Backpacking continues to be a popular way of seeing Europe with speed and ease. Here's how a budget backpacker can have the experience of a lifetime.
With more than thirty countries nestled in a space smaller than the size of the United States, Europe offers an opportunity to sample a multitude of cultures, to experience a range of architecture, and to learn about some of the world’s oldest historical locations.
Backpacking is all about doing it as cheap as possible while having as much fun as possible; here are some tips to make it happen.
Planning the Ultimate Journey
The amount of planning and research that goes into a European trip will ultimately dictate the ease and enjoyment of travel.
Timing a trip is crucial. Summer is the busiest and most expensive time to visit Europe. The popular cities, landmarks, and museums will be choked with tourists, and most hostels increase their prices.
The months before and after summer – March, April, May, October and November are quieter and yet the weather is still seasonable.
Researching locations can help save money as well; the aim is to avoid busy local festivals, school holidays, etc.
Visit Eastern Europe
Spending more time in cheaper countries is a great idea: Eastern Europe is easier to travel around than ever before, and these countries are very welcoming to tourists.
Countries like Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, and Poland are becoming increasingly popular with backpackers as they offer much cheaper accommodation, food, and nightlife while still delivering amazing history, culture, and scenery.
Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic and Bled in Slovenia are two beautiful, historical backpacker favorites.
The Cheapest Ways to Get Around
Depending on the type of travel and length of time intended, there are several cheap options for moving around the continent.
For shorter trips with only a few destinations, there are many budget airlines in Europe offering very low rates. For longer trips, an ‘all access’ rail pass like InterRail or Eurail is a great idea. A third option is a short-term car lease.
Finding Hostels in Europe
Without a doubt, Hostels are the most popular option for backpackers traveling in Europe. They are comparatively cheap, usually flexible, very social, and most of the popular destinations are swarming with them.
A good idea is to research the hostels in each destination on an itinerary before booking. Some can be of inferior quality, while others can be popular and book out in advance.
Popular independent websites like Hostelworld.com, Hostelbookers.com, and Travellerspoint.com offer information on a huge range of Hostels and include independent reviews and a percentage rating from visitors.
The best tip for staying in hostels in Europe is to get a place in the hostel you want, booking well in advance, especially in the summer.
Alternatives to Hostel Accommodation
There are many other accommodation options that are both cheap and will enhance your experience in Europe.
Try a cheap hotel deal, for example. There are a few good alternatives to staying in a hostel. The website lastminute.com will advertise last-minute deals on all sorts of things, and cheap hotels are one of their specialties; this option will usually still be more expensive than a hostel though.
Consider staying in a campsite. In some places, campgrounds welcome the backpacker trade: especially in Italy.
It’s possible to get a very cheap cabin or tent on-site, while still having the security of a place to lock your bag, have a shower and to feel safe – many campsites cater to backpackers and can be found on sites like Hostelworld.com.
The cheapest option is couchsurfing. This is where people advertise their couch or spare bed on an online site like Couchsurfing.com. Travelers can contact the person and request to sleep on their couch for a couple of days.
While not required, it's in the spirit of the Couchsurfing community for the guest and host to spend some time together. The host, for example, may offer to show the guest around his/her hometown, while the guest may offer to cook a meal for his/her host.
Seeing the Sights Cheaply
Many major cities have free walking tours. Sandeman’s New Europe Walking Tours run in many cities including London, Amsterdam, Prague, Paris, and Berlin and these energetic and fun walking tours are free.
The tour guides work for tips, which are not compulsory, but almost always deserved.
Otherwise, try a city-based discount card. Many cities in Europe offer discount passes for visitors intending to see multiple tourist sites.
For example, the London Pass costs £52 ($65) for two days and offers free entry into around 50 of the city’s major tourist sites.
While the initial outlay for these passes may seem expensive, when the entry fee into many of the major sites is taken into consideration, the passes are often very reasonable.
Eating on a Budget
While eating out is part of the fun when traveling, it’s rarely cheap and will quickly drain funds. Purchasing food from supermarkets is one good option to save money.
Throughout Europe, the ‘Aldi’ supermarket brand is found in most countries and is a budget brand supermarket.
Otherwise, bakeries are usually cheap in Europe, and local food markets, such as La Boqueria in Barcelona offer cheap local food.
Traveling in Pairs
Finally, a great money saving tip for Europe is to take a friend. Twin rooms in hostels are cheaper than private rooms and may be less expensive than two dorm beds.
Groceries will also be cheaper if the expenses are shared.
Traveling with a friend is also safer, and having two or more travelers in a group means less work for the individual regarding navigating and problem-solving.
Plus, traveling is something best shared and appreciated with others – having a friend around can be more motivating and stave off the loneliness.
This story was brought to you in partnership with Budget Boost.
Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:
- G Adventures for small group tours.
- World Nomads for travel insurance.
- Hostelworld for booking hostels.
- Rail Europe for train passes.