Last year I quit my job, bought a one way ticket to Rome and went backpacking Europe alone for three months. Before going everyone’s question was about whether I was scared and why I was doing it. After returning alive, for the surprise of many, the big question was “how much did you spend?”, to which my response would be the shock to all who were curious: 2000€
Truth to be told, most people didn’t believe I only spent that, specially because we are talking about Europe and not Asia or South America. Europe is known for being expensive when it comes to travelling, specially for a longer period of time. But if you take the time to research about all your options, means of transportation, place to stay, and how much little you can spend per day, you’ll see that things aren’t quite like they say. Before going an my adventure, I already knew everything (almost) about how much I could live of, in each place I was planning to travel to.
So, how did I do it, and how can you do it too?
First there was a lot of research & I totally ignored the million articles I read about travelling for 50€ a day, because honestly I knew I could do it for less than that, even travelling in Europe.
Every time I had to move from one place to another, I wouldget the cheapest mean of transportation, I slept in hostels, I travelled during low season when prices were about half the price compared to the rest of the year, and I created a daily budget for food and activities of 10€ (something that’s not impossible to achieve, but I know it’s not for everyone). Last, but not least, I learned how to prioritize and only spend money on things I really wanted to do.
For example, I’m not a museum kind of person, I would not spend 10 or 15€ in one just because travel guides say it’s a must do. With this came the decision to not buy any souvenirs for family and friends or myself for that matter. The only souvenir I got to remember my trip were postcards from each place I stopped and about a million photos in my camera.
Here goes a complete description of 3 months of travel between 29 buses, 25 trains and 2 flights with 2000€ in my pocket
Country no. 1 – ITALY
I spent a total of 27 nights in Italy. Before boarding my flight to start my adventure, I was warned several times that spending so much time in Italy would kill my budget right away and that I would have to cut down on the time I was going to travel. I planned my budget for months, and even after having a couple of expenses I wasn’t counting on, I spent a total of 775€ (including all means of transportation, food, entrances to any kind of attractions, and accommodation).
ROME (3 nights)
Transport: flight from Lisbon to Rome with TAP airline, which allows you to take 22kg o luggage for free and offers you a small snack on board (65€)
Accommodation: In Rome I stayed at Twin Cities Hostel. Honestly, this was my first hostel experience and will not recommend this hostel to anyone. It had poor facilities, weird rules, a location that’s too far away from the center and will make you spend money on the metro each day, and the fact that it was cheaper than other hostels wasn’t worth the bad experience (because of a bad situation I actually spent 0€ here).
Food & Fun: 52€
NAPLES (3 nights)
Transport: from Rome to Naples I got a regional train with Trenitalia (11,8€) which took me 2h30 to get to my destination. There are faster trains, but will cost you at least twice as much.
**If you wish something even cheaper, there’s now megabus, with prices that start as low as 5€, and the journey only takes 2h50
Accommodation: Stayed at La Controra Hostel Naples, which is a little further from the city center, but in a nice and safe area, with quick metro access to the historical part. Paid 39€ with breakfast included and pretty good conditions!
Food & Fun: 38€
Day trip to Pompeii: To get to Pompeii from Naples you need to get the Circumvesuviana. The train ticket will cost you 2,6€ each way, so 5,2€ round-trip. The ticket to the ruins costs 11€, but if you’re an European Union citizen under 25, you get a reduced fare, paying only 5,5€.
Day trip to Sorrento: The circumvesuviana train that takes you to Pompeii, is the same one that you need to get to Sorrento. The ticket costs you 7,2€ round-trip and it takes about 1h to get there.
PERUGIA (2 nights)
Transport: To get to Perugia I took a 5h bus with Sulga (20€)
Accommodation: My hostel, Little Italy, was the perfect place for my two nights stay. It was small, but with incredible staff, really comfortable and very central (30€).
Food & Fun: 30€
Day trip to Assisi & Spello
Catch the minimetro from the city center to the train station (3€ round-trip); buy the ticket to Spello (6€ round-trip). On return, stop in Assisi (it’s on the way back to Perugia and the tickets to the regional trains in Italy have a 6h validation). In Assisi you’ll have to get a bus up to the town, which costs you around1€).
SIENA (2 nights)
Transport: The cheapest way to get to Siena from Perugia is by bus with Sena. The trip took only 1h and cost 18€ (to buy the ticket you either do it online on their website, or you can run to the travel agency across the street). Keep in mind that the bus will stop at Siena’s train station which is a little far from the historic center, which means you either walk and save some money (and burn some fat on the way) or you get a bus.
Accommodation: Siena was my biggest expense during my three months of travel. When I tried to book my hostel in the city, it was fully booked, which left me with two options: get an individual room and pay double as if I had stayed in a hostel, or forget about Siena and go someplace else. Siena was on the way and for the photos and reviews looked stunning, so I made the decision of going for two nights even if that meant spending more than I should. I stayed at Albergo Centrale in a double room for two nights, and paid 57€. Yes, it was one hell of a push to my tight budget, but the owner was kind enough to upgrade me for free and I ended up having a huge double room with a private bathroom and my own balcony with a view over the city and it was actually perfect.
Food & Fun: I spent a total of 50€ while in Siena.
Day trip to San Gimignano
A round-trip bus between Siena and San Gimignano costs 12€, and the journey takes a little over one hour and I promise is money very well spent as you’ll get amazing views over Tuscany hills and get lost in this medieval town.
FLORENCE (7 nights)
Transport: I took a bus from Siena to Florence that cost me 7€. Ticket bought at the bus station.
Accommodation: I stayed in Hostel Plus Florence, which has really good facilities and comfy rooms, but a little too big for my taste, I paid 87€ for 7 nights.
Food & Fun: Florence was kept on budget but it wasn’t as easy this time. The city has incredible food, so I had to take it easy and control a lot. The street food was a little more expensive than other places in Italy, and I was tricked into paying more than I thought for several times. I always had breakfast in a local cafe across the street of the hostel, I had so much pizza I remember buying one at 10am. I ended up spending around50€.
Back to Rome to meet family
My cousins were in Rome on vacation or 3 nights during the time I was in Florence. After being told at reception that I couldn’t cancel the 7 nights and I would still have to pay for the entire thing, I still decided to go to Rome. I spent 40€ round-trip on my trains with Trenitalia, Florence-Rome & Rome-Florence. To save me money, I took theregional train that takes a little over 3h of travel.
**A cheaper option for this path between Rome and Florence is the Megabus, with prices from 5€ to 20€, and travel time of 4h.
VENICE (3 nights)
Transport: I had plans to take the train from Florence to Venice, but last minute the tickets were crazy expensive, so I decided to take a 5h bus with a stop in Bologna (crazy and very rude driver who kicked my backpack because I didn’t speak Italian and he didn’t speak English) that cost me 22€. And the stopover? Got everyone out of the bus, sitting in the cold for 1h, only to get us back on the exact same bus.
Food & Fun: In Venice I went on a mission that everyone told me to be impossible: find cheap and good food. Of course if you’re searching for a cheap restaurant to have a meal, you’ll be charged an enormous amount of money, but if you stick to your budget and aren’t picky, you get fresh AMAZING pasta for only 4€!! Just get a little away from Piazza San Marco, and I promise you’ll find your perfect hidden spot that won’t kill your budget. That’s what I did, and I didn’t starve. Another option are the 1,5€ huge slices of pizza that you can find anywhere and taste incredible. If you’re looking for something sweet, you can always delight yourself with a typical italian gelato, that in Venice will cost you around 3€! See? 10€ a day totally working even in a place as touristic and expensive as Venice.
BOLOGNA (7 nights)
Transport: Took a regional train with Trenitalia that cost me 12€
Accommodation: (0€) Staying in Bologna for an entire week was not in my plans. I ended up having to ask a friend for help because suddenly I saw myself with nothing booked after Venice and I just couldn’t decide where to go from there, so I stayed at his friend’s place for a few days and then he let me stay with him for a little longer until I made up my mind.
Food & Fun: 85€
Country no. 2 – SLOVENIA
LJUBLJANA (3 nights)
Transport: Took the Florentia bus from Bologna, costing me 35€
Accommodation: Stayed at Fluxus Hostel, paying 33€ for 3 nights with no breakfast included. It’s a very small hostel, with only two dorms, but very comfortable and with a strange feeling of being at home. The owner is really sweet and even upgraded me to a better room for free only because the other dorm was only girls and she felt I would enjoy my stay more if I had a dorm all to myself. It’s also right next to the Old Town and very easy to find as you walk from the train/bus station.
Food & Fun: Ljubljana was a pretty funny place when it came to looking for food. I went there last minute so I had no time to search about anything in the city, which pretty much got me to spend hours in supermarkets trying to understand what the hell I was buying. Let’s just say I think I bought bacon, but I’ll never really be sure what it was. So not easy not speaking a countrie’s language! Either way, my three days in Ljubljana were all spent cooking my own food at the hostel, as it was cheaper and I was in a perfect location to cook something, eat, and keep exploring.
Country no. 3 – CROATIA
ZAGREB (3 nights)
Transport: The train from Ljubljana to Zagreb costs 16€ and you don’t have to book in advance. Just go to the train station and buy it before boarding. The view on the journey is beautiful, so make sure you sit on the right side of the train!
Accommodation: Hostel Chic was my choice for Zagreb. The hostel was empty when I was there, but the receptionist and owner were really sweet trying to make me feel better for the fact I was the only person in the entire hostel. I paid 27€ for three nights at this hostel. No breakfast included, but again, very close to the train station and all the attractions were close enough to walk to.
Food & Fun: 1€ big pizza slices that take as much ingredients as you can imagine, and cooking my own food was how I stayed on a budget in Zagreb.
Day trip to Plitvice Lakes
Buy your one way ticket to Plitvice Lakes at Zagreb’s bus station. Don’t buy the round-trip!!!!! Seriously, trust me! When you finish your time at the park, just go back to the bus stop and wait for a bus to pass by and pay inside. Make sure you count your change because the Croatians are tricky when it comes to tourists! Both tickets shouldn’t cost you more than 15€, and the ticket to the lakes costs 7€during low season or double in high season.
Country no. 4 – HUNGARY
BUDAPEST (4 nights)
Transport: I wish there was an easy way for this journey, but if you have the luck of trying to arrive in Budapest from Zagreb, you need to be ready for a very busy and crazy day! I bought a direct train ticket Zagreb-Budapest for 30€, only to end up on a journey day between three trains and two buses and ending up at the wrong Budapest train station.
Accommodation: I could write an entire post about my hostel in Budapest! Seriously, there are so many amazing hostel choices in Budapest that my task to pick one was almost impossible. I ended up at Avenue Hostel, right in the Oktogon square, a perfect location to walk everywhere in the city. I paid 21€ for 4 nights. YES, really!! And the best part? The incredible free breakfast, the great environment in the hostel, the people and the very comfy beds with personal curtains.
Food & Fun: Street food in Budapest is both legendary and cheap! I went out once to have dinner by myself and I paid 5€ for an all you can eat buffet! I had no idea what I ate, but it all tasted great and even better for paying so less.
Country no. 5 – SLOVAKIA
BRATISLAVA (3 nights)
Transport: There are many transport options from Budapest to Bratislava. I decided to take the train and paid 17€ for it, but I know there’s studentagency bus that will cost you around 10€ and that offers great comfort with wifi, tv screens and a lady offering you coffee on the way.
Accommodation: I first stayed at Patio Hostel for only 1 night, paying 7€. This hostel because it was really close to the Old Town and I was offered a welcome beer on arrival. For the second time in Bratislava, my first hostel choice was fully booked, so I ended up at Freddie Next To Mercury, paying 16€ for 2 nights. This second hostel is right next to the train station, and the facilities are way better, and I met some great people there as well, but still, it’s a fifteen minutes walk to the Old Town.
Food & Fun: I’m ashamed to admit that on my only day in Bratislava I only went to McDonalds, as I was lost for hours and was in despair for some free wifi. Add a 0,70€ hot-dog in front of the train station and that’s the money I spent in the city. For my second time in Bratislava, I decided to try some typical food and discovered going to a typical Slovakian restaurant is actually cheaper than going to McDonalds. That, a couple of beers at the hostel and a last minute night kebab still got me under my budget of 10€ a day for some food and fun. Can I go back now, please?
Country no. 6 – AUSTRIA
Transport: From Bratislava to Vienna you get two options: either you get the train that costs 12€ and gets you to Vienna in 45 minutes, or you can get the bus (to reach the bus station you need to catch the tram) and pay 7€ for 1h journey.
Accommodation: Choosing a good hostel in Vienna last minute was impossible. Everything was either too expensive or already booked, so I ended up at Westend City Hostel, which was a totally crappy hostel, seriously far away from the city center, with no wifi EVER, sort of weird and dark rooms and not that comfy. The good thing was it only cost me 36€ and I met two incredible girls who became my partners in crime during my 4 nights there. Perk? Cute bad boy receptionist alert!
Food & Fun: Vienna was the end of my travel budget that had been working perfectly until I got my feet in Austria. As soon as I arrived I decided I had had enough of crappy food and the first thing I did was hit a fancy restaurant and eat some damn good food. Right there I spent 12€ (really well spent if you had any idea how happy my tummy was and how incredible the food was!). Adding to that expensive getaway to the restaurant, on that same day I went out for kebab, movies that cost me 20€ (ticket + popcorn and coke) and a couple of supermarket beers. Suddenly I saw myself saying fuck it to my budget and spending all I thought would make me happy. I’ll just say that first cost me 50€! I can’t say how much I spent in total, but I’m sure I got close to the 80€ in this crazy moment of not caring about money. Wish I had chosen a cheaper place to decide to spend money.
Country no. 7 – CZECH REPUBLIC
CESKY KRUMLOV (2 nights)
Transport: A 5h journey between two trains and a bus, will take you to Cesky Krumlov. This cost me 35€, but I’m still unsure if this was the best way to do it, since the bus didn’t drop me in the city center but over 3km away from it, when the bus option will get you right next to the center and you’ll have to walk way less! So, the second option would be to take a cheap bus Vienna-Prague and then take studentagency bus for 7€ to Cesky Krumlov.
Accommodation: Stayed at Hostel Havana for two nights, paying 16€. It felt more like I was in a local’s home than an actual hostel, and the funny thing about being in such a small town were the hilarious rumors about everyone in it.
Food & Fun: All food was from the supermarket and cost me less than 10€ a day. Back on budget even with a couple of beers!
PRAGUE (6 nights)
Transport: Student Agency bus costs 7€ and will take you to Prague, with free coffee, wifi and individual screens. Just make sure you book it online, or you’ll have to almost cry the driver to find you an empty spot after you miss three other buses that were full.
Accommodation: Had the really bad idea of going to an incredibly cheap hostel in Prague called Chili Hostel. Sometimes cheap hostels are pretty great, other times they make you leave with bedbugs and not that much great of a memory of a place. I stayed in this hostel for 6 nights, paying 5€ per night. The hostel was dark, weird, not that clean, no backpacker’s environment, and with a crazy cleaning lady screaming at me while I was eating because my pans weren’t clean yet. Staff not that nice, and again, Bedbugs! Seriously, pay a little more than 5€ and get your ass to a good hostel in Prague, and trust me, there are plenty!
Food & Fun: No big expenses in Prague, only the typical street food from sausages and kebabs, lots of coffee and a giant thing with strawberry and nutella that I just couldn’t resist, all within my daily budget. Seriously, Prague’s street food is ridiculously amazing!
BRNO (2 nights)
Transport: Student Agency bus is the best way to get to Brno if you’re departing from Prague. The ticket is only 8€ and the service is, again, amazing!
Accommodation: Stayed at Ruta 80 Hostel for 16€, 2 nights. Still, my choice of going to Brno was not my smartest and I kind felt bored in the city. The hostel was not that easy to find and people in Brno almost didn’t speak any English. The hostel is really small, with only one dorm and a double room, but not the worst place I’ve been. Beds were comfortable, but I had this weird moment a guy came in the dorm during the night making so much noise I thought someone was robbing the place.
Food & Fun: Kebabs and supermarket food kept my stomach occupied while in Brno, being everything pretty cheap.
Country no. 8 – POLAND
Transport: If you’re trying to get to Warsaw from Vienna the cheapest way possible, the best option is to catch the Eurolines from Vienna to Bratislava, paying 7€. From there you have to catch a local bus that will take you to another bus station, where you’ll get the Polskibus to Warsaw, costing you 30€ more. This is an entire day trip, but will save you over 50€ than if you would catch the direct train from Vienna to Warsaw or Krakow.
Accommodation: I was lucky enough to have met a Portuguese girl in Bratislava that opened her home to me in Warsaw, so Ididn’t spend any money in accommodation while in the Polish capital. Still, hostels in Poland are really cheap and you can stay in really cool places for around 7€ a night.
Food & Fun: Mainly eating at home, going to the supermarket to grab quick food, or eating out, lot’s of coffee to keep warm and staying on budget.
KRAKOW (1 night)
Transport: The train from Warsaw to Krakow costs 15€ (with no guarantee that you’ll have a seat, so maybe you can go on the floor for 3h). But this is not the secret I would like to tell you! The Polskibus is the cheapest bus company travelling all around Poland, which means instead of 15€ for a train, you can pay 5€ for this same trip! The truth? We found a MAJOR promotion at Easter time and the bus costs us exactly 0,5€ (FIFTY CENTS) for a 5h trip!
Accommodation: Hollywood hostel is right outside the old town in Krakow and it was a great experience, even if just for a night. Paid 9€ for the stay, with breakfast included. The hostel was brand new when I was there, so everything kind of still smelled like IKEA and with a Hollywood theme that was beautiful and comfortable.
Food & Fun: Lots of coffee to keep warm, a lunch and dinner at a typical restaurant, some weird pastries sold in the Old Town Square and still I got my budget intact! I just love Krakow so much!
Day trip to Auschwitz & Birkenau
A day trip from Krakow to the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps will cost you 20€. The price included pick-up and drop-off at your hostel, entrance to the museum and a guide that will take you around both camps and tell you many creepy sad stories.
GDANSK (2 nights)
Transport: The journey Warsaw-Gdansk with Polskibus will cost you around 8€round-trip, having a snack offered on the trip (a cup of coffee, or juice, and a sweet little cake). Book the trip online and pay attention to the promotions!
Accommodation: La Guitarra Hostel Gdańsk was where I stayed during my 2 nights in Gdansk, paying only 11€ with breakfast included. No, I’m not lying about this! It was that much cheap!
Food & Fun: Gdansk is as cheap as Krakow when it comes to food! I found a restaurant where I had an entire menu for lunch (main dish, drink and desert) for only 4€! Totally easy to keep a low budget!
Country no. 9 – LITHUANIA
VILNIUS (1 night)
Transport: An ancient night bus from hell with Ecolines (the only bad journey I promise) costs 16€, no discount available for this one.
Accommodation: Jimmy Jumps House Hostel is totally perfect! With a really cool environment in the common areas, to the comfy rooms and beds, the balcony in the dorm, the location, everything! Stayed only one night and paid 8€.
Food & Fun: Food in Vilnius is as cheap as you can get! You may pay 2€ for a big beer, but you can have a dish for 3€!
Country no. 10 – LATVIA
RIGA (2 nights)
Transport: Ecolines was the choice again for the journey, costing 14€
Accommodation: The Cinnamon Sally Backpackers Hostel was one of my favorites during my trip. Maybe because I spent my 23rd birthday there and I woke up with the smell of waffles, or maybe it was just the people staying there or the fact that it was small and it had a sense of home. Paid 26€ for two nights.
Food & Fun: I started by making the mistake of buying a small 4€ pizza that ended up being the size of a cake and I had to ask for a second dish and paid more than 10€ right there. Then I went crazy over a typical dish in a Folk’s pub! Grandmother’s meatballs are just about the best thing in the world. We went there for the two nights, so if you add a couple of Latvian beers to the 10€ meatballs, I totally got kicked in the ass by my budget, but you know what? Those meatballs and that yummy beer were worth it!
Country no. 11 – ESTONIA
TALLINN (2 nights)
Transport: From Riga to Tallinn you have a couple of options. You can take the train, or you can have really comfortable bus journeys with screens and wifi on board, with Lux Express, Ecolines or Simple Express. I took the journey with Ecolines. The original cost of the ticket is 16,5€, but if you’re under 26, you can get discount and pay 14,9€, which was what I got.
Accommodation: Again, I didn’t choose any of the hostels for my time in the Baltic countries, which means I ended up in a party hostel in Tallinn, called The Monk’s Bunk Party Hostel. Let’s just say we got there after midnight, the hostel was right next to a sex shop and in a party street, the reception was inside the hostel’s bar, there was a lost drunk girl wandering the halls. Paid 28€ for two nights in this place. Would I recommend it? I’ll say that I woke up with a naked guy staring at me and that on my last day my credit card and ID disappeared from my backpack.
Food & Fun: As I was running out of money at this point, I had no other option but to keep a tight budget. Still, I tried some reign soup in a typical medieval restaurant (yummmm!) and got offered some sweets while walking the streets. On the last night the girls wanted to join the pub crawl, but I couldn’t afford to spend the money, but, funny thing (and this is me telling you a major secret on how to have fun if you stay at The Monk’s Bunk Party Hostel) the pub crawl starts at the hostel, where everyone who has a bracelet (meaning they paid) have free beer access to the bar, which means I had this brilliant idea of making friends with boys who had bracelets and convince them to grab us some beers for free. I believe we had around 10 beers and paid 0€ for all of them!
Country no. 12 – GERMANY
BERLIN (3 nights)
Transport: A night bus from Warsaw to Berlin, with wifi on board and individual screens with music, series and movies, will cost you 20€ with Simple Express
Accommodation: My hostel choice for Berlin was super hard. It was my last stop, I didn’t even want to go to Berlin (but it was the cheapest flight I got last minute back to Lisbon) and everything was too expensive for my almost empty wallet. I stayed atSinger109 Hostel & Hostel, which I can say was a terrible choice. It was more of a hotel than a hostel, there was no backpackers like me and almost no people for that matter. Everything was too big and kind of fancy and not my kind of place at all, and far away from the center. I paid 39€ for 3 nights here.
Food & Fun: My stay in Berlin was based on nachos with cheese and guacamole and a lot of street food, mainly wieners with fat sauces. My budget (meaning my last money of those 2000€) was gone in a second and I returned home with zero euros in my account. Thank you for being as cheap as they told me (sooooo not true!)