Many backpackers start their life of backpacking in the navigable continent of Europe. It’s relatively easy to get around, the food won’t make you run to the bathroom and you are bound to find another tourist just as lost as you are. For those testing their propensity for backpacking Europe is a great place to start. Below are some helpful tips to keep in mind while backpacking Europe.
Planning your Itinerary When Backpacking Europe
Europe is a massive expanse of land with 47 members countries. Most backpacking Europe trips target one specific area or depending on the traveler’s timeline may include a mix of European regions; such as, Western Europe (i.e. Netherlands, France, Italy), Eastern Europe (Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania), Central Europe (Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Germany), Southeastern Europe (Croatia, Bosnia and Turkey), Southern Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal) and Northern Europe (Iceland, Finland, Sweden).
Before you go backpacking Europe, make a list of all your must see countries, then based on your timeline plan your itinerary accordingly. Most European cities can be covered in 2-3 days, but if you want some down time, budget anywhere from 5-7 days. When backpacking Europe, incorporate travel time into your itinerary, while the Eurorail makes European travel relatively seamless, if you are travelling long distances (i.e. Paris, France to Madrid, Spain, which can take over 13 hours) make sure you budget appropriate travel time. Even if it only takes you 4 hours to get from Venice to Rome, you need to take into consideration travel and packing time from and to your hostel. As well, if you haven’t booked your hostel before hand, budget some time to find accommodation. Generally speaking, any travel day will not be the most productive and fulfilling backpacking day.
Keep in mind that your itinerary may change. Backpacking is all about going with the flow. If you meet someone along the road that you are having a great time with and they are heading to Serbia and it wasn’t included on your itinerary, follow the open road as some of the most off the beaten track places are the most interesting. As well, you may hear about an interesting festival or holiday and want to change your itinerary so you can take-in a new cultural experience. Don’t be afraid of these changes – that is what the experience of backpacking Europe is all about. Sometimes the most unexpected places turn out to be the most memorable.
Check out my recommendations for creating your own Western Europe itinerary.
Estimating Costs When Backpacking Europe
Pre Trip Expenses travel tips
- Backpack ($150-250)– I highly recommend splurging on your pack, not only do you want a bag that is dependable but also if you spend a few extra bucks your backpack can last year for many years – think of it as an investment in your travels.
- Travel Guide ($25-50) – it’s a good idea to roughly map out your trip before you leave.
- Travel Necessities – see below. You can purchase these online, at a camping store or at WalMart esque shop (Budget about $100- $500).
- Eurorail / Britrail Pass – using the train is the easiest way to get around the continent. While it doesn’t cover all geographic regions make sure it covers the countries you are interested in visiting. It can also be used for ferry rides to Greece. Use the pass finder to find out which pass is best for you. Both the Britrail and Eurorail passes allow for a certain amount of trips within a specific period of time, usually between adjoining countries. Eurorail passes start at $400 and can go up to $1100. Britrail for 2nd class travel, which includes Britain, Scotland and Ireland, start at $500 up to $855 and Britain only passes start at $185.
- Flight – $650- 1300.
Total cost: $1110 – $3200
On the Road Costs - the cost of food, sleeping, attractions and additional transportation charges.
On the road costs tend to be country/ geographic locale specific. Eastern and Central Europe tend to be cheaper than Western Europe. However, it gets even more specific, Spain tends to be cheaper than France while France is cheaper than the U.K. Check your travel guide to estimate how much you should budget per day.
Budget 10 – 30 Euros per day. This largely depends on what, where and your hostel amenities. For instance, if you are o.k with a slice or pizza or a Panini on the go, purchase food from a grocery store you can easily stay within the 10 euro budget. However, if you are interested in having all sit down meals – budget at least 30 Euros as food in Europe tends to be expensive even in the cheapest countries.
Attractions and Transportation
Without a doubt you won’t be walking the 20 kilometers to get from your hostel to Vatican city so be prepared to shell out subway fare and admission fees. Depending how often and the type of attraction be prepared to pay anywhere from 5-30 Euros a day.
Cost per day: $25 – $105
Imagine your perfect Europe backpacking trip. It starts with the right Western Europe itinerary.
What to Pack When Backpacking Europe
Clothes and other Stuff:
While it depends on the season (i.e. France’s winter can be pretty brutal) this list is based on the assumption that most travellers will backpack during high season – i.e. summer.
- Lightweight clothes
- Lightweight trousers
- Lightweight/ fast drying t-shirts
- UV protective gear
- Raincoat – this is always a good idea to bring if you are travelling on the brink of the spring/summer season or heading to the U.K.
- Jeans – for chilly bus/train rides and going out at night
- Reversible clothing – so you can pack light and double up on clothes without looking like you wore the same shirt in every picture
- Bathing suit that is 2 toned
- Dress up clothes – for nice restaurants or casinos (try and find wrinkle resistant clothes so they keep their shape in your pack)
- Hiking socks for treks
- Walking shoes/trekking boots
- P-jays for dorm sharing
- 14 pairs of underwear – I like to have enough underwear to last me at least 2 weeks of traveling.
- 1 pair of sandals – flip flops to shower in
- 4 pairs of socks
- 2 bras – 1 black, 1 white
- Silk sleep-sheet (more compact and lighter than cotton sleep sheets or a sleeping bag. As well, it feels nicer and protects better against bed-bugs)
- Pillow – to save you from laying your head on an unwashed pillow case.
- Fast drying towel (microfiber)
- Sunblock, as it can be considerably more expensive in Europe
- Liquid laundry detergent
- No-clothes-pin clothesline
- Sink stopper – its harder to find places in Europe to wash clothes than in Asia. Bring a sink stopper, to ensure you can wash your underwear and socks in the sink.
- Ear Plugs – for noisy snorers in your hostel dorm
- Umbrella – you never know when it’s going to rain in Europe. Keep a mini umbrella in your daypack for the unexpected shower.
- Small flashlight – for finding your clothes in a pitch-black hostel room or reading late at night.
- Voltage converter
- Lonely Planet guide book
- Toiletries and First Aid Kit
Packing Tips for Backpacking Europe
- Bring dark clothes – so stains are less visible
- Pack in either packing cubes or Ziploc bags – great for organizing your clothes into compartments. It also allows you to keep you clean stuff away from dirty clothes and enables you to search for things in you bag without taking everything else out.
- Packing envelopes – good for storing wet clothes or spillable items.
- Put a dryer sheet inside your pack to keep it smelling fresh