During my first year on the road I visited 24 countries on a backpacker’s budget. The countries varied from cheap and backpacker-friendly Southeast Asia, to expensive summer prices in Western Europe. If you’ve ever wondered how much it costs to spend time in different European countries, here’s your budgeting guide!
Daily Budget for Europe
Below is my average daily cost for 5 European countries and Paris, France. I visited all of these countries between June-August 2018 (high tourist season!).
I’ve also listed a breakdown of how much you should expect to spend in certain categories while you’re in each country: Food, Accommodation, Transportation, and Tours & Activities.
The budget for Europe below does not include flights or travel insurance that you also need to account for. On an American passport, I also didn’t need to purchase a visa for any of these countries. If you need to apply for a visa, don’t forget to include that in your budget for Europe!
Since I was traveling on a backpacker’s budget, these numbers should be seen as the low end of the scale when creating a budget for Europe. This means I was sleeping in cheap hostel dorms, taking budget transport options, and mostly cooking for myself.
Daily Budget for England - $65/day
London is undoubtedly one of the greatest cities in the world. All of England is filled with history, incredible architecture and culture, and is worth stretching your Europe budget for.
I spent two weeks in London in the summer of 2018 during the World Cup. Luckily, I have friend in London to stay with, so I dodged the cost of getting a hostel in London during the tourist high season!
Dorm beds in hostels can cost $20-$30 USD per night, and will most likely be far from the city center. If you’re traveling with someone, it might be cheaper to get a dinky hotel room for $40-$50 USD per night that lets you stay closer to the city. This cost is standard for most large cities across England.
Cheap meals can be found in some of the many markets that line the outer neighborhoods of London. The massive Spitalfields Market in East London has many little boutique restaurants and cafes, serving meals for £5-£8 ($6-$10).
My favorite cafe chain, Pret a Manger, has sandwiches for £3-£5 ($4-$6), and can be found all over England and Europe. Their sandwiches were perfect for keeping my budget for Europe in check.
On average, expect to spent $10 USD per meal at cheaper fast food places, and $20 USD at restaurants.
For your budget for Europe, keep in mind that buying food at grocery stores and cooking for yourself is the cheapest way to eat.
Buy food at Sainbury’s or Tesco and cook for yourself at the hostel. Bagels, cream cheese, pasta, pasta sauce, and veggies may set you back $10 USD and feed you for a couple of days. Perfect for keeping your budget for Europe low!
“Mind the Gap” echoes in my mind when I think of the London Underground. No matter how long your stay in London is, purchase an Oyster Card, which makes getting around a LOT easier. One-way fares are £2.90 ($3.60) on the Underground if using the Oyster card, and £4.90 ($6.20) when paying with cash. It’s £1.50 ($1.90) per ride for busses, capped daily at £4.50 ($5.70).
You can also purchase daily cards or weekly cards, for those staying longer or planning on using a LOT of public transport.
The cheapest way to travel long-distance around England and the UK is by bus. The quickest is by flight. I recommend flights over taking the trains, which can be extremely expensive! Compare train costs across England at the National Rail website.
Tours & Activities
- London Eye Standard Ticket – £22.50 ($28.40), skip the line for $35
- Westminster Abbey – $25 for entry + audio guide
- St. Paul’s Cathedral – free!
- West End Theater tickets – Varies. I paid £20 ($25) to see Aladdin when there was a sale on tickets!
- Stonehenge Transfer and Tour from London – $68
- Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour from London – $126
Daily Budget for Ireland - $70/day
I booked a week-long trip to Ireland when I was visiting London. Last-minute round-trip flights from London to Dublin were around $70 USD. Flights can be even cheaper if bought ahead!
I’m glad I got to experience the beautiful home of Guinness, Jameson, and St. Patrick’s Day! By the way, the stereotypes are true – the Irish really enjoy their booze!
Private rooms are much more expensive than two dorm beds, at around $70 on average (although you may find a cheap one or two for $45-$50 if booked in advance)
Like other hostel-goers, I bought most of my food from the supermarkets and cooked at the hostel. I would spend about €8-€10 buying pasta ingredients, ramen noodles, bread and cheese to last me a couple days worth of meals. The Spars, Tesco Expresses, and Lidls have great bakery sections where you can buy €1-€2 breads for breakfast and lunch.
Sometimes hostels I stayed at had a container full of leftover pasta and non-perishables that had been left behind by previous backpackers.
The two times I ate out, I had meals on a budget – soup with bread for €8, and a cake and coffee for €6. So if you’re balancing cooking in hostels and eating out, budget about €15-€20 per day for food.
The local bus 41 from Dublin airport to center city costs €3.30. Single fare bus fares around Dublin costs €2.15-€3.30.
Long-distance busses such as from Dublin to Galway, are €13 when purchased online from CityLink busses.
For short stays in Ireland, it may be better to purchase a tour package that will bus you round-trip from Dublin to Galway, that include the entrance fees to nearby tourist spots.
Tours & Activities
I booked a tour with Lally Tours to get from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher then back for €50. My tour included a transfer from Dublin to Galway and back, a stop at a traditional Irish restaurant, 2 hours at the Cliffs of Moher, and some time to wander around Galway. Here’s a cheaper option for $40.
I chose the option to stay overnight in Galway so I could explore Galway a little more as well.
- Cliffs of Moher (without a tour) – €8 admission fee during on-peak hours: 11am-4pm. €4 in the off-peak hours. $40 for a tour and transfer from Dublin.
- Drink at the Temple Bar – €6.50 for a pint of Guinness. See the full menu here.
- Guinness Storehouse Tour – $28, and includes a free pint of Guinness!
- Jameson Distillery Tour – $23 for a tour, a flight of whiskeys to taste, and a free Jameson cocktail.
I loved just wandering around the historic towns of Dublin and Galway. Free thinkings included checking out the Trinity College campus in Dublin, shooing off aggressive hungry ducks in the parks, and wandering the quiet pub-filled streets in the early morning.
Daily Budget for Belgium - $60/day
It took me five trips to Europe before finally making it to Belgium. I can’t believe I waited so long to visit this beautiful country! It deserves more hype than it gets, as it is much more than just the “little brother” of the Netherlands.
There are little fairytale villages dotting the countryside, wonderfully friendly locals, and impressive architecture in all the historic cities. I visited Belgium during the middle of the World Cup, so Belgian pride was rampant as were the black, yellow, and red flags on every window!
Private rooms are usually more than double the cost of a dorm bed, at around $60 on the low end. Luckily there are many nice hostels with included breakfast and a nice ambiance where you can meet other travelers. Almost all hostels will have a kitchen attached so you can do your own cooking to save on meal costs.
Though the locals don’t obsess over it much, Belgian waffles can be found in many specialty shops for as low as €2. Add more toppings for double the price, but damn if a strawberry-chocolate-whipped cream waffle isn’t worth every extra penny!
Belgium is covered in nice bakeries where coffee and a pastry come cheap. Don’t miss the fry shops like Frituur Ellen in Antwerp where you can get freshly deep-fried fries as well as other fried goods (€7-€10, $8-$11). There are also plenty of supermarkets where you can take your meals to go, or buy ingredients to take back to your hostel kitchen.
I spent about €10 per day when I was cooking for myself, and €20 per day when eating out more regularly. If delving into the amazing world-class beers of Belgium, budget an extra €5-€9 per bottle!
Trains and busses between Belgian cities are plentiful and cost-effective. When traveling on a budget, usually the busses are a better option, although they are more likely to be running late and could run late by hours.
- Brussels to Bruges takes 1 hour for €14 by train, and less than 2 hours for €5 by bus.
- From Brussels to Antwerp takes 1 hour for €7.70 by train, and 1 hour for €4 by bus.
- Brussels to Amsterdam by train is three hours for €26, busses are four to five hours for €11.
- Brussels to Paris by train is one and a half hours for €43, busses are four to five hours for €10.
Tours & Activities
Daily Budget for Paris - $70/day
Paris should be visited at least once in a lifetime. A city ideal for families or vacationing couples, Paris is also suitable for backpackers who have the budget for it.
Most of the highlights in Paris require paying an entrance fee, with the exception of the Notre Dame and Sacre Couer Basilica, which are free. If you’re not willing to pay to go to museums or up into the Eiffel Tower, there are many beautiful photo ops of all the iconic buildings from the outside.
I made the mistake of staying at a low-rated hostel that was the cheapest one listed online in Paris. Although it was close to the Metro station, it was infested with bed bugs, the staff was useless, and the bunk beds were stacked three on top of each other in a tiny room. This was for $25, so $5 cheaper than the next set of hostels, but in return I hardly slept for two days.
Budget at least $30 per night for a dorm bed in Paris! Single, private rooms are common in Paris, which go for $60 per night, and double rooms with shared or private bathrooms are no less than $75 per night.
Splurging on meals in Paris can easily set you back €30-€40 per meal, especially if enjoyed on a terrace, sipping coffee or wine like the Parisians do. For a backpacker budget for Europe, it’s best to just stick to the bakeries, creperies, and shopping in supermarkets.
The bread in France is extremely cheap, and paired with some spread, cheese, deli meat, etc. it makes a great, cheap lunch and dinner that you can enjoy in any of Paris’s beautiful open parks. It’s possible to get by on €10-€15 per day while cooking for yourself.
The Paris Metro is old but easy to navigate, and the ticketing system is simple. Single-use T+ tickets are €1.90, and packets of 10 can be purchased for €14.90. Daily and Weekly passes can be purchased for a €5 card fee plus €7.50 for the day pass (zones 1-2) and €22.80 for the weekly pass (all zones).
Tours & Activities
If you are going to Paris just once in your life, it’s worth dishing out the dough to go to all of the major attractions in the city. There are many iconic monuments and museums that shouldn’t be missed including:
- The Eiffel Tower – (the TOP, not just to the second floor) lift access is €25.50 for a ticket, if you want to climb stairs to the second floor THEN take the lift, it’s €19.40
- The Louvre Museum – Entrance and skip the line $23
- The Centre Pompidou – €14
- Arc de Triomphe – skip the line for the rooftop, $13. Go up for sunset to hang out until the Eiffel Tower starts lighting up!
- Notre Dame – FREE
- Sacre Couer Basilica – FREE
Daily Budget for Switzerland - $85/day
Even after trekking in the Himalayas, I was completely blown away by the scenery in Switzerland. It’s a must-visit country for anyone into hiking or skiing, or who loves hanging out in mountain villages!
Switzerland is a neutral country, so it uses its own currency, the Swiss Franc, instead of the Euro. Swiss Francs are valued at almost 1:1 with the US Dollar, making conversions really easy. However, for my budget for Europe, Switzerland is by far the most expensive country.
In Interlaken, where I started my four-day trek in the Alps, I stayed in Balmer’s Tent Village where dorm beds go for $23-$25 per night, a rare bargain. For small mountain villages such as Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen, expect to pay $35-$40 per night for a dorm bed.
Switzerland has endless great supermarkets, my favorites including Spar and Coop. Expect to spend $20 or more per trip though, even if you’re just buying a day’s worth of groceries. Breads, cheeses, olives, and pastas are your best bet. Swiss Röstis, a shredded potato dish similar to hash browns, can be bought in packs for $4-$5.
Staple fruits and vegetables can be reasonably priced on occasion as well. Some supermarkets have a fondue set for $15-$20, complete with ready-to-melt cheese and a candle to keep it warm and gooey.
Eating out at a restaurant is sure to set you back at least $30 per meal.
Swiss trains are both incredibly efficient and incredibly expensive. Basel (in the very north of the country next to Germany and France) to Zurich is 17 Francs, and to Bern and Interlaken is 20.50 Francs.
To train between two popular mountain towns, Interlaken in the Jungfrau region and Zermatt next to the Matterhorn, the 2 hour ride costs 41.50 Francs each way. If you download the SBB mobile app, sometimes there are discounted fares.
Flixbus and other bus companies have service between Basel, Zurich, and Lucerne for a little cheaper, around 11-15 Francs. The trade-off is that the time tables are less reliable.
Tours & Activities
Although the cities are beautiful in Switzerland, get to the mountains!! Even for those who aren’t big into trekking, breathtaking mountain viewpoints and vistas are accessible by gondolas and by small trains.
Daily Budget for Slovenia - $60/day
Slovenia is an underrated country sandwiched between Western and Eastern Europe. It has some of the most beautiful nature that Europe has to offer, protected by many national parks across the country. Similar to its neighboring countries, Slovenia has some great mountain treks, skiing, and historic villages to be explored.
When I visited Slovenia, I spent time in Bled (pictured above), and Ljubljana, the capital. Slovenia is friendlier on the wallet and you should keep it in mind when planning your budget for Europe!
Highly rated hostels in Ljubljana can be found for less than $15 per night (try Hostel Vrba or Kva Hostel) but they sell out fast! If you’re traveling with more than one person, it may be best to book an apartment or a double room for around $40 per night.
Bled is a small town and has much fewer options, shooting up prices for accommodation. There are only a few hostels on hostelworld.com that offer dorm beds for under $15 (see Bled Hostel, Castle Hostel 1004) so be sure to book way ahead! Once these are booked, dorm beds jump up to $30 per bed. Double rooms in highly-rated pensions or hotels will cost $50-$60 per night.
Compared to Western Europe, the prices for groceries and meals are more palatable in Slovenia! Eating out at a place with rustic ambiance in Ljubljana or Bled’s tourist district will set you back €15-€20 with a €3-€4 Euro glass of wine (or bottled water). Local or take-out eateries may be €5-€7 for a meal, such as from Klobasarna in Ljubljana, consisting of hot barley soup and a traditional sausage on the side.
Don’t forget to try Slovenia’s traditional dessert, creamy Smon cake (€3-€4) at any dessert or pastry shop in Bled!
Bussing between the two popular tourist cities, Ljubljana and Bled, costs €7.80
Tours & Activities
Hike up to Bled Castle – Free for beautiful views!!
Bled Castle Entry – €11
Vintgar Gorge near Bled – €9 for entry
Other Helpful Links
Tours Under $25 USD
- London: Hop On Hop Off River Thames Cruise – $20
- London: Jack the Ripper Walking Tour – $16
- Dublin: River Sightseeing Cruise – $16
- Dublin: Jameson Whiskey Distillery Tour with whiskey flight and Jameson cocktail – $23
- Ghent, Belgium: Medieval Center Guided Boat Trip – $9
- Paris: Arc de Triomphe Rooftop, skip the line – $13
- Ljubljana: Two-Hour Walking and Boat Tour – $20