Backpacking through Europe is a rite of passage for many Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders. Here are ten tips to keep your budget low and your comfort and style high.
Unless you’re only traveling with carry-on baggage, take a spinner suitcase instead of a backpack,
Carry-on baggage allowance is lower in Europe than in the US. Unless you’re traveling ultralight, take a spinner suitcase instead of a backpack. Carrying a backpack for long periods is uncomfortable and it’s often hard to find your stuff when it’s migrated to the bottom! If you are packing for Paris it’ll take much less time packing a suitcase than a backpack too.
Plan your visa situation – 90 Days in Schengen Countries.
You can only stay a total of 90 days out of any 180 day period in Schengen countries (list of Schengen countries). This includes most of Western Europe and some of Eastern Europe, but it doesn’t include the UK. Russia isn’t part of the Schengen zone. You’ll need a Visa if you want to go to Russia.
If you’re from the US, Australia, New Zealand you won’t need a visa to stay up to 90 days out of a 180 day period in the Schengen countries. Just take your passport and go. Your passport needs to have three months validity past the end of your proposed stay.
Use Priceline to stay in a 4 star hotel for hostel prices.
If you’re traveling with another person, you can often book a nice hotel for less than the cost of two dorm beds in a hostel. if you haven’t used Priceline before there are tutorials on Youtube.
Plan some vacations from your vacation.
The faster you travel, the more money you’ll spend and the more prone to grumpiness you’ll be. Plan some rest days for doing laundry, watching movies on your laptop, and Skypeing your family.
Take public transport to and from the airport.
Europe is blessed with budget airlines. Airports in Europe (especially airports used by the budget airlines) are typically a long way from the city center. Consider public transport operating times when you book flights.
Don’t book flights so early in the morning or so late at night that you’ll need to take a cab to/from the airport.
Take free walking tours.
Many European cities offer free walking tours (tip expected, but pay what you wish). Example: free walking tour Berlin.
Live Like a local – Try city bike share programs.
Riding a bike is a great way to live like a local in Europe. European cities that have bike share programs include: Paris, London, Dublin, Seville, and Copenhagen. You can pick up a bike at one station and drop it off at another. These are usually most cost effective for short trips (under 30 minutes). Example: Dublin bike share price info.
Ways to reduce food costs.
A great way to save money when backpacking through Europe is to reduce your food costs. Google the locations of supermarkets and mini supermarkets near the attractions you’ll be visiting. You can use these to buy hummus, yogurt, salads, and other low cost foods for healthy lunches and snacks. This will save you both time and money. You can save money on buying coffee from cafes by preparing your own coffee in the morning and drinking it from a leak-proof, insulated travel coffee mug throughout the day.
Buy daily or weekly passes for the public transportation.
This is usually cheaper than paying by the ride and will typically also save you time vs. paying for individual tickets each time you want to ride. You may need a special card in order to purchase a daily or weekly unlimited ride pass. For example, for London you’ll need an Oyster Card. If you’d like to know Paris metro prices check our post which provides all this information in a easy to understand way.
Visit free museums and attractions.
For example, while London can be an expensive city, you can visit many of London’s museums for free. These include: the British Museum, the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate Modern, and the Tate Britain.
Try to mix and match attractions that charge a fee with those that are free.
What backpacking through Europe tips did I miss? What are your best tips for saving money without sacrificing comfort and style?