How To Backpack Through Europe And Other Amazing Travel Tips
Europe is the second to last continent in terms of size, but that relatively little space contains many very different cultures and amazing opportunities to see the past, present and future intertwined. It can be expensive to travel to Europe, but if you are strapped for cash. You just have to figure out how to backpack across Europe and you too can experience them all.
The continent offers so much – Munich’s Oktoberfest, pristine beaches in Greece, gondola rides in historic Venice, picturesque and carefree Paris, and St Patrick’s Day in Dublin are just for starters. You can spend the afternoon in a quiet cafe in Vienna, chat up locals while you sample English ales at a pub in Oxford, or rub shoulders with the craziest clubbers in all of Europe in the ruin bars of Budapest. The options are seemingly endless, and that a part of the excitement.
Check out these simple tips on how to backpack through Europe to ensure you get most out of your jaunt and won’t blow the bank doing it.
When Do You Want To Go?
Springtime brings long days and low prices if you venture north to Scandinavia, Britain, France, and the Baltics. It’s also great time for a walking tour of Riga’s world renowned Art Nouveau architecture.
In Autumn, after the rush of the summer tourist season, you will find a slower pace if you go east to the Balkan coastline where Montenegro awaits or head inland to Belgrade and the other great cities of the Balkan peninsula.
Southern Europe’s Mediterranean coastline is another great option perfect for backpacking once the tourist season starts to subside in early autumn. Take your pick: anywhere from Spain to Croatia to Greece you will find that ideal spot to spread your towel on the sand, lose your T-shirt, and take in the warm Mediterranean sunshine.
Winter travel means the height of celebrations and world class skiing in Europe (if you’re in the right location). Don’t fret - you don’t have to over spend to enjoy your time. If you go to the Austria, France, Switzerland, or Italy to ski, try going in the offseason.
Want to really save some cash and still ski or snowboard? Head to eastern Europe for some powder. Either way, you should find less tourists, cheaper rates, and still have a outstanding time.
Where Would You Be Comfortable Staying?
Accommodations can take the biggest bite out of your budget or if done right can be the thing that makes you proudest about how you were able to save. Your options include
fully equipped camps
university lodgings during semester breaks
boarding with locals via Air BnB
How Will You Get Around?
Fortunately, Europe is very interconnected making your transportation easy and cheap, if you plan it out. With tons of budget airlines available, flying can be your cheapest, and quickest, option. But often times, you need to book well ahead of time.
But flying isn’t the only option. Taking a train or bus can be also very cheap and allow you to see more of Europe. Who knows - you may find yourself in a town you have never heard of and it could be the highlight of your trip.
If you chose train travel, know that most European countries are well connected by rail making it easy to move around. A pre-purchased train pass can be super convenient since you don’t have to wait in long lines to buy tickets.
Another plus is that the train makes a good overnight sleeping option (as long as you ensure your bag is secure).
Want to splurge? Take a sleeper train car with a friend. I took a sleeper car from London to Edinburgh over night and it was spectacular! I woke up to tea, biscuits, and a perfectly hazy Scottish morning, ready to take on a new country.
In cities, consider walking, light rails, subways, or taking the bus, but be wary of taxis – that’s one of the first rules in how to backpack in Europe. The hidden rates and tips can drain your pocket long before you hop out at your destination. Uber is of course an option, but it is not available in certain countries.
What To Eat?
The sights, sounds and great new experiences may make you forget about food for a while, but you eventually you have to eat. And food is one of the best ways to experience a culture? Go local - use Trip Advisor (which seems to be much bigger in Europe) and talk to some locals to find great, affordable eats.
Another great idea is to stock up on filling snacks to help you get through the day – last trip I was on I ate Cliff bars, trail mix, and fruit every lunch. This allowed me to be flexible with my schedule and get a lot more accomplished during the day and save some money in the meantime.
I always tried to find a little coffee shop off any main street for breakfast to get myself energized for the day and a great local spot for dinner, to unwind and reminisce over a local beer or wine and a hearty meal. I am proud to say, I have only been to an American restaurant once while traveling, and I was dragged there by an Englishman. Don’t eat at a fast food joint - you can find ways of saving money and still eat local.
As for having a good time a club, be wary that some clubs give you a drink card at the door which will be punched for each drink you have and you won’t pay until you leave. Be mindful that you don’t get sucker-punched for drinks you did not have. Also, keep that card safe – the charge for losing it can pretty exorbitant.
And remember how to find your way home. I always pull up a map of the area on Google maps when I have WIFI and then take a bunch of screenshots. It gets me enough information to get home safely each time.
Know which major cities and towns you want to see but leave room in your schedule to be flexible or change plans. Spontaneity is one of adventures best friends; be sure to not miss out on what could be the most memorable experience of your trip because you only planned 10 hours to see a city.
Remember, you are backpacking so planning every detail is not possible and would probably take all the fun out your trip if you did. Half the difficulty is making a packing list of only what you will need.
A backpacking journey is perfect for getting off the beaten path. It makes it so much easier get beyond all the tourist magnets and really experience Europe at the ground level. All you need is the right backpack and a spirit for adventure.
I hope my advice helps you have the trip of your life. No matter what you chose, I guarantee you once you put on your hiking shoes and throw your backpack over your shoulder, you won’t look back. Cheers!