Hey, I am hoping to travel europe for 4 weeks, as this will be my first time travelling alone I am not to sure of how to go about it. I am looking at maybe staying at four destinations over the period, which would stay in hotels or hostels. What is the best way to book the trip flights etc? Just starting to try and plan, so any help would be really appreciated and any general advice, tips! Cheers
Given your situation, I would first decide which countries you want to visit. Your idea of staying at four destinations is a sound one - - -not too much packing and unpacking, taking advantage of daily rail discounts for day trips, etc.. Second, I would work then with a reputable and knowledgeable travel agent to whom you give some very specific information of where you want to go, what accomodations you are looking for, and what you want to see. Third, double check every travel arrangement the agent will make for you, subject to your prior approval. Fourth, before you sign off on your travel-agent generated itinerary, with hotels, transportation , etc. run it past members on this board for comments
You will find that you will get much more useful suggestions when you pose some definite travel plans than if you just ask for a general "help me".
Some single first-timers prefer to use a guided tour but, generally, these are planned around "must see" locations, which can often be quite touristy. By their very nature, they have to be planned with some common denominators in mind. You usually spend a lot of time at places of lesser interest to you in order to satisfy the particular needs of the other various members of the group.
In 4 weeks you can safely cover 2 countries if they are not very large. I strongly recommend that you check out smaller places (villages and small cities) too instead of doing just the Paris-London-Amsterdam-Berlin circuit. 5 or 6 places might be manageable too, just make sure you pack light.
You don't necessarily need a travel agent, but it is useful talking to one for flights if just to get a general idea of which companies fly your route, what the price for a ticket normally is, whether it is high or low season, whether it might reduce the price of the ticket to fly 2 weeks earlier, etc etc. You don't have to book with the agent, it is a good idea to always do your own research online.
As a rule it is generally cheaper to fly into one of the big intercontinental hubs like Paris, London, Rome, Frankfurt. (A lot of it depends on where you fly from though, so please tell us that so that we can help you.)
Hostels vs. Hotels. That is tricky. Hostels are a totally different livestyle than hotels. You can compare a hostel to living in a shared flat or a big student dorm, maybe having a roommate at the same time. In contrast to that a hotel is like having your own private flat. It is up to you what you prefer. Most young people stay in hostels due to budget reasons, plus hostels are a great place to meet other people when you are travelling alone. If you have to prepare your own food due to dietary restrictions hostels are also the way to go.
Note: If you are staying in hostels a travel agent will not be able to help you much, you are on your own for that. A travel agent will only be able to book you into a select number of hotels in a city. For this reason I would not ever book accomodation through a travel agent - if the hotel I reserved online myself is a dump I can easily move on, but if the travel agent booked it for me and I already paid for it I am stuck.
I hope you already got a good guidebook like Let's Go, Rough Guide, Lonely Planet, Rick Steves, etc. Most of the info you need to get started is in these books.
I will be travelling from Manchester airport. Not 100 % sure yet of which destinations I want to vist, as i am still researching into that at the mo. Switzerland, Austria and France really appeal to me. Does anyone have any ideas of what would make a good combination for travel for a month? When you book through a travel agents for the flights and accomadation for the whole trip, do you get a decent price? What sort of budget do you think I will need? Thanks!
LOL, if you are flying from Manchester just go to www.skyscanner.net and start playing around with it. Do yourself a favour and select whole year for the time you want to fly and "everywhere any country any airport" as your destination. Also tick the boxes direct flights and return. This should give you plenty of options for cheap flights all over Europe. Once you found flights that you like, book them online. No need for a travel agent at all. Just read the fine print carefully and actually simulate a booking to get a feeling for the price after all the fees are added. Ryanair for example charges for checked luggage, so that with one small bag of checked luggage and taxes the 0,01 cent flight quickly costs you 50 EUR.
As you are from the UK it will be rare for you to get a decent price with a travel agent for trips that aren't sun, beach and booze. Unless it is a super special offer for a package deal you can usually do city and culture trips cheaper on your own. Travel agents take a cut of the price for everything they book, so naturally they will have that 3-star hotel for 90 EUR per night but not the hostel or the campingsite for 15 EUR per night. Also if you book a package deal you usually pay more if you are single, by doing everything yourself and staying in hostel dorms you eliminate that cost.
As a rule you'll need approx. 50 EUR per day and person minimum.
These split like this
15-30 EUR hostel bed in a dorm, with 22 EUR being the average price
5-10 EUR for food from the supermarket
5-15 EUR for transport (day ticket for public transport and getting from city to city if you move every 4th or 5th day)
Rest for entry to sights, laundry and other necessities.
This is bare, not going hungry and not sleeping on the sidewalk budget. Depending what you intend to do (partying, skydiving, riding hot air balloons, eating out every night, stay in 5-star hotels, ... ) and how you intend to travel you should bring more, the sky is the limit.
Tell us some about yourself, your age, your interests, your budget (are you a starving student or middle age with a very nice income?), how you intend to travel (train, car, plane, bus?) - you get the idea. Filling out your profile would be cool.
As for the countries you are looking at, France and Belgium make a nice team for a 4-week trip (roughly 3 weeks for France and one for Belgium). Switzerland I would combine with Italy, 10 days for Switzerland and rest for Italy.
Although it is frequently done I don't recommend that you combine Switzerland with Austria. Both countries are very similar to a foreigner who does not speak excellent German. You'd need to spend more than just 2 weeks in each country to differentiate between them, to catch the fine nuances that make the (German) Swiss' Swiss and the Austrians Austrian. The point of combining two countries is to see the differences, which is why Italy and Switzerland is so interesting. (JMHO.) There is a gradual cultural change from German-speaking Switzerland to Italian-speaking Switzerland, German-speaking Northern Italy to Rome and then to Southern Italy that you note as you travel south or north.
Hope this helps.
[ Edit: Edited on Nov 24, 2008, at 9:19 PM by t_maia ]
major cities come with major taxes
airport wise :P