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Europe in Winter: help

Travel Forums Europe Europe in Winter: help

1. Posted by lozzaa (Budding Member 14 posts) 7y

hey guys
planning my first backpacking trip and the only time i have is over winter
sooo
any tips on backpacking in winter would be helpful!
namely clothing tips mainly shoes
where to go
where to avoid
and you personal favourite skiing destination :)
and anything else would be great!
thanks. loz

2. Posted by Cyberia (Travel Guru 1818 posts) 7y

Northern Europe can get very cold in winter, with snow drifts, etc. Stuck out in that, you could easily die of exposure. My advice is Spain, down south (central and north is often very cold with snow too). Coastal areas are the warmest. Think of Benidorm downwards. I don't know where you are but can you get a cheap flight (Ryanair, Easyjet, etc) to Alicante or Malaga? You can fly in one destination and out another. While days can be nice and warm, nights can be cold.

South Portugal should be OK so you can go in there via Faro airport. Or travel in from Spain.

Places that are open you should be able to get accommodation OK. Pick a destination town and check out hostelworld on the internet for cheap beds.

For skiing destinations, winter is high season, so expensive.

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

Hey loz,

Backpacking in the winter . . . Where are you from? That should tell how much cold you can handle. If you are a Canadian, most of the winters in Europe will seem almost mild (especially if you're from Alberta, Quebec, Sask., the Yukon, NW Territories, Nunavut, or Manitoba) compared to Canada. If you're from the States, maybe not as much, again, depending on where you are from. Maybe comparable to northern USA, cold compared to mid-southern USA. And around the world . . . well, use the lattitudes as a bit of a guideline. Just to illustrate: I live in Calgary (51 degrees North). Here it can get as cold as -35 degrees Celcius, but -25 is usually as bad as it gets during most winters. We are lucky to get chinooks though, which are a warm break going up above the freezing (0 degrees) point. We are on the prairies, so there are no currents coming off of water, like on the Pacific coming from Hawaii (Pineapple Express), though that is where our chinooks come from- off of the Pacific and over the mountains, missing them entirely, and landing on us. In short, taking into consideration your lattitude and the climate conditions of the area that you live in, you can then figure out how you would manage in a European winter- which varies greatly as Europe is a large continent.

What I know:

Spain: as warm as 25 degrees Celcius in the very southern coastal regions, and I would guess the same for Portugal, but around Barcelona, around 15 mostly.

Germany: it can get pretty cold, but it isn't freezing. A German winter is warmer than a Canadian one. You can tell because they aren't used to really snowy weather, with 100+ car pile-ups on the autobahn as soon as a bad snowfall happens. (e.g. January 2002)

France: cold, but a kind of like Germany.

The Netherlands: crisp. Not cold. No hats, mittens, boots, etc. needed. A good coat (a given) and scarf. Maybe gloves if you don't like cold hands/are going to be out long/are going to be out late at night.

Switzerland: similar to Germany and France. Maybe a touch warmer. Then agian, in the Alps it'll be colder, as it always is at higher elevations (and you feel it more, too).

The UK: it rains usually. It doesn't usually snow. They are located on a warm current that if the UK were located a touch to the east or west (that is, not right on the current), it would be as cold as Siberia (a.k.a. fridgid). So it is safe to say that winters there are mild- though wet and rainy. Bring raingear. It is a must. Getting soaked to the bone and out in the windchill can almost get you more chilled than some of the coldest weather in a snowy place, though dry. think: hypothermia.

That's from a Calgarian- a hearty Calgarian, at that. Honestly, it may be wierd, but I actually don't really mind the winter. In fact, I kind of like it- and it isn't because I ski, either. Yes, I know, I'm pretty stange. So take it with a grain of salt.

From what I hear, Greece is still decently mild during the winter months. Italy is colder, but not as cold as countries to the north. Scandinavia is quite cold, though I haven't been there. My guess is that it is very cold, especially northern scandinavia. Russia- oh boy. Can't say anything about Eastern Europe. Around the Mediterranean it is generally warmer. Climate in a nutshell.

On the other hand, if you are from Africa or the tropics, ignore everything that I have just said. Because they don't sell it where you are from, fly to Europe, and when you land, buy as many wooly sweaters, pairs of long underwear, thick pants like jeans, cordoroy, or whatever, wool or down coats, thick wooly socks, boots, hats (maybe even one of those Russian things), gloves (like the kind used for skiing), scarves, etc. as you can fit into your backpack/suitcase/wheelaboard/whatever. Then you should be set.

Shoes: grips, grips, grips. If they have grips, and aren't sandals, then you should be okay. I wouldn't haul around super-heavy knee-high boots (unless, of course, you are going to be trudging through knee-high snow, and, in most of Europe, you won't get that) or something. Low (around the ankles) boots that you wear on the plane should be fine. Some people even get by with sneakers. They're a little heartier. Only you know what you can handle.

Where to go. What do you want to see? That's a pretty general question. Are you interested in art? History? Roman ruins? World War battle sites and concentration camps and memorials? Culture? Partying? Food? Wine? Sporting events like football games? Participating in sports (you did mention skiing- is this an active trip or is there room for chilling, other sightseeing, etc.?)? Museums? Science? Relaxing?

What's your style? Are you a five star uber-luxury guy with refined taste? Are you a humble backpacker who wants to stretch his money and see as much and spend as little as possible, staying in budget hostels or camping, possibly hitchhiking, eating at supermarkets? Are you a B&B/Inn kind of person, perfering to travel in the middle, being comfortable but not spending a whopping amount on accomodation/restaurants? Are you a bit more upscale, perferring to stay in hotels, just not five star ones, maybe two or three stars, and enjoy quite a few restaurant meals?

How do you travel? Buses? Trains? Planes? Cars? Your thumb? Ferries? Cruise ships? Don't care as long as you get there? Is there any that you would rule out entirely? Do you need more info?

What is your budget? How long do you want to go for?

Then maybe people can give you some suggestions on where to go- and where to avoid, for that matter.

Well, I hope that this has helped a bit. Feel free to shoot your querries back here if you have any (and I'm sure you will because I haven't covered everything!) and I and everyone else will see what we can come up with.

Steph

4. Posted by lozzaa (Budding Member 14 posts) 7y

Steph,
first off: you are a legend! thanks!

Im from Sydney and lately its been hard pressed to tell the difference between summer and winter, this year was our warmest winter yet! But, i am somewhat used to the cold, surfing in near freezing water and kiting, with plenty of wind chill, at about 13 degrees! So i think, quite hopefully, that ill be alright for the cold.

At the moment, my plan is to start in London, fly down to innsbruck and ski for a week then work my way back to Paris for the flight home roughly 2 months later. Looking at a map, it seems ill go from Australia through Germany, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Belgium, (maybe Denmark) then France. Would it be better to have a definite itinerary, or just cruise and really go with the flow?

I'm on quite a low budget as i've just finished school, yet im not 100% how much ill have to spend since i still have 3 months to work but most likely ill want to spend around 40-50 euro a day - is that likely?? Nevertheless, im looking to experience the culture, history, food, museums etc of the places during the day, spending it travelling hopefully meeting locals, basically just looking for a great european experience! but during the nights, i am looking for a decent night life hopefully meeting local women or other travellers!

For transport. I thought about hitchiking, but after reading what you said ill probably freeze to death waiting for a ride so thats out of the question! I was thinking of going by train to most places. is that eurail pass worth it? or should i just buy point to point travel tickets? or is it worth flying if im going to a major city?

Im travelling by myself, and ill want to meet other travellers and plus a five star hotel honestly is the last place i'd really want to be (unless im freezing then ill stay one night to warm up :)) but im looking for just hostels with other travellers. Do you have any advice on good ones or bad ones?

And personally steph, whats your favourite place in europe??

Thanks heaps :)
Lawrence.

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

Cheap skiing?.. There is nowhere cheaper than Bulgaria, by a long way - that's guaranteed.
To get there is becoming easier and easier by the month. The two nearest airports for the resorts (Pamporovo, Bansko and Borovets) are Sofia and Plovdiv. European charters go there (eg.. Thomsonfly and First Choice etc.) as well as Bulgaria Air Charters and similar others.
Clothes? Plenty of warm layers and proper gloves and coat, that's all. You'll know what gear you need for the slopes so I won't get on to that one. As far as footwear is concerned, I would suggest anything that's as waterproof as possible within your budget. I don't know what your preferences are, but a good quality camping shop will have a good range both of what to wear and prices.
I have been skiing in some of the most expensive resorts on the planet and quite honestly it's more about rubbing shoulders and being seen, rather than good slopes and their prices are just stupid.
I can send you a PM of a good travel company that does some of the best ski packages and also how to build your own package in BG and save a fortune on brochure prices, if you're interested.

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

but most likely ill want to spend around 40-50 euro a day - is that likely??

Difficult, but doable. On such a tight budget as that you should do a lot of couchsurfing and self-catering as well as limit your moving around (ie no hopping to the next city every 3rd day). You'll also have to limit yourself to free sights or sights that are no less than 5 EUR entry fee.

The recommended budget at which you can travel in reasonable comfort in Europe is 65+ EUR per day - 15-30 EUR for a hostel bed, 5-15 EUR per day for food, 15-30 EUR per day for transport (for getting to the next place, this can be in the form of a Eurail pass) and approx. 10-30 EUR for entry fees to sights.

You should thus plan on having around 35 EUR per day just for food and for staying at a hostel - this is to make sure you do not have to beg for food or sleep on the sidewalk.

So with a budget of 40 EUR per day you'll have around 5 EUR per day for getting to the next place, paying entry fees, buying tickets for public transport inside a city, .... Makes for very frugal living.

FYI, it would be a lot easier to get by on this budget if you went in summer and thus could camp with a small tent on a camping site or pitch it in the fields for free. Staying on camping sites is usually cheaper than staying at hostels - but in winter this is impossible.

at about 13 degrees! So i think that ill be alright for the cold.

0 C will feel approx. 3 times as cold as 13 C, especially at the end of November and early Dec when it is not just cold but wet and cold. And winter temps can go down to -10C and lower during the night, go figure.

Would it be better to have a definite itinerary, or just cruise and really go with the flow?

Cruise and go with the flow if you have a Eurail pass. If you do not have a Eurail pass draw up a rough initiary and start working the internet for discounted train fares and cheap flights.

Actually draw up a rough initiary anyway so that you can compare the price of the Eurail pass plus the supplement fees with the prices for the discounted and regular train, bus and train tickets.

[ Edit: Edited on 04-Oct-2009, at 07:01 by t_maia ]

7. Posted by MargaritaO (Budding Member 3 posts) 7y

Hi!

Great! Like you, more and more people are taking the chance of enjoying winter in Europe. There are a lot of advantages, starting for low prices in almost everything.

My biggest experience traveling in winter was last year, when we spent with my boyfriend 3 weeks on November tripping around Europe (France, Spain, Portugal, Rome, Czech Republic and Poland). The weather was extremely cold especially in Prague where temperatures went down -20 and our best trick was wearing layers to keep ourselves very warm. Hope you get companion in this adventure because human warm will be awesome when you are camping

-snip-

Enjoy your trip!

Good Luck!

Moderator comment: please see Forum Rules

[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please.Link to Forum Rules added. ]

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

Hey Lawrence,

Quoting lozzaa

But, i am somewhat used to the cold, surfing in near freezing water and kiting, with plenty of wind chill, at about 13 degrees! So i think, quite hopefully, that ill be alright for the cold.

Thirteen degrees is a lot warmer than winter in Europe. Yes, I know that being wet makes a difference, but you will be pretty cold at -10. Unless you mean Fehrenheit, and then you're pretty gutsy doing that. You probably have a wet suit though. But just follow my advise, and you should be fine.

Quoting lozzaa

Would it be better to have a definite itinerary, or just cruise and really go with the flow?

My personal preference is to go with the flow. This is easier with a Eurrail Pass, because you can pretty much hop on and hop off the train whenever you want. Germany, the Netherlands, Belguim, Denmark and France are all pretty expensive countries to travel in by train if you buy point-to-point, so it would probably be good to get a Eurrail. If you're under 26, you can get a cheaper one and travel in second class (which isn't all that bad- my only advice: if you don't smoke, then stay out of the smoking car, or you will find it very difficult to breathe!). T_maia knows a lot more about Germany, as he lives there ;), but from my experience, it can get pricey, especially if you don't book in advance (which sucks because you are then tied down to an itinerary). However, if they still have it, try to travel on weekends as much as possible with a "Weekend Ticket" (forget what this is in German). It's about 25-30 euros to go ANYWHERE in Germany on the weekend, so for long distances, this really pays off and is a great deal (it's split between 5 people, BTW, so an incredible deal, and if you get a couple people going in the same direction from your hostel, or are brave enough to approach people at the station, which I've seen a lot of people do, you're golden).

cruising v itinerary. There are pros and cons. If you cruise, you can simply leave a place you don't particularly like and just go somewhere else- or you can stay somewhere longer if you love it. With a itinerary, you are forced to stay for x amount of days before going to city y, staying z amount of days, etc. You may learn to love a place this way, or you may grow to hate it all the more. Also, everything could be closed when you get there, because of some holiday or a strike or something, and you are forced to stay with an itinerary, but if you cruise, you can cut your losses and move on. If not, you can pick your nose for a while and be bored. With an itinerary, you have everything planned, so when you get somewhere, you know what you're going to do- you're more organised. You can arrive in Paris, check into your hostel, hop on the metro, knowing exactly which stop to get off of, see museum x and monument y, go to cafe z, and then hop back onto the metro and go home, without stopping at an internet cafe to do research, or sitting in your hostel- when you finally find one that you want to stay in that isn't full, has the right atmosphere, is within your budget, etc.- perusing your guidebook. On the flip side, there is the wonderful world of other travellers, just like you, just brusting with tons of free and willing advice. Sure, you won't see everything that way, but you'll still see great things, and you'll probably miss a bunch of bad apples because you'll learn from the experienced and the current. Much better than your guidebook written a year ago (things change really rapidly), if you ask me. Honestly, though, I use a combination. I do research before I leave, and I do buy a guidebook- just don't consider its words to be gold- and I have some idea of places that I would like to see, daytrips I would like to take, and sometimes recommended hostels from people who post on forums like this and stuff. Then, I go. If I hate a place, I leave. If I love it, I stay longer, but I cut out something that isn't as important to me. I go to the most expensive places first, then to cheaper places, so as I get lower on money, I don't have to freak out that suddenly the price of a bed has just doubled from when I started. My movement is very free, and my interary is quite approximated, not set in stone. There are days when I just chill. Prioritize: what's important to you? If I'm broke, I find cheaper transportation: like ride-sharing or buses or sometimes low cost airlines (these could really save you money v overland roundabout routes), or cheaper accomodation: camping (not in winter unless thick-skinned), or sleeping in train stations (watch out for guards! Personal experience!) or airports, or couch surfing . . . . By now, I think you get the picture.

Quoting lozzaa

I'm on quite a low budget as i've just finished school, yet im not 100% how much ill have to spend since i still have 3 months to work but most likely ill want to spend around 40-50 euro a day - is that likely??

Try to bring with you about 75 euros per day if you can. Fifty euros are what I would call the bare minimum, unless you are going to camp/bum around. There is a website that I recommend that you check out. Art of Travel. Totally indespensible. Also, Backpack Europe may be helpful. This is with a Eurrail Pass. Forty Euros per day without a Eurrail Pass (and paying for point-to-point) is 100% not doable in most of Western Europe. Period.

Quoting lozzaa

Nevertheless, im looking to experience the culture, history, food, museums etc of the places during the day, spending it travelling hopefully meeting locals, basically just looking for a great european experience! but during the nights, i am looking for a decent night life hopefully meeting local women or other travellers!

Yeah . . . Like I said, especially if you're planning on drinking a lot, you'll need a larger budget. Also, skiing can get pretty expensive, too. If you ask me, I'd check out what a previous poster wrote about Bulgaria.

Quoting lozzaa

For transport. I thought about hitchiking, but after reading what you said ill probably freeze to death waiting for a ride so thats out of the question!

Hmmmm . . . Okay, so maybe it'll get pretty cold, so maybe you are right. But, believe it or not, people in Canada hitchhike in the winter and they're just fine. You might get rides out of pity! Only you know what you can handle, and if the winter happens to be mild, you might be able to swing it. If you were female, I would definately rule it out for you out of safety sake, but you're a guy, so it is possible- maybe as a backup plan, in a pinch. Alternatively, check out Mitfahrzentrale. Basically, it's ride sharing: you pay for some of the gas, and they take you in thier car to your, or close to your, destination. It's a bit safer because you know that you aren't getting into a car with a creep. FYI, I think they call hitchhiking "autostop" in Europe. If you use signs, always write the local name of the city, in the local language, instead of the English one.

Quoting lozzaa

or is it worth flying if im going to a major city?

Just do a bit of a price comparasen. There are tons of low cost airlines in Europe: wizz air, ryanair, easy jet, bmi baby, german wings, eurofly, sky europe, transavia, etc. etc. etc. Note that some low cost airlines fly to airports other than the main international hub that all major airlines fly into. For example, Stansted instead of Heathrow for London, which makes a difference because Stansted is farther away and not connected by metro, etc. which means expensive cab fares into downtown, so you have to factor that into the price of a ticket. There is a website that I haven't checked out yet, but it might be helpful: To and From the Airport.

Quoting lozzaa

Im travelling by myself, and ill want to meet other travellers and plus a five star hotel honestly is the last place i'd really want to be (unless im freezing then ill stay one night to warm up :)) but im looking for just hostels with other travellers. Do you have any advice on good ones or bad ones?

I just go by other traveller's recommendations as much as possible and/or my budget.

Quoting lozzaa

And personally steph, whats your favourite place in europe??

Hmmm . .. Well, as it stands, I've got to say southern Germany, on Lake Constance (in German: Bodensee). It is just a beautiful place to be and the people are warm and friendly. I was there for six months, and I got to experience the changing of the seasons and the German culture, which I loved. Also, the food was just wonderful as well. If someone invites you over to their place for "kaffee kitsch", that is, coffee and gossip, pretty much, then GO! You will not regret it! Germans know how to be hospitable.

Have a great trip!

Steph