A dream for many young people now days is to take a grand trip and backpack through Europe. I can relate, instead of scrolling through Facebook and falling asleep in class I spent my college days researching how the price on a backpacking trip through Europe. After graduation, I bought the cheapest one-way flight out of the US. I had the time of my life traveling through Europe. Of course, a major concern is a cost of doing this. Europe is not Southeast Asia, and prices are generally quite high for the average young traveler.
After dedicating more than a year of my life to backpacking through Europe, and setting foot in 33 European countries, I would like to think I know the cost of traveling throughout most of Europe. One of the main questions I get is
“How much does a Europe backpacking trip cost?”
The question is vague. The price to backpack around Europe depends on a number of things:
- What time of the year will you be backpacking through Europe?
- What is your comfort level? Are you open to hitchhiking, couch surfing, and eating spaghetti every night?
- Where in Europe do you want to go?
I want to answer this question for everyone wondering what I spent backpacking through Europe. This is from summertime in Munich to spending New Years Eve in Naples. From AirBnb’s to sleeping in the sand on the beaches of Mykonos.
How Much to Budget Per Day in Europe?
I know before you actually read the details you want an actual number in your head. I strive to travel on a budget of less than $45/day, no matter what country I am in. Honestly, I come in way under this number most days. So I will say this – in even the most expensive of countries it is possible to keep your Europe trip costs at $50/day. This is not including your pre-trip expenses. I personally allow myself up to $20/day on accommodation in Europe, and budget $10-15 for food, the rest is left over for transport or fun things (like beer!). If I spend too much on transport, I have less “fun” expenses that day – simple as that!
In countries like Norway and France, a budget like this is going to require more legwork and planning. In countries like Bosnia and Serbia, you will actually have to try hard to hit $40 for the day. Your daily budget for a Europe trip should include transport costs, accommodation, food, and activites.
So What Does a Backpacking Europe Trip Cost?
Europe Trip Cost Number One: Pre Trip Expenses
Passport: The first thing you’ll need is a passport, and if you’re American that doesn’t come cheap. Both a new passport and a renewal passport will run you $110. Make sure to allow yourself at least two months for the passport to arrive in the mail or you could end up paying $60 to have it expedited.
Airfare: This is going to most likely be your largest pre trip expense for Europe. The good news is that flights to Europe are becoming cheaper than ever. The bad news is a good deal usually requires you to be flexible with your travel planning.
Backpack: If you are backpacking through Europe you’re going to need a backpack. We break down the best backpacks for Europe here. I would put aside between $100-$200 for a good travel backpack.
Travel Accessories: From adapters to walking shoes, to even a good travel towel you’ll want to be prepared before you land. If you’re coming from North America I suggest buying all these items online before your European trip as most items will cost more in Europe. Check out our ultimate European packing list for ideas.
Travel Insurance: It’s always a good idea to set yourself up with travel insurance before your trip. We personally never travel without it. We like to travel with insurance from World Nomads.
Europe Trip Cost Number Two: Transport
This is going to be your number one expense while backpacking through Europe, but if you’re smart about it and plan ahead you can get around cheaply. Train travel is the easiest and most convenient way to backpack through Europe. I was backpacking for about three months around Western Europe on a Eurail pass. The pass wasn’t cheap, it cost me $1300 for three months of unlimited travel through Europe, that comes to $14.50 a day. Considering the area I was traveling through and how much I was hopping around on trains it was a bargain. You can buy your rail pass and determine which is best here.
Europe is not only traveled by train, there is also a large bus network that connects most countries. I like to use GoEuro to compare bus vs. train costs. Traveling throughout parts of Croatia, Romania, and Poland by bus can cost as little as $8 a bus ticket.
I’m sure you’ve also heard of Ryan Air. Ryan Air is a low-cost carrier who services almost all of Europe. If you have the time, check Skyscanner, and look where the cheapest place to fly with RyanAir is. I once got a flight from Rome to Marrakech for $10. Other no frills/low cost carriers are Wow Air, Wizz Air, and Easy Jet.
How open are you to hitchhiking? In America this is seen as a big no-no; However, in Europe, it is quite common. If you want something a little more secure try BlaBlaCar, similar to hitchhiking except it is prearranged and you chip in for gas.
How much time do you have to backpack across Europe? Since transport is going to be your biggest expense consider staying in one place for longer amounts of time. This will drastically cut your costs and increase your understanding of the region you’re in.
Personally, cost always trumps comfort. If there is a 10-hour train ride that costs $20, and a 2-hour train ride that costs $50, you can bet your bottom dollar I’m going with the 10-hour train ride. Traveling without comfort in mind has saved me hundreds of dollars in the past.
Insider Tip** Do you care what country you start your Eurotrip in? I usually don’t care at all, as long as I’m on the continent. I can get around Europe easily. I always check Skyscanner to see what European country is the cheapest for me to fly into from the states. The least expensive option wins; this method took me from the US to Iceland, Latvia, and Scotland for less than $200 each time.
Europe Trip Cost Number Three: Accommodation
At the end of the day, you will need to find somewhere to lay your head down. Accommodation is the next biggest cost of backpacking through Europe. In terms of cost for comfort, your best option is going to be a hostel. I still meet many Americans that think staying in a hostel is scary, thanks to a stupid movie. This is crazy talk! For me, a hostel is the cheapest accommodation I can get for a decent amount of comfort.
In parts of Western Europe, you are going to be paying more for a brand new hostel in the city center. In the heat of summer season, some places in Scandinavia costs $40/night for a dorm bed. This is insane! In general, in Western Europe, I would expect to pay about $20/night for a dorm bed. In Eastern Europe, hostel beds will run you about $10/night. I use Hotels.com to find most of the accommodation in Europe.
I know what you’re thinking, this is still a huge chunk of my budget and you’re right. Accommodation isn’t cheap, but honestly, a hostel bed in Oslo still costs me significantly less than my one bedroom apartment in NYC did.
You can find accommodation for nothing too. Sites like Couchsurfing connect locals and travelers, and many Europeans offer up their couches in exchange for a cultural exchange. I spent $100 for a week in Iceland because I Couchsurfed the whole time. Just remember to always check the reviews first, especially for female travelers.
Insider Tip** Thanks to Airbnb, I can rent out people’s apartments for a generally low cost in Europe. If you are planning to stay longer in certain cities, Airbnb may be a good option for you. Owners tend to give discounts to people who book longer stays. If you’re traveling as a couple this is an even better option because you can split the cost. Click here for $35 off your first stay.
Europe Trip Cost Number Four: Food
Depending on where you are in the world, food and drinks can really eat up your budget. A nice meal out is going to be your most expensive option anywhere in Europe. However, a midrange meal in Paris may run you $20 a plate while nice meals in Poland will cost you around $5.
Traveling doesn’t mean you have to eat out at a restaurant every night though. Unless there is no kitchen where we are staying, we cook most of our meals in and get most our food from the grocery stores or local markets. Eating your meals in shouldn’t cost you more than $10 a day, and if you’re splitting your food with others expect this cost to be even less.
When there is no kitchen, I opt for street food. I’ve had a massive sandwich in Berlin for $3, and pizza slices in Italy for $2. In some countries, food is just expensive everywhere. In these cases, I’ve gotten by on four skyrs a day in Iceland and Ramen noodles in Denmark.
Europe Trip Cost Number Five: Drink
If you’re backpacking through Europe, you’ll probably want to have a beer in Amsterdam or a glass of vino in Italy. Alcohol can be the end all and be all of a budget, but it doesn’t have to be! Consider picking up your beer and wine from the grocery store or drink with your new friends at the hostel bars. Wine in Italy and France is amazing can cost as little as $2 a bottle. While you can get great beer in Belgium for $1 a bottle.
Insider Tip** In most European countries you can legally drink on the streets. So pick up your booze and people watch with a beer in hand.
Europe Trip Cost Number Six: Activities
Alright, so you’ve gotten to Europe, found your accommodation, and put some food in your stomach, so now you have to fill your days with awesomeness!
Most big cities have free walking tours every day. I love doing these tours when I first get to a new city. It gets me acquainted with the place and also is a great way to meet people when traveling alone. Although these walking tours are free, a tip is expected for the guide at the end, $5 a person is pretty standard for these tours.
Many museums around Europe have free entrance times and dates. Always check online ahead of time to take advantage of this.
Europe also has some pretty amazing parks and mountains. I know people always say that Switzerland is expensive, but consider just spending your days exploring the mountains. Nature is free!
Insider Tip** Did you keep your student ID from your college days? Good, this ID will save you plenty of entrance fees into museums, churches, and other attractions you’ll want to see in Europe.
How to Save Money in Europe
If you’ve made it to the end of this post and are ready to hop on the next flight out, then take away these main tips to really save money not just in Europe, but everywhere.
- Consider staying longer in places to cut back on transport costs. Move with a purpose, don’t backtrack and always calculate the cheapest ways to move.
- Regarding Accommodation: You get what you pay for. The more central hostel locations are usually going to cost more, perhaps it’s worth it to stay outside the city center, and walk in or take public transport.
- Eating at grocery stores can really save your budget. I’ve lived off pre-packaged salads and sandwiches in many countries.
- Just walking and exploring a new city can really fill your day and it’s free!
My Two Cents
If it’s your first time backpacking through Europe, catch a flight to Western Europe and get out of it. Countries like France, Sweden, and Ireland are great, but they are expensive. My favorite region to travel through in Europe are the Balkans. Countries like Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia are beautiful and inexpensive in comparison. Generally speaking, the more east you get the cheaper the country. Where you are at is crucial to your European travel budget. I also find that countries using the Euro are going to cost more than countries with their own currency (besides Scandinavia). See the table for a general comparison.
|Paris, France||Krakow, Poland||Note:|
|Transport||$30||$13||Routes are International: Amsterdam>Paris Budapest>Krakow|
|Accommodation||$22||$6||Hostel Dorm Bed Prices|
|Activities||$10||$4||Price of Louvre Entrance vs Price of Entrance to Wawel Castle|
Based on my own experiences I’ve made this chart to show the costs of traveling throughout Europe. Without getting too detailed:
- Green: crazy expensive countries
- Blue: expensive countries
- Pink: very affordable countries,
- Purple: budget countries.
Again, this is based on my experiences of going to the grocery stores, partaking in different activities, drinking at the bars, and staying in budget hostels and hotels.
Lastly, travel during the off-season. Prices from May to September, are always going to be higher than prices during the rest of the year. Many hostels and hotels have high season prices and low season prices, and the price difference is huge. We saved hundreds of dollars just by traveling through Europe in the fall and winter months. Just recently we got a perfect seaside one bedroom apartment in Cyprus for under $30 a night! Traveling during the off-season also gives you bargaining power, many businesses would rather rent to you at a lower rate than stay empty!
So How Much Have I Spent Backpacking Through Europe?
As I mentioned before, I’ve spent a year of my life backpacking through Europe. I’ve traveled throughout Scandinavia, the UK, the Mediterranean, Western, Central, and Eastern Europe. Check out where we’ve been for the complete list. Sometimes, I travel on an extreme budget, and sometimes I am a little more indulgent. On average I spend about $1000/month, so, therefore, I’ve spent around $12,000 backpacking through Europe.
Plan Your Trip to Europe
We rely on a few trusted websites that help save us money and time when booking hotels, flights, and car rentals. Check out some of our preferred partners below:
- Accommodation: We like to use Hotels.com to and make sure we are getting the best possible deal. To feel more at home we use Airbnb. Here is a coupon for your first stay!
- Flights: Compare airlines, dates, and prices all in one place with Skyscanner.
- Train Travel: The best way to travel around Europe in our opinion is by train. You can buy a Eurail Pass check timetables, and purchase individual tickets on Rail Europe.
- Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads.
- Guide Book: Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend Lonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights.
- Adapter: This adapter is good to go all over Europe!