The secret is revealed
Do me a favor. Go into your wardrobe, ask yourself, “What will I be wearing during my backpacking trip?” If you answered with 10 different tshirts and pants in mind, then the cost of your backpacking trip is going to vary a lot to the person who just answered with not 10, but rather 2 or 3.
What does this mean then? This example simply shows that the cost of backpacking through Europe actually depends on your travel style. Are you a thrifty traveler who likes to take advantage of those free museum passes? Or would you prefer to set up nicely at a restaurant with a glass of that delicate Chardonnay? I admit, it is tempting to travel in style. But you need to ask yourself how you would like to experience Europe. Budget traveler or luxurious?
Trust me, it’s a viable question. Would you rather have tired feet from scouting out the city all day on foot? Or would you rather spend a little more in avoiding just that by taking public transportation? These types of questions are key in order to make an educated guess on what exactly backpacking through Europe is going to cost you.
There are many factors that play into knowing the cost of backpacking through Europe.
Time is of the essence when it comes to backpacking through Europe. The length and duration of your trip will be a number one factor in determining the entire cost of your backpacking escapade. 10 days? Mmm, maybe not enough time. 2 weeks? Ehh, not quite enough per say. 3 weeks?? Now we’re talking. One month? Sounds great! You will have enough time to visit plenty of countries while spending just enough time to see what the city/country is all about. (I recommend one month because that’s what we did and it was great – both for the budget and for exploring!) Time also means deciding on what you want to focus your time doing. If you really want to see Anne Frank’s house then you will have to dedicate a few hours time to wait in line (depends). Otherwise, if it’s not essential to your trip, then spend those hours doing a tour, or taking a bike around the city, or anything that you want.
Where you want to visit will also make dents in your budget. Some capitals are more expensive for getting around, some are more convenient for food and lodging options, etc. Just like with anywhere in the world, you need to do a little research before just showing up. Trust me, it’s good to know whether Italy (for example) offers hostels less than 18 euros / night that aren’t miles and miles away from the city center. You don’t have to research and do a term paper on it, but just to have a general idea of how much food, lodging, and activities costs in each country is a good start. Speaking of activities…and food and lodging..
What you do and where you do it at will also determine the cost of backpacking through Europe. For example, city / attraction tours cost money. But it’s also a convenient way to learn about the city / attraction fast, meaning you will save time for other things you want to do. As they say, time is money. So what are your favorite things to do? Adventure activities, adrenaline stuff, museums, parks, nature, clubs, restaurants, spas, the list goes on. Do a little planning for each city / country and depending on your time and budget, choose your top 5 things you absolutely want to see or do. Because no, it is not possible to see and do everything. So make it easy on yourself by deciding and planning a little in advance.
Food is going to be one of the most expensive aspects of your backpacking trip through Europe. Europe has amazing, delicious, cultural, wonderful, foods that make your tastebuds sing. But…this satisfaction comes at a price. Well, most of the time. Food does not have to be expensive. And no you do not have to eat at restaurants 3 times a day to get the “cultural food experience” from a country / city. Instead of splurging on restaurants recommended in your guidebook (if you have one) go stroll through the streets and eat at restaurants that don’t have pictures on the menu or have “tourist” written all over it. Go ask at the local bakery about some of the delicacies / traditional foods of the place and take their advice! You’ll be surprised at what you can learn and find out just by talking to the locals.
Tip: To save extra money on food while backpacking, opt to go buy lunch at the grocery store or on the markets and make a picnic. We would often buy a loaf of bread and make different sandwiches (tuna, ham & cheese, hummus and carrots, etc.) and we would also buy fruit like apples and bananas – cheap, but healthy and very affordable food alternatives to eating fast food or in restaurants. For 3 people we would be full and ready to go, all for less than 10 bucks total.
Lodging is also an everyday necessity, like food. So you will have to budget your money here, especially for high-tourist places like Rome or Paris. Also, from personal experience, don’t ever “shrug off” lodging and leave it to the last minute. Our backpacking trip around Europe definitely left us with moments of “I don’t know where I’m sleeping tonight” and though yes, it was a part of the thrill, I would rather not have to worry about where I could lay my head (safely) for the night. For those who can afford it, there are some quaint, nice hostels for 20 (+/-) euros. For those who, like us, needed a serious way to budget sleep, then you can find hostels for around 10 euros. Or, also like us, do some Couchsurfing. It’s one of the best ways to learn about the place you’re at, to see the city, to taste traditional food in hidden restaurants, and most of all – to be socialable and share experiences with diverse people. We opted for this option when and where we could because Couchsurfing really does enhance your backpacking trip. I’ll never forget our crazy, wonderful hosts in Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Innsbruck, and Athens (plus family in England)! Couchsurfing basically lets you ask locals if you can sleep a night, or 2 or 3, at their place for free, but we always liked to give a little in return to thank them for spending time with us and for making our trip memorable! We would often offer to make them dinner, offer them souvenirs or gifts or pay for groceries, etc. It’s a super great way to travel and meet new people!
And finally, your budget
Yes this one seems obvious. But it definitely is not. Having a budget will help you in so many ways. There is no right or wrong here. Whether you want to budget 100 euros per day or per week, the choice is totally up to
you your budget. I say this because if it was up to, say, me, then my budget would be a lot higher. But my real budget says “Nuh-uh, Brittany, no, you do not want need that adorable green leather backpack for 50 euros you found on the market in Athens, Greece”. While my heart said yes, my budget said no. Evil little guy that budget…
Tip: We created an Excel sheet and set it up to where, at the end of each day we would enter our daily spending among the three of us, which would then shoot out a number signifying how much (on average) we could spend for the rest of the trip and per day. We would often be under our daily spending (around 15-20 euros per day/person) which would make our future daily allowance increase, allowing us to spend more per day. Hence why, at the end of our trip we had saved enough money to make an impromptu ferry ride to Santorini, Greece where we stayed a couple nights before going back to Athens, marking the end of our one month tour around Europe. Ask me how we did it!
Final thoughts: The cost of backpacking through Europe
Thus far we have considered the factors that determine the cost of backpacking through Europe. Remember that while planning your trip, the cost of backpacking through Europe depends upon you and your budget! Consider all that’s mentioned above to begin. If you’re really unsure of what you will be doing or where you want to go, feel free to send questions my way or check out my upcoming article about planning a trip through Europe, coming soon! Thanks for reading!!