I'm considering a 3 month back pack of Europe, i have everything set I'm just looking at when to travel.
Part of the reason i travel is to meet fellow backpackers and listen/share stories at hostels and such.
If i were to travel from the start of February to the end of April are the hostels going to be real quiet and empty? I understand it will differ somewhat depending on location. I have a mix of Capital Cities and more rural locations in my itinerary.
I certainly don't want to travel in the high season, my last trip the crowds and queuing drove me nuts .
Would it be wiser to wait and go in the shoulder season, perhaps Mid March-Mid June?
If someone who has traveled Europe in Low season could let me know their experiences it would be great, Thanks in Advance
As a backpacker, especially with 3 months on your hands, I guess you appreciate how enjoyable and useful a relaxed, flexible and take-it-easy approach is. I think key point when traveling wherever off season is flexibility. While many people simply go with no homework whatsoever, I would add that some research and preparation on what to expect is important. You may have some raugh ideas on what you want to see/do and maybe a plan A, a plan B, a plan C, then be reafy to scrach everything while on the spot.
It is important to realise some limitations on traveling at this particular time of the year, and if you are fine with those, then you are good to go!
I work in tourism industry here in Greece my self, so my only off time is on winter and this is when my trips take place. Any time November to March but usually January till early March. While I am not a dedicated fun of hostels, I have stay at many. I usually mix those with some guesthouses, small B&B hotels and occcasionaly larger/more upclass hotels stays.
On Europe I have been on many 3-4 weeks' long trips on one country each time
- multiple times on different months on November-March on Ireland and Northern Ireland, on many different areas. In some rural places hostels migth be closed or nearly closed and you might have to rely on local guesthouses, or you may find your self having a 12 people's dorm all to your self, especially middle January to end of February/start of March. On one trip on early March I found my self having to share a 6 dorm bed with 2 other women at first day on Killarney, then it was all to myself for next 4-5 nights. In some major cities on weekends in many hostels you would meet mostly people on a stag do or sports' teams and the like rather than travelers, say in Cork city or even Galway and Dublin, but thos depends on specific city and hostel.
-London and Brighton late January/February Not stayed in hostel, nut popular B&B for visitors in Victoria area. London attracts all kind of people's all time. Brighton popular to UK visitors rather than international travelers, busy at weekends, quiet on weekdays.
-Paris and Poitiers, more or less ditto as London and Brighton. Poitiers is not exactly a tourist attraction anyway... Had to visit a friend there.
-Poland on middle January-middle February Visited mostly large cities and a few smaller places that I really wanted to see. Lots of snow and low temperatures, hostels were a very mixed bag, more known places such as Krakow or Warsow attract Polish and international travelers along, places such as say Poznan which is a large city with universities were attracting mostly Polish visitors, smaller places that attract international visitors on summer were extremely quiet, say in Torun I think I might have been the only person in the whole hostel.
I often find that even reputable hostels sometimes allow long stays off season to people who are not travelers or visitors. While in general if a person is misbehaved they do not tolerate this, often I met some somehow scetchy characters here and there.
Europe is a wide area and specifics vary, but in general I find that as far as you are fine with
a)shorter day light hours
b)limited timetables on sites and some sites/attractions closed
c) less frequent public transport at some places
d)less accomodation options on some places
e) the idea that some places might be very quiet and this might apply on hostels too, especially on rural areas
f) possibly lots of "bad" weather.
I would say that February/March/April is absolutely ok to go.
I see you are particularly interested on meeting fellow backpackers. I admit I am not so interested on that one when traveling aborad. I mostly like to socialize with locals rather than visitors,although I enjoy some nice conversations and a couple of beers with fellow travelers in case a person or conversation seems interesting. I find that off season traveling offers quality vs quantity. You are often more likely to bond with an other person when there are not too many people around, you take your time to chat without other people bustling around. Usually due to low season day light hours and timetables you are most likely staying in a place longer, and it is easier to bond when having more time too. Often off season travelers are more dedicated inspiring travelers too.
Again I am not an expert on this subject....