Planning a Backpacking Trip to Europe
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With so much history, storied landmarks, legendary art, and mish mash of cultures, it’s no wonder that a backpacking trek across Europe has become an essential part of a worldly education. The essence of a memorable European backpacking adventure is spontaneity; however, a good deal of planning should be done before embarking on such a trek, lest you encounter visa or money troubles.
First, set the parameters. The three most important steps to take when first planning a backpacking trip across Europe involve deciding the length of the trip, time of year, and where the trip will start and end. Consider tourist seasons and events, like the summer months, or major sporting events, when the weather might be more agreeable but the prices soar and hostels book up.
Research popular routes to give yourself a general idea of your trip plan. Make a loose list of stop-offs. Major guidebook companies like Lonely Planet and Rough Guides publish budget guides to Europe that suggest several itineraries.
Next, entry requirements. In order to enter most European countries, travelers must meet Shengen entry requirements. The Shengen arrangement allows most foreign business travelers and tourists to travel between 26 countries throughout Europe for up to 90 days total without a visa. There are stipulations, however.
For example, upon entering a Shengen country, one must show proof of a return ticket. Getting the appropriate paperwork in order should be done well in advance of travel to avoid complications, fees, or even deportation. Check the U.S. State Department website for the most up-to-date entry requirements.
Then, create a budget. Calculate how much you can spend on your trip in total, not including airfare. From this figure, determine your daily budget. Because some countries, like Norway and Sweden, might be prohibitively expensive, establishing this budget will allow you to decide where you go, how you get there, where you stay, and what you do while you’re there.
If your budget is small, concentrate your trip in a general area to avoid hefty transportation costs. Daily costs include museum entry fees, meals, accommodation, souvenirs, local transportation, and incidentals like maps, batteries, bottled water, and medicine.
Finally, packing. Though you may be on the road for a long time, pack as few changes of clothes as possible. Dresses or clothes that can be dressed up or worn casually are versatile and best. A good pair of walking shoes, a lock for your bag, and plug converters for electronics are essential.
Pack only one bag to avoid lugging several bulky items while navigating metro steps, transferring from one bus to another, or running down a platform trying to catch the train to your next destination. Many experts recommend internal frame backpacks, which are a little pricier than luggage with rollers, but more comfortable.
There are numerous websites and checklists available online and it’s well worth your time researching more about the specific countries or areas you want to visit. Your trip will always go smoother with quality preparation beforehand, but don’t find yourself so caught up in so many details, though, that you miss opportunities to see parts of the world that you might not otherwise see.