We are a married couple from India who are thinking of backpacking across Europe during the months of Oct - Nov - Dec - Jan in 2014? Want your opinion if this is a bad/good idea? We are on an extremely tight budget. We've never backpacked ever!
Our very tentative schedule is pasted below – (This could easily be rescheduled )
Mumbai –> Sweden –> Norway –> Switzerland –> France –> Spain –> Italy –> Greece –> Turkey –> Delhi
Date wise schedule -
Sweden, 2nd Oct – 12th Oct, 2014, Stockholm
Norway, 13th Oct – 25th Oct, 2014, Oslo
Switzerland, 26th Oct – 16th Nov, 2013, Geneva, Zurich, Jungfrau, Bern
France, 17th Nov – 1st Dec, 2014, Lille, Paris,
Spain, 2nd Dec – 16th Dec, 2014, Barcelona, Madrid
Italy, 16th Dec – 3rd Jan, 2015, Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice, Vatican
Greece, 4th Jan – 14th Jan, 2015
Turkey, 15th Jan – 31st Jan, 2015, Istanbul, Antalya
Is this doable (hope it is!!) or totally ludicrous? Do suggest the cities/places that we must visit. All your other inputs with regards to the accommodation, clothes, visa, euro rail passes, backpacks and shoes would be hugely appreciated. And if you happen to be in our place of stay, drop us a line, we would be happy to meet you and perhaps give you an Indian culinary experience. Also, does it make more sense to visit Europe in Aug - Sept - Oct - Nov?
Check our blog : http://travelopes.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/thejourneybegins/
About the itinerary
I think your choice concerning the places is really good, because you'll be able to see very different aspects of Europe. The way of living, the climate and the culture in the nordic countries has nothing to do with the mediterranean ones! It will be great to see a bit of everything. Also, spending 2 weeks in each country will allow you to have a real taste of each one of them. You should consider looking for cheap flights to cover some major distances, for example, between Norway & Switzerland. To travel from Italy to Greece you might choose between a low-cost flight or a ferry. Some of the low-cost airline companies to look for in Europe are Easyjet, Ryanair, Wizzair. They offer connexions between many european cities but in order to get the best fares you must sometimes book far in advance. Considering you'll be travelling in some of the most expensive european countries (Norway, Sweden, Switzerland...) purchasing an interrail pass can be a good option, but only in case you'll be moving a lot inside and between countries. The official website can be found here.
About the season
I would say that it makes more sense to visit Europe in Aug-Sep-Oct-Nov, but this is because i prefer warm weather than cold. During October the weather might still be nice, but you'll easily find cold temperatures starting from November in the northern/central countries. I have travelled in Italy, Greece and Turkey during the months of December and January and the maximum temperatures were 12-15 °C, the minimum -5 °C. So if you would like to get a bit ot the warmth and the sun of the mediterranean (which is so pleasant!) i would say it's better you come during Summer/Autumn. But if you enjoy the cold and the beauty of snowy landscapes, then come in Autumn/Winter!
About what to see
I can't give you advice on what to see in Sweden and Norway because unfortunately i have never been to those countries. I live in Switzerland and I would suggest you to spend more time in the nature than in the cities. This country offers extremely beautiful landscapes and if you can, visit the Jungfrau region, but also some other parts (the Lake Luzern area, the southern cantons of Wallis or Ticino, the Gruyeres region). I'd say that 1 or 2 days in each city is enough, then spend the rest enjoying the beautiful natural scenery. The swiss tourism website can give you a lot of ideas on what to do. In France, is there any particular reason you'd like to visit Lille? Because i think there are better parts of France. The small town of Annecy close to the French Alps is one of my favourite places in France. Also check-out the mediterranean part of France, called the Côte d'Azur. In Italy, all the cities you mentioned have a lot to offer (my personal favourite is Florence, and the one i wouldn't go back Milano), and so have Madrid and Barcelona (would recommend to spend more time in Barcelona than Madrid) in Spain. Greece, is definitely one of my favourite countries. I see you only put 10 days for Greece, but try at least to spend 2 weeks there, especially if you decide to come in Summer/Autumn because you'll be able to experience the beauty and the warmth of the greek islands. Athens in itself is not a very appealing city (besides the historic places), but the islands are a small paradise, and each one of them is different (you have party islands such as Mykonos or Ios, you have very small and relaxed islands such as Koufonisi or Donousa, you have volcanic islands like Santorin or Milos, the options are many) although all of them offer in general great beaches with turquoise water. Another must-do in case you are nature lovers, is hiking in Mount Olympus in northern Greece. In neighbouring Turkey, you'll find the same idyllic beaches in Antalya, and Istanbul is one of my favourite cities, great for the architecture, culture, food and the crazy world of bazaars.
About accommodation and budget
As i said before, you chose to travel some of the most expensive countries in Europe and it's a bit worrying that you say you have an extremely tight budget! In Switzerland for example, you must be prepared to spend at least 30-40CHF/per person for a night in a hostel or 50-60/CHF per person in a cheap hotel (this is really the minimum price). Eating out in a restaurant will cost you 18-30CHF for a very basic meal. In Spain, Italy, Greece you can sleep in a hostel dorm for as little as 8-15€, and in a cheap but decent hotel for 20-30€. Expect to pay 5-15€ for a meal in those countries. Turkey is slightly less expensive (concerning accommodation) and you can buy fresh food from the markets or eat street food for very reasonable prices. But there are alternatives to staying in hostels/hotels and eating out everyday. As a backpacker always travelling on a budget, i found Couchsurfing to be the best way to travel without spending money on accommodation and getting the opportunity to meet new people willing to share their space and lives with me and thus allowing me to have a deeper understanding of the place i am visiting. So if the comfort of a private room is secondary to you, you could consider this option as well! Something else i always do when travelling is cooking for myself, at least half of the meals (unless i am travelling in a country where buying food from the street/restaurants is equally or less expensive than cooking) and in general this way i always manage to save money to spend in other activities while travelling.
About the visa
As indian nationals you need a visa to enter Europe. All the countries you intend to travel are Schengen countries (except for Turkey). You will have to apply for a Schengen Visa and in that case, as indian nationals, you will be able to enter and stay in Turkey for 30 days (the visa is issued on arrival and costs 15€).
Wish you a happy travel in Europe!
Hi - many of the places you intend to visit are going to be pretty cold when you're there - sub-zero degrees Celsius. You'll need appropriate clothing to keep yourselves warm including thick, warm trousers, socks, jumpers, coats and hats, scarves and gloves. You'll probably need boots as well as shoes too. These things are bulky to pack and can be heavy to carry and, although you can wear some of the bulky stuff as you're travelling, you'll still need to carry a lot of it - chose your clothes wisely!
Sorry for the late replies!
@tatianaabreu Thanks. You comment is excellent and so methodical. It serves as a guide for us!
@Borisborough: We know. Travelling light is impossible in winters. Will update you when we get to the packing piece!
This sounds so interesting
I have already looked at your blog and am waiting for more updates
though it's a bit difficult to imagine back packing in sub zero temperatures but i am sure you must have thought this one out.
Do share the planning phase coming to reality phase by phase as i am hoping to learn by it ..
very best o luck