Ah, the summer holidays. Weeks and weeks of free time; no assignments, no lectures, no exams. How will you fill this time? Possibly in the same way as thousands of other students: backpacking.
With two or three months to spare, you have plenty of time to explore one or two countries – though finding ones which meet your budget constraints might prove a little tougher than first anticipated. Those nearer home are typically the most financially-viable, as they don’t necessitate expensive long-haul flight tickets and could instead be reached by rail or car.
Some research therefore, is essential if you are going to explore a country on a shoe-string. That or taking notice of this list of five top cheap backpacking destinations.
Lithuanians are a tall race and their national sport is basketball, did you know that? Probably not. Their capital city is Vilnius and it boasts a pretty coastline which faces the Baltic Sea. In the summer time, many nationals head to the coast to stay in their holiday homes – which for many were built on land historically gifted to families by the government. It has a fascinating – if not troubled -history, with influences from Poland and Russia. Vilnius, in the Dzukija region which borders Belarus, has a beautiful Old Town which can be seen to best effect from Gediminas Castle on the hill. To balance out all that culture, there’s a vibrant nightlife that all hardened backpackers will enjoy.
Budapest recently topped a Post Office Travel Money survey of value-for money holiday destinations, so the Hungarian capital is probably the place to head. It’s a beautiful city, where the famous Danube River divides Buda from Pest. It’s arguably one of the prettiest cities, demonstrated by Buda Castle, the chain bridge, the Parliament building and huge properties along Andrassy Avenue. It’s good for shopping, great for markets and fabulous for food. It’s also the location for the Budapest Sziget Festival – one of Europe’s biggest music events. Even Michael Eavis hailed it “cleaner and more colourful than Glastonbury”. Don’t forget your tent.
Summer in Warsaw should be a warm and sunny event, where backpackers can explore the diverse culture. It’s an elegant city that reminds you both of its melancholy past and incredible revival; where the bustling financial district vies with the charm of the old town. The things that the guide books are quick to highlight, however, is that once the sunshine arrives, every single pub, bar, café and restaurant will encroach on the pavement to create their summer beer gardens. With lots of budget accommodation in town, such as the Okidoki Hostel, staying out late won’t cause any problems.
Latvia’s popularity has grown in recent years as a destination for British stag parties, but don’t let this put you off. Riga is the biggest and most populated of the Baltic states – a third of all Latvians live in the city, which tells you something, right? It, like the other cities mentioned, has a pretty old quarter, framed by pretty gabled buildings straight off the lid of a chocolate box. There are lots of hostels in town, including the highly recommended Friendly Fun Frank’s and the intriguingly-named Naughty Squirrel. Definitely worth investigating.
This ancient city boasts a pleasant climate, with the sun casting long shadows across the cobblestones of – you guessed it – the Old Town. It’s lovely though and the Town Hall Square is one of the best places to stop and grab a thirst-quenching drink. There’s plenty for backpackers to do, from Tallinn Zoo to St Catherine’s Passage and the Soviet-built TV Tower, which contains an observation deck from which you take get some great photos. It’s said that Tallinn has strangely disproportionate number of bars and clubs for such a small town, thus it would be your duty to try a few. Clearly.
Naturally, there is more to all of these fine destinations than simply Old Towns and bars, so why not do a little investigating of your own? Each are said to provide great value for money and could offer you a summer adventure to remember – but before you leave make sure that you get your adventure travel insurance!
Article written by travel blogger Elizabeth Smythe for UK insurer 24/7 Travel Insurance. Read more top travel destinations and blogs from the company @247insurance.