Backpacking Europe Is Everyone’s Dream!
Backpacking Europe – I finally ticked it off my bucket list this year by concluding my first month-long trip with my gang of girls. The trip started from Tallinn, Estonia and finished in Athens, Greece a month later after covering 15 destinations.
While it was fun, it was a lot of learning too. As the saying goes that ‘one learns from own mistakes’, and it was proven right once again.
The trip was a constant learning experience. All kind of things that could go wrong went wrong (well, that’s for another day😊) but that didn’t dampen our spirits at all. In fact, we were getting more and more clarity about the things to take care of on our subsequent trips. Even though I have been back recently, I am already looking forward to my next trip, with the travel-knowledge I have acquired on this trip.
But before my next travel, I decided to put all my learnings that i gathered backpacking Europe together as a ready-reckoner for myself as well as for other newbies like me. While I know that just like me, you would also learn by your own experiences, I am still sharing mine here and waiting for yours.
Here goes the list:
All you need is one carry- on bag and a small back-pack
Despite reading multiple blogs about packing light and carry just one small bag/ backpack, I still ended up carrying way too much stuff in a medium sized trolley bag. After all, Backpacking Europe for one month is not a small period. And women definitely need way more stuff than men. But when you have to lug it around every couple of days, carry it up and down three floors because old town doesn’t always have elevators, wait endlessly at conveyor belts at airports, you realize the importance of smaller bags and lesser stuff. We were prepared for long walks in Europe but not for this weight-lifting exercise!
Divide your valuables
Do not put all the money and cards at one place, even though you must keep it close to you, on your body being the best option. Money belts are a great option. After getting robbed on the way to Mostar from Slovenia and becoming penniless and cards-less, I realized its importance. And bought all kinds of money belts available. I must admit that the thief must be a real smart fellow because I still cant figure out where and how he took the wallet, despite spending endless hours thinking and analyzing the situation. So much so that I have started dividing the money back home too. All you need to keep out while travelling is one multi-currency card and some local currency. This may also work because the thief may lose interest in you as a prospect, seeing such little money.
Do proper research before Backpacking Europe
Usually I prefer not to do research about my place of travel because that creates unnecessary mental pressure to see everything and tick off the tourist destinations. I like a place to grow on me by talking to locals, exploring a place on foot and finding the hidden gems that may not have found place on internet yet. And that’s where I went wrong in Europe. Language was one big deterrent but bigger disappointment were the staff at the hostels. Most of the staff happened to be students or people from outside the city. Every time we asked them for routes or recommendations, we were handed out brochures and maps. This is one area where BnBs and apartments score over hostels. Managed and run by locals, they knew their city well and guided us accordingly. That made us feel like locals once again.
Download all necessary apps
Apps are a big support and there is no dearth of them today. There is an app for everything related to travel. And Backpacking Europe is there favourite subject. It’s a good idea to download and get used to the travel-friendly apps before the trip. some of the apps that worked for us are Uber, Google Maps, Google Translate, Zomato, Tripadvisor, XE Currency Converter, booking.com. Other apps that we tried were Maps.me, Sygic and Lonely Planet because they claim to work in offline mode but were not much help or maybe we couldn’t use them properly. we could use was not much help though. We also downloaded and used local apps wherever possible.
Phone and Internet connection is a must
Even though Wifi is readily available all across Europe but it still helps to have a phone and internet connection. You can’t rely on Wifi everywhere due to lousy connection speed and other security issues. Also when you are on move and want to book a cab or find information about next tourist spot find a good place to eat navigate through unknown cities or send an enquiry mail to hotel, you need internet. By the way, Europe doesn’t believe in calling but e-mails for all communication, so internet becomes a must. Calling is needed primarily to call back home and tell them you are alive. Despite all this, there is a different charm in just getting lost in a new place and soak it in.
proper communication about travel schedule and stays
It helps to carry print-outs about all your booking, put in date-wise order. Even though old-fashioned, its foolproof. In fact Bus Croatia specifically asked for printouts despite being shown ticket on mobile. Ensure all communication is proper about check-in and check-out times with hosts and try to reach and leave accordingly. There were times we found ourselves reaching early morning much before the check-in time and leaving night before the check-out. In Vienna, we were not allowed the hostel before 9 am even to drop our luggage. We had to use building’s staff’s washroom to freshen up. Kind enough of her to let us use it and we realized the importance of a latch in washroom that day. Let me share a secret – Free walking tours are a great way to spend time till check-in and know the place in the meanwhile.
Never change pins for any currency cards overseas.
This has been one of my biggest learning. Such a simple thing that turned into biggest nightmare. After losing my wallet and becoming penniless, my dad got money loaded in the spare multi-currency card I was carrying. And like this over-cautious person, I went ahead and changed the pin. And Voila my pin got blocked and I became penniless once again in less than 24 hours. Beyond this, I had no backups too. It was quite a task to get the card unblocked and I must thank my Dad and Currencykart to help in that. Currencykart has earned my loyalty for life by helping me in this crisis and get my card up and running again within a few hours.
Local currency is a must while backpacking europe
As soon as you reach a new country, take out some local currency. The best place is ATMs using your multi-currency card as they give the best conversion at a nominal fee. This helps in smaller transactions such as using WC, small-distance cabs, street food, tickets, small shopping etc. It just makes life simpler and also saves you from getting overcharged and fleeced of your money in the name of conversion. In Dubrovnik, one café was charging us 6% extra in the name of conversion so we paid by credit card as they would only charge 3.5% conversion. Also, some place are very finicky and don’t accept anything except local currency such as Moscow Airport, Croatia and Poland.
Phew… too much learning from one trip but one last small thing ans that is to be prepared for all types of weather because you can never be sure of what the guy up there is planning and plotting for you. this trip has taught me more than my many previous trips including Dubai and Rajasthan this year.
I really wish the blog leaves you too a little wiser for your next trip. Don’t forget to share your experiences.