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30 day all-over-Europe trip

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 off, 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? 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 Thanks! J.D.

Posted by
11507 posts

First off , you have lots of thinking to do , and no one can really help with some stuff.. as personal tastes and interests vary alot. Second we need a tad more info,, have you travelled before? What is your budget ? I know many people like the couchsurfing thing, and in most cases I am sure its fine, but you you have to be careful and do some research and frankly since you have so much other stuff to learn about I don't you have the time! You also have to be prepared with a plan B if you are not comfortable. So lets just skip to hostelling. Hostels can be great fun, you will meet other travellers , nice to share some chat time, maybe a daytrip or two, a meal, or tips and advice. Also some hostels have laundremattes and kitchens.. for a 30 day trip you will need to wash clothes at some time, and eating a few meals in will save you money.

Posted by
11507 posts

Next , narrow down your itinerary,, you can't really see 5-6 countries in 30 days, I mean, can I see America in 5 days?? I know, you say but the countries are so much smaller and closer together, yeah yeah, but they are countries and they are not all that close together, travel time is travel time. Trains are great, buying point to point tickets well in advance can be cheaper then alot of those passes. Why not rough out a plan, fly say to Rome( start south early May and work north for best weather chances) , 4 days or so, trian to Venice , then fly to Barcelona ( fly with Easyjet or Vueling, train too far and its just as cheap to fly sometimes) . Then fly to Paris, train to Amsterdam, and end up in London for flight home.. When you are pricing your international flight you are not buying two one ways( that would be costly) you are looking at "multi destination" or "open jaw" flights. Its good to fly into one place and out another so no backtracking( saves time and money)

Posted by
64 posts

First, this is YOUR trip, so you can plan it however you like. I would say though, after having done my own trip for 30 days, 5 countries (France, England, Italy, Turkey, Greece), it can be exhausting. HOWEVER, if you're set on doing it, then do it! I would ask you to consider what type of vacation you want though. Do you want an in-depth look at one or two countries or do you want a schmorgasborg of countries, tasting only the most shallow, surfaces of multiple countries? Personally for me, I found the slower, longer-in-one-country approach more satisfying, but that's just me. The trips (including the aforementioned) where I spent too little time in multiple places left me with a bunch of pictures at the end of a long trip where I couldn't even remember where I was for half of them. Fun, but not nearly as memorable. The countries you choose will mostly depend on your tastes and interest. I suggest going to Borders/Barnes and Nobles, etc, and sitting down with a stack of guidebooks and just perusing them to see what interests you. Third, hostels can be safe, but I would do my research ahead of time and check reviews. Hostels can be a great place to meet other solo travelers and mingle. Also, I would suggest getting a backpack lock (long cord with a lock) if you're going to go this route. I did it for some of my other trips and it was great for peace of mind. It's not horrible to travel alone, just be sensible. Don't go down dark alleys late at night. Use common sense. You can do a train pass, depending on your itinerary, that could save you money. It really depends on where you plan on going. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to do research now and do it extensively. You don't want to waste precious time there sifting through books! Have fun!

Posted by
32265 posts

J.D., If this is your first trip to Europe, my first suggestion is to read Europe Through The Back Door prior to your trip. It provides a LOT of good information on "how" to travel well in Europe. Use the country-specific Guidebooks to work out sightseeing, transportation, hotels and other details. Regarding your questions..... > "where would be the best/cheapest place to fly into" - generally speaking, you'll get the best prices into major hubs such as London, Amsterdam or Frankfurt. I'd suggest using open-jaw flights, as that's more efficient and will give you more touring time. > "what countries should I visit" - it depends what you're interested in seeing? What prompted this desire to see Europe? You might check some Guidebooks or watch Rick's shows on PBS to get some ideas (you may be able to watch the DVD's at your local Library). On one of my solo Backpacking trips, I visited Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France in two months. There's LOTS to see and do there, so you'll have to choose carefully - you won't be able to see it all - "assume you will return". > "hostels, couch surfing, or hotels - which is best/safest" - I normally use either budget hotels (listed in the Guidebooks) or Hostels. I'm not comfortable with Couch Surfing. Hostels are a great place to meet a diverse group of other travellers. Have a look at the HI Hostels website to get some idea of their facilities. > "is it a horrible idea (i know it's not ideal) to go alone" - NO, it's NOT a "horrible idea". If often travel solo and it works well. I find that I'm more outgoing and interact with the locals or other travellers more than if I'm with a group. continued.....

Posted by
32265 posts

J.D. - continued..... > "I REALLY want to do the whole trip by train, but it seems expensive" - that's certainly possible and I find rail travel to be the easiest, quickest and most efficient way to get around Europe. Of course, on some routes, budget airlines are a better option. > "How do I get a relatively cheap Eurorail train pass for a month" - you might find it helpful to download the free PDF Rail Guide from this website. Click the "Railpasses" tab at the top of the page and then look in the lower right corner. One point to mention is that Railpasses are not necessarily the best idea in all cases. Keep in mind that these DON'T include the reservation fees that are compulsory on some trains. You'll have to pay separately "out of pocket" for those. Especially in Italy, DON'T be caught without a valid reservation for the train you're riding on, or you may be fined on the spot, and it's not cheap! Fines start at €50 PP (in addition to the cost of the reservation) and increase from there. The same fines apply for those riding Regionale trains (no reservations required) without validating their tickets (not a concern for those travelling with a Railpass). The fines also apply (for example) for those riding the Buses in Rome without a validated ticket. You'll need to do some "number crunching" to determine if a Railpass is a cost effective option. Compare the cost of Point-to-Point (P-P) tickets agains that of a Railpass plus reservation fees for all the routes you'll be travelling. If you decide to use one of the Railpasses, you can buy them from this website. You won't be able to decide on the Railpass until you have your route worked out. Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
3050 posts

Couchsurfing is safe if you do it correctly - only stay with people who have positive reviews from previous guests. You have to realize that couchsufing is a fairly intimate experience - you are staying at a stranger's home. It can be great fun, but it's so dependent on your personality meshing with that of who you're staying with. I feel I'm a bit too old/inflexible to do a lot of couchsurfing these days (I have some experience as a host and a guest) but that's a personal preference. I'd rather just get a budget hotel and not deal with the hassle of other people's schedules/whims/etc. Hostels vary greatly in quality and atmosphere so it really depends what you're looking for. Traveling alone hostels are probably cheapest next to couchsurfing (although couchsurfing does come with some 'hidden' costs as it's considered polite to bring a gift for your hosts, or take them out to dinner, or cook a meal or do the dishes or whatever). Even the cheapest budget hotels in western europe are going to be more than 40 euro a night in most cases, where hostels are almost always between 18-25 euro. A Eurail pass is probably not the cheapest option if you want to travel in the UK, Italy, and France, as the high speed trains there require additional fees for mandatory reservations. The cheapest way to travel is to plan your trip exactly in advance and buy point-to-point tickets as early as you can, 90-120 days in advance in most cases. You lose flexibility but save a lot of money. On the other hand, since you have a month, you could travel by regional trains instead of high speed ones and in exchange for time save a lot of money, but in the end I don't think ti's a good bargain. Time IS money especially on vacation. What's your budget?

Posted by
3050 posts

Furthermore you might want to consider what countries are cheapest in planning your trip. the UK, Scandanavia, and Switzerland are the most expensive. France is moderately priced to bargain outside of Paris. Germany is one of the cheapest countries to travel in for Western Europe. Munich is the most expensive area. Berlin and the east are the cheapest. Italy varies significantly depending on what city you're in but is generally in the moderate category. Spain can be quite cheap outside of Barcelona, which is moderately expensive. I've heard Portugal has a good cost benefit ratio. If you really want to stretch your dollar, you could head east to the Balkans, but I don't know if it's ideal for a first time traveler. Depends on your adventure level. I found Serbia and Bosnia very cheap and wonderful, but flexibilty and good planning is required to travel by public transit there compared to other places. I would think less about countries and more about regions and cities in terms of what you want to visit.

Posted by
17 posts

Wow, this has been a great response. I've been super busy, and I don't even have much time now to get back to all the questions. The two i'll answer for right now are these - I'm 30 years old, and my budget is $3000, but hopefully less (I'd love it be around $2000, if that's even possible). Thanks everybody for your help - definitely a lot to consider!

Posted by
33310 posts

Hi J.D> The reason I asked about your age is in case you could get the cheap 2nd class pass but you are too old. Is the $2,000 budget you hope for on top of airfare or including it?

Posted by
17 posts

Including airfare, but I realize that might not be realistic since airfare is about $1000 from what I'm seeing right now.

Posted by
11613 posts

J.D., check out the Lonely Planet website for information/advice. I understand that flying into London entails some heavy fees that you can avoid by flying into Frankfurt or some other city. Open-jaw airfares are comparable to roundtrip fares, based on my recent searches. $2000 is a tight budget, frankly; in 30 days, that's less than $70/day, including lodging, meals, transportation, and any sites you might want to visit. You would need to rely on hostels and grocery stores, but it's doable (without airfare) if you travel very carefully. If you try to include airfare, it's less than $35/day. For example, rail travel in Italy is very cheap, but unless you want to plan down to the minute, you won't be able to take advantage of super-saver advance purchase fares (fast trains but you are committed to a specific train/date/time of travel; if you change your mind or miss your train, you need to buy another full-fare ticket). The advice about fines for not having a valid ticket is correct; if you take regional trains in Italy (slower with more stops), you need to validate your ticket at the little box near the platform. The area around the Mediterranean tends to be less expensive (southern France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Turkey) but every country has low-cost options if you search them out.

Posted by
11507 posts

Er yeah, 2000 dollars is not a month long trip to Europe and airfare. Even if you ate bread and cheese everyday. It certainly precludes any actual travel once you get there too.

Posted by
2397 posts

I think your budget is too tight. If you have $2000 to spend, that is about sixty five dollars a day. If a hostel cost twenty five, that leaves you forty dollars to eat, enter some attractions which in some cases can be expensive and then transportation. The cities are expensive. I suggest you go for two weeks, pick several countries and fly into one destination and home from another.

Posted by
11507 posts

Gail, he was hoping that the 2,000 would include his international airfare,, so that makes completely unworkable.
And even if it didn't , at 65 dollars a day thats about what, 47 euros a day,, for food, accomadation, sightseeing fees, and transport. Average hostel room is 25-35 euros a night.. impossible.

Posted by
17 posts

So if I want to be realistic, should I plan on something like a $4000, including $1000 for airfare? What if I did only go for two weeks? would $2500-$3000, including airfare, be enough?

Posted by
3050 posts

Yeah, honestly I'd say you need at least $5k for a "cheap" month-long trip on western europe, including airfare. With $3k you might be able to do 2 weeks or a little longer. Keep in mind that travel once you get here is not incredibly cheap. Each leg of travel will cost you between $25-70 realistically. (Again regional trains are cheaper, but don't get you very far very fast...) If you really want to do a month, it would be possible in your original budget ONLY if you confined yourself to a relatively small geographical area in an affordable city, like Berlin.

Posted by
15679 posts

If you want to stretch your money, go to the cheapest places. Europe isn't just London, Paris and Rome. Budapest and Prague are fascinating, and cheaper. Probably Poland too - though I haven't been there . . . yet.

Posted by
17 posts

What about overnight point to point trains? Do they have those in each country? If so, that good cut down on lodging expenses....

Posted by
9110 posts

You need to throw away the shotgun and start working on a few scenarios and see what might work out. Ex: trains don't go from country to country, the go from city to city - - look at a map: France and Germany touch; Bordeaux and Berlin are a gazillion miles apart.

Posted by
32265 posts

J.D., A few more comments regarding your "budget"..... I doubt that it will be possible to travel for 30-days in Europe for $3000, especially as this amount includes air fare. I haven't checked flights from your area, but I suspect that it's going to cost more than $1000 return. I've been checking fares extensively lately, and the least expensive has been about $1500. Using open-jaw flights would absolutely be the best idea! One important thing to keep in mind is that each time you change cities or countries, it will cost you! Visiting four countries in 30-days with such a low budget is NOT going to be possible (IMHO). England is dreadfully expensive (somewhat dependent on the exchange rate at the time) and Spain is somewhat "distant" from your other locations so it will cost to get there and back also. The "good old days" of Europe on $5 a day are LONG GONE! Your costs might be something like this: > Hostel: €25-35 per night for a Dorm room (US$33-47) > Food: probably at least €25 per day (US$33) if you're frugal. Most Hostels provide breakfast, included with the room. > Transportation: that's variable and difficult to predict for your travel style. Maybe at least €5-10 per day for local city transit? (US$7-13). It's impossible to predict Railpass or city-to-city costs without knowing your route. > Sightseeing, Museum Admissions, etc.: will depend on what touring you do? Perhaps €30 or so every few days (US$40) > Incidentals & Misc.: difficult to predict? I'm sure you can see a "picture" emerging. I suspect you'll have to decrease your time, reduce the number of countries or increase your budget. Good luck!

Posted by
17 posts

Here is a VERY tentative itinerary that I just drew up - what do you think? Too much in too little time? Do-able? Any cities I should change for a different one? May 2nd Leave by plane from Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 2nd May 3rd - 5th Arrive May 3rd in Rome, Leave by train to Venice night of May 5th May 5th - 6th Arrive May 5th in Venice, Leave by train to Budapest night of May 6th May 7th - 8th Arrive May 7th in Budapest, Leave by train to Prague night of May 8th May 9th - 10th Arrive May 9th in Prague, Leave by train to Berlin night of May 10th May 11th - 13th Arrive May 11th in Berlin, Leave by plane to Paris on May 13th May 14th - 16th Arrive May 14th in Paris May 17th
Leave by plane to Salt Lake City on Friday, May 17th Also, I've been looking online about train tickets, and you have to purchase them all on these foreign websites, it seems. Google Chrome is doing its best job at translating, but I'm particularly confused by the train site for the trip from Venice to Budapest - it seems as though they're not able to provide me pricing. Can anybody confirm this? http://www.mav-start.hu/

Posted by
32265 posts

J.D. A few comments on your latest day-by-day Itinerary (with my comments in Italics)..... > May 2 - Depart U.S. > May 3,4,5 - Arrive Rome, touring (rather than travel to Venice on the night of the 5th, I'd suggest leaving in the afternoon, so that you don't arrive at your next Hostel too late. The trip is only a few hours). > May 6 - touring Venice (you've only allowed one day for touring in Venice - not much time???) > May 6 - travel to Budapest (I agree with the comments by Fred in the previous post. The route he suggest sounds like one of the easiest). > May 7, 8 - Budapest, touring. Travel to Prague. (you could also consider making the trip to Prague in the day, as it's only about 7 hours. In choosing a night train, it's important to determine whether there will be changes in the wee hours of the morning. One that I checked had changes at 04:00 and 06:00. If you arrive "tired" in Prague, you likely won't get as much touring done. If you decide to use a Couchette, you'll have to budget for that). > May 9,10 - Prague, touring. (rather than travel to Berlin at night, I'd suggest a day train, as travel time is a relatively short 4H:46M direct). > May 11,12,13 - Berlin, touring. (for your trip from Berlin to Paris, I'm not entirely clear on why you're departing on May 13 and arriving on May 14th? The flight is only about 2 hours? I'd suggest a mid-afternoon flight, so that you don't arrive in Paris too late). Have a look at EasyJet flights. > May 14,15,16 - Paris, touring. > May 17 - return flight to U.S. The Itinerary is looking better, but still seems like a lot of destinations and travel for a $3K budget? Cheers!

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi, If you want to to do Venice to Budapest, then break it apart where you have to change trains. I would do Venice-Munich night on the CNL, direct 116.20 Euro, then change at Munich to Budapest direct 115.60 Euro on the RailJet (RJ) train. By night only one is required...Munich Hbf. By day two changes are needed, one at Verona, then Munich. Of course, you can do the whole trip by train, whether it is flexible or not is another story.

Posted by
17 posts

So basically, should I take one of my Berlin or Paris days and switch it for an extra Venice day, you're saying? Also, in terms of my budget, I calculated that it would be around $3100. That included $33 per day for food, $14 per day for in city travel, $50 per train trip, $40 per hostel stay, $90 for the plane trip to Paris, and $1200 for the plane trip from Salt Lake to Rome. throw in sight seeing at around 40 every few days, and that come out to about $3100

Posted by
2397 posts

Good for you, you are getting there. Some hostels offer breakfast which is a good start. Suggest you go to local cafeterias or supermarkets and can get great meals for very reasonable prices. We found some local tiny markets with homemade meals at very reasonable prices for our dinner and then just had our own sandwiches for lunch and kept price way down. Keep at it!

Posted by
567 posts

If you take the day train from Prague to Berlin, this can become your extra night for Venice or for any of your other bases where you are staying.

Posted by
567 posts

*Berlin Eating Tips ~Excllent food at KDW department store; Others Kaufhof Galeria, Karstadt which have multiple locations. ~Google outdoor fresh food market Berlin, there's one in Schoneberg on Saturday (near Nollendorfplatz U-Bahn); Turkish market Tuesdays & Fridays 11a-6p) in Kreuzberg, Maybachufer Strasse along the Landwerrkanal. ~German Delis and local bakeries
~ Kaisers, Aldi supermarkets (most closed on Sundays)

Posted by
9039 posts

Just as an FYI, the food in Karstadt and Kaufhof is going to be higher priced than at any other grocery store. These are not bargain dining options. Even basic items there are more expensive. Aldi, Lidl, Penny markt, and to a certain extent, Rewe with their Ja products, are the bargain grocery stores. Lunch in a restaurant would be your cheapest meal, as many places offer great deals at lunchtime, with good savings over the same meal offered at dinner. Save the sandwiches, etc. for evenings. Ethnic places are also cheaper usually.

Posted by
11294 posts

As an adjunct to what Jo posted, KDW is a fancy department store. (It's also abreviated KaDeWe; the full name is Kaufhaus des Westens, or "Department Store of The West"). Their food halls are very impressive, but if you are on a budget, they are for looking ONLY, not buying!!

Posted by
3050 posts

Your budget is still too low or the amount of travel you're doing. On a tight budget like yours, you need to figure out the EXACT cost of your transit inbetween cities. This will be the highest portion of your budget. You're also thinking in dollars, not euro. This is a problem on a tight budget. Use the various websites of the national railway companies to price out your transit. The prices for your trips won't be available yet, just choose a date between 80-90 days in advance, and that will give you a realistic picture of what you'll spend IF you are able to purchase your tickets that far in advance. $33 a day - or 25 euro - is not a lot for food. Doable, but you will be eating a lot of fast food. I don't think $40 every few days for sightseeing is terribly realistic either. Some museums are cheap and some sites are free, but many are not, and this is a terrible place to skimp on. I would consider limiting your geographic area further.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi, In Berlin: The HI hostel on Kluckstrasse serves dinner, hot food. You don't have to be staying there in order to get a meal ticket. Also in Berlin for lunch you can very well and cheaply at the TU...the Technische Uni's cafeteria on Hardenbergstrasse. I've been to both of these places. As far as I know, the cafeteria at the Humboldt University on Unter den Linden is restricted to students and staff.