Europe is rich in diverse history and culture. It’s made up of fifty distinct countries, all with their own unique beauty and heritage. If you’re thinking about taking a backpacking trip around the continent for the first time, you may be wondering how to get started with your planning and preparation.
Backpacking around Europe is likely to be the trip of a lifetime: a wonderful adventure where you’ll meet new friends, enjoy some unbelievable experiences, and see breathtaking sights. Use the guide below to help ensure your journey around the continent goes as smoothly as possible, so you can just concentrate on making fabulous memories.
What to Pack
When it comes to a backpacking trip, packing as lightly as possible is key! To this end, leave the luxuries and multiple pairs of fancy shoes at home and focus on getting the essentials together. Here’s what you need on your list:
- A capsule wardrobe of functional, hardwearing, comfortable clothes.
- A pair of hiking shoes.
- A pair of relaxing shoes.
- Your important documentation, such as your passport and bank cards.
- A sleeping bag.
- A few items of essential toiletries, including sunscreen.
- A two-person tent.
- An external battery.
- Your phone/camera
- The necessary power adapters.
- A flashlight.
- A small amount of cash.
Create an Outline Itinerary
While remaining flexible is key to getting the most out of your backpacking trip, having a rough itinerary is a great idea to help ensure you get to visit the destinations and see the sights that you most want to see. Having an outline itinerary can also save you from unnecessary travel time and expense, as you can figure out the most time-effective means to travel from one location to another.
It can be tempting to create a jam-packed plan where you visit as many countries as possible in the time you have available. However, this could be a mistake and one that could leave you exhausted and not able to immerse yourself in the culture of each region as much as you’d like to.
It may be a better option to focus on visiting fewer countries, thereby giving yourself enough time to explore each more fully, meet new friends, attend events, and find those ‘off the beaten track’ treasures that can be the best bits of a backpacking trip to Europe.
Planning How Long to Spend in Each Spot
As a general guide, you should allow yourself two to three nights at least in each major city and two to four nights for small towns and coastal areas.
If you plan on incorporating some hiking or camping trips into your plans, allow at least two days for these excursions, and don’t forget to factor in the time it’ll take to pack up and get ready to leave on the morning of departure when making travel plans, etc.
Make a Budget for Your Trip
When thinking about a budget, consider how you want to travel during your trip. Are you planning on using hostels, Airbnb, sofa surfing, hotels, or a mix of these things? Are the experiences you most want to have expensive or relatively cheap (or even free)? If you’re on a tight budget, it’s a good idea to think about whether you want to prioritize experiences over accommodation or if a touch of luxury on your trip is important to you.
Saving Money on Your Travels
There are plenty of ways to save money while you’re on your adventure, too, by, for example, taking advantage of as many free activities as possible. Many museums in London offer completely free entry, while most major cities on the continent provide free walking tours to give participants a crash course in the city’s history and culture.
If you’re under twenty-six, be sure to use your student status to access major discounts on train tickets, entry to attractions, and lots more – so be sure to take along your student ID if you have one, although your passport may suffice.
Consider taking overnight trains to get from one location to another to combine your travel and accommodation costs for a potentially significant saving!
Check the News
In the weeks leading up to your trip, it’s vital to check reliable top news sites to find out whether there’s any unrest or other issues in the countries you plan to visit. Have a look, too, at your country’s official travel advice regarding the locations on your itinerary and, if possible, sign up for email alerts so that in the event of a suddenly developing situation, you’ll have a head’s up.
Keeping yourself safe is the most important consideration during your trip. So, however much your heart may be set on visiting a specific country, it’s crucial to be flexible enough to change your plans in the event of unrest or other situations developing that could put your safety at risk.
Make Your Ticket One-Way
And finally: book a one-way ticket. Don’t worry; we’re not suggesting you give up your regular life to live a nomadic existence backpacking around Europe…it’s because a one-way ticket allows you to extend your trip if you’re having the time of your life and decide you want to stay on for an extra week or more. When it comes to booking your return flight, try to do so about two to three weeks before departure, when ticket prices are likely to be relatively low.