The Real Cost of Traveling Europe: Revealing Budget Numbers from Over 9 Years of Travel

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Introduction

Have you ever wondered about the real cost of traveling Europe? How do people afford to travel full-time? And how much do you need to save for a year-long European adventure? As someone who has been traveling full-time for almost a decade, predominantly in Europe, these are the questions I get asked the most.

Money is often seen as the biggest obstacle to traveling. After all, if vacations are expensive, wouldn’t traveling full-time be even more costly? But here’s the truth: while full-time travel can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. And the best way to prove it is by sharing my own real budgets.

In this article, I will provide you with detailed insights into my budgeting techniques, how I afford to travel full-time, and the costs associated with living and traveling in Europe. So, let’s dive in!

What Full-Time Travel Looks Like for Me

Before I delve into my travel budget, it’s important to note that there is no right or wrong way to travel full-time. Each person has their own unique approach to this lifestyle. Some travelers revisit their favorite places regularly, while others constantly seek new adventures. Digital nomads may opt for a transient lifestyle, moving from one hostel to another, while some nomads prefer to spend extended periods in a single location.

As for me, I have traveled both solo and as part of a couple. I primarily explore Europe, but I have also ventured into North and South America. I prefer staying in one place for at least a month, sometimes even up to three months. During my stay, I usually rent comfortable apartments in local neighborhoods. If I stay in a hotel or hostel, it’s typically for short weekend trips or travel days.

Since I am a food enthusiast, a significant portion of my budget goes towards indulging in good, fresh food. I enjoy eating out regularly, especially in places known for their cuisine. Additionally, I work part-time as a writer, which means I have dedicated hours for work during the week. This can result in lower overall expenses compared to someone who is retired or on vacation.

Furthermore, I engage in activities such as cycling, hiking, reading, exploring, and enjoying affordable or free entertainment options. Museums and indoor attractions are not a regular part of my itinerary.

The Cost of Traveling Europe: Monthly Expense Breakdown

Now let’s discuss the breakdown of my general monthly expenses and the approach I take to manage them effectively.

Housing

Housing constitutes the largest portion of my expenses. When I traveled solo from 2012 to 2015, I spent around $1,000 per month on accommodation. From 2015 to 2021, my partner and I shared rent, aiming to keep our individual spending on the lower side. We targeted a budget of under $800 per person per month, often coming in under $600 each. Now that I am once again traveling solo and considering the rise in accommodation prices, I have increased my housing budget to $1,500 per month. While I will still try to find more affordable options, this is now my upper limit.

To save money on accommodations while traveling in Europe, I recommend taking a slower approach. Monthly rentals are significantly cheaper than nightly or weekly rentals. Platforms like Flatio and Airbnb often offer monthly discounts ranging from 20% to 70%.

Food

As a food enthusiast, it’s no surprise that meals constitute a significant portion of my expenses. I track my spending on groceries separately from dining out. While I don’t set a strict budget for groceries, I prioritize purchasing fresh, high-quality food. I prefer shopping at local fresh markets, butchers, and bakeries, avoiding imports with questionable ingredients.

Recent grocery budgets in different locations have ranged from $393 in Zagreb, Croatia, to $653 in Bad Ischl, Austria. Dining out budgets in the same locations varied from $257 in Zagreb to $88 in Tartu, Estonia. Overall, my food spending fluctuates, but not significantly. It’s worth noting that over time, the average expenditure has increased due to inflation.

Transportation

Since I tend to stay in one place for extended periods, transportation costs remain reasonable. Unlike when I owned a car, my monthly transportation expenses are now much lower. Every month or two, I purchase a long-distance train ticket, and I take a flight once or twice a year, prioritizing eco-friendly options whenever possible.

Between train journeys, I opt to walk whenever feasible, as Europe offers excellent walking opportunities. I only take buses and metros in cases where walking is impractical due to weather conditions, long distances, heavyweight, or crowded and stressful city environments. Consequently, my monthly transportation expenses range from approximately $25 for a monthly transit pass in Prague to around $300 for train journeys from Rennes, France, to Prague, Czech Republic.

Luna’s Food and Care

Taking care of my furry companion, Luna, incurs additional expenses. However, these costs rarely exceed $200 per month. Luna follows a homemade diet primarily consisting of rabbit, fish, quinoa, and vegetables. It’s important to note that part of my grocery budget is allocated to Luna’s food.

Fortunately, veterinary care in Europe is more affordable compared to the United States. For instance, in Latvia, a vet emergency involving injections, blood tests, pancreatic enzyme pills, and an exam cost just over $100. A similar emergency in Dubrovnik, Croatia, resulted in a bill of approximately $150. In comparison, the costs in the US would have likely been tripled. Affordable vet care contributes to reducing overall expenses for Luna’s well-being.

Entertainment/Fun Money

Compared to other budget items, my spending on entertainment is relatively small. Most of the activities I engage in while traveling are free or inexpensive. Therefore, my entertainment budget remains small in comparison to other categories.

Supplies

Supplies, including personal items and other necessities, tend to be less expensive while traveling. I prioritize buying only what I need, considering that I carry everything on my back. Additionally, I have found that I spend less on shopping due to reduced boredom and a conscious effort to make quality purchases. Despite occasionally buying higher-priced items, my overall expenditure is lower compared to when I lived in the United States.

Health Insurance and Healthcare

Currently based in Portugal, I rely on the local health system for my healthcare needs. While traveling extensively, I previously paid $268 per month for GeoBlue insurance, which covered me worldwide except in the United States. I have also tried travel insurance through World Nomads and IMG Global in the past, but I found their services frustrating or unsatisfactory. Depending on your situation, it’s essential to explore available options and consult with a professional to ensure you have adequate healthcare coverage.

It’s worth noting that healthcare costs abroad are generally lower than in the United States. For example, a three-month supply of birth control pills cost me around $50 in Switzerland, compared to over $150 in the US. The affordability of healthcare varies from country to country, but in most cases, it proves to be more accessible and affordable outside the US.

Monthly Spending Goals

To maintain financial stability, I strive to keep my monthly spending under $2,500 (excluding business expenses). However, even with this budget ceiling, I often come in under my target. An analysis of my 30+ real European travel budgets reveals that the monthly average expenditure is approximately $1,637.

My Real Monthly Budgets

Here are some examples of my monthly budgets categorized by price range. Please note that these budgets are from various years, so consider inflation when referring to budgets from a decade ago.

Under $1350 per Month:

  • Konjic, Bosnia and Herzegovina / one month ($1157) 2017 / partnered
  • Labin, Croatia / one month ($1175) 2021 / solo
  • Tartu, Estonia / one month ($1213) 2020 / partnered
  • Tulum, Mexico / one month ($1232)* 2018 / partnered
  • Kotor, Montenegro / one month ($1253) 2019 / partnered
  • Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina / one month ($1296) 2017 / partnered
  • Sayulita, Mexico / one month ($1301)* 2013 / solo
  • Riga, Latvia / one month ($1313) 2019 / partnered
  • Split, Croatia / one month ($1317 & $1241) 2019 & 2013 / partnered & solo
  • Zagreb, Croatia / one month ($1337) 2018 / solo
  • Playa del Carmen, Mexico / one month ($1350)* 2013 / solo

Under $1,500 per Month:

  • Taormina, Italy / one month ($1364) 2017 / partnered
  • Porto, Portugal / one month ($1366) 2022 / solo, living full-time here
  • Kranjska Gora, Slovenia / one month ($1385) 2017 / partnered
  • Toledo, Spain / one month ($1388) 2015 / solo
  • Kobarid, Slovenia / one month ($1422) 2015 / solo
  • Brasov, Romania / one month ($1433) 2018 / partnered
  • Dubrovnik, Croatia / one month ($1443) 2017 / partnered
  • Tallinn, Estonia / one month ($1460) 2019 / partnered

Under $1,700 per Month:

  • Interlaken, Switzerland / one month ($1558) 2019 / partnered
  • Ljubljana, Slovenia / two weeks ($808) 2015 / solo
  • Bad Ischl, Austria / one month ($1618) 2020 / partnered
  • Rennes, France / one month ($1648) 2018 / partnered
  • Nerja, Spain / one month ($1689) 2015 / solo
  • Edinburgh, Scotland / one month ($1697) 2012 / solo

Under $1,800 per Month:

  • Ljubljana, Slovenia / second stay, one month ($1735) 2017 / partnered
  • Grenoble, France / one month ($1739) 2018 / partnered
  • Prague, Czechia / one month ($1752) 2018 / partnered

Under $2,000 per Month:

  • Perugia, Italy / one month ($1882) 2013 / solo
  • Flagstaff, Arizona / one month ($1893)* 2016 / solo
  • Rome, Italy / one month ($1911) 2017 / partnered
  • Chamonix, France / two weeks ($962) 2015 / solo
  • Vancouver, Canada / one month ($1988)* 2016 / partnered

Over $2,000 per Month:

  • Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland / three monthly budgets compared (varies) 2015 (and before) / solo
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands / two weeks ($1008) 2015 / partnered
  • Biarritz, France / one month ($2029) 2014 / solo
  • Innsbruck, Austria / one week ($511) 2018 / solo
  • Paris, France / one month ($2118) 2013 / solo
  • Thun, Switzerland / one month ($2124) 2021 / partnered
  • New York, New York, USA / one month ($2297)* 2018 / partnered
  • Zagreb, Croatia / one month splurge! ($2320) 2021 / solo
  • Opatija, Croatia / one month splurge! ($2897) 2021 / solo(ish)
  • Cycling across France / one month ($3091) 2015 / solo

My Budgets for Shorter Trips

Additionally, I have budgets for shorter trips, including weekends, overnights, and week-long vacations. Here are a few examples:

  • Vrbovsko, Croatia / 3 days ($87 / $29 per day) 2021 / solo
  • Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia / 3 days ($184 / $62 per day) 2021 / solo
  • Denver to LA road trip / 2 days ($207 / $103 per day)* 2012 / solo
  • Tbilisi, Georgia / 10 days ($1050 / $105 per day)* 2019 / partnered
  • Colmar, France / 5 days ($539 / $108 per day) 2019 / partnered
  • Paris, France / 5 days ($663 / $133 per day) 2019 / partnered
  • Emilia Romagna, Italy / 5 days ($776 / $155 per day) 2014 / solo

Business Costs

It’s important to note that the above budgets do not include my business expenses. These costs vary depending on my current projects, marketing efforts, and side ventures like blogging or self-publishing books.

Some consistent business expenses include subscriptions for software tools such as Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop, cloud storage, and media subscriptions. I also have a cell phone for contacting clients, requiring a small fee to access additional benefits from TextNow, an app I use for US calls. Additionally, I pay for business insurance, which amounts to approximately $50 per month, along with a yearly fee for my registered agent who handles my LLC renewal and mail forwarding.

Occasionally, I have expenses related to web hosting, domain renewal, and other one-time technology or equipment purchases. Overall, my business expenses are variable and depend on the specific needs of my projects.

Taxes and Other One-Time Costs

Taxes are an unavoidable expense for self-employed individuals, and I must ensure timely payments. As a US citizen, I must file US taxes regardless of my residence abroad. However, the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) prevents double taxation for expatriates. For a comprehensive understanding of tax obligations, it is best to consult with a US tax accountant who can provide personalized advice.

I pay my taxes quarterly rather than annually, as required by the US self-employed tax system. This means that every quarter, I calculate the amount owed and send a check to the government. At the end of the year, I hire a tax expert to review my payments and ensure proper filing.

Lastly, some expenses, such as air travel, technology replacements, and significant medical costs, are not included in my monthly budgets. These one-time or irregular expenses are factored into my budget on a quarterly or yearly basis.

Saving Money While Traveling Full-Time

To feel financially secure while starting my business and embarking on full-time travel, I made sure to have a decent financial buffer in the bank. Starting a business often requires investing time and resources, and having a safety net provides peace of mind. I followed the advice to save at least six months of living expenses, and I waited until I had ten months’ worth of savings before venturing into full-time travel.

Everyone’s financial situation and risk tolerance are different. Some entrepreneurs successfully manage their businesses despite starting with debt, while others move to low-cost locations to stretch their funds during the initial stages. Financial needs vary from person to person, so it’s essential to establish a savings strategy that aligns with your circumstances and goals.

Conclusion

Traveling full-time in Europe can be a rewarding experience without breaking the bank. By carefully managing my expenses and adopting a slower travel approach, I have found that it is possible to enjoy this lifestyle without significant financial burdens. Remember, everyone’s travel style and budget will differ, so it’s crucial to find an approach that suits your preferences and financial circumstances.

If you have any questions or would like more information about travel expenses and budgeting, feel free to leave your comments below.

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