How many countries in 21 days?

As Rick Steves suggests, 3 days per city would make it possible to see up to 7 countries/cities. We are thinking about starting in Rome and then making a counterclockwise circle to Athens, Budapest, Vienna, Munich, Paris (and if possible, London, Brussels, Amsterdam.) Is that possible? What would be the best way to structure this itinerary? P.S. Possible start dates are September 16 or October 16 - which is preferable?

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

First, deduct your arrival day and departure day from your 21 days (unless you have already done so and actually have 21 days on the ground). How are you going to get from place to place, and how long will it take? So how much time will that leave you in each place? Every time you change cities you lose a half day to full day just getting to the next place, which really means you have maybe two days in each city. And each of these cities deserves far more than two days to appreciate. Open jaw is the way to go - arrive in one city and leave from another. What is your budget for this trip?

Posted by Jayant
concord, CALIFORNIA, United States
34 posts

Thanks, Nancy. Two people, net 19 days (as you suggested) but could add a couple of days if need be. Looking at either Eurail Pass or (OMG) driving a rental car. Budget - hoping to keep it to $200 per day for two, excluding transportation between cities.

Posted by Thomas
Snyder, Texas
503 posts

Hello Jayant, I count 9 cities on your list. So if you use open jaw (multiple destinations on the reservation site) and fly into the first city and out of the last, with no doubling back, that's 8 changes of location. I have found that a change of location requires at least half a day, most require more. As an example, we recently traveled from Quimper, France, in western Brittany to Paris by TGV train, about 300 to 350 miles. Even though the TGV is really fast, the trip itself was 4 1/2 hours. We left our hotel at noon and arrived at our hotel in Paris at 8 pm. So, assuming 1/2 day per change, that's 4 days. (I actually think some of your changes will require most of a day.) Then add the 2 days for the travel to and from the US, that's 6 days for travel. 6 days out of 21. That's 28.57% of your trip devoted to location changes. If you are driving, some sightseeing can be included during that time. (Just a heads up, it is quite expensive to rent a car in one country and leave it in another, prohibitively expensive for me.) That leaves 15 days for 9 cities or 1.6 days per city. Also, those cities are really spread out across the continent, and London is even off the continent. The Eurostar does make Paris and London quite easy to connect though.
I hope you have a great trip. To do so, I think you need to try going fewer places.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

Jayant... I do lots of whirlwind trips but this one seems next to impossible, unless as previously stated, you want to spend all your time traveling, or unless you like a road trip (which can really be fun, but not to all the locations you mentioned) I think you need to narrow things down a bit, especially since you are on a tight budget... it costs a lot to move around.

Posted by Charles
Austin, Texas, USA
308 posts

I agree with previous posters. I like to do whirlwind trips too. Having said that, if you are determined to do this trip, this is how I would do it. 0 - fly to Rome 1-2 Rome 3 - fly Rome to Athens 4-5 - Athens 6 - fly to Budapest 7-8 - Budapest 9 - Train to Vienna 10-11 Vienna 12 - Train to Munich 13-14 - Munich / Overnight train to Paris 15-16 - Paris 17 - Train to Brussels 18 - Brussels 19 - Train to Amsterdam 20 - Amsterdam
21 - Fly home from Amsterdam As others have said, a half day to travel is normal. So that would leave a half day in many days in the schedule above to spend in one of the cities. Also, if you added a few days on the end of the trip, you could fly from Amsterdam to London. This is extremely aggressive. I would be tempted to do this trip, but honestly, might reconsider and take at least one or two cities off, probably Athens or London. Good Luck!!

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11274 posts

Instead of "how many countries can I 'see' in 21 days", how about what can I realistically see in 21 days. Last time I checked, God didn't award extra years of life (or fewer days in purgatory) for number of countries seen. Why rack up cities seen? It's not how many names of cities you get on your itinerary, it's what you see in those cities. Most of those cities require 3 days in them plus a day of travel between them, so figure 4 days per city, 5 days in 21 days. Forget Athens and Budapest, too far out. For the rest, look at Vienna. What is there to see there? How long to spend (figure 2 sites per day)? See enough that you'll not want to come back. Work backwards, figuring how many days in a city, then how much time to get to the next one, how many days in the next city, etc.

Posted by Jayant
concord, CALIFORNIA, United States
34 posts

Thank you all for your feedback. Having NEVER been to Europe, this was entirely a short in the dark. I knew I was pushing it (Glad to know that there are others who do the same!!!), but hearing from those who have been there before validated it. Looks like if I cut back 2-3 stops, it is workable. Does anyone have thoughts about Sep end vs Oct end timeframe - weather (mainly rain), crowds, closed attractions, cheaper fares/hotels, etc.? P.S. One option is to drive around, but I am getting advice against it.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

Driving isn't the problem. Renting in one country and dropping in another is very expensive. Dropping at the border, crossing, then re-renting is cumbersome. Driving in big cities can present traffic problems, and you can accidentally run afoul of limited traffic zones. And parking is scarce and expensive in large cities. If you are only planning to visit cities, I would use public transportation.

Posted by Joseph
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A.
126 posts

Weather is not predictable, but I've always preferred autumn. In September 2010, Vienna, Salzburg, and Budapest were warm by day; cool by night. In October of last year, Rome and Sorrento were quite warm by day and warm by night. I needed the air conditioning. Of course, Rome and Sorrento are well south of Austria and Hungary.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8757 posts

Jayant, your last comments seem different to me than your first ones. You should realize that it is OK to structure your trip to see how many countries you can check off in rushed trip. I like to have a goal when I go places, but that probably wouldn't be my goal. I like to hear of unusual or hidden places and track them down, or follow in the footsteps of an historical figure. But if you want to collect countries - go for it. Of course it will be exhausting and you won't see much of what you traveled so far to see, but you've acknowledged that. If you are collecting countries, you missed some easy gets - the small ones. You've missed: Vatican City, entirely surrounded by Rome San Marino, over the mountains east of Florence Monaco, surrounded by France near the Italian border, but a bit out of the line you are taking Luxembourg, just south of Brussels a couple of hours Switzerland
Liechtenstein, on the eastern edge of Switzerland OTOH, perhaps your last post shows that you are refining your desires and will spend more time visiting and less time seeing the inside of airplane, car, or train windows.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
713 posts

I can't speak for what the weather is like after mid-Oct, but we've done 3 trips and they've all started mid-Sept to first week Oct...Italy was always warm and barely any rain...our last trip we worked our way from Italy thru France to UK and it was getting cool in England the first week of Oct (had to buy an extra fleece pullover...and if I had of been thinking straight, I would have went N - S instead of S - N). Advantages to mid-Sept - a little more daylight, (for us) very little rain...things may be less crowded in mid-Oct, but you are also dealing with less daylight hours and cooler temps.

Posted by Thomas
Snyder, Texas
503 posts

Hi Jayant, Driving can be a great part of a trip if it involves a lot of rural areas and small towns. For a city centered trip, a car is a headache. Also, keep in mind the expense of leaving a car in a different country from where you rented it. As far as the driving itself goes, it's not much different from here. If you can drive a manual transmission, you'll save money and get a smaller car, which is desirable. You should read about the road rules of the countries where you plan to drive and learn the road sign meanings. That's all available online.
Your trip seems to me to best be tackle with planes and trains.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
648 posts

For weather averages, you might look at Weatherbase. Go down to the bottom of the page, pick your month(s) and go from there to select your cities. The temperatures and rainfall numbers are conveniently in Fahrenheit and inches.

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
249 posts

As Nigel notes, whatever your goal or objective in traveling to Europe will dictate the practicalities of "how many counties in 3 weeks" Q&A. That said you may want to consider flying to one gateway city and departing from a different gateway city considering airfares and extra connections.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2698 posts

Hi, How many countries in three weeks, these 21 days? Not more than four, (three would be better), depending on how far you're traveling within each country. I would suggest one night train or a discount flight, say, from London to Vienna or Budapest. My start date would be Sept. 16.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

Jayant... If you decide to drive there is no need to backtrack if you do some sort of a circle or loop trip. You may hit some roads twice, but with a lot of options you can easily see a variety of cities, towns, villages and make the driving a part of the trip. My first trip we landed in Amsterdam and rented a car and took off with a vague plan and no reservations and we did manage to visit 9 countries and lots of small towns and I would not have changed a minute of that trip. Since we had an easy flight from US to Amsterdam it was the best place to fly in and out of and we also had no big drop fee for the car. It worked perfectly for us and it was much more efficient for us than taking the train. We were on our own schedule and could change our mind on the spur of the moment (which we did). There are lots of ways to travel... just find yours and go for it.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Jayant,, when people say driving is great , note this, they usually mention small cities and small towns and the countryside. Cars are a pain in any large city ( Rome , London, Paris, Amsterdam, Athens, Munich) .. In Paris you will pay at least 25-30 euros a day to park your car in town,, you may be able to park just outside Paris in the giant long term lots,, and likely they may be a bit cheaper, but you are still looking at 15-20 euros a day.. for three week trip those costs add up. Cars and city touring are not budget friendly at ALL! Buying some point to point train tickets can however be very budget friendly if done in well in advance. We paid 35 euros for Amsterdam to Paris last summer on Thalys, and 40 euros for Paris to Nice on idTGV. Also no matter where you go , or what you plan to visit, two nights in a city is only one full day there, my opinion is when you are trying to cut down your plans eliminate places that you think are only worth seeing for one day.. I would suggest 3-4 night minimums for most places. Athens is out of your way and frankly not really worth flying over for 2 days. Make Athens a part of another trip when you have time to visit the gorgeous islands also!!
Brussels.. personal opinion.. er, boring. Paris is super busy and expensive in September, most well known budget hotels likely booked, so I would end there in October .