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How I discovered Europe on $60 a day
This was our plan: we’d backpack our way through Europe for six to eight months until we hit the bitter winter - then we'd head over to Scotland with our remaining money and two-year working visas to drink beer in front of the fire and explore the bonnie Highlands.
Do the math and you’ll figure out that $18,000 (minus the $5K we put aside to set ourselves up in Scotland) equated to $60 a day, almost exactly.
Read more: How to travel Gibraltar on a budget
In theory, this sounded totally doable. In reality, paying for transport between and around cities, accommodation, food and drink, and ticketed tourist attractions all in $60 a day is kind of difficult.
It's also sometimes depressing, like when you’re standing in front of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and the cheapest ticket is €15, meaning if you go in, you’ll either be giving up your food for the day or your bed for the night. We settled on looking at it from the outside and promised ourselves we’d get back one day.
Look, it’s not for everyone. You’re going to have to sacrifice some major tourist attractions, Michelin-star restaurants and consistently hot showers along the way. But in return, you’ll get a pretty darn true and authentic look at day-to-day life in some of Europe’s most prized destinations.
Here are my top tips for how to travel Europe on $60 a day.
Budget breakdown: To keep our heads from exploding from all the budgeting, we broke it down even further into $20 each for accommodation, food and transport a day.
Transport would be our biggest cost, but we weren’t travelling between cities every day, meaning it usually balanced out. If there was an attraction we really wanted to go to, we’d tighten the purse strings even further leading up to it. Simple!
Accommodation: Airbnb, my saviour! I’ll be forever indebted to that miracle of an app.
Without fail, a private room on Airbnb was always cheaper than a bunk in a hostel, plus we weren’t subjected to strangers’ snoring.
It sometimes means you’ll be staying out in the 'burbs, but a long walk into town every morning will work off those croissants you’ll no doubt be tucking into when you get there.
Transport: When you get to your destination, walk everywhere. No taxis to the train station with your 15kg backpacks at 4am in winter when it’s snowing. Think of it as getting to know the city.
Getting in between places is a little harder to skimp on. Catch budget buses when you can and always remember that while flights may be cheaper than trains, you’re usually going to need to catch a €20 train into town from the airport.
Use the GoEuro app to compare bus, train and plane prices.
Food: I’m sorry, but sometimes you’re going to have to live off a loaf of white bread and a packet of salami for three days. Sometimes you’re going to have to eat a €1 supermarket couscous in an undercover driveway while you wait for the rain to stop.
Chin up, it’ll be worth it when you’re eating rabbit paella in Valencia, the home of paella. Blanket rule is, stick to bakeries, they do a seriously good continental roll (remember you’re in Europe), markets, and cook in your Airbnb where possible.
Drink: Forget the mixer, shots are way cheaper.
Attractions: There are so many free art galleries, museums and national parks across Europe that will take your breath away. Research is king!
Special Guests: We very happily met up with some friends at different points along the way, some for months at a time.
If you're on a budget, be sure to let them know in advance that you’re not going to be able to afford that music festival or night on the champagne.
Budget-friendly countries: Poland, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary and Croatia are all very cheap countries to visit.
They’re also bloody beautiful, so stay longer to stretch that coin!
Europe is an incredible continent with so much to offer. I’ll forever look back fondly on those seven months exploring beaches on the Greek Islands, eating pizza from Napoli, breathing in the cleanest mountain air in Kotor, hitchhiking in Saranda, attending the life-changing museum at Auschwitz, wandering Christmas markets in Paris, drinking steins at Munich’s Oktoberfest, and the list goes on.