotto: €1.50
  • Seafood dinner for two (glass of wine included): €50-€70
  • Average daily cost per budget traveler: around €117

Fly into Puglia on a budget airline

Puglia has two international airports located in Bari and Brindisi. Both are served by low-cost companies such as Ryanair and EasyJet, which are some of the cheapest air travel options if you’re already located somewhere in Europe. Of course, we all know the deal with low-cost companies – keep an eye out on the size and weight of your luggage to avoid an unpleasant surprise at check-in.

Or get there by either road or train tracks

If you’re staying in Italy and want to add Puglia to your itinerary, the best option to get there is via train or bus. It’s more eco-friendly, for starters, and it also allows you to carry a bigger luggage. Puglia is served by Italy’s national railway system, with the best option being the high speed Frecciarossa; a ticket from Milan to Bari can range anywhere from €40 to €120.

As for buses, Flixbus is well known for having a wide variety of routes connecting all major Italian cities. A ticket from Milan to Bari, for example, could be as low as €65 even though you have to be prepared for quite of a bit of travel time.

Whether you plan to travel by train or bus, it’s always a good idea to book as early as possible and keep an eye out for seasonal promotions –usually advertised right on the homepage of the Trenitalia and Flixbus websites – to save even more on your trip.

Be mindful of Italy-specific holidays

While everyone knows that tourist destinations get more crowded and expensive during summer and around Christmastime, you should also keep in mind the times when Italians celebrate specific holidays and might have some time to travel. Schools and workplaces usually shut down around Easter Sunday, and students also get a few days off for Carnevale. January 6, April 25, May 1, June 2, August 15 and December 8 are also all national holidays of both religious and civil nature, and if they fall around the weekend on that particular year’s calendar, families usually decide to take a long weekend trip.

People relax on a beach in Puglia
Puglia has plenty of free public beaches – look for the ones without the uniform rows of lido umbrellas © Franz Marc Frei / Getty Images

Take advantage of the free beaches

Sure, lidos (the Italian name for beach clubs) are comfortable and have all the perks possible, from a well-socked beachfront cafes to changing rooms, but if you want to save money on your trip then you should take advantage of the stretches of free beach found throughout the region. You’ll recognize them easily, since they’re the ones without any particular beach club equipment like umbrellas, chairs and changing rooms. Bring your own stuff and lay down under the sun without spending a single cent.

Do as the Italians do and bring a beach picnic

Another way to save money on beach days is to have something small for lunch right on the sand rather than climbing back up to the town or village you’re in and finding a restaurant. Italians usually bring their own lunch from home, or they stop on their way to the beach at a local bakery or friggitoria (where you can buy delicious fried street food like panzerotti). Definitely cheaper than sitting down at a "proper" restaurant and equally as delicious.

Open air street food fish market on Bari promenade with raw fresh fish ready to eat
Delicious street food abounds in Puglia © Michele Ursi / Getty Images

Street food is an excellent option for lunch

Bakeries and friggitorie are also an excellent lunch spots if you’re out and about exploring cities and towns. You can stock up of sandwiches, focaccia, panzerotti and puccia (a traditional bread made without its usual soft inside, which makes it perfect for all kinds of fillings) for relatively cheap and save up to make dinner your big meal of the day. 

Alternatively, opt for a set lunch menu

If you can’t resist the call of the many wonderful restaurants all throughout the region, then keep an eye out for set menus, usually menù fisso in Italian, or sometimes also menù pranzo. These menus usually include an entree and a first dish, or a first dish and second dish, together with water and coffee for a fixed price. An excellent way to get your fill of the local cuisine without breaking the bank.

Stop by local mercati

Whether you want to make your own sandwich for a long day on the road or would like to stock up on some seasonal fruit, don’t ignore a local mercato (the Italian word for farmer’s market) when you see one. It’s both a great way to get your hands on some fresh produce for a bargain and to immerse yourself in Italian culture, since market day is a staple in the lives of many Italians. Keep in mind that while more and more vendors are now proudly sporting their credit card POS, cash is still king so it’s better to always have a handful of euros on you.

 Italian woman with gloves buys fruits and vegetables in small grocery store, mini market with outdoor display of regional food products in neighborhood stree
Take advantage of Puglia's many local markets for budget-friendly eats © ingehogenbijl/Shutterstock.

Seasonal sagre are a great option for some evening entertainment

If your trip happens during the warmer months, then your option for evening entertainment are the myriad sagre, or festivals, that take place throughout the region. With live music, cheap food and drink and a chance to really mingle with the locals, it doesn’t get much better than this. Every city, town or village has its own calendar for these kinds of celebrations, but one that you’ll be sure to find is the famous Notte della Taranta—a series of folk music concerts happening for the entire month of August throughout Salento before concluding with a massive event, known as concertone, in Malpignano. 

The further you are from the beach, the cheaper your accommodation

It’s true everywhere in Italy and so it’s also true here – if you want your accommodation to be right on the beach, then you’re not likely to find it for cheap. This doesn’t mean you have to go far inland, though. Even five kilometers away from the shore is enough to notice the difference in prices, an easy distance to cover especially if you have a car at your disposal. Pay attention to the towns you decide to book your accommodation in as well; choose places like Otranto and Melendugno, which are just as gorgeous as more popular Puglia towns but will not be as tough on your wallet.

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