Backpacking Through Europe: A Guide

Paris, FranceAre you looking for the ultimate travel adventure but don’t have a ton of expendable cash? Maybe you’re just a fan of roughing it and living day to day. You may want to consider backpacking through Europe. It is the perfect way to explore multiple European countries without going broke. Meet new people and explore new places on your terms and on your timeline. Go with a buddy or travel solo.  Get started planning your adventure with Backpacking Through Europe: A Guide.


The world is your oyster, but choosing destinations and figuring out logistics can be overwhelming and exhausting. Don’t stress! Start by making a list of your dream cities- Paris, London, Munich, Milan or choose even smaller, quieter destinations.  Give yourself ample time in each city.  You will be tired, especially if you get off of a red eye flight or a long train ride and you will need a chance to decompress.  Plan to stay at least 2-3 days per location, 4-5 days for bigger cities.  Skyscanner is a great resource when it comes to choosing destinations and mapping out an itinerary.  They also have amazing deals on flights, which will help keep your costs down.

Need a little more structure? Check out Busabout. With 38 destination cities, you can plan the ultimate itinerary. Join their guided tours or explore independently. There is no penalty if you want to stay in a certain city longer or leave earlier. They offer coach service to each location on your route. There is an option to choose your own lodging or stay in one of their hand-picked accommodations. Busabout offers organized excursions and expert guides, but full flexibility if you prefer to go off on your own. It is the perfect combination of structure and freedom.


Hostels: One of the most economical options for accommodations is hostels. Why pay for a five star hotel?  Most of your time will be spent exploring the city around you so you really only need a place to lay your head.  Hostelworld is a great site for finding the perfect hostel for your stay.  It has thorough reviews and descriptions of what to expect so there are no major surprises.

Homestay: Staying with a host or host family in your chosen city is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the local culture and way of life.  Learn a bit of the language, sample homemade cuisine, and meet new people. Comprehensive reviews, pictures and descriptions will help you choose the best place to stay so you can partake in this once in a lifetime experience.


Rail Pass: Rail Pass is great for flexible travel between cities. Be sure to buy your pass in advance to save time and, if necessary, book reservations at least a few days in advance online or at the train station. Reservations are only necessary if you’re riding a high-speed train to major cities and will cost anywhere from €5-€30.  You can hop on local/regional trains any time without reserved seating.

Earning Extra Cash

The daily cost of your trip will be about €50-€80 and that is on the low end and it doesn’t take long to go over budget. If you find yourself in a sticky situation, check out this site for odd jobs abroad. It is broken down by country and city, and a great way to earn a little extra cash so you can afford the next leg of your trip.


Hostels and trains have paid lockers for your bags. Use them!

Be sure yo purchase locks for your luggage.

Check out this article on Solo Travel. It gives a lot of great tip on staying safe and protecting your stuff while traveling abroad.

Packing Light

Packing light is easier said than done, especially when you may be gone for weeks at a time. Be sure to invest in a quality backpack. Here are some great choices:

  • Osprey Packs Fairview 36 Wheeled Luggage: Not only is this a standard carry on sized backpack, but it also has wheels and a sturdy handle for those days when you are just too tired to lug it around. The Fairview 36 is lightweight and durable, perfect for dragging through train stations and down the cobblestone streets of Europe’s finest cities. Available in women’s and men’s versions.
  • Patagonia Black Hole® Duffel 70L: Although slightly larger than carry on size, this bag is extremely lightweight, rugged and roomy. It will easily hold a week’s worth of packing and has many interior and exterior compartments for easy access. It is made of 100% recycled polyester rip stop and is water resistant. There are padded backpack straps and a removable shoulder strap.
  • Kelty Coyote 65: The Kelty Coyote 65 is a modern spin on the more traditional backpack. It is the perfect size to carry on the plane and has multiple compartments for your passport, keys and wallet. There are mesh shoulder straps for comfort and breathability and a hip belt for extra support on those days when you have walked miles and miles.

Check out this handy packing list so you are sure you have all the essentials. Layering is key to packing light. Bring a few sweaters and tops that you can mix and match. Neutral colored pants can be paired with any colored top and jeans are always a good choice. A travel scarf is a must in any kind of weather. Whether it is cold out outside or you are in blasting air conditioning, this item will save your life and can jazz up even the most casual outfit.

Bring a lightweight cross body bag for holding all the items you need to get you through the day, like water bottles, camera, phone, wallet and sunglasses.

Pack two pairs of comfortable shoes, because you will be walking a lot. Swap shoes daily so your toes get a break from the workout you will be putting them through.

Tips and Tricks

  • Take into consideration the time it takes to go from the train station to the hostel, etc. when planning your itinerary.Munich, Germany
  • Plan around events and festivals you want to partake in, if any.
  • Be aware of the weather/ season. There are challenges to traveling any time of year.
  • Book transportation and lodging in advance. It will save you time and stress.
  • Look into travel insurance.
  • The best time to travel is late April to mid June and late September to late October, when it’s not too hot and not too cold.
  • Don’t forget your passport. If you don’t have one, read this article on how to get one and be aware of all the rules and regulations.
  • Be sure to make multiple photocopies of your passport and any other important documentation, some to take with you and stash in different places and one to leave with friends or family at home.
  • Call your credit card company so they are aware of your trip.
  • Book at least the first accommodation in advance so you don’t have to hassle with finding a place to stay after a long, exhausting journey.
  • Learn some of the language. People appreciate the effort, even if you are no expert.
  • Fill and pack your prescriptions.

Summing It Up

Backpacking through Europe will submerge you into different cultures, take you out of your comfort zone, and give you memories to last a lifetime.

“We only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.”
– Lewis Carroll

Bon Voyage!


  1. Tom


    Great article. My niece is looking to go travelling after Uni, and she has started to plan it now. This article would go a long way in helping her. Especially how she could earn extra money and the rail pass.

    I have shred this with her and have encouraged her that if she has any questions or issues then she should come to you for advice.

    Thanks for sharing and all the best,


    1. Gin

      Thanks so much for this, Tom! I really hope that the article is valuable to your niece and please encourage her to come to me with any questions she may have. I would love to help in any way and hear about her adventures!

  2. Wonderful article with lots of great information. I lived in different countries throughout Europe for the better part of 20 years. Absolutely loved it. Thank you for encouraging the experience! – Dolly –

  3. Adam

    Hi Gin! Excellent tips. I learned something useful when I was in Italy that can be perhaps be of some use to others. I didn’t have any accommodations for the night and was calmly enjoying my lunch looking at hotels.
    After checkout, some hotels can drop their prices for the same day by as much as 80%, because they know it typically won’t get booked within the last few hours of that day. And they’d rather make little money than no money that day. So if you don’t need to plan that far ahead, this can be an excellent way to save money!


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