I'm from Brazil and I'm going to Europe with a friend in February 2010 but I still haven't closed the itinerary and would love some tips. I have already learned a lot from the Message Board but I'm still kind of lost. Our trip is a little complicated because we will go together on 10/02 and he will leave on 25/02 but I will stay until 04/03.
We got a good deal in the air ticket arriving and leaving from Amsterdam (I think we'll stay 4 days) and we want to go to Prague and Belgium (we loove beer and we plan to visit the breweries of our favorites). Now, since we are on a low budget, I think it makes a difference traveling through nearby countries (is it cheaper?), like France (I already know Paris but he doesn't) and Germany. We also like Spain (Madrid and Barcelona) but I'm afraid we won't have enough time and maybe I'll go after he leaves.
Someone told me that traveling by bus (Eurolines) is a good idea because of the price and night travel (1 less diary). Also I think we will probably stay in hostels.
Can anybody help me?
If you want to enjoy beer where it's in abundance, I'd say skip France. Instead, travel between Netherlands (Amsterdam), Belgium, Germany and Czech Republic (Prague). Geographically and in practical terms, this makes sense, particular since Germany is smack in between Belgium and Czech Republic.
15 days should work out quite nicely if you pick one city in each country to visit, e.g. Amsterdam - Brussels - Prague - Berlin (and then back to Amsterdam). Brussels-Prague is going to be a very long journey though, and I have a sneaky feeling there isn't any direct train between the two, so you may need to look into trains with connections if you choose to travel by rail.
To keep travelling costs low, stay at hostels, travel by night train/bus, and buy food from supermarket to cook at the hostel yourself. The transportation tickets should be bought in advance as there's usually discounts if you do so.
I agree with lil_lils suggestion to travel the Benelux countries, Germany and the Czech Republic. Makes the most sense if you want to taste some decent beer.
Note that you can buy train tickets in advance through www.bahn.de and www.ns.nl - if you buy in advance you can get big discounts.
Since you will be arriving 10/02 I can strongly recommend that you go to Cologne for the Carneval Celebrations. The partying in the bars has its peak on Weiberfastnacht. This year this is Thursday, Feb 11th. (Weiberfastnacht is the traditional day when people in Cologne are allowed to forget they are married, if you get my drift.) There is also the big street parade on Rose Monday and on Violet Tuesday that you absolutely should not miss, this is on Feb 15th and 16th this year.
Wen you are in Cologne check out the famous Kölsch beer.
Another place that you should not miss is Düsseldorf - partying around the Carneval season is just as hard there. Maybe you could go to Cologne for Rose Monday and to Düsseldorf on Violet Tuesday?
Check out the Alt beer in Düsseldorf.
From Cologne it would then be easy to go to Berlin and Prague.
Let me know if you have more questions.
The idea of of traveling through Germany and not going to Paris is growing on me. I loved the carnival ideas - here in Brazil we party a lot during carnival, so it would be interesting to do it somewhere so different...
How about accomodation? Any names or tips on hostels? Is Germany as expensive as people say?
Europe is expensive in general, make no mistake.
But compared to prices in the UK and Southern France prices in Germany can be moderate. It all depends on where. As a rule the East of Germany (Berlin, Dresden) is cheaper than the South (Stuttgart, Munich) and West (Cologne, Düsseldorf). Munich is one of the most expensive cities in Germany.
The cost of food prices is lower in Germany than in France and Belgium as long as you buy all your food in discounter supermarkets such as Aldi, Lidl, Netto, Norma and Penny.
Expect to pay a lot of money for staying at a hostel in Cologne and Düsseldorf during Carneval. If you plan to go there book your hostel bed right now.
Czech Republic is even cheaper than Germany and I can recommend that aside from Prague you also take a look at Cesky Krumlov. You can easily combine a 2 or 3-day trip to Cesky Krumlov from Prague with a short visit to Cesky Budovice, a place better known under its German name "Budweis". Or maybe you want to go to Plzen, the place where lager was invented?
Munich and its famous Hofbräuhaus is of course a must for beer drinkers.
I don't drink beer at all, but I happen to know that Radeberger, a local lager brew from Dresden is quite good.