Always wanted to go on an exciting backpacking adventure around Europe, but don’t know where to start? Think ‘interrail’ is just an anagram of ‘trilinear’? Can’t tell your Ecolines from your Eurolines? You need this series of blogs.
So you’ve got an idea of how much you can spend, where you’re going and how you’re getting there. Done, right?
Wrong, unless you like sleeping rough or intend to seduce people and crash at theirs. (In which case, they may pay you.) I’m not sure it’s the safest way to get bed and board, but don’t let me stop you.
There are a number of options. I’m not going to count hotels, because if you’re rich enough to book a hotel then you really don’t need to read the rest of this post.
The most common is staying in a hostel. Costs vary enormously from country to country; in Venice, Amsterdam and Oslo, you’re looking at £25+ per night for an average hostel dorm, whereas in Krakow, you can get a better hostel for £4. Seriously. (Although it may be in a slightly rough, out-of-the-centre location.)
They also massively vary in size and atmosphere. Western and Northern Europe specialise in enormous complexes, sometimes with decent facilities (PLUS hostel in Berlin has a swimming pool and was only £12 a night when we stayed there – even though it’s right by the Berlin Wall and Warschauer Straße station), but little personal connection to the staff and few opportunities to properly socialise with hostelmates. Ex-Communist countries, on the other hand, have smaller and more ramshackle hostels, but the hostel owners will make an effort to give you loads of recommendations, and possibly even take you under their wing to show you the nightlife.
You can hit up hostels on the fly, but everyone I know who has done this has basically regretted it. So you’re much advised to book in advance. Use Hostelworld to find the best-rated hostels in your city, with ratings for location, atmosphere, cleanliness, staff and facilities. It shows different prices for different dorm rooms and private rooms. Private rooms are always more expensive than dorms, but sometimes you will want a room to yourself, so don’t book dorms every night for 2 months or you’ll go mad.
If you can afford to pay a little more and want a much more personal insight to your place of choice, AirBnB is a much-talked about new(ish) site that’s worth billions (the discussion about whether it’s a tech unicorn or not is another discussion for another time). Basically, you pay someone to stay in their house. They will probably feel obliged to give you food and tips on how to navigate the city, and let you use their shampoo etc. I discussed my experiences with AirBnB in Malmo here. It’s cheaper than a hotel, but less so than a hostel.
Alternatively, if you can’t afford to pay anything, Couchsurfing – essentially AirBnB for free – is always an option. However, I’ve not yet got round to trying it. Maybe one day.
Nearly there! You’ve just got to find out what to pack, some last-minute tips and what to do when you arrive. It’s not that hard, is it?
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