The best backpacking advice I can give you is simply to pack your bags and go.
Backpacking abroad has become something of a right of passage. Backpacking isn’t something new, but it is becoming more and more popular, and even easier thanks to all the information we now have and the lowering costs of travel.
But where to go?
You may already have some preferences or parameters. Or the world is your oyster. I’m going to lay out for you the top three backpacking travel circuits. Whether you’re be backpacking in Europe, in South East Asia, or in South America, I’ll break down some basic routes (with maps), what you can’t miss, and who the trip is best suited for.
Part one will focus on backpacking in Europe. Specifically the Western side. In part two you’ll find backpacking South East Asia. And part three will focus on South America
These will include some general budgets and logistical info to choose which backpacking trip is best for you. Whether it’s your first trip or your one-hundredth, there are something things you’ll need to prepare before an international trip.
First things first
If you don’t have one already – GET A PASSPORT.
Secondly, you’ll need an amazing backpacking backpack. This thing will be on your back for days, weeks, maybe even months on end. You’ll need to be comfortable. My absolute favourite has been the Osprey Farpoint 55. You can check out my review here. Having a day pack is an absolute lifesaver when you don’t want to carry literally ALL your shit around all the time.
Depending on where you’re going, your general feelings on the matter, overall health, and who you are as a person – you might want to get travel insurance. Realistically, unless you already have fantastic coverage, you probably should. But, I’m not going to preach to you about how you should live your life. If you do decide to get it, many travellers opt for World Nomads. They have extensive coverage for all the shenanigans you’re going to get up to and cover you for lots of countries.
Top Travel Circuits: Backpacking Europe
Unless you’re already from Europe, visiting Europe is on every travellers list. With so many countries you can visit in a short period of time, it makes it easy to travel around.
Western Europe has an amazing mix of old and new world. There is something for every type of traveller to enjoy. For the art lover, they can’t miss the Louvre in Paris or visiting Gaudi’s Barcelona. Adventure junkies might make their way to the Swiss Alps. Architecture lovers will need to visit ALL THE PLACES – but perhaps couldn’t miss places like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Beer connoisseurs (or pub lovers!) will make their way to Dublin or explore Germany.
Whatever your tastes, you’ll certainly find it while backpacking in Europe. As there are loads of variables for whatever YOU want – I didn’t make a specific route. Your wants and other factors (like time frame and weather!) will play into where you’ll want to go and when. This map shows a possible route (beginning in Cork and ending in Amsterdam).
But, unless you have all the time and/or money, you’ll probably only want to do part of it. Click each place for more!
Western Europe is one of the most expensive places to travel. You will use primarily the euro, however, if you visit the U.K. you will need to change to the pound. Despite most of the countries using the Euro, costs vary greatly.
Ireland & the U.K. are two the most expensive places to visit while backpacking in Europe. France doesn’t fall too far behind. On the flip side, your euros can pretty far in Spain and Portugal. To stretch even more and still get a European experience, you may want to check out eastern Europe.
Day-to-day: Budget for about $100/day:
- Meals: ~30/day
- Hostel: ~30/night (higher in Paris, lower in Lisbon)
- Local Transportation: ~$15 for a day pass
- Sightseeing: ~$20 museums & tours are pricey! Bring a student card if you have one.
Keep that last fiver in case of fluctuations or buy yourself a beer!
Keep in Mind:
Most of these countries are in the Schengen area. If you are not an EU citizen, you can only spend 90 days within 180 days in this zone. Ireland and the U.K. are not part of this zone, so if you’re planning backpacking in Europe longer, make sure you hop over to these countries so you don’t overstay your visa!
Air travel might be cheaper than land travel in some cases. Europe has very low-cost budget airlines that can give you a better deal than trains. Keep your eyes open for deals and be flexible.
You’ll save lots of money on car rentals if you’re able to drive a manual car. Manual is the norm there and prices for renting automatics are sometimes double the price of their manual counterparts.
Don’t forget your travel adapter! They don’t always use the same plugs throughout the region.
You can get by in Western Europe by speaking only English. You should, however, learn some basic phrases to use in each country. Simply learning “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” and “toilet,” can go a long way.
Know what weather you’re looking for. If you don’t like the cold, heading to Scotland in the middle of winter won’t be that enjoyable. If you’re looking for beaches you’re better off heading towards the Mediterranean than Amsterdam. You get the idea.
If you’re travelling in groups – try renting a place on Airbnb. You can often get a whole house or apartment for yourself instead of paying per bed in a hostel!
Solo traveller? Sign up for an account (free!) on Booking.com. By having a ‘genius’ account they’ll show you extra savings. You can book hostels, hotels, bnbs, inns, and pretty much any other kind of accommodation on this site.
Pet lover? Try house and pet sitting! There are LOADS of these in Europe – particularly in France & the U.K. You’ll get free accommodation for looking after the house and animals.
Backpacking in Europe is best suited for:
- People with a relatively high budget ($100/day plus money to travel between countries)
- A trip shorter than three months (unless you’re an EU Citizen)
- People looking to experience multiple countries in a short period of time.
- Those from Western countries wanting to experience a new culture, but one that is familiar enough that they won’t feel out of place by the customs.