Backpacking across Europe sounds like a fun trip for your next vacation, but how much will backpacking in Europe cost?
There is a lot to consider – from travel costs to accommodation, food and so much more. A backpacking trip in Europe isn’t an easy feat!
While the total cost of the trip depends, as a backpacker you can expect to spend about $40-$200 per day, depending on which part of Europe you’re in – Eastern or Western Europe, or the Nordic countries – assuming you’re not holding back on entertainment and spending.
Of course, the total amount you’d spend will depend greatly on the kind of life you live while traveling. Where are you staying? What kind of food are you eating? These things factor into the total cost.
We spoke to backpackers who had experience with backpacking in Europe and asked them for their opinions and experiences to form our opinion.
How to Budget For Your Trip
Before you really go into the details, you obviously want a solid number in your head. Naturally, budgeting is part of any expenditure – whether that is about going around Europe or just going to the store to get groceries. When backpacking, you have to decide on what is an appropriate budget for you.
It would be different for everyone, given their capacity to spend, but for most backpackers, the average amount remains at a total of 50 euros per day, which converts into approximately the same amount of dollars.
Of course, this also depends on the country. Some European countries are much less expensive than others, so it is easy to remain within this budget, while others can cost a bit more. At the end of it, you can expect the ups and downs to even out to about $50 per day.
Again, this will also depend on your own capacity. If you want to be more frugal, you can try to reduce this cost, though it would be a bit difficult. On the other hand, you don’t have to stick to that limit. If you have the means to spend more than $50 per day, and are willing to do so, there is nothing stopping you from going up to $70 or $80, or even more than that!
With a greater daily budget, you can definitely expect to afford more luxuries though.
You can also adjust your daily budget depending on which part of Europe you’re in. In the less expensive countries, you can choose to spend less and put that money towards the budget for more expensive countries.
You might wonder – well, why do I need to do that? Isn’t it a natural process? You’re not wrong: we do tend to just spend what seems right and decide to cut back or splurge when it feels right. However, there is a difference between doing so at the corner store and planning for a trip to Europe. You need a solid number in mind so that you can prepare your expenses accordingly. After all, you don’t want to end up stranded in the middle of your trip with no money on hand, do you?
It’s also important to remember that this daily budget doesn’t include the extra expenses like the flights to and from Europe, your insurance, trip gear, etc. These prices are also heavily dependent on the season. You can expect them to fluctuate depending on whether or not tourists visit more often at the time of year or not.
These prices are also at the bottom of the scale. Naturally, you won’t get a 5-star hotel bedroom for $50 per day, but you can get a shared hostel with other backpackers! Whether or not you’re comfortable with this will again, affect your daily budget. If you decide you want to stay at the Ritz in Copenhagen then you can expect your daily expenses to shoot up.
That said, if you decide your accommodation doesn’t necessarily have to be too fancy, you can easily afford it at $20 per day, and put the rest away for food, transport, and entertainment.
Now that we’ve considered the budgeting aspect, let’s look at how much you can expect backpacking in Europe to cost.
Backpacking in Europe
Like any trip, you’d have to divide the costs into different parts. Pre-trip expenses such as airfare and insurance, transportation costs for when you’re actually in Europe, accommodation costs, food and drink costs, and the cost of activities. Let’s look at each one by one.
Before you actually reach Europe, you’re going to have to take care of a few things.
Passports are a given since you can’t actually get to Europe without them, so you’ll have to factor in the cost of those – and they’re not cheap! In fact, getting a new or renewed passport can easily go up to $100 or more.
You should also make sure to get this done a good while before you go on your trip since passports can take a few months to actually get to you. If you’re in a hurry, you’d have to pay extra to get it at an earlier date, which will just rack up your total costs.
It’s also a good idea to get insurance before you travel because you never know what could happen on your trip. It’s always best to be prepared.
Your airfare costs are also an important part of your pre-trip financial planning. In fact, this is probably the most significant cost you’ll incur before you actually get to Europe. While flights are becoming less expensive, you often have to adjust your trip planning to get some good flight deals.
Still, there are plenty of low-cost carriers that operate nowadays at very affordable prices. In fact, with some airlines, you can get roundtrip flights for $150. Of course, you also have to consider the cost of going to different destinations. If you’re planning on backpacking across Europe, you’d be going from one country to the other.
One way to do this is to simply get the cheapest one-way flight to your destination and plan the rest of your trip from there. This would definitely need some flexibility around your schedule and budget, though, since you never know what will happen in the future.
Backpack & Accessories
This should be obvious, but to make the most of your backpacking trip, you also need a good backpack. If you think you can fit all your things into an average backpack, you’d be wrong!
Your backpack should last you your whole trip without any wear and tear and should be able to hold all your things. A good travel backpack can cost up to $200, but there are some cheaper alternatives available that don’t compromise too much on quality.
And of course, you have to account for the cost of what goes in the backpack (and what will be on your person, really). Your travel accessories should include things from comfortable shoes to clothes to makeup and toiletries.
These don’t necessarily have to be included in the total costs, since you may very well be using things you already own, but if you make any purchases specifically for your trip, these will be included in your costs.
Now that you’ve accounted for all the expenses that come before your trip and have reached Europe, it’s time to face the most significant cost you’ll face at your destination: transport!
If you’re not careful, these costs can really rack up and get you a huge bill at the end of your trip, but if you’re smart about it, you can minimize these costs to a great extent.
Trains are the most convenient and cheapest way to travel around Europe. You can pay for a Global Eurail pass, which can let you minimize your daily costs on transport. Eurail passes through about 33 European countries, so you can easily see a great deal of Europe with that one pass.
The pass itself isn’t exactly cheap, though the time you want it for determines its price. A three-month pass can easily cost you about $1,000. However, if you factor in all the travel expenses you’d be incurring without that pass, it can be a good deal.
Another mode of transport around Europe is to go by bus – even if you’re traveling between countries. Some countries can cost as little as $8 per ticket, but plenty of others can get pretty expensive as the distance you travel gets longer. It’s not a bad option if you’re only traveling very little, but of course, as backpackers, that likelihood is very low.
Still, factoring in the fact that Eurail pass costs are based on time, if you can’t find one that matches your trip duration, you can always opt for buses.
Air carriers from the US to Europe would undoubtedly be very expensive, but there are plenty of low-cost air carriers that operate within Europe and can take you from one country to another (or even one city to another!) for a low cost. Some flights can cost as little as $12 but the caveat is that you would have to pay extra for baggage. If you’re backpacking, you won’t have too much of this with you, but even a carry-on bag can be charged for and can get costly.
Rental cars can be expensive no matter where you go, but if you’re traveling in a group, you can split the costs and rent a car to drive instead! There are plenty of places where you can get the car for as little as $30 per day, but you can probably find plenty more that cost even less.
Which Transport Option Should You Go For?
Transport will be your largest expense if you plan to move around a lot, so the total cost it takes will depend on how slow you travel and where you are. Some countries – and even some cities! – are more expensive than others, so traveling a lot here would cost less than traveling the same amount elsewhere.
You also have to factor in your own comfort. Do you want to pay for longer travel time with little comfort for a lower price or faster travel with more comfort for a higher price? The choice is yours! But if you want to minimize your costs, you’ll have to compromise on a bunch of things.
No matter where you go, you need a place to stay at the end of the day. A place to lie down and get some shut-eye before you head out for the next day’s adventure. Accommodation is the biggest cost you’d have on any trip, right after transport. In some places, it may even cost more!
With hostels, you can really cut down the cost of accommodation. If all you have is a backpack, you don’t really need a lot more than that – just a bed to sleep in. In most places, you can get hostel beds for a very low price, but in some others, hostel beds can be costly! This depends on the location of the hostel, of course, and the quality of service. For the most part, hostels come cheap and can really minimize your accommodation costs.
The other, more expensive – or rather, most expensive – option is hotels. Obviously, hotel rooms don’t come cheap, especially as you up the quality, but in some countries you can find rooms for very little, depending on the hotel, the season, and how many people are sharing the room with you.
Another option and this is one most people aren’t very comfortable with, is to couchsurf. This means that you go through someone who connects you with a local, and you get to sleep on their couch the entire time you’re there, in return for a little cultural exchange. Obviously, you have to be very careful with this one, since there is always the risk of someone dangerous posting a listing to attract victims – especially if you’re female.
Food & Drink Costs
One of the most manageable expenses on any trip is food and drink. Depending on what you eat, where you buy from, and whether you’re cooking or not – all of these can affect your total costs. For example, having too many drinks at a bar can push your bill up, as can eating at luxurious restaurants.
Most often, street food costs very little, and you can get an authentic taste of the culture as well. Food is an important facet of every culture, so you shouldn’t be too stingy about your meal costs, too.
Again, your food costs will depend on the country. In almost every country, though, you can find some cheaper options like takeout, so if you want to minimize food costs, for the most part, you can just opt for this.
You can also cut costs even more by cooking your own food. Making your own meals costs very little – as little as $10 per day! – so you can make your total expenses lower.
That said, you’d need a place to cook it! If you don’t have a kitchen in your accommodation, you’ll probably have to settle for a slightly costly option. But there are plenty of people who choose to pay slightly more for accommodation because it comes with a kitchen, since they know that food costs will be lower.
Drinks will also push up your costs – especially alcohol! Your daily bottle of water will probably not be very much, but if you decide to head over to a bar, you can break your budget. It’s a much better idea to get yourself some drinks from the store and stay in.
So, you’re in Europe, you’ve slept well at whatever place you booked for the trip (or the night) and have food in your stomach – now what? No trip is complete without some activities!
When we say ‘activities’ most people will think of things like amusement parks and museums and landmarks – all of which are great! But some of them can get really expensive, especially for a backpacker! Not to mention you always want to get some shopping done, which will definitely push up your costs.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t push down your costs and still have fun! Most activities do cost money, but there are many that you can do without having to spend too much.
Walking tours, for example, are free and happen in most European cities on a daily basis. These are great, not just because of the fact that they’re free (and we love free things!) but also because they’re an excellent way to get to know the city you’re in.
Again, these tours are usually free, but it’s standard etiquette to tip a guide at the end of it for their service, but this quantity is very little and won’t cut through your wallet too much.
Not to mention you also get the exercise.
While museums are usually expensive, some will have free or reduced costs of entry on certain days and times. It’s always a good idea to look into these before you go anywhere to make sure you can take advantage of these times.
There are also plenty of outdoor activities that don’t cost you anything – or much, anyway. From parks to mountains to hiking, there are plenty of ways to enjoy your time in a foreign country without spending an arm and a leg. After all, nobody’s going to charge you for looking at some mountains, are they? Nature is free!
Adventure activities are a must for any trip to a foreign country. These do cost a whole lot, and if you’re not careful, can easily eat up your budget, but they are definitely super fun!
If you have any adventurous activities you want to do, you should look them up beforehand so you can budget for those specifically. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of your trip without money, but you also don’t want any regrets.
You can also look for cheaper rental options that let you have all the fun for a lower cost, but this may take a lot of deep digging.
And of course – shopping. No trip is complete if you’re not getting yourself some souvenirs to remember the place you visited. With backpacking, you’re a lot less likely to splurge on luxury shopping since you only have a backpack to hold your things in, but a lot of places now offer the option to ship your items to your home back in your country, so this problem is easily avoided.
That said, you’ll definitely be spending money on a souvenir or two, and maybe even some necessities – like a toothbrush in case you lost it, or some clothes in case yours got ruined, or if you didn’t have the right clothing for the weather. These are all very probable scenarios, so if you’re heading out on a trip, don’t forget to take these into account when budgeting.
You can reduce your costs by just not shopping at all, but really, where’s the fun in that?
Saving Money on Your Backpacking Trip
Now that you know how much your trip can cost (hint: it’s a lot) you should consider how you can save money.
A very simple tip is to move with a purpose. Stay longer in the places you go so you can cut down on how much you spend on transport, and always make sure to look for cheaper ways to travel, rather than just going for whatever you first find. Within a city, just walking and exploring can do wonders. Your day gets filled just moving from here to there, and you get to see the city.
Your food costs can also be greatly reduced if you’re careful with them. Pre-packed sandwiches and salads can help you get through the day with a decent meal and they don’t cost too much. If your accommodation has a kitchen, cooking is your best bet.
So, when backpacking in Europe, here’s what you have to remember:
Nordic Countries are crazy expensive, and even a short time here can eat up your budget fast. Western Europe is expensive, while Eastern Europe is cheap. There are some countries that lie in the middle of these ranges, though.
For the most part, the cost of a Europe backpacking trip depends on what part of Europe you go to. By budgeting for these beforehand, and keeping some room for any extra expenses, you can get through it easily.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks