Eastern Europe travel allows you to experience a wide variety of cultures and it has a lot to offer to the backpacker in terms of natural scenery, beautiful coasts, art, architecture and an amazing nightlife. Backpacking Eastern Europe offers a great way to discover this part of the world in a unique way.
The place has so much more to it than just the popular cities such as Paris, London, Amsterdam and Rome. If you want to get a real feel of the eastern half of the continent, then you’ll need to visit those less popular cities too and then you will have the most exciting route map for your back-packing trip.
Immerse yourself in the beauty of the countryside in Warsaw or see the unique and colorful Hundertwasserhaus building in Vienna. Relax yourself as you get your Hammam or Turkish bath in Turkey. If that was not enough, you could simply hit the coast and spend time at the beach. The sky is the limit!
People backpack for many reasons and there are different styles of backpacking too. When you backpack, you get to see the world in great detail and experience it in its own sweetness. Backpacking is also a great way to visit a lot of places if you are on a budget.
In case you are a first timer and have never been on a backpacking journey, then we suggest that you start with a smaller plan so that you don’t give up too soon as it can be hard work.
Why Eastern Europe is loved by backpackers?
Many students and backpackers have an Eastern Europe trip as one of the first option. It is quite common for US college students to plan a summer backpacking trip to Eastern Europe with friends. This is because, it is quite pocket-friendly and more so when compared to the Western part of the continent.
You can visit a lot of countries and experience different cultures as they are well connected by multiple modes of transport. You can even book a bus between neighboring countries for as low as 10 or 20 Euros.
Unlike some destinations that are overcrowded with tourists all year long, most of Eastern Europe is not very crowded and even some of the popular cities have places that are still untouched by modernization. If you decide to go to the lesser known places, you are sure to find calmer and quieter cities.
When you backpack in Eastern Europe you will be pleasantly surprised by the hospitality of the locals. So starting a conversation with a total stranger is something you might find yourself doing quite often.
Another great thing about traveling is you get to explore a wide variety of cuisines. Eastern Europe has some really awesome traditional cuisine that is filled with hearty dishes. Don’t mind the extra pounds that you will end up gaining but indulge yourself.
First things first, a route map is what you should work on at the outset. Eastern Europe is so vast and has so many places that you can visit. So zeroing in on the places you will visit and creating a route map is the first step. You can choose from the list of cities below or make your own list.
Where to stay?
Hotel options are plenty but can also eat away into your pocket. If you are on a budget and even if you aren’t on a budget staying in dorms and couchsurfing can save you a lot of money that you can use in other productive ways.
Camping in a garden or home camping is another great way to backpack on a budget, where you can pitch a tent in a homeowner’s backyard for a very affordable price. This is way cheaper than dorms and couchsurfs. Though this is a relatively new concept you will be amazed at the number of hosts that you can choose from.
How much to carry in your backpack?
Different people have different requirements but a basic rule to the weight of your backpack is to carry not more than 30% of your body weight. So let’s say, I weigh 160 pounds, and then my backpack should not be more than about 48 to 50 pounds.
Even this is a lot to carry, so I would go with something much lesser than that. Heavier backpacks can slow you down on your trail and get you fatigued more easily.
The great thing about backpacking is that you can do a lot with just a little money. But as with any travel, if you don’t plan ahead, you could end up spending a lot more than you intended.
Anywhere between $30 and $55 a day is what you will ideally be spending. Here are a few tips to keep your daily expenses within your budget.
- Eat in local shops instead of restaurants
- Book your airline tickets well in advance to get cheaper airfares
- You can get tourist cards that give you access to major tourist attractions and most of them also come with free transportation
- Wherever possible, make use of the free city tours to enjoy city attractions at zero cost
- Eurail passes are a must if you are going to visit a lot of countries
- Rideshare option on car rides will save you a great deal of money
Length of the trip
Most backpacking expeditions by seasoned backpackers involve at least a minimum of 3 to 4 weeks. You should have at least a minimum of 10 cities to cover the width of the eastern continent.
It is impossible to cover all major attractions of a city, but to keep it real, be prepared to spend 2 to 4 days in each of your destination cities to be able to enjoy the real flavor of the place. Make sure to visit at least a couple of popular tourist locations and keep the rest of the plan flexible.
Packing the Essentials
This is going to be your companion and so choose one that is of a good quality as you can use it again for your backpacking trips later too. A 40L backpack is more than sufficient to pack everything you need.
- Sleeping bag
Pay attention to your sleeping gear as it can determine the quality of your trip. A poorly rested backpacker is not going to enjoy his day as much as he would if he had a comfortable bag to sleep in.
The weight of your sleeping bag is crucial too as it adds to the weight of your backpack. Down sleeping bags are very light but can leave you feeling cold if it gets wet. Warmer sleeping bags are heavier than those with a moderate temperature rating.
This will take a great deal of your back pack space, so choose your clothes wisely. Pack light clothes that also don’t require ironing. Carry enough jackets, a wind cheater and other gear to manage different weather conditions.
Even though there are a lot of places where you can buy local food that is affordable, it is always wise to carry some instant food like oats, tinned food, freeze-dried food etc, especially if your trip involves hiking or camping.
These can be easy to cook in a makeshift stove and a can as your pot. Snacks can take up a lot of space and make your backpack heavy. Snack bars and trail mixes are a great option for snacking on the go.
You can buy travel-size versions of you favorite soap, shampoo, perfume and sunscreen. If this is not an option, you can also put your existing ones into travel containers, so you won’t have to buy them.
When you travel to different places, it is also easy to fall sick. So carry a basic medical kit with essential medicines and a first-aid kit. You may not be able to buy them over-the-counter in some places.
- Flashlight and miscellaneous items
A flashlight is compulsory as you won’t know when it will come handy. Just carry one set of batteries as back-up as you can buy more when you want on the trip. Also carry your adaptors and converters to keep all your gadgets charged.
Lugging your heavy camera may not be a great idea for some, but if you are a photography enthusiast, then it will be the best way to take back home some good memories from the trip.
- Guide book and map
You can buy guide books to get more information on the places that you visit. Even if you don’t want to spend on those expensive ones, there are concise versions that you should consider buying.
Besides your map with your route map marked, have maps of the cities you will be visiting or buy them on the go.
Eastern Europe is well connected by train routes and is the most cost-effective way to travel the continent as a whole. If you plan to visit a lot of places, then it will be wise to get a Eurail pass which will save you a lot of money. Overnight trains are a bonus, as you can cut down on the expenses for an overnight stay and travel at the same time.
Traveling by bus is another cost effective way to go around but can be time consuming if you want to travel to another country.
If you want to get to another country quickly, then you can choose from a wide variety of budget airlines. If you plan them ahead of your trip, then you will also get some great discounts.
Summer is usually a good time to go backpacking, but if you are one of those who love to go skiing or love the challenge of a freezing cold weather, then you can also plan your trip during the winter months.
You can also plan to see festivals as some are really unique and are worth enjoying. A downside to festivals is that they are also the most crowded time of the year. The beer festival in Czech republic is something you don’t want to miss. Each place will have something unique; all you will need to do is a little bit of research and plan the ones that interest you.
If you like to enjoy holiday season such as Easter or Christmas, you can very well plan that into your schedule, but it is wise to know that they will also be extremely crowded as they attract both local and foreign tourists.
Eastern Europe has some of the best night life one can ask for and there is one for every budget from cozy bars to full-fledged nightclubs. What’s even better, you can even up your party scene by splurging on pool clubs when in Croatia.
Traveling can be a lot of fun but if your backpacking is going to involve any adventurous activities, then a backpacker’s travel insurance is of utmost importance. This is a small price you will have to pay to ensure that you enjoy your trip and be taken care of in case of an unlikely event. Make sure you understand what activities are covered and also take one that is valid in all the places that you will be visiting.
Some insurance will even cover for your stolen belonging and this can be very useful especially if you are exploring some places off the grid.
When you are busy traveling and exploring places, it is quite easy to get lost in the moment and forget that you are in an unknown territory. As a backpacker, you are easily spotted and can become easy targets for local thieves.
Always keep your electronic gadgets such as smart phones and tablets safe. It’s better to be cautious while on trains especially the overnight ones and while staying in hostels and dorms.
Ultimately, don’t forget to have fun
Backpacking is a great way to explore the world and Eastern Europe is one of the popular backpacking destinations that offers affordable traveling. Traveling to different places will give your memories that you can cherish for life.
There is so much you can do in every city you visit. Though it is impossible to see or do everything, if you have a realistic plan in place, you can have lots of fun and even make backpacking a yearly ritual.