The Secrets of Backpacking in Europe: Traveler's Handy Guide
Europe: the continent of baguettes, Oktoberfest, the Alps, and more! With over 40 countries in Europe, the possibilities for adventure and exploring are endless.
One fun way to see Europe is to backpack through the continent. While on paper this might seem like a thrilling way to travel (and it absolutely can be), it’s not something you can just jump into and do. Don’t worry, though! Here at Pilot, we want to help you make the most of your travels, so read on to learn a little bit more about backpacking through Europe, and to see if it might be the desired method of travel for you.
Whether this is might be your first time backpacking, or if you're a seasoned digital nomad looking to work abroad while backpacking Europe, this guide is for you. We recommend checking out our review on packing cubes before packing for this trip, for it may become handy for backpackers.
If backpacking is not something for you, we totally get it. Everyone travel under different expectations and circumstances, which is what makes travel an universal enjoyment for everyone! If you'd like to visit the popular destinations without the effort of backpacking, why not check out our amazing things to do in Amsterdam, Madrid, and Istanbul? If you're looking for places to stay, we've got you as well. Here's amazing neighborhood and places to stay in Amsterdam, Madrid, and Istanbul.
Without further ado though, here's our guide through the ins and outs of backpacking in Europe.
How do I start planning a backpacking trip through Europe?
Your first step is determining how long you want to travel, and when in the year you want to explore the continent. Europe is big, and you could easily spend months there and still not see everything, but the amount of time you want to spend backpacking can also be a limiting (and helpful) factor for your itinerary planning.
The next step is deciding where you want to visit. Are you wanting to backpack across several countries or only a couple? Are there sites you want to see or concerts you want to attend? Once you narrow that down, you can start working on an itinerary and nail down the details.
After sorting those items, you can start your research of things you want to see in any given city, determining transport between cities, and figuring out how long you want to stay in each place to ensure you see everything you want to see. Once you see it all on a map, you can pick your start and end destinations, and map out everything in between.
Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to properly research and plan an itinerary for backpacking through Europe. While you don’t want to plan everything down to the second, the more you have in place before you leave, the less stressful (and more money-saving) your trip will be.
Check out our destinations page for some inspiration on places to visit and places to stay!
How much does it cost to go backpacking in Europe?
The overall cost of going backpacking in Europe is going to depend on where you visit, how long you travel, where you stay, when in the year you visit, and your bucket list of things you want to do. According to The Savvy Backpacker, you should estimate spending around $70-$110 a day in Western Europe, and $40-$80 a day in Eastern Europe. Of course, this can fluctuate based on your spending habits and other variables as mentioned above.
Every city and season comes with a different price tag, but here is a list of things to budget for and research as you plan your European backpacking adventure:
- Flights: You can opt to book a roundtrip and arrive/depart from the same airport, or arrive and depart from separate airports depending on the itinerary you’re looking to do. The earlier you book these, the lower the price.
- Accommodation: Whether you opt to stay in a hostel, hotel, Airbnb, or anything in between, this is arguably the most important part of your budget. Some cities (like London, Dubrovnik, or Barcelona as examples), will be much more expensive during the summer. Check out Hostelworld for hostel booking information and rates.
- Food: Depending on your accommodation situation, you may be able to prepare some food for yourself, as opposed to relying on restaurants/pre-prepared meals. It’s never a bad idea to budget slightly more than you think you need for food, given that it’s a necessity to keep you going for your whole adventure. Don’t forget that alcohol can carry a steep price tag as well!
- Sightseeing and attractions: While the streets of Europe are always a sight to see, they aren’t always the most exciting thing to see. Entrance costs to famous sights (Eiffel Tower, Van Gogh Museum, Tower of London, etc…) can easily be found online to prepare yourself for what you’ll need to spend. A lot of museums in Europe have discounted prices for under 26s (or students so bring your student ID if you have one), and some are even free! Be sure to budget a little extra in case you discover a gem you hadn’t found in your research that has an entrance cost.
- Public Transport: While some cities are easily navigated on foot, others will require you to take the bus/tram/metro in some capacity to explore everything. You’ll want to map out if buying a pass of some sort is more economical than single journey fares for your travel goals.
- Transport between cities: Whether you take a train, Flixbus, plane, or rent a car, you’ll need to budget for the costs associated with moving between cities on your trip. If you know exactly when and where you want to travel, you can explore the option of getting a Eurail pass to travel by train, but since these aren’t cheap, you’ll want to crunch some numbers first. Be sure to also allow ample time for travel between destinations in your itinerary!
One of the best ways to save money while backpacking through Europe is to plan in advance. “Day of” train tickets, and even sometimes attraction tickets, can have a steeper price than those purchased in advance. The earlier you can nail certain things down, the cheaper they can be.
Don’t forget to budget a little spending money for souvenirs in case you spot something that you want to bring home with you!
Is backpacking in Europe safe?
As a short answer, yes. Backpacking in Europe is no less safe than traveling normally through Europe. That being said, there are ways to ensure you stay safe throughout your backpacking adventure. The best way to keep yourself safe is to do your research about the places you’ll be visiting first: read reviews about the hostels before you book, read up on cultural practices or pickpocketing hotspots (Barcelona is particularly known for this), and check travel advisories. Avoid hitchhiking, and always be aware of your surroundings and valuables as you move from place to place.
Backpacking in Europe essentials
The first essential you’ll need is the backpack you’re going to use while you travel. Be sure that it’s sturdy, can hold decent weight, and that you’re comfortable carrying it around. Also, check that it adheres to any size restrictions airlines may have imposed (European airlines have smaller size restrictions than US airlines).
The whole premise of backpacking through Europe is that you can travel while living out of a backpack. That being said, there are still things you should absolutely make sure you have in your backpack.
Packing cubes are a great way to ease the lifestyle of living out of your backpack and to make your packing super organized. Check out our blog post here for more information about packing cubes!
Since you’ll be traveling with just a backpack, you’ll want to minimize the clothes you pack. Don’t prioritize a different outfit for every day, instead focus on clothes that can be mixed and matched to get maximum wear out of them before they need to be laundered. Packing clothes that can be easily hand-washed is also a good idea.
Be sure to also bring adaptors, and a portable battery charger! You can stock up on toiletries as you travel, so no need to take up room in your backpack with those, but bring your own toothbrush and personal items. If you’re planning on staying in hostels, a travel towel is also a necessity.
Is Backpacking Something for You?
While we absolutely love the idea of backpacking through Europe, we totally understand that this isn't for everyone. If you're more someone who likes to take it easy while traveling, we've got you covered with a list of destinations you can cover in the major destinations throughout not just Europe, but elsewhere.
Backpacking would require quite a bit of planning ahead and homework, which might be stressful for some. Luckily for you, here's where we come in. Our social trip planner app allows you to make travel plans with your friends and family, allowing you to focus on what's important: making incredible experiences and having the time of your lives.
If you're looking for new places to travel to or fun travel stories to read in your free time, look no further. FlightDeck is your prescribed travel newsletter filled with fun exciting new stories, news, and entertainment to cure your travel bug and inspire your next trip! Sign up now.