I've been traveling a lot but it's usually part of business trip with the company. So the plan is always fixed, the flight and hotel are booked far in advance, and there is travel agent from the company taking care of everything.
I've been in Hungary for the project I'm currently working on, and I have opportunity to explore places in Europe during the weekend. So last weekend I decided to go to Vienna and take the night train to Venice, Italy. I made the plan only 2 days before the trip and booked everything from public website. Based on what I saw and experienced, I would like to share some tips:
1. These days backpacker doesn't have to use only backpack! You can use wheeled luggage if it makes it easier to move your stuff. And it won't hurt your back for sure.
2. Use the "Left Luggage" facility available on most destination airports or train stations. Leave your big heavy bag there and carry only the valuables or most important in a small bag so you can explore the place without burden. Pay attention to the opening hours of the Left Luggage facility or public toilet.
3. With airline, especially budget airline, you can get better price if you book far in advance and non-changeable flight ticket. But I don't see the different price with train ticket. The train network in Europe is very good, and it's a better choice for someone with no plan like me. The night train makes it possible to save some money for the hotel. Sleep inside the train, reach destination in the morning, freshen up in public toilet, enjoy the place for the day, take a hotel room for a night, enjoy the second day, take the night train to go back or to another place. Paying one night for hotel instead of three.
4. Cheap hotel can be found easily using booking.com. Check the review. For train ticket I found that booking directly with the train company is easier and cheaper.
5. Don't buy heavy souvenirs. Buy the experience.
6. One purpose of traveling is to explore local custom and to taste local food and local drink. Be careful though, I've been lying on the hotel room bed in Hungary for 2 days due to the last seafood dinner that I had in Venice (and yes, it was delicious :))
7. Split some money and keep at least one credit card in one bag other than inside your wallet. Just in case you lose your wallet you still have them to go home.
8. Exchange the money at your place instead of at the destination. The exchange rate at the destination especially tourist area is very bad. And always carry some coins since most public facilities require them. Usually there is a coin machine nearby, but you never know perhaps you need to use the facility at night and the machine is broken.
9. Don't bring too many gadgets. Bring gadgets that use the same power charger, the one that can be charged using USB cable. You should carry all-in-one travel power plug adapter with USB output. Better to carry one multi-purpose gadget that can be used as phone, music player, camera and GPS.
Or go back to analog life. Bring paper notebook and pen so you can write your experience or thoughts inside the train without any fear of running out the battery. The notebook is useful too to write down important address and phone number just in case you lose your phone. You can always ditch your digital camera and shoot film like me :)
10. Don't over plan the trip. Just go and let loose. Don't even use map or GPS at the destination if necessary. Blend with the locals.
Will I do it again? Yes, for sure!
Europe is the best place for backpacking since there are many interesting places to visit, with different culture offering unique experiences. And many countries are part of European union with Schengen visa now. So once you are inside, there is no passport control anymore between country borders.
Until next time.