Step 1 – Buy a Van.
Although you may think this is a huge wack out of your budget you have to take into account the money you will save on accommodation, travel (bus, train, taxi, and plane) and another big one – eating out. And at the end of your travels you can re-sell your home away from home and put a bit of cash back into your pocket.
After looking at what felt like hundreds of campervans throughout all of Europe and endless emails back and forth, we decided to buy a white T3 Transporter, which we bought from a lady in The Netherlands. She owned a website that sold a variety of cars and vans to backpackers and even offered a buy back policy (obviously as a last resort if we were unable to sell it on our own). To make the process easier the van would still in registered under her name, we just had to sign a contract agreeing that any payments, fines etc. would be our responsibility.
The cost of the van, insurance and rego came to a total of 4500 euro (around $6600 AUD).
Now a little bit about our home away from home – inside it had lots of cupboards for storage, a bar fridge/freezer, a sink, two burner gas stove, a pull out table, car seat/benches that folded down into a double bed and a pop top roof for the times we wanted a bit of extra room to stand while cooking.
Step 2 – Accommodation
Now we mentioned buying a van would save you money in a number of other things, the first being accommodation. Let say you stay at a backpackers every night for 6 months. Prices will vary depending on where you are but on average you are looking at least $30 a night.
182 (days) x 30 ($) = $5460
Now let’s say you like a little more luxury and privacy.
182 (days) x 100 ($) = $18,200
That number alone has already almost doubled your 10k budget. Now we’re not saying we only slept in the van! We tried to stay in a hotel or campsite once a month so we could pamper ourselves in a hot shower, comfortable bed, TV and of course – free internet.
We found the best thing to do was wait for the last minute specials on www.booking.com, www.lastminute.com or any other budget hotel sight to grab the end of day specials, searching for the lowest prices possible. The cheapest hotel we found was in Budapest, Hungary, which set us back a huge 10 euro. The most expensive being a campsite in Split, Croatia, not realising wild camping was illegal, which ended up costing us a depressing 45 euro.
By now you’re probably thinking “well how did you shower when you only stayed at hotels and campsites once a month”? On the days when we weren’t washing ourselves out of the sink in our van, we would seek out those precious hot showers. It turns out stopping into campsites and saying you are ‘just passing through’ can score you a free hot shower. However, other places require shower tokens or a small payment of 1-2 euro, making staying fresh an easy and cheap part of wild camping. There is also the option to shower at service stations and public swimming pool and facilities but we never felt the need when it was so easy just to stop into campsites in the countries we were in.
Step 3 – Food.
Luckily for us, our van had a fridge/freezer and a 2 burner stove – which made food easy to shop for.
Even though we weren’t eating out, we still kept a budget – 1 euro. If the item was below 1 euro we could buy it. This included pasta, fruit, vegetable, snacks, lollies – surprisingly a lot. The only exception to this rule was meat because if the meat was under 1 euro, you probably shouldn’t be ingesting it.
Our diets consisted highly of fruit and vegetables. Which were extremely cheap as everything was grown locally. Eating seasonal foods was key. A grocery shop would usually cost us around 20 euro and last about a week. Some things would last longer including bread pasta, canned goods – so we were never short on food supplies. Living in a van does not in any way restrict your diet.
Breakfast we still had coffee, cereal or toast and fruit.
Lunch we had sandwiches, left overs, fruit and snacks.
Dinner – our favourite meal! We prepared all sorts of pasta dishes, burgers, sausages, chicken, steak and nachos. Most with a side of vegetables or salad. Adding up our 20 euro a week grocery budget for 6 months.
20 (euro) x 26 (weeks) = 520 euro. (around $736 AUD)
When we were going out exploring in the day and knew we would be gone for lunch, we would pack food into our backpacks. The easiest things to pack were fruit and crackers, sometimes some bread for those days when fruit just wasn’t enough to sustain the long treks. But if we were running low on groceries and felt like splurging we would hit up a street market for some local foods, which was always a delicious treat.
Step 4 – Budget.
Our Budget. We worked on a 500 euro (each) a month budget. Which gave us a grand total of 1000 euro a month to work with. This covered food, petrol, tolls, sight-seeing, attractions, local buses and trains. We kept a record of how much everything cost so not to be left short for the rest of the month. We took back roads through small towns to avoid the budget-killer-European road tolls. Although this added time to the journey (and used more petrol) it allowed us to see more of each country – things we wouldn’t have seen taking the boring highways. There were a couple of months where we were running very low on our monthly budget, having maybe only 50 euro in our account which had to stretch a week or so.
This can happen very quickly if you are in the more expensive countries, such as Croatia and Switzerland. At those times we decided to take a break from our travels and pull up in whatever small town was ahead of us, we would spend a few days meeting the locals. Find a good coffee shop and explore the history to where we were.
So if we put all these figures together.
1. Buy a van – 4500 euro (around $6600)
2. Budget – 1000 ($) x 6 (months) = $6000 AUD
Which comes to a total of $12,600.
Yes, that figure does add up to more than our 10K budget. BUT we haven’t re-sold our van yet.
After about a month of advertising through friends and online we sold our baby for a grand total of 3000 euro ($4400 AUD). Which now takes our 6 month holiday grand total to $8200, which gives you about $1800 for a little leeway in your budget. There you have it, how to travel Europe on less than $10,000 for 6 months. The greatest 6 month adventure of a lifetime.
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