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Backpacking Through Europe Questions And Advice  
User currently offlineTWA772LR From United States of America, joined Nov 2011, 2046 posts, RR: 1
Posted (1 year 7 months 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 2412 times:

My buddy and I are really considering backpacking through Europe. We have some questions on ways to get around, currency rates, hostels, tourist hot-spots, how to the most bang for your buck, etc...

Our questions are:

What is the cheapest mode of transportation (I imagine it would be the train)?
Best time of year to go?
Departure taxes from MAD, CDG, LHR, FRA, AMS, FCO, GVA?
Major tourists hot-spots in the major European cities?
Places we would want to stay away from at all costs (We are American)?
Which flights are the cheapest?
What hostels to go to?
Places to meet other travelers?
What to do if we get in trouble (nearest US embassy/consulate)?
Visas and passports?
How to spend the least money and get the greatest experience?

If I am missing anything on this list, I ask you to point that out. Any and all input is greatly appreciated and if you have any stories to tell, do tell  . I figured this would be one of the best websites to ask this on since there are a bunch of seasoned travelers on here. Many, many thanks in advance!  


Go coogs! \n//
13 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineSuperfly From Thailand, joined May 2000, 39881 posts, RR: 74
Reply 1, posted (1 year 7 months 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 2407 times:

when-i-was-your-age-i-didnt-go-backpacking-around-europe-i-bombed-the-shit-out-of-it

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
What to do if we get in trouble (nearest US embassy/consulate)?


Don't expect any help from them.
They might be able to give you a map.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
How to spend the least money and get the greatest experience?


I found Greece, Spain and other countries in financial trouble to have the best bang for the buck.



Bring back the Concorde
User currently offlineNoUFO From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 7957 posts, RR: 12
Reply 2, posted (1 year 7 months 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 2353 times:

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
What is the cheapest mode of transportation (I imagine it would be the train)?

Bus if available. That's a big if. Train when you book early but that would kill spontaneous eruptions of "Reiselust".
Eurail is, contrary to what many American think, *not* the European railway network. It is a ticket handling agency and it is often not worth the money.
http://forum.virtualtourist.com/misc...-3608865/Eurail-useful-or-not.html

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Best time of year to go?

Depends. Where do you want to go? Do you like it real hot?

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Departure taxes from MAD, CDG, LHR, FRA, AMS, FCO, GVA?

You can get a kick in you back or butt if you want. No such thing.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Major tourists hot-spots in the major European cities?

First you should get yourself informed, then narrow your choice, then ask questions. What would you say if somebody ask a question on "major tourists hot-spots in the major U.S. cities?"

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Places we would want to stay away from at all costs (We are American)?

My mother-in-law and that goes for everyone.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Which flights are the cheapest?

You want to travel, you do the math.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
What hostels to go to?

In Berlin: The Circus or East Seven.
Honestly, what would you say would I ask for tips on the "best hostels in the U.S."? Europe is a continent for crying out loud. Narrow your questions!

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
What to do if we get in trouble (nearest US embassy/consulate)?

Cry a bit?
You could try getting help from the nearest consulate or embassy, yes. Sometimes they do help. I recently read that the German embassy in Pyongyang, North Korea helped some French and American musicians out whose passports were stolen. (Neither France nor the U.S. have diplomatic missions in North Korea.)

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Visas and passports?

Passports. There's a visa waiver program between the European Union and the U.S.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
How to spend the least money and get the greatest experience?

Central-Eastern Europe, such as Slovenia provides the best bang for bucks and Slovenia is beautiful. Contrary to what 'Fly said, Spain isn't cheap. Portugal is - relatively speaking.



I support the right to arm bears
User currently offlineAF1624 From France, joined Jul 2006, 659 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (1 year 7 months 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 2334 times:

For transportation, go to

http://www.idbus.com/

It's by far the best coach service there is in the EU (free Wifi, etc.) and still very cheap. Not many destinations but enough to give you some ideas.

Rule of thumb: you will not get into trouble in the EU generally. France, Belgium, UK, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Greece and Germany are all very safe countries. If you do get in trouble because you've done something you shouldn't have, some means of translation will be particularly useful especially in France, Belgium and Italy (I find that people from the other countries I've mentioned generally speak English very well).

Your US passport will be enough to travel in all Schenzen-space countries (most of the EU, basically).

Travel with as little cash as you can, prefer using credit/debit cards, as they are the most used means of payment generally in the EU, and you can pay very small amounts with them. Cash can be stolen, cards too, but without the PIN number, they won't go very far.

Portugal is very cheap, Spain is definitely not. Italy is also relatively cheap, more so than France, a lot more so than Germany and the UK.

If you plot a more specific route I might be able to give you some more detail. Hope this helps.

Oh and, by the way, as far as France goes, there is a stereotype going around that my countrymen are pains to talk to when you're American. It is TRUE, BUT: there is a very, very, easy way to make them be a lot nicer to you. Just say "Bonjour, parlez vous Anglais?". Just try to utter a few French words. Once that is done, you'd be surprised how much their attitude changes. And then they'll happily switch to English and help you out.



Cheers
User currently offlineRomeoBravo From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (1 year 7 months 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 2329 times:

Get a rail pass for a month. Start in Paris and perform a circular sweep generally pivoting around the Alps (though definitely see the Alps too) making it up as you go along.

Hostels can be easily found on HostelBooker or HostelWorld.

There are so many great and contrasting cities it would be easier just to list the ones that in my experience are overrated or not really worth seeing.

Frankfurt
Milan
Copenhagen


User currently offlinerwessel From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 2351 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (1 year 7 months 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 2303 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Advice? If you're hiking in the foothills of Mount Tibidabo, look for a beautiful woman bathing herself in a lake and crying.  

User currently offlineluckyone From United States of America, joined Aug 2008, 2172 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (1 year 7 months 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 2263 times:

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
What is the cheapest mode of transportation (I imagine it would be the train)?

Frequently the trains are quite expensive. Do your homework about where you want to go. My advice? Have a rough itinerary of big places you want to go, but leave the days in between empty and just go with the flow and don't get so rigid with your schedule. Still, it doesn't hurt to have a loose itinerary just to start with.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
What hostels to go to?

There are hundreds. Check www.hostels.com and read the review section.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Places to meet other travelers?

Not the hostel full of American backpackers wearing Canadian flags (these are the people you want to avoid at all costs). If you really want to meet people, obviously learn some of the local lingo, and try looking out for people speaking English, but not with an American or English accent. These are frequently fellow European travelers (aka the people who live there) who have just met and are enjoying each others' company in the same way you're looking to.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Visas and passports?

Visas are unnecessary unless you plan to visit Russia or Belarus.


User currently offlineTWA772LR From United States of America, joined Nov 2011, 2046 posts, RR: 1
Reply 7, posted (1 year 7 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 2195 times:

Thanks a lot everyone!


Go coogs! \n//
User currently offlineltbewr From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 13113 posts, RR: 12
Reply 8, posted (1 year 7 months 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 2174 times:

I would go to the bookstore or library and look or at or purchase a download of the Let's Go and Lonely Planet travel series for Europe (some libraries may offer free download to your computer/e-reader/tablet of these books, a great savings for you), which are mainly for backpackers/budget travelers. They could probably answer most of your questions.

Two important rules: Pack half as much and double the money budget. Make sure your pack is well made, perhaps one with rollers for smooth surfaces.

I would suggest to try to narrow down the number of countries or areas you want to visit. Try to target smaller cities as may be cheaper to stay in and more interesting. Is your interest in history, great art, politics, culture? That may help you narrow the places you want to visit.
Visit the websites for Eurail or the individual country rail/bus services as may offer pass deals. If under 26, you may be able to get cheaper passes as well as easier access to youth hostels.
Learn some useful phrases and words of the languages of the places you are going to.
For lunch, go to a local market or food store and buy some meat, cheese, fruit, beverages and enjoy it outside in a park or on your train/bus rides. You will save money and eat better.
Make sure you have health insurance that covers you when your travel outside the USA and have that info with you.
Don't drink too much as hangovers suck and drinking can make you a target of thieves or injury.
Make sure you smartphone/i-Pod/table has wi-fi access and don't flash it in certain public areas as could get stolen from you.


User currently offlineMaverick623 From United States of America, joined Nov 2006, 5641 posts, RR: 6
Reply 9, posted (1 year 7 months 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 2164 times:

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):


What is the cheapest mode of transportation (I imagine it would be the train)?

Nope. Trains are pretty expensive, especially if you buy last-minute.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Best time of year to go?

Avoid June-August... especially August. Most Europeans go on vacation during that month and a lot of stuff will be closed.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Departure taxes from MAD, CDG, LHR, FRA, AMS, FCO, GVA?

To the US? In order from cheapest to most expensive: MAD, FCO, GVA, AMS, CDG, FRA, LHR.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
What hostels to go to?
http://www.hostelworld.com or http://www.hostelbookers.com

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Places to meet other travelers?

Hostels.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):

What to do if we get in trouble (nearest US embassy/consulate)?

Not unless you get arrested or lose your passport. Most local authorities are quite helpful, especially in touristy areas.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Visas and passports?

Make sure your passport is good for at least a year past when you plan to leave. 6 months is the requirement, but a year will give you a nicer buffer. It's worth mentioning that you don't need a visa to visit any EU or EEC countries.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):

How to spend the least money and get the greatest experience?

Your biggest expense after airfare will be food and drinks. Do what you do here: shop at the grocery store and eat out as little as possible. Watch your transportation budget, remember, trains are expensive. And try to get out of the tourist areas. While you shouldn't avoid them, don't stay exclusively in a 4 block area of a city.


Be smart. Treat it as you would any city in the US. Watch out for pickpockets and seedy-looking bars (they WILL rip you off). Don't wander off in the middle of the night.


A really good website to visit is http://wikitravel.org



"PHX is Phoenix, PDX is the other city" -777Way
User currently offlinegabrielchew From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 3268 posts, RR: 12
Reply 10, posted (1 year 7 months 22 hours ago) and read 2053 times:

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
My buddy and I are really considering backpacking through Europe. We have some questions on ways to get around, currency rates, hostels, tourist hot-spots, how to the most bang for your buck, etc...

If you posted on the Lonely Planet, you'd either be called a troll or laughed out of the fourm. There are a million and one "First Time Europe" books...buy one and read it.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
What is the cheapest mode of transportation (I imagine it would be the train)?

Varies massively. If you book in advance, and are traveling long distance, the plane can be cheapest. Check skyscanner.net. Bhan.de has most rail timetables (but rarely fares). Check seat61.com. Ryanair is an art, but you can get some excellent fares (I got a o/w London-Morocco for $20).

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Best time of year to go?

Anytime - Europe is big. Depends on what you want to do see. Summer is busiest, most expensive, but best weather. May/June is often busy with school groups. Try Sep/Oct.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Departure taxes from MAD, CDG, LHR, FRA, AMS, FCO, GVA?

The UK has the highest deptarture taxes, but conversely often the lowest fares and probably the best transatlantic options. As an a.netter, research should be easy/fun.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Major tourists hot-spots in the major European cities?

Where to start? You'll need to research what you want to see. You could spend years travelling around Europe and not see a fraction of the stuff that really interests you.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Places we would want to stay away from at all costs (We are American)?

In Europe? Do you know anything about Europe? You'll be hard pressed to find someone that wants to kill/mug you just for being an American in Europe, unless you demonstrate crass stupidity/ignorance. It's always a good idea to not promote the fact you are a first timer American traveller as you'll make yourself a massive target. Keep to yourself, and learn some of the local language. Speaking slowly and loudly in English doesn't count. Don't flash your cash/gadgets. Watch out for pickpockets in stations/crowded areas/hostel dorms. Lots of people find American travellers annoying (but not enough to damage you) because they are very loud...when chatting with outher Americans, keep it down. I was in a lounge in LHR recently, and two American families (strangers to each other) decided to regale the entire lounge with their holiday stories. Everyone in the lounge was staring at them, giving them evils...the two families were either completely oblivious to their surroundings (not a good idea), or just being very rude (not a good way to make friends).

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Which flights are the cheapest?

skyscanner.net

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
What hostels to go to?

Look at tripadvisor or hostelbookers

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Places to meet other travelers?

Hostels/bars/couchsurfing

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
What to do if we get in trouble (nearest US embassy/consulate)?

Police? Embasies are unlikey to be able to really do much. Get insurance. If you're robbed, the embassy won't care, but the police will fill in a form for your insurance.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Visas and passports?

Yes, you need a passport, and porbably not a visa.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
How to spend the least money and get the greatest experience?

Couchsurfing

Oh yes, if you don't know where you're going, don't stop in the middle of the pavement/sidewalk. Stand to the side. Pay attention to what other people do. If everyone is standing on the right side of an escalator, do the same.



http://my.flightmemory.com/shefgab Upcoming flights:MAN-LHR-ARN-OSL-TOS-LYR-OSL-CPH-LHR,LCY-ARN-AMS-LGW-DXB-BKK-HKG-TPE-
User currently offlineAkiestar From Philippines, joined May 2009, 786 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (1 year 6 months 4 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 1937 times:

Okay, while my area of expertise for this question is Eastern Europe (and for obvious reasons, I will be encouraging you to go there if you can), allow me to answer some of your questions.  
Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Major tourists hot-spots in the major European cities?

I think you already know the obvious ones in the cities you've listed earlier (the Eiffel Tower, the Brandenburg Gate, Buckingham Palace, etc.). But since Europe is a vast continent, and you did say you and your friend are backpacking through Europe, allow me to throw in some other places in the mix.

I would suggest adding in a little Central and Eastern Europe to your plans. Prague, Kraków and Auschwitz, Warsaw and Budapest are the most obvious places that I could think of for this, if you want to get a healthy mix of East and West. The Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) are also nice, but are more expensive (Estonia especially), and the Balkan states are awesome, but are more difficult to get around.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
Places to meet other travelers?

Couchsurfing communities often organize events, so if you can, I suggest you and your friends should join them as they're mostly organized by locals with travelers in mind.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
What is the cheapest mode of transportation (I imagine it would be the train)?

It depends on where in Europe. Trains are actually cheaper (and more reliable) than buses in Central and Eastern Europe, and prices are more or less fixed for domestic trains. For international trips, buses can be cheaper, so you should be on the lookout for deals from companies such as megabus, PolskiBus.com, Simple Express, Orangeways, etc. for the cheapest fares.

In the Balkans, buses are the best way to get around, though trains in Slovenia and Croatia (and, to a lesser extent, Serbia) are okay, though slow. Same with the Baltic states.

Quoting NoUFO (Reply 2):
It is a ticket handling agency and it is often not worth the money.

I believe it depends on how much you travel. Eurail is good if you expect to go around a lot (and some of my friends who studied in Europe made good use of their Eurail passes), but it's much less useful if you're going to see only a few places. Or, if you were like me, studying in Poland (where Eurail passes are not valid).

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
What to do if we get in trouble (nearest US embassy/consulate)?

Every country in Europe has at least a U.S. embassy, and many cities in Europe have consulates. You'll be fine.

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
What hostels to go to?

My suggestions may not be what you'd like (especially if you're the type that likes to always go out when traveling), but take them into consideration. (And yes, Europe is a vast continent, so I'll be giving suggestions from all over the place.)

* The Green Door in Drogheda, Ireland (50 km north of Dublin; went for St. Patrick's Day as the hostels in Dublin were full)
* The Red Door Hostel (no relation to the Green Door) in Belgrade
* Oki Doki Hostel in Warsaw
* The Old Town Hostels in Dubrovnik, Croatia and Kotor, Montenegro (not related to each other)

Quoting TWA772LR (Thread starter):
How to spend the least money and get the greatest experience?

There are many answers to that:

* Rough if it you need to. I've slept in airports just to save money, and save for an incident where my camera was stolen at OPO, it was worth it.

* If you're still a student, take advantage of your student discount. Get an ISIC (International Student Identity Card) if you don't have one yet.

* Be discerning. Especially in Eastern Europe, what you see in tourist areas will not always get you the most bang for your buck. Particularly with food, don't hesitate to try a cheap hole-in-the-wall if you need to.

Although in general, remember that costs in Central and Eastern Europe are around half of that of Western Europe on average, so if you really want to see Europe, I highly suggest going to this part of the continent as well.

Also, as a closing note, http://en.wikivoyage.org can really help you out with this! 


User currently offlineNoUFO From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 7957 posts, RR: 12
Reply 12, posted (1 year 6 months 4 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 1920 times:

Quoting Akiestar (Reply 11):
I believe it depends on how much you travel. Eurail is good if you expect to go around a lot (and some of my friends who studied in Europe made good use of their Eurail passes), but it's much less useful if you're going to see only a few places.

You are right, but at the same time it is more complicated than this. When I was as young as the original poster is, train travel in Europe was a lot different. With a Eurailpass you could hop on and of basically every train, show the pass to the conductor, and you were off.
Nowadays, basically all long distance trains are "premium trains", and reservations are often mandatory (not on Germany's ICEs, but in other countries). Hence, you can no longer spontaneously hop on a train but need to purchase a reservation before - even if you happen to have a Eurail Pass. Let's assume you plan on traveling through France and Italy on 10 trains where seat reservation is mandatory. A seat reservation may go for 5 EUR each. There are two of you = 10 EUR. That's a 100 EUR extra.

Second: Back in those days, you were charged by kilometers. The longer the trip, the more expensive the ticket. Nowadays, prices for tickets are marked oriented: The higher the demand, the higher the ticket price. But where fares go up, they can also provide huge discounts, and you can get a ticket from Strasbourg to Paris for 15 EUR, Hamburg to Munich for 29 EUR, and Paris - Stuttgart starts at 39 EUR. At least in Germany we see a wealth of discounted ticket: Ländertickets, Deutschlandticket, Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket - you name it.
Eurail, in contrast, is a discount from the full fare, not from the lowest price national networks offer.



I support the right to arm bears
User currently offlineelbandgeek From United States of America, joined Jun 2008, 755 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (1 year 6 months 4 weeks 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 1898 times:

Quoting rwessel (Reply 5):
Advice? If you're hiking in the foothills of Mount Tibidabo, look for a beautiful woman bathing herself in a lake and crying.

I clicked on the thread just to see if someone was going to make this exact post.
Thank you good sir


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