I'm a 19 year old student from the US. Im taking my first backpacking trip to europe (may29th-july 29th) and needed some advice from fellow travellers. I currently have only large cities booked on my intinerary, for the fear the if I see smaller cities it will be much more difficult to travel on foot. Keep in mind that I am backpacking and am not quite old enough to rent a car. I am relying completely on the Eurorail and foot travel. So far my intinerary is as follows:
Prague, Czech Republic
Is this reasonable for two months? are there any cities that im missing that anyone would reccomend? Are there any cities that may be too overwhelming for a first time backpacker? Any attractions that I definitely should not miss? I am leaving with $4000 and plan to spend around 50$ each day. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
I am going to be brutaly honest, I think the plan is too ambitious, in two months time you would have approx. 4 days per city, which is OK. some of the major ones, need 5 days (like Rome, London, Paris). Also I think you are focussing too much on the capitals. You are also late to book some budgetflights, which I am going to suggest anyway, because some of these cities, have very long trainrides between them.
I am more worried about your budget. 4000 USD as a total is too low for two months. You will need about a 1000 USD for your intercontinental flights, so you are stuck on a budget of 36 euros a day (if you also have to pay for transportation, the railpass, public transport like metro it looks bad). If you are talking about spending 4000, with the ticket, and the pass already bought, it looks a bit better on a budget of 48 euros a day. If it's 4000 for everything, than I think it's better to reduce the trip to 6 weeks. (always think in the way that you can always return, so there is no need to see everything in one go).
First of all you are traveling to some of the really expensive parts of Europe. London, Scandinavia (incl. Iceland) and Switzerland are really expensive places to go for travels. Paris is a little better but still expensive. Also take into account, that you are traveling in the time of your it's really busy, prices are a little bit higher than normal, and waiting in line is part of the deal.
In my opinion traveling by train, and budget airlines is the way to go in Europe. If you would keep the initineray the way it is (maybe because you found more money), you should at least fly some stretches. But let me start to tell you that the connection between Marseille and Barcelona is a pain in the *ss, as it is a long haul by train, but there are also possible flights Marseille - Barcelona, by Iberia and Clickair. In your case it would be easier to fly from Paris to Marseille or Nice (I would choose Nice over Marseille btw), and then to continue to Italy, and then reverse to Barcelona from Rome, with a cheap flight by Vueling Airlines, and continue with a cheap flight from Barcelona to your next stop. (I know on the map, it makes less sense, but as far as time/money is concerned it's pretty pratical). Another option would be to try and take a nighttrain, or to cut the travel in half, and make a stop for one day, to see Carcassonne (from there it's still 5 hours to Barcelona).
As far as you choices are concerned, I would swap Bern, for a couple of days in the Alps, you could consider Interlaken or Gimmelwald. But if your list is also the route you want to take it's better to skip it, as it would need a long ride from Vienna, and a long one back to Prague. It simply isn't pratical. I would also skip Zagreb, and replace it by a few days in Florence. If you are traveling from Prague to Berlin, you might want to consider to visit Dresden.
Which cities did you miss? Well a lot, but it is simply impossible to visit them all in 2 months. (I think it would be hard to do so if you had 4 months), but a short list: Edinburgh, Madrid (!), Sevilla, Granada, Florence, Cinque Terra, Amalfi Coast, Greece (Athens, Santorini), Krakow, Helsinki, Munich, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Lake Como well you get the picture, there is a lot to see, and only that short amount of time.
To recap. I think you should rethink the lenghts of your trip, depending on the money. Personaly I would reduce the trip to a six week trip, and try to focus, on the cities you really want to see, and to focus, on the other cities that are worthwhile, that are in the same region. If you take some time to see Italy in 2 weeks, you will have the advantage to get to know the feel of the country better, and you are saving money, because you are traveling less (also you would spend time is a country that is not so expensive).
[ Edit: Edited on Apr 15, 2007, at 2:59 PM by Herr Bert ]
While in croatia check out split (and the islan hvar if time permits) its to good to pass up while in the area (zagreb is nothing too special).
If you want to check out a small town my best recommendation is Cesky Krumlov in czech. It is a small backpacker town with only a couple of hostels, its cheap, there are no tourists but backpackers and you can go rafting. it is the most chilled out place i went in 6 months in europe.
want any more tips just message me
If you do stick with Iceland, hopefully you've bought your ticket with Iceland Express, because otherwise you've probably paid a lot too much. When you do reach Iceland, expect to pay a major fortune for everything and it is a 100% neccessity to make sure you book your hostel before you go. If you don't you'll be stuck paying about $90US a night for "budget" accommodation. You may be able to get lucky like I did and find a nice couple who will let you stay at their house for free (the couple I had host me has stopped hosting now). That was a really nice experience. Any tours in Iceland cost a small fortune which if you go there, you'll just have to put up with paying a lot, because if you don't do atleast a couple of tours it isn't worth going if you can only see the city centre of Reykjavik. Don't expect to get by on $50US a day in Iceland unless you do nothing at all but walk around the city. You'll go through more than that if you just go to the Blue Lagoon (a must do in my view) if you eat or do anything else during the day. To give you an idea of just how expensive Iceland is, I tried to live it cheap while still seeing some stuff and I went through at least $600US in 7 days and I didn't even have to pay for accommodation! I didn't buy any alcohol (which is very expensive) and didn't eat out at all or hardly eat anything for that matter during the day (basically a tap water diet most the time). If you buy your food from "Bonus" supermarket which there is one of in Reykjavik city centre, you'll save about 50% on your food costs compared to all the other shops and supermarkets. Doing a couple of tours and going to the Blue Lagoon 2 times didn't help the costs, but I wasn't going to go all that way not to see a darn thing in Iceland just because it was hell expensive. So at least go on a Golden circle tour and a day trip to the Blue Lagoon if you don't do much else in your time. Bring your swimming clothes for the Blue Lagoon.
In Venice definitely prebook your hostel and you probably should in Rome as well. If you miss out in Venice like I did, you are looking upwards of 80 Euro a night for a crummy room that is more like a hostel (didn't even have an inroom shower/bathroom for 80Euro). Allow about 5 days for Rome (if you use your time well) and you could see Venice pretty well in 2 full days. Rome has so so much to see and do that if you rely on walking most the time you could walk for about 40 hours over 3 days and still not see everything. On my first visit I walked for 14 hours, 14 hours and 12 hours over the course of 3 very long days of walking and still didn't see everything properly. I went back for another 7 days on my last trip to Europe and still missed stuff, but that's because I went over many of the things I saw first time round.
You sure have chosen about the most expensive places you possibly could in Europe. Most those places you wont see much for $50US a day. Iceland and Norway are two of the most expensive places in the world and Sweden, Denmark, Spain/Barcelona, Italy, Denmark, London and even Paris if you see the touristy things aren't at all cheap either, so you'll be splashing out a lot of cash!
Cesky Krumlov in Czech Republic is also worth a visit. To get there you just get the train from Prague. I only did a day trip, but it would have been worth staying overnight.
Have a great trip.
[ Edit: Edited on Apr 16, 2007, at 6:20 AM by aharrold45 ]
Thanks everyone for your for your honesty. I am definitely cutting down on places i'm seeing, especially some major capitals. I would like to see cities outside capitals, but I'm not familiar with many (I am now definitely considering seeing the alps, florence, dresden, split, Cesky Krumlov. I dont know the overly expensive cities from the affordable ones...Could anyone suggest their favorite destinations that wont kill my wallet and would allow me to see them by foot/public transportation? Cheaper cities would be preferable, though I am not restricting myself to only cheap destinations. I already have the flight and ticket paid for, and have an additional $4000 to spend while I'm there so I hope I'll be okay (ah this is stressful!)
I am trying to keep my trip as open-ended as possible. I will be booking hostels for the first week i'm there and for venice and rome (thanks for the suggestion aharrold), and for the rest i'll be booking 1-2 days in advance at internet cafe's. I will be taking many overnight trains (I think flying would make matters more complicated in my situation since I don't know where i'll be or when i'll be there. Is this true?) let me know some of your favorite affordable cities, or what capitals on my original itinerary could be replaced by more exciting cities. I am planning on using a phone card, as I am a verizon subscriber (requires a $200 global phone purchase) and it seems like a phone card would be much cheaper/easier than renting or buying a new phone. Does anyone have any experience with this? Thank you!
With you transportation paid for it looks much better.
In general you can say the former communist countries are cheaper then the west, and the south is cheaper (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, then the north.
Big cities will always be expensive, but in a big city you normally also can find some places that are cheaper (as compared to the rest). London really is expensive, but also a place that is worth a visit.
I would skip expensive places like Iceland (unless you flights goes via Iceland), Bern, and the Scandinavian cities. And I would try to cluster the cities you are going, that would really mean, shorter/cheaper rides. You could do a big tour of Spain or Italy. For Switzerland, you go to Austria. (Few days in Innsbruck?)
As an example, you could do Italy like this: Amalfi Coast/Pompeii (2-3 days), Rome (5 days), Siena (1-2 days), Florence (3 days), Cinque Terra (3 days), and Venice (2 days). This would mean, 2-3 weeks in Italy, but would make a good trip, with short trips in a relative cheaper country. You could do the same for Spain, with Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba, Madrid.
I think you should make a list of what the cities are, that for you are a must-see, and then try to fill in the gaps.
I'm not discovering america here, but if you're still going to Prague just let me say I was there on january, and totally LOVED it.
Everything is within walking distance, so you don't need to spend as much as you'd have to in some major cities
Well, you already know what you want to see and when you will be leaving Europe. Thus it should not be so hard to pick a few budget flights. You might get lucky and find a deal on a trip that you plan on for the next week. You can book over the internet or phone with a credit card.
Places you should add IMO:
1) On your way from Budapest to Vienna, stop in Siofok along the Balaton. It is a typical holiday resort and spa, popular with all classes, but especially students from Vienna. The music is loud, the alcohol is cheap and the party wild.
2) Bratislava, Slovakia. Easily done as a day trip from Vienna. Good connections to Prague from there.
3) Krakow in Poland.
4) Dresden and the Spreewald area.
I recommend that you spend a 1-3 nights in the following hostel:
Zum Wendenfürsten 8
It is very convienently located halfway between Berlin and Dresden in a very small town right in the heart of the Spreewald. It is ideally if you want to explore the region either by boat, bike or on your feet. You can easily rent a paddling boat at 4 seperate rental agencies in the same town. If you call email the hostel, they will be able to reserve a boat for you. Daytrips to Berlin, Potsdam and Dresden are easy to do, making it a great stop before you hit the big cities again. The Tropical Islands resort is very close by, if you get a rainy day go there.
4) On your way to Copenhagen, try to stop either at the Baltic Sea or the North Sea. I can especially recommend a hike in the mudflats in the Wadden Sea or a stop in one of the spas along the baltic coast. A popular hike goes from Amrum Island to Föhr Island or from Cuxhaven near Hamburg to Neuwerk Island. In Bad Doberan near Rostock you can take a ride with a historic narrow gauge steam engine, running right through the city. In Rostock you can stay on a former ship that has been converted into a hostel:
Am Stadthafen 72/73
5) Riga or Tallin. Both cities are easy to reach with a budget flight either from London or Berlin and provide prime access to Russia and Finnland. Maybe you should exchange Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm for the combo of St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Riga (or Tallin)?
Your initial itinerary is very do-able, but it can be made easier and more enjoyable. You have been given a lot of info and choices. Here are the points I agree with:
1) For your budget, I would book accommodation for some of the hot spots such as Venice. A couple of set dates (including flights) may help you keep your trip on track.
2) Spend a day or 2 in Florence, and maybe only 1 day in Venice.
3) I'd maybe skip Bern, and definately pass on Zagreb. Instead, I would recommend the Croatian coast, but it does not seem to fit into your itinerary unless you want to take another flight.
3) Since you seem to be key on large cities, Athens is the most obvious one missing (in my opinion). but heck, you can't do it all.
If you decide to get cheap flights, better get cracking now if you hope to grab any of the remaining ones.
I think that something like what t_maia said to do with Riga or Tallin and then seeing Russia would be a good thing if you cut down a few places. Given your budget and expectations, Iceland and Norway should definitely be crossed off your list because they are sooooo expensive. Riga is alright and can be done very cheap if you stay at Friendly Franks backpackers which is by far the cheapest place in Riga and best rated hostel. St Petersburg is a really great city to visit if you are in to history and architecture and Moscow is only an overnight train away too which is also good. If you did choose Russia though, that still isn't cheap, but its cheaper than Iceland and Norway. The visa is a very painful thing to get and has to be done in advance preferably before you leave home because it takes a while to issue. You'd need to be sure to prebook your accommodation even before you sent away for your visa, because in June/July it is the height of the peak season and some places were booked out for 1 day in July back as far as January! If you are keen on history and archictecture then St Petersburg is a must.
Have a great trip.