10 Things You MUST Bring When Backpacking in Europe

By Andre Ladouceur

So you're heading off on a European adventure? You've got your flights booked, a useful book of French phrases from your aunt and you've set up your Footstops Travel Blog. Ready to hop on the next plane? Not by a long shot. Take some time to pack your bag. Andre, one of our Footstops travel experts, puts in his two cents as to what you need to bring on a backpacking trip to Europe.

Photo By Kelly

These are 10 things you don't want to leave your home...or your country without.

  1. Bank/Debit Card You’ll often find yourself in a small town or in an area of a city that is not as developed as the rest of the place – meaning that debit and credit card machines aren’t very prevalent. Cash still rules, and you don’t need anything but your bank card these days to get your hands on the local currency. Just make sure your PIN is 4 digits long, and any ATM will most likely give you the day’s exchange rate for a few-euro fee per transaction.
  2. Photo By Andre

  3. Digital Camera If you’re one of those people who refuse to accept new technology and desperately cling to tradition, here is one exception you have to embrace. Digital photos provide the traveler with the ability to view photos as they’re taken, and delete those that don’t turn out properly. Instead of gambling that a picture is a keeper, why not be sure? Plus, digital photos can be touched up once you get home to give your adventure pictures that extra kick.
  4. Flip Flops Ya, they’re not the ideal footwear for hiking through trails or looking for your hostel late at night in a foreign neighborhood, but they become essential for the beach and for taking showers in communal areas that breed germs, such as hostels. Invest a few bucks into a lightweight pair of flip flops or sandals you can clip on to the outside of your backpack to save space inside.
  5. Hand Sanitizer You may be surprised at how often you can’t find soap in a washroom, and you’ll often find yourself having to eat on the run. A small bottle of hand sanitizer is like a self-dissolving bar of soap that you may need in the clutch on a long train ride or while waiting in line at a take-out restaurant.
  6. Journal. Nothing helps pass the time when you’re spending 10 hours on a train like writing all your memories down so you can look at them months later and recall all the great times you’re bound to forget without a journal. Even better – if you find yourself in constant proximity of internet stations, write down all your memories on a European travel blog or travel community such as Footstops, so you’re friends and family can follow along in near real-time, and you have a place to post all your photos and videos.
  7. Combination Locks. Get at least one small combination lock along with a cabled bike lock. Use the small lock to keep the zippers on your backpack closed whenever you find yourself susceptible to would-be pickpockets, for example in crowded areas or when boarding a short flight. Use the cabled bike lock to lock your backpack around something solid when unattended at a hostel, and especially to a rail or the like when making a journey requiring a night-train. Thieves prey on unsuspecting travelers leaving their bags unattached while they sleep on such trains.
  8. Inexpensive Souvenirs. We made a point to bring along a handful of pins with our country’s flag on it, and gave one out to anyone who really went out of their way to help us out. This happened quite a bit, and we were only happy to give out these trinkets. Think of it as a way of promoting your country’s foreign policy. This is really more optional than a “must-do”, but giving back to a culture that’s providing you with such experiences is a great way to enhance your travels.
  9. Photo By Andre

  10. Small Umbrella. Most of the time it’ll seem useless, but you WILL encounter that one moment when you’ll thank God you brought it with you. Make sure it’s small enough to cover just yourself, otherwise you’ll have trouble making room for it in your backpack. I wished I’d brought one when I was in Athens in July (yup, Athens in July). Everything of mine was wet for a week when a flash rainstorm hit us. If you're totally strapped, go ahead and make a garbage bag poncho for your gear. Will it look ridiculous? Yes. Will your stuff be drier? Double yes.
  11. Proper Documentation. Make sure to get all your papers (passport, rail ticket, airline tickets) squared away well before hand. It’ll save you the stress of trying to get everything together the day before when you’ll need that time to figure out what else you’re going to bring with you. Make sure you look at getting extended traveler’s insurance as well, in case your policy doesn’t cover you overseas. Also consider making photocopies of all your important ID (passport, credit card, driver’s license, etc.) and leave a copy at home with a friend in case your entire pack goes missing.
  12. Street Smarts. If you’re going in peak season, just about every local you run into is going to be able to tell you’re a tourist. Avoid uncomfortable situations like staying in hostels that you just don’t trust – use your common sense. Assume that you have somewhat of a target on your back when it comes to pickpockets, and keep your important items close to you and well hidden (your back pocket won’t do). At the same time, don’t be paranoid. Have an open mind when it comes to the cultures you’ll be experiencing. As long as you stay vigilant you’ll have fun and be safe.

By Andre Ladouceur
Andre Ladouceur is a Footstops writer and regular contributor to the site. Be sure to check out his travel blog and adventure photos.

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