5 Essential Tips for Backpacking Through Europe

Backpacking through Europe is an unforgettable experience. Regardless of which country you visit, you’ll be met with interesting people and rich culture. Every city has something to see, whether it’s modern architecture or homages to a country’s historical influences. With nothing more than a backpack for the essentials, people all over the world flock to see the beauty Europe has to offer.

It’s fairly easy to travel through Europe. It’s not uncommon for visitors to choose their destinations on a whim. However, it’s always good to be prepared for anything. Here are 5 tips for backpacking through Europe.

Season Considerations

When to travel is always an important thing to consider. Some countries flourish during certain parts of the year. You’ll be able to see nature at its finest and avoid unfavorable weather conditions. Most tourists travel during the peak summer season. However, this can cause overcrowding at many popular hostels. If you’re one to immerse yourself in a country’s culture, it can be difficult with a slew of other tourists around.

Another seasonal factor is the price of accommodations. Increasing the price of lodging during peak travel seasons is just another part of business. Those on a budget will want to plan their trip around peak seasons to make the most out of their money and time.

During the summer, it’s a good idea to avoid countries near the Mediterranean. Instead, head over to Balkans. There’s a number of great cities to see and mountains to climb. During the autumn season, the Mediterranean coastlines aren’t as packed. You’ll be able to visit popular cities and islands with ease. Not only that but many of the Mediterranean countries are most beautiful at that time of the year. In winter, pretty much anywhere in Europe is fun to see. Of course, there’s plenty of snow for skiing and festivals to partake in. In spring, it’s a good idea to head north. Nature is blooming and lodging is still affordable before the summer hits.

Travel by Train

One of the best things about backpacking through Europe is the rail system. Every country can be accessed by train at a relatively low cost. It’s much more affordable than flying and allows you to take in the scenic views. The abundance of train stations allows travelers to go from one country to the next without much planning.

As you travel, the InterRail Global pass and Eurail pass will be your best friend. They are used by 30 countries and make traveling in between them a breeze. The best thing about these passes is that you can pay for the entire cost of traveling before you even make it to Europe. Sure, single train passes can be purchased at the station. However, the price will be much more than purchasing a pass that covers multiple trips.

With that being said, not every country is accessible by rail. This is when travelers need to plan ahead. One common method for backpacking is to pick an area of Europe to explore by train before taking a flight to other destinations.

Plan Your Trip Around National Events

What better way to experience a country’s culture than to attend a festival or event? Events are held throughout the year all over Europe. Some are quieter events while others always garner international attention. Either way, these events are worth the trip alone. It’s a good idea to plan your trip around these events well in advance. Due to their popularity, it can be difficult to find accommodations or even flights to the country while the event is occurring.

Most of the popular events are held during certain months of the year, allowing you to plan a long trip accordingly. The Carnival of Venice is held in Italy around February and March to coincide with Easter. The streets are filled with people dressed in extravagantly designed costumes and masks. There’s also parades, concerts, and much more. In March, you can head over to Ireland for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival. There’s a ton to do and a lot of beer to drink. In September and October, Munich, Germany is a great place to visit. Oktoberfest celebrates the historical culture and lasts for 16 days. Those are just a few of the many events held throughout the year in Europe.

Do’s and Don’ts of Backpacking Through Europe

While each country is different, there are a few universal do’s and don’ts of traveling through Europe. These tips will ensure that your trip is safe and fun. They’ll also help you avoid and social snafus that will make you look bad in the eyes of locals and ruin your time.

  • Do pack light. Chances are, you’re going to be walking a lot. With a ton of gear, your body is going to feel fatigued pretty fast. Furthermore, it’s difficult to keep an eye out on multiple bags. Pack a single backpack and a daypack and stick with the essentials.
  • Do invest in health insurance. Travel health insurance is easy to get prior to departure and can save loads of money if you get sick. The insurance only lasts during your trip and will cover some if not all of the costs associated with health care.
  • Do read up on local customs. Some behaviors you may be used to might not fly in some countries in Europe. It’s always good to know how people greet one another or other things that are normal to do or not do in the particular country you’re in.
  • Do pick up a translation book. There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to communicate. Even simple phrases are usually enough to get you by. Translation books are cheap, easy to use, and very handy when exploring.
  • Don’t break any laws. While this may seem like an obvious thing, it’s not uncommon for travelers to break a law without noticing. They may accidently make an offensive gesture or forget to pay for a subway ticket. Usually, this results in a simple fine. Research the laws of a country and pay attention to signs to make sure you don’t end up getting fined, arrested, or worse.
  • Don’t dress like a tourist. This is especially true when you’re out exploring the city for the day. If you have a daypack, you can blend in with the locals by wearing casual clothing. Cargo pants and hiking boots, while great for travel, aren’t the best for exploring the streets. They will make you a target for pickpockets.
  • Don’t tip obnoxiously. Tipping for services is something that varies from country to country. In most countries, it’s not a common practice like it is in the United States. Leaving out money on the table for waiters is often viewed as an insult. Instead, slip the cash into the receipt or bill folder. The tip will be appreciated.

Stay Safe

In an unfamiliar country, it’s important to stay safe at all times. It’s a traveler’s responsibility to take the right precautions when traveling. One of the biggest things to overcome is not being an obnoxious tourist. While pictures are a must-have, you don’t always need to lug around a big expensive camera. Pricy gear only makes you a target for thieves and pickpockets.

Backpacks and daypacks are a great piece of gear to have. A backpack that opens all the way around allows you to access your gear at a moment’s notice, unlike top-opening bags. It’s also recommended to get a padlock. Locks will keep the bag shut and its contents away from prying eyes. Also, they are good for securing a bag to a luggage rack on a train while you sleep.

Daypacks are a bit smaller than standard backpacks and only hold the essentials for the day. Some backpacks have an included daypack that attaches for easy transport. These bags should be worn on the front of the body rather than the back to ensure that a passerby can’t access the contents without your knowledge.

Of course, you should always be cautious regardless of where you go. There are bad people everywhere in the world, so it’s important to stay safe. This is especially true on trains and hostels. It’s also a good idea to photocopy important documents and store them online. Online storage allows you to access them anywhere in the world in the worst-case scenario.


About the Author

Matt Goodwin is a content manager for Hix Magazine, an online magazine for men with a passion for Sports, Travel, and Outdoor activities.