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Advice and Tips for first timer

Travel Forums Europe Advice and Tips for first timer

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1. Posted by bakpackin1 (Budding Member 7 posts) 9y

First off let me introduce my self, My name is kyle and I'm from the United States. I'm 17 right now, but by the time I'm in Europe I'll be 18. I'm going to be in Europe for 3-4 weeks starting this June.

Mainly I just have some questions, but any advice/tips/recomendations are more then welcome to come my way! :)

I will be traveling through England, Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Czek Republic, Switzerland, and Italy. I'm going to be going from hostel to hostel so I'm not worried about how long I stay in each city.

Here are my main questions...
- Are hostels relatively clean/safe? I'm obviously not expecting the Ritz but they are sanitary right?
- Are most of the people freinds towards Americans? I don't plan on being a jackass/rude/arrogant, I just want to enjoy myself.
- Are trains okay? I've heard some people say that trains are where most theives try to make their steal... Should I sleep on the trains?
- What are some of the drinking ages? I don't plan on getting trashed or anything, but I would love to try different beers from around the world. Especially in England, Ireland, Netherlands, and Germany.
- Are foreigners allowed to buy Marijuana in Amsterdam? I know you are only allowed to purchase a few grams, but is it limited to citizens of the Netherlands only?

Thank for your time and answers guys, I know its long but I thought I'd try to give you some info on me and plans so I can get some good answers. Thanks again.

2. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 9y

- Are hostels relatively clean/safe? I'm obviously not expecting the Ritz but they are sanitary right?

Yes. The official HI hostels are normally the cleanest/most expensive/least fun, but in Europe i've only ever come across one Hostel that i would actively encourage people to avoid [i've probably spent an average of 100nights a year in hostels in Europe for the last 12years]

- Are most of the people freinds towards Americans? I don't plan on being a jackass/rude/arrogant, I just want to enjoy myself.

Yes. There are so many Americans about that most people are perfectly fine about them, as if they aren't, they will loose lots of business. You will always meet some who aren't huge American lovers, but it shouldn't be a problem. HOWEVER - you should accept/understand that different nationalities etc have differences, and especially when they are speaking English, they don't always come across very well. For example, many Germans can come across sounding sharp and unpolite, whilst many Scandinavians can sound like they are trying to finish the conversation as quickly as possible so they can escape. But it's not anti-American or unpolite, it's just how the language/culture works. Too many Americans i've found, are expecting anti-americanism soo much that they find it in places where it doesn't exist, which doesn't help anybody...

- Are trains okay? I've heard some people say that trains are where most theives try to make their steal... Should I sleep on the trains?
Yes. Just be careful. Sleeping is fine [i more or less live on trains, and spend any number of nights sleeping on them,. all without incident], although making sure the door is locked where possible will obviously help... Also, be slightly aware of accepting food/drink from fellow passengers, although risk is very small.
There is no major risk, although obviously opportunists can strike. But that is the same as walking down the crowd, getting on a bus etc. A few years ago, there was a fairly well known scam on the Prague - Krakow night train, where train staff, a couple of fake backpackers and some locals worked the train on a regular basis and many people lost stuff, although that has long sinced stopped. There have also been occassional problems on Italian night trains, but they are always isolated issues.

- What are some of the drinking ages? I don't plan on getting trashed or anything, but I would love to try different beers from around the world. Especially in England, Ireland, Netherlands, and Germany.

18 in most places, some a fair bit younger. In many countries ID checks aren't that frequent so under age is posisble as well, providing you look reasonable [I was drinking in British poubs from about 13 and was never asked for ID until, ironically, my 18th birthday, when i didn't actually have any ID on me...]. Scandinavia [excepting Denmark] tends to have the hardest rules and most ID checks, and some places make more of an issue on Fri/Sat eves, especially later on in the evening.

3. Posted by pranavc (Respected Member 316 posts) 9y

Kyle,

Check out the "Hostel Reviews" section of www.eurotrip.com. That might be helpful in determining what hostels to go to and what do avoid. The reviews are in the form of personal experiences of contributors (people that actually stayed at the hostel). That will give you a better sense of what to expect. If you need specific hostel recommendations, feel free to message me.

Check out www.bahn.de and click on the "international guests" section to get a sense of train schedules across Europe.

Hope this helps.

Pranav

4. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 9y

"Sanitary" is relative. If there is only one shower for 100 people, you can expect it to be filthy, no matter how much cleaning the staff does. Bring some slim and light weight flip-flops to get around the most disgusting mess, if you run into a bad place.

Also sometimes a bit of lack in cleanness is made up by atmosphere. I've seen student living communities renting out beds in a spare room to travellers over the internet. Those "hostels" are of course very unprofessionally run, but the people you can meet this way make staying at such places worthwhile.

Also you have quite a lot on your platter for 4 weeks - 9 countries, makes 3 days per country. Considering that you'll need about 4-5 days for each of the capitals in these countries, you aren't going to see much. In 3 weeks you can see maybe 2 or 3 countries at the outmost - and you'll still feel rushed.

So if you have the money, try to stay longer. If you don't, pick the 2 to 4 countries or places you want to see the most and go there.

You will need about 50-70 USD per day, more in big cities and in expensive countries like England, Switzerland and Northern Italy. Partying is expensive too, so add money for every drink you intend to buy. This goes on top of cost for your flight cost and on top of an Eurail pass.

Drinking age in Germany is 16 for beer and wine, 18 for the hard stuff like Vodka, Tequila and Whisky. Take a copy of a passport with you when you go partying.

Sleeping on trains is ok, just make sure you got your credit card and your cash stowed away safely. It is a good idea to have several wallets distrubuted through your luggage and on your body, one of them with small change and a few small bills to pay for knicknacks on the road. Display it openly, so that a possible thief will go for this one. For the other use a moneybelt; carry travellers cheques and a credit card as well as a debit card. Avoid having too much cash. If you live in the New York area, a good bank to use is Citibank, as they have branches all over Europe (see their website) where you can draw money without fees and with good exchange rates.

The biggest mistake US-Americans make when they travel to Europe and which makes them stick out like a sore thumb: Huge trolley-bags (rolling uprights) lare enough to fit a washing mashine. The problem is tha most European trains aren't made for luggage the size US-Americans usually carry. So try to find something that is no larger than 40 liters (22 inches and under), weighs no more than 20 kgs fully packed and supplement it with a day pack holding 10 to 15 liters. Take two to three changes of clothing and enough underwear for 5-10 days and wash it on the road.

Also one of the things you could do if you have never travelled on your own before: take a short 2-3 days trip to a big US city near you and test your gear. If possible travel by Greyhound and try to get around without a car. You will be "getting your toes wet" so to speak and it can be helpful to notice things you haven't thought of before.

[ Edit: Edited on Jan 14, 2007, at 12:51 PM by t_maia ]

5. Posted by Herr Bert (Moderator 1384 posts) 9y

As nobody want to answer the marijuana-question: As a foreigner you can buy drugs in Amsterdam, without a problem. If you want to try this (or in other words, if you are a firsttime user), always make shure that there is somebody to keep an eye on you. Marijuana enhances your feelings, so if you are scared to use it, or in doubt (even a little bit), don't use, as it can be a scary experience. This is why, there should always be somewhere there.

There are a couple of Coffeeshops, that are rejecting foreigners, but these are situated on the borders with Germany and Belgium.

6. Posted by bakpackin1 (Budding Member 7 posts) 9y

Thanks for the information everyone! That was completly thorough and answered every one of my questions to the wire.

I think I will try to narrow it down to about 3-5 countries... Those being England, Ireland, Netherlands, and Germany. Maybe I could maky my way to Italy on a train if I have enough time but who knows.

By the way I've smoked a little bit before so I'm not to worried about the potency. I mean I know its the best pot in the world, but I can hold my own ;)

Again thanks alot everyone, you really helped alot.

By they way, I have just another question I can think of for now... And that is are most of the countries English freindly? Like in the Netherlands would they get mad at me if I tried to order food in English? Or what about the Hostel staffs, are they pretty English freindly?

[ Edit: Edited on Jan 15, 2007, at 10:26 AM by bakpackin1 ]

7. Posted by bakpackin1 (Budding Member 7 posts) 9y

Also I have a NorthFace backpack. Its volume is 2450 cu in (40 liters)

The demensions are:24 in x 11 in x 8 in (62 cm x 28 cm x 20 cm)

Is that about enough space?

8. Posted by ikey (Full Member 172 posts) 9y

Quoting bakpackin1

Also I have a NorthFace backpack. Its volume is 2450 cu in (40 liters)

The demensions are:24 in x 11 in x 8 in (62 cm x 28 cm x 20 cm)

Is that about enough space?

Depends on how much you want to bring with you!
I think 40 litres is definitely on the small side but it is fine as long as you don't plan on picking up any souvenirs along the way.

9. Posted by bakpackin1 (Budding Member 7 posts) 9y

Quoting ikey

Quoting bakpackin1

Also I have a NorthFace backpack. Its volume is 2450 cu in (40 liters)

The demensions are:24 in x 11 in x 8 in (62 cm x 28 cm x 20 cm)

Is that about enough space?

Depends on how much you want to bring with you!
I think 40 litres is definitely on the small side but it is fine as long as you don't plan on picking up any souvenirs along the way.

Well that is just my regular camping backpack that I take up to the mountains. My mom said if I wanted she would get me a larger one to take with me, so I'll try some on when I go shopping for them.

10. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 9y

Hello Bakpackin

Welcome to the obsession.

Yes hostels are generally clean and safe. They will be full of people, just like u and me. They are not shelters for vagrants and undesirables. They also often have safes, for your valuables.

Although many think Americans are loud, very few are aggressive towards them. U will make plenty of friends.

Yeah, sleep on trains. If u are not in the sleeping compartment, then sleep inside your sleeping bag, with your money inside your money belt inside your clothes, to prevent being robbed. If u have a camrea or other valuable items, also put them inside your sleeping bag, while sleeping.

Mel