Backpacking through Europe is an item on many travelers’ bucket lists, however putting the plan into action can be stressful. Although it can be difficult, a backpacking trip through the continent can be an extremely rewarding experience.
Europe is an amazing place consisting of sprawling cities, dramatic mountains, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, and elaborate architecture. However, the beauty of Europe is the ability to travel through so many different and unique cultures so close to one another.
There are not many other places in the world that allow for travelers to easily tour through several countries together in one trip. Almost anywhere else in the world would require a load of hours wasted on buses, trains, boats, or planes. Europe offers the opportunity to get a glimpse of so much and spend as much time as possible enjoying it.
1. Mix up cities, mountains, and beaches to sample all parts while backpacking through Europe.
Europe is one of the smallest continents in the world. However, the diversity in landscapes, climates, and activities makes Europe a highly craved destination. One may partake in a wide variety of activities with anything from laying out on the beaches of the Mediterranean, to climbing the rugged mountains of the Swiss Alps. There are endless possibilities. As the list of options is long, the one requirement is to always step out of your comfort zone and try a little bit of everything.
Cities and Architecture
Even though the landscapes are beautiful, a large portion of travelers head to many European destinations because of the magnificent architecture. The extensive history of Europe has led to architectural masterpieces. A trip would not be complete without touring some of the amazing works. Europe’s architecture is one of the most varied in the world. You can find anything from medieval castles to modern engineering feats.
Check out destinations like:
- Florence, Italy
- Barcelona, Spain
- Krakow, Poland
- Bruges, Belgium
- Vienna, Austria
- Helsinki, Finland
- Prague, Czech Republic
Try out one or several of these cities if interested in architecture. Although, you really cannot go wrong in any city while backpacking through Europe. Even for the typical traveler that may not be a history buff, the architecture is extraordinary and should not be missed on your adventure.
Mountain and Beaches
For any outdoor enthusiast, the vast wilderness and countless mountain peaks provide ample opportunity to push their wild side. From famous peaks like the Matterhorn or Blanc, to often less known mountains in the rural Carpathians, a person can pursue their choice of challenge. Check out other outdoor activities like canyoneering and paragliding in Switzerland, skiing in the French Alps, or camping under the stars in Romania.
For those who enjoy some relaxation, awaiting is the perfect beach destination. The stunning coastlines are plentiful with the Artic to the north, Atlantic to the west, and Mediterranean, Black, and Caspian seas to the south. Beach days, beautiful coastal towns, or time spent on the water will force you to forget any stress back home. There are so many options. The Amalfi coast has plenty of large beach resorts for the typical beach-goer, where-as more remote islands in Norway like the Loftens, can provide a way to get away from the crowds. Remote locations may lack common facilities, but provide a destination filled with pristine and uncrowded beaches.
Try not to limit yourself. Remember, backpacking through Europe is all about seeking discomfort and exploring new experiences. Be different.
2. Map out your route.
First off, the most important step to outlining your European adventure is to research. Yes, it is great to be spontaneous. By all means you should always keep open space within any trip. However, some research is crucial for planning a successful trip which is not overly stressful. The number one reason a trip will be stressful is because you have not prepared adequately. To minimize stress, take some time researching places to visit, activities to do, and general information like changing currency or transportation.
Check out 5 Easy Steps to Plan a Backpacking Trip.
The backpacking through Europe plan.
Once you build a solid list, determine any activities you are dying to try and incorporate those destinations. The key is to strategically narrow down your list. Rank your destinations based on your desired travel experiences. Once you have a decent list, look at a map to connect the locations geographically. Try to reduce your travel time by linking together destinations closest together. The worst part of a trip is to spend too much time traveling. You may have to add and remove locations based on transportation, weather, and cost.
After the list, pick a time of year to travel. The activities you would like to do within each destinations will likely determine the best time of year. Each season has its perks. Just keep in mind traveling during peak times, such as holidays, will drive up costs and lines. Overall, backpacking through Europe can be amazing at any time of the year.
The transportation and accessibility in Europe are fantastic for grouping together several cities or countries into one trip. Travel is easy and affordable. From budget airlines to Eurail passes, it has never been easier to link up multiple destinations. Just look at a general map of Europe and get creative. Transportation can be found between most locations.
3. Determine mode of transport.
Lets face it, transportation has been known to create its fair share of headaches. Luckily, Europe contains some of the easiest and most efficient options available in the world. Europe has high-speed trains, budget airfare, overnight buses, boats, vehicle rentals, and public metros in every major city. With so many available options, some research is important.
The best option will depend mainly on these three factors. Time, cost, and comfort. Time is important when on a limited stay, where as cost becomes the main priority for long term travel. In summary, the best option for travel will depend on the type of trip. Each person tends to have a different travel style and goal.
All in all, take the time to research to determine the best option depending on time, cost, and comfort. Estimate the costs and amount of time available to decide the right mode for traveling on your trip. Typically, you will use a variety of transportation methods.
Flying throughout Europe can be a quick and affordable option, especially if using budget airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet. Just to be warned, do not expect much on these flights. Expect delays, strict baggage restrictions, and hidden fees. Given these points, the price dictates the level of service. Like the old saying, you get what you pay for, specially true with budget airlines. However, it can be a great option if you pay attention to the fine print, pack light, and accept the bare minimums.
For more information on budget airlines, check out Europe Budget Airlines Guide.
Air travel is quite extensive in Europe. Planes are a great way to move between major cities and countries. Although budget airlines is a nice cheap option, there are more luxurious choices easily available without a huge cost.
Train travel is comfortable and scenic. When destinations are closer together, a quick train ride is typically more enjoyable than flying. In addition, Europe has extensive options for high-speed trains. Some major cities can be tripped in only a few hours. For example, a high-speed train from Vienna to Prague only takes about 4 hours.
If backpacking through multiple destinations, there are different passes available to save some money. A Eurail pass. These passes allow for travel to over 40,000 destinations throughout 33 countries in Europe.
There are a number of different passes. Options range in days, countries of use, and the number of total trains. The passes have a set price. The only addition to the pass is some popular trains require a reservation. However, if you plan to travel often or between multiple destinations, a Eurail pass could be very beneficial. With this in mind, if you only plan to take one or two trains, then a single ticket may be a better option.
For more information, check out Guide to Eurail Passes.
4. Choose accommodations that fit your style.
Europe offers accommodations to fit any type of traveler. Hotels are far from the only option. There are many alternatives to the traditional stay, including Airbnb, hostels, home-stays, glamping, camping, or staying in the car. Consider your style, activities, and length of stay at each location to determine the right accommodation.
The traditional hotel stay is a great option for those who want more privacy. For the most part, hotels work well if you have the budget. Although, it can become pricey. From time to time, especially when traveling long term, you will have to get more creative with alternative housing options.
The hostel system is great for a cheap night’s stay, meeting other travelers, and having an exciting night out. There are several different types of hostels including cheap, boutique, 5 star, homely, or party. Make sure to keep this in mind. The type of hostel can greatly impact your stay. Every traveler can find the right fit for them.
Hostels are far from just the bunk-style dormitory. In fact, hostels have become amazing and unique housing accommodations while on the road. From private rooms to sleeping in a hammock, you can pretty much find it all. Regardless, hostels provide a unique stay guaranteed to leave you with some wild stories.
Want a more local experience? Home-stays are a great way to live like a local while backpacking through Europe. There is no better way to really experience a country. If money is tight or you would like to live life like a local, than a home-stay is a perfect option for you.
Regardless of the accommodation, make sure to plan ahead. Accommodations will book out during holidays and peak travel times. The last thing you want is to be scrambling around when tired on arrival.
5. Eat like a local.
You must appreciate the delicious local foods in each country. With this in mind, attempt to try at least one authentic dish in each country. Forget the diet, while traveling you must experience life like the locals, and that includes the selection of cuisine dishes.
Eating your way through Europe is a dream for any person who loves to try different foods. Each country has their signature dish. Be bold. Try some different foods, even if you have never heard of them before back in your home country. For this reason, do some research before leaving for your trip. From the croissants and champagne of France to the stew and Guinness of Ireland, each country has its unique foods to make your list.
6. Wake up early and stay out late. The staple of backpacking through Europe.
Make the most of your time. Again, this is a once in a lifetime trip. Wake up early to enjoy those beautiful sunrises and stay out late taking in the nightlife. Both are a must while exploring a new country.
Waking up early allows for much more than just watching the sunrise. In addition, you have the opportunity to experience the city with less tourists, get much more done throughout the day, and enjoy a nice breakfast at your favorite local spot.
On the other hand, sleep in on some mornings or allow for a mid-day nap to have the energy for a night out. Avoid missing the opportunity to sip on a pint in an Oxford pub, or to dance all night in a Berlin nightclub. Europe has so much to experience. Mix up your trip with early mornings and late nights. However, you could just do both and wait to sleep for the plane ride home.
7. Enjoy the free or hop on hop off city tours.
The first time arriving in a new city can be a challenging task while backpacking through Europe. Of course, you can just wing it and start walking around. However, beginning your trip with a city tour can be a great place to start, as you will learn some history and see some of the major attractions. Once you get your bearings, you can venture out and explore some of the less popular places throughout the city.
One option is to follow along with a walking tour of the city. Many of these companies provide free tours. Although free, these tours will not disappoint. The guides provide informative facts about the city along with incorporating a personal touch. Even though they are free, all the tour guides are paid through only tips, so remember to pay well to allow for these awesome guides to keep doing their thing.
Hop on hop off tours are another option for those who enjoy slightly less walking. These tours provide general history about the entire city, while covering much more ground. The bus allows for an unlimited number of travel between all the major destinations. You can come and go as you please at your own pace. However, keep in mind these tours are much more expensive.
8. Explore through European destinations on your own path. Start your own travel trend.
Do not be afraid to travel to an infamous destination in Europe. These destinations often have more of the European charm, without all the crowds. Go out and explore a lesser known destination. Venture to a cozy coastal town or a small village up in the mountains that has not become mainstream yet. Honestly, who knows, this could triumph all the other places you travel to on your trip.
Be adventurous and start your own travel trend.