Applying For The Right Schengen Visa
For a multi-country trip while backpacking in Europe, apply for a Schengen Visa at the embassy of the country you are flying in to. For example, if you are flying to Rome, then apply for your Schengen at the embassy of Italy. But if you are spending a majority (more than 50%) of your trip in another country, then apply at the embassy of the country you will spend the longest time in. For example, if you fly in to Rome, but spend the rest of your trip in France, then apply at the embassy of France.
If you haven't planned your itinerary and plan to wing it, then apply at the embassy of the country which will be the point of entry.
A few things about applying for Schengen Visa in India:
1. You have to book your round-trip flights in advance. This is quite a bit of an inconvenience, in case your visa is denied. Therefore book refundable tickets if you find a good deal, or call up the airline to find out if they will give you a refund if your visa application gets denied.
2. Apply for your Schengen Visa at least a month in advance. You cannot apply more than three-months in advance.
3. You will need to show hotel bookings with your applications. Book a hotel room for the first night on sites like www.booking.com, that allow you to pay for your room after you check-out and offer free-cancellation.
Leave some room for spontaneity
Plans could change. You could meet people you don't wanna say goodbye to yet. You could stumble upon a place you just can't get enough of. Backpacking in Europe begs for some breathing room for the randomness that is life.
Overnighters = Major Savings
Make the most of daylight and your Euros by taking overnight transportation in between cities (buses, trains). You can save on a night's accommodation, which could be anywhere between 10 – 50 Euros and squeeze more into your days in Europe.
The Interrail Is Expensive
The Interrail is the most convenient way to make your way through Europe, but train travel in the continent can get quite expensive. The cheapest multi-country 'Global Pass' costs 300 Euros, for which you get upto 5 days of train travel.
In many cases, other modes of travel could turn out be much cheaper. Budget airlines such as Ryanair or bus operators such as Eurolines, Flixbus and CheckMyBus offer much better deals.
Carpooling and Ridesharing
The coolest new way of exploring Europe is carpooling. Services such as BlaBlaCar is an extremely popular way to get around in countries like France and Germany. You can usually get matched with a rider within a few hours, or can even chose to arrange your ride a few days in advance. This often works out cheaper than buses, and is a much more fun and social way to see Europe.
Cheaper Than Hostels?
Hostels are awesome and you are bound to wind up in a mixed dorm at some point during your trip. But homestays are an increasingly popular way to travel around the continent and sites such as Airbnb and Couchsurfing have made it easier than ever to guarantee the perfect homestay experience.
The main difference between homestay rentals and couchsurfing is that couchsurfing is free. Although the standard of accommodation can vary depending on your host, ranging from literally a little space on a living room sofa to beautiful mansions all to yourself – it is all for free. Although homestay rentals often come with some great perks and awesome deals, couchsurfing remains the cheapest way to travel.
Where should you go?
From my (almost scientific) calculations, you will need a minimum of 6 weeks of non-stop travel to visit all the places on your European bucket-list. So, unless you have months at your disposal, exploring Europe can involve a series of hard choices. From the chic glamour of Nordic cities to the rustic villages of Tuscany, from the rolling hills of Transylvania to the posh beaches of the Riviera; there's not just a lot to choose from, there's a lot to miss out on as well.
Here are five signature experiences that you can plan your trip around. These places capture several distinct flavours of Europe. Pick one or two of these experiences to anchor your itinerary around.