How Do I Budget for Traveling in Europe?

I’ve been getting budgeting questions for travel in Europe a lot lately since a whole new batch of people are preparing for their study abroad. So, I figured, I’d just put my answers down in a blog entry, that way anyone can see it. I am also more than happy to help anyone out if they have further questions. I traveled throughout England and Western Europe practically every week during my exchange at the University of Bath, so I can definitely help.

Here were my travel preferences, just so you get an idea about what kind of a traveler I am: I wanted to see everything off my Europe bucket list; I was def. pro-cheap hostels and cheap food (€1,5 pizza slice in Italy!), but every once in awhile, I like to splurge on one nice meal per country/city (beware of tourist traps though!). I also like to make the most of my time once I’m in a city, even if that means paying a little extra more. Why spend so much money getting to London and not spend a little more to go into Westminster Abbey (only if you’re into that)? That being said, I never went up the Eiffel Tower or visited Stonehenge despite being so close. I know an overrated tourist trap when I see one.

Short Answer:

I took this pass/fail EUS 113 Preparation for Study Abroad in Europe class and they recommended budgeting $100/travel day. Obviously it’s much cheaper once you start classes and have a stable dorm and food source.

$100/day sounds like a lot to me, but it should include: transportation (to and around the city spread over days) + lodging + meals + misc. (tickets to the Louvre, cute clothes from Zara and H&M, souvenirs, tours).

Long Answer:

A lot of it depends on when you will be traveling. I did Spring ’10 and left right after Christmas and traveled straight until classes started about 6 weeks later. Obviously this was more expensive and stressful than traveling every weekend from my base in England.

Transportation:

It depends on where you’re based. I heard from the Czech Republic, it’s super cheap to travel. Because England wasn’t on the mainland, I’m sure it was more expensive to fly over to Europe all the time.

If you are planning on traveling to many cities during one long stretch of time, as I did before classes started, it might be good to get a Eurail Pass for the trains (http://www.eurail.com/). I must warn you though that trains aren’t as cheap and adventurous/fun/magical/romantic as Texans believe they are (they are much like the trains in the Northeast, which is why I called out Texans). The Eurail pass is expensive to begin with (I think I spent around $700 for my global 1 month pass) and you still have to pay more money (about $15/train) for the mandatory reservation on some trains (like the ones in France or Spain).

If you’re traveling from a base or if you don’t mind spending more time getting from the hostel to an airport and vice-versa, it might be cheaper to fly, but there are hidden costs. If you look at the Ryanair website (http://www.ryanair.com/), it looks like there are some awesome flights for less than £20, however you have to factor in taxes, baggage fees, and a lot of other stuff Ryanair tacks on. Not to mention, they often fly to obscure airports that might be difficult to travel to and from, although if a shuttle is available to and from the airport, that’s usually cheap.

I know it’s a lot to process right now and almost impossible to plan.

Lodging:

I try to stay around $30/night for lodging. Sometimes (especially in Spain), I can get a hostel for less, but many times, I end up paying a little more than that per night, especially if I want to stay in a nice, highly rated hostel.

As for lodging, I GREATLY prefer hostels, but I know they aren’t for everyone. I like meeting new people from around the world; I generally trust people; and I’m not picky about living conditions. From my experience, I enjoyed my time in hostels much more than my time in hotels. I also liked getting cheap, big dorm rooms; it increases your chance of meeting new, cool friends and you save money.

I always carried around a combination cable lock (fits almost every kind of locker) and ear plugs (lots of snorers in the world). Despite my trusting nature, I also learnt self-defense (http://www.utexas.edu/police/rad/) before coming to Europe and I slept with my phone in my pants. Reading reviews of a hostel is a good way to get an idea about its safety; I have heard horror stories. But if you’re the type of person who really values privacy, quietness, cleanliness and safety over meeting new people and saving money, then a hotel might be right for you.

Meals:

I try to average about $5 for breakfast and $10 for lunch and dinner ($25 a day). The money I save from eating cheaply during breakfast and lunch goes into my nice dinner fund, so they all balance out in the end.

Another way to save money is to cook your own food. Most hostels and hotels are located near a grocery store (in large European cities, almost everything is walking distance) and most will have their own kitchen. Here, bread and cheese will be your new best friends.

Misc.:

Budget about $20-$30/day here. You never know what may come up; you might not have budgeted as well as you hoped earlier and now are strapped for cash. Also, it’s the misc. things that can create your memories of a city. Again, any money saved from free tours (see below) and museums one day can be carried over so you can afford that boat ride from Athens to a Greek island another day.

Of course, there are many great things that you can see for FREE in Europe! Take most museums in London for example. Also the Louvre is free or heavily discounted on some nights (I went twice: once for €6 and once for free). Of course, sometimes you just have to suck it up and pay £13.50 to climb St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
I’ll stop overloading you now and leave you with a few helpful sites.

Life/Money-Saving Sites:

  • http://www.skyscanner.com/ – so you don’t have to search a million sites for cheap flights (which are usually done through Ryanair and easyJet)
  • http://www.hostelworld.com/ – also compares lots of sites, although it’s not necessarily inclusive of every hostel available. Sometimes the hostel’s own site could have better deals going on their main website that Hostelworld doesn’t have access to, so be sure to check that out too.
  • http://www.neweuropetours.eu/ – free English walking tours in most major European cities, you will usually be in the company of other young tourists. They do other paid tours and pub crawls- I highly recommend the Old City Tour in London.

Be sure to check out other sources of funding. I managed to get two study-abroad scholarships and those really helped me travel like crazy.

This scholarship gave me so much money:
http://www.iie.org/en/Programs/Gilman-Scholarship-Program – But check eligibility requirements first, that’s what gets most people out of the running

Of course this is good too for UT students:
http://utdirect.utexas.edu/student/abroad/globalassist.WBX

I know, I know, information overload, but hopefully it helped! Feel free to ask me anymore questions in the comment section below.

xTam

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