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first time backpacker needs help!

Travel Forums Europe first time backpacker needs help!

1. Posted by hoohayman (First Time Poster 1 posts) 12y

Thanks for all your advice. I was thinking about bypassing Versailles and Madrid so that I could have time to visit Greece, and the Greek Cyclades.

So Updated Itinerary

Boat from Birdinski to Greece
Greek Cyclades
Fly out of London

I know there might be some criss crossing involved with this, this is just a rough plan, I will get exact travel routes when I get closer to my departure. I figure 3-4 days in each city. Will two months be enough to accomplish this? How much money will I need? Any other general advice? Any other info is greatly appreciated! Happy traveling everyone!

2. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 12y

Hey hoohayman,

You might find yourself not liking one particular city, or really liking another, so don't be afraid to be spontaneous and stay somewhere longer, or skip somewhere else altogether. Having a general itinerary is a good plan, though, and working it out so that you aren't "crisscrossing" is wise, too. You should have enough time to spend in each place if you do that.

I'm not sure if you are already aware of this, but since you're a "first timer," I'll mention it anyway:

1. Get a Eurailpass that includes as many countries as possible. You might not be able to fit Ireland on it, though, but check with a travel agent or the website (sorry, I lost it in the shuffle) to be certain. You will save a lot of money if you do that (it was a mistake I made).

2. Get a "money belt." It is one of those things that you wear on the inside of your pants and has a strap that goes around your waste. Sounds uncomfortable, but it is a lot less uncomfortable if your bag gets swiped and you still have your tix, passes, and most importantly your passport with you. (Besides that, you'll know if someone is trying to pickpocket that! ) You can get one from a luggage store. Don't get the tan ones that need safety pins b/c they always fall down. Get the ones with the thing that you pull to tighten it around your waste (if that makes any sense at all). I have one from Roots and it works great.

There are lots of pickpockets around Paris, and the Paris- and some Italian-trains are notorious for theives, so be vigilant. When I was there, Italians weren't too friendly toward Americans, but that may have changed, since it's been a few years.

3. When you pack, only bring stuff you'll deffinately use. In Europe, you can buy anything you'll need on the road, so don't worry about leaving stuff behind that you MIGHT need. Just don't forget your journal or camera or return ticket or something! As far as clothes goes- put all the stuff you are going to bring into a pile- then devide it in half. That's how much you really need. (Trust me- your back will thank you later) Finally, roll your clothes/ towels/ anything rollable- it fits WAY more stuff in your pack. Make sure you leave at least 15% room for souveniers/gifts from your trip.

4. Get/bring an ATM card. The bank gives you the best exchange rates. There are ATMs all over Europe and you can avoid having to exchange money at shady currency exchange kiosks that rip you off. That isn't so much of a problem now as it was before the euro was introduced, though, but lots of banks add a surcharge on when you exchange travellers' cheques. My bank charged me C$2 max each withdrawal vs. the 5 euro charge I got every time I cashed a t.cheque. Keep most of your cash in your moneybelt. A credit card will help you reserve rooms in hostels, etc. but it isn't necessary. Don't bring any cards you won't be using in case they get lost.

You asked how much money you will need- well, a good rule of thumb is to plan to have at least $50 per day of your trip. In some places you might spend less, like in Spain, and in others you might spend more, like in Switzerland. You can probably work it to spend a max. of 20 euros per night in hostel expenses. Get a good guidebook like Lonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring. Also, get a Hostelling International card and/or a Hostels of Europe card- they provide discounts on hostels. All the HI hostels have to keep up with standards of sanitation, etc. too, so you know you'll be staying in a nice place. Sometimes you can get cheaper accom w/o, though. I think the HI card expires after a year, so don't get stuff like that until right before you leave.

Have a good trip! :)


3. Posted by theserge (Budding Member 2 posts) 12y

What is an HI card?

I'm in a similar situation to hoohayman. I am going for 5 months, focusing on Central Europe and Scandinavia. Any other advice for a first time backpacker?


4. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 12y

Hey Serge,

Excellent advice from Steph as normal there. A HI card is a Hostelling International card (i.e Youth Hostels etc) which gives you discounted accom in most offical hostels in Europe - on a similar theme, it's worthwhile making/buying a sheet sleeping bag (essentially 2 sheets stiched together around 3 sides) which you will need in most Hostel in Europe. If you don't have your own, you'll have to hire one - normal sleepiung bags are rarely allowed - and the cost of hiring them over a month trip for example, can ad up to be quite expensive, let alone over long periods.

Have a great trip both, and any other questions, just ask.

5. Posted by mitjamitja (Budding Member 8 posts) 12y

My only advice is "take it slow" Too much mixing of different cultures (which are abundant in Europe) can cause that u wont get much from this trip. But you are going for 2 months which is good.

I guess its easier for me to say "take it slow", since i am from Europe and u are not i guess :)


6. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 12y

Sorry it took me a while to write back- I've had a few problems with subscription notifications lately. However, it seems that other posters have already answered your question, Serge. Actually, the answer was sort of hidden in the paragraph about Hostelling International, but I should have been a little more specific and said what "HI" stood for.

On that topic, there is another card that I neglected to mention: that would be the Hostels of Europe card. It links independant hostels in Europe and offers a discount for members. It also has a few other perks.

You don't HAVE TO get these cards to stay in hostels in Europe. You can easily find many independant hostels that are clean, dry, warm, etc. that are not a part of either network. Some of those indie hostels will be less expensive, too.

If either of you has any more questions, just post them! I'll try to check back every now and then for now, and other members will no doubt offer their advice as well. Also, feel free to ask me general questions about European backpacking by sending me a message.

- Steph