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Europe backpacking trip in dec 09

Travel Forums Europe Europe backpacking trip in dec 09

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11. Posted by BedouinLeo (Inactive 698 posts) 7y

Quoting Jezebel86

Oh so the winter starts in Nov??

In Britain, the latest winter commenced in October 2005 and since then we really haven't seen much improvement to boast about.
4 really lousy summers with lots and lots of rain.

Stay south of Rome and you'll get it warm.
Southern Spain (on the coast, not in the mountains or hills) in mid-December is often around 25c.

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

So if i go backpacking in these 4 countries (Italy, Greece, France & Spain) in Feb/March, i don't have to bring heavy clothings made for winter right??

Depends where in Italy and France.

February is still winter in most of Europe, even in Spain and Italy spring doesn't really start until the end of March. Unless you are going specifically for the Mardi Gras/Carnival celebrations in February I recommend that you go in March/April, you'll have much better weather then.

In Spain and Southern Italy you should get away with sneakers, jeans and raingear (Temps around 10 C). In Northern Italy and most of France I would recommend a good weatherproof-jacket with a zip-in fleece and some warm boots (hiking boots with thick woolsocks work well). Temps will be around 0 C during the day in Feb and colder after dark, say -5 C. You can make do with a cheap fleece inside a thin rain jacket and large sneakers (1-2 sizes too big) with 2 pairs of woolsocks and thermal insoles, but don't be surprised if you are shivering. Your pants should be jeans of good heavy quality, maybe combined with another layer (pyjama pants, pantyhoses, leggings, thermal underwear, etc) depending how cold you feel.

By your judgment, i'll need 2 months to visit 4 countries??

4 countries is pushing it, if I had 2 months I would plan on 2-3 countries. Say Spain, France and Northern Italy.

However I only plan to explore 2 cities in Spain, Paris in France, Athens & Greek islands and Italy (Rome, Milan, Florence). How much time do i need then?

If you race from one big city to another you can cover 4 countries in 2 months, but I do not recommend it. Paris is not France, if you only go to Paris you will have seen Paris, but you won't have seen France.

Recommended time to spend in certain cities:
Madrid 5-7 days
Barcelona 3-7 days
Paris, France - 5-7 days
Rome 5-7 days
Florence 4-6 days
Venice 1-3 days

Total: approx. 35 days

Can't help you much with Greece.

BTW, consider spending more time in Spain. March is a great time to go down to Andalusia (Moorish Spain).

And if you are going for the Mardi Gras celebrations consider a visit to Basel or Cologne.

Feb 22nd to Feb 25th are the dates for the "Basler Fastnacht" in Basel in 2010.

Carneval in Venice will be held Saturday, February 06, 2010 - Tuesday, February 16, 2010.

Highlights of the Carneval in Cologne
Weiberfastnacht Thu, 11th February
Rose Monday Mo, 15th February
Veilchendienstag Tue, 16th February

13. Posted by BedouinLeo (Inactive 698 posts) 7y

You ask about the best way to get between Greece/Italy, Italy/France and France/Spain.
Time wise, Ryanair and Wizzair can give you a lift for just a few Euro's. Then in some cases onward for a short journey by train or bus.
Ryanair fly from Paris (Beauvais) to several routes in Spain and Italy.
Wizzair do flights from Paris to Prague and then Prague to Thessaloniki. The two flights will be cheaper than the bus or train, plus you get the chance to see a bit of Eastern European culture too.
If you need to do Greece/Italy cheaply, but not necessarily so quickly, then I can suggest Thessoliniki to Sofia by train (it takes about 7 hours), then Wizzair from Sofia to several destinations across Italy, north and south.
There are several ferries from Greece to Italy but it takes ages, both to cross and get to and unless you spend ages shopping around all the agents that do tickets, it's not really cheap either. It may work out about the same travelling time as the train/plane above, but will be a dearer option I think.
Greece island hopping is good in November. Take the local train from Athens station to Pireas, it takes about an hour or so, then walk round the harbour to see what's leaving on the day. The boats don't run so frequently out of season, but they still do and the prices are cheaper than high season generally by about 40% or more.
I know people that have asked if they can pay passage by working aboard the boats. Be careful though if you don't have a work permit to carry out employment in the EU. The fines are heavy for you and the employer, if caught by Immigration Police.
Safety anywhere is of great concern. Out of all the countries you mention, the one I would be most careful in is Greece. Pickpocketing in Athens is just out of control especially in the tourist areas. Athens is a huge city with a population of some 4million and it stretches out over a massive area. The city is one of the busiest in Europe and the traffic never stops, whether it is 4am or 4pm. The pickpockets are out day and night.
A little scam that the locals in Athens practice is approaching tourists and offering to be a guide for the day. They invite you for a drink, you each have one, they get up and leave the bar and the barman presents you with a bill for €50 for the two drinks.
Safety in France, Spain and Italy is just down to common sense really. There is a high rate of car theft in Italy, but unless you are hiring a Ferrari or top spec BMW, you have little to worry about if it's always locked up.
Northern Greece is very rural and has some beautiful non-touristy beaches and mountains. The Mount Olympus region is so unspoilt and one of the most unvisited ranges in Europe. Olympus itself is nearly 3,000mtrs high and the surrounding area is just wonderful.
A suggestion for something a little of 'The beaten path' as you suggest, I would recommend a day or two in Macedonia. There are direct trains from Thessaloniki to the capital, Skopje. It's quite a small city with a population of around 1/2 a million. But it's in a lovely setting with closeby mountains and Macedonia is a very cheap country too, much cheaper than Greece. I don't know what the visa requirements are, so you will need to check that all out.
Traveller's checks are becoming less and less popular in Europe nowadays. They are still widely useable, but nowhere as flexible as they were 5 years ago. I would suggest a debit card and ATM's would be better, along with debit card purchases. A lot of outlets across Europe offer cashback facilities now. This enables you buy something in a large store with your card and also get cash from the check-out staff which is charged to your card at no cost.
I'm not so sure that €2000 will be enough to do all you plan comfortably. It's the accommodation costs that will eat into your funds the most. It's around €70 a day. You're probably looking at around €17-25 a day for a room and something like another €15 a day for food. That's going to leave you about €40 a day for your travelling. It can be done as you can see, but there isn't going to be much left over for any little extras you might like. If you could just get perhaps another €500 together, then it'll be much more fun.
One way of saving a bit on a bed, is to do overnight trains and get your head down on a seat instead of a pillow. It'll be around 1% of your total budget saved every time you can do it.

14. Posted by Jezebel86 (Budding Member 17 posts) 6y

t_maia:
I greatly appreciate your advice on the duration for each cities i've planned to visit! It'd make my planning much easier and have a more realistic view of my trip.

What are the must-see cities/places in France beside Paris to have actually visited France? Any of those near Paris? I heard that there is no national train system in France, is that true? So how does one get from Paris to Nice or somewhere in France?

Given the situation u have outlined about visiting Northern Italy during Feb, I think its too cold and i don't fancy carrying heavy load during my first backpacking trip. I'd most likely visiting between March-May and check out the Andalusia you have recommended.

BedouinLeo:
Wow thats very useful information about the countries i planning to go- thank you very much! I will take note of those safety tips you have provided!

I'd love to visit Macedonia but i think i don't have enough time to explore my planned places and add Macedonia. =) I guess it'd be great if there are some off the well-travelled route i can take in Greece, Italy, France and Spain.

The idea of overnight train sounds great! If i take the eurail pass for Greece and Italy, do i need to pay extra for overnight trains??

15. Posted by BedouinLeo (Inactive 698 posts) 6y

You'll pay the same price for the o/night train unless you book a bed. Western trains will sting you for a bed, whereas the trains in the east have prices that'll make you smile, and feel good.

16. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 6y

Quoting Jezebel86

What are the must-see cities/places in France beside Paris to have actually visited France? Any of those near Paris? I heard that there is no national train system in France, is that true? So how does one get from Paris to Nice or somewhere in France?

No national train system in France? That is soooooo not true.

France has one of the best train systems in Europe, with TGV linking major cities that you can often get there quicker than by flight (after considering time to travel to/fro airports, pre-flight check-in time, flight time etc)! Perhaps not Nice (TGV 5.5 hours), but certainly to Lyon (TGV 2 hours), Marseille (TGV 3 hours), Nantes (TGV 2 hours) and Bordeaux (TGV 3.5 hours).

Train tickets can be purchased online on Voyages-SNCF (in French) or TGV-Europe (in English). Train tickets are available for booking 3 months ahead of travel (but I think iDTGV may be available even longer than 3 months ahead). iDTGV is a service for young travellers and tickets are much cheaper.

17. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 6y

Coming back to the must-see in France apart from Paris. I personally don't think of Nice as a must-see, but there are other smaller cities along the French riviera to visit and they're easily accessible by public transport. If you want something a little different in the south, I would recommend Marseille and Provence instead. Lyon is also fun with plenty to do and to see, and is close to the mountains if you want a change of sccenary. Reims (this is near Paris) has a magnificent cathedral and is in the Champagne region that you can tour the caves of, say, Moet & Chandon. The coast of Normandy is worth touring from little villages to little villages, but you'll need a car for easy touring access.

18. Posted by Jezebel86 (Budding Member 17 posts) 6y

lil lil- I appreciate your clarification about the national train system in France! I guess those people i came across on another website didn't really know much. =) I'm sooo glad there's train in France!! BTW TGV is different from Eurail right? SO i can't use Eurail pass for TGV trains??

Thanks for your recommendations! I'd definitely put Lyon on my planning route.

Have you heard of any working holiday in France for foreign travellers?? I'm thinking of doing some work with pay during my backpacking trip to get some of my expenses covered. So far i only know of this La Giraudiere work program in France, but i have to pay the employer in exchange for lodging and meals.

So i'm wondering if its possible for me (Singaporean) to find paid work in France (or Italy/Greece/Spain)??

19. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 6y

TGV is but one of the French rail options. TGV just happens to be the fast train option. You can still take it if you have a Eurail pass, there will be a small supplementary charge applicable. (Note: I noticed a question you asked early to another fellow TPer - if you take up an Eurail pass, and intend to travel by overnight train, there'll also be supplementary charges applicable)

Other train types include Corail and TER. TGV is the main type for travel between main cities, Corail serves usually between a main city and other relatively big cities but not served bt TGV, and TER is a regional train. Have a look at this article on Seat 61 for more information on French rail travel. In fact, this website has lots of information for rail travel all over Europe so no harm for you to look around it.

I am not sure how much rail travel you plan to do, but you should definitely try to check your itinerary and see if the costs add up to make the Eurail worth while buying. Nomadic Matt recently wrote an article on it. (I've never travelled using rail passes in Europe, but that's because I usually take short weekend or 1-2 weeks breaks, hence it was never making sense for me to get out a pass - it was cheaper for me to buy as I went along).

Certainly, for France, if you look for your train tickets ahead of time (3 months prior to travel) you can find non-exchangeable, non-refundable PREMs tickets, which are usually very cheap. As I previously mentioned, iDTGV is also a good option, as they're nearly the same as TGV but with prices just a fraction of the normal service. It also appears (at least on Voyages SNCF website) that you can book for iDTGV even more than 3 months prior to travel.

As far as I know, there isn't a working holiday visa that can be taken up. (I may be wrong, since I've never tried to do something like this). Moreover, it's going to be really difficult for you to take up any job even if there's a working holiday system, since you seem to be on the move constantly and you're planning to travel 4 countries in a month or so. That barely allows 1 week per country, and going by the number of cities you've included in, it's nearly impossible. Additionally, I don't know if you speak the local languages but if you don't, you won't be getting employment all that easily either.

I know you'd like something to help cover your travelling costs but I simply don't think it's worth the hassles given the time constraint (do you really want to spend precious time that you have to travel looking for a job which may or may not be there, never mind legally or not, at a time where recession is felt everywhere and unemployment is generally on the rise, even in Europe?) and the lack of communicative language (even in Madrid, a capital city, it's tricky to get by with English as the majority of people uses Spanish). Why not just concentrate on soaking up the European culture since you'll be spending quite a sum of money to just get here? ;)

20. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 6y

I just had a chance to look through this thread, and this is my take on it:

Firstly, have you an itinerary planned? What will be your direction of travel? E.g. Greece - Italy - France - Spain? Or will there be some backtracking, necessitate by your flight option? I don't know much about Greece, so I can't offer much help there. But for an itinerary idea between Italy, France and Spain, I would suggest (assuming no start/end location constraint):

Rome (5) - Florence (3) - Milan (2) - Nice (2) - Avignon/Montpellier (2) - Barcelona (4) - Madrid (4) - Paris (5).

The numbers in bracket indicate minimum amount of time I think you'll need in order to see the city properly. Of course, there are people who have done less, but you'll miss out if you cheat yourself out of those times. The travels can be done by day rail, but for Madrid-Paris, in order to save some time, take overnight Elipsos trainhotel from Madrid to Paris. (The train leaves Madrid at 7pm, and arrives in Paris next morning around 8.30am, normally ticket at lowest price is €71; Eurail pass is valid for travel but I don't know if supplementary charge is applicable or not, since it's not indicated in Elipsos FAQ)

Re your other questions:

1. If €2000 is exclusive of flight and train pass, it should be enough for your travel. For about €60 per day, that should last for 33-34 days of travelling. Expect hostel to cost between €15-€20 per night, food costs vary from city to city and to the kind of eateries you go to, sightseeing costs may be minimised (bring your student card if you have one, otherwise by virtue of being under 25 sometimes will be sufficient for youth discount), and local transportation is usually minimal as many of the cities can be explored by foot (free!). Travellers checks are not useful, and you're better off with some cash and a credit card, as pointed out by other TPers.

2. I guess you can fly Athens-Rome? With the rest, train works well. There are budget flights that you can take but given the distance, sometimes it's not worth wasting your time (travel to/fro airports, pre check-in time etc) nor your money (costs to travel to/fro airport, whereas trains are usually from a city to a city). Moreover budget flights also have strict luggage restriction, and any deviation may end up costing you a lot of money too.

3. Petty theft is the most common problem, although if you're travelling on your own be mindful too of unwanted attention from men (i.e. Italy - probably Greece too but I can't say). Try not to carry all your valuables in one place (e.g. split money in different places, such as some in purse, some in notebook esp if there's a pouch/compartment for inserting small sheets, some in a inner zipped compartment in your bag, etc) and put your credit card separately from the purse (a card holder usually works well). Scan a copy of your passport and send it to yourself on email (or save as attachment in a draft message). Same goes to other relevant travel documents. This is handy in case if you misplace them or if they get stolen. Take out a travel insurance. Normal common sense that applies at home applies when you're away too. Don't get distracted by scams (e.g. "sorry miss you've dropped this ring", "may i borrow your finger to show you something", etc). Don't let your bag out of sight.

4. With your time constraint, it's hard to do off the beaten path sightseeing. They usually require time to travel out to those locations, not to mention additional costs associated to it. If you can be more specific though, like do you mean what other smaller museums you can see apart from the main ones?

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