This is a summary of all our expenses for the 188 nights that we spent travelling Europe from July to December 2021. Although we spent a total of 188 nights in Europe during this time, we only spent 68 nights in the Campervan as we spent the remainder of the time House Sitting.
We visited the countries of Italy, France, and Spain. We travelled fairly slowly, covering only short distances on most days. You should keep in mind that if one travels at a slower pace it's easier to make savings as transportation can eat into your budget quickly. That said, we found that if one can contain accommodation costs, prepare your own food instead of eating in restaurants and avoid driving toll roads, Europe need not be an overly expensive destination.
We purchased a 20-year-old Campervan and made some fairly significant renovations and additions to the Campervan to suit our specific needs. These purchase costs are not included in this budget report.
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Travelling full-time changes the way one travels and it becomes less of a quest to tick off the 'popular' sights than it becomes a way of experiencing your surroundings in a slower, relaxed fashion. Many further cost savings are indeed possible, but one should also not completely deprive oneself of uniquely local experiences that ultimately add value to your visit to a foreign country. However, more often than not, the events, encounters and connections with people that stand out, are those that you do not foresee or could even have planned for. Like most things in life, a balance between being frugal and making use of opportunities should be sought.
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So How Much Does It Cost To Vanlife In Europe?
This budget report is for the two of us. Note that the following spending does not include the cost of the Campervan itself. If you take a look at our 2018 Europe Campervan Budget Report (103 nights) you will see how similar our expenses are between these two years and how we actually managed to REDUCE our daily spending in 2021 compared to 2018.
We generally try to eat like and with the locals. We also generally avoid eating in restaurants. In Europe, this is particularly necessary in order to contain your food expenses. But, having a campervan means that you can easily shop at the local grocery stores, buy excellent quality ingredients at affordable prices and prepare delicious and healthy meals for yourself.
We generally prepared all our own food. In a few countries such as Italy, some restaurants serve snack food at a certain time of the day (just before sunset), so if you go for a drink, you can enjoy some free snacks too! It is generally also possible to have the same meal for cheaper at lunchtime instead of in the evening as restaurants are less busy then and run daytime specials. Keep an eye out for “workers lunches” across Europe, these are generally also good value for money and will usually consist of a small set menu and drink for the day.
We found that we could eat very well and affordably by preparing our own food. If you want to get an idea of supermarket costs, see our video 2018 Italy - How Expensive Is Food In A Supermarket?
Alcohol is not cheap, but also not overly expensive (although cocktails always carry a premium price tag). We enjoyed drinking local wine daily and also the odd Gin & Tonic when the weather was warmer. However, we almost never went out for drinks. This brought our total expenditure for alcohol (which is included in the €16.48 "Food" total above) to approximately €1.40 per day.
Our total spending for the two of us came to €16.48 per day, including all food, drinks, alcohol, ice-creams and lots of chocolate and other snacks but only the odd occasion eating out. Let's just say that with this budget, we definitely did not go hungry! Without alcohol and treats, and by preparing all your own food, you could save another €2-3 per day. However, if you choose to eat in restaurants and enjoy a few drinks per day, be prepared to probably triple your food budget!
Of course, accommodation costs depend greatly on how you camp. If you have a fully self-sustained camping vehicle (such as a camper van), it is much easier to stay for longer periods without visiting official campsites. However, these are often not suited to stealth wild camping in comparison to smaller vans. There are also many luxury campsites throughout Europe, but if you are looking to travel Europe on a budget, then having a camper can really save significantly when it comes to accommodation costs.
We mostly used the “Park 4 A Night” App to look for suitable camping locations. It has better information in some countries compared to others and you do still need to read the reviews to establish if the spots are formal/acceptable camping spots or not. We found it very useful and would recommend it to others.
Campsites across Europe can be as simple as a free parking area with no services, but often a stunning view. Others can be serviced parking areas within or on the edge of a town, which are often good value for money and functional, but not usually very scenic. On the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of wonderful camping resorts in stunning locations and with a wide variety of entertainment and services. These are usually significantly more expensive, but many are still excellent value for money. And then, of course, you will find many other options somewhere in between simple and luxurious!
If we ignore all free nights and only consider the nights that we paid for accommodation, our average cost for camping works out to €13.03 per night. However,19 of our 68 nights (28%) spent in the camper were FREE - resulting in our average cost for accommodation with the Campervan being €9.39 per night. One could, however, easily include more free nights to further reduce your costs.
CAMPING COSTS ITALY:
We spent a total of 28 nights in Italy over the months of September and October 2021. Of these, we camped for FREE for 10 nights in Sanremo. The maximum that we spent was 30 EUR per night for a well-located lakeside camping spot at the beginning of September, which was apparently still considered “peak season”! The minimum that we spent was 5 EUR per night for simple yet dedicated camper parking, some of which even included electrical connection. This brought our average cost to 7.11 EUR per night in Italy. We made a short video to help you figure out just How To Camp For Free In Italy and we even found a Convenient, Affordable Camper Stop in Venice, Italy.
CAMPING COSTS FRANCE:
We spent 17 nights in France during October 2021. Of these, we only had 3 FREE nights of wild camping in Leucate. For the remainder of the time, we mostly made use of the very affordable and convenient Camping Car Park services throughout France, spending a maximum of 13.11 EUR and a minimum of 11.22 EUR per night, both including electricity. This brought our average cost to 9.74 EUR per night in France. We can really recommend using the Camping Car Park App for travelling through France and you may also want to consider looking at “France Passion” if you are travelling through the more rural inland areas of France.
CAMPING COSTS SPAIN:
We spent 16 nights camping in Spain before reaching our first House Sit near Cómpeta. Of these, we enjoyed 5 FREE nights in various places across Spain, some of which were formalised FREE camper overnight areas and others which were somewhat less official! The maximum that we spent was 17 EUR per night (off-season rate) for a fairly fancy lakeside campsite including electricity. The minimum we spent was 12 EUR per night at various very nice campsites, but excluding electricity (electricity usually costs an additional 3 EUR per night). This brought our average cost to 9.23 EUR per night in Spain.
Getting around Europe is not cheap! Most of the bigger and faster roads are toll roads and these tolls can add up very quickly. We did our very best to avoid toll roads, but this is not always possible. Fuel is also not cheap but can be significantly cheaper in some countries. We paid up to €1.65 per litre in Italy and as little as €1.27 per litre in Spain. We spent a total of €507.42 on fuel and only travelled a total of 2800km, giving us an average cost of €0.18 per km.
Our "General" category comprises all general living expenses such as cleaning products; LPG (Gas for cooking and heating); toiletries; laundry; medical expenses; clothing and any other odds & ends.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT & TOLLS
We didn't spend much on public transport or toll fees. Depending on how one travels, toll fees across Europe can add up very quickly!
We generally try to stay away from very touristy places and prefer to explore independently. In Europe, most tourist attractions are not free, but some are still definitely worth seeing. This expense was however very limited during 2021 due to the COVID-19 regulations.
Public toilet facilities are not often free. Often it is cheaper to order a quick espresso and then ask to use the bathroom!
CELLPHONE & DATA
Being very dependent on data for getting around and rather heavy data user generally, this is one of the first things we investigate when staying in a country for a period of time. We found the best providers for prepaid mobile data to be VERY MOBILE in Italy; FREE MOBILE (which is not free!) in France and MOVISTAR in Spain. We did find that WIFI is generally available at most campsites and even some camper stops.
As mentioned above, this does not include the cost of a Campervan or any Insurance costs.For more information on medical and travel insurance, refer to the articles below: