I have always wanted to backpack through Europe. I’ve had several friends who have done it and they said it’s one of the greatest things to do. My friend Robert recently went, visiting 12 cities during his seven-week journey through Europe. I asked him to share some travel dos and don’ts for those wanting to explore the continent.
- Book all your European Travel with low-cost airlines.
“I wanted my journey to begin in eastern Europe, with plans to backpack westward,” Robert explains. “I found it most cost-effective to fly into Dublin through an American carrier, then use low-cost airline carriers such as the infamous Ryanair for the rest of the trip from Dublin to Krakow, Poland. I saved somewhere around $500-$700 by planning my trip this way.”
Robert adds that airlines like Ryanair come with nothing but the seat you’re in, so you’ll need to leave all expectations of leg room, customer service and free bag checks at the gate because you get what you pay for.
- Use hostels instead of hotels.
“If you are under 35 years old and traveling Europe, hostels are the way to go,” Robert says. “First off, hostels are nothing like the notorious American films. They are so much cheaper than hotel rooms, especially if you are traveling alone, and they are key to connecting with the city you are visiting, as they are typically staffed by down-to-earth, friendly locals. I used the website HostelWorld.com to book all my hostel stays because they have a great network of reviewers. I saved an average of $25-50 per night by using hostels instead of hotels.”
- Splurge on a nice camera.
“You are going to witness things and places that you’ve never seen or may never see again, so you’ll want to capture the moment with a nice camera for good quality photos,” Robert says.
- Don’t preplan your tour guides.
“This is a BIG don’t. You can use sites like TripAdvisor.com to see reviews for tours, but I found the best tour was always a walking tour,” Robert says. “Sandeman’s NewEuropeTours.eu offered the best walking tours. They were great for briefly seeing the city and then later returning alone to the places you wanted to visit. Another awesome feature of these tours was that they were always free. At the end of the tour you can decide whether or not to tip your tour guide. I never felt like I wasted my money on a tour, ever.”
- Don’t bring a suitcase.
Two words: pack light. “Pack so light that you don’t even need the suitcase because you’ll spend way too much trying to stow it on an airplane, try to find a safe place to put it and it’s a hassle to carry,” Robert advises. “Most European hotels and hostels don’t have elevators, so you’ll be climbing a lot of stairs. You don’t want to climb stairs with a bulky suitcase. I was able to fit five outfits into my backpack. If you want to pack a few more things, I’d recommend taking a duffel bag.”
- Don’t travel during May-August.
“I hate long lines and I prefer mingling with locals when traveling, but both of these things are hard to accomplish in popular European cities during the summer months with a lot of tourists around,” Robert says. “I traveled through November and December and found friendly faces that always had time to sit and chat with me, answering all my crazy questions about their cities. As a bonus, I found a comforting mild winter in most of the cities I visited, unlike the harsh cold we are used to here in Tulsa.”