Backpack Europe on a Budget

Photo by Brenda Autry

Backpacking through Europe is one of the most rewarding travel experiences you can have. This relatively small continent is laden with an abundance of different cultures, landscapes and history. 

Europe is also one of the easiest continents to traverse. Thanks to an extensive network of trains, buses and low-cost airlines, you can country hop at your leisure.

Two of the biggest questions facing those who choose to backpack through Europe are: Can I afford it? And where should I go?

Can I afford it?

Though Europe is notoriously expensive, you may be surprised to learn that backpacking through Europe is less expensive than you think. College students and budget travelers alike have been traipsing across the continent on shoestring budgets for decades, and so can you! 

There are, of course, some countries that are more expensive than others, but a general budget for backpacking in Europe is $75-$125 a day in Western Europe, and $40-$90 a day in Eastern Europe.


The biggest expense you’ll face is your accommodations. If you’re not opposed to sharing a space, hostels are your best budget choice for a place to stay — they’re also a great place to meet people. 

According to, the average cost for a night in a dorm room for hostels rated 7.5  and above (because no one wants to stay in a bad hostel) during the summer are:

London: $30-$90

Paris: $27-$73

Amsterdam: $51-$128

Dublin: $57-$77

Rome: $50-$100

Budapest: $28-$113

Prague: $26-$65

Athens: $17-$54

You can also get a private room in an AirBnB for similar prices in most places. And in some cities, such as Budapest, Athens or Prague, you can find a good budget hotel for just slightly more. 


Your next largest expense is going to be transportation. The trains in Europe are a great and fast way to travel from country to country and city to city. But, they can also be pricey. 

It may be worth checking out a Eurail Pass for your visit. These passes allow you to travel a certain number of days within a timeframe through designated countries. For example, you can get a Global Pass, which includes 31 countries, and allows you to travel 15 days within two months for $424 if you’re under 28, and $565 if you’re 28-plus. Oftentimes there are additional fees to pay with these passes and it may be less expensive to buy individual tickets.

The least expensive way to get around though, is buses. Companies such as Flixbus operate several routes multiple times a day and you can get tickets for as little as $4 — really! I got a ticket from Prague to Munich for just $4. The same train ticket would have cost $20 or more. So it’s good to compare prices.


Your next largest expense will be food. Eating out in Europe can be really expensive no matter what country you’re in. But, groceries are cheaper there than in the US. Buying food to make yourself will save you a lot of money! 

Most hostels have kitchens you can use, and many AirBnB’s do as well. If you’re making your own food you can spend as little as $10 a day on meals. Whereas eating out you’ll be spending at least $10 per meal. 


There are so many incredible things to do in Europe — that’s why you want to go after all — that you’ll need to make sure you have enough room in your budget to fit in a few activities. 

Here’s some ways to save on activities:

  • Entrance to museums is often free or reduced for students (or free for everyone in the UK) so make sure you check for discounts. 
  • Check for free entry days. (Museums in Paris are free the first Sunday of the month.)
  • Take a “Free Walking Tour.” I do free walking tours in every city I visit, and though not entirely free, they’re tip based and usually just about 10 Euro per person.
  • Check out Go City cards. These discount cards include several activities for one price and can often save you some money. 
  • Look at AirBnb Experiences. You can often find local guides and activities for cheaper than the big sites.
  • Check with your hostel. There are sometimes discounts available through them.

Where Should You Go?

Now that we’ve established how much you can expect to spend. Let’s talk about where you should go. The European Union is made up of 27 counties. And the UK has another four countries to explore. This leaves you with a lot of options! 

Here’s a list of some of my favorite places in Europe:


Daily Budget: $65-$140

Ireland is one of if not my most favorite countries in Europe. The beautiful landscapes, friendly people and incredible history make this an amazing place to visit! Plus, they speak English! This is a huge bonus if you’re not used to traveling outside the US. 

Dublin, the capital and largest city in Ireland, is a great place to start or end your journey through Ireland. But you’d be doing yourself a great disservice if this is the only place you see. 

Public transportation is not great in Ireland, so I highly recommend renting a car — driving on the left is not that hard, I swear! It’s good to know that most vehicles are manual transmission and if you’re not used to driving a stick you’ll need to pay a little more for an automatic.

Things you shouldn’t miss:

  • Trinity College, Dublin
  • Galway
  • Connemara National Park
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • The Ring of Kerry
  • Blarney Castle
  • Kilkenny
  • Do a Pub Crawl in Dublin (The Literary Pub Crawl was outstanding, and my favorite thing I did in Dublin.)
  • And plenty of time to explore castles and abbeys along the way!

I also highly recommend staying in a castle if your budget allows. On my last trip to Ireland in March/April, I stayed at the Kilkea Castle Hotel, about an hour from Dublin and enjoyed it so much! It was also surprisingly affordable, just $175 a night.

London, England

Daily Budget: $55-$135

London is an amazing city! Full of museums, history, and famous monuments, this city will keep you going for days! And, all the museums in the UK are free! That means you don’t have to worry about your budget when it comes to arts and entertainment because you’re covered. Everything from the Tate Modern to the Victoria and Albert Museum are free to enter. 

Things you shouldn’t miss:

  • Shakespeare Globe Theater
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Kensington Gardens
  • The Natural History Museum
  • The Tate Modern
  • The Tower of London
  • Big Ben
  • Taking a ride on a classic Double Decker!

Edinburgh, Scotland

Daily Budget: $55-$100

If you love castles, and/or Harry Potter, you’re in the right place! A visit to Edinburgh is like a trip back in time. Everything from the architecture to the food is reminiscent of days gone by. It is an incredible place to wander and explore. Oh, and it’s where J.K. Rowling wrote much of her Harry Potter books, so you’ll see plenty of familiar places throughout the city. And it’s still the UK, so all the museums are free!

Things you shouldn’t miss:

  • Walking the Royal Mile
  • Visiting Edinburgh Castle
  • Taking a Harry Potter Walking Tour
  • Hike to Arthur’s Seat
  • Try haggis — they even make vegan haggis!
  • Visit the Natural History Museum

Budapest, Hungary

Daily Budget: $35-$90

Budapest is a dream city for backpackers. It’s loaded with everything you’d expect from a Western European city with an Eastern European price tag. The city is a hub for culture, nightlife, and history. Oh, and have I mentioned the delicious food? I’ve visited Budapest twice, and I love it so much, I’m planning more return trips.

Things you shouldn’t miss:

  • Visit the Thermal Baths (Széchenyi are the most popular and my favorite! Visit early!)
  • Tour the Parliament Building
  • Take a walking tour
  • Tour Fisherman’s Bastion
  • Visit Buda Castle
  • Ride the funicular
  • Visit the Central Market
  • See the “Holy Right Hand” of St. Stephen
  • Try all the local dishes
  • Visit the Terror Museum

Rome, Italy

Daily Budget: $60-$160

Rome was the center of the Roman Empire, home to the Pope and the Catholic Church, and it’s like no other place on Earth. Mile for mile, Rome is probably the most impressive city in all of Europe. It has the best food, the best sites, great weather, and more history, art and archaeological sites  than you can fathom. 

Things you shouldn’t miss:

  • The Roman Colosseum
  • The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
  • The Vatican Museum (This is where you’ll find the Sistine Chapel.)
  • Tour Vatican City
  • See the Treve Fountain
  • Walk down the Spanish Steps
  • Take a walking tour
  • Try real Italian food

Paris, France

Daily Budget: $70-$150

No tour of Europe would truly be complete without a trip to the “City of Light.” Full of history, culture, and sophistication, there is a lot to see and experience in the city’s many arrondissements. Spend your days wandering the city streets, taking in the sites, and sipping espresso at a sidewalk cafe, and your evenings enjoying the lights of the city from the banks of the Seine. Paris is magical!

Things not to miss:

  • The Louvre Museum
  • Musee d’Orsay
  • Notre Dame Cathedral (still closed from the fire of 2019, but you can view the exterior)
  • Take a river cruise of the Seine
  • Walk through the Montmartre neighborhood
  • See the Eiffel Tower
  • Visit Versaille
  • Stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens
  • Eat the confections at one of the many patisseries

This list includes some of my personal favorite places, and is just a small sampling of what Europe has to offer. Some of the other destinations you should consider include:

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Vienna, Austria

Prague, Czech Republic

Munich, Germany

Berlin, Germany

Bled, Slovenia

Florence, Italy 

Split, Croatia

Athens, Greece

Sofia, Bulgaria

Warsaw, Poland

Bucharest, Romania

And so many more!

Happy travels!