For many, the act of donning a backpack and wandering aimlessly from city to city and hostel to hostel throughout Europe is a right of passage (looking at you, young Aussies on gap years!). Unfortunately, however, Europe has a reputation for being an expensive destination to visit and many people can think that travelling to this amazing continent is beyond the reach for those on tight backpacker budgets. But honestly, this is a common misconception. While Europe is home to some of the most expensive cities in the world, there are a number of places where you can visit while pinching pennies to the max and still get the most out of the destination. So what is the real cost of backpacking Europe?
Well, it depends. Like I mentioned earlier, there are some really expensive places that you can visit in Europe that aren’t really all that great spend time in if you’re trying to stretch your limited funds for the longest amount of time. This is why I think that the best option for cutting down on your total backpacking Europe cost would be to travel in the Central and Eastern European countries and the Balkans. Countries in this region tend to be significantly less expensive than their western counterparts, they’re not as visited which leads to fewer tourist crowds and more room to be flexible, and the tourism and transport infrastructure is still quite well-developed so it is fairly easy to get from point A to point B.
There are five main factors that need to be considered for your total cost of backpacking Europe. These include the cost of accommodation, transportation, food, activities, and entertainment. Obviously, you can expect each country, town, and city in Europe to vary in costs of living — with the prices in capital cities generally being higher than those in smaller cities and towns. However, the prices listed in this article are an average, meant to be used as a guideline for you to figure out your backpacking Europe cost.
All prices are listed in Euro. To find the current exchange rate in your own currency click here.
Backpacking Europe Cost: Accommodation
When asking yourself: “how much does it cost to backpack Europe,” the first aspect of your cost of backpacking Europe you need to consider is the price of accommodation. If you’re planning on going the traditional European backpacking route, then you’re probably going to be staying in hostels. This is a fantastic budget option, as beds in hostel dorms are an incredibly affordable accommodation option.
There are also myriad benefits to staying in hostels throughout Europe aside from it being an affordable sleeping option. They are a fantastic place to meet other travellers, which is incredibly beneficial if you’re travelling solo. Many hostels also organise social events in the evenings and offer discounted day trips to nearby attractions.
Also, if you don’t want to stay in a dorm, most hostels also offer private rooms. These really only make sense to stay in if you’re not travelling solo, but it can be a great option if you’re travelling as a couple or in a group and still want the hostel atmosphere with a bit more privacy.
Beds in hostels vary in price and it generally depends on how many beds are in the dorm and where the hostel is located in regards to the city centre. I would recommend finding a hostel that is closest to the attractions in the destination that you want to see, even if it might be a little more expensive. If you stay in one a bit outside of the city centre, it might be cheaper but you can also end up wasting time and money getting to all of the attractions you want to visit.
A bed in a dorm in most European hostels averages around €15 per night in more expensive cities and €8 – 10 per night in less expensive cities. If staying longer in certain places, many hostels allow you to volunteer a few hours per day in exchange for accommodation. You can find these type of opportunities in advance on sites such as Worldpackers or Workaway, or simply ask when you arrive at your destination.
Another great alternative to hostels if you’re travelling as a couple or in a group is Airbnb. Private rooms through Airbnb can oftentimes be less expensive than a private room in a hostel and you get the added benefit of sharing a home with a local and seeing a side to the place you’re visiting that most tourists don’t get to see.
Backpacking Europe Cost: Transportation
The second factor to go into your total cost of backpacking Europe is going to be transportation, which is going to take a big chunk out of your Europe travel budget. There are two factors in European transportation costs that need to be considered: one is local, public transport (ie metros, buses and trams) and the second is inter-city or international transport options (ie trains, buses or flights). We’ll start with the first one.
Most large European cities are blessed with great, affordable public transport systems that can effectively get you from point A to point B. If there are sites in the city that you want to see that aren’t necessarily within walking distance or if the train/bus station is far from your accommodation, then we strongly suggest you use the city’s public transport system. Not only is it always going to be astronomically more affordable than taking a taxi, it also gives you a chance to experience the city like a local.
In almost every city, you can either purchase single-journey tickets or a travel card. Be sure to take the time to figure out which will be the most cost-effective for you by assessing how often you’re likely to use public transport. If you only expect to take the bus or metro to and from the train station, then you’re only going to need to buy a single ticket. However, if you intend to use it multiple times per day during your stay, then it will most likely make more sense to get a travel card. Each city’s pricing system is different, but information on costs are widely available online.
The second aspect of transport you need to consider is inter-city/international travel. This can come in a few forms, the most common of which for European backpackers is the train.
Train travel is a great option throughout most of Europe as trains are frequent, comfortable, and relatively reliable. Prices for inter-city or international train travel can vary depending on which country you are in and the distance you are travelling, but it’s safe to say that you can expect a longer, international journey to cost somewhere between €20 – 30 and a shorter, domestic journey to cost about €10 – 15.
If you’re on a tight budget, booking train journeys in advance can save money while obviously sacrificing flexibility. We suggest using Omio to check prices. Alternatively, if you’re planning on using the train extensively over a short period of time, a Eurail or Interrail pass can be incredibly good value. If you’re living outside of Europe, you can click here to browse Eurail passes. Or alternatively, if you’re based in Europe, click here to browse Interrail passes.
Buses are also widely available throughout Europe and are often slightly cheaper (around 10%) than the train, though journey times can take a bit longer and they tend to be less comfortable. The only real exception to this would be in Romania and Bulgaria, where buses are significantly faster than trains and also a lot more comfortable. In the Balkan countries, bus travel is most likely going to be the only option as the train system is either (in some cases) non-existent or poorly developed.
Backpacking Europe Cost: Food
You need to eat while backpacking through Europe and, unfortunately, food costs money. But how much? Well, like everything else in the cost of backpacking Europe article, that depends on your habits.
If you want to really pinch pennies and make your hard-earned cash last as long as possible, then I would recommend a) staying in a hostel that provides breakfast, b) eating street food for lunch or making your own, and c) cooking dinner for yourself. If you follow this meal plan, you need only budget about €5 – 7 per day for food.
If you’re backpacking long term or are just on a strict budget, I would wholeheartedly recommend doing this for the majority of the days of your trip. However, there are times when you want to go out for dinner or eat at a nicer restaurant.
It’s hard to put a price on how much a meal in a restaurant will cost when backpacking Europe, as prices can really vary between cities. However, if you want to budget for the occasional splurge, I would say to allot about €10 – 15 per day for meals on average. This gives you room to splash out at a mid-range restaurant from time to time and you can make up for it by cooking pasta some nights.
Backpacking Europe Cost: Activities
Okay, so we’ve covered the basics for your total cost of backpacking Europe — but you don’t plan on just sitting in the hostel for your entire trip, do you? In which case, you’re going to need to know how much varying activities are going to cost.
Well, as it turns out, a lot of the best sightseeing activities in Europe happen to be free (or at least quite affordable). The best things that we like to do in any new city is to go on a free walking tour, which are available in pretty much every major European city. The tours themselves, like the name suggests, are free, but the guides work for tips. While there is generally very little pressure to tip after the tour is over, this is how the guides make a living so it would be a pretty poor move not to throw at least a couple Euro in at the end. Generally, we tend to tip €5 – 10 depending on how good we thought the tour was.
If you’re keen to get a bit cultural and want to visit all of the fantastic museums there are to choose from in European cities. Museum entry fees, like everything else, can vary. Many state-run museums are free to visitors, however, if they do have an entry fee, it’s usually somewhere around €5 – 10.
All in all, I think that it’s safe to budget about €5 – 10 per day for activities, depending on what you plan to do on your backpacking Europe trip.
Backpacking Europe Cost: Entertainment
The last thing you need to consider in your daily costs for backpacking Europe is the price of entertainment. How much you spend on this really depends on your habits. If you’re young and travelling to Europe solely because you want to party in a new location, then it might be smart to set aside a sizeable portion of your backpacking Europe budget for this purpose.
If you, however, only want to party on occasion and not every night, then you’ll find that most cities in Central and Eastern Europe to be quite affordable for a night out. You can generally expect to pay somewhere around €2.50 – 3.50 for a pint of beer depending on where you are (local is always cheaper than imported) and expect the same prices for a glass of wine. Cocktails can be a bit more expensive, landing somewhere around €5 – 6.
If you want to have a couple of drinks with all of those new friends you’ve made at the hostel but still want to stick to a tight budget, it can be a huge cost saver to purchase your booze at the supermarket. It will always be around 20% cheaper to do this rather than drinking at a bar.
Average Daily Cost of Backpacking Europe
On average, this is how much I would recommend you budget, per day, while backpacking through Europe.
Accommodation: €10 – 15 / night for a bed in a hostel dorm or the split cost of a private Airbnb.
Transportation: €7 / day on average, assuming you only travel long distances once or twice per week and don’t take public transport every day
Food: €10 – 15 / day if you plan to cook the majority of your meals, but still want to account for the occasional splurge
Activities: €5 / day on average assuming you don’t spend money some days for activities
Entertainment: €5 / day assuming that you don’t drink or party every night and you purchase some (or most) of your alcohol from local supermarkets instead of bars
On average, I would think it’s safe to budget for somewhere around €40 – 50 for your daily backpacking Europe costs. There are certainly ways that you can spend even less money and, obviously, countless ways that you can spend more. But, in general, if you expect to spend about this amount every day, it is enough to enjoy a backpacking trip through Europe to it’s fullest!
Another thing to consider while backpacking through Europe is travel insurance. We personally use World Nomads for our backpacking Europe trips however it’s important to read the policy details to ensure it’s right for you. Click here to get a quote from World Nomads.
If you’re travelling on a tight budget and long term then SafetyWing is another good option to consider. They are cheaper than WorldNomads but don’t offer as comprehensive of coverage. Click here to get a quote from SafetyWing.
Backpacking Europe does not have to be an expensive experience. Quite the contrary! If you’re smart about where and how you spend your money, you may find that your total cost of backpacking Europe won’t break the bank!
Have you backpacked through Europe? Are you planning to? Ask a question or leave a comment below!