Travel planning with the Backpacker Index for budget and hotels for comfort

When I googled ‘price of beer prague’, one of the main websites listed is The page gives Prague a backpacker index $43.08. The beer portion of that is $4.00 to $5.50 per day. Sounds good to me for my travels next month. – Prague

Backpacker Index

The backpacker index is the sum for the following daily expenses of travel to the city.

For each city this daily total includes:

  • A dorm bed at a good and cheap hostel
  • 3 budget meals
  • 2 public transportation rides
  • 1 paid cultural attraction
  • 3 cheap beers (as an “entertainment fund”)

Travel Planning with the Backpacker Index for budget and hotels for comfort

I basically live this backpacker travel budget lifestyle when I travel, except I stay at hotels. All hotels with private room and bath and some quite nice rooms at times. Frequently for less than $50 more per night added to the backpacker index. At $50 more than the backpacker index, I’d spend an extra $3,000 to $4,000 for 60 to 80 hotel nights of travel each year.

Prague ranks midway at #67 of 130 ranked cities in the backpacker index ordered least to most expensive. Nepal and Vietnam hold four of top six least expensive places. The backpacker survey occurred before the April 2015 Nepal earthquake.

My cost difference with hotels approximates Backpacker Index for expensive cities

At the high end of the Backpacker Index are Bergen, Norway at #127 and London #128, with New York and Zurich topping the chart of 130 cities. Bergen, London and New York City have a Backpacker Index value at $100 to $110 per day.

Zurich, Switzerland at #130 is the highest priced city ranked on the Backpacker Index at $128 USD per day. Geneva, Switzerland is not on the Backpacker Index. I will spend one day and night in Geneva in October for a Loyalty Traveler Swiss prices index. I was in Zurich in March 2013 and beer in the store was probably 50% of US beer prices. Even the Backpacker Index shows beer in retail stores at 71 cents per 0.5L bottle. Sitting in a park in the city drinking a bottle of beer is not a crime in most European cities.

So far in my Europe planning for September trips, one hotel night in Geneva is my biggest hotel night expense. I was surprised to find chain hotels like Best Western and Holiday Inn Express in Geneva for as low as $130 per night. Geneva often ranks as the most expensive hotel city in the world.

Loyalty Traveler Index for London July 2015

I spent three weeks in Bergen and London in the past year. I stayed in nice hotels, drank Stella Artois (London only – detoxed my body with no beer in Bergen for a week last September), experienced many free cultural attractions and ate regular meals.

In London last month for eight hotel nights, the cost for my breakfast at the high end was $8 takeaway diner meals; lunch and dinner $20 per day in foods purchased from grocery stores; beer less than $10 when staying out of pubs.

Transportation $10 day or less. $10 kind of averages airport bus to city and trains too for arrival and departure days. Weather in London was good and we spent less than $5 per day per person on transportation over eight days with a London Oyster Card.

Paid cultural attractions and souvenirs $10 to $25 per day to visit museums, parks, events.

Loyalty Traveler London Price Index

  • Food and beer = $38
  • Transportation = $10
  • Attractions = $10 to $25; we paid for and donated money for some attractions, but most museums and parks in London are free.
  • Total daily expenses = $58 to $73 + lodging.

Next month I am using 16,000 Choice Privileges points to buy a room night in London.

The cost of the room in London around $80. Less than $5.00 per 1,000 points was the average cost for 500,000 or so Choice Privileges points I purchased during the past few years. With a hotel room night covered for London at $80, I am left with $29 for a day’s expenses using the BackPacker Index of $109 per day. $29 is plenty of money for me to have a fun day in London. I eat and drink Tesco, Marks & Spencer, and Sainsbury. Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square are great locations for people watching, museum and music culture and free street entertainment.

Bergen, Norway is expensive. Last year I stayed for $48 to $80 per night in Nordic Choice Hotels using Choice Privileges points I purchased at the rate of $4.00 per 1,000 points. Hotels ranged from 12,000 to 20,000 points per night. I stayed several nights in $400 to $500 per night rooms spending $80 in points for a reward night.

I hiked several thousand vertical feet during the week around the mountains surrounding Bergen, Norway. Hiking is all the rage in Norway and the views are spectacular. Fjord cruises are the number one attraction in Bergen. Hiking trails are also filled with more Norway 5-star beautiful attractions.

I am heading back to Bergen, Norway in September for a few days and nights and I am heading to the even more expensive Arctic region of Norway for a few nights. SAS miles, Best Western points and Choice Privileges points should keep my total trip cost to under $500 for flights, nights and daily expenses.

On Ulriken

Hiking Ulriken above Bergen, Norway

London and Bergen are two of the world’s most expensive cities for travelers.

Still, I found London and Bergen affordable in the past year and I am going back to these two cities again next month.

I’ll see how far below that $99 to $109 backpacker index I can manage for my days in London and Bergen. That Bergen Airport bus into town will eat up most of my daily backpacker-with-a-roller-bag budget as I fly in and out of Bergen Airport six times in September.

Malaysian ringgit slumps to weakest level in 17 years –

Malaysian Ringit story

In 1997 the Malaysian ringgit was pegged to the U.S. Dollar at 3.80 MYR = $1.00 USD. That currency exchange rate has remianed fairly steady for 17 years.

Today the Malaysian ringgit is sitting at 4.01 MYR = $1.00. In 2015, Malaysia has had the most currency exchange devaluation against the US Dollar of any Asian currency.

Prices in Malaysia are already really low. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ranks #48 of 130 cities on the Backpacker Index at $34.69 for daily expenses.

Assuming the 4 MYR = $1 USD rate holds through November and no Malaysia price inflation, then my Loyalty Traveler price index just dropped 5% in what I will spend to eat, drink, travel and experience culture and attractions in Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere. I might spend that 5% travel savings on souvenirs.

My Loyalty Traveler Price Index

At a party the other night, I explained that after airfare and hotel are paid for, I can go to most any city in the world and live on $20 per day.

I watch for airfare deals, pay for hotels when promotions are good and rates are cheap and redeem points where room rates are high. Planning hotel stays around earning points during promotions and redeeming points for stays in the world’s most expensive cities reduces the impact of the primary limiting factor to travel – the cost of things.

Lodging is probably the most variable expense among different travelers. Hostels are fine for some travelers, camping is an option, Airbnb and Hotwire, Priceline and other deals. Being a loyalty traveler means I focus on using hotel chain loyalty programs with the purpose of finding lodging deals. This makes my planning for lodging fairly easy with limited choices, yet also saves lots of times since finding good value deals for hotel stays using points is fairly easy.

My hotel nights are all booked for 19 nights in Europe next month. I’ll post my own Loyalty Traveler price index for what I find in Copenhagen, Prague, Brno, Bergen, Lofoten Islands Norway, London, Paris, south of France and Geneva.

I’ll live my days like a backpacker, where people will meet me on the streets and trails of Europe. At night, I will be in a Holiday Inn or InterContinental, a Best Western, or in a Nordic Choice Clarion Collection hotel in the light buffet dinner room eating a free meal before heading up to a private bed in a private room with a TV and shower.

Privacy is a major factor in my Loyalty Traveler Price Index budget.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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