Europe is a dream destination for many travellers, but it can also be expensive. Especially if you want to cover a lot of ground and see as much as possible…
If you’re making the trip to Europe, yes, a lot of stuff is close together. But also, distances can be deceptive. So travelling from, for example Paris to Barcelona might not look far on the map, but you’re looking at a day on a coach, or jumping on a 2 hour flight.
But you can get plenty of bang for your travel buck in Europe – if you know how!
Fear not, fellow adventurers! With a little planning and creativity, you can explore Europe on a budget. In this guide, we’ll share tips on how to save money on transportation, accommodation, food, and activities while traveling through Europe.
How Much Does It Cost To Travel in Europe?
Many people looking to budget for their trip to Europe will ask the question, how much should I budget? What will I spend for 7 days, ten days, two weeks… A month? Well. That depends very much on you and your travel style.
It also depends where you’re going, what you hope to do there, and what you hope to get from your trip.
Western Europe, that is France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, the UK, Switzerland, Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Ireland and even Greece are expensive. No getting around that. BUT… That doesn’t mean they’re prohibitively expensive. There are ways to do EVERYTHING for cheap in Europe.
Eastern Europe, which basically covers countries like Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Albania, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and the Baltic States are all RELATIVELY cheap.
That is to say, they’re cheaper than Western Europe for some things. But not all.
The recent cost of living surges have also made travel in Europe a little more expensive, so if you’re working off prices from before 2022 then you might be in for a shock.
But you want to know how much to spend per day. That’s what you’re here for, right? OK.
What to budget per day in Western Europe
If you’re staying in a big city such as London, Paris, Berlin or Milan, budget around €100 per day. You can get this down to around €40-50 per day if you are very frugal.
- Rough costs: hostel dorm bed €20-40 (sometimes with breakfast included)
- Cheap restaurant meal in a local chain: €10
- Average restaurant meal: €25
- Coffee/pastry/snack: €2-3 each
- Local public transport: €5-7 per day (and you will need to use the metro/bus in big cities like London)
- Bottle of water: €0.50-€1
- Packet of chips/crisps €1-€2
- Bar of chocolate €1-€3
- Entry to tourist site: €10-40
- Beer/wine in a bar €5-8
- Beer/wine from a supermarket €2-5
If you stay in a €20 hostel, get the bus into the city centre and back, eat mostly supermarket snacks and don’t pay to enter any attractions, you could budget €50 a day.
You could also save money by not spending lots of time in big cities. For example, swap Paris for Bordeaux or Nantes, or avoid Barcelona and go to Valencia, Castellon or Taragona. Do a day in the big city, and then base yourself in the smaller city down the road to max your budget and experience.
You can halve these costs for Eastern Europe (mostly), although groceries tend to cost around the same price.
OK – so lets find out how to max your budget and really cheap in Europe.
1. Budget Transportation: Bus Travel and Advance Flight Bookings
One of the cheapest ways to travel across Europe is by bus. Companies like Busbud offer affordable bus tickets, making it easy to hop from one city to another without breaking the bank.
Trains are one of the most expensive ways to travel in Europe, but also the most efficient. Consider booking the bus first.
Booking Flights in Advance
Europe is well served by budget airlines such as Ryanair. Sometimes the flight can be cheaper than the bus or train. Although do consider you’ll need to get to the airport, probably pay extra for luggage and also spend money in the airport!
Book your flights well in advance to secure the best deals – although sometimes you can find last minute bargains too. Use flight comparison websites like Skyscanner or Momondo to find the cheapest options, and be flexible with your travel dates.
2. Affordable Accommodation: Hostels and Self-Catering
Hostels are a budget traveler’s best friend. They offer affordable dormitory-style rooms and often have communal kitchens, allowing you to save money on meals. Websites like Hostelworld and Booking.com can help you find the best hostels in your destination.
Renting an apartment or a room through platforms like Vrbo can be a cost-effective alternative to hotels. You’ll have access to a kitchen, allowing you to save money by cooking your own meals.
3. Save on Food: Self-Catering and Local Markets
As mentioned earlier, cooking your own meals can save you a lot of money. Stock up on groceries at local supermarkets and prepare simple, delicious meals in your accommodation. Even with local ingredients you could make something much tastier than you would back home!
Explore local markets for fresh, affordable produce, and sample authentic regional cuisine at a fraction of the cost of restaurants.
Local Cafes and Chains
Another way to experience local food is to find out of the way cafes and smaller local chains that are cheaper than those in the tourist hubs. For example, a cafe in central London will charge you £12 (about €14-15) for a fried breakfast, but a smaller ‘greasy spoon’ (as the locals call it) will serve the same thing for around half the price! Yes, really.
At the end of the day, many supermarkets will mark down prices on many fresh produce items. So it’s always worth popping into a supermarket after business hours or near to closing time to see if you can find any bargains. Yellow labels are usually the giveaway sign.
4. Cultural Experiences: Free or Low-Cost Activities
Many European cities offer free walking tours, museums, and attractions. Research your destination beforehand to find out what’s available for free or at a low cost. In the UK museums are free, but in France and most of Europe they can cost a lot. In Spain many monuments are free or cheap to enter.
The best way to experience local culture is to participate in local cultural events, such as festivals, concerts, or workshops, which can often be found for free or at a low cost.
5. Additional Tips for Budget Travel in Europe
Travel during Europe’s shoulder seasons (spring and fall) to avoid the high prices and crowds of the peak summer months.
Invest in city cards that offer discounts on public transportation, attractions, and restaurants.
Avoid checked baggage fees by packing light and using a carry-on bag.
6. Hire a Bike
Most cities in Europe (not just the big ones) have a bike hire scheme. Many of these are downloadble apps where you can pick up bikes, scooters or even cars and pay a small fee. Some of these can be very convenient and even affordable and a great way to see the city. Some hostels and hotels even offer bike hire as either a free extra, or for a small fee.
Riding a bike in most European cities is also (relatively) safe. If you’re coming from North America or pretty much anywhere outside of Europe, it can be a surprise how good the cycle infrastructure is. But do remember to be vigilant, safe and wear a helmet if you can!
The Cheapest Places to Visit in Europe
If you want to know how to travel cheap in Europe, the secret is to pick the cheapest places. So we’ve picked a few suggestions to swap one popular and expensive city for another…
Instead of Paris…. Lille, Bordeaux, Nantes, Montpellier, Lyon, Rennes….
Instead of Berlin… Munich, Hamburg, Leipzig, Cologne….
Instead of London… Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Exeter, Leeds, Glasgow…
Instead of Barcelona… Valencia, Castellon de la Plana, Taragona, Zaragoza, Malaga…
Instead of Lisbon… (actually Lisbon is kinda cheap but…) Faro, Porto, Guimares…
Instead of Rome… Napoli, Bari, Bologna, Genoa, Palermo….
Instead of Venice… Stay in Treviso, Mestre or Verona and commute into Venice for a day or two.
So hopefully these tips will help you to travel cheap in Europe. Let us know how you go in the comments 🙂