Hopefully our last post has persuaded you to travel Europe. In this post, we will highlight some tips and tricks for our fellow backpacking enthusiasts . These could be tips & tricks we already knew, things we learnt the hard way or things we think about when looking back.
The DO’s of Europe
- Try and learn basics of the languages “hello” “please” & “thank you”. As said in our last post, we found that learning the essentials goes a long way with the locals! It’s not too difficult to learn. You could learn from loads of different apps, or simply google it! No one is expecting you to be fluent in the 24+ native languages around Europe, but a couple of words scribbled down handy in your notebook for the destinations you’re going to will really help.
- Check what time local shops close. Whether that is a local supermarket like Lidl (we found that some close at 8pm) or check if the places you are in have siestas. This is where mainly local, non tourist areas close in the afternoon. Also, check for bank holidays. We learnt the hard way in Vienna, turning up on a Sunday when everything had closed, and then realised the next day was a bank holiday Monday where again, everything was closed! Not great when we were only staying 3 days and couldn’t find an open shop/restaurant for the first 2!
- Get an interailing pass. We’ll talk more about this one at another point, but for us it certainly worked out the most efficient method. It is pretty much geared up for backpacking.
- Check a backup train time in case you miss one. You might get on the wrong bus, it might not arrive or even if you decide last minute you want to stay a little longer. Again, we learnt the hard way and had to wait hours for the next train.
- Book in advance. Hotel, tour, museum or any attraction really. Your trip should not rely on a walk-in service. Furthermore, for attractions, it could help you skip the lines. Yes some people say you can barter the best offer in person, but popular places tend to book quick. For example, the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam have 3 hour long queues at times for on the day entry.
- Wear very comfortable shoes – you will be walking and hiking quite a lot. Add in a backpack for half of it, and your feet will thank you for some decent support.
- Always have a little cash as it is not completely uncommon to come across a cash only shop or kiosk. Another note, avoid currency exchange counters – especially in airports or stations! Use an ATM instead (be aware some might have the odd small charge though.)
- Check your mobile phone allowance for Europe. Especially if you are not from the EU, check for SIM deals if you mobile company do travel deals. We were quite lucky we were half way around our travels last year when both our phone networks rolled out the concept of using your regular allowances whilst in the EU.
- Pack light (again, we will cover this further in another post), but honestly, you’ll get home with items you never touched whilst you’re away.
- Furthermore, buy a decent backpack.
- Bring a couple of water bottles. We brought two 2Litre bottles and two 500ml bottles everywhere. Europe can get hot, and you’re constantly moving. There are plenty of free, safe water stations, many even give you the option of still or sparkling.
The DONT’s of Europe
- Have a ridged plan. Yes have a rough plan, but you never know what opportunity might arise. We simply gathered up the activities we wanted to do the most in each place, and had priorities. Some times we couldn’t fit everything in, but that’s just an excuse to go back!
- Stay for less than 2 days in one place. The minimum amount of time we stayed in one place was 2 nights, but if you include travel both sides, it’s only really 1 and a half days. We found we were most knackered on these days. We vowed that in future, 3 nights minimum.
- Feel the need to get taxis. There is no point spending more money when the public transport is so good. Buses, trams and trains are the way forward and cheaper. Yes they’re there for a back up, but if you do need to use them, make sure you do so safely.
Other Backpacking Tips & Tricks
- Since coming back from our main travels, we discovered the Revolut card, and have used this on every trip abroad since. Check out Revolut. They have an easy to use app where you can check your spending, as well as added security options like being able to freeze and unfreeze your card if you have a moment of panic.
- Take a backpack instead of suitcase (or at least a small suitcase). You will thank us. They are easier to carry and you can fit in more than you think! Remember, it’s what they are made for. Plus, no one wants to be lugging a suitcase up the many different train station and airport stairs.
- Consider your travel time. We travelled from April to the end of June…personally we found this absolutely perfect timing. It was a little before the tourist season, it got busier in June, but still nice and hot!
- Have a travel journal! Firstly, it’s memories. Little things that you might have forgotten. You will probably have your own tips and tricks in there for your future self!
- Offline maps. Make this your best friend. You can pre-download the area you plan on exploring and never worry about getting too lost.
- Bring a tablet / iPad. The trains between each country range from 45 minutes to 9 hours! Download films or books whilst on WiFi to watch online at a later date. It definitely helps pass the time. It’s also a good idea for the odd chill day or at night in bed.
- Book tours and tickets in advance and skip the lines. I have already mentioned it, but it’s worth saying twice!
- Pack some lunches. This will save you ALOT of money. We are not saying everyday, but even 1 day per country will save you hundreds (seriously). Hitting a supermarket the first day for some essentials will save you having to grab something expensive just because it’s the only thing around. Also it’s quite nice if you find a nice park or garden, to relax with a picnic for some down time. (If you have a mini fridge in you room, even better).
- Don’t over do it and remember to have the odd relaxing day. We didn’t even think about this. Suddenly, half way round Europe, we both got quite ill. Thankfully it was only for a day or two, but we were basically just run down.
We hope these assist your future backpacking adventures. Let us know your tips and tricks for backpacking in the comments – we are always open to new suggestions!