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1. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 7y

This will be my second trip to Europe, for which I am planning to leave in April or May and travel until August. The trip I'm going to take will be a sort of wirlwind tour: a quick, painless tour of as much as possible without getting a numb arse, if you will- experincing as much as possible but not lingering. It is probable that most, if not all, of my travels will be to major cities. So the question that I'm posing to you is where exactly should I go? My thoughts are to see the U.K. and as much of western Europe as possible: France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Finland . . . Too much? How should I narrow it down? What should I deffinately not miss?

Also, on a completely different topic . . . How do the shengen laws effect Canadians? From what I understand, you are allowed to travel in the shengen countries for 90 days out of 180 (meaning I can't travel for 90 days, leave for 2 or 3, and then travel again for another 90). Do I need to get some sort of travel visa for this? Which countries in Europe are affected? Do these laws cover all of the EU?

Thank you for your help. It is really appreciated. :)

Steph

2. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 7y

Sorry, the sore arse comment meant a sore arse from only sitting on trains and not getting out and seeing stuff.

3. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 7y

Cikey! Steph is back. Yay! Welcome back

I'll leave the Schengen part of your question to Schengen experts. However, i will say that EU and Schengen are NOT the same. Norway, for example is not EU but is Schengen (due to historical Scandinavian policies), whereas the UK and Ireland and in the EU, but not in Schengen. So if your trip is 4months long, and for one of those, you are only in the Uk and Ireland, you should be fine under the 90day law. Just leave yourself a couple of free days in case of problems (so you don't end up overstaying by accident).

As to what to see, you can try and squeeze in as much a possible and you would get to see all of those countries, but it would turn into a bit of a blur (you want to be able to remember a couple of months late if that church was in Munich, or was it Vienna? Or actually did we meet those two swiss guys in Belgium? or was it on Fiji?! or thinking about it, were they Belgians i met in Switz... - you get the idea). You also potentially have sore arse syndrome, and depending on your specific pysiology, if you spend too many nights on night trains you start loosing days because you are too dopey (some people struggle to sleep properly on them and it ends up screwing their next day). i also wouldn't tell the Danes you have forgotten to add them to your list...

Don't focus solely on major cities. Whilst there are obviously some great ones, to my mind some of Europes highlights are the countryside (mountains, rivers, valleys) and there are also some absolutely wonderful smaller cities/towns/villages, and some fairly drab/uninspiring/repetitive bigger cities.

You have a fairly wide geographical range there, so if you intend on doing all the extremes (Greece, Portugal and Finland), consider also adding some cheap flights to help you get around and cover the distances. It probably doesn't make sense to travel to Finland or Greece, in particular, by surface in both directions because you will have a large double back. ut, a route which takes you north through Scandinavia to Helsinki, from where you fly to Athens and then continue around Greece and then by ferry to Italy to go back North, would be much cleverer.

Companies like Easyjet and Ryanair offer some very cheap flights on routes, especially if you book a bit ahead. Just be aware that routes can change frequently and the industry is volatile (a fairly large carrier, Sterling, went bust barely a week ago).

You have some time to plan/enjoy, so use it: Google countries/cities, read some guidebooks, and get a good map of Europe. Thomas Cook, for example, do a very good rail map of Europe, which can help with your planning. use German Railways Die Bahn to workout journey times/frequencies, so you start to get an idea of what is possible/easy and what is trickier/longer.

Over such a long period, a pass quite possibly won't work out cheaper, especially if you can book some tickets in advance, though that cuts flexibility. I would suggest coming up with a list of maybe a dozen or so cities/specific things that you REALLY want to see, plot the on a map, and then start seeing what/where you can build around them so you are traveling in a reasonably logical route. Also be aware of special events (running of the bulls, la tomatina, easter, friends birthdays, going back to Switz etc etc) whereby you may want to be in certain places for very specific dates which aren't moveable and may dictate parts of your route. Also, of course, where your flights arrive/depart from will have a large affect on the order. I would be incline to say try and start southerly and then move northward around June/July, which are normally the best months in Scandinavia etc. that way you shouldn't have to worry quite so much about carrying lots of thick clothing, and it will also be much more pleasant weatherwise.

And with that, i'll leave you to take some of that in. Feel free to come back with my queries, And welcome back to TP!

4. Posted by Hien (Moderator 3906 posts) 7y

Check out the Schengen Visa guide for the list of countries under the Schengen zone.

5. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 7y

Thanks to those who replied! It looks like I have a lot of planning ahead of me. Thanks Gelli for your comments. . .. They deffinately were helpful. I was starting from sort of a blank slate, with a very vague idea of where to go and what to see, and basically the inclination that I want to see it all. It really is too bad that the Schengen laws are in effect, because I would love to make it a longer trip in order to see everything .. .. But, alas, I realise it can't be done. :(

There were a few small towns on my list . .. For example, Rottenburg (sp?), a small town in Germany encased in a castle-like wall. Also, I really want to visit Stonehenge, and a Scottish castle, which is, I guess, in rural Scottland. Otherwise, I really wanted to get an overall feeling of Europe, thus the major cities and so on.

There're a few things that I've begun to narrow down on. For example, I wanted to go see Buckingham Palace if they'd be doing tours during the time I'd be in the U.K. (around May), but it seems to be quite out of the way because everything else I want to see in the U.K. is north of London, from which I plan to be flying into. Another thing up for debate is whether or not to see Barcelona, a city which I've already been to (though would love to see more of), or to go straight to Madrid because of time . ... and because I hear it is very similar to Barcelona. Also, I decided to completely knock Valencia off of the list. So maybe I'm getting the idea?

One question that I have is how to work out travel between countries. Over the internet, I checked out the price of a global eurrail pass, and it was upwards of $1000 Canadian It seems a little steep. But what else would I do to cover the amount of countries that I plan to cover but at less of a cost? From experience I know that buying individual tickets without a eurrail pass of some sort can eat up your budget really quickly, so I'm afriad to do that. It's possible that I could throw some cheap flights into the mix with Ryanair, etc. which would also help for time, but what about the rest of the travel? Would several different eurrail passes be better? Or perhaps I should continue to narrow things down and then decide on transportation . .. .?

I suppose I have some guidebooks and maps to peruse (which is always fun ) . .. .

Steph

6. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 7y

A few quick replies.

- Yup, you mean Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

- There are plenty of Scottish castles, and if you spend a couple of days in a car around Scotland, you will see many! Don't know if you have a specific one in mind, but some are trickier to get to by public transport so you need a but of forward planning there.

- Yes, turn up and go train tickets in most of Europe are very expensive. But in almost allcases, if you are a bit flexible and book a few days/week or so ahead- or even longer for greater discounts - and online, you can get some huge discounts (eg: London to Inverness in the north of Scotland, by day train and buying your ticket on the day will cost you 149gbp: earlier this year, i did the same journey for 5gbp).

And in most cases, a few clever discount cards can work as well. a DB railcard with Railplus (international jnys) or a railcard in the uk can save you more than teh cost of the railcard on a single journey.

- Personally I don't think Barcelona and Madrid are that alike, but everybody has different ideas. I'd probably be more inclined o go to somewhere new (Madrid) than Barcelona if you can only go to one. I'd also suggest Toledo as a day trip from Madrid.

- Valencia is nice enough, but i wouldn't call it a 'must see'. If you are looking for an extra Spanish destination, I would highly recommend at least one of Granada, Cordoba or Sevilla in the south instead. Bilbao & Donostia-San Sebastian in the Basque country near the French border on the Atlantic side are also good choices. One reasonably straightforward route is something like Paris - (Bordeaux) - Bilbao/Donostia - Madrid - Cordoba/Sevilla/Granada - Barcelona - Avignon/Nice/cote d'Azur/southern France - Italy (or v.v) which avoids much backtracking.

- back on the Eurrail, I would suggest that it probably makes sense for a part of your trip, but use it to its full extent when you have it. Don't waste days on short (or cheap, which aren't always the same thing) journeys, and also don't really plan on having a pass for your entire trip.

- As for Buckingham Palace/London, it might be worth going to the continent that way anyway. Note that Stonehenge can be awkward to get to, so you'll have to be in Southern England anyway, so London isn't too far out of the way, and logistically, it might work out (especially if you goto Paris/Belgium via Eurostar and you book that well ahead - and, to make it cheaper - as a through ticket from somewhere else in England, like Salisbury or Bath which are decent starting points for Stonehenge)

happy planning

7. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 7y

Quoting bluewaav

Also, on a completely different topic . . . How do the shengen laws effect Canadians? From what I understand, you are allowed to travel in the shengen countries for 90 days out of 180 (meaning I can't travel for 90 days, leave for 2 or 3, and then travel again for another 90). Do I need to get some sort of travel visa for this? Which countries in Europe are affected? Do these laws cover all of the EU?

As a Canadian, within any 180 day period, you can have spent 90 days in the Schengen Zone without having to get a visa. There are no Schengen visas. If you wanted to stay in the Schengen country for more than the 90 days, you would have to apply to get a visa from one of the countries. The laws only cover those countries in the Schengen Zone, of which Hien has posted a link to. As Gelli has pointed out, the UK is not in Schengen, so if you are there for a spell, you probably will be okay. One addition to the list that Hien pointed you to is that Switzerland and Liechtenstein are not currently party to the Schengen agreement, however they probably will be by sometime before the end of 2008.

Greg

8. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 7y

Hello again,

Well, I have pondered all of your replies, and I have come up with a few solutions. Firstly, though, I was thinking about routing my Europe trip (at least the beginning of it) in the following way . . . .

Because of cost, I thought I would fly into London (someone told me that London is the least expensive European city to fly into), which seems like a good starting point, anyway. After that, I thought I would travel in the U.K., mostly north towards Scotland and maybe Ireland. At this time, I have a friend living in Edinburgh, so at that time I would meet up with her and travel throughout the rest of the U.K.

Then I thought that somehow I would cross the English Channel to France, though whether to do it by boat, air or train is up in the air (no pun intended):). That is my first question. Bearing in mind cost, time and the less-important-but-still-valid novelty and romance about it, what should I do? From my own research and from what I've heard, taking the Eurostar through the tunnel is quite expensive, though quick. Taking the boat is slower but more romantic. Taking a plane is quickest, maybe even cheapest, but boring. Hmmm. Then of course there is the question of which route is most direct (It's most likely that my next stop will be Paris.).

After Paris, I thought I would like to deffinatly visit Nice, maybe even the French Riviera or Provence as well as a wine region like Champagne or Bordeaux and also Canadian WWI and WWII battle sites like Vimy Ridge, and possibly other cities in France if time and money permit (I'm trying to stretch my euros as far as possible).

After that, I thought I would cycle down on the train and do Spain: deffinately Mardid, then possibly Seville or Granada, and on to Lisbon, Portugal. From Portugal, I thought of either flying or taking a train east, towards Italy. It would probably be most economical to see the countries in between that are on my list, such as Switzerland and Austria, and maybe the south of Germany, as I have a friend living in Stuttgart that I want to visit if time allows. This part of the route may be a little out of the way, though, because Switzerland, Austria, and Germany are all not exactly directly between Spain and Italy. However, if I double back through Spain, I could make it more worth while by stopping in Switzerland, Austria and possibly southern Germany on the way. Question #2: is this a good idea? Or should I just take a boat from Lisbon to the coast of Italy, perhaps docking in Naples? In Italy, I am sure that I want to see a lot: Rome, Venice, Florence, Vatican City, Pisa (for the leaning tower of Pisa, possibly a daytrip from Florence?) maybe the Cinque Terre, Pompei (could this be a day trip as well?) and Milan if there is enough time. The major Roman ruins and art are the most important things to see in Italy, as far as I am concerned.

From Italy, I thought of taking a boat to Greece. Either that or flying. There are a ton of countries between Italy and Greece that I don't want to see (for now ) so taking a train through them would be in vain seeing that I don't want to see anything there. That rules the train out. However, if I took a boat to Italy and worked my way northward, ending perhaps in Milan, then I would probably have to double back towards the coast in order to hop on a boat to Greece. Maybe then it would be better to fly? It is possible (I did say it was optional) to skip Milan, therefore ending my Italian leg in Venice. In Greece, thus far, my list only includes Crete and Athens. Is there aything else I should not miss?

After Greece, I thought I would go north by plane. But to where? is the question. There are a ton of other countries on my list, so should I go really north and go Greece to Scandinavia, or go slightly north and end up in Hungary/ Slovakia/Czech Republic? And from there, where to? After this, I have no idea how to route my trip.

It seems as though I may need a subscription to RyanAir instead of a Eurrail pass by the looks of things

Thanks for the help!

Steph

9. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 7y

I checked out the price of a global eurrail pass, and it was upwards of $1000 Canadian

Considering that in most European countries the cost of one hour of train travel is around 10 EUR you get a pretty good deal with the 3-month global pass. All you have to do to make it worth your money is to average more than 1 hour on the train each day. Plus if you cannot afford to buy the 3-months-global pass you probably cannot afford to go to Europe for 3 months.

... I thought I would fly into London.... After that, I thought I would travel in the U.K., mostly north towards Scotland and maybe Ireland.

This can be a not-so-smart idea for visa reasons. The Schengen period of 180 days starts upon entry inside of Schengen. Most people break their stay in Schengen up by going to London instead of the other way around. If you stay outside of Schengen long enough you can restart the 180 day period.

I suggest you also look for flights to Frankfurt, unless their is a major trade fair at the time you intend to travel these should cost the same as a flight to London. (At least from most of the cities in the USA and Canada.) AirBerlin has sometimes great deals from Canada (Vancouver) to Germany (Stuttgart and Duesseldorf). http://www.airberlin.com

From Portugal, I thought of either flying or taking a train east, towards Italy.

Considering that the train would take you days, I strongly recommend that you fly. There are cheap flights to Italy from Barcelona in Spain.

Also consider a trip down to Morocco. Morocco is cheap compared to Europe, plus it breaks up your Schengen time.

http://looklex.com/morocco/index.htm
http://looklex.com/spain/index.htm

If I double back through Spain, I could make it more worth while by stopping in Switzerland, Austria and possibly southern Germany on the way. Question #2: is this a good idea?

No. Considering your other travel plans it makes much more sense to fly from Spain or Morocco to Germany and then travel by train from Germany (Munich!) to Italy.

Before you make any further plans on train travel I suggest you go to http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en and enter random cities to find out how long it takes to get from A to B. Lisbon to Stuttgart for example has a departure at 6 pm in Lisbon and arrives in Stuttgart at 9 am the 3rd (!) day.

Or should I just take a boat from Lisbon to the coast of Italy, perhaps docking in Naples?

There is no such boat. There is a ferry that runs in summer from Rome to Barcelona, but flights are usually a better alternative on that route. There is a ferry from Naples to Rome though.

It is possible to stay in Pompeii for all your trips in and around Naples.

From Italy, I thought of taking a boat to Greece. Either that or flying.

Take the boat. There are very few cheap flights that go Italy-Greece as it is not a major package tourist route.

In Greece, thus far, my list only includes Crete and Athens. Is there aything else I should not miss?

Greece has a thousand charming little islands. I have read raving reviews about Santorini, Kos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Corfu and Rhodes.

From Greece - go north, Germany, UK or Scandinavia. Since you are flying you could go to whereever there are cheap flights. The search function of skyscanner.net can help you with this.

Or alternatively venture over to Turkey and visit the border between Asia and Europe. Istanbul is a great city, and the ruins of Ephesus are a must if you want to see Greek antiques. You can easily reach Turkey by ferry from the Greek islands Rhodes, Kos, Samos and Chios.

http://turkeytravelplanner.com/

There are cheap flights from both Izmir and Istanbul to Germany and the UK.

One thing to keep in mind when travelling with Ryanair - to get really cheap tickets you have to travel with hand luggage only. Ryanair charges extra if you check a bag. Thus a more expensive ticket from a company like easyjet (one checked bag is free) or one of the big daddy airlines (British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France) can work out cheaper than a Ryanair flight when all addtional costs are taken into account.

One more thing: Canadian citizens can apply for a working holiday visa for France and for Germany. This would be the most elegant solution to both your visa problems (1 full year in Schengen) as well as to the question how to finance your trip. BUT: IIRC the WHV visa are limited, you need to apply now and do it fast.

[ Edit: Edited on Dec 5, 2008, at 5:45 PM by t_maia ]

10. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 7y

Quoting t_maia

This can be a not-so-smart idea for visa reasons. The Schengen period of 180 days starts upon entry inside of Schengen. Most people break their stay in Schengen up by going to London instead of the other way around. If you stay outside of Schengen long enough you can restart the 180 day period.

Maybe I wasn't clear . . . I'm only planning to be in Europe for 3 months, the length of the Schengen period, so I don't really think that I need to break it up by going to London halfway through. Furthermore, from what I understand, you need to be outside of Schengen for 90 days before you can reenter. Simply, I can't stay in London for that long.

However, I'll check out the Air Berlin route. It's pretty decent to fly from Calgary to Vancouver/Abbotsford before flying out of the country.

Quoting t_maia

From Portugal, I thought of either flying or taking a train east, towards Italy.

Considering that the train would take you days, I strongly recommend that you fly. There are cheap flights to Italy from Barcelona in Spain.

Flying it is. RyanAir here I come!

Quoting bluewaav

If I double back through Spain, I could make it more worth while by stopping in Switzerland, Austria and possibly southern Germany on the way. Question #2: is this a good idea?

Quoting t_maia

No. Considering your other travel plans it makes much more sense to fly from Spain or Morocco to Germany and then travel by train from Germany (Munich!) to Italy.

Huh. So skip Austria and Switzerland and save them for later, or tackle them while I see southern Germany before I go to Italy? Maybe would it be better to just skip that whole route altogether and fly straight from Lisbon to Italy?

Quoting t_maia

Before you make any further plans on train travel I suggest you go to http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en and enter random cities to find out how long it takes to get from A to B. Lisbon to Stuttgart for example has a departure at 6 pm in Lisbon and arrives in Stuttgart at 9 am the 3rd (!) day.

Aha! So people keep telling me. Duly noted. ;)

Quoting t_maia

It is possible to stay in Pompeii for all your trips in and around Naples.

Actually, I'm not 100% sure why I want to go to Naples, and am considering skipping it altogether. The only reason why I first considered it is because it's on the coast, therefore possibly accessable by boat from Lisbon (which I have now been informed does not exist ). Because there is nothing that I want to see in Naples, and because of time, I think I'll skip it. However, I do want to see Pompeii. Is there no way to see Pompeii than to stay there overnight? I can't seem to find it on a map.

Quoting t_maia

One thing to keep in mind when travelling with Ryanair - to get really cheap tickets you have to travel with hand luggage only. Ryanair charges extra if you check a bag. Thus a more expensive ticket from a company like easyjet (one checked bag is free) or one of the big daddy airlines (British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France) can work out cheaper than a Ryanair flight when all addtional costs are taken into account.

As I plan to only travel with hand luggage, this should not pose a problem for me. Also, I have heard that they impose a 15 kilo weight limit to luggage as well

Thanks for your advice. I'll let you know how planning the northern section of my trip goes

Steph