Enjoy Euro 2024 on the cheap? Fans work out how

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Euro 2024 - Group C - Slovenia v Serbia - Munich Football Arena, Munich, Germany - June 20, 2024 Slovenia fans walk into the stadium before the match REUTERS/Angelika Warmuth/File Photo

MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - Cost-conscious fans for whom budgets are tight but Euro 2024 is unmissable are parking for free in German forests, lugging crates of supermarket beer to drink outside the fan zones and opting for nights under canvas to dodge expensive hotels and inflated prices.

The cost-of-living crisis has battered spending power, driven up transport prices and even made buying the cheapest supermarket food more expensive, so many supporters are working out how to make following the tournament as affordable as possible.

Germany's location helps, with eight of its nine neighbouring countries represented at Euro 2024. That means some fans can drive in and out just for the games.

"We probably wouldn't have come if the tournament was further away in France or Spain,” said Urosh Mali, a 50-year-old electrician from Slovenia. He travelled five hours by bus with his son, 11, from near Lake Bled, to see his nation take on Serbia, at Slovenia's first European Championship since 2000.

"We couldn't miss this, this is such a special occasion. We picked this game though because Munich is the shortest drive from Slovenia, so we could get here and back in a day," he said.

Slovenian technician Marian Kokal, 43, from Ljubljana also picked the Munich game because it was the closest drive.

Belgians needed just a few hours on the road to reach Frankfurt, where many parked for free in a car park in a forest on the outskirts.

Groups of foreign fans have dragged heavy crates of beer to drink on Munich's scenic Marienplatz, spending hours standing alongside those sat at pavement cafes paying considerably more for a drink.

With hotel prices rising during Euro 2024, campsites close to the host cities are seeing a boost, though visitors have had to endure some nights of torrential rain and thunderstorms.

Hotel prices in host cities Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen and Munich have seen the biggest rises, with an average increase of 188%, 113% and 94% respectively between the June and July average and the most expensive nights of the European Championship, according to German comparison site Check24.

Stuttgart Campsite, in a carpark a few minutes from the stadium, is far cheaper and has only increased prices a little by comparison, a campsite spokesperson said.

"Usually people are happy to pay because we are right next to the event venue."

German hosts are also proving budget conscious. Four million in Germany have ordered a free unofficial football shirt from Check24, and a further million have been dispatched since the tournament began according to German media.

In central Munich, fans donned the free shirt with traditional Bavarian lederhosen and knitted knee socks, hugging anyone else they saw wearing one.

Nevertheless, the official Germany football shirts for 100 euros ($107) are flying off the shelves in the city.

"I'm not going to the fan zones, they are pricey. If you watch the football in a bar you still get a lot of atmosphere and it is cheaper,” said 22-year-old Felix Schreckegast, a student from Munich.

"I did buy the new Germany football shirt though. We are the home nation, and that is really special and something to remember".

($1 = 0.9353 euros)

(Additonal reporting by Philipp Krach in Frankfurt and Christian Radnedge in Stuttgart; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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