Backpacking around Europe is an adventure and with these very useful tips, I just want to make your experience more memorable
No matter how old I get, I love backpacking Europe. There is a special charm every time I get on a train or explore a different city. And although my travel habits might have change through the years, there are some simple tips I simply check each time before I head on the road.
These are some of my favorite tips for backpacking Europe:
Before your trip
- Always carry a copy of your passport with you and leave your original documents at your accommodation.
- Scan all documents and save them in a cloud for emergencies.
- It is not always cheaper to get an Interrail Pass. Find out if it might be cheaper for you to travel by bus or plane.
- Use CheckMyBus to search for bus connections in Europe.
- Save some time and travel overnight.
- Budget airlines are very popular and practical in Europe.• Ryanair operates all around Western Europe.• Wizz Air flies from Western to Eastern Europe and vice versa.• Vueling connects Spain with the rest of Europe.• Eurowings offers blind booking tickets starting from 60 EUR for a round trip.
- Budget airlines have extra fees for non-self-check-in passengers. Make sure you check in and print your ticket in advance.
- Checking baggage with budget airlines costs extra with prices varying from 15 – 25 EUR a 20kg piece.
- Book a hostel with a kitchen so you can cook your own meals and save money.
Accommodation and logistics
- Hostels are friendly places to meet people if you are backpacking alone.
- Book your accommodation at least 3 days in advance.
- Do Airbnb if you are looking for a comfortable accommodation
- Hitchhiking in Europe is safe, but why hitchhike when you can sometimes travel by bus from 1 EUR.
- If you are backpacking in the European Union for longer than one month, get a local sim card with unlimited calls within the EU. They cost from 10-20 EUR and will help you a lot.
- Public transportation in most western European cities is excellent. Inform yourself which kinds of tickets are available and which is the most suitable for you.
- Europeans are friendlier than you think. Get more in contact with locals with Couchsurfing.
- Pack for all possible weather conditions. You never know how the weather in Europe is going to be.
- Inform yourself whether you need extra visas if you are traveling to countries outside the Schengen Area.
- In simple words we can say that Western Europe is almost twice as expensive as Eastern Europe.
- Set a daily budget.
Read more: How to plan an interrail trip in Europe
- If possible, start your travels in the most expensive country or travel from West to East. It will help you balancing your budget better.
Money and safety
- When traveling in non-Euro countries, withdraw or change only what you need for a couple of days. You might be stuck with foreign currency you won´t need later.
- Countries like Germany or Austria have extremely high taxes for exchanging money, so get a card without foreign transaction fees. I personally use MLP in Germany, but there are many options you can check on the internet.
- Before exchanging money, ask how much exactly you will get in return. Exchange houses sometimes have commissions written in small letters you might not see at first sight.
- Money belts might look stupid, but will keep pickpockets from snatching your credit cards, cash and ID’s while you are in that crowded train.
- Most major cities’ main stations have locker rooms from 3-6 EUR a day. These are good options if you quickly need a spot to put your backpack.
Things to not forget when backpacking Europe
- Bring a small notebook and a pen with you.
- Take a card deck with you and learn a couple of games.
- Don’t forget an extra lock with you.
- Download offline maps
- Never forget your student ID card. It gives you discounts almost everywhere.
- Don´t forget a travel adapter.
Read more: How to do interrail on a budget in Europe
Tips to get around once you are on the road
- Europe has some of the best bike roads in the world. Check out if your destination has public bicycles to rent.
- Tap water is drinkable in all major cities in Western Europe.
- Public drinking is allowed in most European cities. A good plan in summer is to get some wine and have a drink with friends next to the river.
- Most big European cities offer “free tours” where you can decide yourself how much tip you want to give afterwards. A great option if you are traveling on a budget.
- You can get free maps in most hostels, hotels and main tourist offices for most cities.
- Don´t plan too much. You will end up being disappointed or extremely tired.
Visit also what the locals visit
- Check Facebook events and local groups for activities.
- Explore more by yourself. The most beautiful things in Europe are not located on the crowded main avenues and streets.
- Inform yourself about opening times and prices of museums. Sometimes museums offer free entrance on specific days.
- Don´t feel obligated to see everything your guide recommends. See what you think you will enjoy.
- If you are planning to travel to Europe in the summer, check the festival calendar and you might find a free music festival close to you.
- Balance the amount of museums you see. If you decide to visit Musée d´Orsay, Louvre and the National Gallery during your 4 days in Paris, you won´t want to set foot in a museum ever again.
- Depending on the season, you might forget to drink liquids. Don’t get dehydrated!
- Collect something. It can be postcards, magnets or simply beer caps, but these small things are going to be nice memories of your travels in some years.
- Get in touch with home occasionally. You don´t want your mom posting on Facebook groups that you are lost and she is looking for you.