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How Much Does It Cost To Travel Europe For 5 Months? My 2016 Figures

How much does it really cost to travel Europe?

This year I went to find out.

After a short jaunt with my family, I took off to backpack the continent solo for five months.

11 countries, 23 cities, 40 beds and 10,101km later, it’s finally over.

Truthfully, I was a little nervous doing my numbers. I’m a budget traveller at heart, so was just being my thrifty, miserly self for the most part, but there were times when frequent visits to the ATM starting getting me a little anxious.

Thankfully, it wasn’t so bad. After doing my accounts things turned out more or less how I expected.

Here are the numbers:


Accommodation €1,659
Transport €873
Other stuff (booze, food, getting around, all that shiz) €3,896
Travel Insurance €165
Total (156 days)
€6,593

Just over €42 per day.

Below I’ll be breaking this spending down as much as possible, so you can see where money goes on the road. This isn’t intended to be a guide on how you should or shouldn’t travel, or how much you should or should not spend. It’s only intended as a closer look into the budget travel lifestyle, and hopefully will help you plan and budget your own trips in the future.

Let’s see how it all broke down.


Accommodation

A photo posted by Bren (@brenontheroad) on


Beds in Europe aren’t always cheap – in northern Europe the cheapest hostel bed will run you at least €30 during summer. That’s already most of your daily budget gone, so I had to be smarter about my accommodation.

I Couchsurfed a lot this year, which is quite an involved process and can be exhausting and time-consuming, but it’s definitely worth it for the money you save and the people you meet.

I also stayed with friends whenever I could. This is less taxing than Couchsurfing, because obviously you know the person already. You can just send a casual text and ask, rather than writing up a whole blurb about yourself and sending it to a ton of Couchsurfing hosts. And if any of you are thinking “Well I don’t have any friends in Europe”, 90% of the friends I stayed with were people I met during the trip! So make sure you stay in touch with people – your travel buddy network will come in handy.

In total I stayed with friends or Couchsurfed for 51 nights – at a guess that saved me at least €1,000 to €1,500.

The rest of the nights were stayed in hostels, which are all listed below, or Airbnb when it was affordable enough.

Haven’t tried Airbnb? It’s great. You can get $25 credit free when you sign up here.

Here’s how the accommodation costs broke down:


Málaga, Spain
Casa Babylon (6 nights) €81
Kraków, Poland
Couchsurfed (8 nights) Free
Airbnb (28 nights) €495
Warsaw, Poland
Couchsurfed (2 nights) Free
Lwowska 11 Hostel (3 nights) €33
Białystok, Poland
Couchsurfed (3 nights) Free
Kaunas, Lithuania
Airbnb (3 nights) €93
Riga, Latvia
Seagull’s Garrett Hostel (1 night) €9
Pärnu, Estonia
Festival camping (1 night) Free
Strangers In The Night (4 nights) €88
Tallinn, Estonia
Stayed with a friend (3 nights) Free
Helsinki, Finland
Stayed with a friend (3 nights) Free
Tammisaari, Finland
Stayed with a friend (2 nights) Free
Turku, Finland
Couchsurfed (9 nights) Free
Rented a friend’s room (21 nights) €252
Rovaniemi, Finland
Couchsurfed (3 nights) Free
Ivalo, Finland
Couchsurfed (1 night) Free
Neiden, Norway
Couchsurfed (1 night) Free
Honnigsvag, Norway
Slept in the car (2 nights) Free
Alta, Norway
Couchsurfed (3 nights) Free
Uppsala, Sweden
Stayed with friends (4 nights) Free
Stockholm, Sweden
Generator Hostel (2 nights) €37
Copenhagen, Denmark
Urban House (3 nights) €68
Berlin, Germany
Industriepalaast (3 nights) €51
U Inn Berlin (18 nights) €320
Stayed with a friend (3 nights) Free
Pegasus Hostel (2 nights) €22
Unterägeri, Switzerland
Stayed with a friend (3 nights) Free
Aarau, Switzerland
Stayed with a friend (4 nights) Free
Zurich, Switzerland
Residence Serviced House (2 nights) €110
Total €1,659

Transport

A photo posted by Bren (@brenontheroad) on


Transport is bit of a killer in Europe.

Flights can be cheap, but they usually charge a small fortune if you have check-in luggage, which I did. So I did almost everything overland.

Of course I always took the cheapest bus or ferry, no matter what time they went, and the fares fluctuate quite a bit. It helps to be flexible – sometimes the Monday morning bus can be double the price of the Wednesday overnight. I was a fan of Flixbus, which was super easy to book with online and always cheaper than the train.

I hitch-hiked through the Baltics which helped keep costs down and I wanted to hitch-hike more through Scandinavia, but the cold weather and rain set in so I decided against it.

I got a little lazy and started catching trains instead of buses in Finland, just because they were so much faster, so that added maybe €40 or €50 to the total.

Care hire was probably the biggest cost, but that was really the only way to explore northern Norway. That mini road trip was one of the highlights anyway, so no regrets there.

Here’s how the transport costs broke down:


Málaga to Kraków
Flew Ryanair €140
Poland – Lithuania – Latvia – Estonia
Hitch-hiked Free
Tallinn to Helsinki
Linda Line Ferry €29
Helsinki to Tammisaari
VR Train €10
Tammisaari to Turku
Ride from a friend Free
Turku to Rovaniemi (return)
VR sleeper train €130
Rovaniemi – Norway – Rovaniemi
Hired a car €193
Petrol €161
Turku to Stockholm
Viking Line (actually €25 but I missed my first one) €50
Stockholm to Uppsala (return)
Local train €18
Stockholm to Copenhagen
SJ Train €29
Copenhagen to Berlin
Flixbus €19
Berlin to Zurich
Flixbus €39
Zurich – Unterägeri – Aarau
Swiss trains €55
Total €873

Note: Not included here are my flights in and out of Europe. I wanted to only include costs that would be constant across all travellers, and flights in and out will be different for everyone. If you’re curious though, my flight from New Zealand to Spain was €790, and my flight out to Bangkok was €295.


Other spending

A photo posted by Bren (@brenontheroad) on


This is just everyday spending on kebabs, cocktails, haircuts, subway tickets, shampoo and so on. It excludes accommodation.

Here’s the breakdown:


Spain (6 days) €100
Poland (44 days) €895
Lithuania (3 days) €30
Latvia (1 day) €10
Estonia (8 days) €350
Finland (42 days) €1,598
Norway (6 days) €35
Sweden (6 days) €80
Denmark (3 days) €50
Germany (27 days) €429
Switzerland (10 days) €319
Total €3,896

I didn’t really keep tabs on my everyday spending – usually I just take the maximum withdrawal from the ATM and use that cash for everything until it runs out. I have all my bank records so my total spending figure above is definitely correct, but the breakdown between countries is a close estimate. I’m pretty frugal and don’t buy many things anyway, so I can make a good estimate of how this figure broke down:

65% (~€2,532) on Food

15% (~€584) on Booze (Mostly in Finland, those guys drink a lot)

5% (~€195) on Clothes (2 pairs of shoes, jacket, jeans, sweatpants, beanie)

5% (~€195) on Activities (Festival ticket, entrance fees etc)

5% (~€195) on Public Transport/Uber (I’m sure it’s less than 5% but let’s keep this simple)

5% (~€195) on Other stuff (Haircuts, phone credit, toothpaste, that kind of stuff)


A few notes on how these figures shaped up:

Food

A photo posted by Bren (@brenontheroad) on


To keep food costs down I cooked a lot – almost every day in Finland, Germany and Poland. If you’re savvy you can eat pretty well for around €5-€8 per day. When I was on the road without a kitchen, I would normally eat fruit, vegetables, bread and yoghurt from the budget supermarkets or the vege market. When I had a kitchen it was chicken and vegetables. It’s usually not expensive, but in places like Copenhagen or Zurich you might still spend €15 per day on basic supermarket food. Eating out will be double that. I was only eating out two or three meals per week at most. But to be honest, by the last couple of months I didn’t really care anymore and just ate whatever I wanted.

Booze

A photo posted by Bren (@brenontheroad) on


I don’t really drink to get drunk, but booze was a problem. I did quite a lot of going out in Poland and Finland because, well, Poles and Finns like to drink. In Poland booze is cheap so it wasn’t a problem. In Finland booze is definitely not cheap, so it was a problem. So that’s definitely something to keep tabs on next time.

Public transport

If you’re not careful you could easily blow this figure out another €100-€200. Public transport isn’t cheap up in Europe’s north. To keep public transport costs down I tried to walk as much as possible, especially in Sweden, Finland and Denmark. I must have spent at least fifty hours walking those cities. In Poland it was a different story, I caught the tram every day but it was barely a dollar, so no worries there. And I have to be honest, I didn’t always pay for the subway during my 3 weeks in Berlin (sorry Berlin).

Uber

I used Uber a lot in Poland. It’s incredible. Nice cars and drivers, and the rides were rarely more than €3! I don’t know how these guys are making any money, sometimes I felt bad for not tipping. But that was the price. Saved my ass in a couple of other countries too.

Haven’t tried Uber yet? You can get your first ride free through my signup link here.

Activities

A photo posted by Bren (@brenontheroad) on


I didn’t do many tourist activities. I did a few walking tours, which only require a small donation, and I visited two museums – the Uprising Museum in Warsaw, and the Nobel Museum in Stockholm. Can’t say I particularly enjoyed either one. All the other activities I did were free (open mics, exhibitions, street art, that kind of thing). I do give to buskers quite often, so you can throw some of my budget to that.

Cellphone

A photo posted by Bren (@brenontheroad) on


I didn’t use roaming. I bought local sim cards in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Finland, and even in Finland it was only about €1 a day for unlimited everything, so no worries there. Everywhere else I just relied on free wifi, which is pretty widespread in Europe.

Places of note

Germany and Poland seem to be the outliers – I spent a lot of time in both places and didn’t spend much. In Germany it was so damn cold I just stayed in the hostel and worked, and any tourist stuff I did was always free. There was also a “free food” cupboard at the hostel full of stuff that other people had left behind, and there was a great vege shop down the road that got you a whole bag of produce for €3 or €4. So I didn’t spend much on food either. As for Poland, everything was just cheap in general so no tricks needed there.

The Estonia numbers might look odd, as I spent a lot there and it’s not an expensive country. I was there to attend a 3 day festival and, well, things got a little silly. So that’s why those numbers are high.

Finland was definitely where I blew the budget. I knew I’d spent a lot there, but I didn’t expect it to be that high. As I said, I went out a lot there and it’s just an expensive country in general. Still glad I spent the time there though, awesome place.

Lastly, I kind of went off the rails in Switzerland. €319 over 9 nights (excluding accommodation) was a little reckless, but the Swiss make quality cocktails and I was just letting loose for my last moments in Europe. I was catching up with a few friends there and just wanted to enjoy myself.


Travel Insurance

Yes, I always travel with insurance. I was partially covered by a family policy for the first few months. For the remaining months I purchased a basic policy from World Nomads, which cost €165. These guys are great because you can buy your cover whenever you want, even if you’re already in the middle of your trip. I’ve been using them happily for a few years now.

If you need travel insurance, you can get a free quote at their website.


Summary

The numbers again:

Accommodation €1,659
Transport €873
Other stuff €3,896
Travel Insurance €165
Total €6,593

€42 per day over 156 days. From a budget travel perspective, I think I did okay. I’d give myself a B+.

Unsurprisingly, I got the “Are you rich?” question a lot when I told people how long my trip was. Budget travel is still a myth to most people (except for you awesome readers, of course!)

As you can see, this isn’t an enormous amount of money for a five month trip. Take your Macbook, your iPhone, a couple pairs of shoes and your sunglasses and you’re probably halfway there. To be honest, it wasn’t difficult to travel within this budget – it was pretty comfortable most of the time. I was always well fed, usually well slept, and felt healthy the entire trip.

For context, I think you could do this trip for €5,000 without getting too uncomfortable, although if you’re new to the road it would be quite the challenge (very doable though). On the other end of the scale, €9,000 should hold you down very comfortably.

Of course there is always room for improvement, so here’s a few things I could’ve done to knock this figure down:

  • Choose different countries. I spent a combined 65 days in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland – some of the most expensive countries in the world. Replace those with places like Italy, Portugal, Greece and Spain and you’ll shave at least €1,000-€2,000 off that total pretty effortlessly.
  • Less booze, especially in the Nordics. It eats through your wallet pretty quick.
  • Couchsurf more. By the last month of my trip I was just too tired to be finding Couchsurfing hosts. I just paid the €10-€15 for a hostel and did it easy. If you were really strapped for funds though, it’s not too difficult to find hosts in major European cities.
  • Hitch-hike. I really wanted to hitch more, but as the summer closed out it was a little difficult to predict the weather. I also felt like I was running out of time a little, and didn’t want to waste any more days standing by the roadside. Europe really is a great place for hitch-hiking though.
  • Try a Workaway. I actually purchased a Workaway subscription this year and sent out twenty or thirty requests, but never got accepted to any of them. In saying that, I was being very fussy (I only wanted a place where I could surf or learn to ride a horse). If you’re open to all kinds of projects, I’m sure you would get placed very easily. This would give you a few months of free food and accommodation, knocking your cost per day down significantly.
  • Lastly, the obvious answer. Travel somewhere else! Europe is easily the most expensive continent. €42 a day is frugal living in Europe, but I would need to try very hard to spend that much in Southeast Asia, or even Latin America. If you can survive on €42 per day in Northern Europe, you can do it pretty much anywhere.

That’s it! I hope this was a helpful post for planning your next trip. If you have questions, leave them in the comments below.

Travel safe!

Bren

Heading to Europe? A few tips:

  • For affordable accommodation, I highly recommend using Airbnb. There are many nice apartments available and they will be much cheaper than hotels. I’ve found great places in France, Poland, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Spain, Portugal, plus a few others, and it’s always been great. You can get $25 of free Airbnb credit using this link.
  • For overland travel, I recommend using Flixbus. It is usually cheaper than the train, all the buses have wifi, and you can book straight through the app. You can get tickets as low as 5 Euros between some countries. I’ve used them several times and they were always clean, comfortable and on time.
  • I highly recommend purchasing travel insurance for Europe. Travel in Europe is not necessarily dangerous but it is an expensive region and you do not want to be left with the bill in the event of an accident. I recommend using World Nomads. They offer very affordable coverage in Europe and it’s super simple – you can literally be covered within two minutes. I use them often.

    Have fun!

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