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33 Priceless Tips On How To Successfully Backpack Around Europe

As recommended by people who have been backpacking around Europe

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Europe really has it all, they have beautiful countryside, world-renowned cities, fashion… What more could you ask for?

If you decide to take the leap and go backpacking around Europe, there are some things you should look out for. We reached out to people who have backpacked around Europe to gather together the best tips on backpacking around Europe.

#1 Get going early

There will always be something more to see in Europe, so start early. Plus, if you do find yourself in the midst of Europe's high season, rising with the sun is a great way to beat the crowds.

Contributor: Ben McLaughlan

Company: horizonunknown.com

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#2 Be wary of the afternoon siesta

I lost count of the times I visited the local shop in rural Spain to find them closed. So many late afternoon snacks were missed as I just could not plan my day ahead.

Contributor: Ben McLaughlan

Company: horizonunknown.com

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#3 Traveling off-season creates a different world

During my stints in Europe, I visited Venice twice. Once in high season and once in low. It was like a completely different city.

Contributor: Ben McLaughlan

Company: horizonunknown.com

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#4 Don’t lose money on exchange rates and ATM fees

Don’t lose money on exchange rates and ATM fees. This can really add up when backpacking for a few months. £125 million is lost in ATM fees just from the initial withdrawal when we land at our destination.

To avoid these fees make sure you know about DCC charges and how to decline them as well as opting for a prepaid currency card like WeSwap.

Prepaid currency cards can give you great rates, low fees, and the added security of not being linked to your bank. When compared to debit cards WeSwap is up to 10 times cheaper for travel money.

Contributor: George Day

Company: weswap.com

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#5 Consider staying in a hostel

Some people have negative views of hostels. I've found that hostels not only save money from traditional hotel rooms, but many have a full kitchen. This often means group dinners, free breakfast, and a way to cook with your own store-bought supplies. It's also a great way to meet and connect fellow like-minded travelers.

Contributor: Shaun Spellman

Company: trekient.com

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#6 Use public transportation to/from the airport

Taxis to and from airports can quickly add up, especially when on an extended backpacking trip. Public transit to/from airports can sometimes be 90%+ cheaper than taking an airport taxi. For example, a taxi to London Heathrow airport will cost around $100, while the London Underground will only cost around $9. Depending on traffic, public transit can also save significant amounts of time.

Contributor: Aaron Deutsch

Company: planetotrain.com

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#7 Staying connected on your cell phone when backpacking is essential

Staying connected on your cell phone when backpacking is essential. And not just to find the nearest accommodation for the night or the nearest cheap eats, but for safety and security. But relying on WiFi can be difficult. That's where myuksimcard.com steps in.

My UK SIM Card costs just $49.95 and comes with 12GB of high-speed data, minutes and texts. It works in the UK and in more than 30 European countries including France, Italy, Ireland and Spain. With My UK SIM Card you can use all your favorite apps and call and text numbers in Europe. It's shipped to your home or office right here in the USA or Canada so everything's working as soon as you land.

Here's the full list of countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Isle of Man and Channel Islands (Guernsey and Jersey), Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Contributor: Nick Brennan

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#8 Don’t skip Eastern Europe

Don’t skip Eastern Europe. Countries like Croatia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Romania are often skipped by travelers, although they are totally worth a visit as well. Try to mix up all-time favorites like Paris and London with lesser known countries and cities. 

Contributor: Clemens Sehi

Company: travellersarchive.com

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#9 Find a voluntary green work project in exchange for accommodation

Find a voluntary green work project in exchange for accommodation. Europe is safe and there are plenty of green initiatives that are in need of nice folks to help out their projects. You will support a nice cause and can travel to different destinations saving on accommodation while learning new things and meeting motivated Europeans.

Contributor: Andre Arriaza

Company: barcelonaeatlocal.com

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#10 Don't fall off anything!

Americans should be prepared that fences, warnings, walls to protect you from falling are very rare!

Contributor: Susan Baughman

Company: todayinireland.com

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#11 European cities have a special of the day

Many restaurants across European cities have a special of the day which allows you to have a main and a side for cheap so inquire for it whenever you're out for a meal. These special plates also tend to use fresher ingredients as the chef tends to use whatever's readily available from the market at that point in time. 

Contributor: Bino Chua

Company: Iwandered.net

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#12 Take a free walking tour or guruwalk

One of the best activity to do while backpacking around Europe is to take a free walking tour or guruwalk. There is no fixed price and travelers can give what they want at the end of the tour, according to their budget and experience. 

These tours are also a very fun experience as guides are doing their best to make the tour very entertaining to get more tips. Moreover, travelers will receive local tips to experience the city like a local, to avoid tourist traps and cheap activities and food options. Eventually, these tours are the perfect opportunity to meet other travelers backpacking around Europe. 

Contributor: Bernard Sury

Company: guruwalk.com

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#13 Don’t forget the travel insurance – just don’t

Don’t forget the travel insurance - just don’t. Buy it and hope you never need it. It’ll be the worst situation if you actually need it and don’t have it.

Contributor: Nat Took

Company: natpacker.com

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#14 Think beyond Paris, London and Berlin

Think beyond Paris, London, and Berlin. Think Marseille, Brighton, and Stuttgart as well. The main cities are not always the best option. There is so much more to see and do. 

Contributor: Clemens Sehi

Company: travellersarchive.com

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#15 Choose your accommodation carefully

For accommodation, in case you are in love with nature, get off the beaten track and look for camping sites, and in the opposite, city life, Couchsurfing is by far your best option. In both cases you will meet plenty of friendly travelers and locals who will be ready to share time and experiences with you, making your backpacking trip a life-experience. 

Contributor: Andre Arriaza

Company: barcelonaeatlocal.com

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#16 If you backpack in Europe for a long time – Establish a base

A good tip if you backpack in Europe for a long time would be to establish your base in central Europe or eastern Europe because it is much cheaper then other Western locations. Capital cities like Warsaw have great connections to every country in Europe with cheap low-cost companies like Ryanair and Wizzair. By choosing a cheap city as a base you can take your time traveling and save a lot of money.

Contributor: Federico Morelli

Company: Warsaw City Tours

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#17 Hill walking = hiking

When someone says hill walking think hiking in your mind. We've had one woman break an arm on a walk. I've popped a muscle off my calf bone on an easy walk. 

Walk with a hiking staff/stick. Not something we use much in America. You'll usually need one (or two!) in Ireland and the rest of Europe. 

Wild backpacking in Ireland is still like the old days! You can camp in someone's garden (what they call a yard, here) and they'll invite you in for tea and/or a shower. You don't get that much in the UK. It's because real backpacking is still a newer sport in Ireland. 

Contributor: Susan Baughman

Company: todayinireland.com

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#18 Stay alert to scams

There are plenty of scams around Europe's top tourist cities and many of them involve distracting the traveler while an accomplice snatches your wallet or camera without you noticing. When a stranger calls you out in the middle of the street, remember to keep your guard and don't stop to entertain the person.

Contributor: Bino Chua

Company: Iwandered.net

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#19 Look for car sharing apps

Look for car sharing apps. Hitchhiking is fine, but somewhat unreliable. There are some great apps out there where people will share their cars with you, just log in, look for your journey and see who will take you. A really cost-efficient way of traveling. 

Contributor: Matthew Hulland

Company: thetravelblogs.com

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#20 Book your travel early if you don’t have a rail pass

Book your travel early if you don’t have a rail pass. Trains in Europe are amazing, however, they can often get expensive, especially in the UK. Booking early is a good way to ensure you get a good deal. Of course, you will be somewhat sacrificing flexibility. 

Contributor: Matthew Hulland

Company: thetravelblogs.com

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#21 Think a lot about money before and after you leave

Think a lot about money before and after you leave. Budgeting on the road is hard and if you don’t plan ahead then one of the biggest expenses will be money exchange fees. Think about getting a preloaded cash card and get it in Euros. This way you can leave your cash safely in the ATM and won’t have to carry as much on you. Also, by having it in euros already, you avoid being held to ransom by places taking advantage of a traveller with extortionate exchange rates. 

Contributor: Matthew Hulland

Company: thetravelblogs.com

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#22 You will always pack too many clothes at first

You will always pack too many clothes at first. Constantly evaluate if you’re actually wearing what you’ve packed. If you find that there’s something you haven’t worn in months, get rid of it. 

Contributor: Nick Brennan

Company: historyfangirl.com

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#23 Wear you shoulder and hip straps

Wear your shoulder and hip straps. They distribute the pack’s weight across your body, and it keeps you from getting warped shoulders. 

Contributor: Nick Brennan

Company: historyfangirl.com

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#24 There are different shaped packs, pick the right one

There are different shaped packs. Mine is taller than it is wide, which I really love. Some people do better with packs that are more square. Make sure you like the kind that you get since you’ll basically be living with your decision for years.

Contributor: Nick Brennan

Company: historyfangirl.com

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#25 Women can get men’s backpacks

Women can get men’s backpacks, but swap out for a female hip strap. They’re shaped differently to be accommodating to our hip bones.

Contributor: Nick Brennan

Company: historyfangirl.com

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#26 Always have some laundry detergent in your pack

Always have some laundry detergent in your pack. 

I bring a tiny vial of lavender essential oil with me wherever I go. I picked it up in Croatia, and it is great for making laundry smell fresher after being washed in the sink. 

Anything that’s been washed in the sink multiple times in a row will start to get a weird funk. It’s worth it to spring for a laundromat or a place with a washer every once in a while. 

Contributor: Nick Brennan

Company: historyfangirl.com

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#27 Plan, but remain flexible

Plan, but remain flexible. If you have a limited amount of time, you need at least a loose plan of where you want to go, but remember to be flexible. Other travelers may tell you about an awesome place that you just HAVE to go to!

Contributor: Nat Took

Company: natpacker.com

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#28 Go country hopping, but wisely

Go country hopping, but wisely. If you want to go to the UK or Ireland or from Scandinavia to Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania, you can also take a ferry. Just like from Italy to Greece or from Spain to Morocco. 

Contributor: Clemens Sehi

Company: travellersarchive.com

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#29 Create a photocopy of your passport

Create a photocopy of your passport. Keep it safe in a hidden pocket in your backpack. This copy is especially helpful if you (ack) lose your passport overseas. 

Contributor: Rachel Miller

Company: blondwayfarer.com

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#30 If you're a student or teacher, bring your ID

If you're a student or teacher, bring your ID to receive massive discounts. For example, I was able to see some of the best museums in Madrid for free, because I had my teacher ID with me.

Contributor: Rachel Miller

Company: blondwayfarer.com

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#31 Use online parking marketplaces

If you're going to be driving around Europe in a camper van, I suggest you use online parking marketplaces to book a parking space in advance wherever you go. It's cheaper and more affordable than looking for a parking spot for hours in big cities or in the country. 

Contributor: Gregory Golinski

Company: yourparkingspace.co.uk

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#32 Local drivers might have a different driving style

Don't forget that local drivers might have a different driving style than what you're used to. Drivers in cities such as Paris or Rome can be quite assertive, more so than their American or Canadian counterparts. 

Contributor: Gregory Golinski

Company: yourparkingspace.co.uk

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#33 Learn a few French, Italian, Spanish or German words

Learn a few French, Italian, Spanish or German words before you go backpacking around Europe. This will make things much easier for you, and people will appreciate it and will be more inclined to help you.

Contributor: Gregory Golinski

Company: yourparkingspace.co.uk

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