Top Tips for Backpacking in Europe
If exploration, enjoyment and appreciation of natural beauty are what you looking for in a holiday, backpacking across Europe might just be the ultimate adventure. Whether you prefer the comfort of travelling from hotel to hotel, or from bivvy to campsite, the beauty in backpacking is that you can make your travels exactly how you want them. A combination of exploration, survival, hiking and camping, backpacking is a thrilling way to become familiar with the diverse culture and scenery of Europe. Here are a selection of the best tips for backpacking around this continent.
Check the Guidebooks
Where do you want to go? You could skip from city to city, or perhaps a trip through the Alps is more your thing? The Walker's Haute Route through the Alps is an excellent route that traverses some of the most beautiful and picturesque mountain scenery in the world.
Wherever you choose to include in your itinerary, make sure to talk to those who have backpacked through Europe before, check the various backpacking online forums, and have a look in your local library for relevant books. Have a think about your motives for going and what you want to achieve and see - the sky's the limit! There are a vast quantity of travel guides that give the aspiring backpacker plenty of essential information. Some of the most popular include the "Rough Guide", "Lonely Planet" and "Let's Go" travel guide series. Don't feel tied to your itinerary however - go with the flow and feel free to alter your route as you go. As you're traveling you'll be learning more and more about the area, and might find some places that you really want to visit.
How to Backpack Europe in a Month!
Take Neutral Clothes
Space is usually at a premium when backpacking, so you only want to take the minimum of clothes. You could take 2 changes of outfit, making sure they are all relatively neutral colors so the whole thing goes easily with everything else. Every nightfall launder clothes in your hostel or hotel sink and select easy-care clothes that dry quickly. Who cares that you'll look the same in all your photos, just think of the weight and space savings by only taking two or three complete outfits. On a security-type note, it would make sense to leave your jewelry at home and get an inexpensive digital wristwatch with an alarm.
Packing lightly has many benefits. Firstly it will make your pack much lighter and easier to carry, and secondly you should be able to take it as carry-on luggage with an airline. Try and purchase a backpack no greater than forty five linear inches, as this seems to be a common size that is permitted by many airlines as carry-on luggage. Here are a range of cool backpacking bags with different sizes, features and designs to choose from. Take a look at the reviews and try and look for ones that offer lots of ergonomic and comfort-focused features.
Don't Forget Your Documents!
Have a look into the rules and regulations for your destination countries and ensure you have a lawful passport for the country. One bonus is that many countries in Europe do not need travel permits for Americans. It's worth shopping around for inexpensive airfare to an international hub airport such as Heathrow or Paris Charles de Gaulle for example. Once you're there then take advantage of the European rail network, as it is one of the finest ways to get to know the landscape of continental Europe. Purchase a Eurail Pass which offers limitless train travel through many countries. You should get it prior to arrival in Europe through a travel agent or direct from their website. Your credit cards and ATM card should also work in Europe if they have the Visa or Mastercard logo.
Hotels & Hostels to Suit any Budget
If you're backpacking from one place to another then you'll probably want to keep the accommodation as cheap as possible. There are many low-priced hotels and hostels in Europe, and with the popularity of Tripadvisor you'll easily be able to check the reports from previous guests prior to staying. Tripadvisor even have an App that you can install on your phone so you can see the closest hotels to your location and read their reviews.
Hostels are great places for meeting friends and other like-minded travelers. Have a chat about their plans and see what they've done so far that might be of interest to you. Having first-hand knowledge is worth more than any guidebook.
Europe is fairly safe on the whole, but as with most places there are areas that are more questionable than others. Read the guidebooks and online reviews for areas you should definitely avoid. In cities, beware of pickpockets that typically hang around public-transport areas due to the hustle and bustle. Protect your valuables in a safety wallet underneath your clothing and try to travel in a group.
When staying in a hostel it can be quite handy to have a lock that you can use with the lockers that many hostels provide.
Keeping in Touch
Europe has generally good cell phone coverage, especially the built-up areas. You could keep in touch with your loved ones either by purchasing a call-time card to use with the public payphones, by cell phone, or perhaps on Skype at an Internet Cafe. Many places offer free wifi - this could be included with the accommodation charge at your hostel or hotel, or alternatively many public places also offer free internet.