Backpacking in Europe - Some things I learnt

And it is over!!..

After planning it to death, we finally executed it and how! I have been repeating this story over and over again and yet, I never seem to get tired of it.

It all began one shaky Monday morning, the day before I left India. I had concocted half lies to my panicky dad that I'm going on a package and I was a bag of nerves. Somehow I got through the day and bid goodbye to India at 4:30 AM Tuesday. It was a beautiful Qatar Airways flight. I watched a Tamil movie during the journey and somehow, I didn't realise that I was going to Europe!!! We reached Rome at 1:50 PM after an uneventful transit in Doha. My first time abroad. We were so excited (My fellow traveller and near-lifelong friend Sheela, in case you haven't been following my blog). But wait, Mishap No:1, The wheel of my suitcase broke (A gift from one of the "high-performing" software companies in India). I should've listened to people when they advised me not to carry that thing. Anyway, a helpful lady explained that I couldn't claim for broken baggage, which was the last thing on my mind at that point(As I carried the bag along, somehow my excitement turned into full blown anger). Okay that was the only big mishap of my otherwise awesome trip. I learnt a lot of things while travelling alone on a limited budget. Here goes the list:

This is for girls who want to travel alone. Go and do it girls!

1) Always carry a bag with wheels. Let me tell you, the backpacks look all adventurey and cool, but if you are in your 20s and are pampered which I assume most of us are, please please don't overestimate yourself. You are going there to have fun. Now just imagine having fun with a 20 Kg rock on your back!
Also, please carry a half empty bag because, surely while coming back it will be filled with all the junk you shopped along the way.

2) Just because you are in Europe, don't expect that as soon as you get out of the airport you'll see the wonderful plains that all Bollywood movies have advertised relentlessly over the years (We landed in Rome, Its just like India!)

3) Keep your passport and money in the bag that you ALWAYS carry. The internet carries scary stories about Rome being the pickpocket capital of the world, but unless you are straddling around with your passport in your backpocket, you are safe!

4) Leave all the drama behind. Search for the cheapest hostels which have basic amenities and have Metro connectivity(Doesn't matter which station). This is the most important thing. Please do not make the mistake of booking hotels for a budget trip. They are expensive and they take out the charm of travelling. We booked a hotel in Paris. It was the most expensive of all our accomodations and it was the worst!

5) If you are vegetarian, BEWARE! There will be very few options and those few options will be yucky. Take some food with you as life savers. But do not hesitate to taste as much local stuff as possible, who knows you may fall in love with it.

6) Europe has amazing public transport facilities. The moment you get down from an intercity train, the first thing you do is get a local map and second, buy a daily pass. Some of the passes:
Rome: 4 euro
Frankfurt- 5.8 Euro
Amsterdam- 7 euro
Brussels- 4.5 Euro

Unfortunately, Paris doesn't sell daily passes. I guess its a ploy to make more money. However, they sell a cartel of 12 tickets for 12.6 Euro which is the best bet

7) Try to visit unknown or unexplored places. Eiffel tower is just the same thing you've seen in thousands of movies and photos, but the Atomium in Brussels is equally wonderful.

8) If you are visiting Germany, buy a group pass for 38 Euro that allows 5 people to travel anywhere in germany within 24 hrs. Try to take the train from Frankfurt along the Rhine valley. Believe me, it is an unforgettable experience. The tiny hamlets, the fairytale castles and the never-ending river, it is just so beautiful. People tend to think Germany as this industrial place with no romance, but this journey will blow you away!

9) Try to bring variety into the trip. Our trip was wonderful, but somehow it was not complete. Europe is a place where you can find it all, history, sun, snow, anything and everything. If you are doing the Rome to Paris route, add Greece in between for some beach action or switzerland for obvious reasons, but budgetwise, Greece is the best option.

10) Don't think Europe is Shopper's haven. It maybe for all those film actors and high profile people, but for simpletons like us, believe me, It is one big Chinatown there. Unless and until, somebody is ready to splurge on luxury brands, there is nothing much to buy there that you don't get here for cheaper and of a better quality.
I bought adorable ballys in Brussels for 15 euro. I come home and turn it around, only to see a sticker proudly announcing 'Made in China' :(
Next time, someone gets you perfume from Paris, be wary ;)

11) Get a Matrix connection. It is slightly expensive but absolutely totally worth it. They have an awesome network. It works in any absurd location. It'll keep your parents tension-free. Totally worth it.

12) Help people along the way. Give your hostel roommates unused tickets before leaving a town, things like that. The favour will be returned I feel. I say this because we did it, and we got 4 free canal cruise tickets from a friendly Indian family in Amsterdam. Although we didn't use those tickets, we made a killing selling them :D
And ya, don't be surprised to see a Bangladeshi at every nook and corner of every tourist city. Its like they've taken over the place.

13) Pack all sorts of clothes if you have a dynamic plan. In amsterdam, its freakin' cold and in Paris it is blazingly hot and they are not that far.

14) Don't overplan. Just go with the flow. The only thing to take care of is booking flights inside europe. Book early and book using Ryanair. You get real sweet deals.

15) Last and the most important, Just relax and Enjoy. Do the trip at your own pace, that is the beauty of not travelling in a stupid package!


  1. Yeah!! we finally went :) Am so proud of our trip..

  2. Sounds terrific! Thanks for all the tips.

  3. great to hear that....really proud of you that you did it...
    Rightly said Europe has a whole lot and it really takes a lifetime to explore...
    you could have also used the eurorail passes...i found them vehost ry economical and flexible at the same time...
    and if you are a bit more can drive...the autobahn(freeway) is actually speed limits and you can stopy by those 'lovely hamlets' and believe me they are more than willing to host you...

  4. bookmarked it for future ref. ;)

  5. You should have written this a little bit earlier.. ;). Lovely blog.

  6. @indianhomemaker and amropali- thanks happy that u found it useful
    @Farila-better late than never :)
    @Philip- we didnt buy the eurorail pass as we were doing 5 countries and it was kinda expensive..our transport worked out cheaper..n ya i do want to visit one of those hamlets, someday!

  7. Imagined DDLJ for few minutes, I know its a boring comparison. But what to do, for someone who never travelled out of India, to be frank not much within India also movies are the best source of travel fantasy. Will visit Europe someday :)
    Thanks for this wonderful post!

  8. @Anto- Don't blame you..we also had only DDLJ on our minds before going..infact we had a DDLJ experience also when we missed the train from colgne to frankfurt and had to wait in the train station overnight :)

  9. Sounds like a wonderful trip. I plan to visit in September sometime, and these tips will certainly help. It certainly is so much more fun to explore on your own rather than sit in one of those Kesari and SOTC tour buses for just photographs!

  10. HAHA!

    I'm a girl and I travel with a 28L backpack and its one of the most useful things I've invested in.

    And dear, you don't carry your bag
    where ever you go. Come on, you didn't drag your broken wheel luggage around did you? You chuck your backpack and travel with a day-pack or a smaller bag for essentials.

    So technically backpacks are useful. Then again it comes down to the individual. haha!

    Sounds like you had a great time in Europe. :)


  11. @usha- i think wheels are easier anyday..but as u said, each man his own! :)

    @richa- all the best for ur trip! But i recommend that u visit in summer bcos the days r longer so u can put them to optimum use..

  12. When in and around Rome wear your purse inside your coat or shirt,otherwise it might be cut off you with a knife.And use caution when crossing a street in Rome as drivers don't follow traffic ruels much.Buy clothes in the street markets that are put on once a week around the city,like Anzio.

  13. seems like you had an awesome trip..
    thanks for a nice read

  14. @Kiddy- Thanks for the tips..but being from India, we r used to worse traffic sense here so.. :)

    @Sorcerer- Good to hear!

  15. Europe is expensive but breathtakingly beautiful. And a first timer goes backpacking across the continent - girl, you are brave!

  16. @Purba- Yes I am..and I'm proud of myself :)

  17. That's interesting.. from your comments - A DDLJ inspired Euro trip! :) On the lighter side, did a Raj happen ?

    You've got some great pointers there for someone planning a backpacking trip.. And what's next on the travel palette? South East Asia is also a great place for backpacking!


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