You probably read my post last week on how to backpack like a boss, on a college budget (and if not, now would be a great time to get caught up). So, now that you know how to backpack on the cheap, where should you go? Where to backpack can be determined by your personality type.
For the sun (and sunset)-chaser: Santorini, Greece
If sinking your toes into the warm sand and cliff-jumping into aqua blue waters fits your fancy, book your trip to one of the Greek islands immediately. My friend and I enjoyed 5 luxurious days soaking in the sun, racing past crumbling Greek tavernas on our rented ATV for the day, and dancing the nights away at one of the only clubs on the small island of Santorini. Do some research before you go on which island is best for you…or better yet, just do a tour of several!
For the social butterfly: Madrid, Spain
As I climbed the stairs from the musty, concrete belly of the subway system, I looked up and my eyes immediately fell on the overarching branches of the trees lining the street above. I breathed in the fresh air of Madrid on that first day and knew it was love at first smell. The proverbial love affair only intensified as I realized how easy it was to make friends in this colorful, ornate metropolis. (Besides during the time of siesta 2-5 p.m., of course). Language exchange parties are held weekly around the city at different pubs, and you’re sure to meet people from all corners of the world and of course plenty of amazing Spaniards.
For the fashionista: Milan, Italy
Have your camera, iPhone, or GoPro out and ready to shoot when traveling to Milan. You’re sure to see everything, from ballet students earning extra cash by street performing in full performance wear (I mean, leotard, tutu, and slippers, the works) to photo shoots on any given alleyway or photogenic bridge that caught the designer’s eye.
For the foodie: Berlin, Germany
Sushi, fish ‘n chips, bahnbao, pasta al forno, curry, oh my! Berlin is the new New York City when it comes to the increasing diversity and highest quality of taste and delivery of food. I tend to inhale anything set in front of me, but I especially recall slowing down to enjoy the rich flavor of the meals I had in Berlin. It’s also one of the most affordable, large European cities, so you won’t break the bank eating out more than you usually would in, say, Paris or London.
For the stingy history guru : Prague, Czech Republic
Still waking up and stretching after years behind the Iron Curtain of Communism, Prague astounds visitors with its rich history, unique architecture, and wonderfully cheap food and drink. Free walking tours to cheap pub-crawls make Prague a must-visit for the low-budget backpacker who also wants to learn and enjoy a night on the town.
For the academic: Oxford, England
Every second or third building you pass on the cobble-stone street will house the world’s brightest scholars, studying in one of Oxford’s many school departments. All of the free museums make Oxford an especially advantageous location for the academic or merely curious individual to visit.
For the rolling country hills and historic city seeker: Senlis, France
Ready to escape the noise, smog, and crowds of Paris? Taking a fast train north for 30 minutes brings you to Chantilly (where there are castle grounds and plenty of shops to explore), and another 15-minute bus ride drops you off right outside the heart of Senlis. The medieval town dates back to the early Roman imperial period, and what Senlis lacks in size, it makes up for in charm and enchantment. If only the inhabitants had swung their window blinds open with a musical “Bonjour!”, my suspicions of Belle’s town in Beauty and the Beast being modeled after Senlis would have been confirmed.
For the fearless: Kolkata, India
Are you looking for a little more noise and bartering and excitement in your travels? I’m sure any large city in India will meet your requirements, but I can personally vouch for Kolkata as being all of the above. As one Indian man told me with a chuckle, “There’s a rule of law…but no one follows the rules.” Horns blaring all hours of the day and night, pedestrians dashing in and out of the way, hand-pulled rickshaws parked next to 2015 edition Rolls-Royce. Eating that spicy Indian food with fear of the runs is brave enough in itself, so if you want to get out of your comfort zone, have pride in your abilities as a traveler who can really see and do just about anything and live through it, Kolkata is for you.