Budget Travel Tips: How I Spent $3,700 CAD on my 6-Week Europe Trip
If you want to know how to save money during a trip but not sacrifice quality, this post is for you.
Specifically, I’ll be talking about my Europe trip, but these money-saving tips can be applied to any destination.
During my six weeks in Europe, I visited 8 countries and 13 cities, and spent a total of $3,700 (Canadian dollars). Not bad! Before we dive deeper into the details, I want to point out some things first.
I visited both expensive and affordable cities in the UK, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Italy, France, and Switzerland. When planning my itinerary, I checked out resources like the Backpacker Index for Europe.
Being budget-conscious doesn’t mean living poorly. I totally felt like I was living the life. I ate at expensive restaurants, had high tea in London, splurged on a Sziget festival ticket ($93), and had a roof over my head every single day.
Safety was a priority. I brought my unlocked phone from Canada and bought European SIM cards along the way. I used reliable transportation and never stayed at sketchy hostels.
I didn’t do any major shopping, except for buying a few gifts for friends back in Canada and one item of clothing for myself. I like to invest in experiences instead.
Half the time, I stayed at friends’ houses. I have some very generous friends—you know who you are, and I love you. The other half of the time, I stayed in hostels.
So, what’s the breakdown?
Here is the breakdown of what I spent by category.
|Item||Cost (CAD $)||% of Total Cost|
|Accommodation (Note: I paid for 23 nights of accommodation out of 45 total days)||506.93||14%|
|City to City Transportation||690.38||19%|
|Public Transportation Within Cities||294.81||8%|
|Food and Beverages||871.41||23%|
|Entertainment and Fun||188.81||5%|
|Sightseeing, Museums and Tours||110.32||3%|
Note: The currency used in this post is Canadian dollars (CAD).
I spent a total of $3,713 on the trip. My greatest expenditures were on food (23% of total), city to city transportation (19%), roundtrip airfare (18%), and accommodation (14%).
When I was thinking about planning this trip, I made a very rough budget. I calculated that I would spend between $3,200-$4,300. Since $3,713 falls right in the middle, that means one of two things: either I’m awesome at following budgets or I’m an awesome budgeter. I think both, haha.
In either case, I did pretty well. I have a friend who spent $10,000 in one month in Europe. Of course, our spending habits were quite different.
Roundtrip Airfare = $650
I got an amazing deal on my roundtrip flight from Vancouver to London. Thanks to a post I saw on YVR Deals, I got a $350 one-way Air Transat direct flight from Vancouver to London. For the trip back, I paid $300 for a WestJet flight with two layovers, one in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and one in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Conveniently, I have one friend who lives in St. John’s, and one friend who lives in Halifax, so I visited them both on my way back home!
Not only did I pay basically nothing for my flight back home, but I got the most incredible emergency seat on the 6.5-hour flight from Halifax to Vancouver.
For all trips, the roundtrip airfare is always a huge chunk of money. I like using sites like Skyscanner and Google Flights to find the best deals. If you can be flexible with your dates and destination, it’s much easier to find lower prices.
Do you have any tips on getting cheap flights? What’s the best deal you ever got on a flight? Leave a comment!
Pre-Trip Purchases = $155
When I booked my flight to Europe, one thing I was worried about was getting a suitable backpack for the trip. With only nine days until departure, I scrambled to research what kind and size of backpack would be good for six weeks. I decided that 30-40L would be the best size, and I managed to find an amazing deal on Craigslist. I got a new 35L backpack for $85! It retails for over $300.
Some other things I bought were an electrical adapter ($10), sunscreen ($15), and gifts ($45).
Accommodation in Hostels = $20/Night
Of the 45 days, I paid for 23 nights of accommodation in hostels and spent an average of $20 per night. The other 22 nights were spent at friends’ houses. I used Hostelworld most of the time to book places. The most expensive hostel I stayed at was $50/night in Munich. The cheapest was $12/night in Budapest. If you can average $20-25 per night in Europe, then I would say you are doing pretty well.
I know some of you will ask: Aren’t hostels dirty? Aren’t you scared people will steal your stuff? Aren’t there creepy people? Of course hostels aren’t as luxurious as five star hotels. But you’ve got yourself the basics: a sink, a toilet, a shower, a bed with sheets changed everyday. Most hostels have lockers where you can store more valuable items.
Some alternatives to staying at hostels are Airbnb and Couchsurfing. I stayed at an Airbnb in Budapest with two friends from Vancouver and it was the best decision ever. The host’s best friend is a chef and he made us a three-course Hungarian meal!
Transportation between 13 Cities =$690
Transportation between cities gave me such a huge headache. I could have done so much better on this item.
I spent an average of $53 getting from city to city. Because I planned this whole trip in one week, I didn’t thoroughly research the cheapest ways to get from city to city.
There was no easy way to get from Budapest to Venice, so I found a ridiculously expensive rideshare for $99 through BlaBlaCar, which was not a bad experience overall—make sure you check the driver reviews before you book through ridesharing sites. I also had to buy a $160 flight from London to Berlin, which could have been avoided if I had booked earlier (budget airlines offer ridiculous discounts if you book early).
You can see the trips I made, from most expensive to cheapest.
|Trip||Cost (CAD $)|
|Flight from London, UK, to Berlin, Germany||160.00|
|Overnight Train from Venice, Italy, to Paris, France||115.83|
|Rideshare from Budapest, Hungary, to Venice, Italy||99.18|
|Eurostar Train from Lyon, France, to London, UK||94.05|
|Private Shuttle Bus from Český Krumlov, Czech Republic, to Vienna, Austria||42.40|
|Bus from Berlin, Germany, to Nuremberg, Germany||32.89|
|Bus from Munich, Germany, to Prague, Czech Republic||27.17|
|Rideshare from Vienna, Austria, to Budapest, Hungary||21.45|
|Bus from Paris, France, to Lyon, France||21.45|
|Bus from Munich, Germany, to Friedrichshafen, Germany||18.59|
|Bus from Prague, Czech Republic to Český Krumlov, Czech Republic||15.90|
|Bus from Grenoble, France, to Lyon, France||15.73|
|Bus from Nuremberg, Germany, to Munich, Germany||12.87|
|Bus from Lyon, France, to Geneva, Switzerland||12.87|
One thing I did right was to take coach buses like FlixBus from one city to another. They were almost always cheaper than taking the train, and they weren’t all that slower. A lot of times, the cheaper bus ride would take 5 hours and the train ride (30-50% more expensive) would take 4 hours—not too much of a difference. The buses are pretty comfortable too and lot of them have free Wi-Fi.
I did consider getting a Eurail pass—basically a flexible train pass that you can use to travel to many European cities—but I didn’t think it was worth it for me because I stayed in cities longer than most people, and the buses were cheaper anyways. If you’re planning a trip to Europe, you should look into it.
Daily Spending (Transportation, Food, Entertainment, Sightseeing) = $38/Day
Not bad at all! Here’s the breakdown:
|Item||Total (CAD $)||Per day (CAD $)|
|Food and Beverages||871.41||19.36|
|Entertainment and Fun||188.81||4.20|
|Sightseeing, Museums and Tours||110.32||2.45|
Public transportation ($6.55/day): On most days I took public transportation. I did do a lot of walking too, but most days called for at least two or three subway rides. In some cities, I bought day passes if I knew I would be using a lot of public transportation.
Food and Beverages ($19.36/day): I always tried to make breakfast as cheap as possible. One time, I bought a pack of oatmeal for $1-2 and I ate some every day with an apple for a week. In each city, I would aim to go to an expensive restaurant 2-3 times and spend $25-40 at these meals. Other times, I would find cheap but healthy options. Grocery stores were my favourite. Never in my life have I eaten so many sandwiches before—great European sandwiches, mind you. Sometimes, I cooked at hostels. Sometimes, the friends I stayed with cooked for me. Never did I skip a meal.
Miscellaneous ($5.45/day): This category includes SIM cards, gifts for friends/hosts, postcards, toiletries, medicine, washroom usage, and the one shirt I bought for myself.
Entertainment and Fun ($4.20/day): A huge chunk of this was the Sziget music festival ticket ($93).
Sightseeing, Museums and Tours ($2.45/day): I did several “free” walking tours (you pay a $5-10 tip). Museum tickets are generally cheap, except for the famous ones in Paris (though there are ways to get in for free at the Louvre, like going on Fridays after 6 PM if you’re under 26 years old). There are surprisingly a lot of free attractions and museums in Europe.
Some Last Thoughts on Budget Travel
Travelling doesn’t have to be expensive.
I visited some of the most expensive cities in the world on this trip, and I didn’t break the bank. Being on a budget forced me to think about what mattered most. For me, that was having interesting experiences. Some of my best memories didn’t cost anything: hiking up Gellért Hill to get a good view of Budapest, exploring Berlin streets with new friends, watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night. (Okay, maybe I spent two euros on public transportation to get to those places, but you know what I mean.)
During the trip, I made conscious decisions of what I wanted to see, what I wanted to eat, and where I wanted to go. I splurged on some things; I was frugal with other things.
Most importantly, I didn’t let my budget limit my adventures.
If you are thinking about travelling but are worried about budgeting, don’t fret. There are always ways to cut costs so you can spend money on the things that matter the most.
Start by researching online and making a budget plan for your travel: Are there any flight deals? How much is one night in a hostel/Airbnb? How much is public transportation? How much is a restaurant meal? How much do museums cost? What are the options for getting around from city to city?
And when you finally hop on that plane, eat that food, see those things you’ve been dreaming of—albeit with a little less money every time you pull out your wallet—you’ll realize one thing: all of this is priceless.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are some of the ways you save money when travelling? What do you find the hardest to cut costs on?