Then I quickly realized this was too hard and that sticking to a rough budget per day was going to be the best option. So, I scrapped the original plan and just decided to hope for the best knowing how much money I had to spend for the entire year. If you want to read about how much I saved, I have a post here.
I started my trip in Iceland on September 20th, 2016, and then ended my Euro trip in Istanbul on December 20th. Since then I’ve been roughly keeping track of my costs. I wanted to share with you what I’ve spent in hopes this can help you plan a trip in the future! I’m not the type of person who documents every little thing she spends. I’m actually really bad at that, but I do know what I started with and what I had when I left Europe. Below, I talk about what I ended up spending money on and I’m pretty proud of myself!
Some people I’ve talked to have said WOAH that’s a lot of money for 3 months, while others say dang that’s nothing for 3 months! It all depends on how and when you’re traveling and how much you’re splurging vs. sticking to a budget.
I’m SUPER proud of myself. Mainly because that’s roughly $61 a day (less than I thought I’d spend in Europe).
Here’s where I’ve been in Europe so far (some city hopping and some country exploring):
Iceland, Germany, Austria, London, and Dublin were by far the most expensive places I went.
The hardest part for me was switching to a frugal mindset. In San Francisco, I was saving for my trip of course, but I also had an income. So spending was pretty easy and I felt I could justify things a bit more. Plus things in SF were really expensive that now it’s hard to compare and everything seems cheap! In SF you can’t find a single thing to eat for $3 whereas out here you can. That’s been an interesting switch, but after 3 months I now have a grasp on what is ‘cheap’ and what is ‘expensive’ for a long-term traveler.
The main ways I stuck to the budget were:
1. Staying in hostels – usually, I book using Hostelworld and it’s amazing for finding cheap places to stay
2. Eating street food and cooking for myself
3. Not going inside every single museum and castle. Only the ones that I’m really excited about.
4. Taking public transportation (I have the time, after all)!
5. Not buying souvenirs (I don’t have room anyway).
I go into more detail below…
The $5,500 includes:
All Transportation –
Ubers and cabs in all cities. I don’t take a lot of cabs or Ubers and try to get everywhere by public trans which saves tons of money. Use this code for a free Uber ride.
Trains, buses, ferries. It’s been important for me to learn the public trans systems when I get to a city because it’s typically been super easy. Except for Greece…that was hard. 🙂
Flights to and from each country. Most are bought from Skyscanner and I’ve flown RyanAir a bunch. I have to check a bag every time which sorta sucks, but I try to search for airlines where the bag price is included. My flights have ranged anywhere from ($11 to $200). Here are the different flights I’ve taken (all costs included in the $5500). SFO>Reykjavik Reykjavik>Frankfurt Prague>London London>Dublin Dublin>Berlin Berlin>Greece
This includes all of my food. A lot of hostels have breakfast included which always helps even though they typically aren’t that great. Some days I’ll just get a croissant, a yogurt, or make myself eggs/bacon if I have a kitchen.
Many times for lunch I’ll opt for a cheap kebab (~$3), sandwich or traditional food if it’s cheapish. Street food is always pretty cheap. Not always the healthiest, but it does the job.
Also, I’ve been craving greens since being in Europe. I’ve noticed that if I want a salad I can always go to an Italian restaurant because they always have a salad option. 🙂
Treating myself is definitely a thing I do though! I had a 40 euro drink and app at the top of the Shard in London and the drinks in Iceland were$15-$18. Basically, I just try to balance it out with cheaper meals later.
I’m mainly staying in hostels which have cost anywhere from ($7-$25). Check them out on Hostelworld here. I actually have grown to love staying in hostels because the staff is so helpful and they always have fun stuff organized. Plus I’ve met soooo many cool people that I wouldn’t have met staying by myself at a hotel/airbnb.
I’ve been SUPER lucky to stay with people for free along the trip too. Shoutout to Hailey & Jannik, Babsi, Diana and Dan, Shay and Kurt, and Michelle for all letting me stay for free with you!! YOU DA BEST and this clearly helped my finances.
I’ve gotten a few free stays in exchange for blog posts. Example here.
Couchsurfing – I have yet to do it, but am for sure going to try it on my trip. Everyone I meet who has done it raves about it and it’s free!
This includes all pub crawls and parties. I don’t go out as much as I probably would have if I was right out of college and I hate clubs so that’s saving me a bit of money. If I do drink I’ll typically buy it from the store before going out, but honestly, alcohol in eastern Europe is super cheap anyway.
There are certain places where I’ve spent a lot on alcohol and others where it’s way less. I think this has evened out over time.
This also includes all coffee’s, teas and sodas but I’m not a huge coffee/soda drinker so typically don’t need it in the morning which has saved me lots of money. Most hostels have it for free anyway.
I’ve been drinking water from the tap in all the countries I’ve been to, but I typically opt for buying a large water bottle and finish one a day at least. I drank so much more water at home, but I’m trying to stay hydrated as best I can.
All Touristy Activities –
Staying in hostels has helped so much with activity/attraction costs because they know that backpackers are on a budget and always offer the cheapest option for activities in the city.
Usually, I try and find a free walking tour in every city I go to. They are tip-based and usually really great to get the lay of the land of a city. Most of them give good food and bar recs too which is always nice to hear from a local. They are also a great source of exercise 🙂 and last about 3 hours.
Here and there I’ve bought city cards that let you into most sites. See Ljubljana card example. If it’s only a few euros sometimes I’ll pay and go to the top of certain sites for the view.
I typically don’t pay to go into churches since there are so many you can go into for free in Europe. I like free museums and typically won’t pay unless it’s included in my pass or is something I really want to see like the German History Museum in Berlin (I paid 8 euro) or the Acropolis ($10).
I hope this info helps! I’m not the kind of penny-pinching traveler so if you are then you can probably do 3 months in Europe for much cheaper than I did! I ended up splurging a few times and there are so many ways to save money that you’ll learn after being on a road for a short time.
Also, time is on your side when you’re traveling on a budget. You can usually take the cheaper flight times and go places in off/cheaper times because every day is a Saturday for you! 🙂
Welcome to the Traveling Spud! I’m Katie, a 30 something from Idaho who quit her marketing job in San Francisco, California to travel the world for a year. After a trip around the world, my heart chose Idaho. I'm addicted to outdoor adventures, photography, and inspiring others to get out of their comfort zones and cross experiences off of their bucket lists. Let's explore together! Read more here.