Europe 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 a 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.
I’ve been going to Europe for close to ten years now. 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 some unexpected purchases (a jacket, a new iPhone charger, and new headphones).
Since Europe is so big, today I want to talk about traveling around Western Europe and the Eurozone countries.
How much do things cost?
Here are some general costs for things in Europe, because as I said, prices can vary a lot depending on where you are:
- Accommodation: In most Western European countries, expect to pay 25–35 euros per night for a dorm room. (Though in Greece and Spain, it’s only 10–20 euros per night.) In Scandinavia, expect to pay around 30–35 Euros per night. In England, prices are usually around 20–30 pounds per night.
- Food: Food costs vary as wildly as accommodation costs. Cheap fast food meals cost 9–15 euros, while restaurants meals cost around 15–25 euros. Nicer establishments will cost 30 euros or more. You can cook your food for a week for around 65 euros.
- Transportation: The easiest way to get around Europe is by train. Trains connect every major part of Europe, and they’re often very cheap. High-speed trains, though, can cost over 100 euros. Try to get the regional or slow trains for cheaper prices! The rise of cheap airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, and Transavia has 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 14 euros. It’s cheaper, of course, in eastern Europe. Full-day tours cost 35–100 euros. Prices vary drastically per country, so it’s hard to give a good general cost of this budget item.
So how can you save money in Europe?
There are plenty of ways. 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 tiny shops where you can be premade sandwiches or ingredients to make your own. Buy some food, eat outside, and watch the city go by. It’s a cheaper and more enjoyable way to eat.
- Eat Local and Cheap. Not into picnicking? That’s OK, there are other ways to save money on food. Eat at local sand-wich 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’re 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 five-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 you can 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, learn some history, and get your bearings without spending any money.
- Camp in a garden. A very good camping service specific is Campspace (formerly 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
What’s a good daily budget in Europe?
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 euros a day and have some piece of mind. You won’t spend that much, but over-budgeting helps ensure you won’t run out of money.
Book Your Trip to Western Europe: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. I never ever go on a trip without it. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. You should too.
Need Some Gear?
Check out our resource page for the best companies to use!
Want More Information on Europe?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Europe for even more planning tips!