Backpacking through Europe: what you need to know
Backpacking through Europe. It’s a rite of passage. Like learning to drive or finishing school. But unlike learning to drive or finishing school, a trip to Europe will be minimum work and maximum reward. From the bright lights of Berlin to the plunge pools of Plitvice National Park. Here’s how to plan the ultimate adventure in the land of canals, cathedrals and cracking cuisine.
When to visit Europe
Each season has its upside, so it depends what you want to get out of your adventure. Western Europe and the Mediterranean islands get their warmest weather in July and August, but they’re busy at this time too. Looking for a chilled out summer time adventure that’s easier on your wallet? Check out Eastern Europe (Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic and so on.)
Spring and autumn are the ‘shoulder season’ in Europe, where prices are slightly lower and the cities aren’t as busy. The weather is slightly cooler, but there are worse prices to pay.
European winters are VERY pretty. Think ice skating in Paris, or looking out over the Amsterdam canals while it’s snowing. You’ll also find loads of great ski destinations in winter too.
Want to beat the crowds? Visit countries like France, Italy or the UK in spring/autumn instead of summer.
Where to go in Europe
Are you all about the bucket-list ticking? Don’t miss Europe’s most famous cities – London, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Rome. Mad about mountains? Don’t miss the Alps, spanning in France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. The Mediterranean is a must-see for all with its bays, beaches and charismatic villages.
Southern and Western Europe are way more popular with tourists (with good reason!) Looking to get off the beaten track while you’re away? Think about visiting Europe’s lesser known gems like Serbia, Poland and Croatia. Eastern Europe is usually a lot cheaper than the west too, and cities like Prague are renowned for their nightlife scene.
Don’t just stick to the capital cities. Check out the likes of Venice (Italy), Munich (Germany) or Monaco (France) to absorb the culture of the country even further.
How to get around in Europe
Touched down and ready to start backpacking through Europe? When it comes to getting from country to country, you’ll get the best blend of convenience and cost-saving if you travel by train. With a Eurail pass or interrail pass, you’ll get a set number of journeys included in a one-off fee – which is awesome if you’re sticking to a budget on your trip.
Splitting your time between two separate areas? I.e. visiting the Netherlands, Belgium and France in the west, also want to check out Albania, Greece and Turkey toward the south and aren’t too fussed about the countries in between. It can be good to catch a flight between ‘batches’ of countries during your trip. With plenty of budget airlines on the scene, sourcing cheap flights in Europe should be easy enough.
Want to save money on accommodation, and spend less time bored on public transportation? Use the sleeper trains to wake up bright and early at your next location!
Where to stay in Europe
Most travellers will stay in hotels or hostels – it depends on why you’re travelling, plus your budget.
Hostels are great for making new friends from all over the world. They’re also hilarious, and you’ll probably remember the people you encounter there for years to come. The other benefit of hostels is that because you share a room with 4-8 others, they’re usually a lot cheaper than hotels.
Got enough great mates and just want to see Europe’s many beautiful and inspirational sites, alone or with a friend/partner? Is a good night’s sleep crucial to your travel experience and worth spending the extra pennies on? If so, hotels are the one for you.
For the best of both worlds, get a private room in a hostel. You’ll enjoy the privacy (and some of the peace) of a hotel, you can make new friends in the communal areas without worrying about bumping into them in the bathroom later. Plus the cost is closer to the hostel end of things.
What to pack for your trip to Europe
So it’s settled. You’re officially backpacking through Europe. You’ve got your destinations listed and you know where you’re staying. But what to bring?
The easiest thing to do while planning a trip like this is to make a packing list. Fancy socks? Check. Perfume? Check. Travel insurance? BIG check. Check out our ultimate sustainable packing list here.
Protect. Your. Valuables. Granted, a high-security money belt isn’t a high fashion accessory, but if it helps for a smoother (and therefore more legendary) backpacking experience, it’s 100% worth it.
How long does it take to backpack through Europe?
Could take two weeks, could take 12 months. It depends on your budget, how much time you have and how much of Europe you want to see. If backpacking through Europe is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for you, it’s worth going all in (if you can) and spending at least a month there.
What is the cheapest way to backpack through Europe?
Visiting Europe doesn’t have to break the bank. Your first step to conquering Europe on a budget: become a meticulous planner. Plan where you want to go, where you’ll stay and what you want to see well in advance. This will make it much easier to stick to your budget while you’re away. Oh, and don’t miss the free walking tours.