Are you planning a trip to Europe? This might help you get started. Some years ago, I discovered my passion for travelling and, more specifically, for travelling alone. Yes, it was scary, but this is how I planned my one-month trip in Europe, travelling alone, on a budget.
Disclaimer: It was 2016 before all these budget-saving apps were even available. I had to walk around with a map in my hand.
One month in Europe: Why travel alone?
It gives me this immense freedom to do 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 are 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 travel one month in Europe?”.
1 month Europe trip cost
When it comes to planning a trip to Europe, many people start asking about costs. Here’s a list of things to help you plan a budget trip to Europe. Note that these Europe trip cost details are from 2016.
But the answer is that it’s up to you!
If there is one thing you get out of this blog post, it’s that comfort comes at a price, and it isn’t cheap.
In my case, I didn’t pay for accommodation because I planned my trip around the places I have some friends (or used Couchsurfing), and it cost me well under 1000 Euros (it was in 2016).
The total cost of my transport which I had to book was 170 Euros. After I added the price of the food and other costs (museums, city transport), it added up to 800 Euros.
Keep on reading to see how I did it and what my strategy is for planning a one-month Euro trip under 1000 Euros.
How I started planning a 1-month trip to Europe
In 2016 I was based in Klagenfurt, 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 one month before the actual trip, and because I was tired of waiting for my friends to decide if we were 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, and 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.
Planning a trip in Europe: Itinerary planning for budget backpacking in Europe
Your Europe itinerary comes down to money (again).
Years later, I’ve finally written a complete guide on how to plan a trip to Europe, and you should check it out if this is what you’re trying to figure out right now.
So there I was in front of my laptop, with only 400 Euros in my bank account (please keep in mind this was 2016!). Ok, I knew by the time I had to leave, I would have another 330 Euros. But that was for the actual trip (things like food and other unforeseen expenses).
When you travel on a budget, planning plays a huge role.
I had the entire of 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 (by bus). That was my starting point. I knew I wanted to reach Paris, and I had an approximate date because I wanted sunshine, not rainy days.
However, I had a couple of rainy days too. September can be a weird month, but at least it was warm.
Other than Paris, 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 it would cost to get to another one from there. I was checking all options, in and out of Paris.
And then I sorted everything based on the price to get there. Remember that you also need to add the cost of transportation from the airport to the city centre. Most budget airports are outside the cities, and a one-way trip to the city can be as much as 20 Euros. So I had to check that too.
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 through cities. When you travel for more than a few days, it will get you exhausted, and it’s a good idea to plan some resting days too.
I am going to walk you through my method of building a cheap itinerary in Europe and will explain each destination as I build the final list of stops from my Euro backpacking trip.
My strategy for planning the cheapest trip in Europe (I used all means of transport in Europe – plane, train and bus)
I wrote all about transport in Europe in this post: How to plan a budget trip to Europe.
After I had an idea of where I wanted to go first (Paris), I was on a mission to find the best and cheapest way to get there. Sure, there were 100 Euros train tickets and even more expensive plane tickets, but I was looking to find something less than 50 Euros to get there. When I say travel budget in Europe, I mean it.
At that time, I was based in Klagenfurt, Austria.
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.
That’s how I got to book a train to Frankfurt via Vienna. It was the best option for me, and it was a perfect opportunity to visit Frankfurt as well. And I was getting closer to Paris. It sounded like a good plan. I had no friends in Frankfurt, but it was one for one night, so I decided to use Couchsurfing.
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 at the time, they were 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. I was 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. That gave me the entire day to explore Frankfurt and also a full day in Zurich.
Taking two buses was cheaper than taking the train directly to Paris, so that’s why I added Zurich to my European tour map. Only for one day, and then took another night bus to Paris.
For that one day in Zurich, I locked my backpack in a locker at the train station, for which I paid quite a lot. I don’t remember exactly because the prices are in Francs, but I would say it was around 8 Euros. I wasn’t expecting it, but I got to see Zurich.
Also, I’m glad 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 was 10 Euros. A stamp = 3 Euros and a postcard = 3 Euros. A beer = 7 Euros (2016). Enough said.
After one sunny day in Zurich, I hopped on another night bus to Paris. By this time, I was so tired my body was hurting. I recommend booking a night bus only if you are under 25 or desperate.
The next morning I arrived in Paris.
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). I spent one week in Paris. Here’s a useful guide on how to spend 2 days in Paris. A few days with a friend and the rest of the week with someone I found on Couchsurfing.
Having friends in Dublin, I decided to go there next. The plane ticket was cheap; I bought it five weeks before. I spent six days in Dublin.
Note that the duration of each stay was also determined by the day on which the cheapest flights were.
So if the next cheap flight was in six days, then I would stay six days. If there was a cheap flight in seven days, then I would stay seven days; that was my reasoning.
From Dublin, the options were not so many. And going too far from home was not an option because it meant an expensive return ticket. (Yes, I’ve tested all the options).
Also, there are lots of things to do in Dublin that do not include visiting a bar. And if you make it to Ireland, I can’t recommend enough going to Northern Ireland and visiting the Giant Causeway. It’s just magical.
From Dublin, I found that Copenhagen was really cheap at that time. It’s ironic, considering how crazy expensive Denmark is. So I bought that cheap plane ticket to Copenhagen. Here’s a curated list of top things to do in Copenhagen on your first trip. Since then, I have visited this gorgeous city once more.
I spent another six days there—the same reasoning with the plane prices.
From there, the options were already limited. It was either a long time on a bus or a plane.
I had to get closer to Austria, So I was looking for destinations closer to my home base. I was looking for a destination that had a cheap on-land connection to the home.
While I couldn’t find anything bus, train, or plane to take me closer to Austria, I checked prices for plane tickets to Italy.
If you are in for a special treat, try to book a day trip from Milan, since it’s so close to Como Lake.
Most of the time, planes to Milan have a great price, going from all over Europe. Mine plane was less than 25 EUR. You can still find similar tickets today, but you will need to add an extra carry on or checked luggage, since the rules for luggage have changed since then.
But back in 2016, for 25 EUR, I flew from Copenhagen to Milan. That’s why I decided to go to Milan for one night. And the perk of this destination was that there was a direct cheap night train heading home in Southern Austria—total bliss. For complete disclosure, that train was a night train, which was about 26EUR, but that’s still better than a night bus because you have room to move.
Tips to find cheap accommodation in Europe
During my constant coordination between prices, tickets, and times, I had to keep in mind accommodation. I always check 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 cheap hostel is around 20 Euros per night, and then when you multiply that by 30 nights… it’s not gonna go well if you’re on a budget. It’s 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 did when I arrived in Paris was to sleep for 5 hours.*
As a last resort, check Booking for some cheap hostels, and always make sure you have a 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 save you for the night.
I was also confused if I should even consider expensive cities like Copenhagen. I had no idea if I should visit that place. But the weather was great. (I was constantly checking the weather, monthly predictions, etc.).
I knew nobody there, or so I thought. I literally searched on Facebook for “Friends who live in Copenhagen.” I have a friend from high school living there. (After arriving there, I realised I had another friend and two colleagues from the university there. I guess most people are over Facebook at this point, because most of us don’t update our profiles anymore.)
The only two places in which I had no friends prior to my trip were Frankfurt and Milan. I spent only one night in each, so I used Couchsurfing to find a host.
All in all, I’m grateful for all the wonderful people I’ve met and for all their help. This backpacking trip made me realize that people are genuinely kind. Most of them, anyway.
I met amazing people, more than welcoming, and I totally recommend it. I also used the Couchsurfing app a lot to find a buddy for a day, visit a museum, or eat ice cream.
I said it before, and I will say it again – Couchsurfing is More Than Just a Free Bed For The Night.
To sum it up, here are my tips for finding cheap accommodation in Europe:
- Check hostel beds. Try to get a bed in a smaller room for more comfort. If you’re travelling to popular locations (such as Paris or London), book well in advance.
- Check out Couchsurfing. Nowadays, you need a subscription to access it, but I believe it is for the better, as it keeps the weirdos out.
- Research hotel location. In the end, it might be worth paying a bit more for a place that is conveniently located, so you will save much more on transport tickets.
- Reach out to friends and former colleagues. I bet most of them won’t mind helping you out for a couple of days.
Managing travel dates and times during my one-month travel around Europe
Considering the lowest costs for that given time frame, planning a trip in Europe required lots of price checking and notes about different options. It was almost like a game of chess, but the outcome was all up to me.
I picked the days based on the price of the ticket. For example, taking a plane from Copenhagen to Milan was half price on a Monday than 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 arrival point had too expensive tickets, I stared at the map and searched 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 ticket (Paris – Dublin, Dublin – Copenhagen, Copenhagen – Milan was less than 26 Euros).
Sure, nowadays, they have changed their policies, and they basically charge extra for everything (cabin luggage, seat selection, etc.), but it 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 on hand! Please check out my guide on planning a Europe trip for my best and updated tips.
Kiwi is one of my favourites to check for all kinds of flight 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 to find 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.
What else to keep in mind? Booking.com in case you need a last-minute place to stay.
Don’t forget about travel insurance! You should always be on the safe side!
Check out the ultimate list for how to travel cheap in Europe for one month in Europe!
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 170 Euros. The year of this trip was 2016. After I added the price of the food and other costs (museums, city transport), it added up to 800 Euros.
This is what my final itinerary looked like.
Klagenfurt (Austria) – Frankfurt (Germany) – Zurich (Switzerland) – Paris (France) – Dublin (Ireland) – Copenhagen (Denmark) – Milan (Italy) – Klagenfurt (Austria)
If you’re looking for a Europe itinerary for your first European adventure, check out my recommended itinerary for 3-weeks in Europe. I promise it will be fabulous.
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 and confidence, and it illustrates how in the end, we can manage everything.
What’s in it for you when planning a trip to Europe for yourself?
You get to decide each step of the way, how long you stand, and what to see. You truly feel like you have complete control over your life.
I manage to travel cheaper and decide my own pace of travelling, destinations, and means of transport.
And it put a smile on my face on those mornings when, at 3 a.m., I was waking up and heading to the airport. Because it was all me. Every second of, 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).
This is my strategy for planning a backpacking trip to Europe, and I hope it helps.
Years later, I still read this 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, and tell your friends! Travel cheap to Europe and be happy!