Okay so, I did the top 10 things you should know before your first backpacking adventure, but now I think it is time to get slightly more specific to individual continents. I think I am going to stick with this “top 10 things” idea as it narrows it down to the most important things. Now, I am backing up here to my European adventure about a year and a half ago in August, 2016. Don’t worry, New Zealand and Australia advise to come, but I have a friend about to go on a European Adventure so, Robin, this one is for you!
Now that I got the boring stuff out of the way in my last post, it is time to get onto the fun stuff, actually traveling! So here it is, the top 10 things you must know for your European adventure!
1. DO NOT plan your entire trip, just wing it! Haha, get it? I couldn’t resist given the name of this blog. I know I said this before, but it specifically applies to Europe. Before I left for Europe, I pretty much had my entire trip planned out… I knew exactly the countries that I was planning to go, exactly how many days I would spend in each place and I knew exactly how I was planning to get there. Now, you may ask did I follow my original plan? The answer to that is no. I pretty much only did the first 2 cities on my plan and that was mainly because I was meeting friends in Barcelona and I had to go back to Granada where I studied abroad. I mean it was home for 6 months and I met some of my closest friends there, so of course, I had to go back.
2. Buy an EUrail pass. There is mixed feelings about this pass, but I loved it and I am going to tell you why. First off, the train system in Europe is amazing! You can literally get anywhere on a train. Second, there is so many different types of passes. You can get a 1 month, 2 month, 3 months, 4 month (you get the picture) pass and you can pick how many travel days you would like on it. Here is how it works. You pick the pass you want. For me, I did 1 month and 7 travel days, but pick the one you think would be most beneficial, keeping in mind that you actually want to see the cities you stay in, so I really wouldn’t do any more than 7 travel days per month.
Once you buy it, they will send it to you in the mail and then you can activate it for whatever date you want it to begin. I did not activate mine until I was ready to leave Barcelona (my first city in Europe). Remember, the time starts once you activate it, so do not activate it for the first day you arrive in Europe. Activate it for the day you are planning to leave your first destination. They have an app you can use to look at train times, but for any high speed trains, just know they do require a reservation. You can do this on the app or just go into the train station in each city to book your next leg (that is what I did, as I do better talking to an actual person). There will be a 10 Euro reservation fee every time you book, but again for me that was worth it for the ease of the train pass.
A few other things to know about this pass, it is only available to be used in countries that are part of the EU, so say you buy the 1 month, 7 travel day pass, spend the full month traveling in the EU and once the pass expires then do the other counties outside of the EU. Lastly, do NOT leave the train pass at home by accident as you cannot get it replaced (I know from experience)!
Money I spent getting my EUrail pass sent to me…
3. Meet people! Everyone and I mean almost everyone does Europe as one of their first backpacking adventures and that means people from literally all over the world. However, I swear Australians are taking over the backpacking in Europe, they were everywhere! I met so many amazing people and in addition to it just being amazing to make friends from all over, the connections really do come back to help your future travel endeavours. For example being able to stay with them when you visit their home country, like New Zealand or Australia. Not only do you get a local tour guide, but you also usually get a place to stay reducing your costs. And of course, you will return the favour when they visit your home country. It is this whole amazing backpacker mentality and honestly, it is amazing.
4. Bring a sleeping bag, but no need to bring a tent or camping gear in Europe. It is not necessary and honestly just takes up space. If you end up going on a crazy outdoor adventure in Switzerland or something, just rent the gear, but trust me, you don’t want to be lugging extra crap around. And on that same note of what not to bring, don’t bring a laptop. It is big and bulky and just takes up space. If you have a tablet or iPad, do that instead!
5. Ask people in your hostel travel advise! There is guaranteed to be someone who has already been to the place you are wanting to go to next. AND! If you do not know where you are going next, I can promise you they have ideas. I think one if my most amazing experiences on my trip was Florence, Italy and I would never have gone if the girl sitting next to me at breakfast told me to go. She told me to do this cooking class on a private estate in Tuscany and it was amazing. Words cannot even describe it and I would have never done it if it wasn’t for the girl in the hostel.
6. Party, but not too hard. Europe is a crazy party place and honestly, it is so much fun, but you don’t want to spend the next day so hungover you can’t move. I mean some days, you can, but don’t make it a habit, or the 1, 2, 3, or however many months you are traveling for is going to pass you by and you will regret not seeing all the amazing sights Europe has to offer.
7. Don’t underestimate Eastern Europe. It is not necessarily on the top of everyone’s list, but it is spectacular. I think two of my favourite places in Europe are Prague and Budapest. Also, it is cheap there!
Kutna Hora Bone Church near Prague!
8. The cheapest flights to Europe are in and out of Iceland, and while you’re at it, spend a few days in Iceland!!! It is beautiful. You can use WOW Airlines that depart from either the East Coast or California and fly to Europe very cheaply. But don’t forget to open an incognito window to search your flights, so you get the best possible price. Oh and best way to get around Iceland is to rent a car and if you do that, use Sadcars.
9. This one may or may not be for you, but go by yourself. Yes traveling with friends is fun, but the experience you get in Europe specifically as a solo traveler is an experience that you won’t regret. There is something to be said for doing a trip like this independently and it truly is a unique experience. You meet people and within 10 minutes, it’s like you have known each other for years.
10. Soak up every second of your time there! It goes way too quickly and it truly is one of the best experiences you will ever have in your life.
Up next, tips on traveling New Zealand!