The Salzburg Festival deserves its reputation for mindbending costliness. A survey of visitors to last year's Festival found the average foreign guest spends €550 on four tickets and stays a week, paying €2,220 for accommodation and food and so on. And that's just the average - you could easily fork out a lot more.
But you can also manage on significantly less.
Saving money on tickets is easy because of the wide price range. The most expensive opera seats can reach €400+, but for chamber and contemporary music, top price is more like €50.
If you don't mind standing or having a restricted view, then you can pay as little as €15-25 for opera. Sitting at the very back or sides (not restricted view, just distant) typically costs €40-60 for opera. For concerts, the lower price categories cost even less. As all the Festival venues have reasonable sightlines and acoustics from practically all seats, paying less doesn't mean missing out (though binoculars could come in useful).
An excellent 'photo view' tool on the booking pages shows the view from every single seat. Particularly good value are the Saulensitzplätzen (€25 or so) in the Grosses Festspielhaus. These seats are located behind columns right at the back, so the view is distant and partially obstructed - but it's no worse than sitting behind someone's fat head in the ROH stalls.
It will probably not surprise you to learn that the cheaper seats sell out quickly. The only realistic way to secure them is to order on the website the previous December, when booking opens. You specify which price category you want and - if you're lucky - find out what you've been allocated in March. You increase your chances by not picking opening nights for opera and by specifying alternative dates and price categories if your first choice is not available. This year I received all the dates and prices I wanted for six operas by booking in advance - even though half of these are now (already) sold out.
By the time the remaining individual seats go on sale on the website at the end of March, it's unusual to find cheap tickets remaining for anything but the least popular concerts, and certainly not for opera. If you fancy trying your chances on the day, then the box office in Salzburg usually has some unsold tickets and returns, but these are generally at the upper end of the price range.
Booking Festival tickets in advance may be pretty much vital, but it's less essential to secure accommodation months ahead. Salzburg has far more beds than tourists, and it's possible to find somewhere to stay in any price category at any time.
Having said that, the best places do fill up quickly, and there are often discounts for early bookers, so it can be worthwhile to organise early. If you want to stay in one of the classic Altstadt hotels (not cheap) to be as close as possible to the Festival venues, it's essential. Repeat customers who return every year reduce the number of rooms available for other visitors.
But this post is about saving money, and the way to do that is to sacrifice either comfort or location. Over the summer, some student accommodation is turned into budget hotel rooms - the Hotel Schwarzes Rössl (10 minutes from Festival venues) is one. If you don't mind a shared bathroom, this is a bargain at around £40 a night. Or for more comfort and a longer trip to the concert hall you could try a B&B outside the centre, such as Pension Katrin for around £50. Bonus - you escape Altstadt summer crowds.
For those on an even tighter budget, there are loads of youth hostels - the Stadtalm Naturfreundehaus is spectacularly located on a clifftop overlooking the Festival venues and costs €19 a night.
For longer stays, an apartment is my preferred choice. Salzburg tourist office carries the best list and will book on your behalf. Typical cost is €300 to €700 a week, which is a real bargain for a family or other group.
Only two airlines fly direct between Salzburg and the UK - BA and the dreaded Ryanair. Neither operates 7 days a week. Both fill up quickly at Festival time - it's not unusual to find no seats available, at any price, if you leave it too late. Right now, it's around €200 return to fly with Ryanair in August; when I checked in December it was half that. So it's worthwhile to book as far in advance as you can.
Salzburg airport is only a 1o minute, €10, taxi ride from town. Alternative airports such as Munich or Innsbruck are at least three hours away (plus a €30-ish train ride) so it pays to fly straight there.
Experienced travellers will not be surprised to learn that everything is considerably cheaper outside the cute, touristy Altstadt. Five minutes north, Neutorstrasse is the address for reasonably-priced supermarkets - and for added temptation, the permanent sale shop of Dantendorfer, the Getreidegasse designer store. The Salzburg tourist office site provides a comprehensive source of restaurant details - all are gratifyingly cheaper than their London equivalents.