I'm embarking on a two month journey around Europe which basically covers:
Brussels/Ghent/Bruges/Namur -> Cologne -> Berlin -> Prague -> Vienna -> Budapest -> Zagreb -> Split -> Dubrovnik -> Naples -> Rome -> Florence -> Venice -> Zurich -> Bern -> Barcelona -> Sevilla -> Malaga then home to London. Roughly I'll be spending three days in each place, but possibly more or possible fewer - eg. I probably won't stay more than a couple of days in Naples, Venice, Sevilla, Malaga or Split.
I've bought an Interrail ticket for £385 for the first month of travelling. However, I'm going for two months. Is it a good idea to buy another ticket for my second month now, or is it best to see how I get on for the first month and pay for the comparatively cheaper Croatian trains and then consider a flexi pass for the rest of my trip? Also, for my first month I will probably have to make some reservations on the trains I am travelling - I'm thinking here particularly the international ones. I know these don't cost a lot, but how far in advance do you have to reserve? Does this generally have to be done at the station?
Also, as regards to living I have a few questions. What do people do for food, generally? I'm not camping because I'm going on my own and I will be staying in hostels. Do people usually just go to a cheap sandwich outlet and get something or do you usually utilise the kitchens provided by the hostels? I also have a question about booking. I noticed that quite a few hostels in Brussels are actually fully booked on the day my trip starts (April). Is this unusual? Would it be advisable to not turn up the night I want a room, and instead book say three days in advance? Or is that not enough notice?
Finally, security. Do most hostels have lockers I can lock my stuff away in at night? Are they relatively safe places, and will there be a bunch of people there I will be able to talk to? Do I need to bring a sheet sleeping bag or is linen usually provided?
Sorry for firing so many questions! The truth is...that I have so many so I would really appreciate your help in answering any of them!
[ Edit: Edited on 23-Feb-2009, at 06:12 by jssites ]
So you plan to use the Interrail ticket for the part of your journey that is Brussels to Zagreb? If yes, have you really checked whether you couldn't do it cheaper using point-to-point? I estimate that if you manage to pick up a bunch of specials offered by Deutsche Bahn and use some creative ticketing you could do this part of your journey for half the price that your paid for the interrail ticket.
Food: You buy stuff in supermarkets and use the hostel kitchen. If there is no kitchen you make do with cold foods, making sandwiches on what ever plain and clean surface is available. I've used my hostel bed, a park bench, the table in the common room and my left hand while juggling the jam in the crook of my arm and the knife in my right. It is a good idea to have silverware (spoon, fork, a knife for spreading, a knife for cutting), a cup and a small lightweight plate and sandwich bags. Foods to buy in the supermarket are juice, soda, joghurt, cheese, cold cuts, bread, apples, bananas, milk rice, custard, cereal bars - even milk and cereal if you got a bowl or a large cup. You'd be surprised how far you get with this method and how little it costs compared to buying things in snack stalls. And if you get tired of eating only cold stuff make sure the next hostel you stay at has a kitchen you can use or pop into a cheap restaurant.
Booking: it is a good idea to call ahead using an old fashioned telephone or reserving online, usually about 2-3 days in advance. Depends upon the city and the date though. Be aware of major events, when I went to Turkey in 2006 I reserved my bed in Istanbul 4 months in advance because it was the weekend of the first Formula 1 race in Turkey.
Hi there, thanks for your reply.
I've mainly used the Interrail ticket because I want a lot of flexibility in where I can go. I don't want to have a rigid itinerary now and say "right, 3 days in Brussels, 2 days in Koln" etc. because I might want to stay longer or shorter in each place. It's probably unlikely I'd pick up specials without booking advance and this is something I don't want to do - I'd like to be able to place a reservation at most a couple of days before I go to somewhere else. Thanks for your tips on food - I think I might do a mix/match attempt at food stalls to get the local delicacies with my own preparation of sandwiches etc.
I'll check out if I'm going at any busy times, although I don't think I am particularly. Do the hostelling international hostels book up quicker in general?
Do the hostelling international hostels book up quicker in general?
Depends upon the city. In some cities HI hostels are the only hostels and if they are full... Also the HI hostels get more traffic from school classes, so at one day they might be fully booked and completely empty the next. (The time you'll be travelling is high season for school trips.)
As a rule the best hostels book up the soonest, regardless whether they are HI hostels or not. The big advantage of the HI network is that you can usually book your next HI hostel from the one you are staying at without too much trouble. Saves you the hassle of finding a place to stay after arrival in a city.
Note that major events include trade fairs. For example it is almost impossible to find a bed in the HI hostel in Frankfurt at the time of major trade fairs, simply because these are the only beds at that time that don't cost several hundred euros (which start-up companies from India and China cannot afford).