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How long to stay in each country? Which cities to visit?

Travel Forums Europe How long to stay in each country? Which cities to visit?

1. Posted by fiona_s (Budding Member 2 posts) 8y


I am planning a big trip next year (January 2010) and the problem is my best friend is only coming over for 2 months, whereas I will be staying over there for as long as I want on a working holiday.

We want to visit these countries together (below), but we're having difficulty trying to work out how long we are going to stay in each one, and which cities to visit and all that stuff.

Does anyone have any advice for the best way we can work this out? I mean how do you know what to do and how long you're going to spend doing it if you've never been to these countries before? We don't know anything about Europe really. There's the obvious things like Leaning Tower of Pisa and Eiffel Tower and all those landmarks that you're forever hearing about, but what do we do in Spain? What do we do in Germany? What do we do in Greece?

Anybody's advice would be greatly appreciated.

Oh, another thing - are we going to be able to see all these countries in 2 months?
United Kingdom
Czech Republic

2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4930 posts) 8y

There's no way you can meaningfully see all those countries in two months. You'd be getting the "If today is Tuesday, this must be Paris" effect, and spending far too much of your time getting from place to place. I also wouldn't focus on the main tourist attractions. Yes, they're there, and you'll see them if you pass through, but you know, you look at the tower of Pisa for a few minutes and then you've seen it, and you look around, and discover that Pisa is a pretty boring place and you've wasted a day coming out there.
Additionally, winter is probably the worst time of the year to be in Europe, as many days will be grey and cold and miserable. (There's also really gorgeous blue skied days when all the trees are covered with a thin layer of frost turning the entire world into a magical wonderland (having one here right now) :) - but those are rare.)

I'd plan for a minimum of two weeks per country, which'd allow you to actually get an impression of what the country is like (rather than only seeing the capital, which in most cases isn't representative of the rest of the country at all). That means that in two months, you can see four countries (and maybe throw in the capital of one other country for good measure). Or if you really have your heart set on seeing lots of the famous attractions, make it three countries and four capitals.

Saying that you'd like at least a chance of decent weather for part of it, so choose two southern countries, I'd personally make the list: Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, and then wrap it up with either Paris or London, or alternatively: Spain, Italy, Germany, and Prague, Paris, London and Amsterdam.

That's just a suggestion based on personal impressions of countries and cities. You'll have to do your own research into each individual country to discover what it offers beyond the tourist icons you'll have heard of. There's a lot to each country. (You could spend a year almost anywhere without really exhausting the options.)

Personally I'm a very visually oriented person, so what I often find helpful for getting a first impression is to look at photos of a country (the featured photo galleries here at travellerspoint make a good start) and write down all the cities and national parks which appeal to me from that. Say you need three days to see a place properly, and five days for major capitals. Then do the math.

3. Posted by fiona_s (Budding Member 2 posts) 8y

Hi Sander,

Thanks for your help.

I had a feeling that would be the response. It is OK for me because I have longer to spend there, but it's my friend that only has 2 months and wants to see everything she can as this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for her. It's go over next year for 2 months, or don't go at all.

I have found the information on travellerspoint very helpful, and we will continue to read through the massive amount of info we have, and try to pick our favourites so that we can narrow down our travels.

What's your personal opinion - do the trip ourselves in hostels/ camping grounds or go with a contiki tour?

4. Posted by andy11 (Full Member 136 posts) 8y

Don't forget about Scotland/Edinburgh, you would like it here i'm sure, have met quite a few Aussies and they all seem to love it, quite a small place really, loads of character though.

5. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4930 posts) 8y

Quoting fiona_s

I had a feeling that would be the response. It is OK for me because I have longer to spend there, but it's my friend that only has 2 months and wants to see everything she can as this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for her. It's go over next year for 2 months, or don't go at all.

I understand that, and she should obviously go. But she'd need to accept that it's both physically impossible to see "everything" in two months, and that rushing from place to place is a very exhausting undertaking, which'd leave you both grumpy and much less appreciative of what it is that you're seeing than if you're taking a more measured approach. One of the most important things to do for long term travel is to build in rest moments; just spend a day doing nothing, sitting in a cafe somewhere with a cup of hot chocolate and watching life pass you by.
Although the total surface area of Europe is comparable to that of Australia, everything is just packed way more densely, with far more history behind it all. You can see the sights of Melbourne or Sydney in two days, but to get a feel for the cities, you'd need to spend a week there, walking through Brunswick, exploring the little side streets in the CBD, heading down Lygon Street, etc, etc. The same and more holds for any city in Europe, and any country will have half a dozen cities like that, plus there's the landscapes between the cities. It'd be a complete shame to have visited Melbourne without doing the Great Ocean Road, visiting the Grampians and maybe heading down to the Prom or Philip Island, and similar areas exist all over Europe as well.
So, taking that as a given, it's generally considered more worthwhile (and from personal experience, I completely subscribe to this view) to spend more time seeing fewer places more thoroughly rather than to have a checklist of just the icons and miss everything in between. (It'd be crazy (and completely exhausting) for someone coming to Australia for a week to go see the Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and the Twelve Apostles.)

If you can convince your friend of that, you can then start looking at which countries it is that she'd really want to see, and how to get the most out of that experience. Also, Europe isn't going anywhere. Yes, it's a long way from Australia, but I'm guessing that given a lifetime, she should be able to manage returning to see some of the bits she missed this time around.

What's your personal opinion - do the trip ourselves in hostels/ camping grounds or go with a contiki tour?

Camping would be much too cold that time of the year, but otherwise definitely arrange things yourselves and stay in hostels. It's a great goodness to have the freedom to change your plans if you discover you like a place much more (or much less) than you'd previously thought.

6. Posted by butafly (Budding Member 51 posts) 8y

Quoting fiona_s

What's your personal opinion - do the trip ourselves in hostels/ camping grounds or go with a contiki tour?

With a Contiki tour you'll never ever get to see everything you want, plus it's way too expensive. Get an Interrail ticket and go by trains or hire a car and spend the nights in hostels. You'll meet more people and you'll be more flexible.
When picking your destinations, keep in mind that Europe is about as big as Australia - how much of Australia have you seen in your life? Probably not even close to everything. And then there's a big difference in population, i.e. you don't have large areas without towns and cities. My Australian ex-boyfriend was stunned when he realised you cannot drive for ten minutes in Germany without seeing a town - you just don't get that in Australia. Distances are the same - it takes a while to get from France to Italy.
As Sander suggested, you should pick maybe four countries and places in those countries you want to see and leave some days in case you find out about something while there. Not only will you get to see more of one place, you will get a more in-depth idea of how people live in those countries. I thought Western countries were all more or less the same - they're not at all. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime-experience nevertheless and you won't come back feeling like you didn't actually get to see more than one landmark in each city.

7. Posted by ringo6981 (Budding Member 48 posts) 8y

Have you thought about Hiring a van? especially to check out Englan/Ireland/Scotland.

I Left Aust last year in August and spent 2.5 months travelling around Europe with a mate we went to spain-Belgium-Holland-Germany.
We had a great time and you will definately enjoy it but as people say you can't see too many countries in that time. The only time i was not happy/frustrated was when you are going from place to place. You waste so much time doing this.
I'll give you a scenario
you are leaving Barcelona to catch a train to Madrid your train isn't till two oclock so you have to wake up before check out time pack all your stuff and leave the hostel, you then need to either trust your backpack in an unlocked room at your hostel(which we always did and didnt have problems but you never know) or spend the day walking around with it. you then need to find out where the train is leaving from and what time you need to get there. you then get there an hour and a half early because you dont want to miss it because you can't afford to miss it.
Basically my point is the day you travel is always wasted soughting stuff out and trying to deal with language barriers. So the more places you try and cram in the more "dead" time you will have.

Good luck with it,
being from Australia you would of scene wicked vans getting around the place thats what i would advice having a go at for your UK section it will save you plenty of money and give you a lot more freedom.
If you enjoy that you can look at the summer vantour specials they have. I have just booked mine for this year and im enjoying planning it all out

8. Posted by jaxstar84 (Respected Member 415 posts) 8y

yeah i cant imagine even TRYING to see all those places in 2 months, its just madness... after a while youre gonna be exhausted. you have all the time in t he world so use it! i dunno what your friends circumstances are, but id take a guess that this one single opportunity isnt gonna be the last chance she'll ever get to go on a holiday. but if thats the view she'dlike to take, then she;d better enjoy her last holiday!

cramming all that into 2 months doesnt mean she can say shes "done" europe. it means that shes driven thru it. if you guys are determined to do as much as you can in the 2 months id suggest spain/france/italy and then fly to belgium or holland and see amsterdam, brugge, antwerp and ghent, since theyre all accessable by train and no more than 2 or 3 hours between them. for me thats pushing it, but i dont rush very well at all at the best of times. i prefer to get to know a country much better, and i lived in holland for 2 years and it wasnt nearly enough!

tryn convince her not to get out her checklist and try n tick off as much as she can... enjoy the time you have to travel, take it slow, have a day chucked in somewhere that you can do nothing and unwind, sleep in, relax, catch up on emails, diary entries etc... holidays have to be fun, not stressful!!

what kinda stuff do you guys like anywya? beaches, nature, cities, shopping, art? gives us a better idea of what you should see...