For the budget traveler, the cost for a trip to Europe varies widely depending on where you go. Miles and points can significantly reduce the cost of your travel without needing to fly Norwegian economy class or stay in hostels. Still, there is a wide range in cost for food, drink, transportation, shopping and entertainment spending considerations once you have reached your destination.
My frequent travels over the past several years to 20 countries around Europe has provided me with a general cost perception for the price of travel in different countries across Europe from Norway and Iceland to UK and Ireland, Italy and Greece, and places in between. I categorize Europe in three general price ranges with high price countries, medium price countries and low price countries.
Low price countries are most former Soviet-bloc countries with Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Balkans. Prices for goods and services tend to be higher, but still relatively low priced overall for former Soviet-bloc countries of Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia using euro currency. Hotels in Estonia, Latvia Slovenia and Croatia have a large price swing between off season and peak season travel.
Medium price countries tend to be most of the euro currency zone with exception of places in Spain, Portugal and France, which can be quite affordable depending on where and when you travel. Hotel rates have a large price range for summer resort areas in these places.
High price countries include Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Switzerland, Ireland and major tourist cities like Amsterdam, London and Paris also fall into the high prices range for transportation, dining, drink and entertainment. These destinations tend to require around $60 to $80 per day per person for me, even when trying to conserve spending. Switzerland and Nordic countries are highest prices and can easily push a budget over $80 per day if you are moving around within the country.
Airport transportation to the city provides an example of cost disparities between different places like Poland, Greece and Sweden. Warsaw Airport WAW has a train service directly from the arrivals terminal to city center for 4.40 PLN or about $1.16 one way. Chania, Crete CHQ Airport offers bus service for 2.50 EUR/$2.83 USD one way. Stockholm ARN to Stockholm city station is 99 SEK/$10.71 one way for Flygbussarna in about 45 to 50 minutes or Arlanda Express train takes 22 minutes at a cost of 295 SEK/$31.92 one way or 570 SEK/$61.69 return. Simply traveling between the airport and city for arrival and departure from Stockholm Arlanda Airport will likely cost more than a week’s travel on public transportation around Warsaw.
I typically find daily expenses around $20 to $30 per person in a low prices country meets my needs for transportation, dining, drink and entertainment. Solo travel keeps me closer to the lower spend range, whereas travel with my wife generally hits the upper spend range. Shes like dining out and drinking in pubs. I am happy to eat fast food and drink a cold beer in the park since drinking in public spaces is not prohibited in most European countries.
Daily expenses cost $40 to $60 per person for the same goods and services in a medium prices country. One of the major differences in my travel is I tend to eat at restaurants in low prices countries, whereas most of my meals are grocery store purchases and cheap hot foods in medium prices countries. In high prices countries nearly all my food and drink consumption is store purchased. And I tend to avoid alcohol purchases entirely when in Norway and Iceland.
Spending $30 for lunch and $50 for a dinner meal in Stockholm might not be an out of the ordinary expense for many Americans. However, multiply $80 a day for food and drink by 10 or 20 days of travel, then $800 to $1,600 is a hefty food bill when it is possible to eat in Scandinavia for $20 to $30 a day buying high quality grocery store food with limited hot meals eaten in restaurants.
I tend to spend 50 to 70 days in Europe over the course of the year. Dining in restaurants is one area of my travel budget I choose to skimp on when in expensive dining countries, thereby eliminating thousands of dollars in dining expenses. This concession allows for significantly more money to devote to my travel budget during the year.
‘When I travel I eat to satisfy my hunger. When at home I eat for pleasure.’ That thought occurred to me when walking around Warsaw this month. Of course that does not apply to my beer consumption. That is pleasure whether on the road or at home.
My most recent trip to Warsaw, Poland for 3 nights; Chania, Greece 4 nights and Stockholm, Sweden for one night cost about $50 total for Poland, $85 for Warsaw and $35 for Stockholm for all my transportation, dining, drink and entertainment over 8 days. In Poland, I ate all restaurant meals with beer. In Greece, I primarily dined on pizza and beer with only one restaurant seafood meal. In Stockholm, I only purchased grocery store food for my dinner.
Warsaw, Poland – low prices (Polish złoty exchange rate 1.00 USD = 3.79 zł)
Warsaw Modlin Airport WMI airport bus to city 35 PLN walk up fare. Tickets as low as 9 PLN with advance purchase.
Tram, bus, metro- 4.40 PLN x 4 tickets = 17.60 PLN/$4.64 USD for city transportation on buses, Metro, trams and Warsaw Chopin WAW airport train.
Warsaw Rising Museum admission ticket 25 PLN/$6.59 USD.
On August 1, 1944 the Warsaw Uprising was launched to drive the Nazi occupying forces from Warsaw. At the time, about 900,000 residents in Warsaw remained from 1,300,000 at beginning of occupation. The Polish Home Army surrendered after two months. Hitler ordered Warsaw to be razed. Fewer than 1,000 residents remained in Warsaw after the uprising was crushed.
Dining in Warsaw
Business park restaurant
Lunch of 2 pork cutlets, red cabbage, mashed potatoes and Zywiec beer 25 PLN/$6.59 USD.
PiwPaw beer heaven = 15 PLN/$3.96 pint of craft beer.
Podwalie Restaurant schnitzel, pickle, cabbage, fries and 1.0L Pilsner Urquell 47 PLN/$12.39 USD.
Praga Caffee & Bistro Galeria Sztuki lunch with beer 30 PLN/$7.91 USD.
Chania, Crete, Greece Exchange Rate 1.00 EUR = $1.13 USD
Airport Bus to Chania City Transportation 5.00 EUR/$5.66 USD round trip
Eleftherios Venizelos Residence-Museum 4 EUR
Eleftherios Venizelos was Prime Minister of Greece for 8 terms from 1910 to 1920, 1928-33 and the leading statesman in modern Greece history was from Chania, Crete. His former residence is a museum about his life.
Chania Archaeological Museum 2 EUR
Chania Archaeological Museum holds artifacts from Minoan civilization unearthed in the ancient town of Kydonia. Many exhibits from Greek and Roman periods.
The small figurine below is one I was particularly captivated by in its design. Most of the hundreds of museum items were found in the vicinity of Chania where there have been settlements for more than 5,000 years.
As I looked around town for a gift for Kelley, the jewelry items I saw did not speak to me in their style. At least not the pieces that were under 50 EUR. I wished some of the artisans simply replicated some of the lovely jewelry and figurines seen in the Chania Archaeological Museum. My only purchase in town was an 8 EUR t-shirt.
Dining in Chania, Greece
The common price of beer in Chania was 5.00 EUR for a pint in a restaurant or pub.
The few pubs I drank at all provided a bowl of potato chips with the beer.
Funky’s Pizza had two locations near my hotel and I liked stopping there for a quick bite to eat where a bottle of beer and big slice of pizza cost 4 EUR or less.
There were loads of seafood restaurants around the harbor. Most charged around 8 to 10+ EUR for a seafood meal. I ended up only having one restaurant meal of calamari and prawns at the Chania city market during my stay for 13 EUR/$14.71.
I ate grilled vegetables in a pita with a beer at another place on the main street in Chania for 5 EUR.
Breakfast at Porto del Colombo Hotel, my $39 all-in per night room for 4 nights loaded me up in the morning and I only ate one other meal each day.
Seafood meals on my Aegean flights between Warsaw and Athens and two visits to airport lounges in Warsaw and the Aegean lounge at Athens provided more free food and drink on three of my travel days.
Stockholm, Sweden Exchange rate 1 USD = 9.24 SEK Swedish Krona
Flygbussarna Airport Transportation
When traveling through Stockholm airports, be sure to have the Flygbussarna mobile app. The ticket purchase process is simple through the app. Takes less than one minute.
I flew a $16 Wizz flight from Warsaw WAW to Stockholm Skavsta NYO, southwest of the city. The bus ticket was 139 SEK/$15.04 USD for the 80 minute ride to Stockholm Central Station.
The following morning I rode Flybussarna to Stockholm Arlanda ARN for 99 SEK/$10.71 USD in 50 minutes.
Having walked about 12 miles across Chania the day before, my legs were tired and I was not in the mood for wandering around Stockholm in the late afternoon. The weather forecast was rain.
My typical food purchase for dinner in Stockholm is hit the Coop market in the train station to buy hot roasted chicken, a baguette, hummus and broccoli. The price was 87 SEK/$9.28 USD.
Air Travel for this trip SFO-Barcelona-Warsaw-Athens-Chania-Athens-Warsaw-Stockholm-Copenhagen-San Francisco = $668.54 USD
Ryanair BCN-WMI Barcelona to Warsaw $51.79
Aegean Warsaw to Chania, Greece WAW-ATH-CHQ-ATH-WAW $136.76
Wizz Warsaw WAW – Stockholm ARN 61 PLN/$16.07 USD
SAS Stockholm to San Francisco ARN-CPH-SFO-CPH-ARN $509.84 USD
$254.92 for return portion of flight starts my next trip to Europe. My flight back to Europe on SAS will earn Aegean Miles+Bonus Gold elite/Star Alliance Gold elite.
Hotels for 8-nights trip $497
Holiday Inn Warsaw, InterContinental Warsaw and Holiday Inn Express Warsaw Airport $291.
Hotel Porto del Colombo Chania $156 for 4 nights.
Clarion Hotel Sign Stockholm 1 night for 10,000 Choice Privileges points.
Choice Privileges points are valued around $50 for what I paid for 223,000 points in April 2018 during Daily Getaways promotion. Members can currently buy 10,000 points for as low as $74 during the 50% bonus sale through April 22, 2019.
Cost of Travel
Friends of mine are paying something like $5,000 each for a 3-week trip to Europe this summer for group travel with shared rooms while touring Croatia, Venice, Slovenia, Munich and Prague. That is nearly $250 per day per person.
I considered Croatia, but the weather looks too hot there for us in July.
I spent this past weekend mapping out 3 weeks of summer travel to Copenhagen, Poland, Ukraine and Czech Republic with consideration for Arctic Norway. Airfare came out to about $650 per person for paid tickets and another 10,000 SAS points + $60 to add Arctic Norway. Average hotel price should be about $50 to $60 per night, although, many of those hotel nights will be paid using hotel points like the 60,000 IHG points I earned from my trip earlier this month and points I earned from past travel.
Budgeting $50 to $60 per day for other expenses for two of us will likely come out to less than $3,000 to travel three weeks around Europe.
About $75 per day per person including all airfare, hotels and ground expenses is the kind of budget that allows me to spend many weeks each year traveling around Europe.