Backpacking from the UK to Greece can be a great experience, but takes some forward planning.
One of the best ways to tackle the route is to cross from the UK to France, before making your way through Germany and Austria, and into Eastern Europe’s Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Taking this route allows you to see a big chunk of Western and Eastern Europe en route to Greece, and can take advantage of Eurail passes and the strength of the pound.
This guide breaks down some of the stages of taking this trip, and also provides some general tips about the journey as a whole.
1 – UK to France
It’s possible to get a cheap plane or train to Paris from London, which will only take a few hours, and will give you the chance to explore Paris for a few days. A Euro Star train costs about £39 for St Pancras, while flights are around the same price. A Euroline bus will be cheaper, but takes considerably longer. Buying a Eurail pass before you travel is perhaps the best option, as this will give you access to multiple train journeys, and can be specified around your route. Staying in Paris for a few days to get used to your trip is recommended, but remember that it is quite an expensive city, so don’t go overboard.
2 – France to Germany and Austria
Heading East, it’s worth travelling by train from Paris to Munich in South Western Germany. The journey only takes about 6 hours, and allows you to see large parts of the French countryside, the Alps and the Black Forest. If you do want to see more of Germany, the city of Stuttgart is a good stopping off point. It’s a great walking city, and contains a wide range of museums, as well as a zoo, numerous cheap food outlets, hostels and clubs.
Munich itself is one of the most diverse cities in Europe, and is worth a few days to explore its extensive museums, bars, the Karsplatz, and the Kultfabrik clubbing zone. From Munich, you can take another 5 to 6 hour train journey to Graz in Eastern Austria, your last port of call before heading into Eastern Europe. Graz is Austria’s second largest city, and contains opportunities for climbing, exploring the old town of the city, and taking in its markets.
3 – Hungary to Romania
You’ll find that day to day prices will start to decrease as you move from Austria into Hungary. A 5 hour train journey from Graz to Budapest in Hungary takes around 5 hours, and allows you to enjoy a capital city that contains cheap hotels, good food, and excellent walks around the historical centre of the city. Another day of travel takes you to South Eastern Romania and Bucharest. Like Budapest, Bucharest is easy to get around, features attractions lie the Parliament Palace, clubbing, and the opportunity to camp on the cheap near to Baneasa Forest.
4 – Bulgaria to Greece
The final leg of your Eastern European journey can cross through Bulgaria to Sofia. It’s a 9 hour journey by train, so think about whether you want to get a quicker flight, or make some stop offs by bus along the way. Do spend some time in Sofia, however, as it contains the National Palace of Culture, and cheap attractions for backpackers. It’s also a good base for passing into Northern Greece, where you can stop off in Thessaloniki in the North of the city.
Check out its Byzantine walls and museums, and appreciate the temperature difference in the Mediterranean. Once in Greece, you can easily travel down by bus, train or boat to Athens. Island hopping between Corfu, Crete and the Ionian and Cyclades Islands is similarly recommended for a cheap series of trips. Consider a direct flight back from Athens, or a faster route via Italy and France back to the UK.
- A Eurail pass is perhaps the best option for travelling within Europe.
- Similarly, try to travel in the Spring and Autumn to avoid the holiday rush in Greece, and remember to keep copies of all travel documents and traveller’s cheques with you.
- Budget for about 2-3 weeks to a month of travel with this route, especially if you want to spend a day or so in each of the main cities.