OK, so you’ve got five hours to kill on your train and no WiFi. No, this isn’t one of those hypothetical life survival scenarios, this is the life you live when backpacking through Europe. When you can only endure so many rounds of solitare, try these top mobile apps to entertain yourself — no internet access required.
Pocket: Getting cultured doesn’t have to end when your train rolls up to the platform. When surfing the web, save news articles and long-form pieces to this handy app. They’ll still be there to read later when you lose your internet.
OverDrive Media Console: Another reading app, OverDrive lets you check out books from your local library to read digitally. Since carting around physical books in your backpack isn’t practical, this app saves space and money.
TripAdvisor City Guides: Scroll through other travelers’ attraction and restaurant recommendations before arriving to your next destination. Bonus: This app is GPS-enabled and will point you directly to top city spots, no 3G required.
Spotify: If your favorite songs change as quickly as the weather, a Spotify Premium account will allow you to make and mix up your own musical playlist that you can take offline.
Duolingo: Find out exactly what locals are saying about you with this language learning app. A heads-up: The app does have offline capabilities, but only about an hour’s worth of lessons can be downloaded at one time.
Between the bunkmate who’s snoring so loudly it sounds like she’s trying to pass an elephant through her nostril to the drunken bunch celebrating a World Cup win outside your window, it can be hard to feel rested while staying in hostels. Follow these tips, and learn how getting a good night’s sleep is actually quite eas—zzzzz.
Knock yourself out. Pack your days full of activities and walking. Make yourself so tired that by the time your head hits the pillow, you feel as if you can’t keep your eyes open any longer. By the time your noisy roommate returns, you’ll already be a couple sleep cycles in to not even notice.
Invest in a quality eye mask and ear plugs. No, not the ones from the plane. Cheap foam earplugs can fall out easily, and you don’t want an eye mask that’s so thin you can still tell there’s light shining through it. I suggest REI’s cushioned eye mask and ear plug set. The mask has an adjustable strap and feels like a cloud is snuggling the heck out of your face. The ear buds are a dream, too.
Opt for a smaller room. Fewer roommates mean fewer interruptions. But when your wallet just can’t swing for a smaller, more expensive room at every hostel, designate just a few nights here and there when you treat yourself to a smaller room to catch up on sleep.
Create your own privacy curtain. Privacy curtains are a luxury in the hostel world, but if they don’t come standard at your place, no worries. Go for a bottom bunk, and drape your bath towel overhead of your bed. Voilà! Instant darkness and a chance for your perpetually damp towel to finally dry.
With exotic destinations comes incredible food — but also exorbitant prices. Europe is notorious for its expensive restaurants, and to the cost-conscious traveler, that currency exchange rate doesn’t help much. Only having $20 a day to spend on meals has been a challenge for this self-professed foodie, but I’ve learned a few things along the way. Here are some of my tips:
Drink your own water. Many restaurants only offer bottled water even if the local tap is safe to drink. Sure, a water bottle is just a dollar or two, but that money could be better spent on another round of gelato. Fill up an eco-friendly bottle at the hotel before taking on the day.
Opt for food with a view. Take advantage of Europe’s gorgeous parks and riverside views by packing as many picnics as possible. Don’t have a way to prepare food of your own? Many cafés offer their sandwiches and pastries at lower prices if you’re getting carry-out instead of dining in.
Eat lunch out and dinner in. Lunch is always more affordable than dinner. If you have a kitchenette in your hotel or hostel, pick a few nights to make your own meals.
Check out the market at closing time. When it comes to cheap eats, open-air markets are a no-brainer. If you’re looking to get a real steal, head to the market around closing time as vendors drop their prices. Bonus: They can sometimes offer up the tastiest, most authentic food around.
Do your research. When you’re petered out and starving after a long day of sightseeing, the last thing you want to do is sacrifice taste and affordability for an overpriced eatery teeming with tourists just because it’s what’s nearby. Check out reviews online ahead of time for no unpleasant surprises. Know when to splurge and when to save.