I’ve had a lot of people ask me the same question ever since I decided that I would do a solo backpacking trip in Europe—“So, how much is this going to cost?”
Overall, the trip cost me just a little bit over $3,100. I feel that I budgeted pretty well and was very conscious of my spending habits throughout the trip. You can see a more detailed breakdown of my costs on this Google Sheet.
I knew I wanted to go to Germany and Austria, but flights into all major German and Austrian airports were all well over $700 so I expanded my search. I ended up finding a flight into London and out of Budapest for only $439 before taxes and insurance. I spent a good two months figuring out what cities I wanted visit, which hostels I wanted to stay in, how I was going to get from place to place, and what I was going to do once I got there.
I crunched a bunch of numbers to figure out whether buying a Eurail pass or individual train tickets made the most sense for me to get from city to city. I got a Four Country Select Eurail pass (Benelux, Germany, Austria, Hungary) for 7 days (for the price of 6—they were having a sale, I got lucky) to be used during 2 months. My initial estimates suggested that I would save $200 with the Eurail pass instead of buying individual tickets, but I ended up saving much more. I got a little creative and used the travel days to take extra excursions beyond just getting from point A to point B. For example, I used a travel day from Heidelberg to Munich to also go to Füssen to see Schloß Neuschwanstein. I enjoyed riding trains between destinations, it was pretty fast and comfortable and many of the trains I rode on had power outlets and decent wifi.
For last minute day trips, I used FlixBus for 10€ round trip tickets. This is how I was able to visit Nuremberg while I was staying in Munich, and how I was able to visit Bratislava while I was staying in Vienna. All of the FlixBusses have wifi, power outlets, and a bathroom. Definitely a great value!
I heavily used public transportation in the bigger cities I stayed in, like London, Berlin, and Vienna. As much as I would’ve liked to walk everywhere, it got to a point where I felt like I was spending most of my day walking and not really seeing anything of importance. I was very impressed with how frequent and efficient many of the public transportation systems are. I definitely feel like I got my money’s worth there.
Food and Alcohol: $900
Restaurants were pretty expensive in Europe. I ate at a proper restaurant probably about once a day in most cities and got street food the rest of the time. Food in grocery stores was pretty cheap and I learned later on in my trip that grocery store bakery pastries tasted just as good as cute bakery pastries and cost less than half of the cute bakery price.
I ate a lot of street food in all the different countries I went to. In London, it was fish and chips. In Belgium and the Netherlands, it was french fries and mayonnaise. In Germany, Austria, and Hungary, it was Turkish kebabs. They were all super inexpensive options that were great to grab and sit on a bench somewhere and do some quality people watching.
I spent a fair bit of money on alcohol. Beer was most expensive in London, and cheapest in Budapest. While I was in Munich, I was drinking about a liter a day of beer on average. Some days, it was more. I was always very safe—always went out with a group of people, always watched my drink, and never let myself get past the point of being buzzed. It was nice to be able to order alcohol in a bar. I won’t be able to do that in the US for another 4 and a half months.
I stayed in hostels throughout my trip, and some were definitely more hostel-y than others. I was initially a little concerned about staying in hostels as a solo female traveler in countries I’d never visited before, but I’m really glad I did it. I met so many amazing people and shared a bunch of really great experiences with people from all over the world. Despite a handful of unsavory encounters, I would definitely stay in hostels again.
- I think the best hostel I stayed at was Avenue Hostel in Budapest. The bed was clean and super comfy, there were two outlets very close to the top of the bed for the people who like to be on their phone while in bed and charge it at the same time. The dorm room was designed in such a way that the beds were in little cubbies that offered a good amount of privacy and both plenty of lockable storage. The bathroom and shower was ensuite and cleaned several times a day.
- On the more moderate side, all of the Meininger hostels (Brussels, Salzburg, Vienna) they were more like hotels in terms of rooms and amenities provided—there were fewer people in the rooms, comfy beds, and clean en-suite bathrooms. These were all at least 2km away from their respective city centers and it wasn’t exactly easy to meet people outside of your room because the building was just so big and there weren’t really any dedicated socializing spaces.
- Youth Hostel Meetingpoint in Amsterdam was the closest to the central train station and was on the more modest side of the price scale. I got what I paid for, basically—a big 18 bed dorm on the top floor without an elevator with shared bathrooms and an inconsistent wifi connection. Looking past the drunk Canadian who sat on my face while I was sleeping, I had a pretty good time at this hostel.
Museums and Sightseeing: $200
I really, really enjoyed learning about European history. I went on a bunch of free walking tours in almost every city I visited and tried to go to all of the big museums. Much of the sightseeing I did was free (see past blog posts for more details on that), but there were quite a few that costed money. The museums in Amsterdam, while fantastic (especially looking at you, Van Gogh Museum and Keukenhof) were pretty expensive and definitely added up.
I went to a lot of museums/memorials about the second world war, and I’m really glad that I did. Dachau was incredibly alarming and saddening but I’m glad (for lack of a better word) that I was able to visit and learn about the harrowing experiences of tens of thousands of Jewish men and political prisoners on the physical grounds where they were tortured and murdered. Up until my trip to Europe my understanding of the second world war and the holocaust was very superficial, but I feel like I left with a much deeper and much more personal connection. I couldn’t recommend that experience to just anyone (especially those who may not be in a sound place mentally and/or emotionally), but if you think you can handle it, the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, and Dachau just outside of Munich were all incredible museums/memorials that all have a ton of information that is presented in a very accessible, well thought out way.
Given the nature of backpacking, I knew from the beginning of the trip that I wouldn’t be able to buy many souvenirs. I got a bunch of chocolates for my family, started a shot glass collection but stopped after 3 countries because I was afraid that they’d break in transport, and got some cool pins. I did splurge a bit on a pair of Birkenstocks since they were about $40 cheaper in Germany/Austria than in the US. There were a few times I found myself debating whether or not I should buy more souvenirs, but I know that this won’t be my only trip to those countries. I will be back. In the meantime, I have 90GB of pictures and video to remind me of all the fun times I had 🙂