10 Tips for First-Time Backpackers in Europe

Travel blogger, the ‘German Backpacker’ gives us his best backpacking tips

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  • 15 July 2019
  • • 7 min read

A backpacking trip around Europe is on many people’s bucket lists – and for a good reason! However, the continent might also seem rather overwhelming with so many countries, cultures, and choices. Travel blogger Patrick Muntzinger, better known as The German Backpacker, has travelled around Europe extensively and has written the following 10 travel tips will help to make your trip not only easy, but also unforgettable!

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Avoid peak season in the main tourist hotspots

Sure, places such as Barcelona, Paris, Dubrovnik, and Venice are great destinations to visit on your backpacking adventure. However, I highly recommend avoiding the main European tourist hotspots during peak season (which is July and August)! Over-tourism is certainly an issue in Europe - think about extensive queues to visit any attraction, streets and squares full of tour groups, increased accommodation prices, and booked-out hostels even weeks in advance. Sounds fun? Not really, right? Don’t get me wrong – Europe’s most famous regions and cities are certainly popular for a reason and you should visit them at some point. But keep in mind that you will enjoy your experience much more during off-season (such as spring or fall), when the weather is still good, but the places aren’t that busy anymore. 

Take advantage of free walking tours

The first thing I do every time I visit a new city is join a free walking tour, which exist in most European cities by now. In case you’re not familiar with the concept: these tours are completely based on voluntary tips (compared to traditional tours where you pay a fixed fee), which guarantees a fun and entertaining guide. These free walking tours are not only a great opportunity to get a first overview of a city and local recommendations, but are also a good chance to meet other solo travelers and make some new friends if you’re backpacking on your own.

Explore a country besides its capital

If you haven’t been there yet, I’m sure you’re dreaming about visiting Rome, Lisbon, and Vienna. But did you also consider a stop in Bologna, Porto, and Graz? Probably not – but you should! Many backpackers in Europe seem to tick off one capital after another, neglecting all the other places and towns a country has to offer. There’s more to Czech Republic than Prague, and there’s more to the UK than London – go and explore!

Hostels are a backpacker’s paradise

Especially if you haven’t been to Europe before, staying in hostels will make your time very easy. Hostels are great places to get to know other travellers, make new friends, and get information about attractions and activities in the city. Many hostels also organise fun events, such as walking tours and pub crawls for the guests. And on top of that, you also save lots of money. You will soon see that there’s a huge variety of hostels in every destination and, aside from the local ones, the hostel network St. Christopher’s Inn actually has establishments in Germany, Spain, the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Czech Republic, and Belgium!

Keep in mind that prices vary significantly

It’s very difficult to give a rough estimate about a daily or monthly budget for backpacking around Europe, since your expenses and the average prices vary significantly depending on the region and the country. Europe is very diverse when it comes to average income and living costs. Especially northern Europe (the Scandinavian countries) and Switzerland are part of the most expensive destinations in the world, and you should definitely budget properly if you plan to visit them. On the contrary, you’ll be able to explore southeastern Europe for a fraction of the budget required for Scandinavia. So, think twice about your budget and adjust your itinerary accordingly!

Consider your choice of transport

Luckily, the public transport network around Europe is extensive and you’ve got lots of choices to get from one place to another. Think about trains, low-budget flights, long-distance buses, and even car sharing platforms (such as blablacar.com)! Depending on your route, I recommend considering all these different options and then plan accordingly. Keep in mind that, for example, trains can get very expensive if booked at the last minute, while the cheaper and more flexible options (such as long-distance buses) might be perfectly fine for a journey of 4 hours, but most likely not for 14 hours – especially if a low-budget flight could take you there for only 10 € more.

Get a local sim card which you can use in all of Europe

Good news! Since a few years back, a European sim card works all over the EU without any additional charges, which means that you don’t need to purchase separate sim cards in every country to stay connected. Keep in mind that prices for prepaid sim cards and mobile data vary extremely across Europe, and while you would need to pay quite a lot for it in i.e. Germany and the UK, you could get a big data volume for little money in other countries such as Poland and Romania – which you can use all across the EU thanks to the new legislation! 

Save money with your student ID

If you’re a student, I highly recommend applying for an International Student Identity Card (called ISIC), which will give you discounts (and sometimes even free entrances) to many sights. Entrance fees in Europe can add up fast (especially for the most famous tourist attractions) and with this, you will be able to save quite some money over time. 

Focus on one region (depending on your time)

Especially if you’re from a different part of the world (such as North America or Australia), distances in Europe seem to be so close compared to what you might be used to at home. However, don’t underestimate them! Sure, you could easily pass through 5 different European countries within a day, but would you really enjoy leaving Italy after only 2 days for the sake of ticking off 7 other countries within a week? Instead, I highly recommend focusing on one region or a few countries (depending on your time) and experiencing them properly. Sometimes, more is less, and quality over quantity will also be true for your overall European travel experience.

Don’t put too much into your itinerary

This travel tip is directly related to the previous paragraph. I’ve travelled all over Europe and believe me – exploring Europe can be very, very exhausting. The reason is that every city, every destination, every country has just so much to offer. Museums, plazas, viewpoints, hikes, churches, festivals, food experiences – and there’s so much culture, so much history everywhere you go. Besides all of that, as a backpacker you might also want to make new friends in hostels, get to know the locals, explore the nightlife, and sleep in the next day to cure your hangover every now and then. Sounds tiring? It certainly is! In my experience, I’d recommend spending at least 3 days in each place. This will give you enough time to breathe and fully enjoy a destination!

I hope these travel tips help you to get the best experience on your Europe trip and I’m sure that you will have an incredible time!

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