One of my favorite summers ever was when one of my best friends and I decided to just book tickets to Europe and figure out the rest later. It was one of the best experiences of our lives! We booked a round trip ticket from Miami into Munich, Germany. We knew we’d hop around between countries, had a month to spend there, and that’s pretty much all we knew!
It was completely freeing, especially since I am such a planner. It was out of my comfort zone to wake up everyday and not be sure which country or city we’d be in tomorrow. Now, I honestly believe if you’re going to truly backpack Europe, over planning could actually be your biggest mistake! But that’s for a different blog post 🙂
The reality is that trains get canceled, hostels become overbooked, you may love a city and want to stay an extra day, you just never know! So here is how to backpack Europe on a budget:
- Eurail Pass – There are many options when you buy this. You can pick 1 country, 3, a universal pass, etc. Pick the pass option that fits best with where you’ll be backpacking. For us, we knew we wanted to go all over, so we bought the universal pass. We could basically hop on or off ANY train in Europe, and it even included many local buses too. Almost every local told us we got a great deal on our universal pass, compared to what is costs for a standard train ticket to hop around countries. Overtime, that price adds up. Buy the pass that works for you! The length of your trip really determines if you should buy this pass or not, so do some research here with what you want!
- Hostels- I know there is some sort of negative vibe with hostels in certain places. But just speaking from our time in Europe, we had a great experience! As far as safety goes, you don’t “have” to stay in a mixed dorm with 20 other people. You can pay a little more to have a private! Every hostel we stayed at also had a luggage room or lockers (bring your own lock) where you could lock up your stuff for the day if you wanted to. Another good part about hostels is that they all include a big breakfast with your rate. That cuts the cost of a meal in your daily budget! Many hostels offer free walking tours and free bike rentals too.
- Don’t eat in the main tourists spots. This was huge for us! In some of the places we visited, the food was SO expensive. A baked potato in Zermatt cost $49 USD. We went to a small pub instead and had a great dinner with the locals!
- Pick your fun. In each country, we chose one or two things to splurge on to have some fun. Depending on your budget, this is a great way to experience something in each place! On a backpacking budget, it’s hard to do everything you want to do in each country or city, so pick and choose. This is something I am passionate about in all travel, not just backpacking! Saving here so you can spend there.
Here are some examples of how we picked our fun:
– We did a free walking tour in Berlin, and it was actually really cool and super interesting! By saving here, we spent the money to go to Neuschwanstein castle.
-We stayed just outside of Venice to save some money on hostel prices, to go on a gondola ride through the canals.
-We rented a boat in Lake Como for the day, and saved by eating dinner at the Hostel two nights in a row.
-We didn’t eat at fancy restaurants in Switzerland as it was very expensive, but spent the money going white water rafting instead! The bonus points of Switzerland is that you don’t need to spend a ton of money as far as sights go, the hiking is amazing and its free! 🙂
-We didn’t eat out in Portofino, Italy- but we got a really cute boutique hotel in Hallstatt, Austria instead.
-We skipped out on gelato and crepes for a day, and went on a wine tour in Champagne, France instead.
See what I mean? These are just a few examples! When you are on a budget, there are things you can give up to experience other things that will be remembered forever!
Must Have Apps
- Eurial Train app– This app gives you all the information on trains daily. Including departure times, delays, etc.
- Hostel world– We used this app a lot! When we would get to a city and need somewhere to sleep- we’d find it on here. You can check out there website here.
- Airbnb– Airbnb wasn’t a thing when I backpacked, so now that you have that option, I would absolutely utilize it! Make sure to read reviews and check out the area you are staying in. One of the places we stayed at in France was in a weird area, and we did NOT like walking there at night!
Countries We Visited:
- Czech Republic
Here are some of our top favorite cities that stole our hearts! Not every place we went to was our favorite, and thats okay! When backpacking, you’ll experience highs and lows, it’s all part of the experience.
Fussen is the most charming little German town, and a must visit if you’re planning on going to Neshweinstein Castle. We took a small train to get here and loved exploring around the castle. The views from the top are beautiful and well worth the trip.
If you’ve seen the movie The Sound of Music, then you know where Salzburg is. It is truly that green and that beautiful! We had the toughest day of our trip in Salzburg for many reasons, (which will be told in a different blog post)!
This PERFECT little town was all over Pinterest years ago, and for good reason. You must take a boat to get there, which makes it even cooler! This place is filled with charming little boutique hotels and hospitality like you’ve never seen. We also had some of our favorite meals in this town!
The inspiration behind the movie, The Grinch, this place was a hikers dream! We had an incredible hike to the Matterhorn. You can choose to go up in a lift, but we were more adventurous than that so we chose to ride up and hike down. It was the longest hike, passing through massive mountains, rolling green hills, even snow- but well worth it!
This town is for the adventure lovers. Paragliding, white water rafting, rock climbing, hiking, biking- you name it and this place has it!
An obvious choice of favorite cities visited, there is nothing like Venice. Also, by far the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life. The second you get off the train and step down towards the canals, you will be blown away!
Italy- Lake Como
This was one of those places we stumbled upon. We woke up in Venice and said, “You guys wanna go to Lake Como?” We hopped on the train and just went for it! We spent 3 days here. This was one of the places we said, “lets stay another night,” and we did! We rented a boat in Lake Como for a few hours for only about $50 USD!
A short train ride from Paris, you’ll find Champagne. Miles of vineyards and the headquarters for Moet and Chandon, we enjoyed every minute going on wine tours!
This town was SO colorful and was another one of those “we stumbled upon it” cities. We stayed here one night, and really just walked the city. This place really made my favorites list because it had my favorite crepes of the trip here! 🙂
I could go into much more detail about the history of Berlin, the castles of Vienna, the beauty in the South of France, why we did not enjoy Prague, but I’ll save that for a different time. 🙂
Whether you are backpacking on a budget, on your honeymoon, or just traveling in general: meet people. Our world felt a little smaller meeting other backpackers and travelers from all over the world. I still follow along with some of the people we met! Its memories like these that you just don’t forget. It’s encouraging when we meet other travelers and witness people being kind to each other. Our world needs more of that 🙂
Stay tuned for more backpacking tips like this! xoxo