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1. Posted by tmacattack (Budding Member 5 posts) 7y

hi everyone.

so a good friend and i are planning a (about)2 month trip to Spain. Here is what we are thinking, and let me know what you think.

we plan to leave Portland, OR in June or July of 2010 and fly basically directly to Barcelona (we wouldn't be upset if we had a lay-over in NYC).

Once in Barcelona we will be spending a little time with a friend there and from there, we have no real itinerary. We know of a few things in Spain that we want to check out, and we eventually want to make our way into Southern France.

We will be on foot and at the mercy of the trains and what not for the most part.

with this information in mind, does anybody have any suggestions, tips, comments, concerns, questions, or anything?

Apart from Mexico and Canada (the two countries that border the US) i have never been abroad so this is an all new experience for my friend and I. any input is appreciated!

2. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 7y

Hey tmacattack,

Wow. Sounds like a fun trip. But, correct me if I'm wrong, but you two sound like two very naive people about to embark on an adventure that sucks in the naive! You sound like I did when I was barely eighteen, flying to Germany on a wing and a prayer, never once posting on a travel forum, or God forbid, ever cracking open a guidebook. Luckily, God was on my side and He sent me a very practical friend because I never would have gotten far in my condition on my own. Hopefully, you two aren't like I was. Well, at least you're posting on a travel forum- that's a start. ;)

But you need to be a little more specific. Be honest if you're a little naive. Now that I have experience, I can help. What do you need help with? Would you like tips on things to do in Barcelona? Would you like suggestions on where to go in Spain- what there is to see? Would you like tips on things to do in southern France? Do you know how the trains work in Europe or need some help either mapping travel routes or picking the appropriate Eurrail Passes?

You really sound like a couple of fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of people. And that is perfectly fine, as long as you have some knowledge of what you are doing. Do you? Please don't take this the wrong way, but from your post it really doesn't sound like it. Please, crack open a guidebook. Read the travel guides on this website, wikis written by seasoned travellers and seasoned posters on this forum. Please go to the top 3 of these websites, if not the whole list:

www.artoftravel.com
www.backpackeurope.com
www.ricksteves.com
www.eurail.com
www.hihostels.com
www.seat61.com
www.onebag.com

Steph :)

3. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 7y

Hey tmacattack,

Sorry about the whole 'just be honest if you're a little naive' thing. I guess I couldn't remember exactly what you said in your post, but to your credit, you did say that you were pretty new to this. . . .

But you did need to be more specific in what you need. Right now I could easily write you a whole book of information based on the questions you asked.

Steph

4. Posted by eroltoksoy (Full Member 173 posts) 7y

I was there like 12 years ago in my teens.But I loved barcelona it is still one of my top 3 cities. I think you can go to Sitdges for swiming. Because Barcelona beaches are not clean. since you go in summer, you should drink tones of sangria ( a juicy wine). you should eat paella every time you see.

5. Posted by tmacattack (Budding Member 5 posts) 7y

hey bluewaav,

I am not upset by you calling me naive, in fact, i am comforted with the feeling there are actually people who care and are on this sort of website for a reason. But your right, I don't want to go into this blind. And to answer your question, I need to learn everything I will need to know. I have looked into it but am trying to find better answers than what I have found so far. I know the basics like passport, but is there any other documentation that ill need? Iv heard about the train systems that can take you all over Europe, but need to learn what it takes to access them. I need to know how much money ill need. All that fun stuff. My friend and I are both pretty spontaneous and if we could simply buy a plane ticket and go, we would! But i'm the sensible one of us, and I don't want to be stranded in a strange country that I know nothing about. If you could give me some pointers as to where to get started and what things i need to acquire in the next several months, that would be more than I expected to find. Thanks for the reply!

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

fly basically directly to Barcelona

AFAIK Barcelona is not an intercontinental hub. Thus intercontinental flights should go via one of the big hubs like Madrid, London or Paris. Since you mentioned that you want to end up in France anyway I would look for flights in and out of Paris.

I know the basics like passport, but is there any other documentation that ill need?

If you are US or Canadian citizen and come as a tourist and don`t plan on staying for longer than 90 days in Europe - firm no.

Iv heard about the train systems that can take you all over Europe, but need to learn what it takes to access them.

Easy, it takes tickets. These tickets can be normal point-to-point tickets or it can be a Eurail pass combined with sometimes necessary reservations.

www.eurail.com and www.ricksteves.com/rail are some sites to check out for information. Be aware that train ticketing in Europe can be a science in itself, especially for international fares and when you want to get the best deal for your money.

I need to know how much money ill need.

Depends upon your spending habits and where you plan to sleep and eat. A budget of 50 EUR per day and person is the ultimate minimum, survival level so to speak for a trip that combines hostels, train and food from the supermarket. On the other end of the range the sky is the limit. A medium budget with staying in budget hotels and eating out will be 100-200 EUR per day and person.

I don't want to be stranded in a strange country that I know nothing about.

A guidebook will help you with that. Get one that is suited for independent travel. Lonely Planer, Rough Guide, Rick Steves, Let´s Go, ... Especially Lonely Planet and Rick Steves are pretty much "Europe for Dummies" and fairly idiotproof, read your guidebook cover to cover and make notes

7. Posted by Herr Bert (Moderator 1384 posts) 7y

Quoting t_maia

fly basically directly to Barcelona

AFAIK Barcelona is not an intercontinental hub. Thus intercontinental flights should go via one of the big hubs like Madrid, London or Paris. Since you mentioned that you want to end up in France anyway I would look for flights in and out of Paris.

Or go for the option to have open jaw flights. This would make it possible to e.g. fly into Madrid, and out of Paris, without the need to return to your starting point. In general these tickets are a little bit more expensive, but they take away the need to back track. It depends on the airline which airports are available for you. It might be worth to check this out at a travel agent.

[ Edit: Edited on 18-Aug-2009, at 15:23 by Herr Bert ]

8. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 7y

Hey tmacattack,

t_maia made some good points . . .

we plan to leave Portland, OR in June or July of 2010

The first thing that I can tell you is that when flying durring peak season- July and August or over the Christmas season- it is significantly more expensive. My suggestion would be to fly either in May/June or September/October, if possible. Also, you should know that in August, all of Italy (which doesn't effect you as much) and France go on vacation. So that means that places like Paris completely empty out of locals and are filled with swarms of tourists. It also means, because it is peak season, that everywhere you go, except for smaller towns and villages, it's packed. Reservations for things like trains, hostels, etc. are a must and line ups are rediculously long and gruelling. Definately, if possible, avoid August, if not also July. It will make your trip more enjoyable.

The train system in Europe is very sophisticated so getting around by train is quite possible. There are some places in Spain that do require a bus, as well, but the buses are very cheap and easy to get around by, provided that you know a little bit of Spanish. But mostly you will be using the train. It is important, however, to note that theft is prevalent on trains. You need to always be aware of your belongings and never go to sleep without them touching you. What I mean is, put your feet on top of your backpack and have someone be a lookout in shifts. Seriously. And/or use a lock and chain them to something attached to the ground and the ceiling, like a pole. Backpacks are often stolen on trains. Be aware, if you reserve a cabin, that bands of theives go through the trains and filter sleeping gas into cabins and then pilfer your backpack. A friend of mine lost his diskman and camera this way. So be careful. Opening the window can help.

One thing that I recommend is that you buy a money belt. This will be indispensable. There are a lot of different models out there- some go around your waiste, some over your shoulder and under your arm, some around your neck, others around your ankle. The ones around your neck are pretty useless, most say. The one I use goes around my waiste. It's from Roots, which I don't think is in the States quite yet. But what I like about it is that it has a slipclasp that tightens or loosens when you push a button, and it stays in place. There are some models out there that are pinned around you. These ones are bad because they always fall down and need readjusting, which makes them useless because you're trying to hide your money, not advertize that you have a money belt. The most important thing is good camoflage and easy access when necessary. They should always be worn under your clothes and you shouldn't use them for everyday tasks. Keep your money, passport, credit/debit cards, airline tickets (in a plastic bag to prevent them from wearing or smudging off), and anything else important (I'm probably missing something) in it. Have the money for your day somewhere else, in a wallet or a money clip, and just the money for your day, nothing more. Some people also say to avoid baggy clothes. Keep some US$ under the insole in your shoe or something in case of dire emergencies (enough to get you to an embassy/consulate, a night in a hostel, food, a phone card, etc.) Please understand that I'm not trying to scare you, but just to give you some adequate information to prepare you. But I can't type everything here. You need to buy a good guidebook, like t_maia said, and read it cover to cover. It will tell you about these things and more.

I don't want to be stranded in a strange country that I know nothing about.

A good guidebook will help with that. So will the internet. Do google searches on Spain and France and find out about the culture, the sites, the people, the language, etc. This will help you be prepared when you go there. Also, read the wiki on France and Spain on this site. Post any specific questions that you may have. You don't have to plan every minute of every day of your trip, and a little spontaneity always makes a trip more fun- trust me, I know, because I've done it. But how could all the Boy Scouts be wrong? Sometimes preparedness is also a good thing. Without it, your trip has the potential to perhaps go pretty sour.

Another thing that is good to do is learn some Spanish and French- especially French. Being Americans, you probably have some Spanish from school, but maybe not French. So bone up. Learn some basic words that you will use everyday, like hello, goodbye, please, thank you, how much?, yes, no, numbers from one to ten, mister, miss, missus, do you speak English?, Where is the washroom/ water closet (what many Europeans call a washroom)?etc. In France, if you don't even try, you will almost guaranteedly be met with rudeness. Politeness is of utmost importance in France. They have a whole other part of their language that is politeness. (For example, informally, you would say, "Parle-tu l'anglais?", politely, respectfully, and formally you would say, "Parlez-vous l'anglais?") They don't stop there. To ask a question, you would say, "Excuse me, Mister, if you please, but do you speak English?" When you enter a shop, you always greet the owner with a "Bonjour Madame/Monsieur/Madamoiselle" and it goes on. It gets complicated. That's why it's good to know a thing or two about the culture. It will also serve to enrich your experience.

Well, if you have any more questions, feel free to fire away! Hopefully it doesn't take you too long to read this!

Steph

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

Also, you should know that in August, all of Italy (which doesn't effect you as much) and France go on vacation.

Plus it is going to be roaring hot in Southern France, Italy south of Rome and Spain - Temps between 30-40 C (85-105 F) are not unusual. By the end of July the whole vegetation looks like it has been fried to a crisp - and often really has been because forest fires are frequent. Best time to go to Southern France is late May, early June. Only reason to go later would be the lavender harvest, but then you have to make sure you do not come so late as to miss it.

10. Posted by tmacattack (Budding Member 5 posts) 7y

WOW!! Thank you guys! This is all really great info and exactly what I'm looking for. I figured June/July would probably be a rough time to go, but you guys opened my eyes up to a bunch of factors i hadn't considered. Our friends in Barcelona will be out of school and stuff at that time so thats why we wanted to go then, but I think we will be leaning a little earlier it sounds like lol.

In response to your comment eroltoksoy, I'm sure i will be enjoying plenty of sangria but what is paella?

Thank you steph and t_maia for all the excellent info and advice. Another quick question i have however, is it necessary to stay in a hostel every night? Or is it feasible to camp outdoors every once in a while? I ask this because here, unless you are in an inconvenient spot, you can pretty much put a pad down and sleep anywhere. I guess im basically asking if we sleep under the stars, are we going to be bothered by thieves, police, anything?

As for the language part of things, I can speak a bit of Spanish but even less French. I know all the key phrases like you had mentioned Steph, and am aware of the French demeanor when it comes to manners( i have a friend from Paris....who thinks hes still in Paris lol), but I know nothing about the Spanish culture. What can I expect south of the border?

hope to hear from you guys soon!
thanks!