Leisurely backpacking around Europe has become the dream of many young Americans. While there are many places to go, some people are drawn to the friendly culture and lively beer gardens of Germany. If you want to backpack in Germany but aren't sure where to start, check out these suggestions for how to prepare, where to go, and how to save a few bucks while you're there.
Preparing to Backpack
When planning your trip, there are a few things to keep in mind. Be sure to apply for your passport as early as possible; don't leave it to the last minute! The U.S. Department of State says that the routine service takes about four to six weeks, and even the expedited service takes two to three weeks.
Without your passport, all your backpacking dreams will be put on hold, so apply early. Applying for a visa also involves various fees, so work that into your backpacking budget.
With the preliminary paperwork out of the way, next comes the question of whether to plan your route or to just wing it. There are pros and cons to each. Planning your route in advance can help you save a lot of money.
You can book hotel rooms and hostels early and save money that way, as well as find festivals or events that you can plan to be in the town for. But what if you meet a fellow backpacker in the hostel who tells you about this really cool music festival tomorrow in Berlin, when you were heading to Frankfurt? The spontaneity of traveling without plans can lead to really cool and unexpected experiences that planned travel sometimes can't match.
In the end, this decision comes down to you. It may be helpful just to have a rough idea of the cities you'd like to visit, and then play it by ear once you're there.
Don't forget to brush up on a little bit of German before you go. While most young people in Germany learn English in school, you can't always count on there being someone to translate. Learn a few common phrases, and it will help you immensely. Plus, people always appreciate it when visitors make an attempt to speak their language. It's a nice gesture!
When packing, be sure to bring a money belt. Even if you don't think you'll use it, bring it anyway. You may change your mind when you're riding on trains and see some unsavory characters.
In general, don't over pack. Usually people bring too much, when you can get away with bringing very little. Even if you find something you need, there are stores in Germany, so you can always pick it up there.
Best Backpacking Destinations
Really, your destinations in Germany depend on what you are interested in. Germany is an amazing country with lots of history and plenty of things to do, so if you want to see castles, then be sure to check out Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. If you're really into cars, then go to Wolfsburg and check out the Autostadt, an amazing museum and car factory.
You should also look into what festivals will occur during your trip. There are many food and music festivals during the summer, so look up where they're being held and see which interest you the most. That can help you plan your trip. That being said, there are a few cities you shouldn't miss.
Berlin is a no-brainer. The capital of Germany, and the biggest German city, Berlin is chock-full of museums, monuments, restaurants, bars, gardens, theatres, churches...there's something for everyone here.
Nomadic Matt, a travel blogger, gives a great tip for Berlin. He says "New Europe runs a long and informative walking tour that begins at the Brandenburg Gate and lasts 3.5 hours. It takes you through the center of the city, shows you all the highlights, gives you some history, and will help you orientate yourself."
These tours are free, so be sure to check it out. Munich is another must-see. Be sure to visit the Hofbräuhaus, the most famous beer hall in the world. There's plenty to do here as well. Weimar is another great city with lots of history.
People like Johann Sebastian Bach, Richard Wagner, Friedrich Schiller, Gropius, Kandinsky, Nietzsche, and Goethe lived here at one point or another, so walk the same streets as some of the most influential musicians, painters, and philosophers and see where they lived.
So you've prepared and figured out where you're going, how do you save money? Well, if you are a student, be sure to bring your student ID with you. In Germany, many places will give you a student discount.
Also, hotels can be expensive, so consider staying in hostels or even checking out couch surfing. Be aware though that hostels may charge you for towels and linens, so consider packing a towel and a sheet if you have room. Another good tip is to purchase single country rail passes, which can be much cheaper than buying the Eurorail pass.
Well, there you have it! Soon you'll be backpacking around Germany and having the time of your life. Happy trails!