Backpacking in Europe is expensive. Aside from the flight, your next most significant expenditure is often accommodation, and hotels will ruin your budget unless you're traveling with friends.
Hostels aren't that much better, with a bed in a dorm averaging around 20 euros a night. Add this with food costs, and you're looking at 40 euros or more a day.
Fortunately, there are ways to sleep for free in Europe. Unfortunately, you will have to sacrifice a bit of comfort and convenience.
There are plenty of spots, from train stations to McDonald's, where you can sleep safely, relatively comfortably, and best of all, for free.
While it might be hard to get a decent night's rest, after a while, you might even prefer it to a night in a hotel.
Whether you're looking to save money on accommodation or arrive too late to check into a hotel, below are five spots where you can sleep for free in Europe.
1. In Train & Bus Stations
Aside from London's King Cross and a few other German stations, most train and bus stations remain open for the entire night.
It is not unusual to find fellow backpackers camped out all over the floor during the summer backpacking season.
The station attendants generally don't mind, and since there are usually police nearby, it is relatively safe. This is one of the best places to sleep for free.
Although there are generally designated campsites, which require a small fee, there are also loads of beaches and forests where you can camp for free.
In Western Europe, it's best to pick a concealed spot away from the city. This way, police or potential thieves won't bug you.
If you are in Eastern Europe, it is safer to stay near the city. Here the police usually don't care if you camp and will add a degree of safety.
3. In 24-Hour Restaurants
Throughout Western Europe, there are loads of American fast food chains, including Mcdonald's and Starbucks, to name a few.
They are most often found near the train station and usually stay open until 3 or 4 AM, if not all night.
As long as you buy a burger from the dollar menu, the staff will usually let you rest for the night.
4. On Couches
Couchsurfing is another great way to get free accommodation. Although you need to plan this by connecting with others through their website, it allows you to make new friends and sleep comfortably.
While Couchsurfing is relatively safe, be sure to trust your instincts and politely decline if you get a bad feeling.
5. In Parks
City parks aren't your best option, but they are better than an alley. It is often best to pick a spot out of sight to avoid homeless people and police.
However, in some parks, you might find other backpackers camping out for the night, in which case it's not a bad idea to try to make friends.
You might be stuck without a hotel in the middle of the night or maybe want to save funds to help you travel longer. Either way, the former spots are some of the best ways to sleep for free.
While most are relatively safe spots, it's always best to keep your guard up. If you can, always try to join another backpacker group. The more people around you, the less likely you will end up in a dangerous situation.
About the Author:
When Leif was 16, he ran away from home and explored much of Europe and the Middle East without a dime. He is currently working on a book about this adventure as he continues to make new ones traveling the world.
Through his experiences, advice, and adventures, he hopes to prepare, empower, and inspire others to travel. Follow him on Facebook or visit him at RunawayGuide.com.
This post was written by a guest contributor. Please reference the author's byline in the post above for more information. If you would like to guest post on Go Backpacking, please read our submission guidelines. For information on advertising opportunities, go here.
Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:
- G Adventures for small group tours.
- World Nomads for travel insurance.
- Hostelworld for booking hostels.
- Rail Europe for train passes.
Curiouser and curiouser
Friday 22nd of August 2014
I once slept in a toilet. It wasn't fun, but I did it. I wasn't traveling, though; I just needed somewhere to crash and the toilet in a mini shopping mall was it.
Sunday 10th of March 2013
Hey Leif, all great ways to sleep for free, Couchsurfing is one of my favorites as you not only sleep for free, but meet some of the most humble and generous people. Another great way to save money on accommodation is TRAVEL BY NIGHT, whether it be a bus, train or flight you kill two birds with one stone, the travel part and you get to sleep (although it may not be the comfiest). Cheers, great blog
Tuesday 5th of March 2013
Yes Stansted has becomming big for travellers sleeping there so they can catch their early ryanair flights.
Monday 4th of March 2013
Can I add airports to the list. The amount of European airports I've slept in is endless. In particular London stansted has about 100 people sleeping there every night.
Another suggestion is on over night buses. If you are going a long way you can save a nights accom on the coach
Monday 4th of March 2013
Disappointed to see someone touting Couchsurfing as merely "a way to sleep for free" or an alternative to park benches and airport floors. If you're encouraging people to use Couchsurfing to mooch a free ride, clearly you don't understand or respect the point of the community.
CS is a great way to meet locals and gain some perspective that might not otherwise be available to you as a tourist. But if you use it, remember that what goes around comes around. Don't be a douche; if you surf, cook or treat your hosts to dinner or drinks, bring gifts or contribute something to make it worth their while. It doesn't need to be monetary, but it should be valuable. And when you get back home, host Couchsurfers of your own if you can.