The world is full of places that people want to see, foods that they want to taste and cultures to experience. Travelling is often cited as a young person’s game: backpacking is the calling card of the gap year crowd and one of the most popular places that they all go? Europe.
Europe during the summer months of the year can be a crowded, busy place to see. The hottest months encourage the tourists, and when you are spending time jumping from country to country it can get expensive in the peak months of the year. Of course, if you’re going to take a year out and see Europe, you can see all climates, visit all beaches and experience skiing in some of the best mountain resorts. During those busy months, the hostels and the resorts are packed with people from all over the world, giving you the chance to meet new people and make new friends. The summer makes the sun dance off of the sand and when you add in the sheer range of festivals available across Europe throughout the year, you can make sure you pack in as many experiences as possible.
Planning your backpacking trip can be as complicated or as easy as you want it to be. Before you get started, though, you have to decide how long you are going for, whether you’re travelling alone and what documents you need. Your insurance for travel is going to be varied depending on how long you are staying on your trip for. The situation with your visas is going to be delicate, as there is a lot you will need to research before you go, and you also need to plot your trip so that you get to see everything that you want to see. So, where do you start?
Firstly, you need to buy your ticket to where you want to go first. Still stuck on that bit? Go where the airfare is the cheapest and start your trip from there. The reason you should start where it’s cheapest, is that flights tend to be the biggest expense of a trip. The next thing that you need to do is stop trawling the internet looking for tips on planning your backpacking trip. There are so many different websites and different ways of doing things, you can find yourself totally overloaded with information and instructions. This type of confusion can really put you off the trip altogether, so it’s best to stay away. Information may well give us some power, but it can also make us chicken out of the biggest trip ever!
Once you’ve got your first ticket, you can relax. Europe has everything that you need for cultural experiences, and that first ticket is the first step on a new adventure. We’ve got some tips for getting the most out of your backpacking experience, so that your time in Europe is as well spent as it can be.
Pick Your Season
You could be planning to spend a year out of your life and seeing one of the greatest continents on the planet, but you have to start somewhere! We mentioned how busy things can be during the peak summer season, so it makes sense to start in the Eastern Europe area. The Baltic cities and Slovenian mountains are a great start to getting the most out of your cash. When the autumn months start approaching, change course and go toward the Mediterranean. Everyone loves visiting the coastlines, and they are less busy at this time of the year. The winter months bring around the skiing season at its peak, giving you the chance to sample some of the best Swiss mountain resorts. When the spring season comes through, heading to the Netherlands and France can give you the chance to see some beautiful blooms.
Travel By Train
Your initial journey to get to Europe may well be by air, but the remainder of your trip should be by rail where possible. You can really appreciate how diverse Europe is, while saving a lot of money! Overnight sleeper trains from country to country helps you to avoid accommodation costs, and depending on your budget, you can get everywhere you need to go with the right rail pass. Check out these tips for train travel through Europe.
Be Smart About Accommodation
You may have your mind on your money, but don’t panic. Accommodation throughout Europe needn’t be a huge expense. The hostels that are available throughout Europe can virtually guarantee a trip of a lifetime, because even in the priciest destinations, the hostels can be cheaper than you expect them to be. You can even save money by choosing to camp out during the summer months. There’s nothing quite like heading to a beach or cove and camping out under the stars. Always search and book in advance: there are plenty of Facebook sites and review websites that are around to check the opinions of previous backpackers.
Be A Festival Goer
One thing that Europe has going for it, is its sheer volume of festivals and concerts that can be seen. Planning your trip so that your itinerary takes you to some of the biggest ones out there is going to make a huge difference to your trip. Plan in advance for these, because the St Patrick’s Day shindigs in Dublin, the Roskilde festival in Denmark and the Ivrea battle of oranges all get booked up pretty quickly. You need to party like a local and book your accommodation and train travel to get you to your destination before you leave.
Cultural Immersion Matters
When you visit new cities, you need to act like a local. Find the eateries off the beaten track. Sample the local cuisines and street foods and make a point of trying the local wineries. Shunning the tourist traps and sitting down like a local for their most popular cuisine can mean your backpacking budget stays secure, which is exactly what you want to do! Keep your budget intact but eat like a King on your travels. Tapas in Spain, spaghetti in Italy and continental breakfasts in France can give you the chance to taste the culture as much as see it. Europe holds some of the world’s greatest cuisines and it would be a shame to miss it!
Embrace The Outdoors
There are a lot of things to see and do in Europe, from museums and galleries to shopping and built up capital cities. The one thing that most backpackers forget, is that there are a great deal of open areas and scenery to be appreciated. Horse riding in the mountains, cave diving on the coast and cross-country skiing in Norway are all experiences that you need to have to fully appreciate the diversity in cultures in Europe. Soaking up the scenery from the sunrise to the stars can give you a bucketful of memories to take home with you.
Off The Beaten Track
There are an awful lot of tours and traps across Europe that you can get sucked into. The wonders of the cities and the experiences you can gain while you’re touring the continent alone mean that you can find so many places to visit off the beaten track. Go under the radar and hit the towns that are lesser known in the guidebooks but are just as relevant and beautiful as the capitals. Try out Olomouc in the Czech Republic, which is very much like Prague but with a lot less people to contend with. There are cobblestones for miles and delicious food to try, so much so you won’t regret it at all.
Touring a whole new continent with city after city of people and trains means there are a lot of opportunities for your safety to be compromised. It’s one of those subjects no one wants to talk about, but safety is absolutely key when you are travelling through a new continent. It’s not the best idea to walk around with an obviously expensive camera around your neck, nor is it advisable to be obvious about your cash. Money belts and ensuring you padlock your backpack and wallet is key. Where you can, keep electronic copies of your passport, visas, insurance documents and tickets so that if you ever misplace your paperwork you have a back-up. You will meet a lot of new people when you’re travelling, but keep your distance where you can until you know people better. You can never be too careful when it comes to your safety.
Going for a year out to travel the world should be a fun experience, not one that causes stress and upset. Plot your route based on the things you’re interested in the most, especially cuisine, and you should always try to keep a journal of your experiences as you go. Documenting how you feel as well as the things you see gives you something to look back on one day – don’t miss the chance!