Your excited to get to Europe, you know what you want to see when your there and you know exactly how your getting from place to place. What could possibly stand in your way of a fun filled time? Ultimately I think the answer is nothing!! However, not understanding what your time in Europe will cost you and planning accordingly can cause terrible disappointment if the image in your mind does not match the reality in your wallet. Let's take a look at what a day in Europe will cost you at bare minimum.
Of course those of you that are loaded and can spend spend spend whatever it takes to do whatever you want have no need to think about budget. But lets face it...you would be getting your information from a travel agent not a blog. For the rest of us, knowing what to expect in terms of cost will help us understand what we can spend money on and what we can't. So let's look at the strictest of budgets and your own situation can augment it from there. There really are any number of ways one can save money while over in Europe that I will surely cover in future posts (shopping at grocery stores, sleeping on overnight trains, buying "subway"/metro passes, going to museums on "free" days). For now I would just like to give an idea of what one should be expecting to spend day in and day out. What I'm not going to discuss in much detail here are the unexpected like train reservation costs, getting a rental car out of an impound lot in Prague or paying the fine for riding the S-Bahn two stops too far in Berlin. It would be wise to have a credit card on hand with 1500-2000 dollars in case of such emergencies.
On a 40 day trip I took last summer, I traveled all over Europe and I spent about 50-60 dollars per day on average. Of course each country has its own flavor and some of them tend to be a bit more expensive than others but my experience is that all in all you can establish a daily budget that will be sufficient in any country on the Euro (Switzerland and England can challenge your budget). Your budget may go a tad farther in Spain than it does in France but a little adjustment in where and how you eat can make up for it and you may not spend as much in countries you have already seen the sites in because no one needs to seen Stonehenge twice. When it comes down to it you have to think about what you're going to spend your money on. The biggies are housing and food.
If you're traveling alone you will want to stay in Hostels. The type of accommodation can vary greatly from a really crappy basement room with no ventilation and 8 stinky travelers in the middle of the red-light district in Amsterdam to spectacularly clean rooms and a bar with big screen TVs and fussball in Germany. The price however is not always reflective of what your gonna get and you do have to be careful in your choices (once again, info for a later post). That being said cheaper does not always mean dirty or unsafe and one should expect to find a decent place (maybe even a hidden jewel of a place) for about 15-20 Euros a night. Currently that means about 21-29 dollars a night. So lets say in the best case scenario you can find a place for 20 dollars a night, but you should really plan on spending about 30. If you're traveling with someone then the costs are roughly going to be the same but you can get more private and fancier accommodation in budget hotels.
Our next big cost per day is going to be food. Whoever said one could not survive off Kebabs alone has never been completely broke in Germany . If you were willing to only eat these wonderfully delicious sandwiches every meal you could probably fill up, varying the fillings to change it up a bit, for about 5-7 dollars a meal. In fact there are any number of "hole-in-the-wall" joints that offer good tasting food in any given city that you can eat for 5 or so dollars but that might not be the cheapest. A fast handmade cheese pizza with olive oil drizzled (or poured) on top made right in front of you can cost about 4 Euros in Naples and its worth every Euro cent. If your hostel has a kitchen, a trip to the local grocery store for pasta and some sort of sauce can easily cut costs in about half. Add the fact that a lot of hostels (if you pick them right) will provide some sort of breakfast included in the cost (bread, jam, cereal and tang type juice) off which you can fill up on can save even more money. The fact of the matter is however, that your body is not going to let you survive off Kebabs and bread for 4 weeks and your trip enjoyment level will drop so budgeting a little extra is a good idea. Set aside 10-15 dollars a day and you will be fine on a tight budget to vary up your meals a bit.
With food and housing then, one can be expecting about 40-45 dollars a day. While you may think "well that's all there is, I can do that"....it's unfortunately not. Getting around a city by bus or metro can start to add up as well. Of course there are city passes for any number of days or trips that can be bought in most major cities that can lower the cost but if you think you're seriously going to get around Rome on foot after 3 weeks of travel you're kidding yourself. It would be a good idea to figure about 5-6 dollars a day to use the metro or bus system. In the end this is going to be worth it if you are trying to see as much as you can in a limited time because it will limit the transit time to the things you want to see...On the other hand if you are just hanging out in a city for a week or more you can save on this cost by casually walking and seeing the city at your own pace. You would be wise in any case to count on this cost. If you don't use it, just think about the splurging you can do on great tasting fries in Belgium.
About now we are at roughly 50 dollars a day and we still haven't paid to see any museums, climbed the Eiffel tower, taken a stocherkahn ride up the Neckar or bought any French wine to sit along the banks of the Seine and sip. Here your costs are going to depend on what you find interesting and what you are willing to pay for. Since I have been to Paris and have seen the Louvre a co uple times, climbed the Eiffel tower and been through the catacombs I would rather spend my money people watching while enjoying some wine. This turns out to actually be the cheapest anyways. For those who have not been however, your budget may have to reflect this type of thing. This means adding another 10,15 or 20 dollars to your sight seeing days.
When it comes down to it there are any number of things that can add to the daily costs of a trip. It may be so hot you need to buy bottled water just to make it to the next sight. Then again, the best tasting water flows out of natural springs all over Italy that you can just fill up your bottle at so that can eliminate that cost there. You may just have to try the Paella in Valencia and that can set you back 20-30 Euros or 29-45 dollars. But when it comes down to it, you can, with a little responsibility and self-control get by at least for now on around 50-60 dollars per day (33-40 Euros) . Of course the more pocket change you have the more you can do and you may want to shorten your trip so as to have more to flexibility to spend per day. Do you really want to have to decide between having a few or more Hefeweizen beers in Germany or going to the top of the Fernsehturm in Berlin? Ok ok, that was a no brainier but you can always substitute the beer for lunch and still see the sight!