Like any activity, you have to plan carefully for your backpacking adventure. It’s not enough that you know what trains to take, which places to stay in and what food to it, you have to make sure that you have enough money to sustain you until the end of your journey.
Although backpacking seems like a very non-costly activity, in reality, it is. There are a lot of things you need to buy and prepare for, and it’s not just a sturdy pair of shoes and an all-weather backpack. You will need guidebooks, a digital camera, travel accessories, basic medicine — the works! In fact, preparing for a backpacking trip is harder than planning for a usual out of town holiday.
When you’re preparing your backpacking budget, you divide your estimated costs into two categories: Pre-departure and Post-departure. The pre-departure expenses cover everything that you need to buy before you reach your destination. This will include the following:
Round trip plane ticket
Unless you live in Europe and can just walk out of the door to start your backpacking experience, you will need this.
Rate varies depending on the length of your stay and your age. If you’re below 24 or above 50, you get a discount.
Will vary depending also on the duration of your trip.
Get a sturdy backpack. You don’t want to rip it halfway through your journey and then end up buying a new one.
There are general and country specific guidebooks. Select which one you think would be most useful.
Aside from the clothes on your back (and inside your backpack), you will need your usual toiletry supplies (soap, shampoo, toothpaste), first aid kits (band aids, alcohol, gauze bandages, pain relievers, cold medicine, insect repellents), travel pouches, money belts, flashlights, umbrellas, etc.
Other pre-departure expenses
Include your passport (if you don’t have one) and visa fees (for countries that require visas). It goes without saying that you will need a camera on your backpacking adventure. If you don’t have a camera, might as well invest in one as well. A digital camera is highly recommended.
Your post-departure expenses are those that you will incur at your destination. It is fairly easy to estimate your traveling cost. If you’ve planned ahead and researched on the cost of hostels in the places you’ll be staying in, asked about discount schemes, and planned your itinerary — you can somehow determine how much you’ll be spending on accommodations. In excess of that, allocate a budget of US$ 60.00 (around Euro 55.00) per day for food, in-land transportation (buses/ferries), entrances to museums (if you enjoy these) and other miscellaneous expenses.
Though it may seem impractical, it is actually better to over-estimate the cost of your expenses and to have a little extra than to under-estimate everything and end up scrimping and scrounging around for extra coins or freebies before you even finish your adventure.
If you want to reduce your expenses, solicit the help of friends and relatives. Since your post-departure expenses (esp. hostel rates) are usually fixed, you can make your budget smaller by cutting down significantly on your pre-departure expenses. Ask your travel agent to find you the cheapest flight to Europe. If you have frequent flyer miles, ask the agent or the airline itself if you have enough to qualify for a free ticket or discounted airfare. If your parents have frequent flyer miles, ask if they can gift you with a ticket or have these miles transferred to your account.
You can also minimize your pre-departure expenses (and save up all your cash for backpacking) by informing friends and relatives of your planned trip. You may borrow some essentials from them (Swiss army knife, flashlight, backpack, travel guides) and you can also get some valuable insights and tips from those who have traveled to the places you’ll be going to.
When you have everything in place and are ready to go, make sure you have enough extra money, outside of the cash you’re bringing along, in your savings account. Having money in the bank (accessible through ATM) will serve as your security blanket in case you overstep you budget (you just couldn’t resist buying that cute little Eiffel Tower replica from the street vendor) during your trip. Use the machine sparingly though, and only during extreme emergencies.
If, however, you blow your entire budget, call home and ask that some funds be wired to you immediately. It may be embarrassing to ask a parent for help, but it’s much better (and safer) than pawning your valuables or standing in street corners asking strangers for spare change. So avoid this demeaning situation. Do your homework, make a budget, and stick to it.