Let's talk budgeting for backpacking through Europe. How much does the experience really cost? Find out our detailed rundown, including tips for budgeting now!
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Sure, the title is a little dramatic, but we all know that every trip costs money. Backpacking anywhere, and especially through Europe is no different. When planning a European backpacking adventure, you’ll want to pencil out all the costs to make sure you don’t overspend, or end up without the funds you need to continue traveling. Ready to start planning for your backpacking trip? Let’s go!
Okay, so first things first, Europe is made up of over 40 countries, so there isn’t one average cost. How much you spend will be dictated by where you want to go, for how long, and whether you’re traveling during peak tourist season or not. That being said, a reasonable ballpark figure for budgets (excluding airfare and transport from city to city) would be $70-$110 a day in Western Europe and $40-$80 a day in Eastern Europe.
The cheapest way to backpack through Europe is to stick to Eastern European countries and to plan your travel for off-peak season. This means avoiding the summer, and the December holidays.
What do I need to budget for in Europe?
If you’re headed on a backpacking trip across Europe, you’ll want to pencil out where you’ll be spending money so you can figure out how much it’ll cost, and from where the bulk of your expenditures will come. Here are some things to consider:
- Flights: If you’re coming from North America, this is going to be a large part of your budget. The earlier you book your flight, the better the price. Round trips are typically cheaper than one way, but one way will allow you to start in one country and end in another. Check out Scott’s Cheap Flights for a great flight discount resource (and read our review of the service here)! For roundtrip flights, you can safely budget between $700-$1000. Being flexible with where you fly can also save you some money.
Top tip: flying into bigger airports (London, Paris, Frankfurt…) will frequently have lower prices due to higher competition
- Accommodation: Whether you opt to stay in a hostel, hotel, Airbnb, or anything in between, this is arguably the most important part of your budget since you need a place to stay at night. Some cities (like London, Dubrovnik, or Barcelona as examples), will be much more expensive during the summer. Check out Hostelworld for hostel booking information and rates. The more people you’re willing to share a dorm with, the cheaper your nightly cost will be. You can estimate a hostel will cost you between $15-$40 a night.
Top tip: book a hostel with free breakfast to save some money on your food budget!
To save money, you can explore Couchsurfing as an alternative for accommodation, but this depends on your comfort level in strangers’ homes
- Food: Depending on your accommodation situation, you may be able to prepare some food for yourself, as opposed to relying on restaurants/pre-prepared meals. It’s never a bad idea to budget slightly more than you think you need for food, given that it’s a necessity to keep you going for your whole adventure (and sometimes you might want to splurge on a local treat). Don’t forget that alcohol can carry a steep price tag as well! You can always stock up on snacks in local supermarkets to save some money, too.
- Sightseeing and attractions: While the streets of Europe are always a sight to see, they aren’t always the most exciting. Entrance costs to famous sights (Eiffel Tower, Van Gogh Museum, Tower of London, etc…) can easily be found online to prepare yourself for what you’ll need to spend. A lot of museums in Europe have discounted prices for under 26s (or students so bring your student ID if you have one), and some are even free! Be sure to budget a little extra in case you discover a gem you hadn’t found in your research that has an entrance cost. For some ideas of what to do in European cities, we’ve got you covered!
- Public Transport: While some cities are easily navigated on foot, others will require you to take the bus/tram/metro in some capacity to explore everything. You’ll want to research if buying a pass of some sort is more economical than single journey fares for your travel goals.
- Transport between cities: Whether you take a train, Flixbus, plane, or rent a car, you’ll need to budget for the costs associated with moving between cities on your trip. If you know exactly when and where you want to travel, you can explore the option of getting a Eurail pass to travel by train, but since these aren’t cheap, you’ll want to crunch some numbers first. Eurail also isn’t the most flexible so if you’re wanting to be spontaneous, it’s not a great investment. Be sure to also allow ample time for travel between destinations in your itinerary!
- Souvenirs: You never know when you’re going to come across something that you want to take home with you to remember your travels! Whether you’re interested in collecting postcards, snow globes, or unique memorabilia, set aside at least $100 for souvenirs!
Let’s face it, traveling costs money, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to save! Here are some of our tips to save money during your European backpacking adventure.
- Book travel in advance: This applies to flights, trains, busses, you name it! The earlier you can book, the cheaper the fares will be.
- Book attractions in advance: Some museums and other sights have higher “day of” ticket prices, so booking in advance (even if it’s just the day before online), can save you some precious euros.
- Cook your own meals: Many hostels have a communal kitchen you can use to prepare your own food. Eating out can get expensive, so taking advantage of having a kitchen can reduce your food-related expenditures.
- Skip the bars/clubs: This is obviously a super fun part of travel, but it costs money! You don’t need to skip it every night, but limiting your club and bar visits will save you money in the long run. Buying alcohol from a local supermarket instead of a bar is also a great money-saving trick (but don’t try and bring it into a bar)!
- Research: The more you know about your next destination, the better. You’ll be able to see if there are free museum days, cost-saving activities you can take part in (like free walking tours), and be prepared for how much things will cost.
- Get a local SIM: Unless your phone comes with a generous international plan, it’ll undoubtedly be cheaper to buy a local SIM to cover you. Many EU providers will cover other EU countries so you can travel around with it. Make sure your phone is unlocked before you try to swap SIMs - this won’t work otherwise.
- Walk: This might seem like a no-brainer, but public transport costs money. If you’re willing to take the scenic route occasionally, you can save some money that way - be sure to wear comfy walking shoes, though!
Let’s get backpacking!
Since there’s so much to see and do in Europe, the possibilities for your European backpacking adventure are truly endless. Travel always carries a price tag, but the more you plan in advance, the more you can save. Having a budget is also helpful to ensure that you don’t spend more than you wanted to spend!
Want to go backpacking in Europe but not sure where to start? Absolutely no worries! Whether you’re looking to hit multiple countries or get to know one really well, we at Pilot want to help plan your next trip so it’s everything you want it to be. Head over to our website for itinerary planning ideas, destination inspiration, budgeting tips, and more to make travel a breeze, wherever you want to go. See you there!