I will be travelling around Europe this summer by train (last two weeks in July, first week in August). It's the first time I've done this so I am inexperienced but I can generally organise things well and I'm confident in doing so.

My plan was to get off the train in a given destination, find accommodation, drop the bag off, and explore. As long as it is safe and has a roof, I don't care what the accommodation is, although probably the cheaper the better for me.

Possible destinations: France (cities& rural), Germany (cities & rural), Switzerland (cities & rural), Italy (cities), Hungary (cities), Czech Republic (cities).


How difficult is it to simply walk around and find accommodation for that night (and optionally the following night also) on a day-to-day basis?

Extra Info

I have been told that one can visit a tourist office and they will gladly help you (possibly with a charge) to find accommodation.

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    Finding accommodation on the spot might be more expensive than booking in advance. Rurals areas have less accommodation facilities and not booking in advance might be gambling... – Nean Der Thal Jun 15 '13 at 14:31
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    I think this is way too broad. With the question as it stands you can only receive general advices like the one HaLaBi already gave to you. I suggest you to read the faq and edit the question accordingly. – Geeo Jun 15 '13 at 14:49
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    I agree @HaLaBi, you can travel without booking, but it could make you lose money. The medium point between the non-booking freedom and the booking safety is to get an accomodation list (with prices if possible) of all cities you are going to visit. – Ivan Jun 15 '13 at 16:12
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    Note that you will not only lose money. You will also lose time. – gerrit Jun 15 '13 at 17:09

The answer depends very much on where you go. Backpacking/interrailing is quite popular in Europe, and many hostels will be full. Depending on your budget, it's probably possible to do as you describe, but at two costs:

  • You will lose money. If hostels are booked out you might be forced to book into a more expensive hotel (perhaps even a business hotel).
  • You will lose time. It might be a while before you have found a place for the night...
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    One other addition to this - you will lose choice. The best ones might be all booked up leaving you potentially in one of the worst places in town. Could still be cheap though. – daamsie Jun 28 '13 at 10:29

Two summers ago I backpacked through Europe. I never booked more than a night ahead on hostelbookers.com - and had zero problems finding accommodation (this was May-June, so not quite peak season, but still not winter).

On several occasions (Cologne, Krakow, Bialystok and Tallinn) I just rocked up in town. The only times I had a couple of difficulties was Tallinn (there was a festival on, so I had to move hostels after the first two nights) and Vianden (small town near Luxembourg) as there aren't many cheap places there.

In Koblenz, yes, I used the tourism office to find hostels (as I've done in other countries too). They've always been happy to help, and never tried to charge me (I'd be surprised if they did).

Looking at the countries you've listed, I've also rocked up at a hostel in Budapest in mid-summer without problems. The other ones when I went I booked in advance.

Risks - if there's a sporting event, public holiday or something else you didn't plan on, you may struggle. I'd suggest that if you do know where you're going to want to be the next night, book a hostel on hostelbookers there and then. You pay a deposit, but worst case you lose a Euro or three, which is better than spending hours wandering a city tired and hungry looking for somewhere to stay.

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Having backpacked in Europe this past summer, I'd advise you to book ahead (even if it's just one day in advance) or simply have a couple of options in your mind with specific directions to those places rather than just showing up in a city. In my experience, not all tourist offices were easy to find and/or spoke English well, and unless you're very flexible you run the risk of not being able to find a spot to sleep for the night (especially if this is your first time backpacking and you're not familiar with any of the places you're going to). As mentioned before, your budget will also need to increase and be more flexible if you don't book ahead, because you'll be stuck with whatever you can find. That said, it's definitely possible to show up and find a spot, but until you're more experienced I'd advise booking ahead or at least heavily planning ahead to ensure a less-stressful trip. Good luck!

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  • Some hostels also don't take 'walk-ins', i.e. you have to book in advance, even if it is just a day in advance. Personally, I'd rather book accommodation for the next destination a couple of days before going there (at the same time as when you book transportation or confirm your check-out date) - that way you can keep your schedule flexible but also know that you have somewhere to stay when you get there. Extending a stay is easier than finding somewhere new to stay. – Sam Oct 30 '13 at 0:21

In some countries it may be advantageous to turn up and negotiate a discount, but this is dependant on season, location etc. I agree with other points from users, this will potentially be a waste of precious sightseeing time! I got stung by the same thing in Oz once, and ended up walking round all day, and ended up paying for a hotel. This was not good for my budget!

Book a day before via hostel websites - http://www.hostelworld.com or www.hostelbookers.com. You can sort by availability and book online. This allows you the flexibility and also, you can sort by price. Even better, you can download the apps for a smartphone (if you have one) and book on the move!

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If you don't mind meeting new people then consider couchsurfing as an alternative. People from all the world offer a couch at their place where a traveller can stay overnight, or just meet locals for a chat. The biggest advantage - it's free and the hosts are usually very friendly and they sometimes guide you through the city. But you need to plan your trips at least few days in advance and have internet connection from time to time. You can always find a hostel as a backup.

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