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    19 Things I Learned While Traveling Around Europe

    Life's too short for bad pizza and expensive trains.

    Hi, I'm Jemima, and I spent last year backpacking around Europe.

    1. Buses are way cheaper than trains.

    Robert Rynerson / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: 135141530@N04

    Getting a Eurail pass might sound like the easiest way to get around the continent, but you're better off catching buses. Trains are good when you're short on time, but buses are way, way cheaper and go to more places. Yes, a journey might take five hours instead of two, but sometimes it'll save you €50. Rome2Rio and Omio are good tools that'll help you compare transport options.

    2. Always do the free walking tours.

    Jemima Skelley

    Nearly every city I visited had a free (tip-based) walking tour. It lasts a couple hours and is a great way to orient yourself in a new place. You get to see the city through the eyes of the local guide and hear their tips and favorite spots. And if you're alone, it's also a way to meet other travelers and strike up a conversation.

    3. Bakeries are the best bet for a cheap meal.

    Jemima Skelley

    Without fail, you'll be able to find something delicious and super cheap at a bakery. Whether it's fresh pastries in France, olive focaccia in Italy, warm flaky pies in the Balkans, or sesame bread in Greece, it usually won't cost you more than a euro.

    4. Don't just go to the big cities.

    5. Book accommodations directly with the hostel or hotel.

    6. When in a non-English speaking country, avoid places with English menus.

    Istvan (CC BY-ND-NC 2.0) / Via Flickr: i_csuhai

    A fully English menu set up on a board outside the restaurant is a huge red flag that it's an overpriced place set up for tourists. The food might be fine, but you'll be better off venturing farther away from touristy areas to find a more local spot.

    7. And always learn a couple of words in the local language.

    Lzf / Getty Images

    There will be English speakers nearly everywhere you go, so there'll never be too much of a language barrier. That being said, out of courtesy, it's always a good idea to learn how to say a couple of things in the local language. "Hello," "goodbye," and "thank you" will all come in handy at some point!

    8. Save things on Google Maps.


    You probably already know that you can "save" things on Google Maps. You can mark certain places with a star, heart, or flag. Make a system for yourself of attractions, bars, and restaurants you want to visit so you won't miss out on any key spots. You can also make custom maps with different themes if you want to get even more specific.

    9. Google Maps is good for cities, but is best for hiking.

    Maps. Me

    If you want to save data or are heading somewhere with limited service, you can download offline maps that don't require internet to use. Google Maps is great for cities and driving, but if you're heading out on a hike, the app has trails and paths marked as well as elevation information.

    10. Plan...but don't plan too much.

    11. It's a good idea to pack light.

    Jemima Skelley

    It sounds like pretty basic advice, but traveling with just a small backpack makes everything so much easier. Chances are you'll be visiting a few different destinations and moving from place to place, so you won't want to be lugging big bags with you everywhere. Roller bags especially don't often cope well on European streets.

    12. Ask locals for tips wherever you can.

    13. There is such a thing as bad food...even in Italy.

    Derrick Jefferson / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: dickiesandchucks

    It's easy to assume that every piece of pizza in Italy is going to be a good one and every croissant in Paris will be fresh. But alas, there are plenty of restaurants churning out low-quality food and making a mint off tourists who don't know better. Avoid big flashy places near touristy spots, and keep an eye out for restaurants where everyone inside looks like a local. Better yet, ask someone — like a barista or shopkeeper — for their favorite restaurant.

    14. Drink wine.

    Joe Shlabotnik / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: joeshlabotnik

    The wine in Europe is cheap and really good. At the supermarket, you'll be able to find bottles of great wine for €3. Normally I'd be dubious of such a low price, but it's way more drinkable than cheap wine back home. I always like to try the local wines, too, rather than sticking to varieties I know. Who knew Romania had such a thriving wine industry?!

    15. Don't waste money on phone data.

    Vodafone / Via

    You might be tempted to get a global roaming plan for your phone before leaving home, but I found it to be way more cost effective to get a local SIM card. A prepaid €10 plan has enough data for a month, and you can reload it online if you need. You can buy them at kiosks and stores, but ask them to show you how to reload it in case it's not in English. Or go for an online network where you can get the SIM mailed to you.

    16. Fit in time to chill.

    17. It's easier to budget by month rather than by day.

    Giving yourself a daily budget is all well and good, but some days you'll need to buy pricey train tickets and others you'll only buy a meal or coffee. Having a monthly budget reduced the stress a little and made me more open to splurging on a nice meal if my spending was on track. You can get a great tracking app, like Tripcoin, to do all the math and conversions for you.

    18. Don't forget central and eastern Europe.

    19. Avoid pricey places in the high season.

    Med Cruise Guide / / Via Flickr: 150594450@N07

    Really popular spots, like the Greek Islands or Cinque Terre, get super pricey in the middle of summer. You're better off saving them for the shoulder months, like April and May or September and October. Things will be way cheaper, and there'll be a lot fewer people as well.

    What are your tips for backpacking around Europe? Let us know in the comments!

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