Tips for Backpacking in Europe:
This is something that a lot of people forget, and it’s very important that you take it out for your entire trip. The best thing to do here is research travel insurance online.
Students should ask about the STA student travel card; this card saves you a pretty good amount of cash. It gives you discounts at a ton of places including museums, hotels/hostels, and even a discounted membership to 24 hour fitness, so you can get your muscle on to attract all the hot foreign girls or guys.
Another discount card is the Hostelling international Card. This comes in really handy for hostels that are part of hostel international, and can save you a pretty good amount of money when you think about the fact that you will be travelling for a long time. It also acts like the STA card and offers discounts on entertainment while you’re out travelling.
How to get around once you’re in the city:
Hate to say this, but be ready to walk a lot: One of the main ways to burn through your cash fast is transportation, so try to book your hostel close to things that you want to see. Of course there are always buses, and in some places there is also the subway for not too much money, especially if you buy a day or week pass. The front desk of your Hostel should be more than helpful in suggesting the cheapest and best way to get from your sleeping quarters to where you want to visit during the day.
Hostels: What to expect
First remember that you’re not staying at the Hilton, so lower your expectations a bit. Hostels are an amazing place to meet people of other cultures and really meet lifelong friends (As well as free places to stay when you plan your next trip). Unless you want to pay more money for a private room, you will probably be in a dorm-style room with bunk beds. Most are mixed rooms, but many hostels offer female- only rooms. You will also more than likely be sharing a bathroom with a number of people. This is also why I recommend packing sandals to protect your feet from the numerous diseases that can come from exposed skin, and moulds and nastiness.
Don’t let the lack of room service detour you though. Many hostels can be seriously hopping (in fact if you want to have a semi quiet night’s sleep I recommend getting a room as far from the common area as possible). Hostels can sometimes be an all night party, so be prepared. Overall you will meet great friends, have great experiences, and most likely see a side of the city that you would not have seen otherwise.
In countries like Spain, Italy and France, you will see Hostals; with an a instead of the a in hostels; these are in fact small hotels, which often have rooms with en-suite bathrooms, but are still very cheap compared to larger hotels.
Remeber you will be staying in a hostal in a warm country and most won’t have aircon, but you can try to keep cool at nght by dampening your sheets or sleeping with a wet towel.
Your passport is probably the most important thing you need, even more than money. Keep it with you ALWAYS! If there is a hostel safe it can be a good place to put it, but always have photocopies on you at all times. Always bring your photo ID with you as well. Before you leave, scan your passport and photo ID into a PDF document. Open a new email address (one that you will never use except for this purpose) and email the PDF to this new email address. This was probably the best advice I ever heard. Do not use the email address for normal mail. Only access it if you lose your passport and need a quick copy. This will help get your passport quicker from the embassy if for some reason you lose yours. The reason for the separate email account is that you may be checking your email on a public computer at some point, maybe in a computer café. This keeps anyone from being able to access your passport if you forget to logoff from your normal email.
If travelling on your own really freaks you out, consider booking a student tour. The great thing about student tours is that it takes the stress out of where you are going, what you are doing, where you are staying etc., and also takes a lot of the fear out of your first trip. Don’t feel like a wimp if you choose this option, at least you are still getting to see the world, and maybe after getting used to being overseas, you will want to try a trip on your own the next time around. Another great thing is that most student tours do not charge you a single supplemental; most regular tours are sold as a couple travelling, so if you’re single they charge you more to make up the difference.
The downsides of a tour? First of all it cost substantially more, since most likely the hotels you stay in will be more expensive, and you are also paying for the tours services. Also you will have less control over what you get to see and where you get to go. It is totally fine to choose a tour group, just make sure it’s with your age groups, unless you really like older men or women, or just miss your grandma.
You are now ready to take your first steps out into the world and become a real world traveller. I must warn you that traveling is addictive; Once you have taken one trip you will want to take another, and another, and another. So get off your chair, pack your bag, and get ready for the experience of a lifetime.