The Cost of Traveling Western Europe

By Nomadic Matt | Published July 1st, 2010

the madrid statue in spainEurope covers a huge area of the world where prices can fluctuate widely. For 20 euros, you can get a private room in Greece. For 20 euros in Paris, you may get 16 person dorm room. You can eat for a few Euros in Spain or Greece but a sit down meal in Italy will cost around 15 Euros. So thinking about how to budget for your European trip can be quite difficult. But let me share my experience and the prices I recently saw.

I’ve been going to Europe for 4 years now and I’ve visited a lot of places. Europe isn’t cheap but there are plenty of ways to cut down costs. Recently, I went through Amsterdam, Greece, Italy, and Hungary. In 59 days of traveling, I spent 4,317 Euros, which averages out to 73.17 Euros per day. That includes a few flights, many a nice meal, too many drinks on Ios, a few nights of private rooms (it was my birthday after all!), and having some unexpected purchases (a jacket, a new iphone charger, and new headphones).

Overall, I think for a budget traveler moving around Western Europe, this is a realistic daily budget. While the cost of Europe can fluctuate, the cheap and expensive countries average out to this. In Greece, you can spend 40 Euros or less per day. In Italy or France, 70 Euros will cut it if you aren’t going to eat out. In London, the pound can eat into your wallet quicker than you can put money into it. Here are some general costs:

  • Accommodation: In most Western European countries, expect to pay between 20-30 Euros per night for a dorm room. (Though in Greece and Spain, it is cheaper at 10-20 Euros per night.) In Scandinavia, expect to pay around 30-35 Euros per night. In England, prices are usually around 15-20 pounds per night.
  • Food: Food costs vary as wildly as accommodation costs. Cheap fast food meals cost 6-8 Euros while restaurants meals cost around 15-20 Euros. Nicer establishments will cost 30 Euros or more. You can cook your food for a week at around 40-50 euros.
  • Transportation: The easiest way to get around Europe is by train. Trains connect every major part of Europe and they are often very cheap. High speed trains through can cost over 100 Euros. Try to get the regional or slow trains for cheaper prices! With the rise of cheap airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, and Transavia, have all made flying around Europe in a hurry really cheap. For flights, expect to pay around 50 Euros if you book in advance. Transportation around most cities is only 1-2 Euros.
  • Activities: Most museums and tours start at around 10 Euros. It’s cheaper of course in eastern Europe. Full day tours cost between 30-50 Euros. Prices vary drastically per country so it’s hard to give a good general cost of this budget item.

beautiful cinque terre in italy in western europe
So how can you save money in Europe? There’s plenty of ways to save money on a trip through Europe. For starters, the situation with Greece has made traveling to Europe very cheap. The Euro is very weak right now and you’ll gain a lot of extra money just based on the currency exchange.

How to Save Money in Western Europe

  • Picnic. Europe 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.
  • Eat Local and Cheap. Not into picnicking? That’s OK, there are other ways to save money on food. Eat a 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.
  • Couchsurf. Hostels can add up really quick in Europe. If you don’t have any friends you can stay with, consider using the service Couchsurfing, which lets you connect with locals who will let you stay with them for free.
  • Fly Cheap. If you know where you are going and a train won’t do, try to book flights early. You can often get one euro fares from many of the discount airlines like Transavia, Easyjet, Air Berlin, and Ryanair. Watch out for fees though. There are many cheap ways to get across Europe.
  • Drink Less. Those 5 Euro 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.
  • Take the Free 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, get history, and learn your bearings without spending any money.

amsterdam canals in Holland

I feel 70 Euros is a good planning budget given the cost of food, drinking, activities, and transportation. I’ve had friends get by on much less. Last year, I met people who got by on 50 Euros a per day. They had a very tight budget that consisted of no eating out and limited sightseeing. I’ve seen a lot of people do it for 60 Euros per day, which included a bit more eating out and a few more activities. Yes, on a tight budget, you can do it for less than 70 Euros. However, under budgeting is never a good idea. What if something happens or you decide last minute to do a wine tour? Plan for 70 Euro a day and have some piece of mind. You won’t spend that much but it just helps to ensure you don’t run out of money.

For more information, visit my page on backpacking Europe.

comments 31 Comments

I traveled through Europe for 9 months last year and kept very detailed records of all the money that I spent. In the end, I spent an average of about $1,247 USD per month, which breaks down to about $41 USD per day. If you are interested, you can see more details here: http://bicycletouringpro.com/blog/how-much-does-it-cost-to-travel-in-europe/ My most expensive months were in Switzerland and my cheapest month was in Slovenia and Croatia.

NomadicMatt

I went through your expenses and as I said in the post, there are plenty of ways to cut down your costs if you don’t eat out, drink, or go to attractions. You didn’t do any of those things or if you did, you didn’t write about them. So cutting that out would cut your budget in half. Realistically though the vast majority of travels don’t do that.

Another hugely effective way to cut down on the main expenses of travel – accommodation and transport – is to either camp or rent/buy a motorhome. Because we wanted to travel slow and for a long time we bought a motorhome, which works out to be more cost effective than renting after about the 3 month mark. Italy cost us an average of €35 per day. Although not in Europe, we wintered in Tunisia for about $19(US) per day. We often free camp to save on accommodation costs but even when we do stay in caravan parks it’s a lot cheaper. At the moment we’re in England and are paying £6.50 per night. A couple of friends of ours are touring on bikes with a tent and they also frequently free camp.

As you mentioned Matt, the GFC means now is the perfect time to travel in Europe. When we bought our motorhome we calculated how much money we saved by buying it at that time compared to 1 year ago – $5000 (US). If we had’ve bought the motorhome now we would have saved almost $9000.

Another outside-the-box kinda way to do it cheaper is to house-sit – look after someone’s home while they’re away on holidays. We spent 11 months rent-free in Australia when we were saving up to travel.

It’s not for everyone but after traveling in a motorhome I do think I’d ever do it any other way.

NomadicMatt

As I said above, if you cut out accommodation and don’t eat out, you can drastically cut down your costs. However, most travelers don’t want to cook every meal and stay in hostels so which I would say yes, a motor home and camping are cheap, most travelers want to stay in hostels so my budget includes all of that.

Yes, now is the time to go to Europe, with a weakened Euro and GBP. Thanks for providing a realistic budget for someone who wants to be frugal, but doesn’t want to skimp on the the experience either!

NomadicMatt

You are welcome!

50 to 70 Euros still sounds expensive. One trick is to drink tap water and raw food, it really makes a difference. Many restaurants do like that a salad only with tap water is ordered but why pay for bottled water when the tap water i drinkable.

Well the traveling the Balkans is still cheap and with totally beautiful landscape.

Bosnia is an excellent country to travel.

So Matt do you couchsurf, I haven’t read any posts concerning your experience?

Also House sitting, if you have the time, can work out great if your interested in a region. Right now there are over 20 house-sitting situations available in France and more in Spain.

59 days = Euro 4,317 = US$5400, so about $2700 per month.

It’s high, but not too bad, considering you were moving around and going out to eat.

Good article.

NomadicMatt

It could be done a bit cheaper but underbudgeting always gets you in trouble….in the past, I’ve thought “naa, I can do it cheaper” and then something has come up and my budget is blown. I say pack half as much stuff and take double the amount of money!

I cannot agree more that eating out takes out a huge chunk of the budget. That said, one thing to look out for when eating out is whether there’s any taxes or service charges. Most European cities do not include this in their menu and these can add up to quite a bit.

Interestingly, I notice that Darren’s travels doesn’t include London (or the UK for the matter), presumably because it would be quite a hassle to cross the channels? There are loads of school hostels that are open for summer travellers starting from just 28 quid per night. These are essentially occupied by students who left for their summer holidays.

Did a short write up on a London shoestring budget tour at http://www.singaporeaninlondon.com/2009/05/london-on-shoestring-budget.html if you are interested. With the pound taking a beating since the crunch, it just means that your money would stretch a tad further. Oh, VAT is likely to be increased to 20% (from 17.5%) in Jan 2011 so prices are set to increase in a couple of months’ time.

Whilst I haven’t been backpacking around Europe yet, my parents travel a lot and they mentioned to me France is getting very expensive now. 8Euro for a beer seemed average, not just hotels but also pub prices. Whereas Spain it’s still 2-3Euro for the same thing.

I think you just need to be clever with your budget, 70Euro is a nice amount to work off, but I feel Europe could probably be done comfortably on 50Euro a day still.

To Singaporean in London – London is one of the best connected places in Europe, it’s not too hard or expensive to get too compared to anywhere else, again, it depends a bit on research and being clever. There are a few ways to get to mainland Europe and back to London for £10, you just need to keep an eye out for offers.

England can be cheap, I’m writing this on free wifi on a greyhound to London from Portsmouth which is costing me £1 each way. The price of a shot of coffee in some places!

“In 59 days of traveling, I spent 4,317 Euros, which averages out to 73.17 Euros per day.”

So precise! Maybe you should join me on my next cost-of-living assignment. How are you finding the prices in NYC?

NomadicMatt

Prices here aren’t too bad. Compared to Europe and Australia, it’s very cheap.

It’s been a few years since I traveled Europe so I can’t say much about the cost now. When I went it was really popular for Aussies/Kiwis/Saffas to tour the Europe trail in campervans. It was a lot of fun as so many of the vans followed a similar path so it was like a summer long traveling party. I travelled with 4-6 girlfriends. We rarely paid for night’s accommodation, as you would often find free camping, a lot of the time in poll position on the beach. The campervans that were there got together and cooked and drank alcohol from the supermarkets. It was a ton of fun and super cheap. Definitely not everyone’s cup of tea though as it was ultra budget- but geez did we have a good time! Our campervan died along the way, we had to move to public transport and after a day we’d had enough and bought another van from some departing Aussies at the nearest Portugese campsite. You just couldn’t beat the freedom and fun of the van travel!

I really want to go to Spain at the end of my RTW but I just don’t think I can afford it. In Central America I’m spending about $1000 a month without much scrimping but it looks like the cost would double in Spain.

I was traveling quite a bit in Western Europe for the past couple of years and I think 70 euros a day is a reasonable budget. With this budget, one can have more choices on sightseeing activities and even have the occasional night outs with nice dinner.

I’d like to add that young adults below 25 or 26 can usually get 10-30% discounts on trains. It’s also good to check for discounts and promotions on the websites of train companies because you may get a ticket for half the price.

Kind of an extension of the couchsurfing tip but… milk every connected you have! I’m heading to the UK soon for a wedding and my bank account is shaking in its boots. But I have no shame, and if you ever mentioned that you had a cousin who had an exchange student from Wales… I’m asking for the email and trying to add another city to my itinerary. Its heartwarming how many people do want to help, and I’d do the same when travelers come my way

Lau

I`ve been last year almost to all countries of Europe… the most i like it Croatia and Greece..It was cheap, nice, beautiful …

I love also my country (Romania) but .. to all…i have the memories of the places where i`ve been .. the most important thing …

Nice to find this kind of blog, where i can read about the places.. sometimes… when i can`t go in vacation… i travel on the internet ..andlike that i found your site.

L.

edresearcher

Much of Europe is way overrated and far too expensive anyway. And in many places they really don’t like Americans, so they will try to insult you as much as they can. Chile, Peru, New Zealand, Australia are all very nice places to visit with a lot to see and do.

JonesAbergs

I hate to rain on anyone’s parade but personally I find the whole “weak euro, wohoo, great deals to be had on travel”-argument kind of silly.
Generally over here in Europe we pay a lot more for pretty much everything. So even if the exchange rate is more favourable than it was a couple of months or a year back, odds are people coming over from across the pond will still feel that it’s expensive. Sure you may save a hundred or two but taking into account the total cost of the visit (probably a couple of grand) that is not really a significant amount. Sure it’s something but not really worth celebrating over. If you can afford a trip to Europe (or in my case the US) a couple of hundred saved is merely a drop in your financial ocean.

NomadicMatt

I think your argument that in order to travel to Europe you must be rich, is not true. Many people come over on tight budgets and a few hundred dollars is a lot of money to them. While it may not be to you, it is to other people and it is to those people that I say “Go now!” because they can’t afford to spend a lot so the weak Euro helps them out.

JonesAbergs

tight budget = uncomfortable

NomadicMatt

I feel that way too.

fluffy bunny

Westrern Europe is overrated. I enjoy doses of Europe, don’t get me wrong. But it’s difficult to enjoy it on a budget. Gondola rides, museum tickets, monument climbing and the like add up to 100’s per week. And that’s without eating or sleeping. Which means no gondola rides, museums or monument, but then why go to Europe?

You get WAY more bang for your buck pretty much anywhere else in the world.

Keith

The number of American tourists visiting France has decreased:

http://www.newsweek.com/2010/08/29/decline-in-tourism-may-be-a-blessing-for-the-u-s.html

Europeans have told me that the other euro-zone countries, UK and Scandinavia has a decrease in American tourist well.

Kim

Matt, does your backpack count as a carry-on on Ryanair or the other cheap carriers? I’ve flown them before and really gotten nailed because I had to check a bag.

NomadicMatt

They will make you check it!

This is incredibly informative, even for those who already travelled in Europe. Planning a trip can be really overwhelming and forgetting small details is easy, especially budget wise.

If you travel light and easy, you will be able to save hundreds of euros, either to keep for your old days or to extend your trip.

Thanks for your input!

NomadicMatt

As I said there is a range. I think you could do it on as low as 50 but it depends on how budget you want to be. There’s way to lower the costs by using couch surfing, cooking meals, etc.

Vanessa

This was a helpful article for me! I have finally mustered up the courage to plan a long-term trip. I’m deciding between teaching english, or just saving up and going about for a bit, first. Either way, your website will be a go-to for me on tips, advice, and know-how. I appreciate your time and knowledge and perhaps one day to have a blog of my own that people will want to read! Thank you Nomadic Matt :)

Dale Moore

Hi there, just making sure does this include or exclude a eurail pass? I’m thinking of budgeting 60 euros a day with my eurail ticket already booked but the rand is so so very weak at the moment (luckily a fair bit of my savings are in pounds)

Leave a comment