Backpacking Europe: How to Plan a European Backpacking Trip

Europe is a wonderland for backpacking travellers, with some great things to see and do, and a variety of cultures to experience. Read on for some useful tips.

If you want to go backpacking, Europe is a great option. Its relatively small size means that it is easy to get around and often very accessible.

The most convenient way of moving between countries is by taking a train or bus rather than flying, which can keep costs down and make your travel experience less stressful and more scenic.

Here are some of the things you will need to think about when planning a backpacking trip to Europe.

How much money and time do you have?

This is the most important question to have an answer to, as your dream trip is only possible if you have the money and the time.

Once you have figured these things out, you can start planning the finer details of your adventure. If you find that you are short of time, you could fit a great trip into just a few weeks by carefully planning your journey.

If you have more time to stick around, you can see a lot of exciting places in 2-3 months. For a trip of more than six months, it may be wise to find casual work as you go to continue funding your travels.

Do you want to travel alone or with other people?

pretty young female tourist studying a map at st peters square

Many people choose to travel as a small group, often as a celebration. You might prefer to travel with one good friend, your partner or a family member.

You might plan to meet friends in one of the countries that you visit. Or, if you are the introverted type, you might prefer to go completely alone. All of these options have their own pros and cons.

Which countries do you really want to visit, and which don’t you care about?

It is good to talk to other people about countries you want to visit, but do not take their word as gospel.

While somebody might be able to give you their tips on where to get the cheapest beer in Latvia and the best gelato in Italy, if someone completely unrelated to your trip insists that you visit a place that does not fit in with your itinerary, budget or interests, feel free to ignore them.

There will be some countries, cities and regions that you have always dreamt about, and others that you could happily never visit.

Do you want to have every last detail planned out, or to go with the flow?

Some travellers prefer to book all of their transport and accommodation before their trip, leaving them with the peace of mind to stop stressing about it and get on with simply enjoying themselves.

Others might like to leave their options open, allowing them to stay a while longer if they’re having a great time, and leave straight away if they don’t really enjoy a certain place. As long as you have transport booked to and from your home country, and some emergency money stashed away, you should be fine with either option.

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can start planning your trip properly. Some other questions that are less crucial but still pertinent include:

What time of year do you plan to go?

pretty young woman tourist hitchhiking along a road

The European climate can vary wildly depending on what season it is and what area of Europe. Knowing what sort of weather you will be facing is important to help with your planning and packing.

What do you want to do?

Some people will want to party as much as possible, some will seek out museums and galleries, while others will head to the nearest beach or forest.

Of course, it is possible to do all of these things, but by thinking about what your main activities will be you can plan where best to do them.

Do you prefer small towns, big cities, or rural villages?

An average European backpacking itinerary will include many major cities, perhaps with the odd stop in a wine region to sample the local brew. In general, cities are best equipped to deal with backpackers, with many of them offering a plethora of budget accommodation and backpacker deals.

However, it is perfectly feasible to fit towns and villages into your trip, if that is your preferred style of travelling.

What level of comfort do you want while travelling?

tent and campfire at night

If you want to make sure that you have comfort and privacy in every place that you stay, you are likely to need to put quite a lot of money aside. On the other hand, if you’re perfectly happy sleeping in shared dormitories, home stays, tents, or even on other people’s couches, you can save a lot of money.

Once you’ve thought about all these things, and figured out what sort of trip you want and what you hope to gain from it, it’s time to start thinking about where you want to go. Here are some of the most popular destinations for backpackers, and the reasons why they pull in so many travellers.


Spain’s reputation as a warm and laid-back country convinces backpackers to head there year after year.

The cities of Spain are soaked in sunshine, culture and great food. Two cities which are likely to be on your list are Madrid and Barcelona. Barcelona has it all for backpackers, and is a particularly good choice if you find yourself travelling in a group whose ideas of fun activities tend to differ at times.


Amsterdam is one of the first cities you might think of when planning your backpacking trip.

The ubiquitous coffee shops and bars and the presence of the Red Light District make it an ideal destination for those with a rebellious streak, while many renowned museums showing spectacular works of art will pull in art buffs from around the world.

It is a relatively compact city, easy to explore while walking or cycling, which makes it a great place to go if you don’t have long to linger. In one or two days you can see the top attractions of Amsterdam, or if you have longer to stay there you can seek out the hidden gems.


Berlin is the epitome of backpacker cool, with bars and cafés on every corner, and a thriving street food scene offering affordable and delicious snacks to hungry travellers.

Those with an interest in the darker days of Berlin’s past can pay a visit to the sections of the Berlin wall that are still standing, and the Brandenburg Gate.

Czech Republic


Prague is well known for being a city of towering Gothic architecture, incredibly cheap beer and a lively nightlife. Eating and drinking in Prague tends to be cheaper than in some other European cities – a pint of excellent Czech beer can cost around 35 Czech koruna, which is roughly equivalent to €1.30, £1.60, or $1.80.

The Czech Republic has shaken off its unfavourable Soviet-era reputation, and Prague is now considered as beautiful, cosmopolitan and exciting as Rome or Paris.


This former Yugoslav state has emerged in recent years not only as an independent country, but as a superb destination for backpackers. The three places likely to be on the must-see list of any backpacker are Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Split.

Another great way to experience Croatia is to spend some time island-hopping. There are hundreds of beautiful islands lying off the coast of Croatia. They are relatively close to the coast and to each other, so if you base yourself in a town or city on the coast, you can hop from one island to the next without making a huge drain on your savings or your schedule.

If none of those countries sparks your interest, these are some places that may not always be the first choice for backpackers, but will often turn out to be a great choice, whether in terms of price, natural beauty or incredible culture: Poland, Latvia, Bulgaria, Denmark, and Portugal. If you are open-minded and adventurous you will find that every European country will have something to offer.

If you think that you might become overwhelmed by big cities, there are many rural idylls that can be slotted into your journey. Some rural areas may be harder to reach than big cities, but there will often be bus and train services that are easy to navigate. Alternatively, if you have chosen to hire a car for all or part of your trip, you will be able to escape to the countryside whenever you want!

Some peaceful areas with a well-developed tourism industry include the wine regions of Austria, Transylvania in Romania, the Montenegrin countryside, the Carpathian region in Slovakia, and Andalucía in Spain.

So, now that you have planned a backpacking trip to give you memories that will last a lifetime, all you have to do now is enjoy yourself! 


About the author


Reader, writer, blogger, part-timer, volunteer, all things to all men. I can usually be found wearing yellow clothes and drinking green tea. Some of my favourite things include waterfalls, polar bears, rum, and charity shops.

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