A friend and I are graduating from high school in May and want to backpack through Europe for a month or two in the summer. We're looking for an unplanned adventure. We don't want to plan anything. We'll buy a plane ticket to France or Germany or wherever we decide, and then just end up wherever. Has anyone done this before? How did it work out? We are trying to save as much money as possible because we're poor (excluding our parents) and trying to save money for college. We feel like we've been stuck our whole lives and now we just really want to experience life. We're already planning on buying some sort of train pass, but does anyone have any advice? I know that this may not be the safest option, but we're not looking for safe.
Oh, and we're females who will be 18 at the time of travel.
[ Edit: Edited on Nov 26, 2007, at 6:40 PM by gub ]
No plan is the best plan. All though it can be nice to know some places you want to see and a general travel route, and then just change plans as you go.
I did it when i was about your age(sounds like an old man, im only 20), and encountered no real problems. Travelled with an interrail pass since i'm european, but check out eurrail or something. Just beware that you dont necessarily save money with a railpass. In western europe you often have to pay extra even if you have a railpass, so for the total amount spent on your railpass, plus the extra costs, you can afford quite a few bus tickets. It also gives you greater freedom to visit countries not covered by eurail. But of course, often you save money, just give it a thought. And i dont have experience with eurail, maybe its different from interrail.
Unplanned is fine. There are only two drawbacks:
1) It is not budget friendly. If you got half a plan you can research the cheapest/best ways to get from A to B beforehand and reserve the cheapest beds in hostels in advance.
Train passes are set up in such a way that 80 % of all travellers pay roughly the same for a railpass as their would for point-to-point rail tickets. Since rail is often the most expensive method of travel this makes train passes not nearly half the bargain they are made out to be.
2) You'll be travelling in summer. Summer is the high season. So if you want to take any flights within Europe I highly recommend booking months in advance, especially on the North-South routes. You'll also need to reserve hostel beds in advance in many places or you might be forced to either sleep on the sidewalk or shell out more money than you can afford.
it sucks because if youre on a budget, which it sounds like you guys will be, youll spend AGES trying to find a place thats not overpriced in summer thats not full... in huge cities like paris or berlin you shoul dbe ok, but if youre in amsterdam then the prices ROCKET and plcaes are all full...
i think it would def pay off for you guys to have some kinda plan... so you can do some research into where youre going, the cheapest way to get there, and the cheapest places to stay, otherwise, as the above poster said, youll end up shelling out more than you can afford or spend the day tramping around with all your shit trying to find something...
I agree with a plan. 20 Years ago it might have been ok but in summer forget it. You'll never get hostels, prices will be super high and you'll run into heaps of tourists in western Europe cities.
To save money travel In East Europe! Its sooo much cheaper than West Euro.
I just traveled in East Europe in Autumn and had to plan ahead atleast a day or two due to overbooked hostels. Especially in Big cities. Id suggest have a rough itinerary centered around big cities with small day trips or journeys to small towns planned as you go.
If you want a unplanned holiday then go in winter. And I wouldnt get a train pass. I think they are over priced. And you cant use them in most countries in Eastern Europe.
As previously stated, travelling off the cuff is not wallet friendly. Here are some ways to save money.
You mentioned that you want to fly to either France or Germany. Germany is probably cheaper. Especially Frankfurt. Start there first. Also, if you check our ryanair.com, you can find flights to just about anywhere in Europe for SUPER cheap.
As much fun as it is to just go where ever you want, whenever you want, sometimes hostels can fill up fast. Try to book your beds atleast one day in advance.
Trains aren't the only method of transportation. Buses can be cheaper. And as I say earlier, you can find pretty cheap flights at ryanair.com.
Always prepare your own food. Don't bother with restaurants.
Try to go in either the fall or spring. Summer is crazy expensive. And also, it rains like mad in the spring. But all the rain keeps your clothes clean and laundry can be expensive too. When I went backpacking, I did my laundry 3 times over a four month span.
damn you musta been a stinker!!
Not really. As I said, the constant rain keeps your clothes pretty clean. Things like underwear and socks, you wash with shampoo or hand soap in a sink once a week or so and let them air dry. As for the rest, you only wash them when you either get a good deal (hostels in Prague do laundry for really cheap, but it takes up to 24 hours to get your clothes back.) or if your clothes are truly unbearable. Otherwise, you can pay up to 15 euros just for a wash and dry. Also, some hostels may have l 'do it yourself' washer and driers. But the driers often take 2 or 3 cycles to get them completely dry. Try and see if you can share the drier with someone if its a must.
So are you suggesting that I mix trains with buses with planes, depending on where I'm going? And if I happen to not listen to your advice to plan ahead (my friend got rather angry at me when I suggested it, so we'll see), is it easy to buy tickets on the spot at the station? How much would you suggest that I set aside for transportation costs?
Its pretty easy to buy tickets depending on what city you're in and time of day. Obviously, if you buy a ticket during rush hour, you will encounter long lines. Stations also have kiosks, but I can't remember if you can do that will a rail pass. Definitely mix up modes of transportation. You can google different train companies, buses, and airlines to compare prices. As for your friends hesitation for planning your trip, travelling off the cuff is fine. If you don't mind sleeping under the stars, not eating, getting completely lost in a foreign country, and mountains of stress and going into debt when you're trying to have the trip of a lifetime.