Getting ready for a grand trip to backpack around Europe? Europe was our first backpacking trip together, and it’s a fantastic place to travel when you’re young (or old!) Doesn’t matter – it’s a great place to travel any time of year at any age!
We’ve been to almost every single country in Europe. With over two years of our lives traveling around Europe we know a thing or two about getting around the continent and what it costs to travel. It’s one of the most common questions we receive.
“How much does it cost to backpack around Europe?”
Our guide should help you budget for your first backpacking trip in Europe. We’ll cover common costs of a trip to Europe such as transportation, food, gear, and accommodation. This way you come prepared with enough cash in the bank account.
How Should You Budget for Europe?
I know before you actually read the details you want an actual number in your head. When we backpack we strive to travel on a budget of less than $50/day, no matter what country. If you’re frugal it is easy to come under this budget. We do believe that even in the most expensive of countries it is possible to keep your Europe trip costs at $50/day. Note that this is not including your pre-trip expenses like purchasing flights, insurance, and gear.
With a modest budget of $20/day on accommodation in Europe, and budget $10-15 for food, the rest can be left over for transport or fun things (like beer and good wine!).
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 have to try hard to hit $40 for the day. Your daily budget for a Europe trip should include transport costs, accommodation, food, and activities.
Backpacking Europe Trip Cost
There are a number of items and things you’ll need to do before you travel to Europe. Obvious things like getting a passport and booking flights are an important step. We also suggest that you always travel with insurance. It’s easily overlooked and we love adventure sports so it’s not worth the risk.
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.
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.
That being said there are some great low cost carriers these days. Check out Norwegian Air and Wow Air for one ways flights to Europe as low as $69! If you plan to travel to multiple destinations look for the cheapest flight to Europe than plan your trip from there.
If you are backpacking through Europe you’re going to need a backpack. We break down the best backpacks for Europe here. Put aside between $100-$200 for a good travel backpack.
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.
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.
This is not a full expense. However, you should practice good travel banking habits as it will save you a lot of money. Getting the right checking account that minimizes fees saving you money when withdrawing cash. Check out how we suggest saving money for travel.
Europe Transportation Cost
This is going to be your largest 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.
Eurail Pass & Trains
I backpacked 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.
Low Cost Air Carriers
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 for cheap flights. We got flights from Rome to Marrakech for $12 before. Other no-frills/ low-cost carriers are Wow Air, Wizz Air, and Easy Jet. On average you can typically pick up a cheap flight for under a $100.
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 sharing platforms like BlaBlaCar, similar to hitchhiking except it is prearranged and you chip in for gas.
If you’re traveling as a group a rental car is a really good option for traveling around Europe. We’ve scored deals in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Scotland and more for less than $30 a day. I generally like to check comparison sites so I can get the best prices. My favorites to look at are:
- RentalCars.com: Provides comparisons for car rentals in Europe.
- AutoEurope: I can often find deals here for car rentals in Europe.
- Discover Car Hire: Searches rental car prices around the globe.
What is best?
How much time do you have to backpack across Europe? Transport will be your largest expense, especially if you are moving a lot. Remember that the slower you travel the lower your transportation costs. A week in Barcelona will cost less than hopping all around Spain. Traveling at a slower pace through less places will drastically cut your costs and increase your understanding of the region you’re in.
There is also a give and take with cost versus comfort. If there is a 10-hour train ride that costs $20, and a 2-hour train ride that costs $50, it’s up you to decide on where you spend your cash. If you’re willing to sacrifice comfort you can save a lot of money.
Accommodation Costs in Europe
At the end of the day, you will need to find somewhere to lay your head down. Accommodation is the second largest cost of backpacking in Europe. In terms of cost for comfort, your best option will be a hostel or Airbnb. Although, in the cheaper countries you can find affordable hotel rooms and guesthouses with ease.
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.
Truth be told we have our qualms with Airbnb in the short term rental market. However, if you’re using it as a backpacker and getting a private room you can get a great deal. Plus many hosts are great at welcoming you to a new city. They can provide insight into the city and you get a chance to connect with a local. If you’ve never used it before click here for $40 off your first booking.
This is the most expensive option. However, in Eastern European countries, we’ve found a lot of great deals on sites like Booking.com. It’s very possible to find rooms in hotels and guesthouses for around $25 or even lower in the off season. If you’re a couple that’s the price of a dorm bed with a lot more comfort and personal space.
You can find accommodation for free 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 traveler, the internet is full of creeps.
Food & Drink Costs in Europe
This is the easiest expense to let get out of control. Multiple drinks at the bar can really eat up your budget. You should save a little for some meals out as eating the local cuisine is one of the reasons we travel. Food is one of the most important facets of every culture in the world!
A midrange meal in Paris may run you $20 a plate while nice meals in Poland will cost you around $5. Take away can typically always be found. Our cheap takeaway staple is Indian and pizza.
If you’re looking to cut costs cooking your own food will be sure to make your money go further. 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. However, you’ll need a kitchen to cook all this food so that is something to take into consideration when booking accommodation.
A decent meal ranges anywhere from $20-30 in Western Europe and $5-15 in Eastern Europe. For example, you can get a nice meal in Italy for $25 or a full dinner of meze in Greece for $10. Our favorite grocery stores in Europe are Aldi and Lidl.
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 and you can get great beer in Belgium for $1 a bottle. In most European countries you can legally drink in public like the streets and public parks.
Activity Costs in Europe
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!
Free Walking Tours
Most major European cities have free walking tours every day. We love these tours when as they’re a great way to get to know a 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!
This is where you can eat up a budget real quick. Snowboarding is awesome, bungee jumping is rad, scuba diving is unreal, but only cliff diving is free. If you have hobbies or want to do something special be prepared to budget for it in advance. Otherwise, look for free or cheap things like bike rentals or hiking.
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 travel.
- 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. If I want to cook my food I make sure to book an apartment or hostel with a good kitchen.
- Just walking and exploring a new city can really fill your day and it’s free!
Where To Travel in Europe?
If it’s your first time backpacking through Europe, catch a flight to Western Europe and move a little quicker through 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 to the rest of Europe.
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).
When is the Best Time to Travel Europe?
High season (June – early September): Many places in Europe suffer from extreme heat and overtourism during these months. Despite this, the summer is still high season in Europe and what many consider the best time to travel here. School holidays bring many American families over to cities like Florence, Paris, and Amsterdam. And there is the backpacker crowd on a gap year making their rounds around the continent. In other words, it’s busy – and expensive. Still, this is your best chance for sunny days, though in recent years it’s been brutally hot.
Shoulder Season (September, October, May, June): Tourism is lower during this time, and temperatures aren’t brutally hot. Meaning better prices and fewer tourists. In my opinion it’s the best time to travel around Europe.
Low Season (November-April): Unless you’re on a ski holiday or it’s Christmas/New Years this is low season in Europe. It’s cold in many countries, some more than others. Still, it’s quiet, and nothing can quite beat that feeling of a nice winter day in Europe. Prices are at their lowest (except ski destinations or for the holidays), and you’ll likely be able to score some good deals!
Average Travel Costs in Europe
|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|
Cost To Travel Regions in Europe
- Green: crazy expensive countries
- Blue: expensive countries
- Pink: very affordable countries,
- Purple: budget countries.
Where does it all go in Europe?
What to Pack For Your Trip to Europe
You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while you’re traveling around Europe. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes you need at least something small for day trips. My favorite daypacks are from Camelbak. You can see all our other backpack recommendations below:
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun when you’re traveling. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
If you’re wondering what travel necessities to bring to around the world then good walking shoes should be your top concern.
I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me when I’m traveling in the winter, fall, or even spring. Sometimes even the summer depending on where I’m at. They aren’t just good for hikes, but doing anything outside and great for nighttime in Europe.
Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint –Feathered Friends, Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded Jacket, Patagonia Down Sweater, REI Coop Down Jacket)
Goretex Rain Jacket
We’re building up a collection of shell jackets. We always carry one in our pack and they’ve come in handy many times. Weather in Europe can be unpredictable depending on the season, so it’s best to be prepared. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof and really a great travel rain jacket. We have a bunch of different shell jackets after several years, but my favorite right now is from Arc’teryx.
Any jacket can do the job, but the top dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather.
Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of those tourists that buys plastic water bottles. It’s a waste of money and plastic!
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