Ten Tips To Budget for a Trip to Europe

Hi Frugalistas!

You’re off to Europe.  You’ve found a great deal on an airfare, worked how you’re going to travel around and found the best accommodation you can afford.  You know what all of this is going to cost, but what about budgeting for everything else – your food, entertainment, gifts and souvenirs, and all those little incidentals that add up along the way?  Here are 10 important things to make sure you include in your traveling budget:

1.  A fantastic guidebook

It doesn’t cost a lot, but do invest in a great guidebook that is recently published and gives you a good idea of what things cost.  Using an old guidebook is false economy as prices can and do change significantly.  A good, recent guidebook is an investment, that, if used correctly, will save you serious money.

2.  Breakfast

I always recommend trying to get a hotel with a rate that includes breakfast, but if the accommodation of your dreams doesn’t, you do need to budget for breakfast.  Allow EUR12-15 per person per day for a moderate 3star hotel breakfast, and between EUR5-10 for a cafe breakfast outside your hotel.

A buffet breakfast in a hotel may cost a little more, but you can save by not eating morning tea, and by cutting back on lunch

3.  Other meals and snacks

It’s impossible to give an exact amount for other meals – it just varies so much on where you are and what you are eating.  I budget EUR10-15 per day for a good cafe lunch in western Europe and EUR25-30 for moderate restaurant/brasserie dinner with wine regardless of where I am going and what I end up eating.  I pocket the change when I travel in cheaper locations, or lunch on a sandwich.  Save money on lunches and dinners by avoiding tourist trap restaurants, drinking tap water and by choosing fixed price menus where available.  Plan on EUR7 for a sandwich/baguette and water to go.

I save money on snacks by not snacking!  It’s easy to spend EUR10-15 a day on snacks without even thinking.  Instead I make sure I eat a good breakfast and eat a good lunch once I am hungry again – often around the time others will be settling down to afternoon tea.  If you are a snacker, buy bottles of water and packets of chips/cookies/little cakes from a supermarket – a packet of cookies will cost EUR1.50-2.50 in a supermarket.  Save even more by refilling water bottles from the tap (usually quite safe to do in Europe).  You do need to budget for gelatos and other little treats – that’s part of the joy of traveling, so allow EUR3.00-3.50 for a scoop of gelato or a little cake/pastry to take away, more for sitting down in a cafe.

4.  Traveling locally

Budgeting for a car or Railpass to travel from destination to destination is only part of your traveling budget.  How are you going to get around your destinations once you get there?  This includes getting to and from the airport.  Budget a minimum of EUR50 for a taxi – more depending on how far away it is, and EUR20 per person for a return trip from the airport and back for a bus or the train. Your guidebook should give you detailed prices here for your specific location.  To use the metro or local buses where you are visiting, plan on EUR1.50 for a single train ticket on the Metro/Ubahn/underground, but save on that by looking at pass or bulk purchase options.

Local train tickets are generally cheap, but the cost does add up over time, particularly traveling with the family

5.  Car parking and road tolls and fuel

Unless you can afford to pay anything up to EUR50 per day, do not plan on garaging your rental car in large cities.  Pick up your car on the way out of town to keep down costs.  Any small town with a tourist presence will charge for car parking.  Plan on EUR5-10 per day for this, as prices vary considerably.  For road tolls I suggest using EUR10-15 per day as a rough guide for each day you will be using the larger freeways.  Fuel will cost about EUR2.50 per litre, so calculate your rental car’s fuel efficiency to work out your budget.  Allow a bit extra for unplanned mileage or unplanned stops.

6.  Entrance fees

It is unlikely you will be able to calculate your exact costs here – there will always be somewhere you end up visiting that wasn’t on the itinerary.  Instead I suggest budgeting for your “must sees”  then allowing EUR10 per person per week for any extras.  This won’t work if Disneyland ends up being your extra, but will for smaller regional galleries etc.  Check out the prices on the site website to get latest entrance fees, and also look for passes that will give you multiple sites in one ticket (such as the Paris Musee Pass) – they can save you money if used correctly.

7.  Treats

You do need to cut yourself some slack and spend money spontaneously.  As a rough guide allow yourself 5-10% of your weekly budget for a splurge that you weren’t planning on!  A blowout meal, a fantastic unplanned-for-activity or that pair of shoes you can’t leave Europe without are all important parts of traveling.  All self-discipline makes for a dull trip – so plan to cut loose occasionally and enjoy!

No one budgets for French nougat in a market, so plan to have the money to splurge when you want to! Even if it is just a tiny sliver……

8.  Postcards & phoning home

You will want to communicate with those at home.  Plan on 1EUR per postcard, with another Euro for a stamp and you should have change.  Buy your postcards away from tourist sites to save a few pennies if you need to.  Check out phone card rates for your location, avoid roaming on your mobile/cell phone or hotel phone rates to save money.  Do this in advance and you will be able to budget easily according to your traveling and phone destination.

Postcards are cheap, and if you choose carefully can also be good souvenirs at a discount price!

9.  Internet and wifi acess

Search out free wifi wherever you can.  Many cheaper hotels in Europe will allow you free wifi or access to a computer for free.  Purchasing wifi tends to be an issue for more expensive hotels – which seems bizarre to me,  but is usually the case……  If you do need to purchase wifi count on about EUR25 for 24 hours.  For a cheaper option, your fantastic guidebook should include addresses for Internet cafes in most locations – budget for 3EUR per hour for this.  Make sure you discipline yourself not to use your international roaming for data on your phone or you will be in for a shocking budget-blowing surprise when you get home.

10.  Souvenirs

Again, you can spend as much or as little as you like on souvenirs and gifts.  Check out my post on shopping with just a carry on bag for tips on small, inexpensive gifts.  If you are interested in food as a souvenir or gift, buy in supermarkets or markets rather than tourist sites to save money, and plan spending about twice what you would at home for equivalent goods (food in Europe is quite expensive).  Plan on EUR5-10 for a poster in a tube, and between EUR10 and EUR20 for souvenir books of the major sites and galleries.  Check out prices on line if you have particular hobbies you might like to incorporate into a souvenir (for example, I love needlework and love the French brand Les Bonheurs des Dames – expensive, but beautiful and different).

So, how much should you budget for?  Well, it depends…….on you, your tastes, your budget and your choices.  Do your research regardless and avoid any nasty surprises!


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12 Comments on “Ten Tips To Budget for a Trip to Europe”

  1. jenny@atasteoftravel 02/09/2012 at 11:26 pm #

    Great tips! We spent 2 months in Italy last year and I found that by buying a local mini sim card for the ipad for apprx 15E, I saved a fortune!

  2. frugalfirstclasstravel 03/09/2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Yes, I’ve been caught badly by wifi in Italy – if it is not in the hotel rate it is exorbitant. That’s definitely what I’ll be doing in Italy next time too.

    Thanks for dropping by!

  3. FoundTravel 05/09/2012 at 4:15 pm #

    Great tips! Traveling on a budget means deciding what is most important to spend on and deciding that upfront. For me… always about great meals and great moments 🙂 Less about souvenirs and shopping 🙂

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 08/09/2012 at 9:20 am #

      I agree completely! I love a good shop, but I never do it when I’m traveling – too many other more exciting and meaningful things to do. It’s really important that you are clear about what is important to YOU – and plan for that.

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

  4. blinkpack 25/09/2012 at 6:43 am #

    Josh here from the BlinkPack blog. I find the greatest way to reduce travel budget is by finding alternates to standard hotels. I’ve been on an AirBnB kick lately — usually stay for a third of what a hotel stay would cost.

  5. agnesstramp 10/10/2012 at 11:24 pm #

    Great tips indeed. I love the idea of having a croissant for your breakfast, cheap and yummy 🙂

  6. Liz 13/03/2014 at 1:37 am #

    Great tips! It is possible to travel to Europe on a budget. I definitely agree on the breakfast tip. Having a hotel that provides a good breakfast is not only hugely convenient, but it can save you some cash. Also, get a hotel that is centrally located to the sights. You will save time and money on transportation.

    Happy travels!


    • frugalfirstclasstravel 13/03/2014 at 6:18 am #

      Hi Liz, an apartment can also do the trick with breakfast of course. Buy up at the supermarket and eat as much as you like, for even less!

  7. 2xBarrelledTravel (@2BarrellTravel) 13/03/2014 at 7:37 am #

    Great tips. We also find that staying in Airbnb accommodation with a kitchen is great because you can save a lot of money by cooking your own meals and packing your own lunch.

  8. maren 18/03/2014 at 7:26 pm #

    Wonderful advice! My guy and I save money by using public transport whenever possible. Just yesterday we took the metro from the airport to our hotel in Valencia. It is affordable and a great chance to talk to people. We also check the local media for free events like public markets or festivals. This week is Falles de Valencia and we have enjoyed music, fireworks, parades and beautiful historic displays all for free!


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