Are you planning your first backpacking trip to Europe right now? Lucky you! Traveling around this diverse, fascinating continent can be an enjoyable experience. To make the best out of it, you should be aware of some facts, though. Here’s a small beginners guide to backpacking Europe, consisting of 9 basic tips from insiders.
Consider various transportation options
You might get surprised to see a flight is cheaper than a bus ticket, but that is what often happens in Europe. It makes a lot of sense to check many transportation options carefully. Being flexible about it can save you tons of money. Besides, not only budget is what gets affected here, but also your time and comfort. It happens you have two options that cost the same, but one is faster than the other. You may use such websites as Rome2rio; it shows you a variety of options to get from one place to another. Rome2rio doesn’t always find the best solutions, but it’s worth checking out.
Eat like a local
Not only international fast food chains aren’t unique, but they also aren’t that cheap. You’ll be much better off eating at local restaurants. When eating out, there’s always a risk of overpaying, so make sure to ask around where locals use to have their dinners. We also recommend cooking, preferably cooking with people. You can learn a lot by asking new, local friends to show you how to make some of their favorite dishes. When choosing a hostel, especially for a longer time, check if there’s a kitchen. Preparing your meals in the shared kitchen will be educational, economical and fun. You might develop your cooking skills; make friends among “chefs” and save money on food.
Choose accommodation wisely
If you wonder how to prepare for backpacking, we have an answer: look through available accommodations before hitting the road. It can be adventurous just to arrive at a place and stay at a first hostel you come across, but it can also be expensive and uncomfortable. Do a little research, compare prices and conditions provided by different hostels. You don’t have to do it a long time in advance, just a few days before reaching a given place (sometimes even one day is enough, but if you are planning to visit London, Rome, etc. in the middle of summer, start a bit earlier). It won’t take away the sense of adventure. Besides, you don’t necessarily have to stay at hostels only. Check out such websites as Airbnb, where locals rent out their flat or rooms, or CouchSurfing, where you can find thousands of people willing to welcome travelers in their homes.
Don’t miss famous attractions, but go off the beaten track as well
Some people only go to the most popular places and those who stubbornly avoid them. None of these is a perfect solution. Of course, it all depends on your taste and interests. Nevertheless, it is the best to keep an open mind about it. Don’t miss a visit to the Eiffel Tower just because it’s “too cliché.” If you’re really not interested – in a good reason to skip it, but striving to be an original, extreme, unconventional backpacker is not. It works the other way around as well. Going to see the Eiffel Tower only because it’s such a famous place and it’s cool to have a picture for Instagram with the building in the background – well, that’s not the best reason either. Focus on your very own preferences. Unless you’re authentically interested in one type of attractions, try to combine them. Spend a day in one of the world’s most famous art galleries to visit a small village next day. This way, you’ll quickly be amazed by the contrasts, varieties, and richness of cultures.
Adjust your expenses to local prices
Prices in Europe are very diverse. Western countries might be even more than twice as costly as Eastern countries. The Northern Europe is one of the most expensive parts of the world, while prices in the South are significantly lower. Keep that in mind while planning your trip. To check the average prices in various places, you can use for instance Numbeo. You pick two cities, and the website will compare them. You can also just go to the Cost of Living part of the page and check prices for one particular case. Of course, Numbeo only provides you with some examples; it’s neither infallible nor unlimited, but it’s a quite good source of information. Once you know which places are cheap and where things cost more, you can adjust your expenses. To put it simply, try not to party in fancy clubs while visiting Norway, but indulge yourself a bit when going to the Balkans. This way you will keep the balance for both your entertainment and your budget.
This one phrase could make for a title of a beginners guide to backpacking: pack light. It’s an important rule. If you want your first backpacking trip to be fun and pleasant, make sure to pack properly. It sounds like an exaggeration, but carrying heavy luggage all around is a hassle, even more so if you’re going to walk a lot, hike and so on. Make sure to leave all the unnecessary stuff at home. You think you need this third pair of shoes? No, you don’t. Can’t you imagine your life without at least five of your favorite books? Well, you can survive without them and even gain from leaving them home – at least you will be forced to read something new, something found in the way during hostels books swaps or in local libraries. Be minimalistic. It will be great for your body and your mind. After all, having very few things is a great lesson of resourcefulness, simplicity, and frugality.
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Well, it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. Not all travelers are social stars, especially if they’re going for their very first backpacking trip. Even if you don’t feel very confident, try to be open. Most wanderers tend to say the most important in their travels are the people they meet. Keep that in mind and try to make new friends along the way. Approach people and let yourself be approached. Meet not only other backpackers but also locals – this way you’ll truly get to know your destinations. There’s one other remark that should be added here, right after all those motivational things. Travelling can be amazing, but only if you take care of yourself. Don’t cross your limits and don’t trust everyone you meet – that’s as important as being open.
Take care of yourself
As mentioned above, being overly trustful isn’t a good philosophy. A lot is being said about traveling as a way to see how kind humans are, how much we all share and how we’re ready to help each other. It’s all true, but it doesn’t mean you should go out with a group of suspiciously looking strangers, get drunk and believe everything they tell you. What you need is common sense, as simple as that. The same rule can be applied to many other aspects. Be adventurous, but don’t go climbing in difficult areas if you’ve never done that before. Be thrifty, but go to a doctor if you start feeling sick, even if it means spending money. Eat cheap, but remember your body needs a certain amount of nutrients to keep you active and healthy. The list could go on and on, but it all comes down to this one simple sentence: take care of yourself so that you could fully enjoy your first backpacking trip to Europe.
Are you planning a journey to Europe right now? Do you need some other tips? Let us know! And don’t forget to share this article with your friends, especially if they’re also into backpacking!