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Backpacking through europe: all you need to know

Complete guide for backpacking through Europe: learn how to save money on food, flights and accommodation, and the best gear you have to take with you.


backpacking through Europe

Europe is such a rich continent, full of things to see and do, for every kind of traveler. The Old Continent has amazing cities, national parks, beaches, hiking trails, and more. If you're planning on backpacking through Europe, the good news is, it's probably the easiest continent to backpack.

Most European countries are very safe, have great public transport, and it's easy to get around between cities and countries. There are also plenty of cheap destinations, and with the tips that I'll share in this article, you can travel around the whole of Europe on a budget while having the time of your life.

If you want to take a year off and explore a continent, if you want to have a trip with just your backpack, if you want to quit everything for a while and just enjoy a long travel, Europe could be the perfect choice.

In this article you will find all the information you need to know about backpacking through Europe in the best and cheapest way. I will talk about costs, the best way to find cheap flights, how to save money on food, what to pack and how to find free accommodation.

Backpacking through Europe: planning your trip

How much does it cost to backpack Europe?

The cost of backpacking through Europe really depends on the countries you want to visit. Europe is so different, every country has a different price and different attractions. Some of them are very cheap and other are so expensive.

If you want to backpack Northern Europe, for example, you have to consider a higher budget, because food, accommodation and transport up there are really expensive.

If you want to backpack the Balkans, you can do it low budget because they are so cheap. They can be compared to South East Asian countries, for instance. When you travel in the Balkans you can go to restaurants every day because it’s so cheap, and you can sleep in good hotels at the same cost of a hostel.

Other cheap countries are the ones in Eastern Europe. And then you have some countries in which you can fin cheap things but also spend a lot of money, depending on what you want to do, like Italy, Spain, Germany and France.

In the same continent, as you can see, you can live different travel experiences. But in most places, you can save a lot of money on accommodation and food if you do a work exchange - which I'll talk about later in this article.

If you want an estimate, this is what 2 weeks in Europe may look like for a budget traveler:

Accommodation: 20 Euros per night for 14 nights = 280 Euros

Food: 30 Euros per day for 14 days = 420 Euros

Transportation: 10 Euros per day for 14 days = 140 Euros

Attractions: 20 Euros per day for 14 days = 280 Euros

So for 2 weeks in Europe, a budget traveler may spend around 1,120 Euros. This could be much lower if you budget more. A work exchange cuts your accommodation costs down to 0, and your food, transport, and activity costs may be lower as well depending on what your host offers.

If you get to most places by foot, and don't change cities too often, you can also cut down the transportation costs. Another tip is to look for free activities, like museums with free entrance, self guided tours, parks and such, that aren't hard to find in most European cities.

tipos for Backpacking through europe

Finding cheap flights

One of my favorite things about backpacking Europe is that it's not hard to find cheap flights, because you have a lot of choices. There are many low cost companies, like Easyjest, Ryanair and Wizzair. They always have cheap flights all around the continent.

Booking too much in advance is not always helpful because sometimes airlines make last minute deals, especially the low cost ones.

You might also like to read:

cheap flights in europe

Picking a good backpack

Picking a good backpack is very important if you want to backpack Europe. And it could be worth it to spend a little more money in order to get a good one, rather than trying to save too much picking something that won't last or that won't be comfortable. 

Your backpack is really important, because it will be your home during your travels. I would also recommend avoiding suitcases, unless you're planning on spending your time is just one or two places. For moving around, especially if you're getting public transportation to get in and out of each city, backpacks are much more practical.

When you choose your backpack, it's good to try it before buying, to see if it's proportionate to your height and your weight.

pick a good backpack for traveling around europe

What to pack for backpacking through Europe

Once you have chosen your backpack, you have to choose what to pack. Your packing list will depend on the countries you are going to visit and the experiences you want to live. Nevertheless, there are a few things that you should always pack when you go backpacking through Europe:

• Sunscreen

• Raincoat

• Electronic devices and their chargers

• Hiking shoes

• First-aid kit

• Comfortable clothes

These things are really important and they are always suitable for every trip. And then, you have to think about the temperature of the country you are visiting in order to pack the right clothes. If you are heading to Northern Europe, you will need warmer clothes, if you are heading to the Mediterranean area, you will maybe need swimsuits, and so on.

A very helpful thing to do while packing is writing a list of things you want to take, so that you don't forget anything important.

Cheap accommodation for backpacking through Europe 

Accommodation is usually the biggest travel expense. Fortunately, there are some tricks to use to help you save money.

The most common place where backpackers usually sleep during their trips are hostels. Besides being cheap, they're a good place for meeting other travelers, and there is usually a shared kitchen that you can use to cook your meals.

In case you are traveling solo, hostels are perfect because you can sleep in a dorm, save lots of money and meet people. Ifyou travel as a couple, you can opt for a private room and it would cost less than the same type of room in a hotel.

Another option to save money is using Couchsurfing. In this way you can sleep for free in a house from a local person. It's great because it not only helps you save money, but also puts you in touch with local people, and they are always full of advice to give you for your trip. But keep in mind that most people usually don't host couchsurfers for more than 2 or 3 nights.

My favorite way to get free accommodation when I'm backpacking is through the work exchange platform Worldpackers, where you can find volunteering positions all over the world

All you have to do is search through the website to find the volunteering opportunity that best suits you, then apply to it, and in exchange for some hours of work per day you get free accommodation, and sometimes other benefits like free meals, classes and tours. 

There are many kinds of hosts, from hostels to ecovillages, NGOs and homestays. You can spend from a few days up to several months at a work exchange, and during that time you'll meet local people and travelers from all over the world which are volunteering just like you. 

The tasks in demand by Worldpackers hosts are very varied, so you can either do something you're already good at or learn something new, like cooking, painting, gardening, caring for animals, taking photos, teaching languages, managing social media or developing websites. You'll likely find out hidden talents and broaden your horizons, making your backpacking trip much more transformative. 

Backpacking through europe

How to get around Europe for cheap

Europe is an easy continent in terms of getting around. It is full of buses and trains, and cities and countries are generally well linked to each other.

Buses are usually the cheapest way to get around Europe, but sometimes you can find good deals even with trains.

Have you ever heard about Interrail program? It’s a really common thing among backpackers and it’s the perfect way to backpack Europe. Doing an Interrail means buying train tickets for different destinations all around Europe, in the form of a pass, in general for a trip that lasts a period of two or three weeks.

In this way you can buy cheap train tickets and save a lot of money, and get around Europe easily visiting lots of different countries. Sometimes there are also huge discounts for young people under 20 years old. 

Read more: Eurail Global Pass 

getting around europe

How to save money on food

The cost of food in Europe depends on the country you are visiting. Like I said before, there are countries such as the Balkans, in which you can go to restaurants every night because they are so cheap, and there are other places where you have to be careful because restaurants can be very expensive.

Unfortunately, street food is not as common as in Asian and Latin American countries, so it’s not easy to find cheap street food in Europe. You can find street food in some markets, especially during fairs or Christmas time, but it’s not so cheap.

The best way to save money on food while backpacing Europe is to cook your own food, and you can do it easily if you stay in hostels, because they usually have a full equipped kitchen.

Another way to save money on food is to volunteer and get free accommodation and free board in exchange. If you look on the Worldpackers platform, in the section about volunteering positions in Europe, you can use the filters and choose the option of meals included. This way you can see all the hosts that provide accommodation with meals. And, of course, you can also if the place has an equipped kitchen available for the volunteers to use. 

Backpacking through europe

Itinerary ideas for backpacking through Europe

There are plenty of ideas for backpacking itineraries in Europe, depending on what you want to see and your budget.

If you have a low budget to travel through Europe, a perfect itinerary for you can be through the Balkans. Backpacking the Balkans is such an experience. You can visit a lot of amazing countries such as Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Erzegovina, Montenegro and Albania, traveling by bus and discovering beautiful places less crowded than more famous European destinations.

Another common backpacking itinerary in Europe, especially for Interrails pass holders, is travelling all around Eastern Europe using trains, but you can also use buses. You can visit Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.

If you love traveling by train and you have a little higher budget, you can think about visiting Austria, Germany, Belgium and Netherlands. These countries are a bit more expensive, but you can always try to save money, for example volunteering with Worldpackers.

And if you are looking for places off-the-beaten-path, consider these hidden gems in Europe.

do a work exchange in europe

So, are you ready to go backpacking through Europe? Now you have all the information you need, and if you want to have an amazing trip saving tons of money, follow Worldpackers social media to keep up with the news: we are on Instagram, Tiktok and YouTube. And be sure to check out our other articles for more Europe travel tips!

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