I'm new to the backpacking world and this site. I'm currently a university student, but can't fit study abroad in my schedule, so I'm looking at backpacking in Europe in the winter. So I need your advice.
Time period, roughly:
December 14 2012 to January 5 2013
Where should I go? Some place warmer? Hostels to recommend?
How should I get around? I'm thinking about going alone or maybe with one other friend. Is it safe?
What should I bring?
I can find tons of advice on what summer clothes to pack, but what winter gear should I bring? Type of backpack?
I've ripped some mean curves in this continent over last ten years, Gottenburg to Limassol, Bacelona to Bucharest, zig zagging all over the shop, so I can point out some angles but take everything I say with a pinch of salt, not too seriously that is, and don't be afraid to make decisions based on a hunch. Being your first trip, you'll come to realise how little all this research means once you get on the road, engrossed in your own footsteps, taking notes from incredible strangers, letting go and following your wits. You'll see.
WHERE SHOULD I GO?
Ha, good question. Some place warmer is someplace south - but don't expect in December the weather to be breaching 10c, even in Cyprus. No sunbed action, if that's what you're thinking.
If you wanted to embrace the cold - for the strange mood and the atmosphere the winter brings to certain cities, I was blown away by Paris in winter - the mist of the Notredam, the silent, haunted streets - or Barcelona - seasonal cheap accomodation, always vibrant street scene, too much to do and see, all year round wicked city. Vienna, Berlin, Venice. If you wanted to go "city", you could book now with easy jet and ryan air, jet around for peanuts.
But as country routes, Romania is at home in the Winter, as is Poland, Bulgaria - hitchiking is easier, people are more open - all the way down through the balkans through Serbia, Montenegro, &c for mountains, drinking, dancing and open fires. I have a friend, a girl, who travelled the second part of this route alone last year and claimed she was ready to die now, after such a profound experience.
So yeah, depends really on how you want to experience it and how fast. Leaping pace to place, you get where you want to go without much digression. And that's one thing, but the digressions are when things really get shaken up. Seeing as you only have two months, i might say go half and half - jet around a bit, and maybe leave a few weeks free to roam around somewhere that catches your eye. Your best laid plans will go to waste, that's almost certain.
HOW SHOULD I GET AROUND?
However you want. Like I said fights are cheap for long distances, booked early that is. Transport is accessible and easy almost everywhere in Europe, with long distance busses and trains joining everywhere to everywhere - busses cheap, trains usually expensive. You can hitch if you feel comfortable entering that world - personally, I prefer it when I have the time for the weird factor. Otherwise, you can check ride sharing websites for cars passing your way - you share the petrol.
Safe? Unpredictable. I wouldn't let that notion haunt you - I've rarely heard a troubling stories of travelling in Europe. Just make sure you wear a money belt under your clothes, stay aware of your surroundings - that's all I'd say on that matter.
If you want the constant company, sure, go with a friend. But you'll find you won't be open to meeting as many outsiders. Most of my life I have travelled alone, but never really alone, meeting with strangers going in the same direction, you become friends, best friends even.
WHAT TO BRING?
Forget the type of backpack unless you're doing something extreme like forst camping or rock-climbing. Take a couple of sets of warm clothes, rain proof jacket, warm, waterproof footwear. Don't fret about it - markets a plenty out there if you need something. Plus, I recommend packing as light as possible - you'll be lugging it around with you, and the lighter you pack, the freeer you feel. Nothing worse than having a pack full of junk you never use but are too frugal to throw away. Take it easy, go minimum, pick up what you need along the way.
Like I say, all with a pinch of salt. You do whatever you want - it's your experience. And whatever happens, it's gonna ripple through the rest of your life - ching ching to you, Jelly, and enjoy.
Anything else - just ask.
about getting around, you may want to consider getting Eurail Pass -> http://www.eurail.com/home
I used one (global pass) during my last year backpack in Europe and it is awesome and cheap (Youth (age 12 to 25) has special offer).
With the pass, most of the time, you are not tied to specific train time. What we normally do is just hop on to the train as long as it is towards the destination we want to go.
(But please do take note that some country may need to make reservation).
You can get more information from the URL I attached above.
Another website for info about the Pass is - http://www.raildude.com/en/.
about what should bring, just remember one word - keep it "light". :-)
When I am outside, I wear 4 layers max (2 layers of jacket - one keep myself warm, one are like wind jacket - for wind and rain protection). The key is not how "thick" is your jacket/clothes, but how good they can keep ourselves warm yet it is light/thin.
If you want to go to warmer places I recommend Croatian coast, DUbrovnik, Split they won't be to crowded and you will have only bit of wind.
southern france and southern spain couldn be a gud bet.
Canary Islands if you want good weather. south Tenerife or Grand Canary preferably.
Hostelbookers, hostelworld, etc for accommodation but book quite soon as places fill up.
I've been on the Costa del Sol for over 7 months and though we have had some great days, we have had quite a few poor ones too, and a lot of cold nights.
Public transport is good for getting around.
Note. Your trip covers xmas and New Year which are both expensive times of year for flights and accommodation.
Hi, why don't you try Canary Islands?
We live in Tenerife. Weather is great here all year!
It isn't that warm in Europe during winter, maybe then to Canary Islands, but really nowhere else is that hot.