Europe Travel Guide
Europe is the easiest region in the world to travel. It shouldn’t be much of a mystery as to why it’s so popular for young adults to spend their first trip abroad backpacking around Europe. However, travelers of all ages and nationalities choose Europe for their vacations for many different regions. The continent and region are loaded with culture, history, nature, and it’s all compact. It only helps that most European cultures are welcoming, safe, and speak some English.
Natasha and I took our first trip together backpacking from Norway to Greece. The amount of experiences and things to do in Europe has no end. You can relax on the beaches of the Mediterranean, ski in the Alps, or cafe hop around cities.
Europe is a melting pot of culture and every country is unique in its own right. We’ve spent more than two years of our lives in Europe and we’re certain that’s there are many more years to come. This is a starter guide to Europe in general. We know that every country and culture in Europe is different and unique, but this should give you a general idea of traveling around the continent.
- Currency: Varies from country to country. The Euro, €, is the most common. Check here for info.
- Weather: The climate of Europe varies greatly from subtropical to arctic. In the Mediterranean, the weather is dry and warm. Central and East Europe experience cool summers and mild winters. Going up into Scandinavia and the Nordic countries you’ll find Arctic tundra.
- What to Pack: If you stick to a few elements you’ll fit in anywhere – jeans, t-shirt, watch, boots, and a sweater. At the beachwear shortcut board shorts or your favorite bikini – Europeans are, for the most part, not modest unless you are inside religious institutions.
- Stay Connected: It is the law that all active SIM cards have free roaming within the European Union. If you pick up a SIM card in Italy it will work in Austria and Spain now. You’ll face long distance for phone calls, but data works just fine!
A few of our posts on Europe
- The Perfect Europe Packing List • Don’t Forget This Stuff!
- How Much Does a Europe Backpacking Trip Cost?
- 12 Reasons Why You Should Travel to the Faroe Islands
- Zakopane, Poland: What To Do In The Tatras
- Balkans Travel Itinerary: The Best Eastern European Cities to Visit
- Affordable Yachting in the Mediterranean with MedSea Yachts
- The Best Travel Backpacks For Europe & Abroad
- A Two Week Italy Itinerary • Don’t Miss the Best Cities in Italy
- 10 Things to Know Before You Travel to Scotland
- 15 Things to Know Before Going To Italy
- 15 Greece Travel Tips You Should Know Before You Go
- 20 Iceland Travel Tips • Things to Know Before You Go
- Travel Banking: These Mistakes Could Be Costing You Money!
- Save Money for Travel • 25 Tips That Will Change Your Life
Pick up a Guide Book
Regions in Europe
One of the cheapest regions to travel in Europe. The Balkan countries include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, and sometimes Croatia…depending on who you ask. The region is more recently known for the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s where many of the countries were involved. The Balkans are filled with charming towns, stunning coastline, rich history, monasteries, large forests, and rugged mountains. They’re quirky charismatic and cheap to travel we love the Balkans.
Fascinating countries with medieval city centers, castles, sandy beaches, and picturesque lakes. The Baltic states typically refer to Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia and they are all quaint and rich in culture. This is the land of fairy tales and a world that feels several decades behind the rest of Europe. They’re affordable and pleasant without the headaches of more Eastern regions.
This is the region of the Netherlands and Belgium. The landscape here is low lying and flat but filled with tulips, windmills, and cheese. The star attraction lies in the blooming tulips field and Amsterdam one of the best cities to visit in the world.
The British Isles include Great Britain, Ireland, and a few other small British islands. Britain’s history is long and London is one of the capitals of the world and carries a massive amount of influence. Ireland remains a lovely countryside with charming locals, culture, sheep, castles and rolling hills. While the Scottish Highlands may be one of the most beautiful regions in Europe with a rich culture and strong national identity.
It’s a mixture of Germanic and Slavic culture smack in the middle of Europe. You’ll find historic towns, large forests, castles, amazing beer, countryside and large mountain ranges. If you want to see great cities and drink plenty of beer this is where you need to head!
It’s the most popular tourist destination in the world. You’ll find the City of Love, endless vineyards, world-class skiing, a long history, Mediterranean and Atlantic beaches, fashion, wonderful gastronomy, castles, and an amazing culture. Forget about the French being rude once you’re outside of Paris things quickly change.
Greece, Turkey, & Cyprus
Each one will tell you that they share nothing in common, but they share everything in common. The Greeks and Turks have been warring for millennia, think Trojan War, but their two cultures are extremely similar. They have gorgeous Mediterranean beaches, a wealth of history, fresh Mediterranean diet, and plenty of sunshine. Hospitality here is taken seriously and you’ll find that no one treats a guest better than a Turk, Cypriot, or Greek.
Portugal and Spain are known for their rich and unique cultures that have been influenced by the of the world. They have more than a lot to offer with unique spices, beautiful towns, mountains, gorgeous Mediterranean beaches, lively cities, and welcoming locals. Spend your night’s bar hopping and eating tapas.
What’s more to be said about Italy. It has it all. Ranging from the fashion, mountains, art, ski, and class in the North to food, beaches, culture, and history in the South with everything in between. Head to Naples for the best pizza in the world and the home of cafe culture. Italy is easily one of our favorite countries in Europe.
Spectacular scenery of mountains, lakes, glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, and volcanoes with opportunity for outdoor life, known for the Viking Age around AD 1000. They’re some of the safest countries in the world with happy citizens, incredibly clean water, and crazy high prices. Oh, and they’re freezing in the winter! Iceland, Greenland, Finland, Norway, the Faroe Islands, and Denmark are all usually associated as Nordic.
Russia is a vast country that spans all the way east to the Pacific Ocean. Ukraine is diverse, with a lot to offer, from the beach resorts of the Black Sea to the beautiful cities Odessa, Lviv, and Kiev. Belarus is unique and the last dictatorship in Europe. While Romania houses Transylvania, yes that’s a real place not just a setting in Dracula.
Accommodation in Europe
Hostel (€15 – €40):
Hostel dormitory rooms cost between €15-40 per night. However, they can go for much cheaper in East Europe or more expensive in popular cities like Amsterdam or Copenhagen and prices are usually dependant on seasons. A 6-bed dorm in Krakow can go for €15, while the same can charge in excess of €50 Euro in Iceland. Most hostels these days include linens, free WiFi, and a basic breakfast (cereal, coffee, toast). There is usually a common room to socialize and kitchen to cook your own cheap meals. They are a staple of the backpacking community and something every young person should experience.
Private Room (€30 – €100+)
Hotels in Europe are for the most part affordable especially compared to the US. Most young couples will find it is cheaper to stay in a cheap private room than paying for a hostel dorm bed. On average you can find a decent room in most of Europe for around €50 a night. This is typically our budget as a couple in Europe and gets as a comfortable bed, private bathroom, free WiFi, and breakfast as well.
Airbnb (€20 -€100)
Prices on Airbnb these days are competitive with cheap hotels and they are prevalent throughout Europe. We’ve stayed in Airbnb in almost every country we’ve traveled through in Europe. They provide the comforts of home as guests often have access to a kitchen to cook
Transportation in Europe
Short flights are one of the easiest and cheapest ways to travel around Europe. Thanks to budget air carriers like Ryan Air, Wizz Air, Easy Jet, and Transavia air travel is cheap and easy. Just be prepared to be nickeled and dimed with no luxuries. Ryan Air’s CEO even tried to charge for restroom rights at one point… You can find cheap flight anywhere from €10 -80 one way with carry-on only. If you are checking a bag or want food on flight expect to pay extra.
Train prices vary greatly in Europe. The train prices largely depend on the country and the type of train. A high-speed train between capital cities in Western Europe can run as much as €200. However, intercity lines are much cheaper and can cost 50% of the cost of a high-speed line. Tickets booked last minute can be expensive even in Eastern Europe easily reaching €100 to the neighboring country. Train travel within countries is significantly cheaper with even trains around Switzerland averaging €25 for a two-three hour train ride. If you are a student or under 26 you often qualify for a reduced fare. Interrail and Eurail offer passes for those looking for long term train travel around Europe.
Buses in Europe are cheap and plentiful. They vary in all manner from plush luxury coaches with free WiFi, entertainment systems, snacks, and coffee to barebones 1960 Soviet buses. It’s almost always the cheapest way to travel shorter distances between cities and onto neighboring countries. We like to use the app GoEuro that searches for the best bus fair and company. The average cost via the bus between countries is around €20.
Car’s are wonderful for exploring regions, but not if your plan is to hop from country to country. The road infrastructure in Europe is excellent and car rentals can be had at an affordable price. We’ve paid anywhere from €50 a week in Croatia up to €350 a week on the Faroe Islands for a small standard transmission rental car. Gas is significantly more in Europe than in the US. At the time of writing the average cost of fuel is €1.40 per liter.
Hitchhiking – Ride Sharing
It’s possible to hitchhike through most of Europe. The popularity of hitchhiking does vary by region, but many backpackers get by hitchhiking throughout Europe. There are also ride-sharing apps like Bla Bla Car where users post their route and pick up passengers for a fee to help with gas/income – it’s the Airbnb of road trips.
Food Costs in Europe
We love to cook our own food as it saves money and allows for to control what we eat. A healthy diet while traveling is important to maintaining your health. We can eat for as little as €60 per week up €120 a week per person, and that could get cheaper but we really love our food. We love to shop at budget markets like Lidl, Aldi, Tesco. Spar, Marks & Spencer, and Intermarche are a nice step up – you’ll find a wider selection and more name brands.
In Western Europe, there are plenty of small shops where you can get a cheap takeaway, sandwiches, pizza, or for €4 – €8. Asian, Indian, and kebabs (halal) food can be found everywhere in Europe and it’s always a go-to staple for cheap eats. Even in the U.K., you can get amazing takeaway Indian for 5-10 GBP. If you’re smart with your money it’s easy to get by anywhere for under €20 euros a day.
You can find a decent meal out anywhere from €10 – €100. The vast majority of restaurants will fall into the lower end of the spectrum with the average meal with drinks at €25 a person. If you head East food prices drop drastically. In countries like Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, or Bulgaria it’s easy to eat all your meals out with little care and still stay under €15 a day. Tipping is not so much a thing in Europe either. Sometimes it’s adequate to round up your bill to the nearest €1 or to leave 10%, but generally no more.
I also want to note that water is almost never free in Europe, unless you specify that you want tap water with no charge, but sometimes that will be met with a funny look and a “no”. Also, many touristy restaurants will place bread on the table before your meal leading you to think that it is free, only to charge for it at the end.
Asides, from the Scandinavian countries alcohol, is cheap, plentiful, and a great way to the national identity. In the wine producing regions of France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy you can pick up a bottle of wine for less than €3. Beer in Eastern Europe is less than a €1 and in Greece/Turkey ouzo or raki is cheap and everywhere.
Just a few things to do in Europe
Iceland’s Ring Road
This has to be one of the most popular things to do in Iceland. The road circumnavigates the entire island nation and hits a number of great sights along the journey. What makes the trip so popular is that it allows for visitors to see the diverse landscape of Iceland and presents a plethora of detours throughout the country. We’ve discussed our full Ring Road itinerary and share tips here!
Hop around the Greek Islands
There is hardly a better place to spend your summer than in Greece. The Greek Isles are full of gorgeous beaches, wild nightlife, ancient ruins, and rich culture. We’ve been three times to the Greek Isles and we can’t wait until we return again! Check out Crete if you want an island that has it all.
Trek the Camino de Santiago
One of the most popular things to do in Europe is to cross the pilgrimage route crossing France and Spain. There are a number of routes that lead to the same endpoint, Santiago de Compostela. The standard routes take around 800km and take roughly a month to walk the route. Along the way, travelers stay in refugio or albergue, known as pilgrims hostels. A dorm bed runs about €6 – €10 and provides pilgrims a dinner and bed.
Party at the ruin bars of Budapest
It’s one of the coolest experiences for backpackers in Europe. A series of bars have been built in an abandoned building and are now living art installations. The most famous is Szimpla Kert features amazingly creative bars with live music and cheap prices.
Throw tomatoes during La Tomatina
You’ve probably seen the photos and video of this festival more than a few times. The last Wednesday of August in Bunol, Spain residents and visitors gather to throw tomatoes at each. The streets run red with the blood of tomatoes. Don’t wear anything you want to ever see again and I would recommend goggles.
Ski the Alps
The Alps are the highest mountain range in Europe and they’re well known for their excellent ski resorts. Small towns across France, Switzerland, and Austria balloon in size during the winter months as Europeans hit the slopes for some fun.
Eat the best pizza in the world
The best pizza in the world can be found in Naples. The city is gritty, loud, in your face, and very Italian. The electricity in the narrow streets of Naples cannot be beaten. Not to mention the city is packed with history, architectural treasures, palaces, castles, art, beaches, and churches. Once you’re done being overwhelmed head to Gino Sorbillo for the best pizza pie in the world. A margherita pizza only costs €3.50.
Go hiking in Scandinavia
The quality of life in Scandinavia is high, the people are beautiful and friendly, the cities are clean and historic. True, this area of Europe is not cheap, but there are plenty of ways to reduce your expenses. Don’t let the high prices scare you away. Highlights for me include Copenhagen, Stockholm, Gotland, Norway’s fjords.
Drive the North Coast 500
This drive through the Scottish Highlands easily ranks as one of the best road trips in the world. North Coast 500 is a moniker given to a route that circumnavigates the Scottish highlands starting and ending in Inverness. It’s easily one of the most beautiful regions we’ve ever traveled through filled with friendly locals. A highlight on any trip to Europe, just make sure to pack the right clothes for Scotland.
Party at Octoberfest
Hallo! Willkommen to München the capital of the Bavarian Alps and home of Octoberfest. It’s now one of the largest festivals in the world and all focus on drinking massive steins of beer while wearing lederhosen (leather overall/pants). Costumes are a must as are communal tables that encourage you to chat and meet those around you while drinking amazing beer.
Check out the canals in Amsterdam
Cameron’s first solo trip abroad was to Amsterdam and it remains one of his favorite cities in the world. Small streets and narrow row houses line a web of leafy canals. The city is one of the hippest in Europe and known for its freedom of expression and of course marijuana. It’s a lot more than just legalized drugs and prostitutes as that really only makes up a small part of the best cities in Europe.
Take in the history in Rome
All roads lead to Rome. It is the beating heart of Italy and a city that begs to be explored again, and again, and maybe one more time. It’s known as the Eternal City and one of the most romanticized cities in the world. History haunts its every corner and it is littered with historic site spanning several millennia. There is no city on earth like Rome.
Take a step back in time as Krakow looks like a painting from medieval times. The city is hip, fun, and cheap. It’s well known for cheap bars, and young visitors come in packs. However, it has plenty of history, architecture, food, and activities for everyone. We also suggest checking out Zakopane three hours South of the city.
Sail between two continents!
Turkey’s most popular city is one of the most amazing in the world. Istanbul bridges Europe and Asia, and the city crams in both cultures. You can actually take a ferry along the Bosphorus and literally take a photo between two continents!