I've had a new gospel proclaimed to me by the likes of a good friend and fellow geographer at school. Cheap air flights with companies such as Ryanair and EasyJet. I have been officially humbled by this and now my imagination is running wild! My friend has been all over Europe and I've never worked out how, his families income is similar to mine, but I've had a lesson in planning cheap, but spectacular holidays.
This summer, after my A-levels and before university I would like to do a tour of Europe, focussing mainly on Scandanavia and Eastern Europe. This would be with another three people, two guys, two girls.
I have around six weeks travelling, six weeks earning money for it. How could we go about organising this? I don't know where to start!
Is it best just hopping from plane to plane over Europe and flying everywhere, or would we be better hiring a car and driving all over the place? Personally speaking driving appeals to me more, although I'd be more than willing to put up with air flights I don't particulary like flying, I'm not scared and I don't get ill but I'd prefer seeing the landscape in all these countries while moving between them!
Top of my itinery is all the Scandanavian countries, Slovakia, Estonia, Romania, Czechoslovakia (did I spell it right?!)and Belarus. Does Latvia count as Scandanavia? If not, then I want to go there too!
All of us are more than willing to rough it, infact we don't care about accomadation, we'd be happy just to sleep in tents...However, obviously there is a safety aspect and it needs to be well organised.
Any general tips would be really appreciated! This is the first time I've ever done anything like this. I've planed a trip to Strassbourg (cheaply) and Paris for the near future, but this is going to be a bit more epic! I don't like feeling touristy, if that makes sense? I like to feel part of the locals and really experience local culture.
Also, a country I've wanted to visit forever has been Iceland. Now, I've been scouting on the internet and I can't find any air service that does tickets for less than £300 over there! I'm well aware its expensive, but I had no idea just quite how expensive! I'd like to go in February (not this year, next year), I've heard thats the best time to see Aurora Borealis. I am planning to study geology next year and Iceland is without a doubt one of the most geologically interesting countries in the world. I know three people who have been there and I actually have this insatiable envy of them which won't be satisfied till I've been there! Any Iceland tips at all?
Thank you very much for any replies!
Car sucks out of several reasons:
1) Getting a car where you want to go. You either have to drive your own the whole way or you have to rent one. Renting is expensive, it makes only sense (budgetwise) if you book fly+drive from a travel agency and are resigned to use the car as your hotel/hostel, maybe in combination with pitching a tent somewhere in the wild. Sweden is good for this. You'll also better have a travel buddy or two to share cost of rental. Max. is 4 people incl. you.
2) As Brit, you are used to driving on the left side. It might be difficult for you to rethink when you are on the other side of the Channel. Every year there are fatal accidents in Continental Europe that are caused by Brits who have trouble adjusting their driving.
3) Inner city travel is a big problem. You know how it is in London - other European cities are just as bad.
Flying: Use www.skyscanner.net to look for flights.
Also consider other options of getting around - bus and train. Rail prices in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Belarus, Romania are relatively cheap. For bus see http://www.eurolines.com.
Estonia and Latvia are part of the Baltic states - Estonia, Latvia and Lithunia. Riga and Tallinn are known destinations for cheap flights. Note that Scandinavia is more expensive than the rest of Europe - it is as if you were in London all the time. You'll also need a visa to visit Belarus. I'm curious why you want to go to Belarus - any particular reason?
For flights to Iceland, check RyanAir and AirLingus. I know that there are cheaper return fares available than 300 GBP.
Thanks for the reply,
I want to visit Belarus for a variety of reasons. Its one of the few countries in the world where over 1/3 of the country is forested, and animals like wolves are still wild. It has a variety of interesting old churches, such as St. Sophia. I love the culture of Berarus, the festivities etc. I don't know why but I've always wanted to visit Minsk, just from articles and stuff I have read it looks interesting!
Hmm...I've been to continental Europe a number of times, but I've never driven there. My dad says it takes a while to get used to it but is ok eventually...But my dads been driving for 30 years and I've been driving six months...
As for Paris, I had to navigate my dad through Paris and I gave up using the map, it was actually easier to drive through it by using the compass...That was, if I don't say so myself, the greatest bit of navigating I've ever done.
I've sort of given up on the European tour. Cost and the like. I don't really have the time to organise it properly either.
However, I've been given permission by my parents to organise and Icelandic holiday this year, which if I do it properly and keep the budget we can actually go....
I'm still going on my trip with friends, but its easier to just go on a couple of city breaks...I'm thinking Prague and Riga.
Iceland is a great country, but it is very expensive as most things have to be imported. I'd recommend visting jokullsarlon (think that's how you spell it) where the glaciers calve off into the sea and the national parks are impressive. You can easily hitchhike around people are quite happy to give lifts, but it might not be quite so much fun in March as it'll be a lot colder.
As for Riga, I was there last year and it's a great weekend break, it's nice and cheap and very friendly. I stayed in the Balthostel which was right by the old town (the main tourist attraction) and was very nice and pretty cheap. You can spend a couple of days wandering around the town, worthwhile visits include the going to the top of the massive TV tower and walking across the frozen river (up until March/April). You can also go shooting at a number of places if that floats your boat.
Prague is a similarly good place to visit, it can be a bit more expensive in the touristy areas and there are a lot of tourists. But it is one of the most impressive and beautiful cities I've been to. You could spend days wandering around the streets. You can also visit the ossuary at Kutna Hora if you have a day spare which is well worth a visit to see a chapel decorated with bones!
My mate went to Iceland and his family brought a lot of dried pasta with them, as well as other dry foodstuffs to save money whilst they were there. They also brought tins of tomatoes and what have you at the duty free at the airport. I've also heard that non-Icelandic citizens are exempt from tax on products?
I love geology and thats the main reason for me wanting to go to Iceland, glaciology especially I find interesting so visiting the glaciers must be fascinating. I'd love to go to Geysir (sp?), the original geyser...I'd also like to go for a hike in the big National Park...Can't remember whats its called.
I think the easiest way of doing it is to use busses. There is a huge highway around the country and I've read you can by a bus ticket, one way, all the way around the country and you can get off at various locations and get back on. That looks good because car hire is really expensive, so I've read. I couldn't hitchhike because there would be five of us...So that rules out any major ambitious hikes I want to do because my sister is 9 so too young really...Plus...She is fairly typically "urban" and really hates that sort of thing.
Riga looks like a fascinating city. I've also supported Latvia in the Eurovision Song Contest, the Olympics and every other event...Why? Because I decided I wanted to support a random country so I found a country on the map I'd never heard of and I picked Latvia, this was about seven years ago and since then my interest in the country has grown substantially. I enjoy shooting, only ever done rabbit shooting, but would like to go game shooting at some point. Again, the obvious drawback of having two sisters...
I've heard a lot of good reports on Prague, again, historically and archetechtually it is interesting...
Is this weird:
I hate feeling like a tourist. Obviously I am a tourist but I like to feel as "one" with the area as possible. I don't like to feel out of place, which is why I'm developing a hatred of package holidays where you don't really experience the culture of the area.
The bus ticket you're talking about is probably this one
I haven't been able to find a new price guide, but I'm guessing the prices will be similar.
Obviously, it's almost impossible to stay in a tent in February in Iceland so I think your best option for accommodation is to try to stay at hostels. Have a look at the official Icelandic hostel site, hostel.is.
Some shops do offer tax-free shopping to non-Icelanders, but that's mostly clothing and stuff... not food.
If you have any more questions, just PM me..
Cool, thanks very much!
I want to go to Iceland in the winter too, to see the aurora...
The hostels I've looked at all seem to be of pretty decent quality. No one I've met or anything has had anything bad to say about them.
Now I've got another problem. British Airways have stopped their service to Reykjavik, and they were cheaper by a long way. Iceland Express isn't too badly priced, concidering, but man, its £1000 just for the flights!
Damn...I just deleted what I was about to post...I'll have to type it out again.
Very rough outline:
Flights with Iceland Express - just under £1000 for four adults and one child.
Accomadation - three hostels at strategic locations throughout the country - Hvoll, Laugarvatn and Reykjavik. £500 for a week at the three.
Transport - car hire, I'm estimating, £500 for a week...Including petrol. This is a complete guess.
Flights - this is just for a random date in mid July. What would be the cheapest time to fly from London to Iceland? During summer - either June/July/August...Perhaps early September as well.
Accomadation - it worked out at an average of £77 per room. Is the price quoted on the website per night? Thats what I am assuming anyway. Any way I can do it cheaper? Are their cheaper hostels around?
Transport - that is a COMPLETE guess...I couldn't search that far ahead. My friend said EasyCar were cheapest. Am I being too optimistic with a £500 estimate? I've not really looked into busses, but the one way ticket around the country, for summer 2007 was 23.800 ISK, apparently...That works out at 19p...That seems incredibly cheap, well, more than cheap, its practically free...Is it a type error on the website or something and its actually 238.00 ISK?!
Well, a very rough estimate comes to £2000...Thats £500 over my budget...I reckon I can knock that off, especially if the bus thing works out.
Can anyone point me in the right direction?
It's not really about Iceland but if you're ever coming to Estonia, I can probably show you around Tallinn and nearby places and try to answer any questions you might have.
Latvia is awesome too, especially Riga. It reminded me of what Tallinn was 5 years ago. Nowadays Tallinn feels almost like a Scandinavian city, so you might find Riga more 'exotic'.
Have fun in Iceland!