Copenhagen for Flashpackers

Is Backpacking Europe Safe? Is Backpacking Europe Worth It? How To Backpack Europe!

Travel Backpacking through Europe screams adventure and discovery! Now that Backpacking Europe Season is beginning, I've been getting so many questions about it from Travel Backpackers. Before embarking on this journey for the first time, it's natural to have questions about safety, cost, and logistics. Let's delve into the top questions I get asked about backpacking Europe to help you plan (or wing) an unforgettable adventure.

Bilbao Spain
(Bilbao, Spain)

Is Backpacking Europe Safe?

Safety is a top concern for any traveler, especially when venturing into unfamiliar territories. Fortunately, Europe is considered very safe for Backpack Travellers! With well-established tourism infrastructure, efficient public transportation systems, and low crime rates in most areas. I would definitely stay away from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus for obvious reasons but everywhere else is definitely worth considering for your trip.

Petty Theft

The main risk you face in Europe is petty theft. As with any travel destination, it's essential to exercise caution and stay vigilant, particularly in crowded tourist areas where pickpocketing or scams may occur.  8 out of the top 10 cities in the world that are known for pickpocketing are in Europe. They include Barcelona, Prague, Rome, Madrid, Paris, Florence, Amsterdam, and Athens.

I can't tell you how many travelers I have met that got pickpocketed in Barcelona. It got so bad that I would meet travellers that would put locks on their daypack, hide money in their shoe, and even some too scared to carry around their phones. If you plan on going to any of the cities known for pickpockets, make sure to bring a modern money belt.

Intoxication

Be aware of your drinking. Besides for petty theft, the only other times I have heard of backpack travellers getting into trouble when they were backpacking Europe was because they were drinking heavily. Whether it is getting robbed or tripping over cobble stones, there is a good chance that wouldn't have happened if you limited your drinking.

Mitigating Risks

Plan to arrive in a new destination during the day. It will be enticing to book that super cheap evening flight but you don't want to arrive in an unfamiliar place in the dark. Especially if you plan on traveling via public transportation. I've ended up at bus stations that were in random locations in European cities. They can be a tad sketchy arriving after-hours with all your belongings on you.

Invest in a crossbody bag, cross chest bag, or a money belt.

Make sure to always carry extra USD or Euros in your backpack. I like to keep extra cash in a travel document organizer that doesn't leave my backpack. And move cash into my daily wallet as needed. Invest in a RFID block card holder or wallet for scams. Also consider a second credit or debit card too.

Lastly, I can't recommend getting travel insurance enough.

Siracusa Italy

(Siracusa, Italy)

Is Backpacking Europe Safe For Females?

I have yet to hear any issues that women have that men don't when it comes to backpack travelling Europe. Petty theft is going to be your biggest concern and pickpockets don't discriminate based on gender.

Staying In Hostels

Staying in hostels is quite common for Travel Backpackers. Sometimes you'll hear them called by other names. For example, 'Albergues' if you are Spain where people do the Camino De Santiago or 'Rifugi' if your hostel in location along hiking trails in Italy.

Women sometimes feel uncomfortable sharing a room with men. If that is the case, many hostels offer female-only dormitories or private rooms. You can search on the Hostel World app if those rooms are along your route.

Also, when researching hostels, consider the vibe you are going for. Some hostels are known for digital nomads who are working remotely while others are known for being more social. You may also want to consider filtering for a youth hostel (usually for folks younger than 35 or 39). We have a whole blog post just about hostels: How Hostels Work.

Hotels & Airbnbs

If you are staying in dormitories, after a few weeks you'll probably want some space. I would consider a private room in a hostel before considering to go to a hotel or Airbnb by yourself. When staying in a hostel, you're surrounded by other solo travellers and it feels like the community is always looking out for each other.

There are super nice hostels out there too. When I was in Copenhagen, I didn't feel like staying in a dormitory so I found a hostel that has private rooms. Check out all the amenities Next House Copenhagen has to offer! It was so easy to meet people even when staying in a private room.

There's also a good chance you'll make some new friends and maybe you can split an accommodation together. The good thing about Europe is that often you'll find hotel rooms that have two twin size beds instead of one queen size bed. This makes it much easier to split a hotel room with somebody. 

If you end up sharing a hotel or airbnb with a friend or even stay alone, I would consider getting a lightweight but durable portable door lock. These give you some peace of mind.

Golden Rule?

Other than that, my only other advice is to not do anything that you wouldn't do in your home country. If you wouldn't go for a stroll at 1am at home, why would you do while backpacking Europe?

Ireland

(Cashel, Ireland)

Is Backpacking Europe Cheap? Is Backpacking in Europe Expensive?

The cost of backpack travelling through Europe can vary significantly depending on your travel style, preferences, and chosen destinations. While Europe is often perceived as an expensive destination, budget-conscious travelers will be pleased to discover numerous ways to explore the continent affordably.

Least Expensive Countries In Europe

There is no doubt that Eastern European countries are going to be cheaper than Western European countries. However, the Iberian Peninsula seems to be a happy middle ground. Portugal and Spain tend to not be as expensive as the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries.

Food

When I spent 3 months backpacking around the Iberian Peninsula, I remember finding quality food at restaurants and supermarkets for really cheap. I remember even in Madrid going to a supermarket and going to the machine that squeezes fresh orange juice. I got a large orange juice for less than 2 euros. That same orange juice would have been 4x the price in other countries.

In general, you don't have to eat at a restaurant every night. Find accommodation that has kitchens to cook in or street food to pick up. A go-to all over Europe is to get a doner kebab. They are basically Turkish gyros. They are fast with a good source of protein and veggies wrapped in a pita.

Accommodation

Hostels are a popular accommodation choice for Travel Backpackers, offering budget-friendly lodging options in most European cities. They are most likely always going to be your least expensive option. However, some hostels now have gotten "luxury" to target the Digital Nomad and Flash Packer demographic. Also in bigger cities, I have seen hostel beds for over $100/night. Don't assume they'll be cheap just because they are a hostel.

Free Or Low Cost Attractions

Many European cities offer free or low-cost attractions, such as museums, parks, and walking tours, allowing travelers to experience the culture and history without breaking the bank.

Personally, I love free walking tours. If you download an app called GuruWalk, you'll have access to all the free walking tours. They aren't exactly free; you still have to tip the tour guide at the end. However, they are a FANTASTIC way see a destination and to meet people especially as a solo traveller.

I have such great memories of doing a free walking tour in Palermo, Italy and exploring a farmer's market after the tour with people I have met on the tour. I also did one in Copenhagen, Denmark and all the solo travellers went out for lunch after. We even met up that evening to see Tivoli Gardens.

(Cost Of Living In Europe - Same For Travelling)

Is Backpacking Europe Worth It?

I tend to get this question from the "first time backpacker American or Canadian". Americans and Canadians tend to get a lot less vacation days than our friends in Europe or Australia. So when Americans and Canadians go on vacation, they tend to go all out.

Of Course It Is Worth It!

Without a doubt, backpacking through Europe is worth every moment and penny spent. The continent's diverse landscapes, centuries-old landmarks, and vibrant cultures offer an unparalleled travel experience that leaves a lasting impression on you.

It will be a very different trip than your family vacations to an all-inclusive resort, roadtrip, or spring break with friends. Maybe you have gone to Europe with your family and posted up in one city and just saw the surrounding areas since you had limited time off. But "backpacking Europe" is different.

Backpacking Europe Is Different

You'll learn to book accommodation as you go and take public transportation (much better than US or Canadian public transportation). If you keep an open mind and are flexible, it is truly an awarding experience. 

From strolling along the cobblestone streets of Paris and exploring the ancient ruins of Rome to hiking in the Swiss Alps and sailing along the Croatian coast, Europe offers something for every type of backpack traveler. The opportunity to immerse yourself in different languages, cuisines, and traditions makes backpacking through Europe truly enriching.

Hostel Friends

(Hostel in Malaga, Spain)

How To Backpack Europe?

  1. Create A Flexible Itinerary: While it's essential to have a rough outline of your trip, leave room for spontaneity and unexpected discoveries along the way. Personally, I would have a general idea of where I want to go. Maybe book your accommodation for the first leg and then make up the rest as you go. You may get awesome advice from another backpack traveller or decide you want to stay longer at a location.

  2. Pack Light: Stick to the essentials and pack versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched. Remember that you'll be carrying your backpack(s) around, so keeping it lightweight is crucial. While you plan or wing your backpacking trip to Europe, here is our Full Backpack Packing List to help you pack light.

  3. Stay Connected: Invest in a portable WiFi device, a local SIM card, or electronic SIM card to stay connected and access maps, travel apps, and communication tools while on the go. Our favorite travel apps for Europe are: HostelWorld, Omio, Booking.com, GuruWalk, FlixBus, Skyscanner, & LuggageHero.

  4. Stay Safe: Keep your valuables secure, be aware of your surroundings, and trust your instincts. It's also a good idea to have travel insurance to cover unexpected emergencies. Petty theft is going to be your biggest concerns but there are so many ways to mitigate it such as getting a money belt, crossbody bag, or a cross chest bag. You can also mitigate the risk of theft by not heavily drinking, not arriving to a new destination at night, and staying in hostels with other solo travellers. Remember, don't do anything while backpacking travelling that you wouldn't do in your home country.

 

Is Backpacking Europe Alone Worth It?

Of course backpacking Europe alone is worth it! There are tons of solo backpackers that are in the same boat as you. Here are 5 different ways to meet people while you are backpacking Europe alone. We write about this more in our Ultimate Guide to Travel Backpacking.

City Walking Tours

City walking tours offer a lot of benefits for solo Travel Backpackers seeking to immerse themselves in a new destination while fostering connections with fellow travelers. You'll be able to familiarize yourself with your surroundings and get to know the city from a trusted tour guide. Led by knowledgeable guides, these tours delve into the heart of a destination, uncovering hidden gems, historical anecdotes, and local insights that might otherwise go unnoticed.

City walking tours oftenare be free (tip based) and serve as a natural meeting point for solo Travel Backpackers. As participants walk throughout the city streets together, it’s so easy to strike up a conversation as you walk from Point A to Point B on the tour. Solo travellers are easy to spot in these groups. Just look for the person who is by themselves as the tour walks or waiting for the tour to start.

Every single city walking tour that I have went on, I've made friends to grab food, a drink, or explore with. You'll want to download the apps GetYourGuide and GuruWalk.

Another word of advice is to get a money beltcross chest bag, or a cross body bag for these walks. You'll be distracted and trying to follow a group. This makes for a prime target for pickpockets.

Hostels

Hostels are the quintessential hub for solo Travel Backpackers. These accommodations not only offer a place to rest your head but also provide a vibrant social atmosphere where travelers from all walks of life come together. Whether you're sharing a dorm room, cooking in the communal kitchen, or lounging in the common areas, hostels foster a sense of community that makes it easy to strike up conversations and make new friends.

When choosing a hostel, opt for ones known for their social atmosphere. Look for hostels with organized activities such as pub crawls, city tours, or group dinners. These events are designed to bring travelers together and create opportunities for interaction. You can easily scout out the atmosphere of a hostel by reading reviews on Hostel World. Some hostels are known more for their social aspect, others are more for digital nomads that are working remotely, and others can be lame as hell.

Even if you are not staying at a hostel, in bigger cities there's usually a hostel that has a bar on the ground floor. You can usually find a handful of solo travelers there.

Couchsurfing Meetups

Out of all the apps out there, this is probably the easiest one to meet people. Couchsurfing is known as a community where people offer their couch for travellers to stay at. However, they also launched Couchsurfing Meetups. You'll simply create a profile with all the basics and set your status as available to hang out. When you set your status as available you can choose from a few options of what you are looking to do such as eat food, grab a drink, explore the city etc. You then can see all the people nearby that are also free at the moment. You'll start a Meetup and others usually request to join.

What is nice about this app is that there isn't much small talk via the app like other apps have. People leave reviews about people on their Couchsurfing profiles so you'll know right away by the reviews if this person seems normal. I also like how on the app you can set the Meetup point so if you accept any others to join, they can easily see where you are on the map.

One thing to note about Couchsurfing, is there is a small fee of around $2.50 USD per month to use the app. Which is nothing and worth it. However, Couchsurfing waives this fee for people from developing countries. So don't be alarmed if you see somebody who registered from a country that is different from their own. It seems like they're just trying to avoid the monthly fee.

Airbnb Experiences

In recent years, Airbnb Experiences have emerged as a valuable resource for solo travelers. Airbnb Experiences offers unique activities led by locals. Whether it's a cooking class, a guided hike, or a photography tour, these experiences provide an intimate setting for meeting like-minded individuals who share your interests.

I once did a paella cooking class at somebody's house in Spain and there were a handful of other solo travelers who also signed up for the class. 

Embrace Spontaneity and Openness

Remember, you're traveling and, in a city, where nobody knows who you are. Live a little and get out of comfort zone. Embrace spontaneity and strike up a conversation to somebody at the park or in a cafe. Why not? You never know where a random encounter may lead or what meaningful connections you might make along the way. Remember that most people you encounter on your travels are also seeking connections and new experiences, just like you. 

 

 

WRITTEN BY

MARK CIPOLLINA

I’m Mark, the Founder of Generation Nomad, Avid Travel Backpacker & Digital Nomad. I am passionate about helping others discover the world through my experiences. I solo backpacked for months at a time, lived abroad, and even speak two foreign languages. Besides collaborating on the best lightweight travel accessories for Travel Backpackers, I also love sharing my travel photography.
Favorite Trips: Spain, Egypt & Vietnam 
Favorite Cuisines: Italian, Peruvian & Japanese
Quote: “Be a circle and just roll with it” 

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