How Much Does it Cost to Travel Europe For 9 Months?

By Sara | October 13, 2016

Nine months. It’s crazy to think that we’ve lived and traveled in Europe for almost a year now, but incredibly exciting to look back on. When we started planning our trip around the world, Europe ranked at the top of our list. Our original itinerary of six months proved to be way too short, and even in nine we hardly explored everything. Europe holds many fond memories for us and has impacted our outlook on a number of life aspects. It’s one of those places you grow up hearing about, and if you’re lucky, travel to once or twice in a lifetime.The truth is, Europe doesn’t have to be as expensive as many may think, and over nine months we spent a grand total of $16,505. Split between two people, that’s $8,252, or $900 per month. That’s less than many people’s rent in the states! So, how did we travel so cheaply? Keep reading!

Everyone’s travel style is different, and you can easily spend thousands in a week by staying in fancy hotels, eating out for every meal, and paying for extravagant attractions. On the same note, you could also travel Europe for far less than we did by staying in hostels, cooking every meal yourself, and traveling in eastern european countries.

We prefer to have a nice place to sleep, cook, and feel at home when we travel, but we don’t need lavish hotels or takeout every night. Our costs reflect this, and go into more detail below.

Accommodation

There are a number of ways to book accommodation in Europe, and our favorite is Airbnb. Airbnb’s give us access to a kitchen, which then allows us to save a ton of money on food. Airbnb’s also are a great way to meet locals, and typically have more flexibility with checkin and checkout times.

Our nightly budget for Airbnb’s in Europe was $35. Every booking we made was under this price per night, with the exception of London, Dublin, Killarney, Bordeaux and Brussels, which are all known to be ‘bloody expensive’ places.

To offset the prices of expensive cities, we walked more, ate out less, and spent less time in the city. Occasionally we’d stay in a hostel to really slash our costs, but avoided them when possible. Many of our bookings in cheaper European countries came in closer to $20 – $25 per night, making the average cost per night balance out in the end.

During our time in Europe, we stayed in some very nice places for very affordable prices. At $35 or less per night, for nine months we lived in places like this:

When looking for an Airbnb, there are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Book in advance.

We found time and time again that we were able to get better places for a lower rate when we planned ahead and booked at least two weeks prior to arriving. The times that we waited longer either resulted in a higher price or a less nice place.

2. Read the Reviews

Reviews are on Airbnb for a reason. There have been times when the listing photos look great, but several reviews mention poor host communication or hidden charges. Look for listings with SuperHost status’s or that have several positive recent reviews.

3. Make a ‘Must Have’ Checklist

Airbnb has filters, and you should use them! Our priorities when booking a place are good wifi, a kitchen with an oven, and a table or desk to work at. If any of these three things are missing, we don’t book. Decide what matters to you in a space, and if you’re not sure that a listing has what you need, message the host first to ask. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

4. Get a Discount

First time Airbnb users should NEVER sign up straight from the Airbnb website. Airbnb has a referral program that give’s first timer’s $35 off their first stay, so find someone who’s already a member and use their referral code. If you haven’t signed up yet, our $35 off coupon is right here!

To get a better idea of how far your money will go, we’ve ranked the cities we visited by accommodation cost. Below you’ll find the 5 cheapest and most expensive cities we stayed in this year.

Top 5 Expensive Cities We VisitedPrice Per Night on a $35 BudgetTop 5 Cheapest Cities We VisitedPrice Per Night on a $35 Budget
Dublin, Ireland$74Varna, Bulgaria$18
Bordeaux, France$61Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria$22
London, England$49Valencia, Spain$28
Brussels, Belgium$48Prague, Czech Republic$29
Killarney, Ireland$42Madrid, Spain$29

Food

Sticking to a reasonable food budget took some time to get used to. For the first two months we ate out frequently, indulging ourselves in European delicacies. While eating your way through Europe sounds incredibly tempting, it is also incredibly expensive.

During our first month of travel, we spent over $1,000 on food. This was not sustainable and stemmed from eating out for every meal. After cringing at our mistake, we cut back substantially. Since then, we averaged $550 per month for two people in every European country except England, where everything just costs more.

We could have continued our lavish food patterns, but would have had to sleep in hostels every night to offset the cost. Instead, we opted to book nicer places to stay, cut back on eating out, and shopped at the grocery store.

In Spain, we ate a lot of patatas bravas (diced potatoes), because that’s what they serve in tapas bars! We bought pastries from grocery stores in France for a fraction of the price of what they cost at a bakery. In Bulgaria, we dined on banitsa (cheese-stuffed bread) and gyros for under a dollar because they are local cuisines.

Do a bit of research before heading to the store, and once there convert the prices to your local currency to see what costs the least. Our favorite currency conversion app is My Currency.

Transportation

Last but not least, traveling! Transportation is a big part of budgeting for Europe, but if done right doesn’t need to be super expensive.

Over the last nine months, we collectively spent $1,037 on metro tickets, taxi’s and busses inside each city, and $2,190 on flights, carpools, and trains to switch cities and countries. Added together, that breaks down to about $12 per day, or $6 per person.

We figured out every travel hack and cost cutting measure we could find and ended up having a reasonably low total cost for European travel. Our best transportation tips are below!

1. Travel Slow

Transportation costs quickly add up the faster you move from place to place. We kept a slow travel pace so that we only paid for city switches twice per month. Spending two weeks in each city also allowed us to learn more about the places we saw and understand them better.

2. Carpool

Carpooling is a transport method that we didn’t start utilizing until we were halfway through our European travels. Had we started sooner, we would have saved a ton of money! For example, we spent €40 to get from Bulgaria to Austria via carpool in 14 hours, when the comparable trains cost $90 and took 36 hours.

In Europe, the biggest rideshare service is BlaBlaCar. People who are driving their car long distances post a route and a cost per seat, and travelers can book to join them on the trip. The service works throughout the continent and is a great way to save money.

3. Walk

In most European cities, metro tickets will cost between $1 and $3 per ride. London and Ireland typically cost closer to $5 per ride. Either way you do the math, buying lots of bus and metro tickets gets expensive fast.

When possible, walk to where you want to go. Most cities in Europe are walkable end to end in an hour, or 15-30 minutes from the city center. It’s a great, easy way to save money while getting fit at the same time!

4. Be Flexible With Your Travel Dates

Flight prices vary based on how far advance you book and which days you want to fly. In Europe, don’t bother trying to fly in July, as prices double, triple, and even quadruple in price.

Generally speaking, Tuesdays are the cheapest day to fly, but it certainly helps to use Skyscanner’s search everywhere tool to find the lowest fares.

Keep your schedule as open as possible so that you can snag the lowest fares.

5. Use Budget Airlines and Pack Light

Budget airlines cost a fraction of what mainstream airlines cost, and do the same thing. In Europe, RyanAir, WizzAir, and Vueling are the cheapest airlines and frequently have fares as low as $5.

Watch out for extra hidden charges, but in general these options are a great way to save.

We didn’t take a traditional route through Europe, and instead jumped around a lot. At times, this hurt financially, and you can travel through Europe much cheaper than we did by going to countries that share borders.

Everything Else

Accommodation, food, and transportation are the biggest costs you’ll have when traveling Europe. If you’re very careful and conservative, they’re also the only costs you’ll have. However, most people (including us) incur additional expenses as well.

Every month we pay $90 to T-Mobile so that we both have data automatically in every country. Our 5×5 storage unit costs $60 per month, and insurance for the car we keep in storage is $40 per month.

That’s an additional $1,500 give or take that we spent during our time in Europe, but is far less than what we were paying for bills and utilities back home.

Lastly, mistakes can and will happen. Losing or breaking equipment costs money. Buying medicines when you get sick costs money. Paying for an old speeding ticket that occurred before the trip costs money!

None of these are things you can plan for, so bring an emergency fund with you on European travels. In total, we’ve incurred around $500 worth of ‘oops’ expenses during our nine months in Europe, in addition to our regular spending.

The Total Cost for Nine Months in Europe

Traveling through Europe has been one of the best experiences we’ve ever had, and cost a fraction the price we thought it would. Here’s one last full breakdown of how much it costs to travel Europe for nine months.

Total For Two PeoplePrice Per PersonCost Per Person Per Day Over Nine Months
Flights from the U.S. to Europe$500$250$1
Accommodation$6,439$3,219$14
Food$4,849$2,424$10
Transportation$3,217$1,608$7
Bills and Misc.$2,000$1,000$4
Grand Total Once in Europe$16,505$8,252$36

As you can see, we’ve been able to travel through Europe for nine months on $36 per day, per person. We visited a mix of western and eastern Europe, which helped to balance out the costs. We freelance while we travel, and since leaving California last December have maintained our net worth.

You read that correctly – we haven’t lost a single dollar during our European travels, even though we lost our prior primary income sources.

Budgeting correctly can save thousands of dollars without sacrificing quality of life. Cutting necessary expenses, finding a little bit of consistent income, and being flexible on where you choose to travel are all factors in being able to travel Europe continuously.

We would have loved to stay in Europe longer, but feel that it’s time to experience life on the other side of the world. Next stop, India!

Beaches in Bulgaria: Guide to the Black Sea Coast

By Sara | July 26, 2016

The Black Sea is a body of water bound by Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Georgia, Russia, and Ukraine. Bulgaria boasts an entire border of their country, or almost 400 km, of beach land on the Black Sea Coast. The Bulgarian beaches and resorts cost a fraction of what other beaches in Europe cost, so it’ a great place for budget travelers looking for a beach holiday.

There are a variety of beaches in Bulgaria that travelers can visit, each with their own stretch and quality of sand and sea. We spent two weeks exploring the coast and have compiled a list of everything you need to know for a Bulgarian sea side holiday.

Where to Stay

Due to the low prices in Bulgaria, most visitors will be able to find a hotel within their budget. Airbnb’s are available, but you’ll probably get nicer and cheaper accommodation in a hostel or hotel. If you do choose an Airbnb, here’s a discount off your first stay.

Unless there is one particular resort that you’re dying to visit, Burgas and Varna are the best places to stay purely due to location and city size. Both cities have bus stations with routes to beaches in Bulgaria that leave every 30 minutes. Additionally, both Burgas and Varna have plenty of shopping, food, and nightlife options to enjoy.

How to Travel

The bus stations list all of the resort routes on the Black Sea Coast in both English and Bulgarian. Just show up to the station, find your desired location, and pay the driver (cash only) for a ticket. Tickets are 6 to 7 lev each way per person, which is about 3 to 4 USD. Some busses have air-conditioning, and some do not, but no route is longer than 30 minutes unless you’re traveling in between Burgas and Varna.

***Tip: Transportation in Bulgaria operates on a loose schedule, so be flexible with your times and show up early, even if your bus is scheduled to leave on the hour or half hour. Check out our post on Bulgarian transportation here.

Where to Go: Beaches in Bulgaria

Burgas City Beach

Burgas City Beach

Pros: Quiet beach, near sea garden, dark, clean sand from containing high volumes of magnetite.

Cons: No water rentals, one bar with overpriced drinks

 

Perla Beach, Primorsko

Primorsko Perla Beach

Pros: Beautiful white sand, clean beach, warm water

Cons: No water sport rentals, no beach nightlife.

 

Sunny Beach, Nesebar

Sunny Beach

Pros: Water sport rentals, younger crowd, plenty of food and drink options, clean, light sand

Cons: Overcrowded

 

Varna City Beach

Varna Beach Sunset

Pros: Near a sea garden, has lots of restaurants nearby, busy nightlife, beach parties

Cons: Small compared to other beaches, no water rentals or daytime activities

 

Golden Sands, Varna

golden sands varna
Photo by Chlempi at German Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 2.0 

Pros: Very clean beach, plenty of nightlife options, water rentals available

Cons: Tourists often crowd the beach

What to Eat

Food in Bulgaria is priced very reasonably, so whether you choose to grocery shop or eat out, it’s hard to break the bank. There are ice cream stands and street food vendors every 100 meters in addition to a decent variety of sit down restaurants. A sandwich or wrap from street vendors will range 2 to 5 lev, or 1 to 3 USD. If you want a meal at a nice restaurant with a few drinks, expect to pay closer to 10-15 lev per person, or 5 to 8 USD.

Bulgarian Cuisine Specialties

Ayran: Mixture of water, salt, and plain yogurt. This is served as a drink option in almost every restaurant in Bulgaria. Though the drink is often served plain, sometimes dill, cucumber, or walnuts are added.

Banitsa: Bread pastry with cheese filling. Most bakeries in Bulgaria have banitsa as it is a very typical Bulgarian breakfast. On New Years, banitsa is made with small papers inside them containing good fortunes for the year ahead.

Shopska Salad: Cheese, cucumber, and tomato salad. This is served at most restaurants and has the same colors as the Bulgarian flag, making it a country favorite.

Should You Travel To Bulgaria?

The simple answer is, yes! A Bulgarian holiday or travel destination will be a different experience than many other places in Europe. Be prepared to enter a country where few people speak English, buildings are the same as they were many years ago, and transportation is an adventure in and of itself.

However, Bulgaria is fantastic place for travelers who enjoy learning the intricacies of a country, or for those who want a nice summer family vacation. With opportunities to eat great food, walk through sea gardens, and relax on countless beaches in Bulgaria, visitors can look forward to an enjoyable trip.