So I plan on backpacking in Europe starting around Jan 15th until some time in February of 2008. I will be going alone and since I have never left the good old US of A, I am having a very hard time deciding on a route. I am concerned with the weather (I'm from GA, and have only seen snow once), as well as the safety aspect considering that I am a young female. So, I was wondering if any experienced and/or knowledgeable travelers had any suggestions on the route I should take, length of stay, things to avoid, or general advice. Also, if anyone else is traveling alone around the same time...I would love a travel partner! I am VERY flexible, and would really appreciate any input.
Hi Molly - you're not giving yourself a lot of time to backpack around Europe. Is there anywhere in particular you would like to go?
I know that this is not a lot of time to truly absorb the culture, but finances and such are limited. Plus, I am trying to schedule the trip between college graduation and getting a grown up job. I figure that I might not get another opportunity for this kind of travel for a while, and my past travels are so limited that I want to see as much as I can. Well, it's really hard to choose a route considering my lack of knowledge, but I am leaning towards focusing on Greece, Italy, Spain, and France, maybe 5 to 7 days in each. I don't know the best route or transportation, or even which cities would be the best to visit. I could fly into Greece and leave from France I guess, I really need some advice from anyone who has done this. My other option would be to take a prepackaged tour from contiki or something though there is something in me that is against that. One day I plan on taking a long, laid back trip around Europe's nooks and cranies but that might not be until I retire, so I need something to tide me over.
my suggestions for a 1st time traveller to europe:
1.paris & surroundings (5-6 days)
2.barcelona (3-4 days)
3. lisbon (3-4 days)
4. italy (about 8 days) - of course venice, of course rome, maybe also florence or siena
5. then 3-4 days in one of these: vienna, budapest or prague (any of these cities is great)
6. europe is not only cities, it is also great nature, so for europe's most scenic nature go to norwegian fjords (5-6 days)
as to safety, there's nothing to worry about. europe is a safe continent, no-go areas practically dont exist, a lonely female can travel just anywhere.
i noticed that you are planning your trip for december/january, so norwegian fjords are definitely not a good idea at this time of the year.
As you would be traveling in Winter. I would suggest sticking to the southern part of Europe for most of the trip. A big city like London or Berlin, you can always visit, even when it is cold, so I wouldn't eliminate because of the weather.
I think Eleritz, has a pretty good initerary, but I would alter it, to 10 days in Italy, to have time to visit Rome (5 days), Florence (3 days) and Venice (2 days), and although I love Vienna, I would rather suggest Madrid, (which can be surprisingly cold in Winter.) with daytrips to Toledo and Segovia. There are a lot of other options in Spain, where you can go. Eleritz, is right to suggest to see something of the nature, but I am not sure, if Norway is the place to go (expensive, and pretty cold in Winter.)
Greece is further away, and you will find that the touristic season on the Isels has ended long before you will get there. Also getting to Greece is time-consuming, and expensive, so I would keep it in mind for a future trip.
I LOVE the suggestions, both destinations and length of visit seem perfect. I can see what you mean about Austria being cold, I'm kind of dissapointed about Greece though. I guess the best way to take the route is to get a youth pass, any other suggestions? What about getting around within cities or even travel within a country between cities? Any general suggestions about places to visit or anything? I really appreciate all the help!
catapult, as to weather, let's face it, it is winter, not the best season to travel, so unpleasant weather is very likely. you won´t avoid cold in europe. vienna will be certainly cold, but not only, paris will be probably cold too, and venice, even madrid can be quite cold in january (and it snows there sometimes too).
also note that southern europe is in winter quite rainy, so i'm not sure if giving up on northern europe would be such a good idea. i personally prefer seeing prague or vienna on a freezing but sunny day than seeing rome or barcelona under pouring cold rain
as to greece, i agree with Herr Bert, it is quite far from other countries you are about to visit, getting there will be expensive and time-consuming, and athens (this is where you probably will fly to if you decide to visit greece in winter) is very far from being europe's most interesting city. athens should be a gateway to greece, and not your final destination. if you have no time to spend some time on greek islands, visit small charming towns on the peloponissos peninsula or wonderful metéora monasteries, you'd better give up on greece and choose another destination.
as to getting around, low-cost flights are the best option. if you book ahead it can be very cheap (cheaper than trains). and you don´t waste time on travelling, which in winter can sometimes be not a very pleasant experience (check www.whichbudget.com)
I agree low costs can save you time and money and sometimes you can fit a train trip, especially inside Italy, but no need for a train pass I think.
It'll be cold,it might rain, so what you need is warm clothes and a impermeable coat! That way nothing would stop you.
I live in Lisbon, I love Lisbon, but I don't know if I'd come here in winter in my first trip to Europe, specially because it´s farther than other places, like Amsterdam or maybe sking in Switzerland.
Greece should wait to a warmer weather. So should Norway (which is extremely expensive).
I went to Prague and Cesky Krumlov in december. It was cold, but it was a nice trip! And Cesky Krumlov covered in snow is a fairy tale!
I hope I've helped!
Everyone has been SO helpful. I am becoming more and more excited about the trip, and less unsure. How cold are we talking? Not a single winter of my life has averaged below 44 degreesF, and I have no warm coat that you speak of. Is there something in particular I should look for in a coat, waterproof I guess, and lined. I hope jeans with long johns under will be warm enough. I have been researching transportation(very valuable help from here) and I think I am going to buy plane tickets from country to country and buy passes on hand or immediately before leaving for city to city travel. I am starting to realize that big city travel is better in the cold weather, would delaying my trip for one or two months make a difference(it would be inconveinent, but if it would be way better...)? Any other cities that are amazing? Also, I was wondering about a backpack. I am 115lbs, 5'2" and I plan on travelling as light as possible (though I guess carrying winter clothes will be tough) but the only bag I've used is a bookbag and the options online for a backpack are endlessly varied. I kind of want a detachable daypack, but who knows? The skiing suggestion is interesting, I love skiing but it's expensive even here in the US, so I'm not sure about doing it in Switz. About Amsterdam, its reputation for drugs and partying kind of discourages me. Not that I can't have a good time but I don't know if a foreign country is the place to let go of my inhibitions. Thinking about it though.