How Much Does It Cost To Backpack Europe Alone?
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Recently, I took the opportunity to go on a trip that I had been thinking about for almost five years now. I had always wanted to travel across the pond and backpack Europe alone but it was just never the right time (newsflash it never is). I decided to pull the trigger about 3 months ago. I did some research, gave it about a week of consideration and then just booked the flights. That was that! I had no real plan and no clue how much it would cost, but I wanted it, so I did it.
How much does it cost to backpack Europe alone?
On average I spent around $60 to $80 per day. That includes my room, food, and entertainment. What it doesn’t include are my flights which as I will show you later, is by far the biggest and most variable expense.
Unfortunately, for me, I’m not an Instagram influencer selling crappy skinny teas so I couldn’t take off work for months to backpack all of Europe alone. What I did get to do was take ten days and travel to London, Brussels, and Amsterdam.
This small sample of Europe gave me even more motivation to save and get back there someday, hopefully for longer than a week and a half. I met some cool people, saw some amazing places, and ate delicious food. That’s my idea of a perfect vacation.
Below I’m going to share with you all of my expenses down to the dollar. I made some mistakes along the way that you can and should avoid when you decide to backpack Europe alone. Keep reading so you can learn from me.
Let’s get into it.
No matter if you are backpacking Europe, South Asia or Colorado, you need to have your supplies ready before you leave so let’s start there. To be honest, I packed the night before and basically threw everything in my backpack.
If you are planning a trip out of the country there is one thing you need to make sure you have well in advance and that is your passport. If you are getting a passport for the first time it is going to cost you around $145. No, that isn’t necessarily cheap but it doesn’t expire until 10 years later so the cost is worth it.
Before you book anything double check your passport!
I had a friend who had gotten married and her passport didn’t reflect her name change. Luckily you can expedite getting a new passport. Of course, at an extra cost.
Now that you have your passport all set it’s time to get your travel gear in order. For this trip, I really didn’t need much except a backpack.
I knew that I wanted to be as mobile as possible and wanted to avoid checking bags at an airport so a large backpack was really my best/only option. I ended up going with a large internal frame backpack. It’s really made for hiking and carrying camping gear but it worked out GREAT.
The model was a Teton Sports Scout 3400 (pictured below). It held enough clothes for 9 days, a laptop, and was waterproof. What more could a person need? I bought it for $69.99 so the backpack basically paid for itself by allowing me to avoid checked bag fees. If you want to check it out here it is on Amazon.
The second piece of travel gear I bought was another backpack. Yes, I took two for this trip and I’m so glad I did. Before you think I’m crazy for trying to lug around two full-size backpacks hear me out. The difference between this one and the first one is that it is collapsible!
When I was planning my trip I didn’t even realize these existed and I ended up stumbling across a YouTube video that convinced me I needed it. Here it is:
As you can see in the picture above it collapses into something that is about the size of my hand. This makes it easy to carry in the Teton from above and when expanded allows me to put a laptop, coat, and some snack in it, making it the perfect day pack when exploring the city.
The brand is the Zomake Lightweight Packable Travel Backpack and it cost me $18.99 on Amazon. If you’re interested just click the link above and it will take you right there.
The last piece of supplies that I had to buy were the adapters. Unfortunatley, I had to buy these while I was in London because that ones I brought didn’t work. That’s what I get for not doing my homework and knowing that the plugs were different in London versus the rest of Europe. A USB adapter cost me just over $12.
I’ll be doing a full article on what to pack if you want to take a trip like this one so be sure to join my newsletter by filling out the form below.
It’s no secret the most expensive part of any traveling is the cost of transportation, specifically flights. This cost can vary by hundreds of dollars depending on where you live and where you are going.
Personally, I believe I was on the high end of this cost flying from a Midwest city and not a major hub like Atlanta or Chicago.
My flight plan was Kansas City to Minneapolis to London. On the way back it was the same except I flew out of Amsterdam instead of London. I flew Delta which means they serve you two meals and it’s all you can drink alcohol. Seriously, I watched the lady next to me pound at least 6 Coke and Rums within an hour. She was obviously doing it to sleep better right?
Either way, the flights weren’t bad at all and ran just under 9 hours long when going from Minneapolis to Europe and vice versa.
Total Cost: $799
Trains and Buses
Whenever you hear people talk about their experience when they backpack Europe alone, the low cost of transportation comes up. I also found this to be true.
During my trip, I had to find a way to get from London to Brussels and Brussels to Amsterdam. I did this by train and a bus.
To my surprise, both were way nicer than I ever expected. The train had seats that folded back slightly, plugins for your electronics, and WiFi. The bus was the same way and was a newer coach bus. I was honestly expecting a school bus to pull up so I’m glad I kept my expectations low.
Another expense I ran into was that I had to get a tube pass in London that I only used once getting from the airport to downtown. I loaded my oyster card with $25 and only used around $6 of that so shame on me. The last train I took was in Amsterdam. Again, just going from downtown to the airport.
Total Cost: $168
The other cost I had in regards to transportation was actually getting to the airport in the first place. I don’t live in Kansas City but I flew out of MCI because the flights were more than $400 cheaper than flying out of Wichita. This means gas, Ubers, and toll road payment.
If you are one of the lucky few and live in a major hub or have a good friend that will give you a ride for free, then be thankful.
Total Cost: $80
A couple of weeks ago I came out with an article while I was in Brussels called First Time Using A Hostel? Here’s What You Should Expect. If you can’t tell by the title, I used hostels for my whole trip and it was quite the experience. If you’ve never used a hostel before, they are great but if you want to hear the inside, real-time experience then check out that article after you are done here.
Disclaimer: I may have been a couple of amazing Belgium beers in when I wrote it so enjoy.
Okay, back to what you are here for; the cost. Hostels are notoriously cheap and this is exactly what I experienced. On average I paid about $30 per night.
I tried to find some hosts on Couchsurfing.com but had no luck and Airbnb was just too expensive (usually around $75 a night). I didn’t even look into getting a hotel because who even does that any more?
Staying in a hostel gave me the experience I had dreamed about years before when thinking about backpacking Europe alone. Everyone there knew no one but we were all there for the same reason. Pretty cool if you ask me.
Total Cost: $290
Food and Drink
Food and drink is usually the second largest expense for anyone trying to backpack Europe alone because well, you have to eat. Add in the fact that you’re transient and trying to experience the best and most delicious cuisine they have to offer. There is no good way around it.
Now, there are ways you can do this and keep your expenses way down. For instance, when we traveled to Iceland last year, we shopped at the grocery store and made most of our food. Sandwiches for lunch and big group meals for dinner.
But I did that exactly zero times on this trip. I ate out for every single meal and I can confirm it was much more expensive.
On average, I spent about $17 per day on food. It probably should have been higher than this but I would fast until about 2-3pm every day and then just have one big meal like some of the food below.
I can’t emphasize enough how AMAZING some of the food was that I ate. Most of it came from small vendors at the open-air market or food trucks. Experiencing all the new food was the cherry on top of an awesome trip, so totally worth the cost in my opinion.
Total Cost: $179
If you are going to backpack Europe alone and travel through London, Brussels, and Amsterdam then you would be doing a disservice to yourself by not trying out some beer. Honestly, I have a new appreciation for a good beer after this trip but I’ll still stick to what I know best (Busch Light).
When I was in London, I noticed that everyday people would have an afternoon pint. They would be in the park, at a cafe, or a corner pub. It was refreshing and hard to resist when you can buy a pint for $4 at a lakeside bar.
The Netherlands is home to Heineken so of course, I had to stop in for a brewery tour and get the full experience. Belgium just speaks for itself. There I stopped at a place that had over 2000 beers on tap. It was great and when you are exhausted from the miles and miles of walking, a cold beer really hits the spot.
I enjoyed my drinks but I did a decent job of keeping it under control. I have a bad habit of buying drinks for other people and that can get expensive real quick.
Total Cost: $69
This is where expenses on a trip can go crazy, really fast. Before you know it, you can spend $50 a day or more on leisure things that you don’t need. This is a vacation though and you are backpacking Europe alone so of course, you need to do some things that you want.
I was conscious of this but didn’t really make decisions based on how much I was going to spend. I knew my upper limit and just rolled with it. What came from this was me being much more frugal than I expected to be. Here are some of the paid things I did:
- Churchill War Rooms Museum: $30
- Tower Bridge Tour: $13
- Heineken Brewery Tour: $21
What I noticed and didn’t expect were all the FREE things that were available. Every city I went to had a free walking tour where the guides were paid only by your tips. Yes, the word free sucks you in and nothing is TRULY free but it was well worth it.
Other things were the museums, especially in London. I went to the Science Museum and next door was their Natural History Museum. If we’re being honest, it was far more impressive than the Smithsonian.
I spent most of my time wandering and exploring all I could. I spent a ton of time in the parks and relaxing and participated in anything I wanted that I found while walking around.
Total cost: $154
It’s time to put this all together, let’s figure out the total it cost me to backpack Europe alone. Drum roll please…
To backpack in Europe alone for 10 days it cost me just over $1,800.
Looking back, this is cheaper than what I had expected. I was fully prepared for it to cost over $2,000.
On the flip side of things, I realize I could have saved some money in certain areas rather easily. If I wouldn’t have eaten out for every meal and cut out the alcohol I could have saved over $100, no problem. But I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m glad I spent what I spent.
Was It Worth It?
Absolutely, 100%, No doubt.
I could stop that section here and you’d know how I feel but let me explain.
I paid $1,800 for something that I always thought would be too expensive. Something that I believed I would never have time to do. A risk I didn’t want to take especially going alone.
Meeting new people, going new places, and the unknown will always be scary so why be scared?
All of my experiences, the good food, and the great beer made this a trip of a lifetime. Yes, I may have only gone for 10 days but those 10 days taught me a lot about myself. If you’re second-guessing yourself or trying to talk yourself out of backpacking Europe alone, then stop. If I can do it, you can (and should) do it too.
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