Very often, when someone tells you they are backpacking around Europe, and you ask where specifically are they going, they will list such places as London, Paris or Barcelona. While these cities are fascinating and worth visiting, they are not the only ones that deserve your attention. Europe is not only about the famous locations you see in the movies. It is not just about the most famous historical sites or beaches. If you want to go off the grid and discover some lesser-known places, you should consider backpacking in Eastern Europe. It is a perfect destination for backpackers and below is an explanation why.
It is easy to move around
In Eastern Europe, you do not have to travel long distances to reach a variety of places. It is relatively easy to get from one country to another. You can choose from many means of transportation. There are trains, buses, and planes. You can also look for ride-sharing through such websites as Blablacar.com. In general, transportation is not expensive. You can get a bus ticket from Poland to the Czech Republic for 10-20 Euros (if you book early enough) or a train ticket from Hungary to Croatia for a similar price.
Low-cost airlines provide plentiful connections between various cities and countries. Often, flying turns out to be cheaper than traveling by land, but the latter is more interesting, so we recommend it anyway, especially if you have much time. If you are the adventurous type, you can also consider hitch-hiking. It is common in most of the eastern European countries. Not only it is easy to get a ride, but the drivers also tend to be very kind and welcoming. For finding out details about specific destinations, check out Hitchwiki.org – it is full of useful information.
In general, the east of Europe is much cheaper than its western side. Some cities are expensive, especially in Russia (i.e., Moscow, Saint Petersburg), but most places are budget-friendly. Hostels are cheap, food as well. In such cities as Belgrade, Sofia, Budapest or Prague you can easily find a bed in a dorm room for about 10-15 Euros, eat a superb lunch for 4-5 or have a beer in a pub for 1,5-2,5. All of that means you do not need much money to travel around Eastern Europe, but it also means whatever amount you have, in this area, it will be worth more than in most places around the world. With the same sum of money, you can either get a fabulous dinner and a good quality beer somewhere in the Balkans or a tiny little snack in Scandinavia or France.
It is not very touristy
There’re lots of undiscovered places in this part of Europe. Even the most touristy areas are usually not as crowded as the most popular destinations in the west. You can easily find cities or villages that are still quite traditional and untouched by globalization. Even if you see McDonalds or Starbucks, on the other side of the street there should be a traditional tavern, a little café full of locals or an old-style restaurant. It is the same when it comes to nature, national parks and so on. While some places, such as the coast of Bulgaria, Montenegro or Croatia, can get very crowded during the summer, many remain wild and quiet.
Heart-warming hospitality of locals
There’s something particular to eastern Europeans and their attitude towards visitors. They love having guests, sharing their culture, cuisine, and history. Try going to the Balkans, and you will understand what hospitality means. Wherever you go, you will get invited by locals, be it for a drink, a dinner or chat. In most places, people will be curious about you, especially if you choose the least touristy destinations. They will be glad to listen to your country and appreciate your interest in theirs.
Beautiful and diversified nature
Eastern Europe is not taking so much space on the map of the world as other nations do. Despite its small size, the area is incredibly diverse. If you traveled from the north to the south, you would see mysterious forests, swamps, flat sandy beaches, lakes, mountains, striking coastlines, cliffs, palm trees, waterfalls, and gorges. Most importantly, you would not have to travel for days. Even after crossing a few hundred kilometers you would be faced with completely different landscapes. Whether you are into climbing, trekking in the woods, surfing or sunbathing, you can find a place where you can do such things.
There are some fantastic cities in Eastern Europe. Historical, or modern, or ancient and modern at the same time. Vibrant or quiet. International, traditional, messy or well-structured. Budapest is awe-inspiringly beautiful, and so is Prague. Wroclaw is cozy but also very progressive. Sarajevo is delightfully exotic. Dubrovnik is so beautiful you will not believe it is an actual city, not a movie set. Ljubljana is gorgeous, warm and green. Cracow is a paradise for history-lovers. Belgrade is famous for its sizzling nightlife. Zagreb, although not nearly as attractive as other places around Croatia, is surprisingly charming. Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn, the capitals of Baltic states, are all mysterious and atmospheric. This list could go on and on – there are so many amazing cities in Eastern Europe we could spend hours just naming them.
Eastern Europeans like their diet to be hearty, yummy and plentiful. In most of the countries, traditional cuisine is dominated by quite heavy, fatty dishes, so brace yourself before the trip – you might end up gaining a few kilograms. It is hard to resist such delights as Polish dumplings or Balkan burek, even if one is perfectly aware they are not exactly “diet foods.” If you are a vegetarian, don’t let anyone discourage you from visiting Eastern Europe. People, including locals, often say it is hard to survive there without eating meat. It is not true at all. Even though meat is often consumed in this part of the world, you can always find other foods. It is particularly accessible to the south, where delicious fruit and veggies are abundant.
When planning your backpacking trip to Eastern Europe, don’t forget about the countryside. There are many captivating cities, but don’t limit your trip to visiting them only. The Eastern European landscape is just as fascinating as the towns, if not more. Villages in Romanian mountains, small wooden houses in Estonian “middle-of-nowhere,” little huts located on the riversides of Bosnia & Herzegovina – these places are truly magical. It can sometimes be hard to reach remote parts of the countryside but don’t give up. You can always ask locals for recommendations. You can reach many beautiful places by bus or train. Traveling around Eastern European countryside will not only be a great adventure but a valuable lesson about the culture and history of a given country, so make sure to include it in your plans.
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