HOW MUCH DOES BACKPACKING EUROPE COST?
HOW MUCH DOES BACKPACKING EUROPE COST?
If there’s one thing holding you back from backpacking Europe it’s probably money. We put off travelling for so long because we felt we couldn’t afford it. Now 3 months and 12 countries later, we can admit backpacking Europe costs much less than we originally imagined. If only someone could have told us sooner. So here we are – telling you. Not just how much we spent, but exactly how we spent it – divided into accommodation, travel, food, drink & activities. We share our mistakes, where the splurges were worth it and essential money saving tips.
HOW DO YOU WORK OUT A BACKPACKING BUDGET FOR EUROPE?
If you have downloaded the tracker and read our post on how anyone can afford to travel the world, you’re practically on the plane. Now you should be able to work out income vs outgoings and have a rough approximate of how much you can save per month. Despite knowing how much you can afford to save, how do you work out a budget for backpacking Europe?
This is how we did it. For our trip we were visiting 15 European cities, in 12 countries. Eastern Europe is notably cheaper than West, we had to use a mix of 6 currencies and we also had to take into account our aforementioned cake & beer dependency.
This meant, creating a budget tailored to each city was no easy task – but Daz the engineer and excel enthusiast rose to the challenge. By referencing the website numbeo you can find out the average cost of living in pretty much every country in the world. This will allow a rough guide of daily expenditure, e.g. the price of lunch, a beer, basic accommodation – this site covers all basics.
Using Numbeo, Daz worked out a budget per city and this post will now share exactly what backpacking Europe costs – where we went over budget, under budget and exactly why.
* Note: As we were travelling as a couple, these budgets are for both of us, half it if you’re a solo traveller *
BACKPACKING EUROPE COST – SWITZERLAND
It is no secret Switzerland is an expensive country, but we managed to come under budget thanks to the wonders of Workaway. This meant our entire month’s accommodation was free and we received 3 meals a day for free. To keep your backpacking Europe costs down, we definitely recommend Workaway. We were fortunate to stay with the kindest family who provided all meals, accommodation and even the use of a car. In exchange we volunteered for approx. 3-4 hours each morning helping to run their glamping site with tree houses, teach their fabulous four children about our Scottish culture etc. Workaway is available in over 170 countries worldwide and is an ideal way to travel slower, cheaper and longer.
Read our full Workaway Review post on how to get free accommodation in over 170 countries worldwide.
BACKPACKING EUROPE COST – VENICE
Overall, we were pleasantly surprised at how affordable Venice was, this could be because we had just spent a month in Switzerland where a cappuccino was around £5 and here it was less than £2. Traditional food was very affordable and much of the sightseeing was free as it involved walking instead of expensive entry fees.
In order to keep our backpacking Europe cost down, we purposely travelled off season. In popular cities such as Venice however, despite visiting in November the cost of accommodation was still very high.
Bargain hunter Daz did find an amazing hidden gem that will save you a crazy amount of money as it’s a simple 10 minute bus journey out of the main city. Set in a campsite style set up, complete with a pool, bar and restaurant is Camping Venezia Village. Here we booked 3 nights in a snuggly cabin accommodation complete with ensuite bathrooms, fridge and within walking distance to a Lidl. Read our full 3 days in Venice post on our other money saving tips including where to have a romantic dinner in Venice on a backpacking budget!
One major expense in Venice would be a Gondola ride, they were €80 for 40 minutes or €100 after 7pm. Being us, we chose to use that money towards a 3 course dinner (with wine) for two instead. These may seem like “once in a life time opportunities” but are they something you’d genuinely enjoy and worth spending the money on? Consider this before falling for tourist traps or Facebook likes. As a money saving tip, the Vaporetto (Water bus) will give you the exact same view, particularly stunning at night time if you sit outdoors at the back.
BACKPACKING EUROPE COST – LJUBLJANA
Our greatest expense here was food. Shocker! Slovenia is one of the cheapest countries to visit in Europe and Ljubljana was by no means an expensive city but the restaurants were just too good to not eat out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With drinks and cake in between. Oops.
However, we managed to save money by opting for a cheaper day trip from Ljubljana to Lake Bled. Instead of an organised tour we opted for public buses and we hired our own row boat where Darren was in charge instead of a tour guide (read about that catastrophe in our Ljubljana to Lake Bled guide). Instead of paying the 6 euros each to enter the church in Lake Bled we spent 2 euros per person on ice cream. Regardless, ice cream always wins.
BACKPACKING EUROPE COST – VIENNA
When budgeting your backpacking Europe cost take into consideration those bucket list items. Just because you’re backpacking don’t write them off as too expensive. You’ve travelled far, chances are you’re only going to visit once so now and again the “YOLO” mindset should be applied.
One of those bucket list activities for me was seeing Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss”. Understandably, not many people would spend €15 to see a painting and it did mean we came considerably over budget as I then had to fill Daz with beer in order to drag him along. Museum fees can be expensive, so if it’s a “bucket list” item definitely look ahead for cheaper tickets, seasonal deals and discounts for young people. Many offer free tours on the last Sunday of the month or if you’re under 25. Intrigued if I thought that €15 was worth it? Or where the rest of that budget went (it might have been the best cake shop EVER, just saying). We wrote a whole post on our 2 days in Vienna, including where to find the best schnitzel.
BACKPACKING EUROPE COST – BRATISLAVA
When a pint costs less than a £1 it’s obvious why Bratislava is a popular Stag & Hen do destination. We can’t deny, the cheap booze prices persuaded us to add the Slovakian capital to our European itinerary. However, we were both recovering from a horrible flu and instead of spending all of our money and time in the pub it was spent in pharmacies buying medicine which was not cheap.
Again, you can only plan so much but take into account illness can pop up at any point. We had an amazing time in Bratislava regardless, (it involved castles & hummus) but it is worth keeping a little budget spare for those unplanned items. Not forgetting, you should have travel insurance booked regardless!
Also to note, travel to and from Bratislava is crazy cheap due to Flixbus. We were only £10.90 from Bratislava to Prague!!
BACKPACKING EUROPE COST – PRAGUE
Our accommodation in Prague was also amazing for the price. We spent only £27 per night for both of us at Hostel Florenc and it was the largest room in our whole Europe tour! It also included a cooked breakfast which is a great money saving tip and definitely something to search for when booking accommodation.
Prague is another European city notorious with Brits for cheap booze, but it also offers one particularly unique experience that threw our budget completely out the window. A beer spa.
Yes, we spent over £50 each to sit in a hops filled hot tub for an hour and enjoy unlimited beer for over 2 hours and can hand on heart claim, it was worth every single penny. The hilarious memories from this made dining out at our hostel kitchen with Lidl pasta so worth it! We wasted our whole day’s budget on a Prague beer bath, but balanced it with Lidl pasta. Genius. Just because you’re travelling Europe on a budget, doesn’t mean you should
stick to it avoid splurges now and again, as long as you balance it up later.
BACKPACKING EUROPE COST – KRAKOW
Poland overall, is a very affordable country and Krakow is the perfect city break for backpackers or couples on a budget. Where our main expense occurred was on our Auschwitz & Salt mines tour which again, was something we had always planned to do, so had kept that in mind when budgeting.
Although our “splurges” so far had been completely indulgent, in Krakow our biggest expense was not indulgent at all but purely educational and indeed a harrowing experience. Although we recommend the odd splurge and YOLO mindset for indulgent excursions, it is equally important to invest in your knowledge too. The history lesson we received that day was one we will never forget and using that money on yet another meal out or bar would have felt quite selfish when in Krakow, knowing we could see such a crucial part of history instead.
BACKPACKING EUROPE COST – GDANSK
There were no “activities” as such that we spent money on in Gdansk, again food and drink were our biggest expense. Wandering the beautiful cobbled streets were free and the train journey to Sopot for the stunning beach was a mere few pounds. Sopot beach was a definite highlight from our time in Gdansk, with the numerous hipster-esque bars and brunch spots being a close second. Our hostel, Moon Hostel, was one of the funkiest from our entire trip and only cost £17 a night for a private double room.
BACKPACKING EUROPE COST – STOCKHOLM
Stockholm was on and off our Europe bucket list so many times in order to keep our backpacking Europe cost to a minimum. However my love of art and Darren’s love of meatballs meant we simply couldn’t give it a miss. In fact, our entire day was filled with free activities and it proved the cheapest way to get to Riga was via Stockholm.
If you play around with backpacking Europe routes, it is surprising how adding in a country can make travelling to your next destination cheaper. Instead of flying from Gdansk to Riga, we flew from Gdansk to Stockholm and then took the ferry overnight to Riga as it worked out cheaper. The ferry was also one of our absolute highlights from backpacking Europe. It involved a buffet with unlimited alcohol included, karaoke with middle aged Swedish women and an on board nightclub (All within budget of course!)
BACKPACKING EUROPE COST – RIGA
As the majority of our money had been spent on Jaeger onboard the ferry, we were relieved Riga was one of the cheapest countries to visit in Europe. Mārtiņa Beķereja is an absolute hidden gem if you’re trying to keep your backpacking Europe cost down. It is an amazing bakery with both sweet and savoury goods as well as coffee all for under £1. There are a few dispersed around the city, perfect for breakfast or grabbing a picnic on the go!
It’s only fair to mention here our bargain “hostel” which turned out to be the worst accommodation of our entire trip. Note to self, when you pay £6 a night for a private room you shouldn’t be shocked to find a drunk guy in your hallway and your “free” breakfast to be an apple and a cereal bar. Pay the extra fiver for a hostel with an actual bed instead of a plank of wood and don’t drink all the Jaeger onboard the ferry the night before. Recipe for slumber success.
BACKPACKING EUROPE COST – COLOGNE
Although we said the best time to travel Europe was later in the year, as it was now approaching December this does not apply to Germany. Cheap accommodation in Cologne was impossible to find due to the Christmas market opening the same week we arrived. Christmas markets were also the reason we had to avoid Croatia all together as it was simply too expensive to travel during the festive season.
Although the city looked beautiful, it was frustrating that we missed the market by a mere day or two. We still probably overpaid for the basic Ibis Budget that we did book at £50 a night despite being out of town. Like we mentioned earlier, learn from our mistakes.
BACKPACKING EUROPE COST – BUCHAREST
There is no denying we nearly spent double our budget in Bucharest, but it was for the most amazing reason ever. Therme Bucuresti. We have been to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, we’ve been to the thermal baths in Budapest but this was better and far, far cheaper than any other spa we’d ever been to. It included an indoor and outdoor pool, swim up bars with £2 pints of beer and £4 Prosecco cocktails. Not to mention themed steam rooms, a sauna that played David Attenborough documentaries and you could stay all day (we were there for 7 hours) all for a ticket price of £18 per person.
BACKPACKING EUROPE COST – ATHENS
The best time to travel Europe, in particular Greece is definitely in Winter. Temperatures were still warm (bear in mind we are Scottish) and the tourist ticket prices were halved. To visit Acropolis including the North and South Slopes normally cost €20 however in Winter (between 1 November to 31 March) it was only €10. Do not be tricked however, into buying the combo ticket for €30 as it is cheaper in Winter to buy the tickets for the Athens archaeological sites individually as they are so heavily discounted anyway. View our Athens photos from Acropolis and more in our Greece gallery.
BACKPACKING EUROPE COST – RHODES
We ended up in Rhodes due to a complete Ryanair error. This is a great of example of why sometimes, flying with a budget airline pays off. Our flight from Athens to Crete was cancelled so our flight was refunded. Afterwards, as a gesture of goodwill the airline offered us an €80 voucher which we used to rebook Athens to Rhodes and then Rhodes to Crete. Understandably this is a very rare occurrence, (Ryanair giving out free vouchers, not Ryanair making a mistake) however a sneaky tip when such mistakes happen is to definitely complain.
By complain I do not mean go straight for the, “can I speak with your manager” type approach, but instead using a tongue in cheek tweet often suffices. It worked for us in the Ryanair instance, hence the voucher on top of the original refund. It also worked when the Virgin website tricked us into thinking we were going First Class. We cheekily emailed Virgin with our disappointment that our flashpacker dreams of first class flights were shattered and they took the Scottish banter like a champ, offering us free travel points as a consolation prize.
Crazily we got 5 nights in Rhodes at a beautiful hotel for less than £100 for both of us! Again, reiterating if you want to keep your backpacking Europe costs down the best time to travel Europe is definitely in the Winter months!
BACKPACKING EUROPE COST – CRETE
We finish this post with the reason we set off in the first place – Crete. The reason we quit our jobs to travel the world, was to fulfil our dream of working on an Olive farm. Again, another experience ticked off the bucket list thanks to Workaway. This kept our accommodation costs at virtually zero, we were fed more olives than we ever could’ve imagined and met the kindest people. Living like locals allowed us to experience Crete in a far more memorable way than our experience of Crete previously did – and at a fraction of the price!
HOW MUCH DOES BACKPACKING EUROPE COST IN TOTAL?
Travel – Total £790.09
We pretty much covered all modes of transportation in Europe. We travelled by boat, plane, bus, car and train.
Our main mode of transport was bus. We used Flixbus for all of our bus journeys in Europe (except one in Poland). They had friendly customer service and extremely reasonable prices, considering most buses offer free WiFi ,comfortable reclining seats a good amount of leg room. Nearly all of our journeys were under £20 – some as low as £3! We definitely recommend downloading the app (alongside our best apps for backpackers) as it allows you to track your bus, store tickets and search for deals.
In order to keep your backpacking Europe costs low, definitely check out BusRadar which compares all modes of transport including car share – have a look here.
We always went for low cost airlines in Europe, usually RyanAir or WizzAir. We recommend using a flight comparison site such as SkyScanner to get an idea of flight prices and set up notifications for when deals come up for your destination. SkyScanner’s “Everywhere” option is a particular favourite, allowing you to see where is cheapest to fly to, from a particular airport, check it out here.
Another great tool is Google Flights, which allows you to select a destination on a map. On the map it also displays recent pricing information. When you select a date, Google Flights will also let you know if there is a cheaper date to go around the dates you are looking at. Have a look at Google Flights here.
Accommodation – Total £869.11
How to find cheap accommodation in Europe
Due to the amount of time we had in Europe, we had all of our accommodation booked in advance using Booking.com. We found Booking.com to not only have great offers but also found not paying until you arrived a huge advantage. This meant having the flexibility of being able to cancel the booking without getting charged if our plans changed. As we booked our accommodation in May, but didn’t arrive until November it also meant we had 5 months to save money, rather than wave it off in a lump sum. We also used HostelWorld for reviews from other backpackers, but found comparison tools such as Trivago or HotelsCombined the best resource for cheap accommodation.
How to find free accommodation in Europe
Let’s not forget the month we stayed in Switzerland in tree houses with a hot tub and the beautiful olive farm on the shores of Crete all completely free! This was due to Workaway. You can stay with local families in over 170 countries in exchange for a few hours volunteering. If you are backpacking Europe, costs can be kept so low whilst staying in amazing places such as vineyards in France, surf schools in Portugal or ski chalets in the Alps! Read all our top tips & advice in our honest Workaway review.
Food, Drink & Activities – Total £2,858.48
Champagne lifestyles, Cava budgets. Pretty much our mantra. If, like us, you love food (and wine) then we don’t blame you for wanting to cry when you are trying to budget for backpacking Europe. Although we don’t recommend the #YOLO mindset all the time, because it is essential to leave a small sum of money for emergencies like medicine or transport if you get stuck.
However, when it came to a choice of splurge or save we simply asked “will we get the opportunity to do this again?” if the answer is no, then splurge. If you’ll get the opportunity again, save.
Overall – Budget vs Actual
We owe you a pint for making it this far – hopefully our money saving tips and advice have been useful. There are so many more cities in Europe we are yet to explore and add to this list and so many ways you can save (or spend) depending on your itinerary and budget. You will always find someone who says their flight was cheaper, their hotel room bigger or they spent less money. This is a guide, not gospel but hopefully it’s inspired you that backpacking Europe costs less than you maybe thought!
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