While traveling in Europe is complicated enough, budgeting is another story. Making an accurate budget for food really depends where you are going and how bougie you want your meals to be. If we are budgeting like college students and recent grads (aka a budget of “broke af”) then you can probably scrape by on less than expected.
Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Northern Europe/Scandinavia and the Mediterranean are all very different in terms of meals and costs. If you’re taking a ~Eurotrip~ this summer or going there on spring break with your bestie, it’s likely that you’re going to choose to tackle only one or two of these regions, so here’s what you need to know.
Also, remember that we're on a student budget so you can't (or at least I can't) afford to go out for every meal. These travel budgets mean eating as the Europeans do and buying food from local markets and picnicking or cooking at hostels.
Going to the United Kingdom is going to cost you an arm and a half TBH. Food prices are high and alcohol is even more outrageous. London is by far the most expensive (after all it is the NYC of Europe) so pick and choose where you eat wisely.
Try to spend a few days in Northern England or Scotland where prices are more suited for a student travel budget. Overall, you should spend $40 to $50 per day.
The rest of Western to Central Europe is relatively cheaper. France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium are all similarly priced in terms of food and drink, whereas Switzerland gets a bit more expensive (thanks to the Swiss Franc).
For instance, in Germany and Austria you can get a beer for only about 3 euros and a quality, filling meal for 10 euros. All of these countries also have outdoor markets where the food is just as good, if not better, than restaurants.
If it were me, I would split up my noshing 50/50 between eating out and snacking my way through the markets. If you do this, you’re looking to have an average travel budget of about $30 per day.
If you're looking to be a little less basic but still eat some great food, Eastern Europe is the place to go. It also tends to be more affordable than Western Europe. You can get an authentic, delicious meal in Poland at one of their Milk Bar's for as little as 4 euros. Throw in a beer for less than 2 euros and you're set.
Hungary, Ukraine and Russia are similarly priced as well. Fortunately for us college students, it's extremely cheap to drink in these countries. In Russia, beer is often less than $1 and you can buy a bottle of vodka for as little as $5. Overall, you could safely make your food budget to be around $15 per day in these countries.
Apart from certain areas of London and Paris, Scandinavia is the one place you're sure to spend a pretty penny on food. In Norway, which is similarly priced to Sweden and Finland, the average beer is around $10, a meal at McDonald's is about $11 and most other restaurant meals will range from $20 to $30.
The rest of Scandinavia and Northern Europe is pretty similar—with a cappuccino often being significantly cheaper than a bottle of water.
Copenhagen is a popular destination for students and backpackers as it is a small, tourist friendly city that is easy to access if you are traveling throughout the rest of mainland Europe. If you find yourself there, scope out fast casual restaurants that might be good for a night out, but will not totally break the bank like most other places.
If you don't want to be starving yourself by the end of the trip, budget up to $50 per day for this region, which includes purchasing meals from supermarkets and drinking less than you might have intended.
Ah, the Mediterranean. This area is my personal favorite because it has the best, most unique and freshest food in all of Europe. Obviously Italy is world renowned for its food. The street pizza and panino are ten times better than any Americanized Italian food you can buy and can be as little as 5 euros.
In addition, Spain is known for tapas (small sharing plates). They make going out to dinner with groups extremely inexpensive and extremely delicious. A lot of the time bars bless you with free tapas as well, which makes traveling on a budget a lot easier.
Last, Greece is the holy grail of affordable, amazing food. It might be a bit more expensive of a plane ticket to get, but it's definitely worth it. You can eat great food and drink high quality and cheap Greek wine for only about $15-20 per day.
Overall, you can get by in this region on around $20 per day. However, if you are in more touristy locations and like to eat sit-down meals, I would give yourself $30 per day.
General tips to help your travel budget anywhere in Europe: bring a reusable water bottle so you can avoid the insane cost of bottled water, pregame if you're planning on going out drinking in one of the more pricey countries and last, eat street food and at markets as it is often better than many restaurants.
When you're traveling in Europe, be sure to bring some extra cash as it's no fun running out of money when you're supposed to be having the best trip of your life. But most of all, make sure to have a good time and worry about your lack of funds when you return home.