• Finding a nice quiet place to bed will be very rare. But don't complain, that's part of the backpacking experience. Here are some tips to finding a place to rest your weary head:
  • Most train stations will have runners trying to bring tourists to various hostels and hotels; these people can be helpful, but beware, for often the room is not as advertised in the brochures they like to hand out. The safest bet is to check your Travel Guide for accommodations and investigate the listed hostels. They'll usually be full, since every other American using the same guide is doing the same thing, but the staff will almost always help you find alternate rooms at another comparable hostel. You can look up hostels at www.hostels.com or at www.hostelseurope.com.
  • Another easy option is to ask around and find out where most of the hostels are centered (usually quite near the train station itself). Walk around, see if you can bargain with the staff, find a room you like at a nice price (and make sure the place is secure), drop your things, and take off. Get a map from the front desk. Walk around. Do this in every city. Enjoy.
  • The only time you need to call ahead to book a bed is in Italy. Always full of tourists and low on rooms, you are likely to get screwed if you arrive without a reservation somewhere. Get there as early as possible, preferably before 9:30 a.m. Hostels fill up VERY quickly (especially the good ones).
  • A cheaper option than hostels is camping. Believe it or not, most major cities in Europe have more than one campground serviced by the city's public transportation. Often, these campgrounds have better facilities than hostels, and a more colorful selection of people. Tents - and sometimes even mattresses, if not beds - are often rentable in these spots, though you should call ahead to make sure. Go to www.campingeurope.com to find contact information for hundreds of campsites.
  • In some countries - especially Eastern European ones - it is just as cheap to get a hotel room as a hostel bed. This can be a welcome break from a lack of privacy and a cleanish shower, but of course there isn't the camaraderie of a roomful of travelers all having a good time. Just make decisions as they come.
  • For food, most hostels and campgrounds offer a kitchen, or make cheap food themselves. There are always plenty of markets around, and they can be different, funky, and fun, not to mention comparatively cheap. Make your own meals at least some of the time. The rest of the time there are many street vendor types, fast-foodish joints, and (of course) restaurants.

SoYouWanna know more? Check out our full-length article SYW backpack through Europe?