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Top tips for budget-friendly backpacking this summer

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With the summer holidays approaching and that ‘school’s out’ feeling ready to be released, here are our top tips on backpacking in Europe – on a budget, naturally.

  • Be prepared and research before you go. Publications such as Lonely Planet and Rough Guide are excellent resources. You can pick these up at charity shops or libraries, but if you haven’t got the latest version make sure you double check online. You don’t want to turn up at a hostel to find it’s been knocked down…
  • Decide on your means of travel. The quickest and easiest way to get to Europe these days is by air. Booked well ahead of time, there are lots of cheap flights to be had with airlines such as Jet2. With destinations throughout Europe, it’s even easy to travel by air from country to country while backpacking
  • For variety, and to see more of the country itself, InterRail tickets are a great way to travel. Available for one country from £46 and up to 30 countries at £156, this is a good-value option for those on a budget.
  • Bus or coach travel is often the cheapest option. While not as comfortable as the train, and often not as quick, you get a chance to see the countryside and save your pennies for the rest of your trip.
  • If you are travelling with a group of friends, car hire may be the most pocket-friendly way to travel. Totally under your own steam, it offers the greatest flexibility and with car hire companies making available up-to-the-minute models you can travel in comfort and style. It’s a good idea to have more than one person named as driver: it won’t add much to the cost.
  • Once you’ve decided on your dates it’s a good idea to book the first and last nights’ accommodation ahead of time. The last thing you need is to be wandering the streets of a city you don’t know with your backpack. On the last night try to make sure you are staying close to the train/bus station/airport to ensure you don’t miss your homeward journey. When you’re looking for accommodation in your chosen country, it’s common to be approached by people offering you their hotel or hostel. Don’t agree immediately to pay what they ask – bartering is often expected and can get you the same room for a much cheaper price.
  • Get the right equipment. Of course, when backpacking, a backpack is essential… it’s worth investing in a good quality one to avoid straining your back while travelling. Try various bags out before you buy, testing them for comfort, adjustability and weight. You’ll need plenty of easily-accessible pockets. A good shop will measure you and fit you with a backpack, as though it is a shoe. Popular makes are Osprey and REI.
  • Money: you don’t want to spend too much of it – or lose it. The Post Office offers a good exchange rate if you use its credit card abroad. Some credit cards (e.g. Halifax Clarity) have no fee for taking cash out abroad. Prepaid cards are also an option and more information is available here.
  • Insurance: get it. You might have it included with your bank account already. If not, it’s something worth paying for in the case of an accident or loss of belongings.
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