Omni Traveller

Budget Backpack Travel in Europe

England :|: Introduction


England is a kingdom dripping with tradition and pride. The is a brief intro to this royal kingdom and some places you may find worthwhile.

Yeah, you can find the typical Brit snobs, but you will find that most of the people are friendly, down-to-earth, and steadfast, if at times somewhat enjoyably quirky. In fact, although more reserved than Americans, many Americans find friends in Britain with little difficulty, especially when camping or doing something else together with the British, such as hiking, biking, or other activities. Our common language is a huge advantage in Britain and enables you to speak to anyone.

The land is so enchantingly beautiful it is awe-inspiring. Great Britain truly is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. England is a green, pleasant, and graceful land with rustic, orderly villages and towns and vibrant cities all with centuries-old architecture that capture the quintessential essence of England. It is like visiting an enchanted land.

There are several large cities in England, such as Liverpool and Manchester, but the most important city politically and culturally is London.

 

London

In some ways, London captures the spirit of England and it is its very center in many ways except geographically. Besides a healthy and ever-changing clubbing scene, London also has a major place to see live theatre in the English-speaking world; and this is located in the West End districts of Soho and Covent Garden. Interesting places to see in the daytime include The Eye, which is a giant Ferris wheel with large enclosed cabins that travel slowly around and provide surprisingly good vistas of London. A cruise tour of the Thames River travels through the center of London, but you may also visit the Tower of London that houses the Crown jewels, the London Aquarium, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, Westminster Abbey, and The London Zoo, to name a few. For those interested, London has a number of major world-renowned museums including the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum, and the Museum of Victoria and Albert. If you need to do some shopping for yourself or for gifts or just for fun, visit some neighborhood flea markets and antique shops on the weekend.

But London is not everyone’s cup of tea.

 

Get Out of London

Many American visitors remain in London for their entire vacation, and that is a dogfish shame. If you are backpacking or have the gumption to strike out and travel the roads and byways away from the big city, then for goodness sake after you see some of London, get out of London and roam through the rest of England.

The English countryside has been the topic of rhyme and verse, ballad and song for over a thousand years. Simply put, it is awe-inspiring in its forested grandeur, and a welcome refuge from the hectic city. In deepest England you will free yourself from (most) freeways and except for festivals, mobs of people and find the quiet villages and towns that are the prototypical Olde England. Of course, in the summer months, many Britons have the same idea, so the larger tourist towns may not be as quiet as one may wish.

But there are other delights. In the summer months festivals are everywhere and you will be able to attend folk music festivals, rock festivals, and all other kinds of festivals all across Britain. Visit a government tourist office for festivals in the areas you plan to visit.

In addition, there is an abundance of magnificent medieval cathedral cities such as Lincoln, York, Salisbury, Durham and Winchester, fascinating ruined castles and majestic country manor houses that dot the countryside that are open to the public, an abundance of peaceful gardens, National Trails footpaths hundreds of miles long, and picturesque villages each with its own unique eccentricities, literally all over England.

Research and plan ahead of your trip and plan where you would like to go and what you would like to see and experience.

The following are some districts, towns, and places you might like to visit.


 

Bath

Some consider Bath the most idyllic of English towns. Bath is west of London and in the beautiful English countryside, Bath is an especially beautiful town. This is the location of the famous Roman Baths, which became popular because of natural hot springs in the area. The remains of the Roman baths are open to the public.

 

Oxford & Cambridge

These are separate towns but one cannot be discussed without the other, as the history of England is intertwined with the ancient universities of both of these towns. In fact, the two towns are sometimes referred to as “Oxbridge.” Oxford and Cambridge are incredibly beautiful towns that are so profoundly English and upper class that their importance and prestige would border on myth were it not fact.

Oxford is the older of the two towns and Oxford University is the oldest in Britain. Oxford University has 36 colleges and over 14,000 students. Oxford is a very small town that is also one of the major tourist destinations in Britain. This means it is often very crowded, so we do not consider driving a car in Oxford as a viable option. If you are arriving by car, there is a Park and Ride service with buses into the city centre that we recommend you use. Or bring bikes and bike around Oxford. Incidentally, if you attempt to rent a punt (boat) to go punting on the river, we recommend you do so only if you are a strong swimmer as learning to control a punt is incredibly difficult, but as all such things- it looks so easy.

Cambridge is a very pleasant town not far from Oxford. There are many things to see and do in Cambridge, but because it is a smaller in size, Cambridge is the best choice to visit during the school year, but if classes are out Oxford is boss.

 

Stonehenge & Avebury


Stonehenge is a famous prehistoric ritual site made up of a circular formation of enormous boulders. There are various theories on the origins of Stonehenge, but it is acknowledged that it served as an astronomical observatory and it had major religious significance. Visitors have come in increasing numbers over the years so to protect the site, it can only be observed at a distance, so don’t expect to be able to walk around the boulders.

Avebury is not far away and it is also a magnificent prehistoric site. Unlike Stonehenge, Avebury is still fully accessible to visitors. It is certainly worth a visit.

 

Cotswolds

The farm fields and gentle rolling hills of the Cotswolds are an gorgeous area west of Oxford, east of Gloucester, and running north up to an area south of Birmingham, in southwest England. The Government has designated it as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ (AONB). It is best to visit this unusually picturesque area off season. Should you visit during the warm months avoid the larger towns and you will not in any way lesson your experience. There is a National Trail called ‘The Cotswold Way’ which is a hiking footpath that runs for 102 miles (164 km) along the dramatic escarpment of the Cotswold Hills from Bath north and then parallel to Gloucester and then north through the countryside to the west of Cheltenham and then north to Chipping Campden. Several prehistoric sites are close to the trail and are worth visiting.

 

Glastonbury & Its Festival


Of interest to those with of a spiritual, New Age, NeoPagan, Traditional Craft, or Transitional Community orientation, Glastonbury, in Somerset, southwest England, is of special significance. If you are of like mind, you will find this small town an interesting place to visit. For some, it is a place of pilgrimage to experience its special energy-matrix, similar to that of Sedona, Arizona, with the convergence of energy lines, or lay lines, close to the town. Glastonbury also has its share of myths as it is thought by some as the possible location of King Arthur’s Isle of Avalon. In any event, it is certainly a unique place with interesting people.

Since the 1970’s, Glastonbury has been famous for its open-air performing arts festival, which actually takes place in the small town of Pilton, near Glastonbury. The Glastonbury Festival is a music festival that has drawn some of the leading pop and rock musicians, but there is also live theatre, comedy, and dance productions, a circus, a cabaret, and other arts. The Festival usually takes place in the latter part of June, but did not occur in 2012 due to the 2012 London Olympics. In 2011, tickets sold out within four hours of going on sale. You have to plan well ahead if you want to attend.

 

Cornwall’s Eden Project

Althouth Cornwall is itself an interesting county, of special interest is an astonishing place called the Eden Project. It consists of two incredibly enormous domes with secondary supporting domes that make up the world’s largest greenhouse. This is a green-conscious facility that is huge in size. If you arrive by foot, bike, or by public transportation, you will qualify for the “Green Discount” of £19.50 pound sterling ($32, €23.50) for admission. Although expensive, it is well-worth it.

Inside the first dome is a tropical rainforest environment and the second has a Mediterranean environment. Thousands upon thousands of plants and trees are carefully tended. You are able to follow a path through these domed environments. It is a pleasant and beautiful experience. It is located in the countryside 1¼ miles (2 km) from the town of St. Blazey and 3 miles (5 km) from St. Austell.

 

The Lake District


Another especially beautiful area are the mountains and serene lakes of The Lake District, also called ‘The Lakes’, in northwest England, that essentially is the national park of the same name. The pastoral mountain scenery of The Lakes is breathtaking with stunning views comparable with any you will find in Switzerland. The mountains with its natural lakes and beautiful rustic villages was the inspiration for some of England’s leading romantic poets of the 19th century including Wordsworth and Coleridge.

 

Manchester

Manchester is an impressive city in the north of England that has transformed itself into a modern metropolis that has fully embraced the 21st century like few others in Europe. Many consider Manchester as the most dynamic city in England if not in Europe, and after London the most important city in England.

Manchester is a lively city with a very active nightlife, a lively fine arts scene, the place of a ‘musical revolution’, and has a considerable amount of modern architecture. It is clearly the city of the future and it is the only English city to carefully plan for orderly and planned residential expansion. It has been compared to Barcelona in its uniqueness and modernity. It is a wonderful place for a vacation, and it is cheaper, friendlier, and more pleasant than London– but that is a personal opinion. Manchester has five universities and a very active night scene.

Packing List for Backpacking in Europe

If you want to enjoy roaming around Europe, then only take a minimum of clothing and bare essentials packed into one small to medium-sized backpack. That’s it. If you find you need something you didn’t bring with you that you really must have, then visit a store and buy it.

Of course, you will need to wash your clothing. That’s no problem. Wash single items in the sink in your room. Also, many hostels have a laundry room or they can direct you to one in the neighbourhood. No worries. You really don’t need to bring much on your trip. As a bonus, a smaller backpack is easily carried on an airplane, so you’ll have no checked baggage. Even better.

During the day, you can leave your backpack locked in your hostel room locker. Bring little, have a light backpack, lock it up during the day – now that’s freedom, and it’s a great feeling.
 

The Basics:

  • Passport with any visas (student or work) you may require.
  • Flight e-ticket printout and your reservation/flight itinerary printout.
  • ID: A drivers license and another photo ID showing your age.
  • Student ID: With proof of student status you can apply online and get an International Student Identity Card (ISIC), highly recommended. With it, you’ll be able to get discounts in museums and other places that are, sometimes, substantial. It is worth the time and trouble to get one and take it with you.
  • Travellers cheques: just joking, few people use ’em nowadays.
  • Debit card: (to withdraw cash from local banks) and a credit card with no foreign transaction fees (Schwab or Capitol One Venture), and a stash of cash for emergencies only.
  • Travel medical insurance
  • List of names, street addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of family and close friends. It may come in very handy.
  • International driver’s permit: This is very handy for leaving as a deposit at various locations and not having to leave your passport or driver’s licence.
  • Two small TSA combination locks: (without key) To lock-up most important compartments on your backpack and to use on your hostel room locker. Standard padlocks are too large to fit on European lockers. Bring the TSA type.
  • Bike Lock: This is great for locking your backpack to your bed in hotels or in hostels that don’t have large enough lockers in the dorm rooms.
  • Money pouch: For most of your money, passport, second photo ID, and all bank cards, wear it under your shirt. Consider a money belt as well as the money pouch. You can put your emergency cash in the money belt.

Before leaving home:

  1. Make a photocopy of your passport, all of your important documents and cards including debit and credit cards, medical insurance information, and your itinerary and leave the photocopies with a close friend or trusted family member.
  2. Make a second photocopy of your passport and store it separately in your backpack. Should you lose your passport this will make replacement much easier.
  3. Send a copy of all the important documents and cards you photocopied and email them to yourself, perhaps as an attachment. This way backup will be easily accessible (to you only) while you’re in Europe.

 

Clothes:

In general, Europeans tend to wear clothes that fit well (not baggy or too tight), and in colours that are subdued such as earth tones, charcoal grey, and black.

It is best to bring wrinkle-resistant clothing in moderate colours that mix and match well. Don’t bring anything that’s white.

If possible, avoid anything that is 100% cotton- it’s heavy and bulky to pack, it takes way too long to dry, and it can mould (mold) surprisingly fast if packed damp.

Instead concentrate on getting clothing made from modern materials that are light, moisture-wicking, non-chafe, and fast-drying (like Merino wool).

The following lists include what you wear on the airplane:

  • Underwear (boxers, briefs, panties, knickers): 3-5 pair max. Avoid 100% cotton- it loses its softness when air-dried. Under Armour® or ExOfficio® are the best. It will cost a bit more but it’s worth it.
  • Swim shorts: If you plan to be on the beach in warm weather, or for wear when doing laundry.
  • Shorts: 1 pair, maybe. Shorts are never OK in churches. I would never wear shorts in Europe except near the beach in warm weather. Most of Europe has temperate temps, far too chilly for shorts. Besides, Europeans consider shorts children’s clothing, and you want to be thought of as an adult, right?
     
    Note: Also, wearing shorts away from the beach will make you stand-out. That’s not good because the idea is to avoid pick-pockets, and not advertise your presence as a “rich American tourist”.
  • Shoes: 1 pair – This is an item that Americans often have trouble. It is important that you bring a pair of light but study walking shoes that are very comfortable. You will be doing much more walking than you might expect, so comfort is the key.
     
    But, keep in mind that Europeans never wear athletic shoes, such as running shoes, on the street. That said, running shoes that are not white and not a bright colour is passable for day-time wear in tourist areas. However, casual sneakers, leather sneakers, or walking shoes in a subdued colour (not white) are a better choice. Casual shoes such as Rockport® (for men) are also a better choice.
     
    If you are coming to Europe during a rainy period, I would opt for waterproof light hiking shoes with an all-terrain sole. They may not be stylish but they are comfortable (if broken-in) and they will keep your feet dry.
     
    Note: The shoes you bring to Europe should be well broken-in before your trip.
  • Flip Flops/Thongs (in Aussy) : 1 pair – To wear in the hostel shower and at the beach – only.
  • Socks: 3-5 pair. Buy some good-quality socks made from a fabric other than cotton. A good choice is a moisture-wicking fabric (draws perspiration from the body); these fabrics also dry quickly. Another moisture-wicking fabric is light-weight wool, such as Merino wool, which is surprisingly comfortable and remains comfortable even in rainy weather. Wool also controls odour well and dries quickly. (Wash wool in cool water by hand after soaking, use very little wool cleaner, never use detergent, and never dry wool in a dryer, it will shrink!) Few people will take this advice and buy quality socks, but if you take a chance and try it, you will never wear cotton socks again.
  • Belt: 1 (Money-belt?)
  • Sweater: 1 light weight, neutral or dark colour is perfect for cool evenings.
  • A rugged, waterproof windbreaker: Even in the summer, London and Paris can be chilly after sundown. Avoid bringing a “rain jacket” because they are bulky, not especially comfortable. A windbreaker is light and when fold-up it takes very little room. A viable alternative is a fleece jacket. They are super warm, comfy, and lightweight.
     
    For cooler weather, a medium-weight sweater and a windbreaker should suffice, also you should dress in layers in cooler weather. Make sure your windbreaker will fit comfortably over your sweater. Again, a fleece jacket is a viable alternative.
     
    For colder temps, bring a warm sweater and a warm jacket or coat that comfortably fits over your warm sweater. You might also consider a light down-filled coat.
  • and a Scarf: Europeans, both men and women, wear a scarf for warmth when the temps begin to fall. This is a typical European habit that makes sense. Woman may wish to bring 2 warm scarves in different but low-keyed complimentary colours that will match well with her other attire. Men can bring 1 scarf in an earth tone or neutral colour.

 

Athletic Clothing:

It may surprise you to know that Europeans wear athletic clothing ONLY while playing sports. When they have finished playing, even teenagers will dress in ordinary street clothing before they leave the sport facility.

If you see someone or a group wearing athletic clothing on the street, this should be a signal for you be on alert and to avoid being too close. Athletic clothing is only worn on the street by a subculture of delinquents and assorted young malcontents often involved with petty criminal activity. Don’t mess with them as they sometimes prey on tourists of all ages, and they can be aggressive. Seriously.

So, I suggest you steer clear of wearing sports-related clothing, including bright-coloured or white athletic running shoes while on the street. This is a big issue for Americans visiting Europe because many restaurants, bars, and pubs will refuse to serve those thought of as potential troublemakers.
 

Men Add:

  • Pants/trousers: 2 pair of light-weight cotton pants like Dockers™ are ideal. But, IMO the zip-off pants idea is a bit daffy.
     
    Jeans are commonly worn in Europe. But if you’re thinking of wearing jeans, be aware that jeans are hot, bulky, heavy, and they take forever to dry after walking in the rain. Cotton always takes a long time to thoroughly dry. If you do bring jeans, well-fitting dark jeans are best.
  • T-shirts: 1-3 – Plain solid neutral or dark colours, no bright colours, no graphics. Wear one for sleeping, around the hostel, to a very casual bar or pub. Wear one as an undershirt at night. Europeans guys usually do not wear only a t-shirt on the street. Take at least one that is moisture wicking.
  • Shirts: Make sure you bring shirts that are made from non-wrinkle fabrics, neutral or dark in colour, casual design (no dress shirts). Shirts that are easy to wash and dry like nylon (no 100% cotton) are perfect for travel.  
    • 1 button-up short-sleeve,
    • 2-3 button-up long-sleeve.
  • Socks: In addition to ordinary socks, consider bring one pair of black socks for dressier occasions.

 

Ladies Add:

If you plan on visiting a conservative or religious area, note that men will treat you with much more respect if you dress in a conservative manner.

  • Bra: 2 – to make sure one is always dry, if you wear them.
  • Slacks/pants: 1 warm pair such as light wool.
  • Skirt: Not necessary in many parts of Europe, so you may wish to substitute with a second pair of slacks. A long skirt or wrap skirt is a good idea in areas that are especially conservative and religious- locals will respect you a lot more.
  • Tops: 4 – Make sure you bring tops that are made from non-wrinkle fabrics, and easy to wash and dry (no 100% cotton). Bring one that covers well for conservative and religious locales.
  • Sanitary napkins, tampons
  • Jewellery: At most, bring only a few pieces of inexpensive costume jewellery. Since pick-pocketing is quite common in many popular cities in Europe, you may not wish to bring anything with you that is expensive, such as a real engagement or wedding ring. Buy a nice fake engagement or wedding ring for the trip- even if you are not married or engaged! Anything that cannot be easily replaced if stolen should not be brought with you on your trip. Seriously.
  • Pocket Mirror and minimal makeup in unbreakable bottles/containers.
  • If you’re thinking of bringing a purse or pocketbook, don’t bring a straw bag that doesn’t close. It’s really easy to pick-pocket. A crossbody bag is a much better choice.
  • Personal safety items:
    1. A bra stash pocket or a money shoulder holster for emergency cash
    2. A small flashlight / personal alarm is very useful and perfect for walking streets at night
    3. A whistle, wear it around your neck
    4. A wedge-shaped doorstop alarm isn’t heavy and can make you feel a lot safer knowing it will stop an intruder from entering your hotel room

 

Toiletries:

You can always buy toiletries like shampoo, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, makeup, comb, and razors in Europe as you need them. Or, you can take some with you.

  • Toiletry bag (a large Ziploc baggy?)
  • Toothbrush and small travel-size toothpaste
  • Dental Floss
  • Shampoo, small bottle
  • Shower gel, small bottle
  • Comb
  • Deodorant

Ladies please note: Sometimes it can be difficult to find toilet paper in Russia and parts of Eastern Europe. Carry toilet paper (and maybe hand sanitizer) with you.
 

Medical:

  • First aid kit including an antibacterial hydrocortisone cream, band-aids/plasters.
  • Doctor-prescribed antibiotic. This might be a good idea for a longer trip. But, 1) leave it in the original bottle (with the prescription label), and 2) declare all medication when entering each country.
  • Earplugs can be a great relief on a noisy train, airplane, or in some noisy party hostels.
  • If You Take Prescription Medication: Before you leave on your trip, make sure you will be allowed to legally bring your meds including over-the-counter medications you plan on carrying with you into the countries you plan to visit. This includes allergy medications if it contains a stimulant, including inhalers and over-the-counter medications such as Sudafed®. These are illegal in some European countries because they are considered unsafe.

    Check the particular country’s embassy website before you leave to make sure you can bring your prescription meds into their country. If not, have your doctor write a prescription for a legal substitute. And don’t forget to leave your medicine in the original bottles (which has a prescription label). Better safe than detained- but usually, illegal meds are usually just confiscated, if they bother at all. The thing is, they’re not consistent.

    Note: Over-the-counter medications are widely available in local chemists/ pharmacies across Europe and are conveniently purchased during your trip.

 

Electronics:

Keep your electronics to a minimum to lighten your load and to cut back on loss should your stuff get jacked.

  • Laptop: Most guys who bring their laptop to Europe quickly find it is a lot more hefty and troublesome than they thought. It becomes an irritating hassle to drag it around. If you are going just for 2-3 weeks, you will find precious little time for emails and Skype calls. Like, man, do you really expect Europe to be so boring that you need your laptop?
     
    The only reason to bring your laptop to Europe is if you need it for business or if you are transfer student to a European university. Other than those compelling reasons, leave it at home.
     
    FTI, most hostels have public computers and/or WiFi.
     
    Instead, consider an iPad, iPad Mini, or a Tablet Computer. They’re practical because they weigh a lot less and they take-up less room in your backpack. So, if you must have a computer, an iPad or Tablet is a viable alternative. However, you may wish to consider an inexpensive Netbook or Chromebook ($200-300; €80-€120; £45-£90). If it is jacked, it’s not as bad a having your Mac jacked.
  • Consider a subscription to a storage cloud for a convenient place to upload and store your digital pictures.
  • Smartphone with “airplane mode”. This will allow you to use some features anywhere without connecting to a cellular network. Instead of a camera, take photos with your smartphone’s built-in camera. It’s good enough for sharing photos online, which is the only place 99% of people’s personal travel photos will be seen.
  • iPod: Filled with a trunk load of good music.
  • Adopter kit / universal power converter / battery chargers for whatever you bring.

Note: It is not a good idea to store sensitive information (including passwords, bank information, etc) on any electronic device (iPhone, smartphone, laptop, iPad, Tablet, etc) you bring to travel with you around Europe.
 
This is a very common mistake that can create an unbelievably major headache should the device get jacked or lost.
 
Instead, type out your sensitive information and email it to yourself to an external email account (and not forwarded to your own server, like Outlook). To access, just go to your account (like Gmail, Yahoo, etc) from any computer and get the info you need. When finished reading, make sure you 1) Delete it and also 2) EMPTY the Delete File.
 
If you presently have your email automatically forwarded to your home computer (to Outlook, etc) be aware that you will also need to hold the email on your external email server (such as Gmail) before you leave for Europe. To do this in Gmail:

  1. In Gmail, click Settings (wheel)> Settings > Forwarding and POP/IMAP > in the Forwarding section select Disable forwarding
  2. And then in POP Download in “2. When messages are accessed with POP” > select “keep Gmail’s copy in the inbox”.

Now your Gmail email will be kept in the Inbox within your Gmail account, where you can access it at any time from any computer anywhere.

 

Other Useful Things:

  • Travel alarm clock: The light-weight, battery type.
  • Very small flashlight: Great for finding your way in the dark, such as walking alone at night. You can also get a small travel flashlight with a personal alarm that’s perfect for ladies.
  • Prescription glasses in a hard case
  • Sleeping mask: Or take a bandana which can be used to cover your eyes while sleeping, and also double as a head covering or a small hand towel.
  • Travel towel: Small, made of Viscose or quick-drying micro fibre
  • Small Ziploc baggies: 3 or 4 (lots of uses for these)
  • Large Ziploc baggies: 3 or 4 (useful in the hostel kitchen)
  • Large plastic bags: 1 for dirty laundry
  • Netted bags for things like underwear, socks.
  • Sunglasses
  • Compass: Very handy when walking around unfamiliar cities.
  • Sink stopper: Universal size, needed to wash cloths in the sink.
  • Travel clothesline: The stretchy, braided type with kooks. Use this to dry your cloths after washing in the sink.
  • Silk travel sheet: To sleep on instead of sleeping on a dubious-looking bed sheet. Some hostels require you to rent one of theirs (for a small fee, of course) so don’t expect to be able to use it everywhere. Silk is ultra light and folds up to almost nothing. You can also take a silk pillow case.
  • Take re-sealable element-proof storage bags such as those made by Loksak.
      • Put your cloths in one, sit on it for compression, zip it closed.
      • Use another water-proof storage bag for your electronics.

  
Have an Amazing Trip!

1 2 3 56