How to Backpack Europe in a Month on £900

Travel blogger Kate (Backpack Full of Dreams) tells us all her tips

Article by

  • 21 August 2017
  • • 14 min read

Hey travellers!

I'm Kate, the brains behind the travel blog   . I've teamed up with St Christopher's hostels, to show you how you can travel Europe for a month on £900. I've done a fair bit of travel in the last few years, to more than 30 European countries, so I feel I'm pretty well researched to give you some ideas.

Let's be honest, you're thinking I'm insane right? This girl has well and truly lost the plot. How on earth does she expect me to travel on £30 a day?! It's not going to be easy...but it is possible, with a bit of planning, a touch of creativity and, as always, a dash of adventure.

For all you non-Brit readers, £900 works out to be around €978, so this is the rough budget you should be working with.

To make this budget work, you'll be wanting to aim for about £10 (€10.87) a night for hostels, £10 on food, and another £10 for whatever shenanigans you fancy! This will vary each day, depending what you get up to, but it's a rough guide when working out your budget.

WHERE TO GO?

The most important thing you'll need to do is decide which countries you really want to see. It's best to pick countries that border each other, so grab a map of Europe and start planning! I'm always surprised to discover some countries are much closer than I thought (geography never was my strong point!)

Western European countries such as Germany, Switzerland and France can be more expensive, but are still very achievable if you're organised! Berlin and Paris are both beautiful cities with so much to see on a budget so never rule these cities out. Hostels such as St Christopher's in these locations are about £15 a night if you book ahead. Exploring cities like this, there is so much to see that is free - think the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Eiffel Tower, and the chaos of the Arc de Triomphe roundabout! This will mean that you can save your pennies for activities you really want to pay for.

You could look at travelling through Spain, Portugal, and possibly across to Morocco if it takes your fancy! Again, hostels in these places tend to be relatively cheap, and have so many extra included freebies. I've stayed in the St Christopher's hostel in Barcelona and loved it; their power points and curtains on each bed were definitely a win for me.

If you head towards Eastern Europe, you can experience countries such as Albania, Montenegro, and Croatia along the coast. Or you can head inland to Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria. If you travel through these places, your savings will tend to go a bit further, so are worth thinking about.

Kate exploring Paris and the wonders of the Notre Dame. Remember it's free to see most main sites and museums!


GETTING YOURSELF FROM A TO B (VIA Z AND X AND EVERYWHERE ELSE!)

Would you need to catch a ferry, or are your destinations accessible by train or bus?

Buses tend to be one of the cheaper forms of travel. Local buses in Albania are about £0.30, and between different Albanian cities are around £4. If you want a quicker ride, the furgon minibuses can get you around, and will set you back about £10. Flixbus is a great site for buses around Europe. They can be at funny times and leave from places that aren't always the main bus station, but if you save lots, it's totally worth the hassle and early start.

If you're staying at a hostel and trying to get between cities or countries, the hostel reception will usually have a few ideas. Travelling from Albania to Montenegro, I paid £20 for a direct bus. But if you're saving time and money, you can get a local bus to the border for about a quarter of the price, and then get one to continue on from there.

Overnight buses are another good idea. They will usually cost anywhere between £10-30 in Europe, depending how far you're going. The advantage to a night bus is you don't need to pay for that night's accommodation, saving you some precious spending money!

Bla Bla car is a fabulous concept. I haven't used it before, but I've only heard great things from other travellers. You're more likely to find rides within Western Europe, but sign up anyway and see if anyone is going your way! The idea is that you ride share, so you make your profile and state where you need to be, and when. It also asks if you're willing to be a bit flexible. It's a cool way to meet new friends and possibly get a cheap easy ride!

There's also plenty of travel groups you can join these days on social media platforms such as Facebook, and apps too. They can be a good way to meet up with others going your way, or to have a friend to explore a new place with.

Trains in countries such as Italy are a great way to get around. They are faster than driving, and usually run on time. France and Germany have great train services, which can be cheaper if you buy an unlimited Euro pass. It also pays to try to book ahead where you can, to save money.


A PLACE TO REST YOUR HEAD:

Hostel quality and the options available have dramatically improved recently. When I was going to Split two years ago, there were barely any choices, and they all had horrendous reviews. Booking a hostel online in Split now, I have been spoilt for choice. There was so many to choose from, with at least 9/10 ratings. It's been the same everywhere I've been, even in places you'd least expect a good hostel.

When picking hostels, have a good read of the reviews. Hostelworld is a great place to start, as people can only leave a review if they have stayed, so they tend to be accurate and honest. If there's a recurring problem, take note. People don't tend to hold back on reviews, so if you read something that might ruin your experience, steer clear.

Hostelworld, or other sites such as Booking.com, are a fantastic way to check prices, atmosphere, and location. These are the three main things you should focus on when trying to find a hostel. Especially if you're travelling alone, you want somewhere cheap, that's easily accessible. After finding hostels you like the look of, check their own website. This can usually lead to lower rates, or extra included freebies.

St Christopher's Inns Paris Canal hostel

There's other things that aren't essential in a hostel, but can make it a nicer stay. It sounds trivial, but if a hostel has a reading light, your own charging socket, and curtains around the bed, it can make it so much better. It should state on their website if it has these things. St Christopher's hostels are great for these, and was one of the reasons I would book with them again.

It also pays to check out what else is included with your hostel. Always try find hostels that include breakfast. I'd always recommend making the most of breakfast, and then you can always top up later if it didn't quite hit the spot. It's such a great way to start the day, and fill up before you head out.

Some hostels will do an included dinner, or a cheap but filling dinner. I've stayed at hostels that dinner will be about £5, but is a very generous portion. If you can have the included breakfast, find some nibbles during the day, and have the dinner, you're away laughing!

St Christopher's offer free cancellation within 72 hours notice , free breakfast, and 25% off food at their bars, only available if you book on their site. Plus there's no deposit required, you can pay on arrival.


WORK WHILE YOU TRAVEL

Other things to look out are couch surfing, or volunteering. Websites like Workaway allow you to make a profile and sign up for free accommodation in exchange for work. There are plenty of hostels that operate this way, allowing you a bed, free food and drinks in exchange for some work or cleaning each day. You can even find positions on farms helping out, or teaching English to a family for a few hours a day in exchange for living there. These can be a great way to have an amazing time but save some money. They just tend to require some forward planning, as you have to apply for the position. Sometimes they will want you for longer than a month, so work out what it is that you want to get out of your time travelling.


FOOD - A BACKPACKER'S HIGHLIGHT

Food is always an important part of any culture. For me, the best experiences of any trip always include interesting meals and the stories that go with it. If you're really trying to save money, eat microwave noodles. But there's plenty of ways to eat well without breaking the bank, and it will make your trip so much better!

In Tirana in Albania, I had one of the most incredible dinners I've ever had at a place called Era. We started with oven baked feta, grilled vegetables, a huge salad, and a delicious spinach and feta tart, complete with yoghurt sauce. That was followed with lamb couscous, spicy Kosovo sausage, stuffed peppers, and a local meat in pastry dish. We also had a generous helping of delicious house Cabernet Sauvignon. All for £10.

Kate's delicious but cheap dinner in Albania

If you're trying to save money, have a chat to the hostel staff about what they recommend. There will usually be local places that the hostel staff go. Often they don't look like much, but will blow your dirty socks off. In Lisbon, the hostel staff directed me to a secret peri peri chicken place. It didn't look exciting from the outside, so much so that we walked past three times before they asked if we were looking for the chicken. Half a chicken with your own basting brush for £5. Amazing!

Ask around for a local food market. Most places will have one, and you can pick up fresh fruit and vegetables at prices you are often able to negotiate.


ACTIVITIES (A.K.A THE FUN STUFF!)

It's always nice to be able to have some cool experiences while you're travelling. It will mean you get to meet new people, see some incredible sights, or do things that might be out of  usually comfort zone.

Most cities or hostels offer a free walking tour. These are an invaluable way to get a feel for the city’s history, and orientate yourself. I'd recommend doing one near the start of your trip, so you get an idea of where you are, and what you're seeing. Usually they operate on a tip basis, so you tip what you can, or what you think it was worth. I couldn't rate these tours highly enough. I've done them in Berlin, Sarajevo, Tirana, Lisbon, Amsterdam... you get my drift!

If you want to look at renting a car, bike, quad bike, or scooter, see if you can team up with others. It will often work out cheaper, and life's more fun with people to laugh along the way with! Just ensure before you rent them that you ask about any hidden costs, such as their petrol policy, and any damage costs. If possible, get full insurance from the start so you have no worries when you drop it back.

Bikes are a great way to see a city if you don't need to cover too much distance. The hostel may have their own that are free to use, or can usually recommend somewhere that they may be able to get you a discount. For a small fee, they are a great way to see more than you could by foot in a day.

The north part of the Berlin Wall, that we only got to by renting bikes

It is likely that the hostel will run other activities that can be a great day out. Things such as snorkelling trips, day tours, kayaking adventures, or boat tours. These will vary in price. Sometimes included in the trip will be a free lunch, barbecue on the beach, or sandwich on the go. You can factor this into the cost when you're considering booking.

The other thing to look at is whether you can rent things yourself. Some hostels on the coast will rent surfboards and kayaks for £10-20 for a day, so you're free to do as you please.

If you want to splurge on something a bit more adrenaline seeking, have a hunt around for what's on offer. It may be cheaper than you'd expect. I did a paraglide in Granada in the south of Spain for about £40. It was incredible, soaring over the snow capped Sierra Nevada a week before Christmas. Obviously these kind of activities are not something you could splash out on daily, but you should be able to fit something in if it takes your fancy.

Kate paragliding in Spain

In need of a night out? Take advantage of the hostel's bar, and their drink discounts. They will often run a pub crawl every few days, or be able to direct you to the city's one. I've done pub crawls in Krakow, Amsterdam, Prague, and even London for under £10. Pub crawls are always a great way to meet new people and see bars you might not otherwise have known were there.


A FEW OTHER THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:

Consider travelling in shoulder or off-season if you want to save a bit more money. I've had to travel in the height of summer, this being July and August for Europe, and the cost of flights and accommodation can double. Much of Europe is warm enough to enjoy in May and June (and isn't 41 degrees like I'm sitting in in Mostar!). You could also look at travelling in September, where the days are warm, but the crowds are less, and the days feel like lazy summer ones. Europe is also beautiful in winter. I spent last Christmas exploring the south of Spain, and it was warm enough to wear a t-shirt most days. Many hostels will offer shoulder and off-peak prices, which will usually be listed on their website. Same goes for flights, when the demand drops, so do the prices.

Travel insurance is always worth getting. If you're travelling from the UK, use a comparison site such as GoCompare. I managed to find cover for a month for £13, so there's really no excuse not to get it. I've been paid back on every claim I've made, and have been owed thousands. It's more than worth its weight in gold. I hope you never have to use it, but it's definitely something you shouldn't travel without!

Communication with the outside world ("yes mum I'm still alive") is easy enough these days. Hostels, restaurants and bars all tend to have great free wifi these days. If you really can't live without checking your Insta every ten minutes, most U.K. phone networks now offer free roaming, but only to certain countries. Check the list before you travel so you don't get charged outrageous fees.

If you're travelling anywhere, you can always buy a local sim which usually offers a huge amount of data at a very low cost. Or, you could save money, put your phone away and make new friends! Just don't forget to tell mum you're ok every now and again.

Travel doesn't have to be expensive to be fun. The more you travel, the more you find magic in the smallest of moments. Your most random of connections make for the happiest memories. To quote Roald Dahl, those who don't believe in magic will never find it.

Every stop in Amsterdam needs a photo! The walking tour in Amsterdam is amazing

We travel to learn more about the world, but more importantly, to learn about ourselves. I can't wait to hear all about your journeys! If you have any questions, feel free to email me at backpackfullofdreams@gmail.com. To follow me along on my adventures, follow me on Insta, Pinterest and Facebook at  backpackfullofdreams .

Wishing you safe and happy travels while you find your own magic.

Forever dreaming, Kate

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