Europe is one of those dream destinations that everyone has on their mind when they think about travel. When I graduated, the idea of a trip to Europe was the only thing we considered but as you can imagine, we didn't have a lot of money back then so we had to figure out how to backpack Europe on a budget.
Even today, I'm sure the idea of a trip to Europe flashes dollar signs across your eyes. So how do you get that trip of your dreams while keeping the costs manageable? Let me breakdown a few tips that you'll want to keep in mind to make sure you can travel Europe for cheap.
Read more about Europe
- Ultimate Eurotrip Packing Guide
- Travel Europe for cheap
- What you need to know about river cruising in Europe
- The best SIM card for Europe
- How does Travelzoo work and are travel vouchers worth it?
Where to stay in Europe?
- For the best prices on accommodations and the most choices, Booking.com has been my go-to choice especially once you reach Genius tier and you can find additional 10-15% off places to stay.
Here's what we're covering:
Backpack To Different Parts Of Europe
Europe is a large continent that spans a lot of different countries. While most backpackers will gravitate to Western Europe and big cities like London, Paris, and Rome, consider cities and countries that are cheaper to cut costs.
The reason why big cities are expensive is because there are a lot of people living there which drives up the standard of living for locals and because it's heavily touristed, businesses know they can command a much higher price. So one big tip backpacking Europe is to incorporate lesser known, but not necessarily less interesting or beautiful.
For instance, Bilbao, in northern Spain is somewhere that is not along the main tourist path but is one of those not-to-miss cities being the home of the titanium-clad Guggenheim and the successful mix of traditional Basque culture with modern design.
Booking Accommodations On A Budget
Besides transportation, the other big cost to any trip is going to be your accommodations so naturally, you're going to want to see if you can save money here. When you're travelling Europe, there's really no reason to splurge because you're never going to be in your room beyond sleeping. Whether you're looking for a room in a big city or somewhere smaller like Yaiza, Bordeaux or Luxembourg, make sure you do your research and consider all of your options.
As a backpacker, hostels from Hostelworld are going to be the obvious choice. Depending on your travel style, you can book large dorms which is usually the most economical but don't forget that hostels also have en-suite rooms and private suites as well. An added benefit of hostels is that there are lots of people to get travel suggestions from and breakfast is often included.
While hostels will seem like only option, I encourage you to always check Booking as well. While it may seem counterintuitive to backpack Europe on a budget by staying at hotels, I've often found surprise accommodations that didn't cost that much more than the local hostel.
Airbnb and VRBO are also popular option these days as well especially if you're going to be in one place for multiple days. There's also a sweet spot that can be found if you're backpacking with a large group of friends. Once you divide the overall rate by the number of people, you may find that it's cheaper to stay at a rental over a hostel. You might also luck out in a sweet location.
While Airbnb is often a default for many people, I've found many gems on VRBO so do your due diligence and check them as well for your backpacking trip to Europe.
Getting Around Europe On A Budget
There are a ton of different ways to get around when backpacking Europe. It all depends on how spread out your travels are and how fast you need to get from one place to another.
What I love about backpacking Europe is that there are so many low cost carrier airlines that often times, flying becomes cheaper than any other option. When you're ready to book your flight, make sure to check the list of airlines for the country you're departing since even platforms like Skyscanner don't display every single airline. The only disadvantage of flying is that you end up spending extra money getting to and from the airport as well as the time wasted going through things like checking in, security, and boarding.
Depending on how you connect the travel in your itinerary, it may make sense to look at trains as a way to get around. This is never a bad option because train stations are always central in cities and the network is so vast that it can take you anywhere you need to go. If you're considering trains, make sure you check out the Eurail passes that you can buy beforehand to save lots of money.
Recently, there's been more tourist-friendly buses made available. Flixbus offers numerous routes within the UK with prices as low as £1. Another unique option is a new venture called Busabout which provides hop-on and hop-off flexibility, perfect for the independent traveller.
Look for Deals
If you're flexible in where you want to go, stay on top of travel deals that come up. This means, instead of having fixed plans for specific cities or countries as part of your backpacking trip, go where the promotions and discounts are and go from there.
For instance, Icelandair has been making a massive push for travel to Reykjavik, Iceland and they've been promoting budget-friendly prices from North America that also allow you to hop into Europe after you're done your tour there. With some flexibility and creative trip planning, you can build your itinerary around this and save a ton of money.
Renting a car while backpacking Europe on a budget? Make sure you take advantage of car rental coupon codes to help you save additional money.
How do you stay updated on deals? Well, we have our very own curated deals page. Simply bookmark this page and check it when you need to get the latest promotions!
Timing is Everything
Another tip to backpack Europe on a budget is to travel during low season when nobody else is travelling. Shoulder season applies too. Essentially, avoid high season.
The tradeoff is that the weather may not be the most ideal or not everything is open during this time of the year.
The advantage is that prices can be dirt cheap, the poor weather may not come to pass, and you'll likely be at popular attractions with nobody else around.
If you're able to schedule your trip during low-season when prices are less inflated and businesses are pushing offers to attract travellers to come, you're going to save a lot more money.
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