I'm planning on going on a month-long backpacking trip all across Europe, probably in May. I'm wondering, though, about basically everything haha
First - where would be the best/cheapest place to fly into?
Second - what countries should I visit (I assume England, Spain, France, Italy... what else?), and how long should I stay in each one?
Third - hostels, couch surfing, or hotels - which is best/safest?
Fourth - is it a horrible idea (i know it's not ideal) to go alone?
Fifth - I REALLY want to do the whole trip by train, but it seems expensive. How do I get a relatively cheap Eurorail train pass for a month, or is that not possible?
My budget is $3000 max, hopefully less!
Those are all the questions i can think of for now, but if I think of any others, I'll post them as well. I would appreciate as much feedback as possible as I'm totally new to ALL of this - basically i'm naive, i admit it haha
1.) Ask your travel agent or get on Google. There's an avalanche of flight websites available.
2.) No one here knows your likes/dislikes, interests, etc. so where to go is a question best answered with some basic research, or at least let other people here know what turns your crank and what you're trying to accomplish.
I would suggest not being too ambitious and trying to "see it all" because with only one month you don't have enough time.
3.) With common sense they're all safe and once again "best" depends entirely up to you. If you like meeting strangers and interacting with fewer people but likely having the opportunity of having more local one-on-one input then couchsurfing is great. For meeting other travellers in the very same boat you are hostels are great. For privacy and alone time hotels are great.
4.) LOTS of travellers LOVE being solo. There's nothing horrible about being solo whatsoever. If you're nervous then remember that hostels are filled with first timers in the very same position as yourself. That makes the couchsurfing and hotels less appealing already.
Have fun with your research and have a great trip.
I'll try to answer some of your q's, we've been to Europe MANY times, toured every country, and have logged over 200,000 miles in our van there.
1. Check the airfares on the internet religiously to get the best deal. We have flown into a lot of different airports. Also try some Airlines you probably not thinking about right now, we've gotten great deals on Air India to London (the food was great!) and Iceland Air with a free stop-over in Iceland. Also flew LOT AIR to Warsaw and it was very reasonable. Surf, surf, surf. Also date and day of the week can make a big difference. If you plan to leave around May 1, check the air fares for the last few days in April, it may be cheaper if it's before the 'season'. Sometimes a lesser airport is a better deal. We now only fly into Manchester airport in England, Heathrow is a nightmare sometimes.
2. What countries and how long is up to you. Make a list of what you'd like to see and prioritize...museums? famous artworks? architecture? history? or you on the beer tour? What are you interested in? Don't try to see too much, people make this mistake a lot. And travel LIGHT.
3.4. How old are you? Youth hostels might be your thing, safe, a good place to meet other travelers. Traveling alone is easier for a male. Europe is MUCH safer than here in the USA, but still beware of pickpockets and their scams.
5. trains are wonderful, again surf the net for the best deals. sometimes purchasing a ticket before you leave is the better deal. Don't exclude buses, they have express ones at a fraction of the train cost.
The souther you go, the less expensive, norther you go the more expensive it gets.
Don't know if this helps, but I will help where I can...
a lot has already been answered but just a few more tips from me:
If you are thinking about going to several countries, try to choose some that are close together. For example, fly into England, then go to the Netherlands, then Germany or France and maybe one other. Europe is quite big and travelling will take up a lot of your time if you want to go from England all the way south to the Mediterranean. Alternatively, consider flying instead of using trains - as you only have four weeks, you won't be able to see much of each country anyways so you might as well limit yourself to five or six cities.
A possible itinerary would be to fly into London (or another larger city nearby), then travel to mainland Europe, visit Amsterdam, Brussels and/or Bruges, then either go south to France (Paris, Strasbourg) or east to Germany (Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden, Nuremburg, Munich). From France you could travel to Spain, from Germany you could go to Denmark, Poland, Czech or Austria - whichever seems most interesting. Alternatively, you could fly into Barcelona or Madrid and then do Spain, France, Italy and Croatia. It would be a completely different (and warmer) trip so it's really about you figuring out what you'd like to see. Buy a travel guide and flip through the pages, that might help. Or read the travel guides on this site, they give a pretty good overview.
Germany is my native country and I can only recommend coming here, there is so much to see and so much history and it is safe and has really good infrastructure. When travelling in Germany, try Mitfahrgelegenheit.de - it is a carpooling website and through it you get the cheapest trips all over Germany. Just write to people in English, pretty much everyone speaks English. Trains are much more expensive unless you use the state tickets which allow you to travel on local trains for a whole day for around 37 euros; they can be used by groups of up to 5 people. Bus companies can be a really good alternative if you'd rather not travel in strangers' cars, several companies recently started up because it has only just become legal to operate long distance buses in Germany (the national train company had a state-protected monopoly).
I had a great time couchsurfing but it does require some mailing back-and-forth, patience and flexibility. Hostels are usually a safe bet and much nicer (and cheaper) than hotels if you are travelling solo. I travelled by myself in Australia a few years ago and I was worried about it beforehand, too. It turned out I met awesome new people everyday and was never really alone - unless I chose to. If you don't want to travel alone, you will probably find someone on the same route as you in one of the hostels you'll be staying at.
It might be cheaper to buy individual train tickets on local (i.e. slow) trains - shop around at the websites of the national train companies. If you are travelling to cities which are not too far apart, it will most likely turn out cheaper if you don't book the Eurail pass.
Hope this helps!
If you go to Europe you must go in Belgium and certainly visit Brussels! It's a little but beautiful city where you can meet a lot of nice people.
I went in Brussels a year ago and I will return for sure so if I can advise you something is to go there! If you need more info about the city this site -snip- helped me a lot to find places to visit and good restaurants and also if you look at a hotel, you can find everything you need to know. Hope you will like it
[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]
though i dont know your likes and dislikes, bu i will tell you about a few trip i did and will do in Europe.
Paris is a must!
I went to Lisbon for 4 days and it was great, not expensive at all, friendly people, it was the first time i travel alone! it was great, i went on guided tours where i met other solo travelers and we hanged out together, it s really nice.
Vienna is a great city, and krakow in Poland is really good.
I've never been to swiss but most people tell me to skip it....
2 years ago i stayed in a hostel in Copenhagen , the people in the room with me were very friendly , we went to sweden together, i guess for hostels it depends on the people that share the room with you.. either you're lucky or not...
anyway go ahead plan ur trip, and just go where your legs take you i dont plan anthg when traveling just do your trip the way YOU want to do it!