Backpacking is a great way to stay healthy and enjoy nature. Depending on where you go, there are plenty of natural and manmade historical sight to see. This applies not only to hiking in the United States but to hiking abroad as well. A well-known backpacking destination is Europe. As glamorous as the movies make hiking through Europe appear, there are some things you need to know before setting out.
Before You Go
Sometimes the most exciting part of taking a trip is getting ready. There’s gear to be bought, new clothes to buy, and itineraries to plan. Planning for a European backpacking trip is almost like standing in line at an all you can eat buffet. There are so many options but only so much is going to fit on the plate. A good game plan is to start with the basics.
Decide when you’re going to go backpacking in Europe. This will help you decide what to pack regarding clothing and how to avoid the worst of the crowds. Yep, crowds. Just as there are prime seasons in the states there is also tourists seasons in Europe. It’s pretty much the same as travelling in the U.S. Avoid backpacking in Europe during the summer months. That’s when everybody goes and that increases the costs.
Plan your European backpacking trip early. This will give you time to look for the best deals for traveling and where to stay. There is nothing wrong with booking cheaper flights on budget, or less-known, airlines. You’re going to want to get travelers insurance just in case you can’t go. Most reduced cost fares are not refundable or exchangeable for a future trip.
Consider going to lesser known European countries. This could be a cheap, but still wonderful, way to get more bang for your buck backpacking in Europe. Put together a list of hostels, especially those that offer a free breakfast, and some cheap Airbnb’s for those times the weather is bad, or you just get tired of hostel life or camping.
What To Pack
Knowing where you want to go is important but so is knowing what to pack. Check out the list below of some backpacking essentials on your trip through Europe.
- Lightweight blanket. This is less bulky than a full-size sleeping bag
- A hammock. Again, lighter than a tent and all you need is two trees
- Collapsible cooking gear. The key here is to pack light
- Water shoes. This is not just for crossing bubbling brooks. You don’t want to be barefoot in a public shower!
- A belt with a hidden place to keep a small bit of local money for emergencies
- Travel maps. You can’t see the sights if you don’t know how to get to them
- A good microfiber towel. You’re going to want something to dry off with that dries quickly
When You Arrive
So, you’ve safely arrived at your European destination. Find your accommodations and start seeing the sights. As much as you might want to explore local eateries, they can be costly. If you do go, plan a visit during the lunch hour when restaurants are more likely to have specials.
Another way to get a decent meal is strolling through farmers markets or finding a pub or tavern that has a cocktail hour. Some European bars have snack to nosh on as long as you buy a drink. If you’re camping stop at a local market for some ready-made fare. You can find some wonderful seasonal goods to experience.
Backpacking through Europe should be an experience and a chance to get to know people. What better way to do that than to share transportation? In Europe it’s common to carpool with strangers heading in the same direction. Don’t forget about the different view you’ll get by using Europe’s extensive train system. And to keep costs down, and get some sleep, travel at night. There’s less crowding, fare is cheaper, and you won’t have to find a place to sleep for the night.
Making The Most Of Your Adventure
Taking full advantage of backpacking through Europe, especially on a budget, can be difficult but is not impossible. Everyone likes to backpack the popular places like Germany and Greece. France and Ireland are also wonderful places for a backpacking excursion. If you’re looking for a budget though, there is nothing wrong with Hungary, Croatia, or the Czech Republic. In fact, when I backpacked Europe after high school (I turned 18 in London), I discovered that my favorite location was Croatia.
You can also save money if you plan your European backpacking trip around festivals. There are tons of festivals that have cheap local fare available from vendors and open markets. Sometimes, these festivals have places to camp. Even if they don’t, what a great time to grab a patch of grass, relax a while, and take in some local festivities. Whatever you do though, be ready to be flexible, friendly and open to meeting new people.
No one wants to think about a possible emergency while traveling but when overseas, not being prepared can make a bad situation disastrous. When you purchase traveler’s insurance, make sure it includes emergency medical coverage, and funding for an emergency return home. Once you know where in Europe you’re going to be backpacking in, research where the nearest English-speaking medical facility is. Also locate the nearest U. S. Embassy. In an emergency they might have resources to assist you.
Ready To Go
You are now ready to backpack Europe. Remember, you can do this on a budget. You don’t need to go to the more well-known European countries in order to have a full European backpacking experience. Don’t forget to do as the locals do. Roam the open markets, enjoy local festivals, travel the rail at night. Check out restaurants during the lunch hour to save money.
Backpacking in Europe shouldn’t break the bank. The lesser-known countries have just as much to offer. Going in the off-season won’t diminish your experience but allow you to see the sights without the crowds. Camping out can offer you a different experience especially if done at a local festival. So grab your gear, pick your country, and get ready for your European backpacking adventure!