Backpacking across Europe is practically a right of passage. It's something that I recommend everyone doing at least once in their lifetime, whether it is with friends, a significant other, or by yourself. There are benefits to going alone, like that you don't have to worry about the numbers of beds available when searching for accommodations, or the number of seats available on the bus. You also can do only the things that you want to do and see only the things that you want to see. It's also very cathartic to travel alone. Of course, going with people is a lot of fun. You won't get as lonely. Lastly, if you travel with people you will have memories that you share together that you can recall together if parts of it get hazy.
One of the keys to backpacking across Europe is doing it on the cheap side. If you spend less you can see more, do more, and stay longer, which is the whole point of backpacking across Europe. There are a lot of ways that you can save money easily, if you know what you're doing and what you're looking for. This list will give you helpful tips for navigating Europe, things to know before planning your trip, hacks for saving money and traveling on the cheap.
There are a number of great resources out there to help you and this list has captured a great number of them. So get ready to learn all of the things you need to know before backpacking across Europe and get ready to be bitten by the travel bug.
25 Flixbus is great for cheap rides
If you’re traveling around a lot to see as much of Europe as possible, then, of course, you’re going to want to find really cheap options. Flixbus is super affordable and you can even buy the Interflix package where you can get five rides bundled for a cheaper price. For another little tip, try taking the bus overnight. You can sleep on the bus and you’ll get transportation and accommodations in one shot! Make sure to read the fine print before buying though, just to be safe. (Source: Busbud)
24 Take the lesser known paths
Paris, London, and Berlin are all amazing places that everyone wants to see at least once in their lifetime, but if you’re backpacking on a budget, maybe skip those places and leave them for another time. Lesser known cities will be just as beautiful and historic without packing the same price punch. Malta is a great example of a place that you don’t hear of often and is cheaper to visit but is so beautiful that you’re still getting the overwhelmingly wonderful European experience.
23 Use a website to compare hostel prices
Hostelworld is the absolute go-to website if you want to find the cheapest hostels out there for your journey. Research is an absolute must to have the cheapest travel experience possible. This website will help you stick to your budget and even has helpful reviews to get you started on your trip and make sure that you’re going to have a clean and wonderful stay. Also make sure that after you have a stay to leave a review. The best way we can all keep traveling like this is if we all leave honest reviews about our stays.
22 Keep notes of useful phrases
There are a few very useful phrases that you’ll want to know in all of the languages that you’ll be interacting with. While there are a lot of people who can speak English around, there are some things that you’ll want to have on hand. Of course, I would suggest keeping these things handwritten in a small and lightweight notebook so that even if your phone is out of battery or something you’ll still have access. (Source: TravelAndLeisure)
21 Make sure you have a high-quality backpack
One of the most important parts of backpacking, of course, is the backpack. All of your belongings are going to be strapped to your back for weeks or months so you’re going to want to have a backpack that can hold everything that you need it to hold. You’re also going to want to find a backpack that is ergonomic so that you do not destroy your back while you’re traveling. Lastly, you’re going to want to have a backpack that is going to hold up to all of the wear and tear. You don’t want it breaking on you. (Source: RoadAffair)
20 Remember to make google maps available offline
Okay so many accommodations will have WiFi and you’re going to have a SIM card with data, but still, you’re going to want to remember to make some maps available offline before you head out for the day to cut back on the amount of data that you’re going to use. If you don’t know how to do it, make sure that you read up on it before your trip so that you’re well versed.
19 Keep seasons in mind
There are always peak travel seasons for any city. Peak seasons means peak pricing. It also means more tourists, so there will be fewer accommodation options available. If you're going to be traveling around Europe, do your research to see when peak season times are for the different cities and try to make a plan to visit certain areas during the spring, and certain areas during the fall, etc. You'll be so glad that you did when you are avoiding huge crowds and lineups for all of the best attractions. (Source: RoughGuides)
18 Look at specific travel guides for each city you're going to be staying in
People have done the research for you. They've dug into a specific city to find the cheapest places to stay, things to do, and places to eat. Usually, comprehensive guides will also shed light into what was actually good and what wasn't. Because your trip is not just about being as budget-friendly as possible, you also want to eat delicious things and see and do all of the best things your wallet can afford. (Source: RoadAffair)
17 Pack light
This seems like a no-brainer, but the weight in your backpack is going to add up quickly, so let me stress this again: pack light. You're going to be carrying all of your stuff on your back for weeks or months, depending on how long you're going. It's going to feel heavy. You're going to get tired. So do yourself a favor and pack as light as possible, while still packing all of the essentials. There are great guides out there that can help from people who have actually done it before in the past. (Source: RoadAffair)
16 Bring a dummy wallet
Also known as a decoy wallet, the idea is pretty simple: you bring another wallet with you where you have fake cards and a couple dollars of cash in it and keep that where you would normally keep a wallet. That way pickpockets will grab that wallet, thinking that it's your regular wallet since it feels like it has cards and cash, and will move on to their next target. Also, if you happen to fall prey to a mugger who asks you to hand over your wallet, you can hand over your decoy wallet for them to take off running with.
15 Make sure you have travel insurance
I know that insurance is a pain in the butt. If you don't end up using it it can feel like a waste of money. But the thing is that if you ever DO need it, it's a godsend when you thought ahead and do have it. And if you forgot or chose not to get it, you're really going to wish that you had of. Take a look at different plans too. Some travel credit cards offer you travel insurance simply for having the credit card, but make sure to take a look at what it covers and if you want to upgrade, then do it.
14 Avoid tourist traps
People love to take advantage of tourists because, in a way, it can be really easy. But if you do your research ahead and make notes, you can travel on the cheap and avoid all of the pricey tourist traps. An example of a tourist trap might be an area right near a popular destination where the cafes charge absurdly high prices for coffee, when all of the locals actually use the cafe's just one street away because they know that those prices are much more reasonable. (Source: TheCultureTrip)
13 Bring your student ID
This one sounds weird, but if you're a student there are actually a bunch of places that are going to offer discounted prices to you if you can prove that you are in fact a student, which is where the ID comes in handy. It's just a small and lightweight card to bring with you but the savings you potentially could earn can add up quickly, so you'll be glad that you did bring it with you, trust me. (Source: StudentUniverse)
12 The first or last Sunday in the month is key
Okay so a lot of state museums in Europe actually allow free access on the first or last Sunday of the month, so if you're going to want to see museums, this is a great way to save a lot of money and all it takes a little bit of date planning when you're figuring out when to go. If you're going backpacking for a couple of months, make sure that you keep this in mind on the first and last Sundays that you're in Europe. (Source: DiscoverTuscany)
11 Don't assume the bread is free
While you might feel funny doing it, make sure that you swallow your pride and ask your waiter if the bread and water are free. While we might be used to the idea that if the restaurant brings you bread and water then it means that it's included in the price of the meal, in European countries, that is rarely the case. It's always better to be safe and ask than to get an unexpectedly high bill that you were not expecting. (Source: RoadAffair)
10 Don't stay in the city center
While it can be tempting to want to stay in the middle of it all where you're just a hop skip and a step away from the city life, staying a bit of a walk or a bus ride away can help you save on pricier accommodations. The bonus is that you're going to be walking more, which means seeing more of the city. And if you think about it, you'll feel more like a local if you have to walk or bus a bit to get to the downtown core of the city. (Source: TripAdvisor)
9 Stay in hostels
There are so many hostels all over Europe. Hostels are a cheap accommodation choice and a lot of them are actually really comfy! The bonus is that you'll probably find people to bond with while you stay there. You can share your stories and hear other travelers stories that are also staying there. Make sure to ask people if they've found a really good coffee place or an amazing place to eat! First-hand experience makes for the best tips! (Source: HostelWorld)
8 Stay in a hostel with free breakfast
Some hostels actually offer free breakfast, which is another great way to save money. You'll get your day started off right with a nice full stomach and enough energy to conquer the day. And on the bonus side if you get up early enough and eat your breakfast quickly you can probably beat some of the earlier lineups while people are stopping to have breakfast before heading out. And honestly, sometimes, I don't want to have to think about where to go for breakfast or what to choose. I just want someone to pick for me, and with a hostel breakfast, you get just that. (Source: TheGuardian)
7 Try Couchsurfing
Okay, so couchsurfing is a wonderful invention. Basically, it's a website where people offer up space in their homes and travelers can find a host in the area that they're going to be in. They connect and the host gets to share a bit of their lives with the traveler. The site has over 400,000 hosts and they have had over 4 million couch surfers that have used this system. It's a great way to actually see how locals live and connect with people while you're on the road. (Source: CouchSurfing)
6 Rent a bike
Rent a bike while you're out. It's a very cheap way to get around the city, and is a great way to travel around and see the sites. It's especially a great idea to rent a bike if you're going to choose cheaper accommodations that are farther from the city center. Europe is outfitted with nice bike lanes that are less crowded and usually wider than the sidewalks. Biking is also good for you and good for the environment so you can feel good about your choice. (Source: BikeSurf)
5 Buses are a great way to travel
Buses can be a super cheap way to travel through Europe. There is even a great website that you can use that will help you find cheap buses all across Europe. It's called Busradar. Another good tip with taking buses is to plan ahead. Often if you buy your bus ticket at the station it's going to cost you more than if you buy it online ahead of time. So plan ahead and save yourself a few bucks. Every dollar adds up when you're backpacking. (Source: BusRadar)
4 Skip the Eurail pass
Okay so let me just break it down for you, a lot of people will recommend the Eurail. Those people either have not done their research or have been given a free Eurail ticket in exchange for writing about it on their blog. There are so many cheaper ways to get around Europe, that you might as well skip this one if you're trying to make it across Europe without breaking the bank. Every little thing adds up and you might as well spend your hard earned money on something like a great meal or an attraction that you are really excited for. (Source: ThriftyNomads)
3 Public transportation is not free
Okay, this one sounds weird, but honestly, it's good to know. A lot of the public transportation might seem like it's free when you see people hopping on and off all willy nilly but let me be clear here, the transportation is not free. They often work on the honor system and there are undercover patrollers around the city waiting to catch people who abuse the system. So while the fair for riding might be only €1-2, if you are caught not paying, you could be fined up to €80, so it's just really not worth the risk. (Source: RoadAffair)
2 Cook for yourself
While going out to eat is fun and delicious, it's often what eats up most of your budget when you're traveling around. To cut back on costs make sure that you occasionally cook for yourself by heading to the supermarket and picking up a few easy things to make yourself. Personally, I always love going to supermarkets all over because it's interesting to see what kind of products are offered and see what things you can get there that you cannot get back in your home country.
1 buy your drinks at the grocery store
Buying a beer or a glass of wine out is so much more expensive than if you were to head to the supermarket and just buy a whole bottle of wine. So save your drinking for when you buy a bottle and can just relax, enjoying everything that Europe has to offer, and skip the drink at the restaurants. As a bonus tip: remember to limit your drinking. Germany has really cheap beer and it can be tempting to keep ordering another one, but even cheap beer adds up if you drink enough of them!