Every gap year student wants to see Europe. The royal grandeur of London with its iconic red buses, the romantic mystery of Paris’ Eiffel Tower, the brutal history of Rome’s Coliseum. Europe beckons American backpackers in their thousands, but in the current economic climate, even backpacking needs extra careful budgeting.
European public transport may be far more readily available than in the States, but it is notoriously expensive. The last thing you want is to get stuck halfway through the experience of your life because you can’t afford the train-fare to the next stop on your route. When it comes to travelling on a shoestring, a used car is your new best friend.
Start your trip in the UK (where a language barrier won’t drop you at the first hurdle) and pick up a cheap second hand car – websites like www.exchangeandmart.co.uk list cars all over the country and buying a vehicle is often an easy cash in hand purchase. If you are travelling in a group, the cost of fuel split between four of your is far more wallet friendly than four train tickets, and if you are travelling alone, affordable flexible transportation is the easiest way to pick up travel buddies. When you return to the UK at the end of your trip, you can offload the car quickly and easily to a fast buy service, recouping a significant portion of your outlay.
Places to Stay:
The great news is, with a trunk available for your backpack, you no longer have to concern yourself with the weight of tents and camping equipment. The cost of a camp pitch is a fraction of the cost of a hostel and, once again, can be split between your group. European campsites have excellent facilities, with many campsites tailoring specifically to the younger traveller.
Plus Hostels have excellent campsites around Rome, Paris, Prague and Berlin, featuring bars, pools and free shuttles into the city. Camping doesn’t have to mean missing out on the camaraderie of backpacking culture, and you can easily ‘mix and match’ hostel stays with camping.
Getting off the Beaten Path:
Perhaps the best thing about the backpacker road-trip is that you aren’t tied to all the ‘typical’ tourist destinations. Without having to rely on buses and trains you can go where you want, when you want. Your cell phone is the perfect travel accessory – use the GPS navigation to get around and see all those places that other travellers can only dream about. Planning your route to the next party via hidden away coves for moonlit bonfires, local beer festivals and stunning scenery is priceless.