So you’re tinkering with the idea of backpacking through Europe? Great! But the big question that’s on everyone’s mind is “how much will it cost?” I know when I first backpacked in Europe I had very little idea how much it would all cost. I figured I would go back through all my notes and records to help give you — the budget backpacker — a ballpark idea of how much you might spend.
This guide will help your initial budgeting so you can plan well enough to not run out of money halfway through your trip — because you don’t want to call your parents for more money.
City Price Guides
Below is a list of individual city guides that break down the average daily costs that you can expect in the most popular European destinations. Note: This list is growing all the time, so be sure to check back often!
Passport — $135: If you don’t have a passport, you’ll need to get one to travel to Europe. Be sure to apply early because it will cost you another $60+ if you need one in less than 4-6 weeks. Passport photos will cost you about an extra $10, or you can print your own for free at ePassportPhoto.
Travel Backpack — $85-$300: Most people choose to bring a backpack to Europe. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite travel backpacks and created a guide on how to choose the perfect backpack. If you’re on a budget, ask your friends if they have an old backpack or consider buying used.
Travel Accessories — $75+: There are all sorts of accessories (plug adaptors, guide books, travel towel, sporks, journals, etc.) that will help make your backpacking trip more enjoyable, but how much you spend will depend on what kinds of things you want. This cost estimate can skyrocket if you start adding things like digital cameras, tablets, and specialty travel clothing. Check out our Backpacking Packing List for Guys and our Backpacking Packing List for Women. Both guides will outline pretty much everything you’ll need.
Travel Insurance — $30/week: Travel insurance can be a good deal if you run into any medical issues or travel disputations/cancellations while abroad. Some plans even cover loss and theft of personal items and rental car collision coverage. There are multiple companies that offer insurance, but World Nomads Travel Insurance seems to be a popular choice for backpackers.
Airfare — $800-$1500: Sadly, the days of $600 roundtrip tickets are probably gone forever. We do have a guide to finding cheap flights to Europe that will help you get the best deal possible.
Day-to-Day Travel Expenses
The main day-to-day costs associated with travel include accommodation, food, sightseeing, public transportation, and a few extra incidental costs. Most frugal-minded, hostel-hopping backpackers spend around $70-$100/day in Western Europe and $40-$70/day in Eastern Europe. At this level, you can travel fairly modestly and comfortably without making too many sacrifices. If you watch your budget closely and make a conscious effort to keep your costs down, it’s possible to drop your expenses by around 25%-30%. Lowering your costs even more starts to become difficult, so you’ll have to get creative.
**It is also important to note that these daily costs do not include long-distance transportation between destinations. This is just for estimating how much you’ll spend on an average day.
There is a wide range of lodging options in Europe — from super cheap to super expensive. But since we’re budget travelers, I’m going to stick with the cheaper options.
Hostels are traditionally the cheapest option when it comes to accommodation. Below are typical hostel prices (per night in a shared room) for a few popular destinations. Do note that these prices are generally for the cheapest option at decently rated hostels in each respective city. You might be able to find a slightly cheaper place if you choose the bottom-of-the-barrel option. You can also spend (considerably) more if you want a private room. Here is a sample list of average hostel prices:
- London: $20-$45
- Paris: $30-$50
- Dublin: $15-$25
- Amsterdam: $20-$50
- Munich: $20-$40
- Berlin: $13-$30
- Krakow: $7-$18
- Budapest: $8-$20
- Barcelona: $15-$25
There are plenty of cheap (and crappy) hotels all throughout Europe — just don’t expect much at the budget traveler’s price range. However, the price of a cheap hotel can sometimes be lower than a hostel if it is shared between two people. Do check guidebooks for recommendations as sometimes the cheap (yet quality) independent hotels aren’t listed though the online booking portals.
I’m a big fan of rental apartments. They can be extremely affordable in many cities. My go-to site for finding rental apartments is Airbnb. Rental apartments are often priced similarly to cheap hotels, but from my experience all the rental apartments I’ve rented have been a much better value (they’re more spacious, cleaner, have kitchens, have an “authentic” feel, etc.). Rental apartments are especially good if you’re traveling with multiple people. Here is our guide to short-term rentals in Europe.
Couchsurfing is a popular and free way to travel throughout Europe. You can read all about how Couchsurfing works here, but don’t expect to rely on it for all your accommodation needs because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find hosts.
Food and Drink
Food and drinks can kill any budget — especially for us penny pinchers. Here are some tips for eating and drinking on a budget in Europe.
For the budget traveler, your daily food budget will be anywhere from $14-$40.
At the lower end of this price range, you’ll mostly be eating the free hostel breakfast and homemade meals/picnics from the grocery store.
At the middle to high range, you can eat at cheap takeaway restaurants ($8-$10 for a meal), affordable sit-down restaurants ($15-$20 for a meal), and maybe have a few snacks throughout the day.
I suggest budgeting a little high for food because even the most diehard budget travelers will break down and buy a prepared meal sometimes. You will too, trust me. When you’re not familiar with the city, it can be challenging to find a grocery store and it’s even worse when you’re already hungry. Additionally, making a meal after a long day of sightseeing can sometimes be a pain in the ass, so it will often be challenging to motivate yourself to cook something.
I do also encourage everyone set aside some cash for trying the local cuisine. Given that food is such a large part of experiencing a country’s culture, it would be a shame to miss this experience.
Sightseeing and Attractions
You go to Europe to experience the culture and to see the sights. Well, get out your wallet because most attractions charge an admission fee. The fees are usually not outrageous, but they do add up. Many places offer student/youth discounts, so be sure to inquire about those. While you may not do something that requires an admission fee every day, I would budget about $15/day for sightseeing. Below is a list of admissions prices at some popular attractions in Europe so you can get a feel for how much things cost:
- Louvre Museum – Paris: $17
- Centre Pompidou Museum – Paris: $18
- Tower of London: $37
- Van Gogh Museum – Amsterdam: $20
- Walking Tours: Free (guides work on tips) or $15 for paid tours
Note: Many museums offer discounted or free tickets to students and/or people under the age of 26.
Between subways, buses, and trams, European public transportation is excellent in nearly every large and medium-sized city. Furthermore, it’s usually affordable. Most cities are walkable, and I always suggest waking when possible — but in some cases public transport might be a better use of your time and energy.
Most cities sell a range of tickets and travel passes (i.e. single tickets, 1/3/5/7 day passes, monthly passes, etc.) so it’s smart to do a little research to find the option that works best for you. Below are some examples of transportation cost:
- London Tube (w/Oyster Card): $4/off-peak single fare or $14/all day
- Paris Métro: $19 for 10 one-way tickets
- Amsterdam (tram): $23 for 72 hours of unlimited travel
- Budapest (bus and subway): $17 for 72 hours of unlimited travel
- Prague: $1.60 for a single tram ticket
- Barcelona (metro): $1.40 for a single ticket on the metro
Europe has an insane amount of good beer and wine — so you should sample all you can. And let’s be honest, most backpackers drink their fair share as they travel around. Just be cautious because those big nights out can cost you a fortune — but I don’t have to tell you that. As always, buying alcohol from the grocery store is a great way to save a lot of money. Listed below are some sample alcohol prices from around Europe:
- London – pint of beer: $3.10- $6.20, but expect to pay more at trendy clubs/pubs.
- Paris – wine: $7-$12 for a cheap bottle of good wine from the store.
- Prague – pint of beer: $1.90 at a restaurant and around $.70 from a grocery store.
- Budapest – pint of beer: $2-$3 at a bar.
- Munich – beer: $9 for a huge mug at a beer garden and around $1 for a liter of beer from the store.
I like to keep a “buffer” fund for emergencies and unexpected expenses like laundry, souvenirs, toiletries, clothing, skydiving, missed trains, etc.
Transportation Within Europe
Transportation within Europe (i.e. traveling from city to city) can make up a large percentage of your travel budget, but it is also very hard to predict how much you’ll spend. There are so many factors that go into how much each form of transportation (train, plane, bus, car, etc.) will cost that I can’t really give a super accurate estimate. However, I can give you some general guidelines and point you to more in-depth articles.
Remember, the less you change location, the less you’ll spend. Consider spending more time at each location if you’re on a very tight budget.
The trains in most of Europe are amazing, and they’re usually fairly affordable. Most countries charge by distance traveled, but the prices can change based on time of day, availability, and type of train (high speed vs normal speed). For more information, read our Complete Guide To Train Travel In Europe.
Eurail passes are another popular method of travel for backpackers. These passes aren’t dirt cheap like they were in the past, but for many travelers, this is still an affordable way to travel. There are dozens of Eurail passes available to suit almost any need. Prices range from about $100 for a super basic pass to $2000 for a 3-month unlimited pass. For more info, read our Guide To Rail Passes in Europe.
Air travel within Europe can be very affordable — cheap even. For example, it’s not uncommon to find a one-way ticket from Paris to Berlin for $50 or from London to Barcelona for $40. Of course, there will be extra costs like transportation to and from the airport. For more information, read our article about how to find cheap flights in Europe.
Traveling by car is a good way to travel if you want to see small towns and rural areas. It’s a pain in the ass if you’re city hopping. I rented a car to drive around France for four days and it cost around $200 for an automatic transmission (after all the extra taxes). However, you’ll cut your rental fees in half if you know how to drive a manual transmission. You also have to consider all the potential extra fees like tolls, gas, parking, etc. Learn more about renting a car in our guide to car rentals in Europe.
Learn More About Backpacking Europe
The advice above is just a small portion of what you’ll find at The Savvy Backpacker. If you’re new here, I highly suggest checking out our Complete Guide To Backpacking Europe for step-by-step advice for planning your big journey abroad.
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