How to Backpack in Europe

Ever thought of backpacking in Europe but don’t know where to start? Worry no more! In this post, I am sharing my tips, tricks and apps with plenty of information that I gained while I travelled in September 2019. I have also included links that I found extremely helpful while researching for my solo trip. Note—I was a student when I took this trip, hence my suggestions will cater to those interested in planning a super friendly budget itinerary. If you love solo travelling or are interested to know how I managed to pull off the trip, then you need to check this out!

© Anubhav Saxena
AT A GLANCE

1. How to start planning?
2. Build your itinerary
3. Check your visa requirements
4. Tours and Experiences
5. Food and Drinks
6. What did I learn from my trip?
7. Apps and Websites

1. How to start planning?

© Tobias Tullius

As tacky as it may sound, it took me quite some time to sit down and chart my plan to solo travel in Europe. I haven’t travelled to all the places in Europe, but I managed to see as many places as possible within my time limitations and budget. Since this was my first international solo travel plan, I was nervous and super excited! The first thing I would suggest is to start by printing the map of Europe. I am serious! It helps you mark the places you want to visit and make alterations and see the distances between each country on the continent. I wanted to visit Berlin, Prague, Budapest and Milan. I also wanted to see Vienna, since it is located between Prague and Budapest, but my budget would have dumped me halfway. Talking of budget, understand what your budget is and how much approximately do you want to spend in a day. You will be spending the most in transportation, food and accommodation (though, you can save by living with a local). Miscellaneous expenditure would be buying souvenirs, taking paid trips or experiences, extra savings (always) and of course, if you are into partying, then the money flows out there. Once you have picked your destinations, check flight/bus/train tickets and search for accommodation. (I have put up all the links and websites in the end under Apps and Websites.)

2. Build your itinerary

Now that you have sorted your places of travel, tickets and accommodation—the next step would be charting out your duration of stay in different places. The key point in making a good itinerary is putting in as many details as possible, so you don’t have to figure out where next (if you like to be spontaneous, skip this). I like planning and organising ahead, and solo travelling especially as a female isn’t a common concept in many countries, including India. I highly rely on Google for researching about a place, watching tons of videos by travel junkies, reading experiences of travel bloggers (especially female travellers) and putting in my skills and faith in organising it well. I know solo travelling is quite common amongst people in the UK, EU and USA; I end up learning a lot from the travellers whom I meet during my trips. If you shudder from making an itinerary, ask a friend or a person who would help you plan it well. I took the help of my friends who have travelled and gave me advice that I probably wouldn’t have been able to search on my own. Here, I have put in the screenshot of my initial itinerary draft. I used MS Excel for planning my itinerary. Feel free to use any app that easily helps you put in the information and syncs across all the devices.

My itinerary

3. Check your visa requirements

Not to put you off, but this step has made me shed some tears in frustration. Until and unless you have a passport from Japan or any country which allows you to travel visa-free to other countries, applying for a visa is a notorious but mandatory step nevertheless. Since I was an international student studying in the UK, I had to go through numerous steps to make sure that I had a valid Schengen visa for my purpose of tourism and all my accommodation and tickets were confirmed before my visa application. Every single country has its visa application procedure and fees that will vary. Check out my previous blog post on Schengen visa which has details about my application and tips to make it an easier process.

4. Tours and Experiences (walking group tours, hostel activities, public transport)

The perks of staying in a youth hostel are they have activities planned which helps you engage with other travellers. If you search on Hostelworld, there are a variety of hostels ranging from party hostels to cosy quiet ones with varying prices, depending on room type and availability. I preferred staying in hostels that were highly rated by other travellers and had some activities related to touring around in the city. Airbnb has paid experiences, so one can cater their activities from taking cooking classes with the locals to having a photo-shoot scheduled with a photographer in that city. Also, knowing the best modes of transportation in a place will help you move quickly without spending too much on Uber or taxis. Go local wherever you can!

5. Food and Drinks

© Igor Miske

One of the common mistakes I made was assuming I could skip meals and save for other activities. WRONG! You need to fuel your body properly while travelling, especially if done alone. No one likes falling sick abroad. Plus, if you are a foodie like me, chances are you want to try out local delicacies and staples without breaking your budget. This was tough for me. I asked my fellow travellers how they managed to eat every day. Simple. Buy and stock food from super cheap grocery stores (eg. Lidl). Buying fruits, juices, water (very important), dry fruits and nuts (skip if allergic), energy bars, instant noodles, sandwiches, etc will save a lot. Plus, you can splurge on a few good dishes and relish it like a blessing!

6. What did I learn from my trip?

© Nils Nedel

My trip to EU (Berlin, Magdeburg, Prague, Budapest and Milan) as a solo traveller taught me immense about history, food and cultures. I met wonderful people, had amazing experiences and feel blessed for having the opportunity to make my dreams come true. I loved the architecture in Prague (especially the Romanesque and Gothic style of Prague Castle); ate cottage cheese dumplings in Budapest; had wine and pringles on top of Gellert Hill with my friend Elizabeth; visited Humboldt University in Berlin and was mistaken as a student there; stayed with Anissia, a lovely friend of mine who showed me around Milan…I can keep going on. I will post more details of the journey in my next post, so stay tuned!

8. Apps and Websites

Hostelworld – A fabulous app and website to check out best hostels across the world! Tons of reviews and discounted stays with details about activities and suggestions, this is my go-to app when I plan any solo trip.

Airbnb – For those who prefer staying in a home-styled accommodation or want more privacy, Airbnb is your option. Whether you are a couple or a group friends, this will be perfect to book on the go. 

Couchsurfing – An alternative to both the options above and cost-effective too, this platform helps travellers to find a local host for their stay. I haven’t used it, but I would try it in future. Check out how it works here.

Skyscanner – For booking my flights, I used this app to search for cheapest routes and set reminders when the prices dipped low. 

Omio – Since travelling in EU is easy once you have entered it, the best way to commute from one country to another would be via train or bus. Omio also has the option for booking flight tickets, and it is equally good as Skyscanner. 

Flixbus – Flixbus is the cheapest way to travel inside the EU. I travelled from Berlin to Milan in buses booked from the app and it was a comfortable experience. I have missed two early morning buses. Thankfully, Flixbus showed me the next bus to book and that was my saving grace.

Google Maps – From finding a cheap place to eat to must-visit places, this app is everything. I walked a lot around, so having an active data connection and Google Maps on your smartphone can save you from getting lost. 

SIM – I had to fix my Lebara sim card settings once I stepped into EU for activating my data connection. It is important to know what sims work in EU, incase you are using a SIM card from your country and it does not cover international roaming or you can not fix the settings. Click this website for more details.

Journi  If you like noting down your experiences while travelling, try out Journi. Though I use Instagram stories to capture my travels, I also use Journi to write down details quickly as it saves in a journal style. Here is a sneak peek of my Berlin Trip.

Thank you so much for reading this post. Cheers!


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Published by

Shilpa

A closet writer with a knack for adding vivid, witty & personal details. I love coffee, books and food. Highly appreciate lo-fi music and illustrations. Borderline obsessed with stationery, productivity and organisation tools. Always in search of adventures & stories by travelling or being buried in books. Current Status ↠ Striving to finish my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge. Life Goals ↠ Spark conversations, ideas & inspiration with a cup of mild roasted black coffee.

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