Standing in the cold in Folkestone, looking over the Channel with Europe invitingly close; the warmer weather, the desperately rich coffee, the breath-taking architecture, it is easy to see why a few weeks backpacking around Europe draws travellers every year.
Backpacking really does build an easy camaraderie amongst strangers; more experienced backpackers feel duty bound to pass on some of the precious pearls of wisdom on how to make the most of any trip. Asking friends and family for tips from their own experiences can often be more valuable than lugging around weighty travel books.
However you do it, good research and preparation will make your travels easier and more interesting, and with this in mind Eurotunnel presents our essential guide to backpacking in Europe.
There are a huge number of backpacks on the market, and it is worth asking the shop assistant for some help. Choose a pack of a suitable size for your height and weight – it has to be on your back no-one else’s so it must feel comfy to you.
Once home with your new pack, before ripping off the tags, half fill it with suitably weighted items and walk around your home or a few streets to get used to the weight. If it puts strain on your shoulders or lower back then take it back and exchange it.
When it comes to packing always take almost half of what you think you’ll need – you want to leave room in your pack to be able to collect souvenirs.
“If you travel between April and June or September and October the weather is normally good, the prices tend to be lower and there are fewer tourists. However do keep in mind that travelling during off-season” periods many hostels, restaurants and attractions can close down, so be sure to check before you head to your destination.
Once you’ve quickly and conveniently crossed to France under the Channel Tunnel, continuing your journey couldn’t be easier.
Europe on the whole is very easy to travel around, for example the TGV allows rapid travel across most of the continent; from Calais you are able to reach Paris, Brussels, Zurich, and even Geneva within a relatively brief period of time, meaning nowhere is out of bounds even if you are only planning on a short stay. TGV allows you to book 90 days before you travel and fares are often lower this way than if you bought on the day. For those under 26 it is worth considering the Carte 12-25 card which gives holders up to 60% off tickets and can be bought at most ticket counters, though you will need an ID photograph. If you decide on hiring any cars do some research e.g. car hire Nice or car hire Paris to find the best deals.
Where to Stay
A lot of hostels have seen major modernisations over the past decade, with most having wi-fi access, bars and gym access and removing the curfews which so often caught out unsuspecting travellers in the past.
“Nearly every town will have a hostel which will offer private or shared rooms at low prices, and if you are unable to find a hostel you will be sure to find one of the many cut-price hotel chains which have spread across Europe over the recent years, meaning you can get a 3-person room for as little as £30, even in Paris.”