We never had much money, but a few 'travel hacks' helped us see the world for less than we were paying for rent at home! We wished we had found something like this when we begun traveling and hope y'all can use it to better plan out your travel spendings. Our goal is to teach everyone how to get out there and travel on any budget.
Before going on the trip of a lifetime it's crucial to have every last detail sorted out. We're going to outline the cheapest (and most adventurous) ways to deal with transportation, accommodation, food and drinks on a mega low budget in Europe. We traveled Europe for two months and documented every last penny we spent. As a result we have an awesomely detailed spreadsheet that can be found at the bottom of this post for future travellers to use as a reference.
How to do it cheaply: When it comes to transportation hitchhiking is obviously the extreme budget option. Although cheap, it is also a bit risky and you never know when you will reach your destination. If you have all the time in the world and travel more than one person, just go for it!
Alternatively a lot of countries have carpooling programs: websites that get you in touch with locals driving to your destination anyway. You agree on a time, pick-up and drop-off point in advance, as well as a set price, which is usually paid in cash upon arrival. We used blablacar.com all through Spain, Poland, Ukraine and Portugal and were very happy with it. It is cheaper, faster and more comfortable than any public transportation.
Public transportation can sometimes be reasonably cheap in Europe, but it is worth considering the above first. Within cities, busses tend to be cheaper than trains or metro, but they're also usually harder to figure out!
For international transportation, look into busses before flights if the countries are close together. Sometimes busses are way cheaper than flying, and if you catch an overnight bus you will also save money on accommodation.
Transportation on our trip: Our budget includes two flights within Europe and on-ground transportation in between 7 cities. We walked as much as possible and therefore had limited to no expenses on in-city transportation. In between cities we used car-pool programs and trains.
How to do it cheaply: Cheapest of all is Couch Surfing, an online community of travellers allowing fellow travellers to stay in their homes for free. This is a great budget option, but remember that it's not a hotel-service. With Couch Surfing you're expected to have an interest in spending time with your host. Therefore this is not ideal for travellers just looking for privacy and a bed to sleep in. Personally I think Couch Surfing can add a lot to the quality of your stay, as you make new friends and have locals to show you around. But it's not for everybody.
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Alternatively, Airbnb is our favorite cheap option. With Airbnb you rent a room in a local’s home, or even the entire home while the owners are away. This can especially be really cheap if you travel in couples/groups since a lot of listings don’t have extra fees for additional people. Also, you are not expected to interact with your host and can have privacy as you wish. The quality of an Airbnb rental is generally way higher than that of hostel rooms/dorms so it's great value for money. Hostels are generally cheap too, especially if you choose a bed in a large dorm room. In a hostel, you sometimes get the additional services of free breakfast or free walking tours, and as a bonus you have a chance to socialize with other travellers. In my opinion, although not the very cheapest, this is the best budget option for people travelling alone.
Accommodation on our trip: We primarily used Airbnb and Couchsurfed for 1 week out of 8. The price pr person for a cheap private Airbnb room is about the same as a bed in a hostel dorm.
We aimed for less than 15$ pr night pr person.
Food and drinks:
How to do it cheaply: This one should be fairly predictable: The cheapest option is always to hit the grocery store. It's a good idea to get basic ingredients for breakfast and lunch at the grocery store. To make sure this doesn't get too boring, take some time to look into local dishes you can make yourself. Investing in a top notch cookbook on local cuisine is always worth the price. Also search out strange foods you haven't seen before on the shelves. When it comes to drinks you can save a lot of money by getting a buzz before going out and mixing your own drinks using grocery store liquor, rather than buying cocktails in bars. Bring along a Travel Cocktail Kit to save cash while drinking in style at home! When eating out, aim for the more local areas of the city. The food here tends to be not only cheaper, but also of much greater quality than in the touristy areas. Street food is in our experience the best value for money you can find when you don't want to cook, and it can be at least as satisfying as a fancy dish at a sit-down place.
Tip: Get a ‘grocery dinner’ with a view: Our favourite dinner on a budget is a ‘grocery dinner’. We would walk to a beautiful area of the city and then shop around a grocery store for food we can eat in the street (for example pre-made salads or ingredients for sandwiches) Then we’d bring the it all to a beach, viewpoint or other cool place and eat our cheap food in awesome surroundings. Bon Apetit!
Food and drinks on our trip: We ate out 4-5 times a week, sharing a lot and choosing rather cheap and local dishes as well as street-food. A general eating out budget would be around 11$ pr person. Other than that we cooked ourselves.
We went to a lot of coffee shops to work and this is included in our budget. We also drank some alcohol but tried to only get drinks from grocery stores although a few bars visits are in there (especially in Granada where they have Amazingly Cheap Tapas Bars)
We aimed to spend less than 16$ pr day pr person on food/drinks.
How to do it cheaply: This category covers shopping, entertainment and tourism. For a lot of travellers these categories will add a lot to the cost. If you're looking to do a lot of sightseeing and visiting a lot of museums, check if the city you are going to has some sort of tourist package that includes a lot of sights. Also, a lot of museums are free on sundays or mondays. You can save a lot by showing up during the free entrance hours! A student card can in some cities get you a few good discounts. The cheapest option is obviously to skip the tourism completely: most castles/churches are interesting from the outside already, and people watching is in our opinion the very best type of sight seeing anyway! It's also worth it to invest in a great book to help you find fun in the hidden corners on the cheap. We recommend Rick Steve's Europe 101, highly worth the investment and pays for itself for all the tips on free fun!
Other on our trip: We didn't spend any money on tourist attractions or other entertainment (apart from one dance-club in Barcelona). We also only did a tiny amount of shopping. In this category we do have a decent amount of expenses on website-stuff and this should all add up in our spreadsheet to about the same amount as a budget tourist would spend on entertainment and shopping on average.
We traveled primarily through larger cities in Spain and Portugal. Prices there are about the same as in most other southern European countries such as France, Belgium, Italy, Greece and others in this area. In Northern Europe the prices will be a bit higher and in Eastern Europe a bit lower. Our spreadsheet should therefore be a good pointer if you are looking to do a Europe trip on a (fairly tight) budget.
With these premises settled it's time to take a look at our final result. Keep in mind that your style of traveling not necessarily is the same as ours and your own budget might look a bit different. Never the less it should be easy for you to moderate the chart to match your style of traveling and get an idea as to how much your trip is going to cost.
A daily average of 34,21$ adds up to 1026,2$ pr month in Europe. Traveling Asia or South America would be even cheaper. Personally, I paid 1000$ in rent and bills pr. month when I lived in Copenhagen. Then all my expenses came on top of that. As you can see it is very possible to travel cheaply, if you just know how to do it.
We've now been on the road for more than a year. Here is a post breaking down our expenses and stats for the entire first year. As you will see, we've managed to stay on the same low daily budget although we've been all around the globe.
This tool helped us break it all down and stay on track! Budgeting is al about motivation - and oh how we all love pretty graphics...
- Interact with the locals! They can give you rides, show you great attractions, and provide you with a bed to sleep in if you're nice to them!
- Eat like the locals! The most authentic food comes from street vendors, and by cooking yourself you'll learn to create interesting foreign dishes!
- Walk! Wandering around the city will not only let you see everything (even the non-interesting parts that aren't mentioned on Trip Advisor) while saving money on taxies and transportation.
- Keep track of your spendings! Having an app or a spreadsheet to outline all of your spendings is the best motivator to save a little extra!
Now it's time to pack! Here's how to fit everything into a tiny backpack...
What are you waiting for?
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