How much money do you need to backpack Europe?

Note: this is my personal budget, with my real numbers. I am paying for this trip on my own and I did not get any discount of any type for none of the services I contracted. Prices will of course vary depending on the dates you travel and the departing/arriving cities. The purpose is to give you an idea of the expenses you will encounter, but it will be modified depending on your personal choices. 

Ooh the mullah.. The first thing I will like to say to clear up the path is: You do not need to be rich to travel. There are too many ideas and stories and experiences on the internet that show you that this is a huge Myth. 

Things to consider when setting a travel budget:

*Length of trip

*Nature of trip

*Personal preferences

*Traveler flexibility

You do need of course to save money, some people decide to travel with almost nothing and just do it the simplest way they can: exchanging work hours for accommodation, staying with a host through Couchsurfing, exchange programs, house sitting, etc. If you look online you will find unlimited ideas. However, some decide so save up as much as possible to enjoy having a financial security, even just a little, to travel more comfortably.

While some think of it as a vacation, a traveler sees it as a life experience, as a way of life. And for the travelers, the longer the trip…the better.

For those with a travel heart here are some ideas for you to put together a budget.There are many things to consider and I don’t believe there is a set amount of money that you need. You do what you can with what you have.

For my 4 months trip around Europe I saved up a little over $10k. 

I plan to cook most of my meals, I also plan to eat street food, try all the local food I can. I plan to visit museums and historical places I am interested on. I plan to stay at Hostels and Airbnb places. I plan to travel by train between cities, although sometimes it is cheaper to take a flight, I enjoy the easiness and view of a train ride.

There are many ways of saving during a trip, but also depends on what you are looking to experience. For example, I will pay the ticket entrance to The Coliseum in Rome, I could save that ticket money but why would I go to Rome and don’t see the inside of the Coliseum?

There are some things that are sort of mandatory, if you are not interested don’t do it and save that money to extend your trip a bit longer.

Major Expenses: Transportation and Lodging

These are the two major parts of a trip. How are you going to get there? and where are you going to sleep? Food is also a huge part of your expenses but it is easier to save in this by buying groceries at a local market as much as possible. Who is really there for the experience and moment will take food as part of it. The tourist will go to MC Donald’s, the traveler will buy food at a local market. That is the difference in the experience. Either way is awesome, you do what feels better for you.

Ways of saving on transportation:

  • Credit Card with travel rewards
  • Miles
  • Budget Airlines
  • Consider buying one way or arrival/ departure from different airports or one way tickets
  • Consider other ways of transportation (train – buses)

Ways of saving on lodging:

  • Friends and family discounts
  • Couchsurfing
  • Airbnb
  • Hostels

All that being said… Here is my planned budget:

Transportation

You can get a one way ticket from the US to Europe for less than 300. No, I am not lying. Visit momondo.

Remember this is one way, I did it this way to have the freedom of choosing when to return, in the long run I will save more money since I am not committed to a certain return date and I won’t have to change the flight in case I decide to return earlier/later. This way I can decide down the road.

  • Flights (One way) NYC – LON $ 307

Train rides can add up very easily and it can get expensive, I did not get a train pass because for my trip that is not convenient. I am over 25 (if you are less than 25 y.o. you get a cheaper pass and it worth it), and since I want to travel slowly and visit as many or few places I want I will spend less if I buy single train tickets. Please check all the information and routes, some train rides YOU MUST book in advance. The greatest train information you find at seat61  (seriously, God Bless them!). Check this and other websites to roughly set a in-land transportation by having an idea of train rides fares. Sometimes booking in advance will save you a lot of money, sometimes this is not possible if you don’t have a set itinerary. In that case keep and open mind and try alternatives routes.

  • Train London – Paris $ 70 (Eurostar high speed train)
  • Paris to Zurich $ 30 (TGV-Lyra)

The Bernina Express : This is one of the few luxuries of my trip, this train ride goes through the Swiss Alps into Italy and I cannot think of a better way of entering my family’s country.

  • Bernina Express (Zurich – Chur – Tirano) $ 100

Accommodations

Hostels, I believe are one of the greatest ways to meet new people, to be safe by staying with fellow travelers and to save some money. While big cities like London or Paris are very expensive and hostels will charge more than what we expect to pay for a shared room, it still a good deal, specially if it does include breakfast. Check Hostelworld.

  • Hostel London  $ 40 a night (female 6 beds room)

I am also using Airbnb when the prices of hostels are higher than what I expect to pay for a shared room and when I want to stay at a place longer.

Airbnb prices vary, it can get very expensive and sometimes cost even more than hostels or hotels, but it is very useful in some occasions. For Rome I am using it since I will stay longer there and I would save money by cooking my own meals at home. Don’t forget that Airbnb gives you  the amazing benefit of living like a local at a local’s home. Be sure to check references before booking, pay close attention to the responses of the host to bad reviews if any.

  • Airbnb Paris $50 a night
  • Airbnb Rome $450 the week

Attractions

  • You also need a part of your budget dedicated to museums tickets, miscellaneous, toiletries, and of course… Check on the museums websites for discounted rates, or  free entrance days (for example you can visit the Vatican Museums for free the last Sunday of every month, free entrance from 9 am to 12.30 pm).

FOOD

Now is very easy to save in food, and is very easy to spend all your money eating out as well. Be smart about it and do not eat the super touristic place next to the biggest touristic attractions. I budgeted 20 to 40 dollars a day in food, in places where I can cook my own meals I will spend much less, in some other cities like Paris I will be maybe a bit over my budget. It depends on the city.

  • Plan your day around meals. You need to eat… and if you get hungry in the middle of the day you will end up spending a lot of money at the first touristic restaurant you find. Eat where the locals eat, find local restaurants. Food is a huge part of the experience, keep and open mind and be safe. Don’t go crazy  and try some super exotic food on your first day if you have a sensitive stomach, give your body time to get used to the new environment. Remember to take medicine for upset stomach (I talk about the medicine I’m packing in this post).
  • Bring a bottle of water with filter included. You can get easily sick by water, is important to stay safe. However in Europe there is no such risk. The public water fountains are very safe to drink from, however bringing a bottle with filter doesn’t hurt. Buying bottles of water every day can add up to your budget quickly.

An Overview

After Rome I will be backpacking and train-riding throughout Eastern Europe, which is less expensive than Western Europe. I budgeted an average of 20/40 dollars a day in food (depending on the city and depending if I can cook my own meals). I expect to spend an average of 30 dollars for lodging a night (many nights I will save this by taking overnight trains) and 30 dollars a week for miscellaneous.

Other expenses to keep in mind:

  • Always keep an emergency found of not less than what your flight back home should be. That should be your minimum. Any emergency, you just need to take that flight back home.
  • Travel Insurance expense: A NECESSARY EXPENSE. Do not take risks when it comes to your health and safety. It is not expensive and very important. That is my advice, then is up to you. I heard great reviews about World Nomads. I got their insurance.
  • Expenses back at home: Make sure you have your payments set for student loans, credit cards, bills, etc. If you can cut the services you won’t be using, then fantastic! (you don’t really need to keep you phone if you will be out for more than a month, it just doesn’t worth it). Make sure to have this settle before leaving and enough money on the bank to cover these expenses to avoid overdraft charges. Reduce the surprise factor to minimum.

Stay tuned for my Real Budget. I will keep you all updated on my expenses.

Safe and Happy Travels everyone!

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