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3 Money-Saving Tips for Backpacking around Europe

Spring seems to have arrived a little early in Berlin (at least momentarily) which means Europe’s backpacking season is about to begin! Although everybody starts their backpacking journey with the greatest expectations, what you may actually get on the road may be a different thing entirely. There’s only so much döner kebab you can eat, or so many times you can cook pasta in a hostel kitchen…


One common misconception however, is how cheap or expensive different areas of Europe may be. Everyone is always surprised about the affordability in Berlin—a major tourist destination and hotspot for Europe’s youth. Politics also play a role in the cost of travel. I visited Spain during the Euro-crisis a few years ago, and because of some economic tomfoolery, my four weeks backpacking in Spain were some of the cheapest!

Today, with the current economic crisis along the Mediterranean, prices for travel can still be confusing. For example, the Italian government is currently undergoing a financial (and political) crisis, the prices in and around Rome are still relatively high. In Greece, where the future of the economy is in serious doubt, prices are probably still higher than one might expect.

Just because the prices are high, however, don’t mean you should avoid the destination. Instead, learn to save a few Euros here and there and not only will you have the chance to travel in some amazing destinations, but you’ll be helping economies which seriously need the support. Here are 3 tips for saving money on your European backpacking adventure so that you’ll have more to spend on the local economy.

Get an international SIM card

I’ve already written extensively about my love of traveling with an iPhone, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that renting a SIM card or buying a local one is usually one of my top priorities. It’s a great way to stay connected with people back home, but also for arranging Couchsurfing meetups or interacting with locals. Whether you pick up a cheap one at a Vodafone or O2 shop in Europe, or rent one directly from the USA through companies like SIMSmart Pre Paid, XCom Global or Holiday Phone, it’s a quick & easy way to stay connected while backpacking.

Stay in hostels

Easily the most affordable way to backpack through Europe, besides camping or sleeping on train station floors, staying in hostels give you the flexibility to spend your money where you really want. Hostel prices range dramatically from bare-bones cheap to practically 4-star luxury. Hostelling International is one of the more popular hostel search engines for backpackers from the USA, but there are plenty of other ways to find hostels. Sometimes all you need to do is get off the train and walk around until you find a place! Be sure to get recommendations from fellow travelers as well.

Eat cheap!

Luckily there are plenty of ways to save some money while backpacking. Food can often be one of the biggest costs and if you’re trip is less culinary and more…cultural…then food might be at the bottom of your expense list. In Spain, you may just be able to get by with the small tapas you receive when ordering a beer. Or, if you’re really looking to save as much up for your travels, most hostels offer kitchens where you’re welcome to cook your own meals.

Though this may seem like a relatively boring way to enjoy Europe, if time is on your side, the more money that you save eating in, the longer that you get to tour some of the most exciting countries in the world. What is important though, regardless of money, is that occasionally, you do treat yourself to some well-cooked and wholesome food. Not only is it good for your body, but too your sanity; and there is nothing more important than that.

  1. Patrick Smith says:

    Thanks again Adam- really excellent blog entry! Although I am no longer a backpacker, when I was in the 70’s these were the kind of tips I would have given friends (except for the Sim card- we didn’t have any of these back then:-)). I do love that Sim card recommendation- I didn;t know it! so now on my next trip to Europe in April, you have given me a good resource. again, thanks so much!

  2. Cristina says:

    These are great tips. Applicable not only in in Europe, but in any destinations. Whenever I travel, I would search first the internet for any cheap restaurants and hotels. Also, I’d check for any promos or discounts.

  3. Couldn’t agree more with the comment about treating yourself to something other than hostel made pasta!

    For us, local food is so much a part of travel and a part of the culture of a country. We really find it important to try the local staples, and if they are expensive, then just try them once.

    Cheers for the post :)

  4. Tom Miller says:

    Traveling can be very expensive but knowing some tricks on how to save a few bucks can really help. But, it is also great not to compromise ourselves. The best thing is to really save up for our trips so we can enjoy.

  5. » March Blog Post Round-Up says:

    […] on the Travels of Adam, Adam offers tips for how to travel Europe on the cheap, including accommodations, food, and cellphones. When it comes to getting around, I also […]

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