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Backpacking Europe: Route Planning & Train Schedules


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Staci Cooksey



Embarking on a backpacking adventure through Europe is a dream come true for many travelers. From the charming streets of Paris to the historic sites of Rome, the continent offers a myriad of cultural, historical, and natural treasures waiting to be explored. But before you set off on this exhilarating journey, proper planning is essential to make the most of your experience.


Backpacking in Europe not only allows you to immerse yourself in different cultures, but it also offers the opportunity to witness the stunning diversity of landscapes spanning from tranquil beaches to majestic mountains. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a food lover, or an adventure seeker, Europe has something to offer for every type of traveler.


One of the key aspects of planning a successful backpacking trip in Europe is choosing the right route. With so many incredible destinations to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide where to start and which cities or countries to include in your itinerary. It’s important to research and consider factors such as your interests, budget, and the time you have available for your journey.


Another crucial factor to consider when planning your backpacking adventure is the train schedule. Trains are a popular and efficient mode of transportation in Europe, connecting major cities and even smaller towns. Researching train schedules beforehand will help you optimize your travel time and ensure smooth transitions between destinations.


In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the process of planning your backpacking route in Europe, how to research train schedules, popular backpacking routes to consider, tips for efficient train travel, packing essentials, budgeting tips, and safety precautions to keep in mind. So, grab your backpack, put on your walking shoes, and get ready to embark on a journey of a lifetime through the enchanting landscapes and rich cultures of Europe.


Choosing Your Route

When it comes to backpacking in Europe, the options can seem endless. From the bustling cities of Western Europe to the tranquil countryside of Eastern Europe, there are numerous routes to choose from. Taking the time to carefully choose your route will ensure that you make the most of your journey and visit the destinations that align with your interests and preferences.


First and foremost, consider your interests and what you hope to experience during your backpacking adventure. Are you a history buff? Do you enjoy exploring nature or indulging in the vibrant nightlife of big cities? Choosing destinations that align with your passions will make the journey more fulfilling and enjoyable.


Next, consider your budget and the amount of time you have available. Some routes may be more expensive than others, so it’s important to factor in the cost of transportation, accommodation, and daily expenses. Additionally, consider the duration of your trip. If you have a limited amount of time, focusing on a specific region or country may be more feasible.


Consider the seasons and weather conditions of the destinations you plan to visit. Europe experiences different climates throughout the year, and some destinations may be more enjoyable during certain seasons. For example, if you’re interested in visiting the Greek islands or the beaches of Spain, summer would be the ideal time to explore these destinations.


Lastly, don’t forget to consult travel blogs, guidebooks, and online forums for inspiration and recommendations. These resources provide valuable insights from fellow travelers who have already experienced backpacking in Europe. They can offer recommendations for off-the-beaten-path destinations, hidden gems, and tips on how to make the most of your journey.


Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all route for backpacking in Europe. It ultimately depends on your interests, time, and budget. Take your time to research, create a rough itinerary, and be open to making changes as you go along. Flexibility is key when it comes to backpacking, as it allows you to embrace unexpected opportunities and discover hidden treasures along the way.


Researching Train Schedules

One of the most convenient and efficient ways to travel around Europe during your backpacking adventure is by train. With an extensive rail network connecting major cities and towns, trains offer a comfortable and scenic mode of transportation. However, to make the most of your journey, it’s important to research train schedules in advance.


Start by familiarizing yourself with the train operators in the countries you plan to visit. Each country may have multiple train companies, and researching their websites or using third-party websites can provide you with accurate and up-to-date information on train schedules, routes, and fares. It’s also worth noting that some countries, like Germany with Deutsche Bahn, have national train operators that cover most of the country.


When researching train schedules, consider the frequency of trains between your desired destinations. Some popular routes have multiple trains per day, providing flexibility and options for your travel plans. On the other hand, less common routes may have limited train services, so it’s important to plan accordingly.


Pay attention to the duration of the train journeys as well. Some routes may require overnight travel or multiple transfers, which can impact your itinerary and overall travel experience. It’s a good idea to calculate the travel time between destinations to ensure that you have enough time to explore and enjoy each place.


Keep in mind that train schedules can vary depending on the time of year. During peak tourist seasons, trains may be more frequent and crowded, while off-peak seasons may offer fewer options. Checking for any seasonal schedule changes or adjustments will help you plan your journey efficiently.


Online resources such as railway websites, mobile apps, and travel forums can be valuable tools for researching train schedules. These platforms often provide user-friendly interfaces, real-time updates, and even the option to book tickets online. Additionally, they may offer helpful features like seat availability, fare comparisons, and information on any special offers or discounts. Don’t forget to check if reservations are required for specific train routes or if you can simply use your rail pass.


Lastly, keep in mind that unforeseen circumstances such as delays or cancellations can occur when traveling by train. Stay prepared by allowing some flexibility in your itinerary and having alternative transportation options in mind, such as buses or flights, if necessary.


By taking the time to research train schedules beforehand, you can ensure a smooth and efficient journey throughout Europe. Whether you’re hopping between iconic cities or exploring the charming countryside, traveling by train will allow you to relax, enjoy the scenery, and make unforgettable memories.


Popular Backpacking Routes in Europe

Europe is a treasure trove of captivating destinations, and there are numerous backpacking routes that allow you to explore the best the continent has to offer. Whether you’re a first-time traveler or a seasoned backpacker, here are some popular routes to consider:

  • The Classic European Route: This route is perfect for those looking to visit iconic cities. It typically includes destinations like Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Rome, and Barcelona. The Classic European Route allows you to experience the diverse cultures, historic landmarks, and vibrant nightlife of some of Europe’s most famous cities.
  • The Mediterranean Adventure: If you’re seeking beautiful coastal landscapes and cultural experiences, this route is for you. It often includes destinations like Nice, the French Riviera, Cinque Terre in Italy, the Greek Islands, Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, and the stunning beaches of Portugal and Spain.
  • The Scandinavian Trail: For nature enthusiasts and lovers of scenic landscapes, this route encompasses the stunning beauty of Scandinavia. It includes cities like Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, and the natural wonders of Norway’s fjords and Sweden’s forests. You can also explore the Northern Lights and experience the midnight sun during the summer months.
  • The Balkan Explorer: If you’re looking for off-the-beaten-path destinations with rich history and vibrant cultures, the Balkan region is a must-visit. This route often includes cities like Budapest, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Dubrovnik, and Athens. You’ll have the opportunity to visit UNESCO World Heritage sites, explore ancient ruins, and indulge in delicious local cuisine.
  • The Alpine Route: This route is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers. It takes you through the stunning landscapes of the Swiss Alps, the Austrian Alps, and the Italian Dolomites. You’ll have the opportunity to hike, ski, and soak in the breathtaking views of picturesque mountain villages.

These are just a few examples, and there are countless other routes to explore based on your interests and preferences. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, architecture, or cuisine, Europe offers a diverse range of routes that cater to every type of traveler.


It’s important to note that some routes may require longer travel times or multiple connections between cities. However, these journeys often offer unique opportunities to explore lesser-known destinations and discover hidden gems.


When planning your backpacking route in Europe, consider the time you have available, your budget, and the activities and experiences you wish to prioritize. Be open to adjustments and detours along the way, as these unexpected moments often lead to the most memorable adventures.


Tips for Efficient Train Travel

Train travel is a popular and efficient way to get around Europe while backpacking. To make the most of your journey and ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience, consider the following tips for efficient train travel:

  1. Plan and book in advance: Train tickets can often be booked online well in advance, and doing so can save you time and ensure you have a seat on popular routes. Additionally, booking in advance may offer you discounted fares or access to special promotions.
  2. Be punctual: Trains in Europe run on strict schedules, so make sure you arrive at the station with ample time before your departure. Missing a train can disrupt your entire itinerary, so it’s important to be punctual.
  3. Check platform and boarding information: Train stations can be busy, and it’s important to know the platform number of your train departure. Check the information boards and listen for any announcements to ensure you’re in the right place at the right time.
  4. Validate your ticket: Some countries require passengers to validate their train tickets before boarding. Look for validation machines at the station or ask a station attendant if you’re unsure. Failure to validate your ticket may result in fines or penalties.
  5. Keep your belongings secure: While train travel is generally safe, it’s always important to keep an eye on your belongings. Ensure your bags and valuables are secure and within sight. Consider using luggage locks or storing valuable items in a money belt for added security.
  6. Pack snacks and water: Trains often have snack bars or dining cars, but it’s a good idea to pack some snacks and water for your journey. This way, you’ll have something to eat and drink in case the train doesn’t offer the amenities you need.
  7. Stay connected: Many trains now offer onboard Wi-Fi, allowing you to stay connected and plan your next destination. Take advantage of this service to research train schedules, book accommodations, or simply stay in touch with loved ones back home.
  8. Be respectful of other passengers: Train travel often involves sharing space with other passengers. Be mindful of noise levels, avoid placing your bags on empty seats, and be considerate of those around you. This will make the journey more enjoyable for everyone.
  9. Keep important documents handy: Keep your passport, tickets, and other important travel documents readily accessible in a secure and easily accessible location. This will save you time and hassle when going through ticket checks or immigration procedures.
  10. Enjoy the journey: Train travel offers a unique opportunity to witness stunning landscapes and scenery. Sit back, relax, and take in the beauty of Europe as the train takes you from one destination to another. Use this time to reflect, plan, or simply admire the views outside your window.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your train travel experience in Europe is efficient, comfortable, and enjoyable. Embrace the adventure and make the most of this convenient mode of transportation as you embark on your backpacking journey.


Packing Essentials for Backpacking

When embarking on a backpacking adventure through Europe, packing smart and light is crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable journey. Here are some essential items to consider when packing for your backpacking trip:

  1. A sturdy backpack: Invest in a reliable backpack that fits comfortably and has enough capacity to hold all your essentials. Look for one with adjustable straps and multiple compartments for easy organization.
  2. Comfortable clothing: Pack lightweight and versatile clothing items that can be easily layered. Opt for moisture-wicking fabrics that dry quickly and choose versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down.
  3. Proper footwear: Comfortable and sturdy shoes are a must. A pair of lightweight hiking shoes or sneakers is ideal for exploring cities and hiking trails. Don’t forget to pack a pair of sandals or flip-flops for walking around in hostels or at the beach.
  4. Travel-sized toiletries: Carry travel-sized toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and toothpaste to save space in your backpack. Consider using solid toiletries or reusable containers to minimize waste.
  5. Quick-drying towel: Opt for a compact and quick-drying towel that you can easily carry in your backpack. These towels are lightweight and perfect for the beach, hostels, or camping.
  6. Travel adapter: Europe uses different plug types, so make sure to pack a universal travel adapter to charge your electronic devices.
  7. First aid kit: It’s essential to be prepared for any minor injuries or illnesses. Pack a basic first aid kit that includes band-aids, pain relievers, antiseptic wipes, and any necessary prescription medications.
  8. Reusable water bottle: Staying hydrated is important, so carry a reusable water bottle that you can refill throughout your journey. Look for one that is durable and leak-proof.
  9. Travel locks: Keep your belongings secure by carrying travel locks to secure your backpack and lockers in hostels.
  10. Travel insurance: Protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances by purchasing travel insurance. It will provide you with peace of mind and coverage for medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost or stolen belongings.

Remember to pack only the essentials and avoid overpacking. Laundry facilities are often available at hostels or laundromats, allowing you to wash your clothes during your trip. It’s also a good idea to check the weather forecast for the destinations you’ll be visiting, so you can pack accordingly.


Additionally, consider the season and activities you have planned. If you’ll be hiking or visiting colder regions, pack a lightweight jacket, a warm hat, and gloves. If you’ll be spending time at the beach, include swimwear and a beach towel. Tailor your packing list to your specific needs and preferences.


By packing wisely and prioritizing the essentials, you’ll have a lighter and more manageable backpack, allowing you to move freely and enjoy the adventures that await you in Europe.


Budgeting for Your Journey

When planning a backpacking trip through Europe, budgeting is a crucial aspect to ensure a financially sustainable journey. Here are some tips to help you budget effectively and make the most of your money:

  1. Create a realistic travel budget: Start by determining how much you can afford to spend on your trip. Consider your income, savings, and any additional sources of funding. Set a daily or weekly budget to help you track your expenses throughout your journey.
  2. Research and plan your expenses: Research the costs associated with accommodation, transportation, food, activities, and other essentials. Make a plan for each destination, taking into account the average prices, currency exchange rates, and potential hidden costs.
  3. Choose budget-friendly destinations: Some European destinations can be more expensive than others. Consider visiting countries or cities that are known to be more budget-friendly, such as Eastern European countries or smaller towns instead of major tourist hubs.
  4. Cook your own meals: Eating out at restaurants can quickly add up. Save money by opting for self-catering accommodations with kitchen facilities where you can prepare your own meals. Visit local markets or grocery stores to buy affordable and fresh ingredients.
  5. Use public transportation: Public transportation is often more cost-effective than taxis or rental cars. Utilize trains, buses, and trams to get around cities or travel between destinations. Consider purchasing transportation passes or cards that offer discounted fares for multiple trips.
  6. Be flexible with your travel dates: Traveling during off-peak seasons or avoiding weekends can help you secure lower prices on flights, accommodations, and attractions. Additionally, consider taking advantage of last-minute deals or promotions.
  7. Take advantage of free activities and attractions: Europe offers plenty of free attractions, including museums with designated free entry days, parks, and walking tours. Research free or low-cost activities in each destination to make the most of your budget.
  8. Consider alternative accommodations: Hostels, guesthouses, and budget hotels are popular choices for backpackers as they offer affordable options for accommodation. You can also consider platforms like Couchsurfing or house-sitting to save on accommodation expenses.
  9. Track your expenses: Keep a record of your daily expenses to stay aware of your spending habits. Use a budgeting app or a simple spreadsheet to track your purchases, making it easier to identify where you can cut back if needed.
  10. Set aside an emergency fund: Unexpected expenses can arise during your journey, so it’s important to have an emergency fund. Set aside some extra money for unforeseen circumstances such as medical emergencies or last-minute transportation changes.

Remember, your budget should be flexible and adaptable. You may need to make adjustments along the way based on unforeseen expenses or changing circumstances. Be mindful of your spending habits, seek out cost-saving opportunities, and focus on the experiences and memories that matter most to you.


With proper planning, research, and budgeting, you can enjoy a fulfilling European backpacking trip while keeping your finances in check.


Safety Tips for Backpackers

When embarking on a backpacking adventure through Europe, it’s important to prioritize your safety. While Europe generally offers a safe travel environment, it’s still crucial to take precautions to ensure a secure and worry-free journey. Here are some safety tips for backpackers:

  1. Research your destinations: Prior to your trip, research the safety reputation of the countries and cities you plan to visit. Stay informed about local customs, laws, and potential risks in order to make informed decisions while traveling.
  2. Stay connected: Share your travel itinerary and contact details with a trusted friend or family member. Keep them updated on your whereabouts and regularly check in with them, especially when traveling to new locations.
  3. Use secure accommodation: Choose reputable and secure accommodation options such as hostels, hotels, or guesthouses. Research reviews and ratings before making a reservation and consider staying in well-lit and central areas.
  4. Protect your valuables: Keep your passport, money, and other valuable items in a secure place such as a money belt or a hidden pouch. Avoid flashing expensive jewelry or electronic devices that may attract unwanted attention.
  5. Be cautious with strangers: Exercise caution when interacting with strangers, especially in unfamiliar surroundings. Be wary of unsolicited offers for assistance or invitations to secluded areas. Trust your instincts and politely decline if you feel uncomfortable.
  6. Blend in with the locals: Avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself by dressing modestly and assimilating with the local culture. This can help you avoid becoming a target for theft or scams.
  7. Stay aware of your surroundings: Be mindful of your environment at all times. Avoid walking alone late at night, especially in dimly lit or deserted areas. Stay alert in crowded places to protect yourself from pickpocketing or other petty crimes.
  8. Protect your personal information: Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi networks and avoid accessing sensitive information or making online transactions. Use a virtual private network (VPN) when connecting to public networks to ensure your online security.
  9. Stay updated on local safety advisories: Before and during your journey, monitor travel advisories and stay updated on any safety concerns or potential risks in the areas you plan to visit. Follow the guidance of local authorities and make informed decisions accordingly.
  10. Trust your instincts: Intuition is a powerful tool for ensuring your safety. If something doesn’t feel right, remove yourself from the situation or seek assistance from authorities or trusted individuals.

Remember, maintaining your personal safety is a top priority while backpacking through Europe. By staying vigilant, using common sense, and following these safety tips, you can navigate your journey with confidence and enjoy all that this incredible continent has to offer.



Embarking on a backpacking adventure through Europe is an exhilarating and rewarding experience. By taking the time to plan your route, research train schedules, pack wisely, budget effectively, and prioritize safety, you can maximize your journey and create unforgettable memories. Europe offers a wealth of cultural, historical, and natural wonders for every type of traveler, from iconic cities to remote countryside landscapes.


Choosing your route wisely allows you to tailor your journey to your interests and preferences. Researching train schedules ensures efficient and seamless travel between destinations. Packing essentials, such as a sturdy backpack, comfortable clothing, and travel-sized toiletries, will make your backpacking experience more enjoyable and manageable.


Budgeting smartly allows you to make the most of your money, exploring budget-friendly destinations, using public transportation, and seeking out free or low-cost activities. Prioritizing safety through research, awareness, and preparedness ensures a secure and worry-free trip.


As you embark on your European backpacking adventure, be open to the unexpected and allow yourself to embrace the new experiences and opportunities that come your way. Stay flexible, connect with fellow travelers, and take the time to truly immerse yourself in the rich cultures and stunning landscapes you encounter.


Whether you choose the classic European route, a Mediterranean adventure, a Scandinavian trail, or any other route that suits your interests, Europe is waiting to captivate you. So, dust off your map, pack your backpack, and get ready for the journey of a lifetime through the enchanting continent of Europe.