Why travel alone?
It gives me this immense freedom of doing what I want when I feel like it, and more than that, I benefit from this never-ending source of experiencing myself through a new place and different people I meet along the way.
For those who have tried it or still do it, you will know what I’m talking about. If you are among the others, then here is a good read for you, a piece I wrote about travelling alone for the first time.
I cannot tell you enough about how much it will help you with your personal growth. Yes, there greater things yet to be discovered about yourself and here are some of my conclusions – Great Things Which Happened to Me After I Started Travelling Alone.
If your biggest question is
“How much does it cost to backpack Europe?”
The answer is: It’s up to you! If there is one thing you get out of this blog post it that comfort comes at a price and it isn’t cheap. I paid no accommodation and it cost me well under 1k Eur. How I travelled cheap, on a budget in Europe for 1 month? Continue reading and you will get the idea.
How I started planning a 1 month trip to Europe
In 2016 I was based in a small town in the south of Austria. That’s a great location to travel around Europe because it’s right in the centre.
It was about 1 month before the actual trip, and because I was tired of waiting for my friends to decide if we are going to do something together, I said to myself “I’m gonna plan my own holiday and I will make the most out of it“.
Yes, I have some tips for you to plan your own holiday, but it will always depend on a lot of other things too. The country, budget, personal lifestyle. I mean, cheap is a trade-off for comfort and time.
The entire process of planning took me one day. Yes, it was one day of work. Writing prices and locations down. And comparing. Trying different combos.
Itinerary planning for budget backpacking in Europe
In one word: Money.
So there I was in front of my laptop. With 400 Euros on my card. Ok, I knew by the time I will have to leave, I will have another 330 Euros. But that was for the trip.
When you travel on a budget, planning plays a huge role.
I had the entire Europe to choose my locations, so I was flexible about the places. Not about the money. Europe on a budget was my only plan.
And I had only one place which was for sure on the list – Paris. But other than that, no clue.
The core of my trip was planning my European route, which depends on transport connections, prices, friends who live there and weather.
Everything was so tied up, it was hard to decide.
I checked the weather for the month and decided the week I was going to be in Paris. Then I had to find a cheap way to get there.
But I had no idea where to go next. So I just check all the possible destinations, sorting them by price, and checking each one how much would it cost to get to another one from there.
Also, I was trying to find the perfect balance between the number of places to visit and the time spent in each city. I don’t like to rush. And when you travel for more than a few days, it will get you exhausted.
Using different means of transport in Europe
The plane was out of the question (in Austria). Too expensive. Then I opened Google Maps and started to check trains and buses to get there, or somewhere close to France anyway.
*Later Edit: Now they have a Lauda Motion, a low-cost airline flying to Vienna, and life is so much better. It’s like Ryanair, literally. You buy the tickets on the same website!
When travelling in Europe, the train can be expensive. Next plan: flying. Yes, there are cheap airlines, low cost, but not in Austria. So I found a pretty decent train ticket to Frankfurt.
Ok, so I decided to spend 2 days (1 night) there.
And on the second day, I found a night bus, from Frankfurt to Zurich. (Getting closer to Paris, without spending all my money on the train ticket.)
The great advantage of that cheap night bus was that I was leaving Frankfurt at midnight and arriving in Zurich, Switzerland, in the morning.
Taking two buses was cheaper than taking the train directly to Paris, so that’s why I added Zurich on my European tour map. Only for one day, and then took another night bus to Paris.
*Good thing I didn’t get any other ideas because that place is so expensive. No wonder they don’t care about the European Union stuff. A sandwich at the metro is 10 Euros. A stamp is 3 Euros and a postcard 3 Euros. A beer – 7 Euros. Enough said.*
Paris is huge. Therefore I had many transport options. Low-cost airlines, buses, trains, bla bla car. Everything. My thoughts on Paris here (sarcasm included).
Having friends in Dublin, I decided to go there next. The plane ticket was cheap, buying it 5 weeks before.
From Dublin, the options were not so many. And going too far from home was not an option because it meant an expensive returning ticket. (Yes, I’ve tested all the options). Also, there are lots of things to in Dublin that not includes visiting a bar. And if you make it to Ireland, I can’t recommend enough going to Northen Ireland and visiting the Giant Causeway. It’s just magical.
Another cheap plane ticket was to Copenhagen. From there, the options were already limited. It was either a looong time on a bus or a plane. I had to get closer to Austria, So I was looking for destinations closer to home base. (which had a cheap on land connection to home)
I decided to go to Milan for 1 night. And the perk of this destination was that there was a direct cheap night train heading home. Total bliss.
During my constant coordination between prices, tickets and times, I had to keep in mind accommodation. Always checking my Facebook friends to see the cities in which I have friends.
This step is a highly important step. Accommodation in Europe is not cheap. A hostel is around 20 Euros per night, and then when you multiply that with 30 nights… pffiu. Not an option for a 1 month trip in Europe.
So when you are looking to find cheap accommodation in Europe, try taking a night bus/train and save that money. Two in one. Transport and accommodation. Although the level of comfort declines.
*After spending 2 nights in a row on a bus, I felt so tired, the first thing I’ve done when I arrive in Paris was to sleep for 5 hours.*
As a last resort, check Booking for some cheap hostels, and always make sure you have some little extra money. For emergencies, you know?
If you happen to meet friends on the way (or make new ones), a nice flat on Airbnb could just save you for the night.
Copenhagen. I had no idea if I should visit that place. But the weather was great. (I was constantly checking the weather, monthly prediction, etc.).
I knew nobody there, so I thought. I literally searched on Facebook “Friends who live in Copenhagen”. I have a friend from Highschool there. (And after arriving there I realised I have another friend and two colleagues from the university there. Why don’t you people update your profiles?!)
The only 2 places in which I had no friends prior to my trip were Frankfurt and Milan. I spend only 1 night in each, so I used Couchsurfing to find a host.
I met amazing people, more than welcoming and I totally recommend it. I also used the app a lot to find a buddy for a day, to visit a museum or to eat an ice-cream.
I said it before and I will say it again – Couchsurfing is More Than Just a Free Bed For The Night.
Managing travel dates and times
I picked the days based on the price ticket. For example, taking a plane from Copenhagen to Milan is half price on a Monday, then if you travel on Saturday or Sunday.
The cheapest plane tickets are during the week. Monday – Wednesday. The night buses/trains were also cheaper. Or the ones leaving very early in the morning.
A lot of my mornings were spent chasing a train somewhere in those cities. Or arriving. Which is great if you want to make the most out of your day there.
What apps did I use planning and during my 1 month trip in Europe?
Google Maps – whenever the obvious departure and arriving point had too expensive tickets, I was staring at the map and searching for “What is close enough and can be cheaper?” (That was a question for me, not Google.)
OBB – The Austrian railway company. It’s cheap if you buy it a week before. It’s comfortable. The connections are great. Love it. I was always trying to use the train, whenever getting in or out of the country.
Flixbus is a bus company, which operates in many countries in Europe. Probably the cheapest one. It’s a bus, it’s ok. But it can be late, so don’t plan to catch a plane after a bus ride. Take some hours in between as a safety measure. And regarding safety, well… it’s like a car. A lot of things can happen on the highway.
Ryanair is a low-cost European airline, with great connections and really cheap tickets. Each plane tickets (Paris – Dublin, Dublin – Copenhagen, Copenhagen – Milan was less than 26 Euros). Sure, nowadays they changed their policies, and they basically charge extra for everything (cabin luggage, seat selection, etc), but still is one cheap airline. Just make sure to follow all their rules and you won’t be charged extra. Install their mobile phone, to always have the boarding pass with you!
Kiwi is one of my favourites to check for all kinds of flights connections. Low cost or not, this is worth checking and I love it.
Couchsurfing is an online platform for travellers, open-minded people who have a great passion for travelling and love meeting fellow travellers and/or locals. I used it for finding people to hang out with or to find a place to stay. Great, amazing community. Too bad some speak poorly of it. I have many amazing memories because of it and I have many more friends because of it. Read more about my experiences with Couchsurfing.
Airbnb can also be a good app to try to stay with some locals, and the prices are good. Use this link to get €34 in travel credit when you sign up.
What else to keep in mine? Booking.com in case you need a last minute place to stay.
Destinations for my 1 month trip in Europe
Oh boy, I felt exhausted after a day of sitting on a chair and killing the internet. And extremely proud of my achievement. And not a single night had to be spent in a hostel. Mastery.
The total cost of my transport which I had to book was of 170 Euros. Year: 2016.
This is how my final itinerary looked like.
Klagenfurt (Austria) – Frankfurt (Germany) – Zurich (Switzerland) – Paris (France) – Dublin (Ireland) – Copenhagen (Denmark) – Milan (Italy) – Klagenfurt (Austria)
The outcome of planning my own backpacking trip
I was always waiting for someone else to bring me along on their trips or plan everything for me. Oh, I had no idea what I was missing.
This simple, basic thing, gives a feeling of self-control, confidence, and it illustrates how in the end we can manage everything.
I manage to travel cheaper, decide my own pace of travelling, destinations, and means of transport.
And it put a smile on my face on those mornings where at 3 am I was waking up, heading to the airport. Because it was all me. Every second of it, it was my idea and I happily embraced it.
But I had to put in the work. Nothing worth having comes easy or cheap. And cheap isn’t always about the money.
Thanks for reading (assuming you made it this far :D). This is my idea of planning a backpacking trip to Europe and I hope it helped. Years later, I still read my blog post and find it hard to understand how I did it, but this is proof that most things happen when you have to make them happen, not when you have extra cash to pump into your 1 month trip to Europe. Travelling on a budget to Europe happens only when you are truly committed to living on a budget and the reality is that not all of us are. Unfortunately.
There is still a lot to be said, but I hope you got the idea. Anyway, feel free to tell me about your plans and travel ideas and I will try my best to help you. When I don’t travel, it makes me really happy to help someone else travel!
Please share, pin, tell your friends! Travel cheap and be happy!