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One of the great rites of passage is the summer backpacking trip through Europe. For young people, especially college-aged Americans, the summer trip is one of the most memorable experiences people have in their life. From beautiful Paris, to smoke filled coffee shops in Amsterdam, to Oktoberfest, to the beaches of Greece, there’s so much to see on the continent I couldn’t name it all even if I tried. But even if you aren’t about to backpack around Europe, the continent holds wonderful beaches, historical architecture, amazing wine, and wonderful people. Every country is incredibly different than the next. I’ve visited the continent every summer and always find something new that blows my mind. This extensive travel guide will give you all the tips and advice to help you backpack Europe on a budget.

Typical Costs

Note: The individual country guides have more specific information but below are some general costs.Accommodation – If your looking to find a budget friendly place to stay in Europe, you’re in luck! Accommodation pricing varies, and with my help, you can find the perfect place to stay, for the right price. Hostel dormitory rooms cost between 18-40 EUR per night, depending on the room’s size and the popularity of the hostel. I stayed in a 6-bed dorm in Berlin for 15 EUR, while the same one would have cost me around 32 EUR in Paris.

A room in Paris will cost on the higher end and a room in cheaper Athens will cost on the lower end. Campsites cost between 9-15 EUR per night per person for a tented space. In Eastern Europe, hostel dorm rooms cost between 6-15 EUR per night depending on the size of the dorm room and popularity of the hostel. The further east you go, the cheaper it gets. Expect to pay around 27-55 EUR per night for a private room that sleeps two. Most hostels offer free linens, free WiFi, and a lot offer free breakfast but it’s important to check specific websites for exact amenities. Rooms that sleep two start at 27 EUR per night in a 2-star hotel. These hotels come with amenities like breakfast, private bathrooms, and WiFi. Airbnb is also available throughout Europe. You can find shared rooms starting around 10 EUR per night and entire homes (including studio apartments) starting around 24 EUR.

Food – Finding places to eat within your budget is easier than you think. Throughout Western Europe, you can find small shops where you can get sandwiches, slices of pizza, or sausages for between 4-7 EUR. You find these shops are most often found in train stations, bus stations, and main pedestrian areas. These small sandwich shops offer cheap food alternatives that can have you eating on between 9-15 EUR per day. Restaurant meals cost around 13-25 EUR for a main dish and drink.

Food is much cheaper in the east than in the west. Even if you are eating out for all your meals, you still get by on as little as 9 EUR per day. You can cook your own food for around 65 EUR per week. Save money by shopping for food at discount supermarkets like Prof i, Lidl, Aldi, and Penny Market. See country information for more specific food costs.

Transportation – A key part of backpacking Europe is choosing how you’re going to travel to your next destination. Transportation around most European cities by local tram, subway, or bus is typically under 2 EUR for a one-way ticket. Intercity train prices vary wildly from country to country and depending on whether you take the slow train or a high-speed train.

A high-speed train from Berlin to Munich costs around 190 EUR, Bordeaux to Paris is about 95 EUR, and Madrid to Barcelona is about 150 EUR. Non-high speed trains and other intercity lines are a lot cheaper, generally costing about 40-50% the price of high-speed trains. Eastern Europe inter-country trains usually cost between 45-100 EUR when the ticket is booked last minute. Short trains rides of 2-3 hours within countries cost about 27 EUR. Buses are cheaper than trains.

The main bus service is called Eurolines and it reaches throughout the continent. Every country has its own national bus service but for international long distances, Eurolines is a great option. In the east, the major international bus company is also Ecolines, which primarily serves central Europe, the Baltics, and other Eastern European countries except for the Balkans. Flixbus is another budget-friendly option. They have routes in 20 different countries with prices starting at 5 EUR. They come with (semi-reliable) wif-fi, electrical outlets, and decent enough sites for overnight and long haul bus journeys. They are one of the best and newest ways to get around the continent. Additionally, hitchhiking is also a popular method of travel in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. Uber, the alternative taxi service, is available in most countries in Europe.

Activities – Wine tours will be your priciest activity at around 90 EUR per day. Going up the Eiffel Tower will cost between 7-17 EUR and visiting the Versailles Palace and Gardens will cost 25 EUR. The Tower of London is about 25 GBP.Bike tours and river cruises can cost 24-40 EUR. Most museums and tours start at around 14 EUR (it’s cheaper of course in the east). Full day tours cost between 35-100 EUR. Prices vary drastically per country so it’s hard to give a good general cost. See country information for more details.

Suggested daily budget

40-70 EUR / $42-75 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)

Tips To Save You Money While Backpacking Europe

Individual country guides have more specific information but here are some general tips help you backpack Europe on a budget:

  1. Picnic – This continent has a lot of little tiny shops where you can be pre-made sandwiches or ingredients to make your own. Buy some food, eat outside, and watch the city go by. It’s a much more enjoyable and cheaper way to eat.

  2. Couchsurf – Hostels can add up really quick. If you don’t have any friends with whom you can stay, consider using the service Couchsurfing, which lets you connect with locals who will let you stay with them for free.

  3. Eat local and cheap – Not into picnicking? That’s ok, there are other ways to save money on food. Eat at local sandwich shops, pizza parlors, Maoz, Wok to Walks, outdoor street vendors, and the like. Avoiding restaurants and eating at a lot of the local “grab n’ go” places will give you a taste of the local cuisine at a much cheaper price.

  4. Camp in a garden – A very good camping service specific is Camp in My Garden, which allows you to pitch a tent in someone’s backyard for free or a nominal fee (around 4-10 EUR). This is a new service that started in 2010 but more and more people are signing up for it each day. All of the garden owners have profiles that tell you what services and facilities they offer.

  5. Take the bus – Budget bus companies like Flixbus can take you across the continent for cheap. It isn’t glamorous, but for tickets starting at 5 EUR you really can’t complain!

  6. Get a Rail Pass – Eurail Passes have saved me hundreds of dollars when I traveled around. If you are traveling far distances and through many countries, they are a great deal.

  7. Take the free city tours – One of the great things about Europe is that you can find free walking tours in all the major cities. They can be a great way to see the city attractions, take in some history, and learn your bearings without spending any money.

  8. Plan accordingly – Transportation can eat into your budget. Traveling costs money. A good way to save money is to avoid moving in weird directions. Move in a straight line, and avoid doubling back and avoid paying too much for transportation.

  9. Fly cheap – If you know where you are going and a train won’t do, try to book flights early. You can often get round trip fares as little as 5 EUR from many of the discount airlines like Transavia, Easyjet, Wizz, and Ryanair. Watch out for fees, though! These airlines nickel and dime you.

  10. Drink less – Those 5 EUR beers really add up. Hit happy hour or pick and choose when you party. Hostel bars are a good place to get cheap drinks or buy your alcohol at the supermarket. Partying your way across the continent will destroy your bank balance in no time.

  11. Get a city tourist card – Local tourism offices issue a tourist card for all their attractions, tours, and restaurants. This card gives you free entry and substantial discounts on all the attractions and tours in a city, free local public transportation (a huge plus), and discounts at a few restaurants and shopping malls. They save a ton of money. In Oslo Norway, the VisitOslo card saved me 27 EUR and I got free public transportation. By buying the Paris museum pass, I saved 78 EUR off the normal price of the museums, and I saved over 65 GBP with the London card. If you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing, get this card.

  12. Shop at discount grocers – Save money by shopping for food at discount supermarkets like Profi, Lidl, Aldi, and Penny Market.

  13. Have an ISIC Card – To save 20-50% on the cost of admission to museums and other tourist attractions, be sure to present a valid student card. The ISIC is typically accepted in places where a foreign student ID is not.

  14. Rideshare – If you’re flexible in your schedule, use the ridesharing service BlaBlaCar and catch rides with locals between cities (or countries). I used this service in Switzerland and, not only did I save a lot of money, but I got to meet interesting people to and learn about local culture and life. Drivers are verified and it’s perfectly safe (though sometimes rides don’t show up, which is why you need to be flexible

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