Im planning to go to Europe next June 27, for some 2-3 weeks. I'd like to go to France, italy and Germany, but would be up to go anywhere else. I just have no idea on how to go about it. In terms of itinerary, costs, cities to go etc etc.
I'm a uni student in Australia and I've never been to europe before and i want to make the best of it.
It's already much to see in 2-3 weeks, although they are all fascinating countries. I'd advise you to do what you can to make this trip longer, especially given that you're going from Australia!
A question is what do you like to do/see? City, country, landscapes, beach, culture, history, nightlife, adventure? Answering this question might help us give you suggestions suited to you. The capitals of each city are loaded with history, architecture and nightlife which might be a good start
Also do some research on basic guides of the countries and see what they have on offer (they have lots!)
If you're into landscapes/nature/adventure at all I'd strongly consider Switzerland (Interlaken/Grindelwald/Zermatt) as it's a beautiful place bordered by the 3 countries.
As for costs, you'll need to set aside $100AU per day in Europe to make your way on a budget, but given it's only 2-3 weeks and you want to make the most of it I'd say around $150-200AU per day would be good.
I think an example of a good itinery by road/rail would be:
Berlin (3-4 nights) -> Amsterdam (2-3 nights) -> Paris (4 nights) -> Bern (1 night) -> Interlaken (2-3 nights) -> Venice (1-2 nights), Rome (3 nights)
You could replace Amsterdam with perhaps Dusseldorf/Frankfurt/Luxemburg/Brussels etc. And Bern with Milan (allow another night) or a town in France. This would be a good combination of cities, history, culture, landscapes and nature.
Please keep in mind - I wouldn't try staying for any shorter than what I've listed. It's already cramming a lot into a short time!
Also consider some kind of guided tour, as you have to sacrifice some freedom but they are good for fitting in a lot in a short time and enjoying it without having to worry about spending time to book/organise things etc.
[ Edit: Edited on Dec 20, 2008, at 9:37 PM by Erik85 ]
Thanks for your awesome response. Unfortunately, im going in my uni break, we only get three weeks. Maybe I'll squeeze in four.
Okay, so I want to see and experience everything. Primarily Historical Place, Museums/Galleries, Culture (I dont want westernised places, i want real culture) - Different Foods, architecture. Im really active as well, so if there are good places to scuba dive or moutain climb/absail - im totally up for it.
So my file labelled 'Europe Trip Research' is massive. Its kinda overwhelming, but a well organised trip leads to a well execited and awesome trip. I will do more research and stuff!
Okay, so im adding France, italy, Germany, Spain, Switzerland on the list - in a preferential order? Would it be best to really travel around one/two countries (All over, north and south) or should i just hop to a number of countries? Not sure.
Thanks for the itinerary, just the names of those places is so exciting, because I've only heard/read about them. I will put them into my file. Guided tour, okay good tip; wasnt thinking of that one.
Okay, so I want to see and experience everything. Primarily Historical Place, Museums/Galleries, Culture (I dont want westernised places, i want real culture) - Different Foods, architecture.
Based on this, I'd recommend hiring a car and spending the majority of your time travelling the length of Italy (or at least the stretch Roma, Florence, Venice). Probably the area with the densest concentration of culturally/historically significant places. Each of those cities needs multiple days, of course, but you'll want to make a point of it to stop over in some sleepy villages as well. (That's where the car comes in handy; otherwise the train probably would do as well.) There should be some options for activities in the vein of climbing/diving as well, though that's a hunch, and not based on any actual knowledge.) Less definitely is more, though: to really experience culture, you'll have to immerse yourself in it, which takes time. Don't rush through, but linger and get to know a place. (And culture in Italy is far from homogeneous; every city basically has its own, lingering on from the time when they were all distinct city-states.)
If you rush it, you could probably squeeze in a flight to a single other European city as well (something like Paris or perhaps better yet Berlin, for contrast).
If you are really active and on a low budget consider cycle touring.
A typical tourist who travels by public transport and stays in hostels needs at least 50 EUR per day. But a cycle tourist can get by on 30 EUR per day easily, if all food comes from the supermarket and s/he travels with tent and sleeping bag.
Advantages of cycle touring:
You get to see the backroads, the small little places that others overlook. You have more contact with locals. You have a better chance to get to know a certain region really well. (Not to mention that cycle touring is the cheapest method of travel there is.)
Disadvantage: You are limited in the scope of your travel. You might have to choose between cycling or sightseeing due to time constraints. While it is possible to travel by bike from Southern Germany to Rome in 14 days this means cycling every day, days you cannot spend in museums or art galleries.
So whether cycle touring is for you depends whether you are willing to limit yourself to a certain region.
To answer one of your questions: Would it be best to really travel around one/two countries (All over, north and south) or should i just hop to a number of countries? I would say that it is better to travel 1-2 countries. If you hop around everything will just blur together, you won't be able to distinguish your memories of Paris from those of Prague. Utterly counterproductive if what you are interested in is local culture, plus you'll spent a lot of time travelling.
See this thread: http://www.travellerspoint.com/forum.cfm?thread=56167 for a discussion on time spent travelling/number of places that can be covered.
Also: I personally hate organised tours, the one time I took one I felt really miserable because I was stuck in a tour bus. It was sleeping, eat breakfast, get on the bus, drive until noon, get lunch, have a bit of time for sightseeing, get on the bus again, eat dinner and go to sleep. I spent most of the trip sitting and eating, not walking around as I usually do with do-it-yourself trips and was bored out of my mind. Maybe your experience is better, but ...
Since you've said what you're after - I think Sander has put in a great idea with Italy - Florence area. (Although I think Venice is very touristy and cliche :P ) And as he said you'll want to slow it down a notch and not rush to too many places.
Basically if you want real culture you'll probably want to visit small villages, as many European cities are quite Westernised. Although for it's historical sites, museums, etc. you still shouldn't miss Rome.
You could do a similar thing in France - their villages are quite immaculate and to see the real culture it's best trying to visit them (friendlier people too!).
And yes you won't get much culture on a tour bus either - for this it's more to see the sites quickly and/or perhaps if you have a desire to travel with other people.
Car sounds good. I dont have my full license, im a red P plater. Does this matter? I hope i dont crash it... road rules in another country is a bit daunting... perhaps public transport is best for me.
Thank you for the names of the cities, definately going there and get myself immersed. What is a sleepy village??
What are the best places to go in France? I want to go to the small villages where there is rich culture and no westernised stuff. exactly what Erik said.
I'm not much of a cycler, altho it would be healthier and the reasons you mentioned were great, I reckon I'll consider sticking to car/train-bus)
Yeah, wouldnt want everything to be a blur. I might stick to just two france and italy and venture to germany, just a bit. Thanks for the link! I'll check it out.
Maybe I'll have a balance of tours and freedom. Since im travelling solo - it'd be nice to meet fellow travellers, but I don't want to get bog down too heavily with the restrictions.
Any advice about Accomodation? Hostels or Hotels? Cheap? Formule 1 (ive heard about?) in france? I'd like to go as cheap as possible, i dont really need any luxuries. :p
Keep em coming guys, this is so helpful. You're the best, mates.
2-3 weeks? I'd first spend a fe days in London, then I'd be travelling through the south of France (Cannes, Nice, Monaco, etc), then into Italy to Florence, Bologna, Modena (Rome if possible) and across to Venice. I'd then fly back to London and go home from there.
I would get around by train and bus, but mostly train.
might stick to just two france and italy and venture to germany, just a bit.
Quick reality check here. Didn't you say that you had only 3 weeks? And you want to attempt 3 countries?
A quick and very rushed "essential Italy" tour that takes in Venice, Florence and Rome alone takes at least 10 days, and that is on the typical American/Canadian/Japanese/youknowwho "2 days per city" whirl. People with more common sense plan on around 15 days for Northern Italy, and that is just stratching at the surface.
With three weeks you got 21 days, minus 2 for arrival and departure. If you travel around Italy for 15 days you'll be left with exactly 4 days during which you want to explore both France and Germany.
Know what, look into Switzerland instead of France and Germany. You could go hike in the Alps for a few days and then make your way down to Rome.
As for accomodation, hostels are the way to go. Alternatively you can take a small tent and stay on camping sites. The cheapest hostels in both Florence and Venice are not traditional hostels but camping sites that rent out tents to guests without one. If you want to go as cheap as possible taking a tent can be the answer if you got camping gear already and do not intend to fly with budget airlines.
As for cycling - if you can run 5 km in under 25 min you are sufficiently fit to cycle about 50-70 kms per day on flat terrain without collapsing from fatigue. Maybe instead of hiking you could do a cycling tour in Switzerland? Switzerland does have some mostly flat cycling routes and there are tour operators who will rent you a bike as well as transport your luggage. You can even get an E-Bike, a bicycle with a small electric motor and a pack of batteries. With that and luggage transport even my 80-year-old grandma (who has got a pacemaker and a stiff leg) could cycle from Lake Constance to Lausanne for example. See http://www.veloland.ch/
[ Edit: Edited on Dec 21, 2008, at 7:03 PM by t_maia ]
James, that sounds ideal, though I want to go to the north of france. i hope thats not being too ambitious. I could push for 4 weeks, making the plans do-able.
t_maia, thanks for the advice, i have to be realistic! lol. The tent idea, at first - i wasn't sure. Mainly because i'd be on my own and security wise. But I guess, i'll consider it more seriously. Cycling, still will look into tat What are others' thoughts on tents and cycling?