The Cost of Vanlife: How Much Does it Cost to Travel Europe by Van for 6 Months?

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The cost of vanlife.

Quitting your job, getting rid of everything and joining the vanlife movement is a risky move right? But just how much does it cost to travel as a couple, for 6 months throughout Europe? While we understand that everyone has different spending and saving habits, we hope to give you insight into how much a life on the road is likely to cost you.

Staying on top of your expenses. 

We endeavoured to track our expenses as accurately as possible throughout our European Vanlife journey. I tried my best to keep our Wally app regularly updated with any incomes or outgoings.  Tracking our expenditures helped keep us on track with our budget and is also a fun way for us to reflect on and analyse the costs for future Vanlife trips. (Yes we still can't wait to tackle NZ and Australia by van). I've also taken a closer look at the cost of fuel and oil in Europe, which you can check out here.

Saving up and setting a budget.

Let's start at the beginning. We saved for our Vanlife adventure in the 2 years leading up to our trip. After doing some research and working out what we could afford to spend, we came up with a realistic daily budget of $60AUD, or $30AUD per person. While we were hoping to earn some money online while we were on the road, we lived off our savings for the entirety of our time in Europe. 

10 Ways to Keep Your Vanlife Costs Down...

We've now travelled a fair bit, so we are well aware of how quickly costs can escalate. We use the following strategies to keep costs low and stick to our daily budget of $30 per person. 

1.) Wild camping. This is one of the most significant ways to save money. Who needs power and hot showers anyway? Check out our guide to wild camping here.

2.) Avoiding toll roads. This means planning your route accordingly, doing research and selecting "no tolls" on your gps settings. We avoided driving through France which is known for having a high number of tolls. Avoiding tolls meant we travelled slower (with time to enjoy our surroundings) and had to weather some crappy stretches of road (namely Italy)  but the cost savings were huge.

3.) Cooking our own meals. A no brainer really, eating out costs. I love to cook so this was an easy choice for us. Our coffee purchases tied in with using free wifi and we only ate out when it was as affordable as cooking ourselves. Ok, so maybe I also snuck in a fair few pastries, but all is fair

4.) Buying fresh produce at local farmers markets. Buying off the farmer often means you get better produce and for a gear price. When we needed to use a supermarket, we'd opt for stores like ALDI which surprisingly stock a lot of organic and vegetarian options. Every dollar counts.

5.) Avoid paying for water. Use our guide to finding free water everywhere. Boil water for drinking if you have to. Avoiding plastic water bottles is good for the planet and your wallet.

6.) Utilising friends along the way. Have friends, family, loose acquaintances scattered throughout Europe? Take advantage of them. Ask for a shower, ask for a bed for the night.

7.) Limit your drinking. Alcohol costs quickly add up. While the occasional beer isn't going to send you broke, cocktails on the beach certainly are. Keep it simple and grab a beer from the supermarket, to enjoy at sunset out in nature.

8.) Stay where it's cheap. Spend more time in affordable countries like the Balkans, where living costs are low. Travelling through Scandinavia means your money is not going to be stretched as far.

9.) Avoiding buying clothes, souvenirs or "things". We are actively trying to be minimalist. We simply don't need things to make us happy anymore. All the little things add up, so resist the temptation and stick to window shopping! Believe me, you will be thankful at the end when you aren't stuck with a mountain of things to ship home.

10.) Only spending money on truly unique experiences. We are well and truly over paying admission fees and lining up in long queues. Instead we go on free walking tours, hike mountains and invest in amazing experiences like canyoning in Lake Como or skydiving in Portugal. Trust your instincts and ask yourself if it's really worth it.

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Where did the money go. 

We tracked our expenditures via the Wally app. It's a relatively easy way to track, categorise and keep on top of spendings. The daily budget will adjust itself based on how much you've spent that month, so you know when it's time to pinch your pennies.

The Cost of 6 Months of Vanlife in Europe...

Note: All prices are in $AUD unless otherwise stated. All totals have been rounded up and are for two people. For better transparency we've kept the purchase cost of our van and other non-van related activities listed separately from our day to day expenses. The cost of setting up your own van will vary greatly, depending on your budget and what exactly you are after. Learn more about choosing the right van for you here. Our van was a large investment but we went in knowing that she was a gem and hoping to recuperate most of the costs back at the end of our travels. 

1.) Vanlife living Expenses.

Van: Total: Monthly: Weekly: Daily:
Van Service, Repairs & Parts $2,000 $333 $77 $11
Van Insurance $1,000 $167 $38 $5
Parking & Fines $200 $33 $8 $1
Tolls & Vignettes $213 $36 $8 $1
Fuel $2,000 $333 $77 $11
Oil $150 $25 $6 $1
Total $5,563 $927 $214 $31
Food & Drink: Total: Monthly: Weekly: Daily:
Drinks at a bar $300 $50 $12 $2
Coffee at cafes $400 $67 $15 $2
Casual dining, street food $1,600 $267 $62 $9
Groceries $2,000 $333 $77 $11
Total $4,300 $717 $165 $24
Transport: Total: Monthly: Weekly: Daily:
Ferries: Brac, Sicily & Venice $300 $50 $12 $2
Accommodation: Total: Monthly: Weekly: Daily:
Paid Campgrounds (van) $160 $27 $6 $1
Total: Monthly: Weekly: Daily:
Living Expenses for 2 people $10,323 $1,721 $397 $57

2. Van purchase.

Ideally most of these costs can be recovered at the end of your travels:
Van Purchase $10,000
Finding Fee & Storage Fee $1,000
Currency exchange, Administration & Registration Fees $2,000
Van Setup $750
Total Cost to Purchase Van: VW Westfalia T4 1991 $13,750

3.) Other expenses.

Personal: Total: Monthly: Weekly: Daily:
Travel Insurance $1,000 $167 $38 $5
General Expenses $1,200 $200 $46 $7
Visas $150 $25 $6 $1
Total $2,350 $392 $90 $13
Transport: Total: Monthly: Weekly: Daily:
Ferry: Rhodes $200 $33 $8 $1
Public Transport & Ride Share $1,000 $167 $38 $5
Flights $4,000 $667 $154 $22
Total $5,200 $867 $200 $29
Activities: Total: Monthly: Weekly: Daily:
Turkey Sailing $1,900 $317 $73 $10
Canyoning $360 $60 $14 $2
Skydiving $440 $73 $17 $2
Music festivals, walking tours, entrance fees etc. $600 $100 $23 $3
Total $3,300 $550 $127 $18
Accommodation: Total: Monthly: Weekly: Daily:
Airbnb, Hostel & Hotel $1,300 $217 $50 $7
Total: Monthly: Weekly: Daily:
Other Expenses for 2 people $12,150 $2,025 $467 $67

Our Overall Costs.

The real cost.

The truth is vanife can be as expensive or inexpensive as you make it. We've learnt plenty of pointers along the way and next time round we'll be tackling building our own van to keep our initial costs down! If you are planning your own vanlife adventure, you can also take a closer look at our Mileage and Fuel stats here.

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So tell me... what are your favourite ways to save money on your travels? If you've had your own Vanlife adventures, were you able to stay within your budget?

Let us know in the comments section below, or say "hello" to us personally at [email protected]

Until next time vanlifers!

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